My Hero: Georgie Salmon meets Frank Stationery founders

Georgie Salmon, 18, of Shelter Prints meets Frank Stationery founders Jess and Jason Holdaway

Jason Holdaway, Georgie Salmon and Jess Holdaway. Pictures / Guy Coombes

“When starting our business, we often looked to Frank for inspiration,” says Georgie Salmon as she walks into the living room of Jess and Jason Holdaway, the founders of Frank Stationery. Georgie has come straight from school and is holding one of her prints as a gift.

She and a group of five other year 13 Baradene College students started Shelter Prints this year as part of a Young Enterprise Scheme. Georgie says she chose to sit down with Frank for a combination of reasons — their design, commerce and focus on a social good. “They have achieved exactly what we have been trying to achieve, a social business selling a marketable good.”

Frank’s business model is simple: “You buy one, we give one.” They give away stationery to children and schools in need around New Zealand. It’s similar to Eat My Lunch, which started earlier this year and renowned footwear brand Tom’s, which has given more than 45 million pairs of new shoes to underprivileged children around the world.

When coming up with the concept for Shelter Prints —which has already seen the group win first place at the YES Auckland Region Dragons Den Finals and, last week, the Auckland Central Company of the Year at the Young Enterprise Awards — Georgie says they wanted to start a business with a social aspect.

They set their sights on prints that had been designed using the drawings and letters written by disadvantaged children from Peru, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, with Shelter Prints giving half of the profit to the children they work with. They teamed up with NPH, an organisation that helps care for orphaned and abandoned children in Latin America and the Caribbean to help with the process.

Georgie asks Jess and Jason about the major challenges they faced in the early days, and the couple offer advice to the teen, who plans to take a gap year to travel.

Georgie also shares the struggles the group has faced. “The hardest thing for us is no one trusts six girls from school who have decided to start a business, you get a lot of people who are like ‘that is such a lovely idea, I am definitely going to buy one’ — then you never hear from them again.”

Jess shares the earlier troubles Frank Stationery faced in the beginning. “Often when you start a social-impact business, you focus too much on the social and not enough on the business — which is definitely a big mistake we made.”

She says they realised you need to continually refine your product and work on building something a customer has trust in and wants to actually open their wallet for.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a group of six girls or not, what matters is your product. It’s less about who is behind the business and more about the foot you are putting forward and if people are wanting the stuff that you are basically selling and it builds lots of trust when you have a good product.”

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