Meet the businesswoman who's gone from creating DIY decorations to dressing the windows of some of Britain's biggest brands
PUBLISHED: 12:00 08 March 2019
Emily Cotton meets Sarah Blanchard, owner of Pom Pom Studio in Ipswich who turned her creative hobby into a booming business.
Back in 2013, Suffolk born Sarah Blanchard was looking online for ideas for DIY decorations for her own wedding, when she stumbled upon tissue paper pom poms.
“They looked really easy to make,” Sarah says, “so I thought I’d give them a go. Very quickly I then found myself not only making the poms for myself, but making them for others too.
“When setting up Pom Pom Studio it became apparent that cheap, imported poms were widely available online but I wanted to be able offer something so much better. I set up a shop on eBay and was so surprised when I had orders that very night!
“A few months later I created a website for Pom Pom Studio and incredibly, within six months, the team at The White Company had got in touch with me! They were after origami boats and spiral roses for their in store window displays and wanted to know if I could create them.”
This contract was only the start of Ipswich-based Pom Pom Studio’s success, as from here Sarah and her team – which initially included her cousin and now consists of her and two freelancers, Tanya Dean and Jodie Last – have created more pieces than they could have every imagined.
“I haven’t always been a creative person,” Sarah explains. “I grew up in Felixstowe and worked in my dad’s hardware shop. When he sold the shop and immigrated to Australia, I moved to work in another hardware shop, however I knew this wasn’t something I wanted to do forever.
“Initially I thought Pom Pom Studio could be something I did on the side of family life. I would get it to a place where it would just tick along and it would allow me to be a ‘stay at home’ mum. But it’s grown way bigger than that.
“Clients now come to us with their ideas and we’ll do our best to work out how to make them. Every paper pom, tassel garland, paper rose etc is handmade within our studio in Ipswich and then sent out to wherever they need to go from there.
“As well as paper flowers, tassels and pom poms, we’ve made everything from giant crayons and pencils to huge balls of wool and woollen lanterns!
“To begin with, I started by watching tutorials online of how to create different paper designs, but as the types of things we had to create developed, we started brainstorming how we could make them ourselves,” Sarah adds. “I want the products to be our designs and we put a lot of thought into how but I believe this makes the designs a lot more personal.
“My husband is the brains behind how things work logistically really; he’ll always be coming up with ideas as to how things will work. Whenever we’re out shopping now we’ll find ourselves looking at window displays trying to work out individual elements were created!” Sarah laughs.
Today business is thriving for Sarah and Pom Pom Studio, with their gorgeous range of handmade decorations being used not only in shop window displays for clients such as Hobbs, Harrods, Ralph Lauren, Warner Bros, Disney and Selfridges, but also for photo shoots and weddings in the UK and around the world.
“We had the pleasure of working with Monsoon in both 2013 and 2014 for two of their press days. For the first, we were approached and commissioned to make up over 100 vibrant paper poms, which were used to create a colourful backdrop. Even more incredibly, this backdrop then caught the attention of someone at the press day who worked for Woman Magazine. She loved it so much that Woman Magazine then asked if they could use it in one of their upcoming shoots!
“Another large project came about when we were approached by the visual merchandising team at Harrods in spring 2016 and asked if we could make up over 400 extra full tassels for their upcoming spring display. They were delighted with the product and as a result, we also ended up making paper poms and mini pom garlands for their Easter displays in 2017.
“As well as all these big projects, I still love working on the smaller stuff too, especially for weddings. When a bride and groom send you photos of their day and say your decorations really helped make their wedding, it’s such a good feeling. Its so lovely knowing the hard work and love you’ve put into creating each piece is loved and appreciated by someone else too.”