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Linda Fairbairn - Founder, Journey Jottings

Linda Fairbairn
'It was in 2002, at the end of a trip to Darwin, that the idea to combine a map with a journal first crossed my mind. The first Australia Map Journal was published a year later.'







What is Journey Jottings?

Most maps tell you where to go, Journey Jottings tell you where you've been! Map Journals are visual keepsakes that summarise your trip by combining a hand-drawn pictorial map upon which to dot your trails, surrounded by boxes where there is space for jotting your tales. The folded map comes tucked in a clear travel wallet leaving the back pocket free for preserving memorabilia.

We also publish and distribute a smaller version called a Mail-It Map. This is a similar concept to the Map Journals in that you dot your route on the map and jot tales in the boxes but it is supplied with a coloured envelope for keeping family and friends posted; so it's more than a postcard, but less laborious than a letter!

Where are your products stocked? 

Tourist attractions, museums, galleries and gift shops, as well as book and map shops.

When and where did the idea for Journey Jottings occur? 

I've travelled quite extensively both around Australia and overland across Asia to Europe. It was in 2002, at the end of a trip to Darwin, that the idea to combine a map with a journal first crossed my mind. The first Australia Map Journal was published a year later.

Not everyone is a travel writer, but all travellers love reminiscing. Map Journals offer a more welcoming visual means of recalling place names and recounting highlights than the daunting blank pages of a yet-to-be-started journal! Map Journals also lend themselves really well to shorter breaks, such as honeymoons, where the map offers a spatial relationship of where the holiday occurred and, by jotting a few memories in the boxes at the time, forever connect special moments with the day.

What is your role in the company?

I am the creative director, cartographer, production manager, marketing manager and financial administrator! I check my emails on a daily basis, and once a week I spend an afternoon with all things numerical. Beyond that, it's a matter of prioritising to keep things moving forward.

My days are therefore very varied. I have a block of days designing, researching, drawing and painting, followed by days of getting quotes from printers, sourcing manufacturers for components, and checking and signing off proofs. Each time we bring out a new edition we need to take fresh photos for our website, and we are currently about to add a PR page to display some of the wonderful testimonials we have received. We do a few trade fairs each year so, three months prior, I sort out the logistics of transportation, accommodation, how we're going to lay out the stand and what display materials need to be sourced.

With so much happening it's extraordinarily easy to get distracted by the small busy tasks rather than making a start on the more important productive jobs! To help me keep tabs on what to tackle next, I have ever-evolving scrawled mind maps that progressively break down goals into the pertinent details that require action.

Is Journey Jottings a full-time job for you? Do you have any other staff?

Yes, and yes, and really we could do with more staff. My husband became involved last year in the role of customer service manager. He maintains contact with our growing database of retailers across the country by telephoning each of them systematically every few months to check their stock levels, create invoices and pack their orders ready for dispatch.

What jobs did you have before you started your business?

I've virtually always been self-employed. I've contracted to mineral exploration companies drafting geological maps, which involved months camping in outback locations. When the children came along, I worked from home restoring faded antique grandfather clock dials.

What qualifications do you have?

I have a Diploma in Cartography, from Oxford University in the United Kingdom, which is naturally helpful as I do all the cartographic artwork for Journey Jottings. It also reflects my long-term passion for maps. However, once 'in' business the most relevant and required skill becomes working 'on' the business.

What kind of research did you do before starting your business?

I researched statistics for both international and domestic visitor figures in Australia to assess the potential size of our target market of travellers. I also checked out the price of maps and journals in shops and then got quotes from a few printers to see how the figures would stack up. Testing the actual products has been a trial and error affair.

How long did it take for Journey Jottings to become profitable?

We were profitable by the second year, although my earnings from it were pretty measly taking into account the number of hours involved! I then, of course, ploughed these profits back into the business.

What was the hardest part of getting your business off the ground?

Getting a new product into the market so we could get the ball rolling. It's a catch-22. Most retailers don't want new products on their shelves until they have been tried and tested and have a proven history of saleability. Retailers would ask us 'Who else stocks them, and how are they going?' but until some retailers would agree to stock and try the product we didn't have an answer!

What is the process involved in putting a new map on retail shelves?

I have to design the artwork and research images for creating the hand-drawn and painted map. This original then goes to pre-press to be scanned into the computer so plates can be made for the printer. I then select a suitable paper that is ecologically sensitive but also has archival qualities so that it can be used as a keepsake. Our Map Journals are presented in a travel wallet, which are manufactured to our specifications and our little Mail-It Maps are supplied with an envelope. We selected a gorgeous earthy coloured recycled paper for these. Our maps are finally supplied to the retailer with a point-of-sale display box, each designed and made to fit the product and printed in our brand colour, cherry red.

Do you plan to expand to any other continents?

We plan to publish a Map Journal and Mail-It Map for Great Britain late in 2009 and Europe will be on the way by 2010. The number of international visitors to Great Britain is five times that of visitors to Australia, and Europe gets 40 times the number of tourists!

What are the best and most challenging aspects of working from home?

The lifestyle is the best thing. I love being able to check my emails over that first cup of tea in the morning, and when the artwork for a project is flowing freely being able to work late into the night knowing I only have a few paces to travel from my studio to my bed!

The most challenging part is respecting both the home identity and the business entity so neither encroach nor jeopardise the pleasure each can give.

How important is the Internet to your business?

I don't know how the business would manage without the Internet! It is critical for researching images of landscape, flora and fauna for the original drawings. Our cold-call approaches to retailers are followed up with an email flier full of images, which by snail mail would be so slow and, with the additional leaflet printing, so un-ecological and expensive. We also use the Internet to converse with our end users - there is a 'have your say' survey on our website to get direct feedback. Further Web 2.0 interaction is definitely on the cards to keep the communication channels open!

What's your advice for those who want to start their own business?

Understand the importance of working 'on' your business and not just 'in' your business and then implement it to keep it moving forward.

Enter awards - getting your name out there helps both from the PR angle as well as giving you and your product credence in the eyes of potential customers. If a panel of judges endorses the product with their positive commendation, it reinforces the confidence in retailers to give the product a go.

Check out SmartCompany. They have a start-up guide, links to government websites offering assistance, and you can subscribe to their daily emails with updates of news and views relevant to SME.

FYI SME stands for small-to medium-sized enterprise.

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