In June this year Giftwrap featured the Scottish card company ‘I Like Birds’.  At that time, Stuart Cox  its founder and the designer of its stylish and highly distinctive bird designs, was looking at ways of expanding his business and seeking  licensees to apply his designs to a wider product range.

Since that article was published things have moved on apace.  Egged on by Tracey Bearton, the Editor of Greetings Today, and supported by GA chief executive Sarah Ward, who also had great belief in his abilities, Stuart decided to enter ‘Licence This’ an annual competition staged by Brand Licensing Europe, the UK trade event for the licensing industry.

He made a short-list of four and was invited to make his pitch to a panel of high-profile judges –including representatives from Marks and Spencer, the National History Museum and Nickelodeon – during the exhibition which was held in London last month.

“As well as the panel there was an audience of well over 100 people from across the industry in the room. It was like a cross between being on Dragon’s Den and the X Factor. We all had five minutes to make our pitch and were then asked questions by the judging panel,” Stuart explains.

Whilst his pitch failed to actually win the competition, the commercial potential of his design work which takes the simple concept of bird-themed greeting cards and turns them into something unique and beautiful, was well received by the wider audience

“After it was over I had my five minutes of Rockstar-like fame!” Stuart told Giftwrap. “People from all over the world were coming up to me and presenting me with business cards!”  One of those people was Jane Evans, founder and MD of the global licensing group JELC, who was in fact one of the competition’s judges and who had been impressed by Stuart’s pitch.

“I already knew of Jane and of JELC but had thought, as they represent such a select group of iconic brands, that she may not be tempted by a fledgling brand such as ours, so I was astounded and delighted when she wanted to represent us,” says Stuart.

Work with JELC is already in progress and Stuart is confident that his company’s first licensing deals will be announced in the not too distant future.  He and his partner Alison Blair will continue to run the greeting card side of their business in the UK.

“It has been a real rollercoaster ride but we are absolutely delighted that with Jane Evan’s support, Alison and I will be able to bring something we love doing to a wider audience than we dreamed possible,” he says.

The couple are also keen to thank others in the industry for their help in this journey.  “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the guys at Morrigan. We had a stand opposite them at Scotland’s Trade Fair in January and their advice about licensing was invaluable.  I’m also hugely grateful to Tracey Bearton for her belief in me and to Sarah Ward at the GA.  When the Chief Executive of the national body for your industry endorses your product you really do believe you must be doing something right and Sarah’s support and advice gave me the confidence to press on,” he concluded.

Sarah Ward told Giftwrap that she is absolutely delighted with the outcome. “It is really exciting to hear that I Like Birds is expanding into licensing.  I would urge our members to take a look at their portfolio and take the time to meet them as I truly believe some great partnerships could be formed,” she told Giftwrap.

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