Theo Paphitis #SBS Event 2020 Celebrating 10 years

Theo Paphitis is celebrating the 10th anniversary of #SBS – a network of like-minded people who run small businesses. We are all proud to be part of the 3000 winners.

The annual event took place at the ICC in Birmingham on Friday 28th February. Everyone I spoke to and the social media posts I read afterwards all said the same thing -WOW what an amazing day, so much information was shared to grow our businesses and how inspiring all the presenters were.

So if you’re thinking ‘what is all this #SBS malarkey and why is it trending on twitter’ then read on and I’ll tell you about why I love it and how you can get to next year’s event.

Firstly the event is FREE, no charge to attend – please don’t think it’s a chance for Theo to sell his products to us, and get a sausage roll and luke warm cup of tea thrown in. NO! This is one of the best organised and useful events I’ve been to (and I’ve been to loads over the years) – its sponsored by Ryman, DHL, Robert Dyas, HP, Square, Western Union, Autumn Fair, iLaw and Nat West. Which means its professional and the presenters are world class.

Who did I meet?

SBS audience

The SBS Winners starting to take their seats first thing!

As this is my third event, I made a point of booking an appointment with the buyers at Robert Dyas as in the past they have been instrumental with providing advice on my product and retail in general. I was in IT for 20 years before designing and creating my business, so retail is all new to me and any insight and support is very welcome.

I showed them my new products which were about to launch on Not On The High Street and gained useful feedback. Such as the forthcoming legislation that my gardening snips would fall into (that I was completely unaware of) and I also gained advice on Christmas gifting, packaging and additional improvements. A great way to start my day.

I intended to go and join the ‘speed networking’ sessions for social media, ecommerce and marketing, where you can meet Theo’s team to get advice, but I kept bumping into people I knew and it was so nice chatting with them and catching up on their progress since we last saw each other. So I ran out of time.

There is so much to do in addition to networking, such as getting a new headshot photo (always useful) taken. Meeting the sponsors who were so helpful and as a sole trader you don’t always get the time to discuss everyday topics such as printing (thanks HP!).

The Main Event

What an agenda! First up it was an introduction by Kypros Kyprianou, the CEO of Theo Paphitis Retail Group who introduced Theo on stage.

Amazing stats:

  • #SBS has been supporting small businesses for 10 years
  • Over 400,000 #SBS applications
  • A network of over 3000 #SBS winners
  • Which equates to less than 1% of entries will win
  • 75% are female owned businesses
  • 23% started a business aged 45+
  • 6% were under 19 when they started
  • 52% are sole traders

Theo Paphitis Nikki Hollier Border in a Box SBS

Google Digital Garage – Priya Chauhan

This presentation was designed to help us become more visible on Google and enable our customers to find us easily. This session was packed with nuggets of information and my ‘To-do’ list has grown considerably.

  • Free digital online course –
  • Look at trends for your industry and see what the world/UK are searching for –
  • Create a business listing for free – Google My Business Account and create a Business Profile which lets you easily connect with customers across Google Search and Maps. If you work from home, you can click a button that says ‘don’t show my address’ – keeping ‘workers from home’ safe online!
  • Use Keyword search planner – this helps with potential customers trying to find you by adding those search terms to your website and content. Use short and long tail keywords. This can also help with paid ads and marketing.
  • Also keep information up to date, add in photos, virtual tours, respond to reviews (good and bad), show you care and show your personality.

Phew what an epic presentation. I loved it when Priya talked about when she moved into her new home and had no clue what to do with the garden. I hear you Priya, that happened to me and that’s why I started my business to help everyone achieve a gorgeous garden easily. No green fingered expertise required with my kits as I’ve done it all for you!

NatWest – Darren Pirie

This presentation was going to be an interesting one for me because I applied to their accelerator program when I first started Border in a Box. I got chatting to one of their advisers who works with Darren, at one of their social events. The ‘mentor’ kept saying over and over that he ‘didn’t get it’ and advised me to go and find another job/business as this was never going to work.

I don’t remember his exact words but I will never forget how I felt.

If I had followed his advice I would have missed out on some amazing opportunities such as #SBS, the WINN award for innovation (with £12k prize package), creating a show garden border at BBC Gardeners’ World Live at the NEC and winning Platinum, Best Border and being featured on TV by Mark Lane. Plus, many more, too long to list. Border in a Box is celebrating it’s third birthday this month.

So if you want to apply to join their free program here’s the link – there are many #SBS winners who rave about their hub –

MIND – Faye McGuiness

  • We all have the right to thrive at work.
  • Mental health can happen to anyone, and there is still a stigma and fear of what people think about us.
  • 1 in 4 people experience mental health problems
  • The cost to the economy is £42-45Bn a year
  • On average, for every £1 spent on supporting their staff’s mental health, employers get £5 back on their investment in reduced absenteeism and staff turnover

You can read more about Deloittes research here –

Faye MacGuinnes MIND SBS

Faye went onto say its important to create wellness action plans for ourselves as sole traders and our team members. So, to support our wellbeing we need to do two of these five things each week to improve our mindset.

  • Give
  • Keep learning
  • Be active
  • Take notice
  • Connect

LinkedIn – Charlotte Davies

Charlotte Davies LinkedIn SBS

I’ve been using LinkedIn for many years and used it to connect with clients and help with networking when I worked in IT. I love using it but when I became a garden designer all my contacts were in IT and I thought they wouldn’t want to hear about my new career. How wrong I was – I’ve had so many people message me and ask how I changed career and how much they love the respite from endless chat about IT and hear about gardens instead.

I definitely need to update my company page, which I’ve left hanging and simply focused on my personal page. I was also surprised to hear that we scroll 96 metres of content every day, which is more than the height of Big Ben. Which means it’s so important to create content that people are interested in.

Charlotte’s Tips:

  • Build your company story / show your brand
  • Post great content regularly
  • Create a content strategy
  • Don’t write spammy messages selling your business/services on the first connection

Fireside Chat – Theo Paphitis & Sara Davies

Sara Davies Theo Paphitis dragons den

What an inspirational afternoon.

If you don’t know who Sara Davies MBE is, she’s a British entrepreneur and the founder and owner of Crafter’s Companion, a company she started while a student at the University of York – she was 19. She joined Dragons Den in April 2019 as the youngest Dragon.

Sara’s parents were business owners, they own a hardware shop. There were no plans for her to take over the store, so she went to York University and gained a first-class honours degree.

Whilst at university Sara joined a small crafting company as her placement. She spotted a niche in the market to make envelopes to match crafters cards rather than using bog standard manila or white cards.

Sara went to her Dad (an engineer by trade) and between them they created the Enveloper. Sara was still at university when she set up her business and was turning over £500k by the time she finished her course.

The Enveloper was sold on TV shopping channel, Ideal World. Sara recounted the story of her investment in stock for the first show and how the purchase order was reduced from the original agreed amount and how that left her in a deficit. However, Sara sold all 8000 products, so all was well.

From a young age Sara was inspired by her parents, their hard work and family values. Sara wanted this for her family and have a career that was flexible around her family. Sara is now married with two children aged 3 & 6.

The harder she worked the more confident she became. She told us that she was at an event for an award and was one of 8 people shortlisted. She was the only woman and had a northern accent and was in the crafting industry, so she thought she had no chance. Obviously she won, and it was a sweet success.

Sara’s top tips for us

  • DON’T REDUCE YOUR PRICE – If you’re selling a service, do a little bit for free so the client can understand/see the return on investment.
  • If you want to sell on TV shopping channels but struggling to get noticed, create your own infomercial. Talk about why they need your product in their lives rather than lead with price.
  • Work hard
  • Be you
  • Don’t talk gender – she’s in business rather than a ‘businesswoman’
  • Focus on the positives and not beat yourself up over things not done

What an inspirational lady.

If you want to be part of next years #SBS event all you need to do is:

  • Follow @TheoPaphitis and @RymanStationery on Twitter.
  • Tweet about your business directed to @TheoPaphitis, adding the hashtag #SBS.
  • Tweet on a Sunday between 5.00-7.30 PM.
  • Having a website increases your chances of being noticed.
  • It helps to know the names behind the business. #SBS is for small businesses. The personal touch is liked.
  • Just tweet once in each weekly time slot.

See you there next year and claim your fabulous goody bag – the notebooks are brilliant!

SBS Goody Bag 2020


Platinum & Best Border show garden at BBC Gardeners’ World Live 2018 by Border in a Box

Theo Paphitis, #SBS, The Autumn Fair and a rebrand

Theo Paphitis, Nikki Hollier, Nancy Poller, #SBS Autumn Fair


I’ve just got back from exhibiting at the Autumn Fair at the NEC in Birmingham. I was incredibly lucky to win a free stand at the event thanks to Theo Paphitis and his brilliant #SBS Team.

What’s #SBS?

Theo created the Small Business Sunday (#SBS) concept in October 2010 on Twitter, inviting small businesses to pitch about their venture.  He then chooses 6 businesses each week and sends a tweet out to his 500k followers about each company which helps raise their profile.  It’s a great boost and twitter goes crazy afterwards – it’s so much fun!

Theo has an annual event for all the #SBS Winners, which is absolutely brilliant – you can read more about my first visit to this event in my blog here

All the Winners can join the #SBS Facebook group and a couple of months ago we were all invited to apply to win one of 12 exhibition places at the Autumn Fair.  The group went crazy with excitement at the prospect of winning a free space.  There are 2300 winners, so there was a lot of competition and my application had to stand out from the crowd.

I have no idea how they chose the shortlist let alone the final 12 as there are some amazing people and businesses in the group.  However, I was over the moon when I received the call to say I had won.  I was also sworn to secrecy until it was announced, which felt like it took forever.  It was so tricky keeping it from fellow winner Chrissie from the Cuddle Bed Company – we met at the #SBS event in February queuing to meet Theo.  We hit it off and remained in touch ever since and have become good friends.

Thankfully we were both Winners and were able to support each other through the process of getting ready to exhibit.  It was a big deal for both of us and after the initial excitement we both felt the gravitas of the opportunity.

Photo of Chrissie Lowery & Nikki Hollier

Chrissie Lowery, Cuddle Bed Company, Nikki Hollier Border in a Box

What’s the Autumn Fair?

The Autumn Fair is the number one wholesale gift and home trade event and enables retail buyers to connect with new suppliers, especially just before Christmas.

This opportunity was perfectly timed for me as I had started a rebranding and packaging project back in June immediately after creating my Platinum award winning show garden border at BBC Gardeners’ World Live. It has been an intense 6 months to say the least.

The Rebrand

The work that has gone on behind the scenes to get to this point has been busy, creative, stressful and fun.  If I didn’t enjoy what I do, there is no way I could achieve so much.

The rebrand took place due to feedback over the past year and the general consensus was to make the product look more ‘gardeningy’ with a ‘modern rustic’ vibe. I had a long conversation with Nancy from Aligned Design, who I had worked with from the start – we had started our businesses around the same time and met through a networking group called ‘Women 2 Web’ and I love her work.

It made sense to work together on this project – she knew my product and me and we work together really well.

First decision was the font and colours.  I ran a poll on social media for feedback on the product colours – muted or brights. The brights won hands down – so glad I did this as I preferred the muted colours, but after printing the samples, the brights looked amazing.

We then worked our way through every detail of the products.  The box sleeve was a priority, as this was the first thing people see. There is a story behind every decision, and the box sleeve was down to a chance meeting with a guy called Rob Draper, who was presenting at the WINN Make It Happen showcase event. His story is inspirational and I was blown away by it – so if you get chance to meet him, make sure you do as he is so talented  He kindly gave me ideas for the packaging, ripping the current sleeve into shape, scribbling all over it.  I gave all this information to Nancy and we tweaked it and ta-dah a new sleeve!

Here’s the photo of the old version in a tin, and the new version in a kraft box.

Border in a Box shady Border in a Box shady

Now this was sorted, it was time to work on the contents.  Again after taking feedback from people over the past year, all the comments were put in the melting pot and everything was looked at – from new photos & plant choices to seed packets to stickers – EVERYTHING was tweaked! Border in a Box was created to help people who know nothing about gardening but want a gorgeous garden, so everything in the Box got asked the same question “does this make sense to a non gardener”.

As soon as I knew I would be exhibiting at the Autumn Fair – there was a deadline to meet. That deadline wasn’t the start of the show, but several weeks before, as once the product was created by Nancy; it then had to go into production, and then photographed for my website, social media and brochures. Once photographed, I had to update everything. It’s only at this point that you realise how much work is involved and this is on top of the day job of running a business – there were a couple of gardens to design for new clients and writing my monthly article for the local paper.

It’s been intense, but it all came together in time for the Autumn Show.

The Autumn Fair event

Autumn Fair 2018 Border in a Box

The set-up day was overwhelming and I was thankful for my fellow #SBS businesses around me – I was feeling so far out of my comfort zone.  A few things had gone pear shaped, but it was too late to resolve some of them and I just had to ‘deal with it’ – my stand didn’t look how I wanted it to, but as soon as the doors opened on the Sunday, it didn’t matter as the feedback from visitors was positive. The majority of people thought my baby was beautiful.  More importantly, orders came in and relationships started with some fabulous people.

Tuesday arrived – D Day, or should I say ‘Theo Day’ – Theo was the key note speaker and also coming round to meet all 12 Winners. All the things I wanted to talk to him about all disappeared as soon as we met. Arrghhh what a lost opportunity, however, he was so charming and interested in how the event was for me.  We then had our photos taken at which point I then realised how many people were surrounding us.  It was a surreal moment.

Nikki Hollier, Border in a Box, Theo Paphitis, #SBS, Autumn Fair, Nancy Poller

Photo: Nancy Poller, Theo Paphitis, Nikki Hollier

What’s next?

Initially it’s to follow up every single person who I had a conversation with and who gave me their contact details. We will have had time to think about how we can work together.

I’m looking forward to getting back on track with my business, talking to my clients and building relationships with my lovely new retailers. I’m looking forward to announcing them on social media -watch this space!

Exciting times ahead and plenty of hard work too. Fabulous!

If you get the opportunity to join #SBS, do it, as it has created a wonderful network and opportunities for me and my business I never expected.

Here’s a photo of everyone – can’t wait to see you all at the next #SBS event in February!

Theo Paphitis #SBS Autumn Fair

Meet the other Winners:

  1. The Butterfly and Toadstool is a botanical jewellery brand created by Scottish designer Dee Leslie.
  2. Cally King London is a new perfume brand, for teens and anyone working out what perfume they like.
  3. Letterbox Lab is the kids’ science kit reinvented to be more fun, more colourful, more convenient and more educational.
  4. MK Kids Interiors is the only London based children’s Child Wellness Interior Designer that creates personalised, colourful and fun bedrooms and playrooms for children.
  5. The Edible Museum creates artefacts, from marine life and fossils to anatomy and historical artefacts out of quality chocolate.
  6. Bad Dog Designs Nixie Clocks are makers of unique and bespoke clocks using original 1950’s Nixie tube technology.
  7. The Cuddle Bed Company design and create sleep solutions for the whole family.
  8. The Dimpled Heart creates an eclectic range of handcrafted homeware inspired by our Scottish roots.
  9. Z-O-E produces high quality patterned muslin products, baby grows and toddler t-shirt for you and your little one.
  10. Perch Upholstery, run by Tara Cork specialises in creating on-trend felted pieces. From original stools, to baskets and rugs.
  11. The Room Alive creates timeless wallpaper, soft furnishings and stationery designed and made in the UK.



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BBC Gardeners World Live Beautiful Border, Jar of Life

Theo Paphitis the shopkeeper & the #SBS annual event 2018

Theo Paphitis SBS 2018

The #SBS club has 2,256 winners as of Friday 23rd February 2018. But what is #SBS? It stands for Small Business Sunday and was started by Theo Paphitis in October 2010 when he was feeling a bit bored after a Sunday lunch.

Theo was constantly being ‘pitched to’ and he wanted to help small businesses so it made sense to set up a time and place to do that. So, it’s on Sunday evenings 5-7.30pm. The winners are chosen each Monday and Theo sends a tweet to his 506k followers at 8pm to announce the six winners that week. Twitter goes crazy. There have been 329,000 applications since it started in 2010.

Theo Paphitis

Theo says, “Small Business Sunday was born so that people have a specific time slot to tweet and can pitch their ‘sell’ directly to me.”



You probably know Theo from his time on the TV programme, Dragons’ Den, but he calls himself a shopkeeper. He is Chairman of Ryman Stationery, Boux Avenue Lingerie, Robert Dyas, and London Graphic Centre.

There is an annual event where Theo invites all the winners to meet, network, and have the opportunity to have their photo taken with him.

This year’s event has just taken place at the ICC in Birmingham.  I wouldn’t have missed it for anything as it is a great opportunity to meet like-minded business owners and book 1:1s with Theo’s team from his various businesses.

For me, meeting the buyers from Robert Dyas was invaluable, especially as one specialised in gardening. Perfect. I was able to show them Border in a Box, talk about my ideas on various aspects of the business as well as receive feedback from a commercial perspective.  The first comment was, ‘I was expecting wall paper’! The other buyer said it looked like a tin of stationery. You might be thinking I would be put off by these comments. Actually I found them insightful, especially coming from a male perspective. We talked about the contents, marketing, where I should focus – all things that I’m currently working on. So my brain was buzzing after my 10 minute discussion as we covered a lot of ground (no pun intended).


As I walked down the stairs, I was talking through the conversation with my business-buddy and as we stood at the bottom, we were approached by one of the team who hurried us into joining the business speed-dating sessions. We were completely taken by surprise and felt very awkward being plonked in front of a total stranger.  However, as luck would have it, I met the Head of E-Commerce for Rymans.  Although I felt totally unprepared for our conversation, it went well and it was another insightful chat. This time focused on selling on Amazon.  I left with great tips on how to enhance my pages on Amazon – brilliant!

My next speed-dating session was with the Marketing Manager for Robert Dyas.  I couldn’t believe my luck! As soon as I sat down, I showed her my tins and she looked up my website as I chatted about what BiaB was all about.  She loved my branding and talked about how attractive the packaging was and that her mum would love it too.  Another brilliant conversation and more ideas on how to market my product.

So, within the first hour of arriving at #SBS, I had many fabulous ideas and new plans on how to improve various aspects of my business. I couldn’t believe how helpful and engaging these people were.

Insights and perspectives

Kypros Kyprianou, Ryman CEO, opened the event and introduced the sponsors on stage – iLaw, Hewlett-Packard, Robert Dyas, 123 Reg, DHL, Square, and Western Union.

Next, the man himself. Theo was mesmerising and talked through the results from their survey of the winners:

  • 54{3b96ccedb6380d96f8e66177cf66408304ba867d3fa3be683953eff9523069eb} are sole traders
  • 82{3b96ccedb6380d96f8e66177cf66408304ba867d3fa3be683953eff9523069eb} are feeling optimistic about the future
  • 42{3b96ccedb6380d96f8e66177cf66408304ba867d3fa3be683953eff9523069eb} worry about cashflow.

Theo then opened the floor to questions and after a few people had spoken he suddenly said, “Shut the f**k up! I don’t want to hear negative comments about being small. A small business will win my business as I know I will get extra special service from them.” That told us! To be fair, we needed a kick up the backside and to be reminded how amazing small businesses are and that we can offer something in addition to the big businesses we compete with.

Theo Paphitis Stephen Cheliotis

Next on stage was Stephen Cheliotis, the CEO of Superbrands. In a nutshell, Superbrands commissions independent research to identify the UK’s leading brands

It was a thought-provoking presentation.  One of the slides was a quote from Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon:

Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”

It certainly made me think about Border in a Box differently.  Theo said that no matter what size of business you are, you can compete with larger corporate brands by being professional and by treating customers well. He went on to say that:

  • small businesses have the flexibility to change with the times
  • they are disrupters and
  • we weald more power than we think we do.

The lunch break arrived which gave more opportunities to network, speed-date with the brand and marketing experts, chat with the sponsors, and also to play games to win some great prizes.

I also went to a presentation by Stuart Myers – what an inspiration.  He was born in 1982 without arms. He talked about his life growing up and overcoming the tasks we all take for granted such as learning to drive.  He described himself as just an ordinary guy, married with 2 kids, a house, a car, and a career.

Theo Paphitis John Roberts AO.comIn the afternoon was a ‘fireside chat’ with’s John Roberts. I had no expectations of this session but, wow, what a story. It all started over a drink on Christmas Eve in 1999 when he bet a friend £1 that he could change the world of white goods retail. In 2014 they completed an IPO valued at £1.2bn. He talked through everything including a funny story about recording background noise at a friends’ call centre, so whenever he got a call in his office he could replay it to make the caller think it was a much larger operation than it was. It was only 3 guys around a table in the early days.  He also told us about sponsoring TV show ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ last year. The aim was to raise brand awareness and obviously increase sales.  He said it was one of the worst deals ever as he spent his annual marketing budget in 6 weeks and saw no increase in sales.  For me, that was a real eye-opener as it just shows no matter how much experience you have, what your budget is, you can still fall off a cliff.

John’s philosophy is all about customers – and he treats them like he would treat his Nan.  He gives his staff complete authority to resolve the customers’ issues (within reason!) and he personally reads and signs the letters that are sent out to customers. He believes customer service is what sets AO apart.

John also gave us advice to be ‘fanatically anal’ about what works and what doesn’t work. Look at all the online information click by click.

Other nuggets included:

  • Do your research – if you’re starting a new service/product, ask people for a review in exchange for a product sample
  • Have 3 or 4 routes to market & pay for adverts
  • Influencer marketing – find out who’s hot in your industry and get them to review your products & services
  • Cash is King

Theo Paphitis John Roberts

Sadly, this was the last presentation of the day, however, it was also one of the highlights as I met Theo there and gave him a Border in a Box and had my photo taken with him.

So, if you’ve been thinking about tweeting Theo – do it! It was a brilliant day out and it’s so full of energy, which you can’t fail to absorb.  The downside is my to-do list is longer, however, it has spurred me on to do more and I know Border in a Box will be even better. Watch this space!

(I hope Theo loves his Border in a Box…

official photos available shortly)

Theo Paphitis #SBS Border in a Box

Theo Paphitis SBS Border in a Box award


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garden border with pink tulips, forget me nots and daisy

End of year review 2017 – the good, the bad, & the ugly!

starting & running a business


When I worked for a large company I always had an end of year appraisal to review the past year and see what was good, not so good, and create the plans and targets for the following year.  I always found them painful as they were so judgemental, but now I’m my own boss, I enjoy the process of looking back, reviewing what happened, the lessons learned and how to improve/grow for the coming year. It is so important to do this.

The idea for my business started several years ago when I moved into a new build property and had a garden that was turfed and surrounded by a wooden fence. It was soulless, boring, and uninspiring yet I had zero funds to do anything interesting with it. There must be thousands of people in the same boat so the seed was sown to create a business to solve the problem.  I retrained as a garden designer, left my corporate job, and started my business. So now I create planting plans for anyone who wants to create a pretty garden but doesn’t have the time, knowledge, or resources to do it themselves.

In 2017, I launched Border in a Box in March via Amazon Launchpad, with five ready-made garden designs, each in their own attractive tin box – perfect for any gift such as house warming, birthday, wedding, retirement etc.

Border in a Box gift tins

First steps

The process to get to this point was incredible and so rewarding.  I worked with a professional branding expert who designed the packaging. I spent many months creating the contents, working on planting plans, layouts, and choosing photos. I had no idea how long it would take to do each of these tasks. It was imperative to outsource those I wasn’t experienced in to create the space for those I was good at and to ensure the product was of a professional standard. It was overwhelming (and wonderful) when I saw my ideas turning into a physical product.

I was accepted by Amazon Launchpad (their program for start-ups like me). I thought it would be amazing and the orders would roll in. I had no concept of SEO at this point. Trying to understand how Amazon’s algorithms work and how to get the products and my business noticed are still baffling to me.  Needless to say, being lumped in with 116,000 products under the search term ‘gardening gifts’ it is tricky to stand out and I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to pay Amazon to get my product onto the first page of search results.

At the time when I was launching, I got contacted by Dragons’ Den and asked to apply to the show – (see separate blog about this  This opportunity was out of the blue and added to the pressure of my product launch.

Building the brand

The next step was to get Border in a Box (BiaB) noticed in a crowded market place.  It was unique so people didn’t know how to search for it, or find the solution to their problem. This meant a whole lot of learning as I knew nothing about how to match search terms and questions to Border in a Box products and how best to market the business and use PR to get it noticed.

I quickly learned that traditional advertising is costly, especially when you have a minimal budget.  Trying to work out the Return on Investment (ROI) before parting with my cash was impossible.  These aren’t mistakes either; just part of the business journey.

So, I got started building my brand.

  • I write a monthly gardening article for a local newspaper, The Pershore Times,
  • I joined a PR group by Janet Murray – whose insights and training have been invaluable to me. I’ve been featured in glossy magazines such as Period Living, Healthy, Modern Gardens, Country Homes & Interiors, Good Housekeeping, and Red and also in local & regional newspapers such as Birmingham Post, Worcester News, and the Evesham Journal.
  • I’ve done countless interviews and contributed to articles for Enterprise Nation, Flymo, and ACID + many more.
  • I regularly post on social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.
  • I write a monthly newsletter.
  • I’ve also had sales tables at networking events.

Again, this all takes time and effort creating regular content.

To increase my business profile I applied for ‘Garden Product of the Year’ by Country Homes & Interiors magazine and won! The prize included a feature in their magazine plus mentoring by the owner of Garden Trading, which has been fantastic.

Country Homes & Interiors magazine

I also was shortlisted for Entrepreneur of the Year by NatWest which was hard to believe so early in my product’s life.  I met some very inspiring people such as Leanne Bonner-Cook, who has just been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours which is incredible and I’m over the moon for her.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. I got chatting with one of the judges who initially was very helpful, but the conversation quickly started to get very uncomfortable with his ‘interrogation’ style of conversation. He asked me why I called my business BiaB and I told him the story. He hated all of it and couldn’t understand why or what I was doing. He became very animated and quite intimidating which was a shock as we were at a social gathering.  I replied that Alan Titchmarsh loves BiaB (which is true and is a story for another day!). This stopped him in his tracks for a millisecond. I had no idea who this person was and assumed he must have had an amazing business that he created from scratch and had sold it for millions. I read his biography the next day and there was no mention that he had ever started his own business, but interestingly it says, “And if you don’t know the answer don’t try and fluff him through something vague, he’ll tear you to pieces!”.  No kidding! It was the worst experience so far – I seriously considered giving up at that point. However, I knew I had a great product which many people love so onwards and upwards.

Great British Entrepreneur Awards

Extending the range

At the same time, I launched 2 more designs (making 7 in total), created a new website, became a Not On The High Street partner, and sold via the gift shop at St Peters Garden Centre and the Walled Garden at Croome.

I also had a garden design office at a local garden centre every weekend which gave me the opportunity to talk to people about their gardens and find out what they liked and disliked. I loved helping them create borders and containers with colour, texture, and plants they would never have considered before which they really valued, but didn’t pay for the help as they felt it was all ‘part of the service’ by the garden centre. It was a loss-leader but I learned so much.

Here’s my design studio that I created from an unused garden building at the garden centre – some elbow grease and paint makes a massive difference:-

Design centre at St Peters Garden Centre

interior garden design studio at St Peters Garden Centre


Lessons learned

It has been an incredible, amazing, awesome year so here are my top tips for anyone starting out.

  1. Time – I found that everything takes longer than I expected. My advice is to allow triple the amount of time to complete a task as something always happens mid-way through!
  2. Outsource – you can’t do everything yourself to a professional standard, so buy in expertise and outsource the tasks you’re not as good at as it will pay dividends in the long run.
  3. Training – you will realise there are things you don’t like doing or are rubbish at so enrol on training to learn how to do them and improve your skills. Never stop learning. I’ve signed up for a content marketing course to help develop my blogging skills.
  4. Money – you can never have enough! There are always items to spend your money on which you hadn’t anticipated at the outset and cashflow is critical so also think about when you need to spend.
  5. Criticism – you need to develop a skin as thick as a rhino. It happens, so learn how to pick yourself up and take whatever lessons you can and stay true to your vision. Also ensure you build a network of like-minded people you can talk to.
  6. Opportunities – say yes to everything! You never know what opportunities it will create further down the line
  7. Give back. I love helping people and I became a mentor for Viewvo to help others who want to leave corporate life and change careers.
  8. Balance – there is good and bad in every situation – it’s all about balance. Sometimes you need to look deeper to find the good in some situations. It will all pass eventually.
  9. Development – I visit trade shows and garden shows to develop ideas and network.
  10. Be prepared for your business taking over your life – you will think about your business 24/7. This means some friends will naturally fall by the wayside but you will also meet and make some new and extraordinary new friends and acquaintances.
  11. Take care of yourself – burnout is easy when you’re trying to keep all the plates spinning

What’s in store for 2018…

More of the same really but I’ve got plans to develop my product range further.  I’ll be off to meet Theo Paphitis in February as he hosts an annual event for all the winners of his program to help small businesses. Most importantly, I will carry on helping people create their own beautiful borders from Border in a Box. Why not join them –

Theo Paphitis small business Sunday

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Nikki HollierFounder of Border in a Box
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Nikki Hollier Border in a Box


Border in a Box awards


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