As part of our Driving Sustainable Change series, we’re talking to business owners and sustainability champions about how they have made their businesses more sustainable.
Hi, I’m Jo, chief perfectionist and designer at By Jo Wedding Stationery. I’ve been creating wedding invites and stationery since 2006, working from home and growing my business alongside being a full-time Mum. I’m based in South Wales, just outside Cardiff. I basically have my dream job – making pretty things from my little ‘beach house’ studio in my garden. When I’m not working you’ll usually find me in my campervan near the coast somewhere, either in the sea or cleaning the beach.
Did you hear the one about the wedding stationery who actually thought 2020 was a good one for her business? No? Let me tell you. It’s no secret that 2020 was a shocker for the wedding industry. We were pretty much closed down for most of it. But, this enforced quiet time actually had a silver lining for me. It gave me the time to think: about what was really important to me and how my business aligned with my personal goals and values. It was a bit of a wake-up call.
My personal sustainability journey
Over the past few years, I’ve personally been on a slow but deliberate journey to lower my carbon footprint, consume more consciously and generally reduce the waste (particularly plastic) that myself and my family produce. Increasingly, I’ve felt unable to reconcile my commitment to live a more sustainable lifestyle with the inherently wasteful nature of the wedding industry and in particular my own business. Creating invitations and stationery with glitter, unrecyclable embellishments, and materials often imported from halfway around the world no longer sat well with me. I’d wistfully think that every invite I created would be lovingly preserved in a memory box somewhere while knowing deep down that it would (quite quickly) end up in the bin. And this would happen with every single piece of stationery that left my studio every year. It didn’t feel good.
2020 – the cloud with the silver (green?) lining
2020 gave me the shake that I needed. I suddenly had vast swathes of time with no business and an enforced opportunity to think and reflect. I felt like I had simply fallen out of love with my business. Should I walk away and find something more aligned with my ethos? Should I return to studying and take a completely different career path? Both of these options seemed a bit like running away from the problem, I needed to do something about it.
That’s when I made the decision to overhaul my wedding stationery business – both products and processes and relaunch as a sustainable and eco-friendly option. I knew that I wanted to show couples how they could still have the beautiful, elegant wedding stationery they desire without so much of the associated environmental impact. I also realised that actually, this approach was marketable, that there are couples out there looking for sustainable options for their big day.
How I’m changing my business
When I sat down and took a good hard look at what needed to change I was terrified. On more than one occasion I was tempted to ditch the whole plan, it all just seemed too difficult. But thinking back to how I’ve been on my personal ‘sustainability’ journey over the last few years, I realised that I didn’t have to fix everything all at once. I just needed to commit to always trying to do things better and learning as I go along.
Equally, in many ways, my business was already ticking many of the sustainable boxes. My studio is powered with 100% renewable electricity, I reuse and recycle all the waste paper and cards that I can, I have no need to commute because my studio is at the end of my garden. I had an opportunity here to capitalise on these things that I had already put in place and look for opportunities to improve further over time. I’m currently trying to convince the husband that solar panels on my workshop would be a good investment!
Progress over perfection
Postponed weddings from 2020 mean that there is going to be a long transition period for me. I still have orders to fulfill with products that I no longer sell. I have a considerable amount of stock that I need to work through before I can introduce sustainable alternatives for many products and materials. But it’s OK because what’s the first rule of sustainability? Use what you have. I’m OK with that as I know I have a plan in place to do better next time I need to replenish those supplies.
So that’s why and how I’m making my wedding business more sustainable. I’ve made a start, I’ve made a commitment (to myself, to my clients, and to the planet) and I’m already making good progress. I’ve fallen back in love with my business and am now proud to show it off again. I also feel like I can be myself and show up in my business with my solid shampoo bars and my refill shopping jars. My business and I are aligned again and it feels good. I’m looking forward to when weddings can get back to normal and I’m excited that I’m committed to making that a better normal.
By Jo Wedding Stationery