Vicky Simmons, the entrepreneur who turned straight-talking into a business
Vicky Simmons is big on straight-talking. So much so that she’s developed a range of greeting cards that make it an art form.
At Mean Mail there’s no place for sickly-sweet sentiments or tired platitudes. Instead, customers are encouraged to tell it like it is and choose from cards emblazoned with tongue-in-cheek messages like “Nobody cares”, “I give it a year” and “I love the cat more”. Cutting they might be, but the cliché-free approach is attracting fans – and orders – from across the globe.
The idea for London-based Mean Mail came to Vicky one Valentine’s Day. Tired of “cheesy and expensive” love-themed paraphernalia, she set about making her boyfriend a card which would reflection their sense of humour. It read: I’d like to keep this when we break up.
They’re inspired by the Oscar Wilde quote “True friends stab you in the front.
What began as a private joke became a fully-fledged online business in May last year. Vicky’s aim was simple: to create beautiful greeting cards that tell the truth. “They’re all based on the way best friends actually speak to each other, rather than the way traditional greeting card companies think we do,” said Vicky. “And they’re inspired by the Oscar Wilde quote “True friends stab you in the front.”
The premise might be a brilliant one, but Vicky never intended to enter the world of card-making. “Did I want to go into a greetings card business? Honestly? Probably not, because it’s such a saturated market,” she confessed. “But I felt like I could bring something that’s original to it.”
With a background in art direction Vicky already had an eye for what makes a great brand and since launching Mean Mail, she’s really enjoyed bringing it to life. She also remains firmly hands-on with the day-to-day running of Mean Mail, only enlisting help with the printing process which is done by her mum Mo, “from a corner in her living room.”
Most come from conversations with friends, whether it’s over WhatsApp or in the pub.
The ideas for new designs are developed equally close to home. “Most come from conversations with friends, whether it’s over WhatsApp or in the pub,” admitted Vicky. Originality remains of paramount importance, however. “As long as it doesn’t exist as that format, I go for it. If someone else has already done it, I dismiss it.”
It’s super-satisfying being more in control of the way you make your money.
While Vicky has quickly established a growing customer base, her first foray into entrepreneurship hasn’t been entirely problem-free. IP issues to postal delays have thrown spanners into the Mean Mail works. Yet Vicky is revelling in being her own boss. “It’s super-satisfying being more in control of the way you make your money,” she said. “I’m looking at scaling the business, but instead of seeking out investors or a bank loan, I’d rather self-fund and put it back in the account at the end of the year.”
In the meantime, she’s growing the range organically, just as it began. And with 60 new designs in the pipeline stockists in Germany, France and in the Netherlands and distributors in Australia and New Zealand, Mean Mail is making it easier than ever to find the perfect card. Whether it’s for the one you love – or love to hate.
Check out Mean Mail’s website here.