I Started a Business: The designer behind Papier hq
When Gabrielle MacDonald and her fiancé set up their home, they discovered a niche they could fill with wall art business Papier hq. She shares her tips for getting started
You have to be willing to take risks and work ridiculous hours
Gabrielle MacDonald, 29, started Papier hq with her fiancé and business partner Jarrod, 31, last June after having trouble finding wall art for their own home. In less than a year Papier – French for paper – has gone from an idea to a
thriving wall art business with a growing Instagram following. Gabrielle shares what she’s learned about taking risks, and the benefits of
having recently taken on a business mentor.
I’m constantly looking for inspiration to keep the designs fresh. I love seeing our customers’ reactions – especially to those pieces I didn’t expect to do well because they were quite risky. Everything around me can spark an idea. We often get people emailing us saying, “I’ve got this idea; can you please put a print together for me?” and I’ll work with them on a custom print rather than using a template. People love things that are personal to them and that’s
why customised prints do well.
How it started
I’m a textile designer by trade, and during my nine years of industry experience I realised there was a gap in the market for affordable, on-trend wall art made from high-quality materials. It’s something we also noticed when Jarrod and I were shopping for our home. So we started designing art we liked, created an
online boutique and it’s grown from there. I’ve worked in design since I was 20 so I felt like it was the right time to give it a go and see if it worked –
I had nothing to lose if it didn’t.
At the start I was constantly working and then realised the whole point of having your own business is that it’s meant to be fun! So now I make sure I take time out. As a designer you’re constantly switched on, because everything can inspire a design. But you have to make sure you make time for friends and family. It’s always a constant battle. You have to be very hardworking, willing to take risks, and work ridiculous hours. The fact that we’ve been able to hire someone within a year has been pretty awesome for us.
Know your customer
We want people to have nice things in their home without it sending them broke. I’ve noticed that a lot of our customers are people moving into their first home and wanting to set it up, and it’s definitely people who don’t want to take life too seriously. Family-focused artwork is critical to the hearts of New Zealanders, as family is important to our wellbeing and our reason for existence. We considered that our uniqueness as a country and culture is a significant marketing asset for global clients too.
One of our biggest challenges has been packaging, because of the glass. Our first few weeks, we were getting heaps of breakages, so we tweaked the process to make the prints more protected – it probably takes 40 or 45 minutes to turn a print around now, rather than 10 or 15 with a simpler process. Fine-tuning this process
was frustrating at times, but seeing a system start to work is so rewarding. I’ve quickly realised there aren’t enough hours in a day – but I’m getting better at seeing
where I can change how I do things.