We’re thrilled to introduce another very special wedding stationer, Zara, who agreed to go ‘under the spotlight!’ We know loads about our customers shopping choices but so little about them and their lives.
Enjoy this window into Zara’s life, we know we did!
Zara runs ‘Handmade by Zara’ located near Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway – here’s Zara’s story
Zara Gell - THE PROUD OWNER OF ‘Handmade by Zara’
wowvow: Tell us a little about the journey you made to launching your business.
Zara: The idea for my business actually started when I made my own wedding stationery nearly 8 years ago! I wanted monochrome Art Deco style invites with black envelopes, and a fully matching On the Day Suite, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for from one supplier or at an affordable price. So I made them myself: designed and sourced from scratch. During this time I started to notice that there were some fabulous designs out there but they were invariably in cream or white with only a hint of colour.
I wanted bold colours and strong designs with an entire suite of wedding stationery available in a range of colours, as standard. From my research I knew this could be possible but I stored up all my ideas as I had a ‘proper’ job working in Art Galleries and Museums.
My opportunity to start my own business came when I had to give up my job to follow my Royal Navy Submariner husband on his new draft 500 miles away in order to keep our family together! Handmade by Zara started as a working title but it just stuck! In between looking after my 2 kids I used my time to work out my designs, find great suppliers (Wowvow, obvs), and build my website. It was slow to start and it took a little longer to get my business going than I would have liked, largely because I wasn’t sure where and when we would be sent next. When the draft order finally came in I took the decision not to move on with him, but to move back home so that I could properly throw myself into my wedding stationery. He still doesn’t move back to Scotland for another few months but it was the best decision for me and I haven’t looked back since!
wowvow: How do you differentiate yourself from other wedding suppliers?
Zara: I’m all about the colour! All of my designs are available in over 70 different pearlescent colours, 40 pebble papers, and 70 satin ribbons! So I know that I can find a colour combo to match any wedding colour scheme! Brides can go as bold and bright, or as neutral as they choose. I allow brides to personalise their fonts and wordings so that their Invitations are a natural extensions of themselves. I don’t have set packages so my brides can pick and choose what items of stationery they want, making them and their budget happy. I also try to be as transparent as possible when it comes to costs, nothing is hidden as wedding budgets can be too tight to get a surprise extra cost.
wowvow: What is your favourite craft tool?
Zara: As weird as this sounds, my favourite craft tool is my bone smoother that I use for getting a sharp crease on my folded stationery. The reason being I used to use this exact tool when I was doing my Archaeological Conservation degree at uni! Back in the day I used it for smoothing the fill on a reconstructed Pre Dynastic Egyptian ceramic pot (many of the tools used in the lab come from other walks of life, including dentistry)! I stress that this smoother has been well cleaned since then! It reminds me that I have the skills for fine and delicate details and I have endless patience for small fiddly tasks (the absolute opposite when it comes to technology!)
wowvow: What’s your favourite wowvow product?
Zara: My favourite wowvow product has to be the pebble paper! I love the size of the range that wowvow stock: a full rainbow of colours! It fits perfectly with my ethos of offering a wide range of colours. I also love that you can order a swatch pack of these papers so that my brides can get the opportunity to feel the quality and see the shimmery colours for themselves. I’m also looking forward to trying out the new range of sealing waxes! It’s been perfect timing in the launch of these for me as I have a bespoke order and I was struggling to find a UK supplier.
wowvow: Why do you like to shop with wowvow?
The website is so easy to use and you can see what you are buying! That sounds stupid but it makes such a difference when the product images are crystal clear and you can see what’s in stock. The delivery is speedy and, I’m not going to lie, the little sweet that comes with it usually eaten in nanoseconds!
wowvow: Where do you take your inspiration from?
Zara: I take my inspiration from anything and everything but particularly from colours! I love making up colour combos and see which work best. I love subtle elegance and the total opposite of bright, bold and brash! I also take inspiration from my brides! I’ve been asked to create stationery in certain colours that I might not have put together initially but the finished product always works! I’m also working on bespoke Save the Date cards at the moment, where the bride has given me her ideas and now I get to have a play around. As part of this I’m looking to introduce foil to my stationery, which is quite exciting for me!
wowvow: Who is your design hero?
Zara: One of my design hero’s is Ingvar Kamprad, the man who founded Ikea! We all have a piece of Ikea furniture somewhere (my office is the unofficial show room), as it’s well designed and affordable. Again I like the availability of things in different colours, and how you can mix and match what you want. Maybe I’m the Ikea of wedding stationery? I also like Victoria Beckham’s style. I’m no way a fan of her personally but I love the clean lines and non-patterned colour palette of her clothing designs. They are bold but also are elegance and style personified.
wowvow: What is your proudest personal/and or professional accomplishment over the last year?
Zara: I think this would be exhibiting my stationery at the Scottish Wedding Show. I have come a long way from researching my ideas when I was living on the south coast of England, to setting the business up, moving back to Scotland and running it well enough to ‘play with the big boys’ in the industry! To discuss all things Wedding Stationery with so many brides was fantastic but the best bit was when they said that they hadn’t seen stationery as colourful as mine! And to see my diary fill up with brides who loved my work was fantastic!
wowvow: What do you imagine you’d be doing if you didn’t have your business?
Zara: I’d still be in the Museums and Galleries world. I love all things old and learning something from every piece you handle, and knowing that you are just the custodian for future generations. It really was a privilege to be up close and personal with some of the finest artworks in the world! I’ll admit that I miss flying (in First Class!) to bring an artwork back from a far-flung destination, but being my own boss is way better (apart from the First Class bit). If I put the hard work in, I get the rewards; it’s not lost in a big chain of management. I also love being part of the world of weddings, who wouldn’t be?
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wowvow: What is the best gift you’ve ever received?
Zara: Hands down this is my xmas present from my husband: the entire Agatha Christie collection of hardback books! It had been a challenge I’d set myself to find this particular set in second hand books shops and I’d found others but they didn’t match the ones I already had. My fabulous husband then hit the mother-load and got me 90+ in one go! And they all matched! I’m all about the ‘matchy matchy’ in my personal life as well as in my stationery.
wowvow: What are your pet hates?
Zara: I think number one at the moment is the miss spelling of stationery! And I don’t mean from brides! Everybody makes mistakes but for large companies who should know better it drives me nuts! Rant over!
wowvow: What was the last photograph you took with your phone?
Zara: I mainly use my phone for my business as it’s one of the stupid extra large ones and it doesn’t fit in my pocket when I go out with the kids. So the last photo was one of my ‘Colour Combos’ series for my Instagram, which shows the mix of pearlescent and pebble paper and matching ribbon in a colour theme of the day! The photo before that was a screen shot for my daughter’s gymnastic club! Think that sums up a working mums life!
wowvow: What is your personal mantra?
Zara: It’s not a catchy one but ‘take 2 minutes now, to save 2 hours later’. I’m all about doing any job properly the first time, and not having to comeback and fix it later. I take the 2 minutes extra to put my cutlery back in the correct place in the kitchen drawer, so when I’m in hurry I know I can just grab the knife to make my sons packed lunch. This principle applies to my business too: I use Trello for my workflow and I make sure that my brides’ paperwork is all there for us both to see. This way I’m not scrolling through hundreds of emails trying to find the proofs I’d sent. I’m far from being Marie Kondo but I like to be organised!
wowvow: How does your day start?
Zara: Coffee, school run, coffee. I’d love to say that I start it off with a yoga session, but bending over to find missing school shoes is about it! Once I have peace and quiet I can get into work mode and double check my plan for the day is. Some days it’s mainly admin whilst others can be a marathon bow making session.
wowvow: What are you reading at the Moment?
Zara: Of course I’m readying an Agatha Christie: A Pocketful of Rye. I love them as I love Art Deco and the snapshot of the time it was written. I always have a stack of books on the go, mainly Sci-fi and fantasy, never really any other crime writers. Terry Pratchett is my other all time favourite, and the only other author whose books fill my shelves!
wowvow: Tell us something we don’t already know about you!
Zara: I have an HGV licence! As part of my job in my previous life I used to drive very, very, expensive artwork around for a very well known Art Gallery. Even though people had seen me climb out of the driver’s seat they still asked which one of other 5 men on my team was the driver! I still have my licence so if I was to get a massive wedding stationery order I’d have no problems delivering it!