Smallprint specialises in creating silver jewellery, which captures children’s unique fingerprints, hand and footprints in fine silver. Each item is hand-finished, providing customers with a unique piece of jewellery in every way.
Miniature replicas of drawings, first signatures – mistakes and all – can also be captured on a range of keepsakes.
Smallprint was created by Maija Pykett as a small enterprise located in Bristol in 2004. Maija individually created and sold keepsake items, handcrafted in fine silver and finished with sterling silver findings.
Smallprint, originally based in Bristol, had reached a point where it could no longer meet the demand for its products. When enquiries came in from as far afield as Scotland and Ireland, franchising was the most obvious business model to meet this demand.
Since then, Smallprint has grown fast with 70 franchisees in the UK, an established franchise network in Australia and a large number of franchisees internationally with a growing presence in USA, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
A comprehensive training course takes place at Smallprint head office (Solihull). Trained by Smallprint experts, training lasts 3 days and includes everything you need to know about the product – the manufacturing process, the sale, customer service, PR, marketing and IT.
Ongoing support is provided by head office on a daily basis. You will also receive The Smallprint operations manual which takes you step-by-step through every aspect of running your business.
You will be face-to-face with the customer on a daily basis. You will be out selling the product at events, fairs, playgroups, hosting Smallprint parties at customers’ houses, as well as drop in sessions at your own home/workshop.
With the need for customers to see the product first-hand you will need to balance a significant amount of time out in your local area with the essential management and marketing of your business.
Having worked as a design and technology teacher for 12 years Marie Harkin, who now runs the Bristol franchise, has always been a hands-on, creative character, making her the perfect candidate for a Smallprint franchise.
Bristol has always been at the heart of Smallprint – Maija Pykett created the brand in Bristol back in 2004 as a small business enterprise. Since then Smallprint has gone from strength to strength, now with over 130 franchises worldwide, spanning 22 countries.
Marie says: “Most of my teaching (11 years) was in an all-girls inner London school which was hugely rewarding but very challenging. I’d spent years teaching teenagers how to make things in wood, metal and plastic.
“With the job of teaching I was also a deputy head of a year group responsible for gifted and talented pupils, and careers.”
A year after Marie’s move to Bristol she fell pregnant with her second child.
“When I fell pregnant I decided to take a break from teaching for a few years to become a full time mum,” she said. “It was only when I had been out of teaching for three years and was looking for a creative job with flexible working hours that I began looking for a new career. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I knew it had to involve lots of contact with people and have a creative element to it.”
Marie was an existing Smallprint customer, having had some jewellery made of her first daughter’s fingerprint made. She then decided to get another print when her second daughter came along.
“It was only whilst looking at the website when I wanted my second daughter’s fingerprint done that I made my first enquiry about becoming a franchisee,” she adds.
At the time there was already a Bristol franchisee in place so Marie thought there might be the possibility to buy a neighbouring area. What Marie didn’t know was that Vicky – the owner of the Bristol franchise – was thinking of selling her franchise at the same time Marie was looking to purchase hers. It was a no brainer.
Marie comments: “Smallprint seemed to offer very flexible working, which I could see fitting around family life easily. I was looking for a job which would satisfy my creative side and love of working with people. I loved the product and was also impressed with the way the franchisees were supported.”
Marie has been running her Bristol franchise since April 2011 and loves the flexibility that her new career brings: “I love my job as it enables me to always drop off and collect my daughters from school and nursery. If my daughters are ill it is easy to rearrange appointments, as the customers understand that children get ill sometimes.
“I tend to have about two to three print taking sessions per week. These are not on specific days as I tend to mix and match days of the week to suit my family commitments and to give customers options when looking at a print venue.
“Most of the print-taking is done in the morning when my toddler is at nursery. I sometimes take prints at home after school to fit in with customers’ needs. Once my children are in bed I tend to sand, engrave, polish and package the products, although any visitors to my home (my parents for example) are often handed a glass of wine to join me in the evening around the kitchen table!”
Marie can do as much or as little as she wants in a week as she is in charge of her own schedule. She says: “This balance was shifted at Christmas when it was more work and less family time, but I stopped taking prints in good time to enable myself to get everything done in time for my first Christmas.
“I would recommend Smallprint to other Mums – only if they are prepared to work hard enjoy creative work, enjoy meeting people and wanted to have flexibility of working hours. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who thought it was a quick and easy way to make money or if they didn’t want to put the hours in. I think its hard work but for me, well worth the effort.
“The best thing about my job is no doubt the flexibility to work around my family, meeting people and creating products which are truly loved and appreciated. The look on someone’s face when you hand over his or her keepsake is just priceless. It provides the best job satisfaction I could ask for!”
Gemma was first introduced to Smallprint at a cousin’s party in Surrey. At the time Tiggy, Gemma’s daughter, was just six months old. Little did she know this would be the party that would trigger a domino effect, set to change the course of her and her daughter’s life...
Gemma says: “I attended the party not knowing anything about Smallprint. When I left I absolutely loved the concept and desperately wanted some jewellery of my own to treasure the milestones I was to experience with my beautiful daughter Tiggy. I was hooked on the idea and as soon as I got home I phoned up to speak to my local jeweller.”
It was at this point that Gemma discovered there was no franchise that covered her area. She says: “I loved the idea and after much speculation, deliberation and discussions with family I decided to take on a franchise of my own.”
Gemma had previously worked in a gym but had spent over 12 years building up a mobile hairdressing business in Torquay. When she left school she’d trained as a hairdresser, and as soon as she’d qualified at the age of 20, she moved to the USA where she worked as an au pair for six years.
She takes up the story: “I moved back to Torquay, home since I was 5, and married Paul, a chief petty officer in the royal navy.
“When Maija offered me my franchise I was already running my mobile hairdressing business, tied up with a young baby with little help from my husband who was often away with his job. I was initially reluctant to pursue the opportunity due to time, but I absolutely adored the product and would showcase the first piece I had of Tiggy to all my family and friends.”
Gemma then spoke to her sister, a like-minded creative type with a thirst for business. They made the life-changing decision to buy the franchise together and they haven’t looked back since.
She comments: “It was the best decision I could have made. I wanted a job where I could work around my daughter and not put her in childcare so much, as I had done previously.”
Gemma was one of the first five Smallprint franchisees and there are now 70 in the UK and more than 125 worldwide. She has been running her Smallprint business for around 6 years and she says she couldn’t be happier.
“I have recently taken on a print-taker, another head to help expand the business and move it on even further. Tiggy, now 6 years old, has already got the Smallprint bug; she’s looking forward to being part of the business when she’s older! She wants to be able to make the jewellery just like mummy does.
“I have always loved working for myself. Now a single parent, Smallprint is the perfect job for me, spending time with Tiggy and running my business fits seamlessly into my day. I’m my own boss and I can be there for Tiggy when she needs me.
“As with all business ventures, there will always be challenges to overcome but the support from head office has been invaluable, they will always be there to lend a hand with whatever you need, from manufacturing support to IT advice and marketing development.
“The great thing about being part of a network is the support from an established team, both from fellow franchisees and head office, this is something I never had with my hairdressing business and something I cherish now.
“I love the fact I can make jewellery in the evenings when Tiggy is in bed and she has always loved coming to work with me at play centres so the balance is ideal. She will make the perfect business partner one day – but for now she’s just mummy’s little helper!”
Prior to owning her own successful Smallprint franchise in west London, Erin Thomas-Wong enjoyed a fast-paced career in television production. Working for RDF Television, Erin spent her working days managing production teams for programmes like Celebrity Wife Swap, Scrapheap Challenge and Ian Wright’s Unfit Kids.
Erin’s life in TV production was hectic and although exciting, hours were long and demanding. Erin’s role also meant that she was on call 24/7 and could often be found working well into the night on shoots.
When the opportunity came for Erin to take voluntary redundancy in 2007 she decided that she wanted a better work/life balance, particularly as she had a new addition to the family, 6-month-old baby Ollie, who she wanted to be able to dedicate more quality time to.
Erin saw her redundancy as a fantastic opportunity to embark on a new chapter in her life and what first attracted her to a Smallprint franchise was the flexible hours that it would allow her to keep.
“I loved the idea of working for myself whilst still having the support of a successful franchise network.
“Additionally the help and advice on hand from head office is invaluable. Smallprint is such a unique brand and I love the fact that I know we deliver the best quality keepsake jewellery in the country.”
Most importantly however was the lure of working with such a lovely, unique product that would give Erin the opportunity to meet with customers looking for the perfect, personalised keepsake gift for a loved one.
These attractions, coupled with the creative aspect of being able to handcraft the bespoke jewellery herself, inspired Erin to leave the stressed, over-worked TV crews behind and invest in a Smallprint franchise.
She adds: “It is brilliant to know that there is no end of opportunities within the market and most importantly I know that I can just alter my hours when Ollie goes to school so that I can pick him up from the school gates – something that is really important to me.”