By EHM Editor Jade McKenzie
I first happened upon Emma Kate Co in the same way I find most new discoveries these days - Instagram! And just like her 62,000+ other followers, I promptly fell in love with her gorgeous feed of beautifully curated travel, design and lifestyle shots.
But the pictures that fill my screen with dreamy getaways, pastel sunsets and exotic locations represent so much more than someone's holidays. Emma Kate Co is “a stationery and lifestyle brand, blog and love story between words, images and play”. Best known for her gorgeous hand lettering, Emma Kate also is a sweet little design studio that offers branding, design and specially commissioned pieces that can make any gal weak at the knees.
As a creative force who focuses on design, lifestyle and travel elements (and just being awesome), I was so interested to chat with Emma Kate around her use of events within her business. With sold out workshops, collaborations and trade shows on her event calendar, she certainly knows a thing or two about connecting with people in the most fun and exciting ways. We dive straight into how she got her start in workshops, what she loves about running events and how trade shows have opened up her business in the most amazing ways.
Thank you so much for speaking with us today Emma! I know that many of our readers will be excited to hear from such a creative force! Your work takes on many aspects of the creative world including branding, e-book design, stationary illustration and even jewellery collaborations! How do events tie in with you personally and professionally?
Thank you, I’m thrilled to grace these digital pages!
I live for connection, so while much of my creative work is just me, myself and I, burrowed away in my studio, hand lettering and designing the days away, I really seek out in-person, real life events as much as possible - whether that be attending workshops or hosting my own, throwing a launch party, coordinating a long table dinner or planning an Insta-meet. Nothing beats in person, face-to-face connection and the magic that results from community. Events are an integral part of my stationery label too - especially when it comes to trade fairs and launch events.
As someone who holds workshops, I’d really love to know what was the catalyst for you diving into the world of events and what gave you the courage to take that leap into new territory for your business?
Finding myself (abruptly) back in Australia a year ago, after two years living in London…. that was the catalyst. While I had been overseas, I had chatted back and forth with a lot of Australian bloggers, designers & creatives - mostly via Instagram. I had a real desire to connect beyond the screen with these faces... and after so long away, I needed it.
I needed interaction beyond coffee dates and breakfast meets, so holding creative events and collaborating on experiences together just made sense. I was invited by Byron Bay based Nikki (@paperrunway) to hold a social media/lettering class not long after I arrived home, and although I was rather nervous about the idea of teaching or feeling “ready“ to do that, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. That workshop sold out, and gave me confidence to leap into more. Soon after, I hosted a workshop with beautiful Jaclyn (Blog Society) and I caught myself mid-workshop realising how at ease I felt and how much FUN I was having. It snowballed from there.
Being a facilitator of your own workshops, what steps do you take to create not only a memorable learning experience but also a visual experience that relates to your own personal brand?
To me, my brand tells a story, and so with any workshop I host it’s imperative that I bring my full story - that is and all of myself, in energy, in learnings, in sharing, and in over delivering, to that event. Generosity is everything, for making a memorable experience. Aesthetics are important too - offering good food, coffee, take-home gifts or useful bits, and then styling the space with fresh blooms and lovely details - that's a non-negotiable too. I have been lucky to partner with some beautiful brands for workshops I have hosted - with flowers, candles, goodie bag offerings, food, juices, water and more - they all add layers to the experience.
Running workshops can mean a whole new world for people and their business; new friendships, creative outlets, take home learnings and priceless networking opportunities! What do you personally enjoy most about running your workshops and how do they impact on your business?
Hosting my very first workshop showed me that no matter the content, presentation and tiniest of details planned for the day, a workshop is so greatly dependent on the energy of the group who show up on the day! Workshops by their very nature are interactive, collaborative and a shared experience - it’s the individual stories and creativity of every participant and what they bring to the day that make the experience so unique and wonderful. I learn as much as I teach, every time, and I love it that way! It’s quite a unique experience - some kind of once-off magic that never can be repeated. Even if the content is the same, every workshop feels entirely different, purely from the participants attending - and what they have offered and brought to the experience.
I also love how real, vulnerable and gritty workshops can get. Social media offers such a tiny snippet of a much greater world, and I adore getting the full, authentic insight into people’s worlds. It’s fascinating and inspiring to connect in that depth.
Trade shows and expos are a huge deal for creatives who want to show large numbers of the general public their work and you have taken part in a few yourself internationally. In your experience how have trade shows worked for your business?
Trade shows have been pivotal for getting my stationery label out there. I exhibited at my first trade show (Life in Style) in August last year, and backed this up with the stationery show (Top Drawer) in London… and suddenly, in a matter of days, I found myself with over fifty retailers around Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Europe who stocked my stationery in their stores! Trade shows have been amazing for getting in front of lots of store owners and retail buyers, in the one place and within a condensed space of time… it’s like speed dating for doing business.
Aside from that, the chance to connect with fellow makers, start ups and dream chasing entrepreneurs has been invaluable - prompting collaborations, forging friendships, and as it turned out, it's also how I met my (now) partner. We met at my very first Trade Fair… even though it took us a few months to find our way to each other romantically! Trade fairs have been business building and life changing for me, literally.
We know that some trade shows are absolutely massive, with hundreds of stands and stalls all vying for the attention of the people walking past. What do you think it takes to a stand out in the crowd and draw in attendees?
They absolutely are - it’s quite overwhelming! A well designed stall is hugely important for capturing attention, but I don’t think that necessarily has to mean flashing lights and gaudy colours - my brand’s aesthetic is understated and delicate, not loud or colourful, but I honestly think this has worked well for me, as I stand out in the reverse sense, by offering some “breathing space” and not being too shouty.
I don’t see trade fairs as a place to push my product onto people - the retailers that I want to stock my designs always find me. I think about how overwhelming it must be as a retailer to have to walk through hundreds of stalls, seek out unique products to stock and place orders. I try to make the experience of connecting with my work a breath of fresh air, and easy. I have fresh flowers at my stand, I have my ordering process efficient and simple. I greet everyone with big smiles. I start conversations.
Following on from this, we know it is so important to keep in contact with people that visited you and keep the connection going. How do you ensure you keep in contact with people after the expo or trade show?
Follow ups are important, and it's a big task after a fair. I collect business cards at the show and also have an iPad with an app that collects emails, which feeds right through to my Mailchimp mailing list. These enable me to start conversations with prospective retailers thereafter. I also try to remember unique snippets of conversation or personal details shared, to continue on the conversations, rather than sound generic.
What is on the horizon for Emma Kate Co and are you brewing up any more plans for any exciting events?
So many adventures! I am just about to dive into working on my next collection, which I will launch mid year both in Melbourne and London. I want to extend my product offering beyond stationery - and more into lifestyle goods and travel resources. Events will be a part of the mix, of course! I’ve got plans underway for a workshop in Sydney…and much more.
And finally, this is one cheeky question we like to ask all our cover girls. Just like musicians have riders, business owners usually develop their own little list of must haves when they are at events. What can’t you live without at your events? Especially as the person running them?
Light flooded spaces, fresh flowers, high heels (I know, not comfortable… but being five foot nothing, I need to compensate some height somehow!) - and champagne to celebrate afterwards!
Isn't Emma Kate just gorgeous?! If you haven't done so yet, pop on over to her website HERE and get lost for hours in the beauty that is her work. I'll be there daydreaming with you!
EHM cover image courtesy of: Katie Mitchell