Ohh Deer - one of our most beloved and successful card brands has been commandeered by Mark and Jamie. They have grown a wonderful company from the ground up and partnered with some hilarious artists to create unique, humorous and down to earth greeting cards. Some of their most notable artists include Gemma Correll, Alex Wilmore and Marloes De Vries. I have always been fascinated with their story and so I asked if they wanted to answer a few of my questions so that I could share them to you all.
Could you start off by telling us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
I'm Mark and I'm the Managing Director at Ohh Deer - I run the business with my partner Jamie who is our Creative Director. However, we both founded the company together and both get involved in all aspects of the business. My background is in illustration, having trained at University as one. I then became more interested in the business side after working in the Students' Union at Kingston University (I was an elected Vice-President for Communications for two years).
Now my days are really varied as I'm going between internal departments, managing HR, Health and Safety and working on growing the business further. I also travel a fair amount as I try and attend all tradeshows where we exhibit at as well as meeting different customers and suppliers when required.
I absolutely love your brand - it is filled with humour and your social media always makes me laugh. What made you guys decide that you wanted to focus on the comedy side of things?
Thanks! For humour is a massive part of our lives and using that in our brand allows us to show our personalities creatively. Our customers also know us for humour and we do venture out sometimes without humour as we don't want to limit what we can do - however, humour sells really well for us and we're also good at it. Also, I don't think you can name your company Ohh Deer without some level of funny!
I’ve read that you began your business by writing a successful blog, have you always been passionate about writing and what sparks your interest?
Part of my role at the Students' Union was running the Student Newspaper, so there has always been an interest yes. Growing up, when no one even knew what the internet was I would often create little zines full of drawings and writing as well. I find now that I don't really have the time to blog, but I am planning on bringing this back into my working week in some form. I have an eclectic taste but over the last year I've been more interested in small business writing (I actually got a bit too obsessed and read more books on business last year than I probably did at school) as well as mental health and self-improvement.
You guys run a bunch of competitions for your business, what one or two of the funniest or stand out entries over the years?
Great question! I thought I'd struggle to answer this but as soon as I gave it some thought there has been one stand out range for me that's come from one of competitions and that's our Paul Gandhi range (known for his 'Eat your Fucking Cake' and 'Another 365 days since you fell out of a vagina' cards). They have been one of our strongest selling ranges over the last few years - the actual designs appear to be really simple but they have a charm about them as well!
What are your all time favourite pieces of literature?
Jamie and myself are definitely more into film and TV but I guess I have a few books that I've loved reading! I remember reading Life of Pi by Yann Martel and struggled to put the book down, the same goes for The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini. I'm also a big fan of The Help by Kathryn Stockett and equally loved the film as well. For business, I really enjoyed #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso (which they turned into a Netflix series as well)... when I was reading it I was personally struggling with my own mental health which much of it stemmed from running a business. This book just proved that every company struggles and while it can sometimes be incredibly difficult (including managing cash flow and staff) things can be turned around, but you have to be prepared for hard work.
What do you guys do when work is done for the week?
Well sometimes work is never over for the week... especially during the early days of Ohh Deer! But we've got much better at having a work / life balance recently so our weeks often finish with friends and heading down the pub or cinema. We also have two beautiful Sausage Dogs (Finley and Scout) who demand a fair amount of our time and attention! We also go and visit family and friends that don't live locally to us. We've also recently been renovating our house (that type of hard work comes much harder for me!).
We also run a fortnightly quiz at our local pub so we also work on this at the weekends too. And then in the mix of everything else you'll probably find us crashed out on the sofa watching Netflix!
Where do you plan to take Ohh Deer this year and what else have you guys got in the works?
We've actually just completed a bit of a company restructure - being a small growing business it's important to understand that some roles and structures that we originally set up aren't the best fit anymore. So this year has been about finishing the finer details and making sure everyone is focused on where we're going now. We've stripped back much of our product offering and re-focused on greeting cards (they have also been our staple product and have been a little neglected recently). We've also just launched a sub-brand to Ohh Deer called Off-Centre. This brand will be more targeted towards to large multiple retailers such as supermarkets. Jamie and myself are also focused on our subscription service (Papergang) and growing this further as well.