This is us, Elle Bee Design. Or, to be a little more personable, Laura and Ian.
We’ve been running Elle Bee – for short – since 2013 and we’re happy that you’ve found our website! We thought it might be nice to tell you a little bit about us and the history of the business as it’s very different to when we started.
Elle Bee began life in 2013 as a hobby; a distraction for Laura outside of her 9-5 day job where she rediscovered her long-lost love of cardmaking. Simple at first, these cards soon developed into more elaborate, decorative cards which found a home on an Etsy shop and proved popular with customers in the UK and further afield.
The range of cards grew – as did the number of tools and bits of machinery required to make them! – and soon orders were getting regular enough to plant the seed of what it would be like to turn a hobby into a business.
And in order to do that, we expanded by turning our attention to weddings, applying the same techniques and materials used in our cards to invitations and stationery. This was in 2015.
Our invitations and stationery, like cards, started purely on a handmade basis with an emphasis on tradition; ribbons, embellishments and decorative paper with the goal of creating something luxurious, entirely crafted by hand. These designs – which are still offered today – also soon found an audience and we started to receive bookings.
But we were receiving too many to handle in our spare time; for the first time we were turning couples away due to not having the availability. And not all couples wanted the handmade approach, or something traditional. So we expanded again, through the use of digital printing which we introduced in 2016. Ian’s the computer person, so outside of his day job taught himself how to use design software (of which out of the 1000 of buttons that can be pressed, he probably knows how to use about 6 of them!).
At first, we entirely outsourced digital printing to a printing company. This was a mainstay running alongside our handmade ranges for two years – whilst handmade orders required bookings in advance, digitally-printed designs could be turned around quickly.
However, we wanted to be more versatile and we wanted more control, whilst offering a more competitive price for our couples. That’s when we made our biggest investment to date, with Bertha, who we brought home in late 2018.
So, what is Bertha, I hear you ask?! Well, Bertha is a professional A3 LED laser printer. She weighs 100kgs and is roughly 60cm x 60cm x 60cm – she’s a big old unit. She gained the nickname from the kids’ TV show of the same name from the 80s, Bertha was a massive machine in a factory – the nickname seemed appropriate!
With Bertha in the studio, this enabled us to massively expand and completely re-imagine our digitally printed designs and as the timing matched up with engagement season, we were soon taking more bookings than ever.
Orders were so frequent that we needed to convert one of our rooms into a stock room, with all of our different cardstock and envelopes ready to go for customer orders. And over the course of 2019 we realised that Bertha really does love a drink; her favourite is black toner which she’s especially thirsty for!
From Elle Bee growing steadily initially through to rapid expansion, time was at a stretch as we were both working full-time.
In early 2020, we decided we wanted to expand our skills again. Up until this time, we had outsourced all our of special finishes, including white ink printing.
White ink printing is a very specialised finish and is becoming more popular as wedding stationery evolves. As a result we managed source one of only half a dozen machines available in the UK that allows white ink printing direct from a standard graphic arts printer. This is when Betty arrived.
Betty is the twin sister of Bertha; they are both Graphic Arts LED laser machine, both manufactured by Oki and both has the same amazing spec when it comes to print resolution. However with one major difference; Betty is a 5-colour printer, with her 5th being White Ink. She is a CMYK-W Laser printer.
At the end of March 2020 we took delivery of Betty and we intend to run her along side Bertha in our studio at home in Worcester. As a result we can now offer white ink printing up to 45% cheaper than originally, and our time scales have been reduced by a third for the production of a white ink item.
Jackson and Lily...
Oh, where to begin with these two rascals! Jackson and Lily are our two cats and have been with us since the beginning. Between them, they will turn us both grey!
Back when Laura was in her late teens, she trained as a veterinary nurse and Lily was sadly one of her patients. She had been abandoned after being hit by a car. Laura nursed her back to health and then adopted Lily as her own. 17 year later, this lovely old lady has no teeth, suffers from Hypothyroidism and has early stage kidney disease. But don't let this fool you, under the expert care of her Mum, Lily is a feisty little madam who always gets her way. She is thoroughly spoilt.
This is Jackson, he is nearly 6 and he can be summed up in a single sentence; fluffy mouthy troublemaker on 4 legs. He looks like butter wouldn't melt but do not be fooled! This monkey is in to everything; boxes, cupboards, the boots of the car.... you name he will get himself in there. At least if he fits; Jackson weighs over 6 kilos and from bottom to nose is a staggering 18 inches long! He loves talking, eating, climbing up and saying hello to clients in consults (but only if they are happy for him to do so) and overseas everything. He is also the resident spider killer.
Making the leap...
In September 2019 that all changed. Laura left her day job of 12 years for the very last time to work on Elle Bee full-time. This has culminated in launching this brand new website, as we wanted to provide couples – if they wanted the hand-on approach – with the tools to configure and purchase their own products without the need of a quote; we’re kind of proud of it, and I hope you enjoy using it. We supported this by doing the very grown up thing of getting our own trademark, too! We want to reassure customers that we’re in this for the long haul, whilst it’s something we massively enjoy, this is no longer just a hobby.
So, today, Elle Bee continues to be run from our home studio in Worcester, which we share with our cats Jackson and Lilly. Laura works on it full-time, Ian works on it part-time. Our dream is to do this together full-time, if we can!
It is just the two of us – unless you count Bertha, or the cats, of course – and whilst we don’t know how much further we’ll grow in the future, we’d like it to stay as just the two of us. As whilst we put our heart and soul into offering a professional service and a quality product, we also want to be personable, welcoming and easy to approach.
We’re not fond of the stuffiness that can sometimes be found in this industry and in telling couples what to do; we want to keep things simple, provide guidance when it’s asked for and put our couples in control.
To all the customers and couples that have enabled us to reach this far, we’re eternally grateful. To any prospective customers that are reading this – and thanks for reading this far! – we hope we can help you too and if we do, we hope your experience with Elle Bee is positive and stress-free.
Laura & Ian
Meet the Team
|Laura||Papercraft, handmade techniques, consulting, design||Baking, gardening, gaming, astrology, mythology, travelling||Not having a holiday booked|
|Ian||Digital design, proofing, computer-based things of all types||BBQ, football (West Ham, specifically), playing guitar, R&R holidays and gaming||Cauliflower|
|Bertha||Printing||Fresh toner and drums||
Paper jams and a full waste toner box
|Betty||White Ink Printing||Dark cardstock or envelopes||Having nothing to do|
|Jackson||Talking||Sunbathing||Having no lap to lay on|
|Lilly||Sleeping||Sleeping||Not being asleep|
|Florence||Making stuff shiny||Works great under pressure||Being Cold|