“At the time, I had a busy 9-5, no experience, no suppliers and no contacts in the industry. So I approached an existing publisher. They offered to take me on board – however, the overall impression they gave was that ‘hip hop animals’ might be too niche for greeting cards. I really appreciated their offer, but I was so confident in my designs that I said thanks and turned it down.”
I (Matt) have always been creative and loved illustration and graphic design. However, I was incredibly far removed from the world of greeting cards. Before founding Jolly Awesome, I was actually a Digital Marketing Manager at a Corporate bank in London’s financial hub. Somewhere I had been since graduating University in 2009.
It was at the end of 2013 that I started getting my creative itch back and began illustrating again for fun. I posted my hip hop animal doodles on Instagram [@JollyAwesomeArt] and started getting a great response. One illustration turned into two, and eventually I had a small body of work, which led to several exhibitions in London including a show at Sir Quentin Blake’s House of Illustration. People seemed to love the sass and humour of my illustrations, so I came up with the idea of putting them on greeting cards as I hadn’t seen anything like them before.
I aimed high and pitched them to the top two contemporary giftware multiples in the UK. I was determined to get Jolly Awesome into stores and onto shelves.
At the time I had a busy 9-5, no experience, no suppliers and no contacts in the industry. So I approached an existing publisher. They offered to take me on board – however the overall impression they gave was that ‘hip hop animals’ might be too niche for greeting cards. I really appreciated their offer, but I was so confident in my designs that I said thanks and turned it down.
In Spring 2014, both the retailers I approached invited me to their head offices. They wanted to go national with Jolly Awesome. I came out the meetings promising myself I would quit my job at the end of that Summer.
On 22nd September 2014 I handed in my notice at HSBC, which by coincidence was the official first day of Autumn.
A year later – my fiancée Katie, who helped and supported me every step of the way quit her job as Retail Merchandiser at a major fashion brand, and joined Jolly Awesome full-time as Sales & Operations Director. Our little Frenchie, Raffy came on board too. He’s Chief Executive wind-breaker and Director of walks.
We’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world doing tradeshows, (New York being a favourite). Today we have nationwide distribution in the UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Finland and footprints in Mainland Europe and the Middle-East.
At the National Stationery Show 2017, Katie and I begin our latest adventure and debut our new sister brand – Paperboy London [@PaperboyLondon]. Luxe design-led stationery, with the same sassy, fun DNA of Jolly Awesome. We can’t wait to show our passion project to the US audience.