Over the last few months, so many businesses have pivoted, adapted in order to be able to serve their customers. Behind every artisan products you buy, you support an independent seller. As we are a small business ourselves, we believe that adapting is key. For some businesses and entrepreneurs, this means taking their current products and making them available in a different format.
Most times, you do not have to reinvent the wheel. All you need is already at your disposal. In this new interview series, we showcase our favourite Etsy businesses via their StandWithSmall campaign. Read more about that here.
The idea of the campaign is to support your favourite sellers, their one-of-a-kind items made with love, their friendly service, and their creative expression. We can help them to keep making. Right now the smallest businesses are taking a serious hit. But they’re not backing down.
Support your favourite sellers, their one-of-a-kind items made with love, their friendly service, and their creative expression. We can help them to keep making.
This post contains affiliate links to Etsy. If you take action after clicking one of those links, we’ll be getting some coffee money at no extra cost to you ☕ – which we promise to drink whilst creating more incredible content for you.
Stand with… Club Backdrops
Club Backdrops was started by Matt & Tommy Gunn-Cullin. After working the hard slog for creative agencies and budding startups in both London and New York, we decided to settle down in Tommy’s hometown of Edinburgh and start our own online gift business.
Whilst this first business was a success in itself, we quickly rediscovered our love of studio photography and began to understand the challenge of keeping our product photography varied and current. Yes, keeping that Instagram feed on-trend is a full-time occupation!
We discovered vinyl backdrops were the ideal solution to this, and when we couldn’t find the exact textures we wanted, we decided to design and create our own.
This quickly developed into our primary business, and in a matter of months, we transformed our workshop, investing in our own large format printing equipment when we weren’t satisfied with the level of quality provided by third-party printers.
In 2019, talented photo-artist Ellie Noble and illustrator Michael Latorre joined our team to help take our little business to the next level. Today we operate exclusively from our workshop in Edinburgh, Scotland – printing, cutting, and posting our unique backdrops around the world, throughout the year.
Club Backdrop’s unique selling point
Our entire operation happens here under one roof – design, manufacture and shipping.
This means we are able to provide the best quality products at the lowest possible price, and with the fastest shipping times, because there is no middle-man in our entire product lifecycle.
In 2019 we further upgraded our texture capture process, increasing our artwork to a 100+ megapixel resolution minimum for unmatched realism suitable for the closest-crops – never enlarged, never pixelated – and all found, crafted and captured by our small team of four. Our durable PVC-free substrates come from an innovative and environmentally conscious British company, and our entire operation is designed to eliminate the use of single-use plastics wherever possible.
At Club Backdrops, we print using Greenguard & Ecologo Certified water-based inks. We’re mental about colour and all our equipment – cameras, monitors and printers – is X-Rite calibrated to ensure perfect colour reproduction with every order. We’re also one of the few companies to offer custom Pantone matched backdrops with a 24 hour turnaround time.
A unique customer base
After creating the product for ourselves it only made sense to share it with the world. There is nothing more satisfying than creating a tool that in-turn becomes an element of someone else’s creativity. Watching our feed light up with images taken using our backdrops on a daily basis is always exciting and inspirational. We love championing the work of our creative customers. There really is no better type of customer!
Educating your customers
Incredibly important. In the beginning, we weren’t doing this enough, and as a result found ourselves investing a lot of time in customer care/emails and chat, as it’s inevitable that people are going to have questions.
We solved this quickly by introducing inserts with care and usage tips, and later introducing a blog with thorough articles on getting the most out of our products.
Going forward we have big plans for the blog! We want to offer up all the photography tips and tricks we’ve discovered along the way as we know how valuable it is, especially when you are just starting out – so, stay tuned!
Marketing with integrity
I hate overt marketing – maybe because I spent a good portion of my professional career working in it!
But it is obviously incredibly necessary for any small business like Club Backdrops. Before thinking about marketing, however, I’m a big believer in making sure the product is paramount. That means your product is thoroughly thought through, well developed, and your unique selling points are clear. That, of course, is easier said than done, as when you have a new product, version 1.0 is always going to have some flaws. It takes a few revisions and adjustments before you reach product perfection.
When your product is perfected, you can market it with honesty and integrity, and furthermore, once it gains some traction, it will sell itself by word of mouth. We encourage this as much as possible via user-generated content in the form of photo reviews (a no-brainer for a photography-related product).
These are so valuable and simply do all the talking for you. Giving away free advice in the form of genuinely helpful emails and blog pieces is a wonderful way to get people’s attention. Google’s E.A.T. acronym always rings true – as long as you’re delivering Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness – the traffic will follow.
Challenges of being a small business
One challenge is definitely doing fifty jobs in one day yourself! As a small business owner, you have to wear ALL the hats, especially in the beginning.
It can be difficult to maintain your train of thought, especially when you get busy and you weren’t expecting it! But the challenge is always worth it. No matter how mental it gets sometimes, there is nothing more rewarding than being the captain of your own ship.
The perks of running a small business
It sounds like such a cliche, but really – being in charge of your own trajectory is worth more than any monetary reward. We took big pay cuts when we first started this business, but we essentially traded in years of stress for a new sense of creative ownership and a pronounced increase in happiness (and as a result, I’d hope a marginally longer lifespan).
How to support Club Backdrops
We’re here to up your photography game, whether you’re a pro or a snap-happy smartphone shooter.
Our photography backdrops have been used by some household names like John Lewis and Deliveroo.
We print & hand-finish them all under one roof here in the UK on only the highest-grade substrates, at an unmatched resolution for ultimate realism. We ensure our collection remains on-trend by releasing new designs on a seasonal basis. And we offer some of the fastest turnaround times to the UK, USA and Europe – and that includes custom jobs!
Check Club Backdrop’s website for more inspiration.
Matt is a digital creative with a proven track record of making businesses better through design. He has fifteen years of design and creative direction experience both in-house and agency-side from Melbourne to London to New York, in both startup and established environments. His specialities include conversion-focused web design, rich branding systems, detailed app interface design, data storytelling and rapid concept work. He boasts further expertise in video, photo, illustration and product design, with a wide gamut of clients ranging from fashion to cyber-security. Featured as a digital expert in Computer Arts, .NET and Inc. magazines. He is currently founder & director of Club Backdrops, creators of quality backdrops for professional photographers.