This week I’m chatting to one of my Wedding Pro Members – Ali from Ali’s Paper. She tells the story of moving and setting up her business here in the UK and the importance of a good community in all of it. We talk about the highs and lows of her business journey so far and what she’s learnt along the way.
Find out more about Ali by visiting:
Starting a Business Journey [00:04:23]
Ali shares her journey of starting her business in different countries and the struggles she faced.
Incorporating Paper Items into Weddings [00:02:51]
Ali talks about how couples can incorporate her paper items into their wedding day.
Networking and Marketing Struggles [00:06:19]
Ali discusses her struggles with networking and marketing when starting her business in a new place.
Learning and Goal Setting [00:09:08]
The guest talks about the courses she took to improve her business and bookbinding skills, and how they helped her set clear goals.
Benefits of Styled Shoots [00:10:49]
The guest discusses how participating in styled shoots helped showcase her products and bring them to life, and how it benefited her business.
Importance of Learning and Community [00:15:08]
The guest talks about the importance of learning and community in business, and how being part of a group helped her understand the wedding industry and make connections.
Ali’s journey [00:19:32]
Ali’s struggles and successes in starting her business in different countries and overcoming language barriers.
Recommendation to check out Ali’s work [00:19:32]
Encouragement to view Ali’s work on her social media and website, including her planners.
Personal recommendation [00:19:32]
Becca’s personal recommendation of Ali’s planners and how they keep her family organized.
Ali: And another thing is do it like done is better than perfect because we’ll be always a space to improve your perfection, so you will never stop. So do it and let make it done and we’ll be, will be good anyway.
Becca: I am Becca Pountney, wedding business marketing expert, speaker and blogger, and you are listening to The Wedding Pros who are Ready to Grow podcast.
I’m here to share with you actionable tips, strategies, and real life examples to help you take your wedding business to the next level. If you are an ambitious wedding business owner that wants to take your passion and use it to build a profitable, sustainable business doing what you love, then you’re in the right place.
Let’s get going with today’s episode. Today I’m chatting with one of my lovely clients, Alicia, born and raised in Italy. She now lives with her family in Bedfordshire, where she founded her business Ali’s paper. During her studies at the Art Institute in Turin, she discovered her passion for the craft of book binding, and now she creates
Beautiful paper items as gifts, wedding favors and more. I’ve been working with her for the last few years and watched her confidence and her business bloom. I know you’re going to enjoy hearing her story. Ali welcome to the podcast.
Ali: Hi, Becca. Hi everyone. Thank you for having me.
Becca: It’s an absolute pleasure.
I’m so pleased we finally managed to get you on the podcast. Now, before we go any further, you need to explain to people what book binding is.
Ali: Okay yeah. This is the difficult part is basically create a book from everything so you can have a piece of paper, you fold enough, you sew, and you create a book.
So from that you can make it more difficult and with creation of different kind of paper, hard or soft cover and whatever.
Becca: So it’s a skill really. It’s not something that everyone can do. It’s a skill that you’ve learned. How did you learn how to do it?
Ali: I, start to know about book binding from my dad’s stories.
He was binding with his granddad in the loft in his house in Sicilly when he was a child. And then I discover how to do it in high school. And I just fall in love. I follow a course and then I decide to do the specialization in the high school on that. And it was just in my blood, so I have to do it.
Becca: I love that. And some of the things that you make are beautiful. If you are listening to this and you’ve never seen Ali’s work, do go and check out her Instagram page or her website. I’ll put all of the links in the show notes, but you can see some of her work on there. And I have some of it in my own home as well.
Now when it comes to weddings, Ali, how can couples incorporate what you do into their wedding day?
Ali: Okay, so there are different moment they can incorporate my product. They can create guest book to have after the ceremony to keep all the memories about their guests. They can write something funny about the, the couple or everything, or add pictures.
I dunno if there are some photo booths, they can create some Polaroid picture and, apply on the guest book or they can have the vows, booklet or holder. So something really nice that matched the color of the wedding to hold. During the ceremony they can have the reusable wedding rings. So it’s a box with a pillow inside where the wedding rings are tied with ribbon and after the wedding they can reuse the box as a jewelry box is more so they can use to travel or just to keep in the house in in a nice.
Place. And then they can have a photo album or they can have a U S B holder. And in this moment I don’t have stop.
Becca: That’s okay. So there’s lots of different things that they can use you for. There’s lots of different ways you can use your craft. So let’s go back a little bit then to the start of your business journey.
Now we spoke at the beginning about how you grew up in Italy. So how did you end up in the uk? In Bedfordshire, and then how did you end up starting your business?
Ali: Okay, so I tried to start my business also when I was in, in Italy, in touring in my own town. But I started with a friend and didn’t went well, so I stopped and I start to do other jobs then.
With my husband. I move in South Africa, so I had to stop because the materials are too heavy to transport, so it’s just, I stop. I was supposed to stay there three months and I stayed there. We stayed there two years. Then when we came back, we moved in the south of Italy and I start there. My own business.
For one year and a half. In the meantime, I got pregnant and when my daughter was five months old, we moved in France. Then again, I couldn’t bring all my stuff there, so I stop, and then we stay in France for nine months. Just the time to got pregnant again and move in Bristol. And then when after one year and a half we move in bed for she, my kids were toddler.
I could work during the weekend, so I said, okay, now is the time. And I start to do it in the loft in the house. There was just wooden on the floor, on the beams, and I sit there and I start that. I say, let’s try again, or now, or never.
Becca: I love that you have lived in so many different places. I didn’t realize that you’ve traveled around so much and you’ve seen so much of the world and lived in all sorts of places, and there’s so much.
To dig in there from starting a business with somebody else, and it didn’t quite work out to starting a business in all sorts of different countries. But we are here now in 2023, and you have your business here in Bedfordshire. So as you look over that journey right from the start, what do you think your biggest struggles have been with having your business?
Ali: I quite soon understood that my big problem was that I didn’t know anyone. Because we move here and we were completely alone. So me, my husband, and my kids. I try to make connection to know people. So I went to my town Council, and I asked for networking in town. And they suggested a really good one, networking that is for women in business and they are lovely and is for free.
I mean, it’s just networking. And you go there to meet people that meet friends, you go there and just share where are you about now? And it is really nice. They all support you and is nice. But at beginning was really complicated to let the people understand what I was doing, what they can have from me, and that I exist.
I mean, that was the basic. So I start from that and little by little I let the people know me. Then I join your group. That helped me a lot because I understood that I didn’t know anything about businesses. I said, oh my God, I have to learn a lot about marketing and what you wanna do, basically about your business.
I never think about a lot of managing things. And lockdown hit and I was completely lost again. I said, okay, now it’s done. Again, I don’t know, but I follow a lot of your training in the group and I just starting to study what I could do to improve my skills and in the meantime, in town there were a lot of activities to support small businesses.
So actually my business was going. Further, I didn’t, I didn’t imagine that, but actually was really good and the people start to know me, start what I was doing, and now is quite good. I meet people and they told me that they saw my object somewhere and they recognize my logo, so, You know, now the people understand what I do and who I am, so I think that that part is going well.
Becca: I love that and I, I love your honesty as well about how you came here and you didn’t know anybody and nobody knew you. You had to put the work in to make that happen and you took the action. And so often people expect this kind of thing can happen overnight, but it takes time and it takes effort and it takes action and it takes confidence to do all of the things that you’ve just mentioned.
And so you should be really proud of yourself for all that you’ve achieved over the last few years. Which brings me on actually to my next question. As you look back over the last few years, is there one or two things that you are the most proud of when you look at your wedding business?
Ali: I’m proud that I have done few courses that I didn’t think that I could be able to do.
Like last year I did a course with Cranford University for improving your business. So it was business related, marketing related, and I understood really. What I want from my business, how to divide the different part of it, what I want achieve, what are my values and, and everything that I think is really important to stay focused on, because usually I tend to go in direction that are not.
So clear. So I, I need to have that things clear in my head. And also I follow another course this year that is about, that was a fine book binding course that I put myself as a goal in five, six years to do it. And I did this year and was really a challenge, but I learned so many things and I know now what I want achieve.
I think in eight years because the skills that I have to practice are really, you have to work a lot, you have to practice a lot to became good. But I have done this year, so it’s, it’s really something that I’m really proud of. I have to work. But
Becca: I love that you had it on as a goal for five years and you’ve already ticked it off.
That’s amazing. So definitely need to set yourself the next goals now. So one thing, I know that you’ve been involved in a fair amount over the years. Is styled shoots and making sure you can try and get your products into photo shoots. How has that benefited your business?
Ali: I think that with a photo shoot my object, they can show what they really are and so you can see properly what you can get from them.
How. They will brighten your day because they are unique and you can continue to keep them with you. Also, after that day, you can continue to have your wedding colors, in your shelves, in in the living room, and you can take the guest book and , see what the people have written to you or. Just have always with you and with the photo shoot, I think that , everything together with setting up and the other bit that you can have in the ceremony will be good.
I mean, they, they will be part of that day.
Becca: Yeah. And I definitely think that. Having your products as part of those photo shoots really brings them to life and it showcases your skill, but it sits you amongst those other suppliers as well, and gives you great imagery for your social media too. So it’s definitely something that’s good to do, and if you’re listening to this and you haven’t been part of any shoots, it’s definitely an option that you should be looking at as well.
Now, I mentioned in the introduction, Ali that you’ve been kind of around and about in my world for the last few years working with me, which I absolutely love. Why was it that you decided to do that? Why did you decide to join my members lounge and be part of that community?
Ali: What happened was I was in my, local town community and was one of the first time in my local town networking the business, and I was there.
I was really nervous because that event for me was just completely out of my comfort zone and I was. Talking about my wedding business with a lady, and she told me, oh, here there is Tony. She knows everything about weddings and I’m speaking about Tony. And so she introduced us and she start to speak with me about your group.
And she said, no, you have to follow Becca. She’s really great. And so I went home and I wrote you and I start to join your group. And I did the three months for free and then I said, okay, no, it’s time to subscribe. There is a lot of things that I don’t know, so I have to continue to follow. And I think that was good because you always put the things really not easy, but just in a way that everyone can do it.
Focus in a little things and do it. So you make me really think about what to do now and don’t think too big because otherwise you will not do anything. So just do it.
Becca: I love that, and I love that you met Tony. She’s great. I need to get her on the podcast as well. She’s got a fabulous. Business. And that’s one thing I absolutely love about the wedding industry is the sense of community, the way that people come together, the way people try and support each other and lift each other up.
And I know that you’ve made some friends through being part of my members’ lounge. I know you’ve met some great business connections. How has collaborating with those people helped you in your life and your business?
Ali: I was really strange because sometimes happened that I said yes to things that I didn’t know.
So I said, can someone do that? Yes, I do it. And after I say, oh my God, what I have done, but no, actually make really good things and I start to know how the wedding world is in UK because I understood that where I come from, we do things in a different way. So I had to learn how you do things here. So I had to learn what do you prefer?
What is the things that in UK works better than in Italy? You know, all these different things that I didn’t thought about when I start the business. I said, okay, I can do these things, but actually no. I have to focus on what the customers wants. And so it was nice to understand through the other. Owners of wedding business, how the, the business is the difficult that they have because it’s not everything fantastic.
It’s just hard work behind every business, and I think that. With the members of your group. It’s just the good things is to, everyone shares their experience good or bad, and so you can relate, you can see that is not everything shining all the time. I mean, the real life is different and I think that is the, the good part of your group.
I mean, you, one of the good part of knowing different people, you know, you, you can see different things from different direction and how. Everyone decide to how they make decision, what they decide at the end. So is is really always an improving learning
Becca: and I think that’s a really important part of business because it’s lonely having your own business and it can be lonely when you are sat at home struggling with something.
Thing. And then you look on Instagram and you do see the shiny side of everyone’s business, and it’s easy to think everyone’s got it going really perfect. And actually it’s really important that we see that authentic side, that we understand that not everyone is. Doing perfectly all of the time, and we’re all learning, and we’re all growing, and most importantly, everyone is working incredibly hard to make things happen.
They don’t just fall into their lap. So Ali what is next for you? When you look over the next couple of years of your business? What do you want to achieve? Where do you want to take things? What’s the plan?
Ali: The plan is to achieve the thing that I have set now. So it is just to continue to focus and as I have three different part of the business, like the wedding, the workshop, and the stationary with the corporate branding part, I have really to focus on all the three different parts.
In balancing the time that I spend in each of them without lose the focus. That is really complicated for me. So I, I hope to achieve that and in two years I hope to be able to create more fine book binding book that is, the goal is really short. So I dunno if in two years I can do a big book but
let’s see. Let’s try.
Becca: I think you can, if you put your mind to something and I know you work hard, I’m sure you’ll achieve it. And I can’t wait to see the work that you create with that new skill as well. Now, I always end my podcast interviews, Ali, with the same question, which is, what’s one thing you wish you’d known sooner in your own business?
Ali: Oh, that is, is hard. A lot of things, but I think that, The main thing is that you need to continue to learn. You must don’t stop learning. You must continue to improve your skills and be yourself always. And another thing is do it whatever it is, and don’t wait. That is perfect. Like done is better than perfect because I always try to find the, the perfection in what I do, but I realize that the perfection is just in our eyes.
So you have to agree that you can try to do always the best, the perfection, the perfect things that you want, but will be always a space to improving. Your perfection, so you will never stop. So do it and let make it done and will be, will be good anyway.
Becca: Fantastic. And you are definitely doing all of those things, always trying to improve your business, always learning, always growing, always evolving, and it’s great to see if people wanna find out more about you, Ali where’s the best place for them to find you?
Ali: Yes, my website is alispaper.com. Instagram is Alice dot paper and Facebook is one word, Ali’s paper.
Becca: Fabulous. And I will make sure that I link to you below in the show notes so everyone can come and find you. Ali, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks for being on the podcast.
Ali: Thank you. Bye.
Becca: I love that conversation with Ali
wasn’t she fabulous? She’s overcome so much from moving to a totally different culture, overcoming the language barriers, and totally, totally nailing it when it comes to taking action and growing her business. If you’ve never seen her work before, Do make sure you go and have a look at it over on our Instagram, Facebook page, or website, and if you’re in the market for a new planner, go and have a look at those as well, because I’ve got one in my kitchen and it keeps my family organized.
I’ll see you next week.