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.
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 http://22.214.171.124/theo-paphitis-shopkeeper-sbs-annual-event-2018/
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
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 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 www.robdraper.co.uk. 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.
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
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.
Photo: Nancy Poller, Theo Paphitis, Nikki Hollier
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!
Meet the other Winners:
- The Butterfly and Toadstool is a botanical jewellery brand created by Scottish designer Dee Leslie. thebutterflyandtoadstool.co.uk
- Cally King London is a new perfume brand, for teens and anyone working out what perfume they like. callyking.com
- Letterbox Lab is the kids’ science kit reinvented to be more fun, more colourful, more convenient and more educational. letterboxlab.com
- 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. mkkidsinteriors.com
- The Edible Museum creates artefacts, from marine life and fossils to anatomy and historical artefacts out of quality chocolate. ediblemuseum.com
- Bad Dog Designs Nixie Clocks are makers of unique and bespoke clocks using original 1950’s Nixie tube technology. bad-dog-designs.co.uk
- The Cuddle Bed Company design and create sleep solutions for the whole family. cuddlebed.co.uk
- The Dimpled Heart creates an eclectic range of handcrafted homeware inspired by our Scottish roots. dimpledheart.co.uk
- Z-O-E produces high quality patterned muslin products, baby grows and toddler t-shirt for you and your little one. z-o-e.co.uk
- Perch Upholstery, run by Tara Cork specialises in creating on-trend felted pieces. From original stools, to baskets and rugs. perchupholstery.com
- The Room Alive creates timeless wallpaper, soft furnishings and stationery designed and made in the UK. theroomalive.com
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