Meet the Maker: Emily Sayer of Stib

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Emily Sayer
Emily Sayer

Your CV in a nutshell

Before Stib, I worked for over 15 years in the social sector. I co-founded a not-for-profit organisation called Radar ( ) to engage marginalised and remote communities to use their mobile phones to document and communicate the issues that matter most to them. Before that I was the European director at Virgin Unite, the charitable arm of the Virgin Group, which I helped to co-found in 2003.


What does Stib make?

We currently have two products. The first is a Jumbo pack of 12 vibrant, soft-leaded colouring pencils and the second is a Mini pack of 10 Stib colouring pencils, designed to fit neatly into a handbag and keep kids entertained while out and about.


Each pencil is embossed with a different inspirational word or phrase: Great Leader, Good Listener, World Changer, Earth Lover, Self Believer, Big Thinker, Freestyler, Team Player, Storyteller ,Problem Solver, Joy Finder and Peacekeeper.


Also included in each tube is an orange double pencil sharpener plus in the Jumbo pack, a sticker sheet, featuring our exclusive Stibler animal characters, and in our Mini pack, 12 perforated colouring templates, again featuring the Stiblers as well as fun games and quotes, which can easily be popped out and coloured-in.


Especially for the Stationery Show London, we’re also launching a new range of Colouring-in greeting cards and posters featuring the Stiblers, which I can’t wait to share!


Who designs your products?

I develop the ideas for the products myself, but have a small group of family, friends and freelancers; including the brilliant Claire Down and the endlessly creative Ginny Pickles, with whom I work to thrash out ideas, so it’s a fairly collaborative effort.


Where does the name ‘Stib’ come from?

Stib stands for Spark Thinking in a Box.


What inspired you to set up your business?

Like so many of the mothers I know, I found myself wanting to be there for my children at the school gates and during holidays, and realised that going back to full-time work in the sector in which I had experience wasn’t going to allow me to do this in the way I wanted. Nor would it be financially worthwhile by the time I had paid for childcare and travel. The itch to launch a product is something I’d felt tingling ever since I was about eight years old when I wrote to throat lozenge brand Tunes to suggest they launch a range of medicated chewing gum, called ‘Tuning Gum.’ They politely declined and even today my husband points to Airways chewing gum on the shelves and teases me about what could have been!


A big driver for launching a brand helping to support young people was clearly bringing up my own children. Seeing the pressures they are under, reading about the youth mental health crisis we are facing, but also being very aware of their privilege, I wanted to keep the work I’d done for 15 years alive in a way that worked around having a family. I felt deeply that as a global society we seem to have returned to boundaried and negative thinking about each other as fellow citizens. I truly believe that there are so many valuable ways that children see the world which somehow gets lost as they grow in an ever-reducing world of targets and ticking boxes. I wanted to celebrate their energy, their ability to be pure Joy Finders, their automatic kindness and sense of adventure. We are so busy ‘teaching’ our kids to follow what we deem standard paths, we forget sometimes how much they have to teach us, how much the world needs them to be creative and adaptable Big Thinkers as we face the unprecedented changes predicted in the years ahead. If we really want to future-proof them, teaching creativity, inner strength and emotional well-being is essential.


What are the main principles of Stib?

I call Stib a purposeful business. I don’t want to set it up as something preachy and worthy, but its main principle is to be a ‘good business’ with the central aim of helping children to feel good inside, and do good outside. That’s probably too many mentions of the word ‘good’, but it’s the DNA that runs throughout.


Stib donates 10% of profits to education charity Why this charity?

During my time at Virgin Unite, I worked with to raise money to help support its work rebuilding the community in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. was founded by Craig Kielburger and his brother Mark when he was just 12 years old after reading about the death of a young boy in Pakistan who had spoken out against child labour. Stib is founded on the belief that all children have the potential to do amazing things, but also that childhood itself can be a real force for good. You don’t need to wait to be a grown up before you can make some real changes in the world. I loved the fact that has projects in both the UK and overseas and its ethos around community, inclusivity and the work it does to empower, educate and inspire young people made it the perfect fit for Stib.


Tell us about your ‘sparkwords’ and the Stiblers.

The’ sparkwords’ are meant to be just that - little sparks that give ideas and support to help young people facing what we call everyday ‘lumps and bumps.’ The words and the Stiblers (a group of animals created exclusively for the brand and each matched to the Sparkwords) are there as small prompts for children. We all face certain situations like not being invited to a party, when a young person might think ‘What would a Self Believer do?’ or seeing somebody playing alone and considering how an inner Peace Keeper would reach out in an act of kindness. My amazing mother wrote 12 stories, one for each of the Stiblers, which are free to download from the website, along with our ‘Ask a Stibler’ series and loads of inspirational quotes and links designed to bring the sparkwords alive for children under 10.


What are your desk essentials?

Paper, notebooks, pens, pencils and endless cups of green tea, plus a large Labrador called Gil sitting close by.


What do you use notebooks for?

Pretty much everything. Even if I have no plans to re-read my notes, the act of writing things down is how I make sense of things and remember them. I am an endless list maker. The ‘crossing off’ of tasks is something that helps me feel a sense of control and I regularly add items to my lists I have already completed, just so I can tick them off.


Do you have a favourite pen?

Sadly I am too disorganised to have just one treasured pen. I have pens and pencils in most rooms of the house, in the car, my bags and even some coat pockets. I have to write everything down and I consider being without a pen akin to being without a wallet, phone or keys.


Why do you think stationery continues to sell in the digital age?

It brings pure joy. It’s a simple delight that to me is linked with a deep sense of possibility. Much like reading a book, it evokes so many of our senses in a way digital creativity can’t. That’s not to say I’m not a huge fan of all the technological advances that we are privileged enough to benefit from, but making your mark on a blank piece of paper, the smell of a freshly sharpened pencil, the swoosh of a felt pen, the faint pride you feel when opening a new notebook - they are all enduring and deeply satisfying pleasures that I believe will stand the test of time.


What are you most proud of so far in your career?

From a Stib point of view, I’m so proud that something that was just an idea is now something real, it’s out in the world and that I actually made that happen.


What are your plans for 2019?

I have so many ideas and plans, there’s so much I want to do with Spark Thinking and we have a few new products in the pipeline too, including those we will be trialling at the Stationery Show London.

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