"Sprinkling a tiny bit of happiness all over the planet"
Emily Coxhead is a British designer, illustrator and happy thing maker! She is also a graduate of Manchester School of Art, and the founder, director, creator and promoter of The Happy Newspaper. Based in a small village in Lancashire, the simple aim of this 27-year-old entrepreneur is to make the world a happier place.
The concept for The Happy Newspaper which was first published in December 2015 began as a small idea when Emily realised the effect that the news was having on her especially whilst she was going through a difficult time herself.
Testament to her success, in September 2018 Emily was featured in The Independent newspaper’s Happy List which acknowledges 50 inspirational heroes who do extraordinary things for others, and who deserve to be celebrated for their kindness, courage and selflessness.
THE HAPPY NEWS
The story behind The Happy Newspaper
The Happy Newspaper celebrates all that’s good in the world; a platform to share positive news and wonderful people. The first issue launched in December 2015 thanks to 73 people who pledged towards a Kickstarter campaign, which ended up reaching the target of £500 in just two days. Since then, The Happy Newspaper has been released quarterly, containing happy news which has been collected over a period of three months.
THE STORY SO FAR...
"look for the helpers... you will always find people who are helping" - Fred Rogers
FROM THE BEGINNING
For as long as I (and my mum and dad) can remember I have loved drawing, creating, imagining and coming up with ideas. Throughout every stage of my life I knew I would do something creative I just didn’t know what and was constantly made to feel as though it would always be more of a hobby than a successful career. Nonetheless, I carried on drawing and making cards with all the glitter and sequins stuck to them. I’d also set up pretend shops in my room and would draw pictures for real shops to put up in their windows and I hoped and dreamed that one day I would draw for a living… or own a shop.
Throughout every stage of education, I was told I couldn’t do certain things, I couldn’t take two creative courses at either GCSE or A-Level but I was given the chance and received A/A* in all creative courses across both levels of education. I was accepted into three different universities to study Graphic Design and chose to go to Manchester School of Art (although I was told I wouldn’t get in with only A-Levels). I graduated with a 2:1 in 2014. The experience in general life, working part time, finding my style and building my photography portfolio in those three years is something I’ll never forget. I photographed many of the biggest musicians in the world just for fun most of the time (and it was fun!) but I made the decision to focus more on my design than photography knowing I would always have that (I didn’t fancy working at length with the music industry).
LOTS OF IDEAS
After graduating and going through a difficult time at home I felt a bit lost but still determined. I started working freelance straight away (from the box room in my Dad’s house which became my twinkly office). I registered as self-employed, I probably learnt more in a few months than I did in three years at university whilst feeling like I was drowning for the majority of it, turns out I had no idea how to set up a business or deal with payments and taxes etc.
I had a lot of ideas; I knew that greeting cards were a huge passion of mine, I’d begun selling cards on Etsy in my second year at uni. I did a whole lot of research and emailing and asked a lot of questions. I was put in contact with my (now) card publisher Pigment who loved my designs and words. In the meantime I'd been doing MANY odd bits of design work, whilst also pushing this ‘Happy News’ idea to the back of my head until I realised, I had nothing to lose and set up a Kickstarter campaign which was successfully funded. I created a newspaper!
LOTS OF ORDERS!
In December 2015 the first happy news landed on my doorstep (with 2,000 more copies, most of which I gave out for free to care homes and hospitals in the run up to Christmas). Somewhere around that time I signed a publishing deal with Pigment for my cards and shortly after the newspaper was released, I received a book deal from the one and only Penguin Random House in New York!!
As things started to grow, I ended up having to shut up shop on Etsy as I couldn’t manage the amount of orders and other work that was piling up. After receiving my publishing deal, I was put in contact with DRi Licensing who I went on to sign a licensing deal with to expand my happy products. This was a dream come true, all of my designs and ideas coming to life in the form of a product line was beyond me and such an exciting time.
BIGGER & BETTER THINGS
Although I wasn’t packing and posting all of my cards and products, I was still receiving The Happy Newspapers every three months on my door step and posting each one out individually from my living room. When I received over 4,000 newspapers, I vowed never to post them all out myself again. I took on a virtual assistant, Alison who helped with the many emails and helped find a distributor who could post the newspapers out each quarter instead (as well as other stuff)… phew!!
PUBLISHING & LICENSING
My book was released in Feb 2018 and my products launched with DRi Licensing in June 2018 and ended up in some of the most humongous shops like John Lewis and ASOS and so many lovely independent shops up and down the country (and in other parts of the world!). The feeling I get when seeing my designs and stuff in shops never goes away, I think it’s the inner shop keeper in me combined with real hard work paying off and so many dreams coming true.
IN THE NEWS
In April 2019, BBC online did a feature on me and The Happy Newspaper which snowballed like I nor anybody else expected. We received over 4,000 subscribers in a matter of weeks after various other press features including NowThis in USA and Today show in Australia.
I was nominated for a few card awards (The Henries) and also quite a few licensing awards alongside some of the biggest brands in the world (Barbie, Quentin Blake and Disney!) which in itself is unbelievable but I only went and flippin’ won 'Best Licensed Range' for my cards in October 2019.