Grace Sherriff is the brains behind Norma&Dorothy, one of the most popular hand-crafted stationery makers in Manchester, with almost 9,000 followers on Instagram.
Founded by Grace is 2013, the company has grown from humble beginnings to a thriving business with a team of 11 staff helping her to run it.
“Grace has been designing pretty things since the age of 10. She would spend hours designing shop fronts in her notebook,” Grace’s partner Paul Dickinson told us.
Today Grace and Paul lead a dynamic and talented team of crafters, artworkers extraordinaire and customer service staff who are all committed to making special occasions as memorable as possible with their stunning, handcrafted designs.
Originally from Wigan, Grace and Paul both moved to Manchester many years ago. Grace went to university in Huddersfield to study fashion and Paul went to Liverpool to study business.
“Manchester was almost the middle of us,” says Paul, “and we both loved the city so much and how it’s changing so quickly that we decided to buy our first flat together in Manchester. That was 10 years ago and we haven’t looked back.”
Grace went on to become a fashion designer for a high end brand before the opportunity to create wedding invites for family and friends cropped up.
“The business originally started from the front room in our flat but it grew really quickly. It was just Grace to start off with. I joined in 2014 and it snowballed from there. We got a small office together and since then we have outgrown five offices and now employ a team of 11.
“Grace always wanted to craft and create things with her hands rather than work in an office, and so she started selling cards initially just to family and friends, and then the business grew from there.
“I worked in online marketing for an agency in Manchester so it was easy for me to take on the role of the website and marketing side of the business.”
So where did the name come from? There isn’t much of a story behind the name. It just happened to be two names that Grace loved and was holding out to use as pets names. In the end she just put them together and Norma&Dorothy was born.
Back on Black Friday last year – a key date in their trading calendar and just before the Christmas rush was due to begin – Grace found out she was pregnant.
The couple are more than used to sharing other people’s happiness, crafting stationery for a manner of all special occasions. But one of life’s biggest – and happiest – events has changed everything for Grace and Paul – their own little bundle of joy, baby Avery Grace Dickinson, who arrived last month.
“It’s always difficult to plan in business,” says Grace. “While you can structure your year around key dates, peaks and business priorities, sometimes life throws up those big events that necessitate a change in direction.”
It’s no surprise that since the big news broke, Grace and Paul have had to look a little more critically at how they run their operation. As you would expect, the first five years of the business saw them being extremely hands on, putting in the hours around their peak trading periods and always being there to support their team.
“Being pregnant really forced us to reflect on the day-to-day running of the business. It’s made delegating tasks and procedures a top priority which, in turn, is proving really beneficial for our team’s development,” says Grace.
“We’re usually a very reactive business, working on short lead times and generating ranges close to their launch dates. But because we know we’ll be taking time off this year, which is something we’re not used to, we’ve had to plan ahead and make sure the business still flourishes when we’re not there.”
The arrival of baby Avery has inspired them to create more in the baby range of stationery.
“Once we’re back to work in the autumn we’ll certainly be developing a baby gifting range – we’ve seen that there’s a real lack of unique, high quality personalised gifting items in the baby market just from doing our own shopping. We’ll be looking at ideas for celebrating both pregnancy and birth and hope that our own experience of this can add a real personal feel to the products.
“Running a business means there’s no boundary between personal and work life, which is something we love. The two are very intertwined. We’re sure this will continue for many years and hope it shows our new baby the real joy that work can bring to your life.”