July 17, 2017
Entrepreneurs: Bringing a personal touch to stationery, the Papier man who likes to push the envelope
Taymoor Atighetchi has always had a passion for business and, as he puts it matter-of-factly, making money.
When he was in the sixth form he spent his weekends flogging antiques, initially procured from his antique dealer father, in Portobello Road. His crowning moment was selling a miniature Persian rose to Princess Michael of Kent.
While he was at Cambridge, the art history student squeezed in founding The Tab, a news website that has since gone global, giving him experience in building a brand.
As a graduate he joined consultancy firm Bain but again found he had to scratch his entrepreneurial itch. Three-and-a-half years later he quit and created online stationery and card company Papier.
You might know it for its trendy greetings cards, party invitations or, more recently, its children’s books, all of which can be personalised.
Its wedding collections are particularly popular with millennial brides, who can pick products such as Pineapple Paisley by fashion designer Matthew Williamson or the V&A’s Chinese Floral Porcelain to inject some personality into their big day.
Atighetchi, whose family moved to London from Iran, admits there was no lightbulb moment with the company. Instead, he quit consultancy with a promise that “the next thing that came into my head, regardless of how good it was, I would do”. “No idea starts off perfect,” he argues.
He developed the idea for it after identifying a gap in the stationery market between the likes of Smythson and mass-market operators such as Moonpig and spotting that other sectors like coffee were moving towards premium products.
“The personalised print market is worth £2.5 billion in the UK,” he explains from Papier’s tight but bright headquarters off Carnaby Street.
He holds a stripy Papier notebook with “Taymoor’s notes” printed on the front. “It’s massive and was a real sitting duck in that respect.
There was no real brand that people loved. People knew of big conglomerates like Vista Print that do a good job, but no brand was relevant to a modern generation of customers.
We wanted to make sure it’s not just gimmicky — it’s personalisation that is tasteful, not just sticking a face on a mug.”
Within six months, conversations with industry insiders turned into a business plan for higher-quality, better-designed but still affordable stationery products.
That, and his market stall-honed selling techniques, helped him land £250,000 in seed funding. Charles Tyrwhitt founder and Bain alumnus Nick Wheeler participated after Atighetchi contacted him via LinkedIn.
Atighetchi didn’t make it easy for himself in the early stages. The money was meant to last nine months, but he wanted the website up and running as early as possible to prove the concept.
After hiring a tech team and marketing director, many of whom came from his university network, he set a four-month deadline to build the business and the tech that powers it from scratch.
It was a punishing schedule. “I left a job working 9am to 2am to join a job working 9am to 6am so it was a very weird time.”
In August 2015 when the business was ready to launch, at that point with just greetings cards on offer, Atighetchi was “slightly delirious”.
He confesses to watching the website obsessively, waiting for the first order (an “I love you” card bought by a friend) to be logged.
Before long it became difficult to keep track, with sales growing at 40% each month and a broadening products range.
The early signs of success triggered a second seed round, which enabled a ramp-up in marketing. It recently raised another £3 million, in a funding round led by Farfetch and Goop backer Felix Capital.
At present Atighetchi and his team remain on the look-out for exciting designers and artists to work with, but there are also bigger plans afoot.
They include launching an app for a speedier, more-convenient service. But the 28-year old has ruled out an emailed service in the style of Paperless Post: “We are a physical manufacturer that supports craft and working with people who produce things.”
Selling in bricks-and-mortar stores is also off the table despite approaches from “most” big retailers. “We are a personalised business and in theory you would lose some of that.”
Papier will, however, launch an Australian offshoot in September (it already ships to 35 countries) and a US expansion could be on the cards.
Back in Soho, Atighetchi is also concentrating on the softer side of the business. He’s proud of Papier’s flat structure — “nobody can tell who is more senior than who” — and perks such as the £40-per-month “cultural allowance” doled out to staff.
There are also bi-weekly “school trips” to galleries or museums to “keep everyone visually engaged”.
That makes sense for a man who clearly has an eye for an opportunity.
Original article can be found here.