Here at House of Coco we are a bunch of self confessed stationery GEEKS! We just can’t get enough and recently we stumbled across a rather new brand called Jolly Awesome and we are smitten kittens.
Here, we spend some time with Matt Nguyen, founder of the art and design led studio in London. Matt is an illustrator and he produces greeting and birthday cards, illustrations, posters and prints. We could spend hours LOLing at some of his creations.
Matt tells us more…
When did you launch the brand and what was the reason behind it?
I founded Jolly Awesome in the Summer of 2014, it initially started off as a small collection of illustrations influenced by my love of British pop-culture, funny looking animals and childhood fascination with all things Americana, then later in life hip hop.
I started creating greeting cards which then snowballed into a fully fledged design studio specializing in fun, contemporary design-led gifts and stationery that’s now sold in the nicest retailers around the world including ASOS, Paperchase, Topshop & Urban Outfitters
Whats your background?
Before founding Jolly Awesome, I was actually a Digital Marketing Manager at HSBC’s global HQ in Canary Wharf.
I was always creative throughout my school days and loved art – I drew with anything, on anything within reach and Studied Art up until A level. When it came to choosing a course to study at University, I chose the ‘sensible’ route and opted for a degree in Business & Management – a subject I thought would offer the highest chance of future employment.
During Uni I picked up an interest in graphic design and I began teaching myself Photoshop in my spare time. I would eventually blend it with another passion – Hip hop music.
I started creating mock CD covers of my favourite rappers and posted them on online hip-hop message boards for critique. By chance Eminem’s DJ came across my work and gave me my first commissioned project – album artwork for one of their Artists. Things grew from there, whilst juggling my studies I continued to freelance over the 3 years building a large client list made up of my favourite figures in the hip hop industry – including iconic record labels such as Bad Boy records and rap artists Outkast and Diddy. I loved the opportunity to be creative and built up a reputation in the industry for my original and unique designs.
In 2009 I graduated, and once again – I took the sensible route. I quit freelancing figuring I had spent all this money on studies that I should make use of the degree. I moved to London and secured a job with HSBC on their Marketing Graduate programme, moving through various roles and promotions, learning the ropes in branding, digital and marketing during a 5 year career. Which have proved to be a really helpful base for starting my own business.
It was in at the end of 2013 I started illustrating again, and in 2014 I quit my job and have been growing Jolly Awesome ever since.
How many people are involved in the company and what are their roles?
There’s 3 of us full-time if you include our frenchie puppy Raffy, but he doesn’t do much besides eat and poop.
Katie is my business partner & Jolly Awesome’s Sales & Operations Director – she also happens to be my fiancée.
We’re a small team but we operate at the capacity of a 15 person business.
If you could start over with the business, would you do anything differently?
At the risk of sounding clichéd I believe everything happens for a reason.
What is the hardest challenge you have faced since you started the company?
Forgetting about work, owning the business is a 24/7. Katie and I pretty much talk about it all the time, but I guess we are passionate about it and we enjoy it.
To date, what has been the highlight since launching?
Seeing our products on Paperchase’s shelves for the first ever time – it was the culmination of all the hard work behind the scenes to get it there in our first major stockist that made it a really proud moment.
Which city do you feel most at home in, London, Paris or New York?
I love them all, but London will always feel like home – However, everytime I go to New York I say to myself ‘I could live here’ and that is probably the best endorsement you could give a place.
Being confident to express your true self.
Best thing about London to you?
The hustle, the energy, the proximity you are to all the boroughs – they’re only a tube ride away and you have so much to see, do eat and drink at your doorstep.
Best place for a coffee?
Most memorable piece of advice given to you?
Work smarter, not harder
If you could spent 24 hours anywhere in the world, where would it be?
In future, how do you plan on expanding the company?
Continue expanding into new territories, I also have an idea for a second brand which I’m really excited to get going.
Where can people find out more?