How it began
I suppose we should start with my story. Here it is in brief: I grew up in the UK, surrounded by the Isle of Wight's natural beauty before leaving to study zoology at university. A few years later, after a brief tangent into palaeoanthropology, I signed up for a post-graduate diploma in wildlife conservation with the amazing Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Until then, I hadn't considered quite how much wildlife conservation was about humans. Almost entirely, actually. While we absolutely need conservationists saving endangered species on the ground, human behaviour is the biggest thing that needs to change if we are to save our planet. I realised that much of the work around conservation, then, comes down to communications.
That was decided. I was going to be a human behaviour change specialist. But first, I needed to earn some money. So when I returned to the UK, I took the first communications job that was offered to me - I became editor of a veterinary magazine. It wasn't conservation, but it wasn't light years away, and I loved it. I learnt a huge amount about the communications world and joined the important conversations around sustainability and conservation in the profession.
At the end of 2019, I left my job as senior editor of the veterinary magazine to move into a freelance role. With more time on my hands, I took the opportunity to create a brand for my wildlife art, and make a go of selling my work online. The idea of creating an eco-friendly art and card business with a focus on endangered animals had been in the back of my mind for some time and, though I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I felt a strong drive to give it a try.
The scariest part for me (and I think many who have been through a similar process) was the vulnerability I felt with telling the world that I thought my artwork was worth money. I didn't identify as an artist, having no formal art qualifications and hardly any experience, and that initial step was terrifying. Much more so than the actual growing a business element (which I knew even less about!)
Since the first leap into the unknown, I have taken a bunch of courses and read a tonne of business books. I have genuinely loved every moment of the learning process so far, and can say with certainty that running my own business is for me. I love the variety, flexibility and creativity it brings to my days. There are always problems to solve and experiments to be run. I have a never-ending list of new projects I am excited (genuinely excited, like kid on Christmas Eve level of excited) about getting stuck into.
What is Wild Lines about?
Today, Wild Lines is my primary focus and my mission for the business is clear - I want to provide unique and eco-friendly cards and gifts for people who love the natural world. And I want to do that with three main values in mind:
Eco-friendly: I strive to minimise my environmental footprint
Friendly: I strive to be approachable and speak with customers like friends
Passionate: I strive to share my passion for wildlife, including through messages of optimism for Earth's future
I sell my work as detailed wildlife art prints, fun, eco-friendly and unusual greeting cards, stationery (like illustrated notebooks) and other gifts. Many of my customers shop through my website and Etsy shop, but I also supply cards, prints and gifts wholesale to retailers like gift shops, card shops, zoo shops and garden centres.
The majority of my sales come from my hand-drawn animal greetings cards. That makes me very happy, since I think a thoughtfully chosen and written card can bring so much joy! I also love that when people choose to buy a Wild Lines card, they are buying a recycled card and envelope (either naked or in a compostable sleeve) - whether or not that was a factor in their decision to buy. The vast majority of greetings cards are still printed on non-recycled paper and sold with non-recycled envelopes in plastic sleeves.
I'm very proud to stand out as an eco-friendly greetings card supplier; equally, though, I hope that one day the retail environment changes to such an extent that it will no longer be a unique selling point.
What's next for Wild Lines?
Wild Lines is still in its early stages and my goals are around growing my customer base and working on my wholesale offering. I would love to have Wild Lines products stocked by more gift shops - especially those relating to wildlife conservation in some way, like zoos, wildlife parks, nature reserves and museums. Creating new designs is one of my favourite parts of running a business, and I will continue to launch new greeting card designs on a regular basis.
My next big project is a different one entirely. Right now, I am working on a children's picture book. The story is written, but the illustration stage is taking a lifetime! There has been a lot to learn. I hope to launch the book in summer 2024 - watch this space!
If there is anything you would like to see from Wild Lines in future or you know of any shops where you think Wild Lines products could be a good fit, I'd love to hear from you - please drop me a message :)