Cover image credits: Tell Your Story Photography & Film
Welcome to Behind the Brand, where we showcase the founders and their journeys, successes & a bit more about them…
This feature we speak to Vaishali Shah, the brains behind the Luxury Wedding Stationery Brand: Ananya Cards. With over 21 years of experience in marketing, and over 16 years of experience in the wedding industry, Vaishali speaks to us a bit more about her brand, as well as, shares more about her personality & interests.
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About Ananya Cards:
Why did you initially decide to launch your business?
I have always loved stationery. I had been fortunate enough to travel the world from a young age and I would collect cards from each country I visited. I was fascinated by the unique qualities, symbolism, and themes of each culture and how they were expressed through their stationery.
I was looking for beautiful stationery in the UK but could not find anything that I liked which had a contemporary nod to my culture and reflected my appreciation of art and different lifestyles. So having spotted the gap in the market, I launched Ananya in 2006 with the ambition of bringing together interesting aspects of various cultures in a way that was stylish, exotic and contemporary.
The reason I called the business Ananya is that it means ‘without equal’ in the ancient language of Sanskrit and this is what drives me and the business…to create something distinctive, exquisite and unique. I am passionate about working with couples and listening to the individual story of every single couple, each one different. I love being part of their special celebration and life journey and help bring their vision to reality.
I want all our clients to look at their stationery in 10 years to come and for it to bring a smile to their faces. With a base in London and Dubai, I am so grateful and proud here at Ananya to be celebrating our 16th year in an industry so filled with talent, emotion, passion and collaboration.
Behind every company, there is the hard, dedicated work of someone making their dream come true, and the team of people making the magic happen around them. Ananya is my labour of love.
How would you describe your job / business to family & friends?
Because I’m doing something I love and am passionate about, I don’t consider my role in the business as a ‘job’. My family and friends tell me that when I talk about my business and describe my innovative, design-led collections or the latest technique or finishing touches I am experimenting with, my face lights up!
It is a very fulfilling aspect of my work and one that really inspires and nourishes my creativity. As with any business, it does involve a lot of hard work, commitment, and perseverance, but it has been very rewarding building the business and establishing my credibility and I’m enjoying the success!
What has been the most rewarding / memorable moment of your business so far?
One of the most rewarding moments in my business journey would undoubtedly have to be when Ananya was handpicked by Historic Royal Palaces to be their sole recommended cultural wedding stationery partner. This was a moment that was both humbling as well as one that filled me with pride. What a perfect match, being a stationery partner with Historic Royal Palaces! There is total synergy between the grandeur and opulence of the palaces steeped in history and the stunning and sumptuous stationery I design.
At Ananya we love to pay homage to historic traditions while adding a contemporary and innovative flavour, and the Palaces provide exceptional venues where our elegant and sophisticated stationery can be highlighted on our couples’ most memorable day.
One of my favourite wedding industry events was a Wedding Showcase at Kensington Palace. I was honoured and proud to have been invited to showcase my Ananya stationery together with live calligraphy at the event, with my scented gift tags/bookmarks scribed and personalised for each guest.
I was commissioned to create an invitation suite which was to reflect the grandeur and opulence of the Palaces as well as being contemporary and innovative to appeal to the guest list of leading media and wedding and event planners. So I used the brand colours of the various Palaces and introduced a modern golden brush stroke effect to add some oomph, creativity and sophistication and to reflect the theme of the evening ‘Our Canvas Your Creation’.
Is there any advice you would like to give our couples who are getting married?
I always say to my couples that their wedding stationery is a perfect way to show their personality. The best source of ideas is them, their stories, and all the things they love and share. My top suggestion is to take a step back and think about what matters the most.
If there’s a style of design, a theme, or a colour palette you want to explore throughout your wedding, your stationery can be a wonderful way to capture it. Your save the date or invitation is the first experience that your guests will have leading up to your day, so will set the scene for everything else to come.
If you have, for example, a certain type of flower that reminds you of home, your stationer can incorporate that visual or that scent into your unique design. If there’s something special you share, like a profession or hobby, don’t be afraid to let it inspire you! If you have children, or much-loved pets, let them play a role too. Think back to your most treasured memories together and tell that story.
What is your biggest motivation?
Kindness and making a difference are at the core of everything I try to achieve at Ananya.
Making a difference is really important and one of my key brand values. It’s always been very important to me that the business be run in a way that is sustainable, ethic, and that gives back to society.
For every stationery order, I plant trees part of my ‘Plant Grow Sustain’ initiative. As a business revolving around paper, I do take my responsibility to the planet very seriously. I have always directed 10% of Ananya’s profits towards donating to charity, and a few years ago, I started partnering with SankalpTaru Foundation – the first technology enabled non-profit organisation that plants trees in India, while also supporting rural livelihood, empowering women, promoting bio-diversity and making schools cleaner and greener.
I have also been an advisor and trustee for a number of charities around the world.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Even when I’m not working, my brain craves inspiration! One of my favourite pastimes is to explore London (and now Dubai) for new museums, art galleries, and exhibitions. I can so easily lose myself in art.
Art has always been so important to me – in fact, my family used to own an art gallery that I had the great joy of curating for many years. We offered it as a free space for local and international artists, to give them a platform to showcase their amazing talents. The project was born out of passion, and our urge to support and nurture up-and-coming artists.
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? (Starter, Main & Dessert!)
That’s a difficult one, as I like variety! Starter – Paneer Tikka or Arancini Balls. – Main – Pizza or Masala Dosa. Dessert – my mum’s Gulab Jamuns, served hot.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or past, who would you choose and why?
Steve Jobs. As a creative, I am a huge Apple fan and use Apple products for my businesses as well as for pleasure. Steve Jobs is inspirational for me as he wanted to change the world and technology for the masses. He has shown the world how to dream and how to achieve your dreams even if there are many hurdles along the way. For entrepreneurs, I know the products that he has created, from iPhones to iMacs, have helped many.
What is your hidden talent / skill?
My memory! I am very fortunate to have a really good memory. I can remember conversations, important dates, client calls, what people were wearing when I met them, how people are connected and related to each other and more, without having to make any notes. This ability has made a crucial difference and given me an edge when networking. For example, when I meet people I can refer, make appropriate recommendations and introductions. It’s a great hidden talent, I think!
It was a pleasure to speak to Vaishali & learn so much about her journey, successes and initiatives!
All wedding stationery imagery is courtesy of Ananya Cards.
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