It was quite a big deal for us at elevencorners to join Not On The High Street as a partner. Not On The High Street (NOTHS) have a great reputation, are very well known in the UK and do lots of marketing - all of which is good if you're a small business just getting started. Becoming a NOTHS partner was also a validation that our prints had a wider market.
But how did we actually get started with NOTHS? What did we have to do to be invited to join? There are a lot of ways to become a NOTHS partner, but this is how it happened for us...
Luckily, we lived only about an hour away from NOTHS HQ (a beautiful building in Richmond). When the annual NOTHS Pitch Up event occurred in Autumn 2016, I (Rob) went along with a pile of elevencorners prints. A NOTHS Pitch Up is exactly what it sounds like - you turn up and pitch your product to NOTHS.
I'd booked my 10 minute morning slot a few weeks beforehand so I'd had plenty of time to get something ready to show them. I took some map prints, a couple of crosswords, some coordinates prints and some world maps made of travel quotes, all slotted into a neat A2 size art bag.
I arrived in good time and went upstairs to a hall full of tables and people and products of various shapes and sizes. There were about 10 or 12 tables with a couple of NOTHS people sitting behind each one. I'd booked an early time slot and things had only just started to get going. I sat down and waited to be called. I didn't have to wait very long.
I walked over to a table near a window.
I opened my bag, put the prints on the table and chatted away about them. The woman from NOTHS liked one or two of the ideas and said I was on the right track but I don't think she really liked the overall look of what I'd brought them. She was very positive about some of the colour combinations, though.
I think I had too many different things with me and what I had wasn't refined enough. And it was all a bit messy, with several loose prints spread across the table.
No problem! It was an enjoyable experience, and I'd seen what it was all about and how it worked, and had a much better idea of how to approach it next time.
And there was a next time, not very long afterwards.
Spring 2017, same place, same procedure. This time there were different people to talk to and I had different prints to show them. I also had a bit more time before my turn to sit and just watch what was going on. It all looked fascinating.
It must be an enjoyable but tiring day for the NOTHS staff who get to see dozens of new products and meet dozens of new people all hoping that they will get the thumbs up.
Anyway, I sat down with two women from NOTHS. One of them was the head of the Print and Art section - exactly the person I needed to talk to! This time I'd taken fewer prints and I'd framed one or two of them. I pulled them out of the bag one at a time, best one first, so that we wouldn't be distracted by the others.
They loved that first print - a travel crossword in blues and greys mounted in a white frame. I'd removed the glass from the frame so the print could look its very best. We chatted about the crossword and they were quick to point out some variations and occasions for which it might make a good gift.
And then they invited me to be a partner. I hadn't even shown them the other two prints that were still in my bag. But I got them out anyway because I wanted feedback from people who see these kinds of things every working day of their lives. They liked one of them and they didn't like the other one. As I write this, those two print ideas are still waiting to be completed. One of them probably will never see the light of day, the other may still appear.
As soon as I exited NOTHS HQ, I phoned Orla to let her know we'd been accepted! We were so pleased that I went and bought some sort of exotic chocolate bar to celebrate. Brilliant!
Our very first print on Not On The High Street was a family crossword print: