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2020. The year that the world completely changed. The year when we were all forced to make changes to our lives. The year that we will remember forever.
When news of covid-19 first hit back in January of 2020, we as a business never envisaged the effect that it would have. We exhibited at London Comic Con Spring at the end of February and had a fantastic show on the banks of the Mersey in Liverpool in March. And then trading as we knew it stopped overnight.
When large scale events bring in the majority of your earnings and like so many others, you have bills to pay and a family to support, this news felt like the end. We were suddenly plunged into a world of home-schooling and trying to grow a business remotely.
Determined to make a success of our online presence, we spent the months during lockdown learning about marketing. Facebook ads, email campaigns, user on boarding, coding; you name it, we learnt it. There were many frustrations and risks. Spending money to promote your brand with no guarantee of success; not having the complete know-how especially when it came to computer jargon; trying to educate an 8 year old and work from home-all difficult at a time of world crisis and uncertainty.
But do you know what? We did it. Our hard work paid off and our online sales began to grow. Our website was processing orders the likes of which we hadn’t seen before in all of our years of trading. And it felt like such a relief. To know that we were relevant not just at comic cons and gamer events but to people in their own homes. That our business is viable both in a face-to-face and online capacity.
This time has also enabled us to create new designs (Moon, Anchorman, The Goonies, Highlander to name a few) and to work on expanding our product lines. We are just about to launch beanie hats and are hoping to print baseball caps when the spring and summer months finally arrive.
And although we have found this time such a challenge and a worry, it has brought about positives. Finding new ways to work keeps your business fresh and we have been able to spend much more time together as a family. Don’t get us wrong, we can’t wait for the days of large scale events to return. We get a real buzz out of selling designs that we love to people who love them too. Being able to talk about a shared interest is a huge part of what we drives us forward with our business. But this will now co-exist alongside our website sales. The best of both worlds. A steep learning curve and one that no doubt has not finished on its trajectory just yet.
There is hope that 2021 will be a year where we are able to interact freely with each other. Where we can meet at events whenever and wherever we want. But 2020 will always be there as a reminder not to take for granted what we have. And it will hopefully enable us to appreciate those things that have been temporarily taken away from us just a little bit more than we did.
Stay safe everyone. Here’s to reaching light at the end of the tunnel.
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What a busy few months May and June have proven to be for us…not that we’re complaining! We’ve had shows in Newcastle, London, Birmingham, Glasgow and Belfast and are off to Dublin this weekend to finish June off. The logistics of organising ourselves to have a stand at an event sometimes feels like one of those puzzles where you move squares around a bigger square to make a complete picture! Running between printers, suppliers of t-shirts, storage units and then up and down the country can sometimes be stressful but it’s all worth it when we set up at a show and sell products which we truly believe in and we know people genuinely love!
Those people that have seen us at a comic con or have ordered a t-shirt online, will most probably have received one of our new re-vamped leaflets. And I’ve got to say, we’re really pleased with them! We wanted to design something which really showcases our products in an easy to read format and encourages people to have a good look around our website. So far, so good! The traffic for our website has increased considerably and orders are really picking up which is great. We also feel that the leaflet appeals to the novice film fan…those people who want to buy a t-shirt for someone but aren’t always sure which film the shirt relates to. By putting the film name with the t-shirt, the leaflet has universal appeal. Winner!
The London Excel show that we have recently been at was where we launched our latest two designs. Our Arkham Asylum and Wayne Enterprises are super popular and so we wanted to give Batman fans another t-shirt to add to their collections! Our brand new Gotham City Police Department was a huge hit this month and sold out in its first weekend of being launched. Don't worry though; more have been printed and will be available at Dublin this weekend. Our other design is Jaws 19 (anyone guess the film?!) This too has proved to be popular and will also be in Ireland with us on Saturday. Both should be available to buy through our website before mid-July so keep visiting to keep updated on their progress.
What’s next for Unit 13 Originals then? We’re in the process of drawing up further new designs and are extending our range of ladies fit t-shirts. We’re also keeping incredibly busy just with the printing needed to fulfil the shows that we’ve already booked. It truly is a balancing act! July continues to be an action-packed month with us having stands at Blackpool Play Expo, London Film and Comic Con and MCM Manchester. Keep an eye out for our stand if you are visiting and be sure to come over and see us and to check out what’s new. Remember that you can subscribe to our newsletter so that you don't miss out on the latest designs and news.
#LFCC #MCMComicCon #BlackpoolExpo
It’s been a busy 10 days or so for us here at Unit 13 Originals! Firstly, we launched our website which has gone down brilliantly. In true ‘The Apprentice’ style, we did some market research (close friends only!) and asked for feedback on the site. We’ve changed a few bits such as the colour scheme on the FAQs section but apart from that, the comments were really encouraging. It’s now a matter of driving more and more traffic to it and making sure that the all important SEO does its job!
After the excitement of our website launch, it was time to pack the van ready for EmCom in Nottingham. We’ve not had a stand at this event before, but we’d heard really positive reports about it and decided to give it a go. We were glad we did. After the initial struggle of getting the stock out of the van (the slope from the car park was steeper than K2!), we set up within 2 hours and were ready for the crowds the next morning.
It doesn’t seem to matter which shows we do, the atmosphere at them is always amazing. It’s a privilege to be able to share in the excitement of the weekend with people who have a real passion for their interest and hobbies. Many of the costumes are absolutely out of this world (literally!) and it’s clear how much time, effort and money people have put into them. We particularly loved the Daleks this weekend who were picking fights with unsuspecting people and generally terrorising the crowds! We love it too when whole families have picked a theme and are walking around as The Addams Family or characters from Star Wars, really soaking up the buzz and atmosphere of the whole event. It feels like a special place to be.
As it is very often only one of us at an event (we have a 5 year old who needs looking after by the ‘other’ one of us!), we don’t usually get much of a chance to look around whilst the day is in full flow. We obviously get to talk to other traders before and after the crowds have been but we never really get to meet any of the guests or hear any talks. That is unless one of them comes and finds you!
Danny John-Jules (aka The Cat in Red Dwarf), spotted our t-shirts and was hooked! He loved our designs and told us that he never really buys off stands unless he is totally taken by something…two Average Joes and a Kobayashi tee says that he was! He was a friendly bloke who was happy to stand and chat for a while and have pictures taken with fans and with his Unit 13 Originals purchases. After telling us that he hears the phrase ‘Duane Dibley’ off someone every day, he left to go and have lunch at a local cafe…Kittys!
The next few weeks continues to be busy for us. We’ve another show at the end of the month in Newcastle and we’re continuing to work on new designs. Look out for Back to the Future II, Breaking Bad, Dredd, Batman and Quentin Tarantino inspired t-shirts in the near future. We’re also re-vamping our Unit 13 Originals leaflet, showcasing our great range of products and designs. If you want to keep up to date with all our latest news, special offers and discounts, be sure to sign up for our news letter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
I’ve got to say, sitting here writing a blog after designing and publishing the Unit 13 Originals website, is not the usual thing that I would be doing. Up until July last year, I’d be found in a classroom 3 days a week, teaching a class of 30 8-9 year olds. It’s what I’ve done since I was 21 and it’s all I’ve known for the past 16 years…
So when my husband suggested that I maybe take a year off and join him in expanding Unit 13 Originals, I was a little nervous to say the least! Unit 13 is a brand that I’ve watched him develop and throw his all into for 11 years and for me to come on board felt a bit risky. What if we didn’t have the same outlook on things? What if we really got on each other’s nerves? What if the only thing I am actually good at is teaching?!
Needless to say, after a whole lot of discussion, I decided to take the plunge. And why wouldn’t I? I absolutely love the t-shirts we design and sell and I love the amazing feedback we get from our customers. It’s great meeting like-minded people at comic cons and I get a real buzz from seeing people so excited about our products. Only last week, I was at The Trafford Centre in Manchester and spotted someone proudly wearing one of our t-shirts. Our t-shirts!!!
The future of our business is looking bright and I am really excited about the rest of 2017. We have loads of plans for new designs and products and launching our website feels like a big step forward.
Oh and for those of you who are wondering…my husband and I do have the same outlook on things and we haven’t got on each other’s nerves! And I’ve discovered that teaching isn’t the only skill that I possess. What a relief!
#careerchange #business #unit13originals