Envelopes to entrepreneur: How innovation saved Lala’s business

Updated on: January 9, 2023

Not just a stationery business — the founder of Paper & Ink Studio (Formerly Lala Design) has many feathers in her cap. We caught up with Lala Macnab to find out how innovation became her COVID lifeline and how a listening ear launched her platform as a business coach.

lala macnab
Lala Macnab, of Paper & Ink Studio (formerly Lala Design) and her A4 wedding planner product.

Paper & Ink Studio is one of Australia’s leading wedding invitation and stationery companies. The 20-year-old business specialises in designing and printing custom bespoke invitations and stationery for couples who love gorgeous stationery for their wedding day.

“The best thing about running your own business is the power to create the business that you want,” says Lala Macnab, the self-professed “queen of stationery” and owner of Paper & Ink Studio.

“One of my main focuses in starting my business was that I’m very customer-focussed, and I found there was a bit of a gap in the market for customer-focussed business in the wedding stationery industry.”

A little bit of love goes a long way, Lala says. “It’s always the little extra steps that we take. Our couples are gifted a keepsake invite and also a beautiful card that they give one another on their wedding day as a gift from us.”

With an entrepreneurial spirit and a strong social media presence, the Perth-based entrepreneur uses innovation in her business communications — something she believes sets her apart from many other wedding suppliers.   

“What separates us from other wedding businesses is that we’re probably one of the most visible ones on social media that spend a lot of time educating and empowering couples when it comes to planning their wedding — not just with stationery, but I’ll often be on there talking about other things,” Lala says.

“Some wedding vendors get really stuck — they don’t adapt their socials, they don’t rebrand. I often respond to emails with Loom videos so I can do a ‘show-and-tell’ instead of a long-winded email. That way, the client can see what I’m saying on the screen and also hear the excitement in my voice. Or I use a voice message on Instagram.”

lala design

COVID a catalyst for innovation

When COVID shut down weddings in Perth, Lala knew she needed to innovate. So she doubled down on her wedding planners — physical A4-sized folders comprising 135 pages of fully-tabbed worksheets, to-do lists and budget trackers, to help couples plan their engagements, hen’s parties, weddings and honeymoons – and everything else in between.  

The stationery vendor already offered the personalised planners for some time, but when COVID hit, Lala ramped up the marketing to not only keep the business afloat, but to also help instil hope in the thousands of engaged coupes suddenly left with their wedding plans in limbo.

“I was thinking, ‘what would I like if I was getting married? I would like some hope, some happiness and some joy, and something to do’. So I took the last bit of money I had in the bank and created Facebook ads with it.”

She went from selling five planners a month to 50 in the first week of the marketing campaign. 

“It’s an exciting time. So when you buy something like this you’re usually at the beginning of your wedding planning journey, and it’s something physical that you can get excited about — apart from your engagement ring — and go ‘Oh my God, we’re getting married!’ ”

“It’s wrapped like a present — with lovely thick paper and florals on it and all sorts. We just go crazy. It’s exquisite. I’m so proud of it when it goes out. And when people get it, they just geek. We’re constantly getting Instagram DMs and stories from people saying ‘Oh My God, it’s wrapped like a present!’ ” 

Aside from the wedding planners, the pandemic was also the catalyst for Lala to diversify as a business coach. 

“That Friday, when Perth shut down weddings and we [the business] lost 98% of them, I went ‘right, ok. This is going to be one of the most stressful periods of my life – what do I need to do to get through it? I need to go into the community to help.’ “

“I went on the Lala Design Instagram page and shared a link for people to book a free 30-minute mentor session to chat with me about anything at all. And I got 68 bookings in two weeks – mostly from Perth businesses and wedding businesses. But from doing those 68 free sessions, people wanted to pay me to be their business coach.”

And Lala For Business was born.

She had already considered someday branching out to become a business coach, but the pivot came about five years sooner than expected.

“I don’t just coach in the wedding industry, I coach across all types of businesses. Because I’m completely self-taught, my knowledge covers all fundamentals of business,” she says.

lala design

Lala’s 5 Top Tips for business success

1. Look at how you’re communicating with your couples.

Your product may be an everyday transaction for you, but don’t forget that for your couples, their wedding is the sole focus of their world right now. For each and every person, it is the most exciting experience they’re ever gone through. Sometimes vendors disconnect from that and that experience doesn’t get delivered, which can put a dampener on the industry as a whole.

2. Send out your sample pack with a little love

Is there any discount offered? Is there a hand-written note, did you include an extra freebie? Are you excited? The effort you show when sending out your sample pack should be an example of the level of effort you’re going to put into their actual invites.

3. Show your worth

Marketing yourself well on social media and educate couples about your value and what you can offer. Vendors can sometimes complain that they spend so much time quoting and the couple didn’t want to pay the price. But that comes down to educating them on the value you are offering.

4. …then keep showing your worth

The biggest mistake wedding suppliers often make is not being consistent with marketing all year round — not just during the quiet times. I often see — particularly with wedding vendors – when they start going hard on social media, it’s because they’ve gotten quiet. But they should have been marketing 24-7. And that includes engaging, not just posting.

5. Recognise when you’ve lost the joy

If business becomes taxing and emotionless, recognise that you’re at burnout stage. Accept it and work on doing something to reconnect with that passion. Otherwise, look at an exit strategy.

For a closer look at how Easy Weddings has helped super-charge Lala’s business, download the Paper & Ink Studio Case Study, here.

Curious to see how your business could grow with Easy Weddings? Tell us a little about yourself in this online form and we’ll reach out for a no-obligation chat.

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Categories: Marketing Tips, Supplier Stories