It feels like fate when you discover that one of your favourite stationery brands is based right here in Edinburgh. The city is home to lots of creative businesses, including Busy B. Their range of stationery, diaries and planners is designed to not only look beautiful, but be practical too.
The brand was originally known as K Two when it was founded in 1997, but in 2014 they rebranded to Busy B in order to focus more on providing stunning products with a distinctive style. We caught up with founder, Kerri, to find out all about this brilliant Edinburgh-based business.
What inspired you to start Busy B?
It all began back in 1997 when I was travelling around Australia in an old VW camper van with my future husband Kieran. Trained as a product designer at Glasgow School of Art, I loved problem solving, and I had a ‘lightbulb moment’.
Using whatever was to hand, namely some cereal packets and a pair of nail scissors, I made early prototypes of what would become a nifty little Christmas card holder. The following year I landed an order for 10,000 of them from the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
What is your favourite product that Busy B has created?
I am still very fond of the card tree, it was the first idea I made real and I still think it was a good idea, a very useful tool to keep your Christmas cards organised and nicely displayed – a clever tool at a busy time of the year, the same ethos still lies at the heart of our new product development now.
“The Family Calendar is also an all-time favourite of mine, the pockets are such a simple idea that really help you stay organised and know where to find the key bit of info in an instant!”
Long after we stopped producing them I’d see them in people’s houses, being carefully re-erected every Christmas to make them last as long as possible. I had a lot of unhappy friends and family when there were no more left!
I also love the new Perfect Planner – it offers a gorgeous classic look outside and a visual treat inside. It has a great week page layout with enough space to write a lot, lots of areas for lists (which I love) and lovely details like the stickers, it’s both beautiful and will keep you super organised.
How do you come up with the inspiration and designs for new products?
I really value our customer research – identifying the problems we can solve! My heart still lies in the product design and the innovation we can come up with to make products genuinely useful.
What is the biggest struggle you’ve faced with the business?
I have made literally hundreds of mistakes but none big enough to bankrupt myself, thankfully. I came close to it about year 2 when I had all my available cash tied up in card trees which were seasonal and only sold September – December. So I nearly ground to a halt. I wasn’t earning anything from the business but I couldn’t develop anything new or pay the rent so I had to sell thousands to a clearance house for 20p each in spring just to get cash back in to the business to keep trading, I remember clearly I cried at my desk that day!
A tough lesson that managing your stock levels is hugely important. I still look at pallets and pallets of stock these days as money, literally bank notes, in boxes. You have to keep it moving and reinvesting the cash into new developments, products and the things that will bring the business future growth.
What is your favourite thing about living and working in Edinburgh?
I live just outside of the city and very close to the beach, so I enjoy that I can have family time outdoors at the beach with my children and taking in incredible views, but I can also enjoy the buzz of city life. A particular favourite of mine is enjoying the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The city has such a great atmosphere during the festival and has so many visitors to our beautiful city.
“Busy B not only offers stylish, award-winning stationery, but every product idea is thoroughly researched and designed to make family life simpler, better organised and more beautiful.”
What are some of your favourite Edinburgh businesses?
Eteaket Tea is one of my favourites and Morph Suits. Both started as very small entrepreneurial businesses and have continued to have great successful businesses. It’s great to see other local businesses doing so well.
I also find many other businesses out with Edinburgh inspirational. I really love the combination of cleverness/function and look of Joseph Joseph kitchenware. They take a problem and find such a clever and useful solutions. I also particularly like the timeless style and materials of HAY – Danish Homewares.
When you’re not in the Busy B office, where are you likely to be found?
I like doing and making creative things with the kids – from baking to sewing things and junk gluing! I love spending time with friends and family and we like having holidays in new places, travelling and exploring even with three kids! We just adventured to Australia for Christmas.
All photos in this article are by Busy B.