Suzi and Dan Maher’s Bellingen business ‘Affirmations Publishing House’, (or ‘Affirmations’ as it is affectionately known locally), embodies positivity. Entering the 1930’s art deco abode of Affirmations Publishing House on the main road of Bellingen is an uplifting experience in itself. The feel good music is just loud enough to encourage ‘moving to the beat’ while permitting, friendly banter between the very loyal staff. Featured art and messages of affirmation adorn the walls. The feeling is friendly, the conviviality catching. Yes, we are also swaying to the beat before too long. “We are passionate about positivity,” says one wall, and it shows.
Thirty years ago Suzi and Dan Maher were on their own journey of discovery, touring Australia. This was a time pre-mobile phones, when travellers took pen to paper to keep loved ones informed of their adventures. Suzi and Dan searched unsuccessfully for greeting cards that would reflect their style and creativity and most importantly “be positive in the messages they conveyed.” They realised this was a hole in the market they could fill. This was the genesis of ‘Affirmations.’ In August 1988, they launched their first range of 24 cards, designed on their Sydney dining room table by Suzi. Once they had 100 stores, they decided to go to print. They knew nothing of the Greeting Card world, coming from the corporate worlds of Merchant Banking and Insurance. “It’s been a rather large learning curve, but an adventure in the making.” says Suzi.
Suzi and Dan were visiting friends in Bellingen. They fell in love with the town and realized that “this picturesque setting was the ideal environment for Affirmations to radiate. It is from this creative haven that our passion has truly come to life,” says Suzi. Affirmations is now a thriving business, employing 18 Bellingen Shire locals. They also have an office Auckland and distribution throughout New Zealand. Along with their range of exquisite greeting cards they have spread their wings to include books, ‘Little Affirmations’, calendars, diaries, bookmarks, gift tags, all with a little written affirmation. Initially the products appealed to the ‘New Age devotees’, but today the product lines and styles have have more widespread appeal and are now sold in more than 2000 stores across Australasia. “If you truly believe it can happen and you focus on making your dreams come true, there is no reason why it can’t. Dan and Suzi are living proof of that,” says Nick Vale, Branding and Communications Manager. “They have always ensured that our stockists are happy. Dan has probably driven around Australia 25 times visiting stores. It’s been worth it. In a recent survey we had a 98% customer satisfaction,” says Nick.
The Affirmations team is dynamic, talented and extremely harmonious. It seems that all of the staff embody the company mission of ‘sharing positivity’. “Being surrounded by the gentle affirmations in our products each day, help all of us at Affirmations Publishing House to feel good on the inside,” says Suzi. “We get to come into work each day and create products to inspire people, to give them hope, to make them happy and connect them with friends and family. Not many jobs give you that opportunity,” says Nick.
The other true passion of the Affirmations’ team is environmental sustainability. “If positivity is our Mission, sustainability is our Mantra,” is the company line. All the power comes from renewable energy sources and both the Bellingen and New Zealand offices are carbon neutral. They print on recycled paper using vegetable-based inks, shred all paper for packaging and use environmentally sound packing beads when sending orders. The garden at the Bellingen office is tranquil and in the most part edible and a perfect space for reflection. There are French-inspired touches throughout the office space and the garden, reflecting Suzi’s affection for alls things French.
These are exciting times for Affirmations Publishing House. The team has just been to London in June 2017 to showcase their products at the biggest Greeting Card and Gifting Trade Fair in the world – Progressive Greetings Live, and have successfully negotiated new distribution license agreements in Europe and the USA.
We’re also celebrating our 30th birthday in 2018 and are bursting with pride. How many businesses can boast so many birthdays?