You might have spotted the stunning and unique black and white baby board books in our Elizabeth Eve new baby gift boxes. The Little Black and White Book Project is founded by Ruth Bradford a freelance graphic designer. Ruth, based in Bradford lives with her husband Karl and their 3 year old son Teddy. We caught up with Ruth to hear all about her inspiration for The Little Black and White Book Project, now in it's third year and going from strength to strength.
What inspired you to start creating black and white baby board books for The Little Black and White Book Project?
When I was pregnant with my son back in 2016, we were living in Singapore and like many first time parents I was reading up on things to help his early development. I learned about the benefit of black and white images and, finding the books available at the time rather underwhelming, decided to create some of my own illustrations featuring animals we had seen on our travels. After sharing the pictures with some other new parents, it felt like there was a gap in the market for some high quality content of this kind and the business grew from there!
How did you get started?
Those first 6 months or more, Teddy would only sleep in the daytime on me, I could never put him down. It was also too hot to walk around Singapore after about 10am or so, so I would sit on an exercise ball with him in a sling working on my laptop as he slept. The business kept me sane through these times as I did find the transition to motherhood tough. I initially launched with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in the hopes of raising enough for the first print run. It was a bit of a disaster and I underestimated the impact of not having really launched the brand or gained a following. But when it ended, unfunded, I scrambled together a website and the backers I did have kindly placed pre-orders with me and the rest we winged!
What is your role at The Little Black and White Book Project?
Pretty much everything! I run the business by myself at the moment which is super challenging. I have to wear all hats and find time for everything from design to marketing to finances to order packing. I love it though and I have learned so much. I don't think you can really start outsourcing until you understand the processes and nitty gritty so that's the stage I am in. Plus I van make decisions quick and be nimble, no meetings or votes, I can jump in and try things easily.
Where do you find your inspiration for new black and white baby board books?
Whilst black and white is the vehicle, the passion and the mission is all about the animals. I want kids to grow up knowing as may amazing species as possible in the hope that they want to help preserve habitats and help protect wildlife. So inspiration come easily as I look at what animals live where and how to bring them to life. My biggest problem is narrowing it down to just 12 animals per book and which countries or themes to prioritise. I literally have a list that covers the world.
What is the development process for each book?
I usually pick the theme/country and then look at the types of wildlife that lives there. I usually find it has to be a mix of things people have heard of or are classic favourites, with some that are less familiar or well known. Sometimes I draw up double what I need and choose those that fit my style of illustration the best. I collect images from my own library from trips we've done, plus royalty free images online. I use a few pictures per animal as a reference and draw straight into Illustrator with my mouse (I never got to grips with a pen and tablet) making up the image as I go along. I am always keen to make sure the animals look as close to reality as possible, except for the eyes, so anyone could recognise them in a photo or on screen. I then create the layout of the book in InDeign and send off a PDF to my printer.
What’s your favorite part about running the business and what is most rewarding?
I love the creative outlet it gives me. I am a graphic designer by trade and spent bout 15 years in the advertising industry, creating stories, building brands and making creative campaigns. So to have a business which I can apply all of my skills and knowledge too is awesome. Unfortunately, a lot of the day to day admin gets in the way of the creative bits but I am trying to carve out time to draw and make new things. Whenever anyone shares with me feedback about the products or photos of little ones interacting with them, that's by far the best bit! It can turn my entire week around to know that even one child out there is enjoying something I created.
What is your most memorable moment for the business?
2018 was a big year for me. I went from a quivering wreck with zero confidence to being able to stand in front of a crowd and pitch my business in a competition! I won a couple of awards which were a huge boost and saw my brand stand up to the likes of Usborne and Penguin helping me feel like there is a definite desire for my books. But probably the best bit was winning the Female Startup of the Year 2018 with Enterprise Nation, it felt like such an amazing validation for my business as well as personally having overcome lots of hurdles to get to the pitch. When your peers and judges look at you and see a viable, interesting business then you know it's more than a side hustle and maybe your plans and dreams could come happen after all.
Where can we find these stunning black and white baby board books from The Little Black and White Book Project?
With Elizabeth Eve of course ;) but also in as many places as possible. I sell via www.blackandwhitebookproject.com as well as Amazon, Not on the High Street, All By Mama, Mama Browns and various retail outlets across the country. I love building relationships with other small businesses, on and offline as well as seeing all of the different ideas and offerings my books and product range are now part of. It's definitely a collaborative process and I hope the keep expanding where and how we pop up as we grow.
What’s next for The Little Black and White Book Project?
My dream is that owning one of my books becomes a rite of passage to welcome every little new person into the world. One of those go-to gifts like Sophie Giraffe or a Jellycat toy. I want to capture imaginations from as early as possible so children grow up knowing bout all of the amazing and wonderful animals they share planet earth with. I know it will take me a long time to get to be one of the best selling baby brands, if not THE best selling black and white brand, but one has to dream big. I know it'll all be worth it in the long run.