Sync NI meet St George’s Market’s Flax Fox Designs

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  • Walking through St George’s Market on a Sunday afternoon, it is clear to visitors from both home and abroad that Belfast is emerging as a powerhouse for creative talent and independent design. Amongst the many sights, smells and sounds boasted by the Market, including vintage records, live music and fresh seafood, one stall in particular catches our eye.

    We are, of course, talking about none other than Flax Fox, Belfast’s up-and-coming creator of original prints, 100% linen tea towels, fine bone china mugs, bespoke gift boxes, postcards and tote bags. We caught up with Danielle Morgan, the artist and illustrator behind one of St George’s Markets’ best-loved businesses.

    Looking over some of the products offered by Flax Fox, it is obvious that when it comes to their designs, home is where the heart is. Belfast's well-known terraced houses and landmarks are affectionately adorned on the products, intricately sketched in fine lines. To suggest that the idea behind Flax Fox came from the streets of Belfast, however, would be incorrect. It was only when Danielle Morgan travelled to Australia that the company vision began to be set in motion. “Whilst travelling in Australia, I was enthused by the abundance of beautiful, well-designed products and how these resonated with both tourists and locals,” says Danielle. 

    “The fact that this tremendous creativity was so openly celebrated and supported in Australia, and that there was a demand for these products was encouraging to see,” says Danielle. Danielle was to connect with Melbourne-based artist Bridget Farmer in her travels, and a fruitful business partnership found its roots: “This was part of my inspiring trip to Australia, staying with her and seeing how artists lived and worked online and at markets. She returned home for a 2 year period - we both came from different skill sets. We decided to try commercialising our art by producing our designs onto tea towels, and that’s where Flax Fox came from”. 

    When Danielle returned home, the idea behind Flax Fox began to blossom. After observing the popularity of such products in Australia, she immediately began to give thought as to how she could ‘bridge the gap’ between fine art and commercial products. “On returning home, we wanted to build an enterprise that enables us to create original, memorable gifts that capture the essence of Ireland and Northern Ireland through sketching”. The rest, they say, is history. Now with a well-deserved spot at St. George’s Market, Danielle Morgan’s bespoke designs are gaining popularity across the country. Flax Fox even boast a photograph on their website of Her Majesty the Queen, who stopped by the stall to buy a teatowel on a state visit to Belfast’s much-loved hub of independent traders at St. George’s Market. When Bridget returned to Australia in 2012, Danielle took over Flax Fox on her own. 

    It is without a doubt that the success behind Flax Fox can be attributed to the commitment, dedication and artistic talent of Danielle Morgan. However, behind every successful business is a strong business mind. Flax Fox are particularly proud of their website, which offers web-users photographs of their products, as well as a handy shopping-basket and ordering functionality. “Bag of Bees, a Belfast-based web and graphic design company, created the Flax Fox website and working with them has been such a smooth-running process,” says Danielle, in one her of breaks from an otherwise busy schedule. “In addition to the website design and online shop, the blog and social media side to our brand holds massive potential – we realise this is where our customers can connect with us and get a true feel for the Flax Fox brand, and what we can offer”. 

    As with any young business, learning experiences come daily for entrepreneurs like Morgan. “We began selling on Etsy, but it didn’t work out as some of our designs were stolen from us by a company based in China.  It’s safe to say we had our first real lesson in intellectual property. We managed to solve the issue, but it has reinforced the importance of developing your own intellectual property,” says Morgan. Morgan’s experiences should serve as a reminder to protect your brand and product - no matter how local that brand or product may be.        

    As with many entrepreneurs and creatives in the digital age, Danielle Morgan spends the vast majority of her time behind a glowing computer screen. “I spend approximately 75% of my time designing on a computer - Photoshop and Illustrator are my lifelines, and they enable me to digitalise my creativity at an incredible pace,” says Morgan. “Our manufacturing is outsourced locally, and we also undertake bespoke design work for other businesses, such as the Giant’s Causeway and Hillsborough Castle”.

    When it comes to figures, fees and finances, Danielle Morgan has chosen Square as her preferred payment platform. To Morgan, the service is more than just flashy hardware and a well-known brand: “Square is a breath of fresh air! The onboarding process was very smooth-running, with fewer steps involved especially compared to other payment platforms.

    The payment transaction process is significantly quick, which eliminates the frustration of having to wait days on payments coming through.  On top of this, the hi-tech hardware appeals to our customers.  Our customers can see us using this sophisticated technology, and they feel confident that the payment process will be taken care of efficiently,” says Danielle. The mind behind Flax Fox continues to praise Square, as she encourages her team to adopt the popular payment method. “We are currently in the process of getting our entire team at St. George’s Market hooked up to Square, and we are looking forward to the coming months where will be using Square to its full capacity.  We have only been using Square for a few months, but already we can see the positive impact it is having on business efficiencies!”

    For Danielle, maintaining a successful business is heavily based on discipline and dedication. As an Invest NI customer, Morgan enjoys working productively from her own home-based studio, where she spends a considerable amount of time working on sketches and designs. “It is definitely encouraging to see many people embark on self-employment, but I must say it requires a substantial amount of discipline to ensure your personal and professional life do not become blurred.  Working from home has taught me how to embrace a military-style attitude; the studio represents a tangible separation. To be able to look after my children, have a fantastic team, a studio, and our stall at St. George’s Market every weekend, enables me to appreciate how far we have come, and focus on the future of Flax Fox.”

    With a growing customer base, a packed out weekend stall and fans including The Queen herself, Flax Fox is certainly one to watch.

    Visit Flax Fox at St.George’s Market

    Friday 6am – 3pm
    Saturday 9am – 3pm
    Sunday  10am – 4pm

    Or, visit the website at: 

    https://www.flaxfoxdesigns.com/

    WHAT IS SQUARE? WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

    • The original inspiration for Square occurred to Jack Dorsey in 2009, when a friend and co-founder Jim McKelvey was unable to complete a sale of his glass faucets artwork because he could not accept credit cards
    • Square was born to make it really easy for businesses of all sizes to take credit and debit card payments
    • The company markets several software and hardware payments products, including the free Square Point of Sale App, available to download worldwide, and the Square Reader, which launched in the UK in March of 2017
    • Square's Point of Sale app allows businesses to track their sales and see valuable sales data previously only available to larger business
    • The app pairs with the Square Reader, a small white contactless device that connects to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth. It means businesses of all sizes can take chip and PIN and contactless payments, Apple and Android Pay
    • The card reader costs £39+VAT to buy, and there are no monthly fees or contracts. Square charges businesses 1.75% for transactions made in person, and 2.5% for things like over the phone and web payments 
    • In the US the company has expanded into small business services such as Square Capital, a financing program, Square Cash, a person-to-person payments service

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