High odds for Illustration alumna stationery business

A talented Illustration alumna has her sights set on success with the launch of her very own stationery business, Odd Orange.

Morgan Grice, who graduated with a BA (Hons) in Illustration in 2020, launched Odd Orange, a handmade stationery business specialising in functional, colourful and sustainable stationery, on Tuesday 1 February, after working hard on her business plan for over a year.

The graduate, who worked with BCU’s BSEEN programme, which offers students and recent graduates a start-up package to turn their business idea into reality, decided to launch her own business just months after graduating, whilst she was already enjoying a successful freelance career.

Morgan said: “I started freelance illustration in my third year at BCU. Since then, I have worked with many well-known clients, including pizza business Franco Manca, Little White Lies film magazine and Title Cards, which displayed my Black Lives Matter work at a pop culture gallery in the United States. I was also able to work as the ‘Mentor is Residence’ at BCU, where I was able to support current students with drawing workshops and sessions, which was a lot of fun.

“I’m an illustrator and bookbinder, and wanted to combine the two crafts for a portfolio project. I made a range of handmade sketchbooks and notebooks, and I loved the process so much that I decided to start a business off the back of it. I made the decision to launch Odd Orange in November 2020, and it’s taken me over a year to get to the point where I feel ready to launch.”

Morgan designs and makes all of the stationery from her Shropshire-based design studio and bindery. Products include handmade sketchbooks and notebooks in a variety of styles and papers, as well as hand-foiled greetings cards, art prints and stickers.

She added: “Almost everything is made by me in my studio. I use professional and historical bookbinding techniques, and the highest quality materials to produce a high-quality product.

“The books open completely flat, are extremely durable, and have uniquely colourful and illustrative designs that draw from my experience as a freelance illustrator.”

Morgan had always aspired to being self-employed, but until recently didn’t know how or when to take the plunge.

She said: “I’ve wanted to be self-employed since my final year of university. I find that I’m a lot happier working to my own schedule with my own briefs. The original plan was to be a freelance illustrator and to sell art prints on the side as an additional revenue source. However, having a shop and selling handmade products turned out to be the favourite aspect of my job.

“I never thought that I would have the guts to set up my own business. It’s a lot of work for one person, and as I have no business background, I have had to teach myself everything. Before graduating, I always thought that I would be an illustrator for a company, and not have to worry about being in charge of my own finances as that absolutely terrified me, but it was important for me to overcome that fear. I realised that if I wanted to do what I really loved doing, I would have to bite the bullet and just do it.”

By conquering her self-employment fears, Morgan is now just days away from her own business launching, but it hasn’t been easy: “It’s difficult and requires a lot of work to start a business like this. But, with lots of research and support from BCU, mentors, friends and family, it was mostly a matter of getting my head down and doing it. Getting a trademark and the legal aspects were the most difficult part of it for me.

“The Illustration course is good at preparing you to be a professional illustrator, providing students with the skills and experience required to be able to go out and do it. But working with BSEEN gave me the opportunity to learn how to turn these skills into a business. It was an amazing experience and I couldn’t recommend it more to anyone who is considering setting up a business or going self-employed. I’m so grateful for everything BCU provided me with during my course, and since graduating too.”

Morgan has high hopes for the future and top advice for current Illustration students too.

She said: “I will continue to work freelance alongside running the business for a while, just so I can invest all of the profits in the business, rather than taking a salary. I also enjoy freelance work, so it’ll be nice to do both.

“In the future, I would love to focus full time on Odd Orange. I want to grow the business to the point where I can employ others and have my own premises.

“My advice to current students would be to take up every opportunity possible. Attend the talks provided for you, as I learned so much during these sessions, and I got to meet many successful illustrators who inspired me. Also, don’t just rely on the course. I did a lot of research alongside my studies and it improved my work so much.”