Monday, March 30, 2015

Thought Leader #2 | Hana Awwad | #WIBA Winner

Hana Awwad is a happy 54 St James Street tenant at the moment after her fantastic success at Downtown’s Women in Business Awards last week. Hana received Best Newcomer of the Year for her growing business Chocolate Envelope Designs, and The Women’s Organisation sat down with Hana for a chat about her views on business, what she has been up to, and what’s next for Chocolate Envelope Designs.

Chocolate Envelope Designs which showcases a beautiful range of gift wrapping, greeting cards and stationery has been trading since June 2013 with Hana moving into 54 St James Street in (August 2014), and this year has been getting better and better for Hana with her success at the #WIB Awards and being shortlisted for Young Business of the Year at the Merseyside Open for Business Awards. She also discovered her wrapping paper had been published in ‘Giftwrapped’ by Jane Means as well as featuring in the Create and Craft TV Show and is due to see it feature in Craft Beautiful Magazine next month. She attends trade shows around the country and has had interest in her products from as far away as Australia!

But like any young business there are continuing struggles which Hana is working hard to overcome. She is not afraid of making mistakes and even sees it as a way of learning. She says; ‘I tend to make mistakes and learn from them, I’m not afraid of my mistakes because when you’re doing something that you’ve not been taught and you’re working on your own, you have to accept that you will make mistakes and use them as a learning opportunity.’, one of these hard but vital lessons Hana had to learn was when she ordered from a manufacturer that was abroad and received a huge shipping bill! ‘As long as every mistake isn’t that expensive then that’s okay!’

With Chocolate Envelope being a small and developing business, for a long time it was just Hana working alone, but she has recently recruited her first intern, Layla, who has made a big impact on the office!

‘The difficulty with running this business is that the business side of things is taking up 99% of my time, and I’m only using 1% for creativity! It’s hard to be producing as many new designs and products as I want when I have to be marketing, managing customer accounts, making sales and packing and dispatching orders and dealing with suppliers! So, having Layla here has been great, as there is an extra pair of hands to help me!’

But, Hana says, it was also important for her to give something back to Layla, that she could use elsewhere and take away with her. ‘I have been helping her get to grips with the digital software we use. By passing on those skills, she’s been able to do more work for me and save me time but also I know I’ve taught her skills that she will go on to use to develop her own career”.

She goes on to say that having Layla be part of the team has been a taster of what it is like to employ people, which in the long term is a big aim for Hana; ‘It would be great to be able to create jobs’, and working together they have built up a rapport. ‘I’m doing something that I love everyday so I want anyone who comes into my environment to feel inspired and enjoy the work they are doing.

It is clear when talking to Hana that she has strong personal morals and values that she projects into her business. Chocolate Envelope products are sourced locally wherever possible, and the majority of their products are printed in the UK using machinery and inks that are solvent free and that use vegetable oil based inks, which make them kinder to the environment.

Hana says; ‘I’m proud that my products are as eco-friendly as I can make them, because I’d hate to think that I was being wasteful with resources. Because for me, success is not just about reaching your destination, it’s also about how you get there. I want to feel that things have been done ethically.’

‘Some people believe that you have to be ruthless in business, but I think you can be thoughtful, honest and kind and still do well.’

A lot of Hana’s values as well as her influences and inspiration for Chocolate Envelope Designs come from her family and mixed cultural background. Hana recalls her Father and Great-Aunty travelling home to Italy and the Middle-East, when she was a child, and returning with beautiful exotic gifts. She believes this may have sparked her interest in traditional patterns and uses this inspiration as the basis for creating her designs, manipulating traditional pattern structures into her own contemporary prints and patterns with stunning colour palettes and intricate details. She feels incredibly blessed to have had a supportive family and is grateful to her father who taught her how to be confident and believe in her abilities and ideas.

Now working in her studio alone, and no longer in the  large communal studio space of university, the difficulty can sometimes be getting feedback on her work; ‘Sometimes the first time I will get feedback is when I’ve produced the product and I’m waiting for it to sell!’- But she is luckily able to ask those close to her what they think – especially her Mother, who she counts as a great influence on her.

‘My Mum is a very fair person. I find business very exciting, but I always want to make sure I do the right thing, in both my business and also in my personal life. My mum is a talented artist and it is great to show her my work and get honest feedback from someone I can trust. She’s also a very moral, honest, hardworking person. I’ve learnt a lot from her.

Contact Details for Chocolate Envelope Designs
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