AN ELABORATE home-made birthday card inspired a business whose products are now sold by famous retailers including Harrods, John Lewis and Paperchase.

The hand-crafted greetings card company Tache was the brainchild of Bournemouth couple Pennie Bryant and Frank Nicholls and was named after their cat.

Pennie, 29, said: “In many ways, ours is a typical millennial love story: two young creatives meet at a music festival, then struggle to make ends meet while attempting to forge their careers. I was in fashion; Frank was in web design.”

“The only difference being, that as well as starting a life together, we also started a business.”

Pennie was penniless and working in unpaid internships in London when she moved into Frank’s “run-down” flat in Bournemouth.

For her 23rd birthday, Frank made an elaborate card consisting of a three-dimensional cut-out of two cartoon cats, one handing a heart-shaped balloon to the other. Inside was a miniature envelope containing tickets to a London show.

Pennie went on to a promising job in visual merchandising in Bournemouth, while Frank gained recognition for web design. But when Pennie’s employer moved, making commuting impossible, she resigned.

“It was during this time that I was in the house all the time and struggling to stay positive when one day and I chanced upon the birthday card that Frank had made for me. The sight of the card made me smile immediately and then, once again, inspiration kicked in,” she said.

“It occurred to me that, unlike normal greetings cards, which are given merely as an accompaniment to a gift and usually end up in the recycling, this card really was a gift in itself.”

Frank said: “We designed our first ten cards at the end of November for Christmas 2013, with quirky and creative designs that were unlike anything else on the market. All of our cards came with a specially designed printed envelope and matching envelope seal, creating a modern twist on the traditional wax sealed envelopes.”

Pennie said: “It’s been a huge challenge to learn everything related to business. Both of our backgrounds were purely creative and neither of us had any previous experience of running a business, so we were both learning everything as we go.”

Within their first year of trading, Tache was stocked in more than 100 independent retailers including Harrods, John Lewis, Liberty London and Paperchase. It is now approaching its seventh year.

Its cards can be found in thousands of outlets across the UK and internationally and were recently named Best Handmade Range at the 2019 Henries Awards.

Frank said: “Being advocates of waste reduction and users of eco-friendly materials, we use recycled materials, and aim to create cards that will be viewed as a personal gift that the recipient will want to keep forever rather than throw away. And it seems to be working – we have had a number of customers tell us that they loved their card enough to put it in a frame.”

The couple are working with the men’s health charity Movember to produce a range of cards that will raise money, They are also developing stationery, giftware and wearable products.