Well then, what’s this? Our quarterly update six weeks later than originally planned. I guess that theme is something in-common with how the past four months have been for us at Pocket Notebooks.
This update is taking a slightly different approach to previous ones, whereby we really want to open up to some of the biggest challenges we’re now facing since establishing Pocket Notebooks in 2015.
Let’s get the hard one out the way to start with. Yes, it’s been three months since we learnt we could no longer supply the Hobonichi Techo, but we still aren’t over it and actually doubt we ever will be.
We opened dialog with 1011, the suppliers of the Hobonichi, on allowing us to renew our wholesale agreement and we jumped through a lot of hoops such as closing down our Hobonichi Accessory Etsy store, which was a prerequisite to continue selling the planners.
Despite complying with these requirements, we learnt we couldn’t supply the Techo or the covers due to no longer having a physical shop presence, something we had in place last year with an independent store in Newcastle. This came as a surprise to us as we worked closely with another independent store in the North East that we felt would compliment the Hobonichi brand.
It has pained us to see the costs that these are retailing at and whilst it’s easy for us to say it now, we are being genuinely serious when saying our strategy was to maintain last year's costs for previous customers or pre-order customers and only apply a small percent increase for new customers.
I’ll stop short of saying our business model relied on the sales of Hobonichi, but given their success last year, we have certainly felt the pinch financially of not having them available.
Dan & I
You may not know this but Dan and I first met whilst working for a leading North East digital agency. We shared common likes, both had young families and we fancied ourselves as a Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais or an Ant & Dec. Soon after launching Pocket Notebooks, I invited Dan on board as a 50/50 partner to help move the business forward.
In the summer just gone, Dan officially launched his own company, We Are Myrias, to formalise the digital offering he provides. We Are Myrias are a little bit different to your traditional digital agencies, with our digital, creative and innovative solutions that help brands engage and grow. But we also work on our own brands. We build websites, design apps, run Pocket Notebooks and also import and distribute coffee accessories across the UK and Europe.
Dan offered me an opportunity to work with him full time at the new office in Stockton-On-Tees as the ops guy, which basically means I make a mean Nespresso coffee (when he actually gets round to it -DS). This collaborative approach will, we believe, serve our projects and customers well going forward.
StudioAlt is the business I originally launched in December 2013, which sold a wide range of stationery products. The business still exists today and like many businesses, has pivoted and changed its strategy to suit demand.
In the summer, I invested heavily in a digital print press that will allow me to bring manufacturing of stationery products in-house. Previously we’ve been importing products from United States, Europe and Japan, as well as having our own products manufactured in Georgia, United States.
It was the import costs, along with customs delays, that’s motivated us to invest in a digital print press to start manufacturing our own paper stationery products, such as our own branded notebooks, planners, desk pads and art & craft supplies.
Pocket Notebooks is approaching 18 months and I guess, like many young relationships, we’ve reached a crossroads on trying to determine the strategy for 2017 and future of the business.
Since the summer, we’ve been really busy on trying to launch and establish We Are Myrias, along with assessing the best approach to take with the printing side of StudioAlt. If I’m honest, we’ve had our heads up our bottoms in terms of focus and I’ll be the first to admit that Pocket Notebooks, and you, may have suffered. You’ve probably noticed we’ve had next to no stock, our website looks dated, our delivery dates are getting longer and even the little extras we like to include in the subscription boxes have dried up.
We also believe there is a glass ceiling in this particular niche business. There’s only so many brands manufacturing pocket sized notebooks and you may have seen from our recently launched brands such as Public Supply, that one of our challenges is making sure these are constantly in stock.
Believe me, this is not the standards we aim for and it’s something that Dan and I are committed to resolving. The beauty of us working together now affords us the opportunity to talk about Pocket Notebooks in length and we’ve had numerous conversations about the direction we want to take Pocket Notebooks, from making our own notebooks to the extreme of selling the business.
Something we’ve always been keen on establishing is a close relationship with our customers to help us understand what you would like from us. As such, we’ve prepared a short survey which is completely anonymous and to encourage feedback we’ll pick a random response to receive a pack of notebooks.
We've got some exciting new Notebooks arriving in the UK such as the Word Memorandum 2017 and new Field Notes Winter release. We're also eager to get some new lines to support the demands for Christmas before taking a few weeks break with friends and family to reflect on what's been an incredible 2016.
Remember, forget the App, there’s a Pocket Notebook for that…
Cheers, Tony & Dan