My Icon Story: Building a personalised print business

My Icon Story uses graphic icons to create bespoke, minimalist artwork. Founder Laura Lane told us how it all started.

When I came back from travelling, I didn’t feel like I had a lot to show for the experience. Every travel souvenir was focused on a single destination, so I designed my own art print with icons to represent the itinerary. 

I shared it with my family and friends and it built from there. People started asking me to create icons for other things to represent a journey, milestone or lifestyle.

The early challenges

One of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to charge for the prints – you think about things like time and production materials. In the end, I looked at the frame and postage and added a bit on top of that to get a baseline for what I should be charging. I looked at competitor pricing too. 

When I left my job to work on it full-time, the first two to three years were such a big transition. It’s a culture shock, because you aren’t surrounded by people. 

I did go to a number of networking things but I felt like I didn’t belong there. I don’t know why. I hated the networking side because it always felt like everyone else was doing better or at a later stage or had raised investment. You compare yourself and think that what you’re doing isn’t good enough.

Moving from full-time back to a side hustle

Laura Robinson My Icon Story I made a massive mistake with my first website developer. 

We did well our first Christmas because we got a piece in the Metro. The following January, I said it would be great to catch up and look at what we can improve on the site. He made a comment that I didn’t have any control over the code and he wouldn’t let anyone else touch it. That was a real turning point. I had to develop the website again. That was an expensive mistake.

I decided to go back into work and pick up some freelance alongside the business. It meant I could keep bootstrapping, rather than going after investment. I still think I need the external money to propel the business forward. In the meantime, I like to look at my freelancing as my side hustle now. 

You think if you go back into work you’ve failed, but it’s not the case. Freelance is paying for the life and allowing me to develop bits on the site.

The lessons learnt in hindsight

Having the right support network matters. I’ve found an amazing group now, and friends and family support is great. 

The money side of things is a tough one, I wish I had loads of money to put into marketing. I know if I did, the marketing would convert. I have a great idea and brand, but not enough sales. It’s a chicken and egg thing. 

Before you launch, you need to be building a customer base. You might have the most amazing product and you expect orders to come flooding in, but it doesn’t work like that. When you launch, you need to have an audience to speak to. I didn’t do that well enough. 

I don’t regret leaving my job to go full-time, despite running out of money. I wish I had done it sooner. I never would have taken the business as far – it gave me a real focus. I worked with some amazing brands too. If I’d still been working full-time, it would have taken a lot longer.

If you leave your job, you have to put everything in to make it work. Maybe I could have done it a bit sooner. I enjoyed my job, but I just had this burning passion that I had to give this a go. 

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