Said fluffy appendage belonging, of course, to designer couple Frank and Pennie’s beloved cat and company mascot Tache: she of the strange facial markings that look uncannily like a jaunty moustache. Well, ‘looked like’ would perhaps be more appropriate. ‘The funny thing is, those markings have sort of gone now,’ says Frank. ‘Maybe it was a kitten thing.’
Or maybe it was something more: as Tache Crafts grew, Tache’s ‘tache gradually disappeared. Could it be that there was magic in that furry facial hair?
Perhaps. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. It would be wildly unconventional – and frankly ludicrous - to begin a story at the end, so we must leave our moustachioed feline for the moment and rewind several months to a time when Tache Crafts was little more than a whisker of promise on the horizon.
The story of Tache Crafts is really the story of Frank and Pennie. In many ways, it’s a typical millennial love story: two young creatives meet at a music festival, then struggle to make ends meet while attempting to forge careers in uncompromising and sometimes harsh industries. Pennie was in fashion; Frank was working nine-to-five at a small web design company. Times were tough. Money was tight.
But many great decisions are made amid an atmosphere of uncertainty, and hope and inspiration often thrive in times of turbulence. So it was for Frank and Pennie.
The decision to move in together happened quickly, borne out of Pennie’s desperate need for a place to live after liberating herself from the last in a series of unpaid fashion internships in London. Working for free in the capital had taken its toll, and Pennie was penniless.
‘She was the damsel-in-distress, and I basically rescued her,’ laughs Frank. Pennie looks slightly unimpressed. ‘I wasn’t exactly whisked back to a grand castle astride a dazzling horse: you lived in a run-down flat in Bournemouth.’
Run-down or not, the little flat in Bournemouth would be the birthplace of an idea that would change both of their lives forever. And, like all the best ideas, it was born out of love. Well, love and a healthy dose of inter-relationship competition.
‘Frank had always been impressed by the fact that I regularly made greetings cards for family and friends, and he would often watch me at work, seemingly fascinated. Like a cat staring into a fishpond,’ says Pennie.
‘You thought I was just mesmerized by your creativity, but really I was stealing your ideas,’ chuckles Frank.
But this shameless act of paper-craft plagiarism manifested itself in something genuinely beautiful. For her 23rd birthday, Pennie was surprised and delighted to receive a hand-made card from Frank. It was an elaborate creation: a mounted three-dimensional cut-out of two quirky cartoon cats – a smug Tom handing a heart-shaped balloon to his unimpressed-looking feline sweetheart.
Despite taking his initial inspiration from Pennie’s ideas, in his quest to make what he terms ‘the card of all cards’ Frank had employed some genuinely innovative techniques, giving the end result a charming originality. There was a sticky heart-shaped seal, and the inside of the envelope was lined with a colourful feline pattern to match the main image. As a final loving touch, Frank had hidden a matching miniature envelope inside, containing tickets to a London show – a surprise within a surprise.
‘It took me AGES!’ says Frank. ‘Pennie was out of work at the time. She was feeling pretty down and I really wanted to cheer her up. I spent days on that card!’
As impressed and grateful as she was, however, once Pennie had finished showing off the little handmade treasure to family and friends, the card was put away in a memory box and almost forgotten about.
The months passed, and things began to look up for our young creative couple. Pennie had landed a promising job in visual merchandising, and Frank was gaining recognition for his web design talents. The run-down flat became a much nicer flat, and then a house. In a haze of happiness and excitement, Frank and Pennie went out and bought a pet: a certain big-eyed, furry bundle of fun with a moustache-shaped marking below her whiskers. The wispy clouds of uncertainty were beginning to part: the future looked bright.
Until six months later. Unexpectedly, Pennie’s company moved location, making her commute to work impossible. She had no choice but to resign. Even having a cute British Shorthair kitten tearing around the house couldn’t lift her spirits, and the clouds descended once again.
It was during this time of doubt and despair that Pennie, confined again to the flat while Frank was at work, chanced upon the birthday card that Frank had made for her. The sight of the card made her smile and, once again, inspiration kicked in when things looked bleak. The card really was original: its rustic, yet stylish handmade charm was quite unique. Holding it in her hands – and noticing all the work Frank had put into making it special - it seemed that something of the innocence and excitement of their blossoming relationship had found its way into that paper-and-card creation, with its cut-and-glued felines in love.
It occurred to Pennie that unlike normal greetings cards, which are given merely as an accompaniment to a gift, this card really was a gift in itself. Would other people appreciate this as much as she had?
She mentioned her thoughts to Frank, and – with nothing to lose - the couple decided to take a leap into the unknown.
And so, in between fending off kitten attacks and re-positioning smashable items beyond the reach of scrabbling paws, Frank and Pennie started laying the plans for a company that would take the greetings card world by storm.
All it needed was a name.
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