Young Innovators Success Stories: Ashley Ling, Piece & Quiet, South East
Reinventing jigsaw puzzles to support local artists
Ashley Ling was inspired to start Piece and Quiet after rediscovering his love of jigsaws during lockdown. The company offers a range of jigsaw designs created by local artists, all of whom receive a share of each sale. Since winning the Young Innovators Award, Piece and Quiet has grown rapidly. Ashley has more than doubled annual revenue and secured a listing in Harrods – something he says provided validation that the concept had legs on a national retailer scale.
“In the last year, we’ve grown to over 30 wholesale customers, which includes stores based in France, the USA and Canada,” he says. “We’ve also created our first co-branded puzzles with like-minded brands, which is a new concept for the puzzle market and represents large order volumes. Brands commented on how much they loved our values around supporting local artists and sustainability.”
Attending trade shows
Ashley credits the Young Innovators programme’s financial support with giving Piece and Quiet the resources to attend trade shows. “It allowed us to attend wholesale trade shows, which we would have lacked the funding to do. These trade shows have generated over £15,000 in revenue and led to the creation of co-branded puzzles with various household names, including Guide Dogs and Scouts,” he explains. Ashley also utilised the funding to invest in stock and marketing for large gifting periods, such as Mother’s Day.
“For Mother’s Day, we saw a record month for our online sales. Without the Award funding, we’d have found it difficult to scale our marketing efforts as much and as quickly as we did.” With a solid foundation built, Ashley has ambitious plans for the next year. He wants to double revenue, grow their product line and sell into more retail stores.
“We want to expand the number of retail partners we work with. Wholesale trade shows have proved successful for us and we plan to sell into more retail stores next year. Now we have a strong brand foundation, our aim is to obtain another nationally recognised retail partner,” he says.
Ashley describes himself as “still a work in progress” as an entrepreneur, though setbacks in the last year have helped him become more confident and resilient.
“We’ve had a number of near misses, where we’ve come close to a game-changing moment but just fallen short. It’s helped me become a more resilient person who is able to bounce back when things don’t go to plan,” he says.
“I feel much more confident with the support network of other inspiring entrepreneurs on the programme, alongside the innovation champions and guidance.”
Talk openly and honestly
One of the biggest challenges for early-stage entrepreneurs is managing personal finances; it’s tough to build a business without a full-time salary. For Ashley, being able to share struggles and experiences with other Young Innovators has been invaluable.
“Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of sacrifices, and it’s only really people who are doing so who truly understand what it feels like. It’s not something that’s openly discussed, so being able to talk honestly with my cohort has helped me during challenging periods.
“It’s particularly inspiring hearing about what everyone else is achieving, which really helps pick you up when things aren’t going your way.”
Put yourself out there
Ashley’s advice for future applicants is not to be afraid to put yourself out there, whether it’s reaching out to someone who inspires you, sharing a social media post or telling a personal story.
“I used to be embarrassed of what people might think, but firstly, it doesn’t matter, and secondly, everyone is super supportive and wants to see you win,” he says.
“It’s amazing what can come from just a LinkedIn post. All it takes is the right person to see it, so put your thoughts and ideas out there and trust that something good will come of it!”
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