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Q&A: An Interview with Designer and Artist Paula Nicholls

Paula Nicholls

Running a successful small business can be challenging, no matter the circumstances. Navigating the work/life balance, managing your finances, and making people believe in your products all amount to a lot of hard work and responsibility. When you are supporting someone with a life-threatening illness however, these responsibilities become all the more important, and a little bit of help can go a long way.

Paula Nicholls designs and sells original art prints and cards under the pseudonym Betty Boyns (which was her mother’s maiden name). She has been using the success of her small but mighty business to help her care for her son, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2017. Paula has adapted and thrived in the face of adversity. She has utilised important tools and partnerships to allow her to continue creating beautiful prints during this difficult time. Recently, she took part in a competition from Where The Trade Buys and won £1,000 worth of printing credits. This has given her the opportunity to develop her business and take her products to the next level. We caught up with Paula to find out how she balanced her business with her caring role.

Since you began your business you seem to have gone from strength to strength and worked with some big names. Tell us a bit more about your business and how you got to where you are today?

Until a few years ago my company, Betty Boyns, sold my own designs as fabric and homeware wholesale. After being asked for a bespoke design, I decided to move away from holding stock and looked at digital print instead. This change of direction has led to some big partnerships. Since then, I have designed prints for TK Maxx, The Edan Project, Dogs Trust, RSPB Cornwall Hospice Care, and many other amazing brands.

Tell us a bit about your family, and how you’ve adapted your business after taking up a caring role.

In May 2017 my son was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and I needed to work from hospital while he was undergoing treatment. Because of this, I decided to adapt my business to focus on prints, cards, and bespoke design rather than working with fabrics.

It was around this time that I discovered Where The Trade Buys. Because of the quick turnaround of Where The Trade Buys’ service, I was able to have reduced stock and have things delivered from wherever I am. This flexibility has allowed me to adapt my working life around my son’s treatments, working from wherever he needs to be to receive the best care — his first stem cell transplant in Cornwall failed and he’s now having treatment in Bristol where I spend half of my time in order to support him.

Since first discovering them, how has your experience of Where The Trade Buys impacted your business?

At first, I wasn’t expecting a lot as I have always found colour matching with other companies difficult —colour is my core USP — but was immediately delighted when my first orders of prints came through.

The Indigo technology creates excellent colour reproduction mimicking my own InDesign files. I am an artist/designer first and foremost and have limited technical expertise despite being in this business for the last 15 years. Because of this, I must rely on the skills and experience of professionals. Where The Trade Buys has been helpful over technical issues, and as I’m someone who can happily ask for advice and support, I have been well served by the company.

The fast turnaround that WTTB offers is vital for my business needs. Often, an order will come in that needs fulfilling by the end of the week and as I hold limited stock, this is a life saver! I use the word ‘reactive’ quite a lot but being reactive and adaptable is crucial when working with a client on short turnarounds. Especially considering my location often changes, and I hold minimal stock.

Your recently struck gold with WTTB, winning £1,000 worth of printing credits. How are you planning on using this prize to forward your business?

Initially I will be concentrating on Christmas orders, focussing on cards, gift-wrap, and calendars. After the festive season is over, I will start focussing on the online element of my business. 2020 will be the first year I won’t be attending a UK trade show, and I’m aiming to direct mail potential clients and customers instead.

The £1,000 credit will allow me to produce a professional presentation pack with samples — so this prize could not have come at a better time. It is clear that even in this age of ecommerce and social media, printed material still holds a valuable place in buying and planning.

It sounds like this service will make quite the impact to your business in 2020! How do you think it will affect your business and your family life in the future?

Flexibility is crucial at the moment, and the ease of ordering and deliveries help enormously. My son is due a new stem cell transplant over the next six months and I need to construct a more passive income from wherever I am in the country — designing, ordering, invoicing online, deliveries sent to wherever I’ll be that week.

My design work has received a lot of attention over the last year and have been approached by Harrods, RNLI, Historic Palaces, Battersea Dogs Home and more regarding products so the future of the business looks good! Its’ success allows me to care for my son during this time.

I am currently rebranding the business to Betty Boyns Designs, concentrating on retail with prints, cards and some giftware. I have been developing my shops on Not On The High Street, Etsy, and my own website which has just gone live.

As a self-employed woman who needs to work around important life commitments and family responsibilities, it has been fantastic to find professional and reliable companies like Where The Trade Buys. Having the fortune to work with a reliable company like this one allows me to be flexible and build my business from strength to strength. This has helped me provide my son with the vital support that he needs.

Find out more about Betty Boyns Designs:


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