Bangor mum's online print business skyrockets during lockdown

  • Bangor mum Nicole Hill started her ecommerce business, HillView Prints as a passion project during the Covid-19 pandemic, but now her business has taken off, all while she works from the comfort of her home. 

    At the end of March 2020, Nicole and her husband Andy were searching for the perfect gift to send to a friend during lockdown, but were struggling to find anything they liked.

    After looking high and low on the internet for a print that showcased the best of a location close to their friend’s heart, the couple decided to put Nicole’s graphic design skills to good use and create the ideal gift themselves, inspired by their love of art and travel.

    That gift was a print of Galway, which has now become a bestseller on the couple’s web-shop.

    With more free time on her hands due to lockdown, Nicole found herself designing even more prints in the same style, spanning the globe.

    To test the water, Nicole ordered 50 copies of the original print design and uploaded it to an Etsy shop called HillView Prints. Within a week, they had sold out.

    RELATED: Digital transformation has saved businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak

    “I couldn’t believe it,” said Nicole.

    “Initially we were wondering whether to buy twenty prints or fifty, and decided to go with fifty because there wasn’t too much of a jump in the price. We were half expecting to sell three! I’ve started a couple of small businesses in the past that never worked, but when you find something that does, it seems to just work, and HillView Prints has really taken off.”

    It’s now one year later, and HillView Prints offers over 160 prints of locations all over the world that are sold via Etsy and the brand’s own website, with ten new designs being added to the collection every week.

    Andy and Nicole

    “It used to be that we could sit down in the evening and deal with HillView Prints after we’d finished homeschooling, shut our work laptops for the day and put the kids to bed, but now that the pace has sped up, the business takes up more and more of my time every day, and we’ve even had to take on some staff to help us fulfil orders,” said Nicole.

    “It’s really exciting, and we’re really thankful for all the customers who keep us so busy, but it’s also been really tough. We didn’t own a label maker until December, so up until recently we’d been hand writing every label and were packing prints until 1 or 2 in the morning to get them out to people on time.

    "The excitement of seeing the business grow and hearing about how much people love our prints has kept us going and inspired us when we felt that we couldn’t keep our heads above the water, though, and it’s been so rewarding.”

    RELATED: Selazar: 'Levelling the ecommerce playing field for small-to-medium businesses'

    Nicole credits the success of the business to the passion that both she and Andy have for a side hustle and her love affair with arts and crafts.

    “I’m a self-declared crafting geek and also have a degree in Technology and Design, and Andy has a really strong background in e-commerce through his business Dokoo Digital so we were in a good position initially to promote HillView Prints online and just see where it would go.

    “We both love having something aside from our full-time jobs to throw ourselves into as a passion project, so we were excited to see how we could grow the business after the initial design sold so well,” explained Nicole. “We never expected to go from making one post office drop a week to seeing our local post office staff every single day, though!”

    Nicole and Andy now successfully run HillView Prints together whilst balancing their own freelance IT consultancy and marketing careers and looking after their two daughters. They are now looking ahead to the future of the business and have high hopes for where it can take them.

    RELATED: Measuring the impact of Covid-19 on e-commerce

    “It’s been a lot of hard work and late nights to get HillView Prints to where it is, but everything that’s happened so far has been organic and dreamt up over the breakfast table, so I really want to keep those values at the core of the business as we go forward,” shared Nicole.

    “My dream for HillView prints is that we’ll eventually be able to expand the team and that some day soon we’ll be able to support other people’s families through our business. We’re already looking for a bigger premises to move the business outside of our home office, and I can’t wait for HillView Prints to be about more than just me and Andy and about the whole community.

    “I’d also love for our girls to be inspired by how the project has taken off from just one small idea. They used to say they wanted to be hairdresser princesses when they grew up, but now they say that they want to design prints, which really excites me! I want them to know that they can do whatever they want if they put their minds to it!”

    Source: Written from press release

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

    Got a news-related tip you’d like to see covered on Sync NI? Email the editorial team for our consideration.

    Sign up now for a FREE weekly newsletter showcasing the latest news, jobs and events in NI’s tech sector.

Share this story