Deer Little Forest creator, Jo Rose, on her ambitious expansion plans for the brand

2013 may have been its first year in business, but Deer Little Forest has already developed from a greetings card firm to a fully fledged children's brand.
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Firstly, can you tell us the history behind the brand.

I studied Costume Design and Theatrical Make-Up at the London College of Fashion, with the idea of working in creature and puppet workshops. However I ended up setting up a small publishing company instead, and soon started selling my illustrations to retailers such as Harrods, Liberty, Selfridges and John Lewis. In 2009 I moved to the New Forest and fell in love with the enchanting woodlands and the first flicker of an idea emerged. My love of folklore, faeries and Scandinavian design collided with the creative energy of the trees… and Deer Little Forest was born. The Deer Little Forest brand began in as a range of illustrated greeting cards, stationery and wall decor and now is being developed as a picture book series and a preschool TV show.

How did the brand perform in 2013?

2013 was our first year in business, and as a set-up year we did exceptionally well: we developed from a greeting card company that launched at Pulse in May, to an award-nominated children's brand with plans for book publishing, TV and consumer products by the end of the year. We attended Pulse and BLE for the first time, where the greeting card range achieved a great amount of excitement and interest. Deer Little Forest secured nationwide orders within high-end stockists, including a deal with major High Street chain Paperchase. We also closed a number of international stationery deals with several others pending. And finally, thanks to my illustrations of Deer Little Forest I was nominated for the prestigious Henries Award for Best New Artist and Designer 2013.

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How many licensees does it have to date, and in which categories?

We have a stationery deal with Paperchase which will see 16 DLF designs in their UK stores this spring; a stationery deal with Karto in Finland; an apparel deal with the T-Shirt Booth in the UK; a distribution agreement with Happy Trade in Switzerland and several other pending deals.

What are some of the best performing products, and are you looking to expand the consumer products programme further this year - if so which categories are you targeting?

So far our paper products have enjoyed a great deal of success because of their distinct and unique style. The visual impact and success of the illustrations have paved the way for Deer Little Forest to move naturally into picture books, which will enable us to then progress into a broader range of products, such as soft toys, apparel, BTS, nursery products and educational toys.

Do you have any special marketing initiatives or promotional activity ?planned for 2014?

One of the main objectives of 2014 is to finish the picture books and secure publishing partners. At the moment there are six synopses, two full manuscripts (in the style of Julian Donaldson and Maurice Sendak), and the layout to Book 1, The Animal Moon Parade. It was presented for the first time at the Bologna and London Book Fairs and received a great deal and interest from several UK publishers, as well as in the US, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Netherlands and Scandinavia. We hope to make announcements about these partnerships in the coming weeks. This year we’ll also focus on expanding the brand’s presence across more stationery and gift categories both in the UK and abroad, so look for us at Pulse and BLE!.

What has the reaction from retail been like to the brand?

??In our first year of trading the reaction from retail has been fantastic, seeing DLF now stocked in Paperchase, as well as a strong increase of high-end boutiques nationwide and distribution abroad. We were also delighted when retail awarded DLF its first Henries nomination.

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What would you most like to achieve with the brand by the end of 2014?

We are very optimistic that by year’s end we will be in partnership with a UK publisher as enthusiastic about the Deer Little Forest’s magical band of woodland friends as we are. We also hope to be working with international publishers, broadcasters and licensees across a broad range of categories – all intent on 'Saving the Forest one Tune at a Time'.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

Lisa Hryniewicz at Koko Media is managing all rights to Deer Little Forest. Lisa has over 20 years of experience in the kids business and became a huge fan of the Deer Little Forest as soon as she saw it at BLE 2013. She can be contacted on lisa@koko-media.com or 020 3652 5629.


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