Interview: Mary Wright, Spotlight Stationery

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Spotlight Stationery silver subs box
Spotlight Stationery silver subs box

What inspired you to work in the stationery industry/retail?


I was a subscriber to a stationery subscription box but cancelled because of changes made to the service. I missed my regular stationery fix and thought, well, how hard can it be?! When I mentioned this crazy idea to my husband, Rob, he was so enthusiastic that I suggested we run the business together and Spotlight Stationery is the result. I’ve been obsessed with all things pencil and paper from a very young age so it’s the perfect excuse to indulge that passion!


Your CV in a nutshell


Art college, a 30-year career in graphic design, self-employed for all but the first two years and specialising in brand identity design. I surprised myself, and many people I know, by launching Spotlight Stationery in late 2015 and then Stationery & Art earlier this year.


Tell us about your company, service etc


There are stationery addicts all over the world and Spotlight feeds their addiction in the nicest possible way. We want the service to be as user-friendly as possible so there are no contracts and subscribers can cancel whenever they want, or pause their deliveries for a while if their stationery stash is getting a little out of hand.

We recognise, of course, that there are many other stationery subscriptions for people to choose from, and we have deliberately positioned Spotlight at the slightly more expensive end of the price range so that we can include the premium products that we think our subscribers will love. These will include well-known brands as well as independent, artisan producers and we try as far as possible to include items that cannot be easily found on the high street.

Other aspects which differentiate us are our fundraising for a charity, where we make a donation for every box sold, and our support for young illustrators. The box contents change every month but the one constant is an exclusive set of 4 postcards featuring the work of talented recent graduates, with all their contact information being included in the box and on our website blog.


Describe your role


I handle all the creative aspects of the business. My design background has been invaluable in branding Spotlight and I also look after the social media and other marketing. Rob had a long career in IT so he’s in charge of all the techie stuff, as well as book-keeping. In other words, we each play to our strengths! Jointly, we research products for the boxes and visit trade shows, producers and stationery shops. Lots of stationery shops!

Retro subs box
Retro subs box
notebooks from Spotlight
notebooks from Spotlight

What’s in store for the next 12 months?


In January we launched a second stationery business, Stationery & Art. It’s a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin online stationery and art supplies shop and is the perfect counterpart for Spotlight. Our challenge for the next 12 months is to grow both businesses and keep our customers happy.

When I first thought about having a stationery business, it was always meant to be a fun sideline, something to do in between large design projects. Happily, Spotlight has taken off to such an extent that these days I fit some design projects around the stationery business.


What are you proudest of in your career so far?


Given my relatively short stationery career I was thrilled to be invited to join the panel of judges for the 2017 Stationery Awards at the London Stationery Show.


How do you see analogue and digital working together in retail over the coming years?


We sell analogue products through a digital online shop, so we’re a perfect example of how the two can successfully work together. I’m a huge supporter of initiatives such as "Shop Local" and "Small Business Saturday" and the effect of the large online retailers is having on the high street is alarming, but all industries and sales channels change over time. The challenge is to be more creative, find new ways to attract customers and then keep them coming back, whether that’s to your fabulous high-street shop or specialist online store.


What does our industry have to offer young people starting out in their career?


Despite the fact that there is fierce competition, the advantage that a young person with an illustration or design background has over someone with, say, a geography or history degree, is that they can set up a stationery business from home with nothing more than their laptop and imagination. They don’t need a school, manufacturer or FTSE100 company to employ them, or a bricks-and-mortar shop. Schemes like LaunchPad London, organised by Stationery Show London, offer an amazing opportunity to get a new business noticed and websites like Etsy and RedBubble offer a shop window to the world. If my own experience is anything to go by, they’ll find that the stationery community, if I can call it that, is a very friendly and supportive one!


Do you have a favourite stationery item?


Fountain pens. I hadn’t used them since high school but since launching Spotlight they’ve become my favourite. And don’t get me started on ALL THE INKS...


Do you have a favourite Pantone?


207 C


Social links


Twitter: @spotlightstat & @stationery_art

Facebook: @spotlightstationery & @stationeryandart

Instagram: @spotlight_stationery & @stationeryandart

Pantone 207 C. Credit: Pantone
Pantone 207 C. Credit: Pantone
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