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An interview with Gabrielle Kirk

This week for our interview series we feature our very own Gabrielle Kirk, founder and owner of Papier hq. We sat down to have a chat about her business journey,...

This week for our interview series we feature our very own Gabrielle Kirk, founder and owner of Papier hq. We sat down to have a chat about her business journey, balancing work life, as well as advice she has for aspiring entrepreneurs. Check out our journal to read more about her journey and what's next for Papier hq...

1. What are some of the most significant business challenges that you have encountered and grown from? 

We have encountered many challenges over the past 4 years in business. From the start up phase of having to wear about 10 different hats. I was customer service, social media manager, accounts, order fulfilment, HR, packaging, account manager, stocktaker… To not having enough money when we first launched to buy pre made boxes so every box had to be made by hand. This is definitely something we can laugh about now (not so much at the time). When we first launched we decided to send PR parcels out and every single one of them broke. We ended up having to spend a day in the car driving around Auckland delivering replacements. We realised quite quickly our home made boxes weren’t going to cut it..We had no idea what we were in for!

2. Why did you decide to start Papier hq? 

Papier hq started out by designing prints for friends and family as gifts or custom pieces. I reached a point in my career where I felt like I had learnt everything I could in that position and it was time to take a risk and start my own business. I had always wanted to do it and it felt like the timing was finally right. I went from resigning from my job to 4 months later launching our website. It was a crazy whirlwind experience and I couldn’t have done it without the help and support from my husband.

3. What is your background? 

My background is Textile Design. I completed a 4 year Textile Design degree following my gap year in the UK. When I gradated I worked in a homewares and apparel company developing ranges and designing textiles for a variety of brands. My products were sold in Australia and New Zealand. My work was varied and helped me develop my skills which I was able to apply to my own business.

4. What had been your biggest achievement? When was the last time you thought ' wow I can't believe I just did that'? 

I’m not sure I can define one moment specifically. When I started Papier hq I wasn’t sure where it was going to go or what it was going to look like in 4 years time. It’s a proud feeling looking around at our little team working hard to help us achieve our dreams. Our team rides the waves with us as we grow as not only as a business but as individuals. As long as we can continue to design ranges for our customers that they love then we are doing it right.

5. How would you describe your personal style in your home? 

My husband and I just bought our first home together. It’s a renovation project with so much potential. I would describe my style as clean, modern with Scandinavian influences. I love natural lines, concrete, marble accents, natural wood and linens. Our home is filled with Papier hq pieces which I like to change up when I can but my favourites are Homebodii, Imperfectly Imperfect, Shape Abstract and Gucci Flowers.

6. Which upcoming or current product are you most excited for?

We just released our first ever stationery range. It was a really proud moment for us. Blood, sweat and a lot of tears were poured into the development of our range. During lockdown we managed to design a range of Greeting cards too which is growing every season. We love that everything we do is designed in house by us.

7. Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs or women and men wanting to start a business?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from people that have walked in your shoes previously. Most people will be happy to help if you reach out and ask. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by some amazing mentors during my journey. Take calculated risks and develop a product you are truly passionate about. If you create something that is unique and important to you, it will shine through in everything you do.

8. What's something that people may not know about Papier hq? 

From the beginning we knew we wanted to tap into local suppliers. For our New Zealand customers we use locally made frames made from New Zealand timber and glass and for Australian friends we have found a great framer that uses Australian timber made frames. This also means everything is made to order ensuring the best possible quality for our customers. Every single piece of art and stationery we sell is designed by our small team of 3 in-house. We love that we can keep our ranges fresh with the ability to do custom art.

9. Can you share one of your top styling tips with our community? 

Don’t be afraid to break the rules and take risks. I believe that the experience of art hits each of us so differently and that's part of its beauty. I hope our pieces bring each of our customers happiness and help to reflect their personalities through their homes. As for a tip, I would say there are some really strong trends out there that we love at the moment but you should also try to inject your personality and your history or experiences into your home decor. Art or photographs that help tell your unique story are my favourite go-to’s and will really add to beautiful interior design.

10. Work life balance can sometimes be a huge challenge. How do you juggle this?

On the weekends I try to switch off and spend time with my loved ones. The weeks can be intense with long hours so I like to leave my weekends free for time to chill out and take a break. It’s important to allow yourself ‘me’ time or you’ll just burn out! During the week I like to fit in a few pilates classes and netball to keep me sane. It can definitely be a battle sometimes to balance it but I’m lucky I have lots of supportive friends and family that understand my vision and determination. I’m definitely not perfect but if you surround yourself with people who love and support you, you can’t go wrong.

11. What's next for Papier hq?

We have lots of exciting product ranges in the works. With the launch of our first stationery range we are really excited to grow this category whilst still delivering on trend wall art ranges to our customers. This year is our first year wholesaling and we hope to grow this dramatically so our customers can have the ability to go into a store and have a look at our products in the flesh!

12. And lastly what's a funny memory or story you have during your time at Papier hq?

OMG where do I start. When we first started Papier hq we were running it out of our small spare bedroom (picture a room that only fits a double bed). This quickly grew to taking over our kitchen and living area until it got to the point where desperation called and we decided to rent a little cabin on the front lawn. I think our neighbours thought we’d finally lost the plot. I pulled up to our house to see my husband cutting down our front fence for a truck to lift the cabin through. It was then that we realised we needed to rent a space. When we did, on the day we moved in, a truck arrived with 4 palettes of new stock. It was all hands on deck, which meant us 3 girls in dresses unloading palettes and wondering what we would have done it it had arrived one day earlier!

Follow Papier hq on Instagram  for updates and new products!
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