Preparing for the C Word

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Christmas by Karen Appleyard

One of Karen’s images

Well here I am sat in my office looking out of the window at my extremely dreary looking garden, its dull and damp here today. Even the trees look like they are sulking! (Maybe my teenagers have been giving them a few pointers?)

Remember when you were little and the trees were losing their leaves everywhere and you could kick them everywhere and fall in them giggling? Well that’s what Autumn should be … but no it is quite simply just yuk!

As some of you will know, who follow me on Twitter and FB, I have been getting ready for the festive season for sometime.  The wonderful Karen http://www.karenappleyard.com/ is responsible for some of the fab Festive images on the website homepage (see the image above) I gave her a very unhelpful brief “Karen, please can you take some festive pics for me?” and as usual she comes back with exactly what I was looking for!

So the website is looking all festive, with lots of gorgeous items to make your home feel warm and welcoming. From our range of wonderful UK Handmade Christmas decorations and cards to some great stocking filler gifts and of course the range of larger gifts for loved ones.

Some of the fab Festive goodies available

Getting in the festive spirit at Wood and Willow

I asked a question earlier on twitter and FB to see whether people have even started thinking about their C word shopping yet? And I was surprised to find that Yes most people have! Suprised, because although I am prepared business wise, on a personal level I have not even started thinking about it! Which I guess isn’t too scary, excpet for the fact that Mr W&W and I have 6 children (5 of whom are teenagers!)

Should I be panicking yet? … Yes I think I probably should!  But as I say, it seems I am in the minority, and a few of the lovely people (businesses and people) I follow on twitter are doing a C word challenge, to buy a % of their gifts from independant British businesses. This of course is great for businesses like me. So I asked one of my lovely followers Bee @LifeAfterLondon http://lifeafterlondon.com/ if she would write a guest post and she very kindly agreed to! So Bee over to you…

 

 

It was ages ago I had this brilliant idea about buying my Christmas presents from Twitter. It seemed like a good idea at the time but the months have passed and now it’s October and not a single present has been purchased. I realise that the down side of buying from an independent is they aren’t likely to be delighted by an order on 22nd December for a personalised picture frame to be delivered ready to be wrapped by 24th December.  Therefore it’s time to get into gear and realise it isn’t summer any more….my woollens might have been a giveaway but I’m so slow I haven’t worked that out!

Anyway – more on why I want to buy from UK based Independents.  I’m not knocking the service provided by big boys and don’t believe I’m some too good to be true ‘won’t shop in a multinational’.  I’m a supermarket shopper through and through and you’ll often find me late at night in a panic, buying a book on line to be delivered for an almost forgotten birthday but that’s not my point!

Since being on Twitter I have been astounded by how many small businesses there are and I want to celebrate them all.  No amount of retweeting and commenting on their blogs can really impact their work like a sale and it seems like a fun way to shop – a more interesting way to do it.  Although I’m not actually walking through my local town, popping in with a basket to make my purchases it does feel a bit like that.  I can look at their website, drop them a tweet and ask advice and thoughts and I feel I am getting a truly personal service.

Now, I’m not pretending these ‘virtual friends’ hold all the answers and let’s be honest they need a sale but it doesn’t feel pushy –  it feels helpful, it feels chatty, friendly – old fashioned perhaps!  And added to which I love knowing where my gifts began life….it doesn’t have to be handmade and homemade to fit the bill for me. It just has to be a small business – be they stockists of other people’s goods or makers of their own things.  I made the rules for my little challenge so I’ll pick and choose as it suits me but it is just helping me to think outside the box.  Lots of my family members make specific requests for Christmas – it saves being disappointed I guess but even so I’ll still do all I can to buy from my world wide web friends but critically I’ll be keeping it British, and small.  Effectively I’m just shopping from a village high street – the joy is the village covers the whole country, has an unbelievable choice and I can still do it sitting at my desk!  Would you like to join me in making this a Very British Christmas?

So with Bee’s wise words in mind, maybe we could all challenge ourselves to buy a % of gifts from small, British independants like me!

Oh and in case you haven’t noticed, I have not used the C word for all those of you who, like me haven’t started yet and would morph into red faced, crazy, panic stricken people at the sound of it!!

Autumn News

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Another age has passed since my last blog post! Each time I promise myself I will blog more frequently but never do.
Anyway what a fab few days we’ve had. A fantastic closing ceremony, amazing Athletes parade in London and then waking up to the news of Andy Murray winning his very first Grand Slam!
I’m sure we are all feeling Britain really is Great!
Closer to home, its been a very busy time here at Wood and Willow, I have a couple of new UKhandmade busineses about to join the pages which is very exciting, so watch this space for more details.
Christmas is fast approaching, we have already got some of our UKhandmade poaches listing their Christmas ranges.
Please have a look at Suzanne Lake’s page, she has some gorgeous Christmas decs and an offer on throughout September, if you buy for Christmas you will receive a FREE gift with your order!
http://woodandwillow.co.uk

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If you are looking for a personal bespoke Christmas gift, these reclaimed wood signs are a great idea! Handcrafted in Yorkshire, you can choose a personal phrase for your loved one. What could be more personal!

A very British Summer

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Well it’s been another few weeks of putting off a new blog post before I have finally managed to sit down and complete one! As some of you will know from my Twitter rant on Friday last week, I had written one and uploaded images, changed the look of the blog to the new Website colours etc..when I pressed “a button” and the WHOLE lot disappeared into the Blogsphere never to be seen again! So after spending a weekend gathering momentum I have re written my post! Inspired by the lovely Bee from http://lifeafterlondon.com who’s recent blog post on her day of filming for the ITV Tonight programme made me think I really must make more of an effort with my posts.

Since my last post, I have changed the look of the website slightly, changing colours to a French Grey (apparantly, although looks more Olive Green to me!) and hopefully giving a sharper, more classy look? Would love to know if that’s what has happened!!
We have also had a fab holiday in Brittany at http://www.campingquinquis.com (see the pic above) It’s the fifth year we have visited Quinquis and we love it more every time. The owners Andrew and Carole have spent 10 years working so hard to make their guests holidays the best and they certainly do! If you are on Twitter please give Andrew a follow @campingquinquis I am trying to help him build his followers to get more people to hear about their fab business. We all gathered in the Bar to watch the London2012 Olympics opening ceremony, following the Quinquis Torch Relay!! A fab evening with us not leaving the bar until 2am!

We were so very lucky with the weather and of the 16 days we were there, we had temperatures of over 32 degrees on 10 days! Even on other days it was early to mid 20′s and sunny! What a difference it made to the rain we had been putting up with at home.
Brittany is stunning very like Cornwall and we did lots of exploring and Coastal Walks. The city of Quimper is charming with its medieval cobbled streets and magnificent Cathedral in the Square. A lovely day of shopping and Lunch with lots of people watching is definately something I would recommend.
I found some lovely new stock as I do every year, these elegant Wall Mounted Coat Hooks being just one of the items I returned with http://woodandwillow.co.uk/product.aspx?Id=305 I haven’t seen anything like them in the UK so it’s great to find new styles of popular items to bring home with me.
Of course I can’t end this blog without mentioning the AMAZING weekend Team GB have just had in London2012, I am not particularly sporty, but I have been glued to every possible event and don’t think I have ever felt so very proud to be British!! We really are GREAT BRITAIN and I think Team GB really have Inspired a Generation! So it’s back on with my running shoes and hoping I will manager more than my usually mile and a half within the next few months!

A sad day

So it’s been around 3 months since I last blogged! I have good intentions most days, and there it sits every day on my list “BLOG UPDATE” but its always the one thing I move onto the next day’s list of jobs to do!
Why is that? I hear all the time how blogging can help your business, helps people to get to “see” the person behind the business, helps with google page rankings etc… So with this in mind I really should be champing at the bit to update my blog regularly! It’s not like it’s a difficult task is it? Just sit down and write about what’s going on in life/business..Does anyone else struggle like me with blogging?
Anyway, tonight my eldest daughter who sat her A Level Design exam today, came home very sad for two reasons firstly this morning her exam apparantly didn’t go very well at all :-( (not for the want of trying I may add, there are revision notes plastered on most walls currently in this house) So, as you would expect I am trying to make her feel better, be positive, look on the bright side etc..
Then she says, “Mum do you remember **** ?”(a friend who moved away a few years ago) “of course I do darling”, she was very fond of him and has never lost touch through Facebook. “Well he has died Mum, and there I am worrying about a stupid exam!”
And in her face I saw the pain of an adult with the complete bewilderment of a child.. It’s the first time any of my children have lost someone their own age and of course I pray it never happens again.
So after all these months of not being able to sit down and blog, here I am telling the world (or rather the few people who actually read this!)
Facebook use for teenagers I really don’t like or agree with as a rule, lots of bullying goes on in my experience and my husband and I are forever telling the children to communicate with their friends directly rather than by fb, text, bbm etc..
But having read the fb wall of the young man that has so tragically died I realise that fb is not all bad, all these young people are pouring their thoughts out, thoughts that in my day if this had happened we would have kept to ourselves and not dealt with properly at all.
So many eloquent young people, who, when talking to their parents usually give only mumbled answers at most, are channeling their grief into poems and beautiful words and as I read them all I felt humbled and then immensley proud of my daughter’s words added to the page.
So no more will I put off blogging because I’ve just learnt from young adults half my age how cathartic it can be to write.
RIP xx

Theo Paphitis SBS Winners Event

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Official Photo

I expect by now you have probably read lots of blog posts about the #SBS Winners Event organised by Theo Paphitis and Ryman Stationery so to make this one different is going to be hard! But here goes…

As you may or may not know, I won #SBS in January of this year, having only launched the business at the end of October last year it really was an amazing start to my year!

I have blogged all about my win so I won’t go over it all again, suffice to say its all been fab! Then a few weeks ago,there were twitter whispers about Theo organising the very first #SBS Event for all the winners, how exciting was my first thought, followed by hundreds of other questions…

Then in the last month two of my closest twitter friends were also fortunate enough to be picked by Theo as #SBS winners! @WelshRoyalCryst and @SAS_Stacey so this was now developing into a real Tweet up!

Announcements came, forms were filled in, tickets arrived via the great team at Rymans Stationery and the big day approached..Twitter buzzed with groups making plans of where to meet, ladies were discussing what to wear, men discussing where would an after party be?

We were each allowed to bring a guest so of course my long-suffering husband Neil was mine. Afterall he puts up with my constant tweeting and working nearly every hour I can. He doesn’t tweet and I think sometimes what I tell him re #SBS and twitter goes in one ear and out the other but even he was quite excited.

One of my twitter pals who hasn’t been lucky enough YET to win #SBS asked me how I felt about meeting Theo Paphitis and to be honest I hadn’t even thought that would happen. In my head it was more of an event for all winners to meet and network than meet the man himself! So I didn’t really give it much thought..

We arrived at Edgbaston just before 12 and parked, as we walked through the car park the sun was shining and catching what I thought was a huge roll of silver foil…upon closer inspection the silver foil turned out to be a fully chromed Maybach with a personalised plate RYM4N! As you can see from my pics hubby was eager to have a pic taken with it! That’s when my nerves really started to kick in..it sort of became a reality what was going on!

Hubby with his dream car!

We got our badges and proceeded up to a huge meeting room overlooking the cricket pitch which hubby tells me is amazing! I will take his word for it.

As we entered the room I realised how many of us were here and how even though we all chat on twitter most of us didn’t actually know each other! Trying to find people who I chat with was so hard but I managed to catch up with amongst others, my dear twitter pals Kim @WelshRoyalCryst,Stacey SAS_Stacey,Miki @WineGlassCharms,Karen @JustBunting. Fiona @coombmill was so organised she had a pad and every time she took a pic wrote down who we were! So Fiona 1st prize for #SBS Organised Winner definitely goes to you!

We all chatted and mingled for a while before being called through to a large conference room where we all sat eagerly awaiting the next part of the day.

First on stage was the Chief Exec of Ryman, Kypros Kyprianou who was a great speaker and warmed the room up nicely for as he called him “the main man” Theo Paphitis.

Chief Exec Ryman

Kypros Kyprianou Chief Exec of Ryman

And what an inspirational speaker Theo was, he spoke and answered our questions for over 2 hours. His charisma and charm shining through but above all his absolute passion for business. He spoke of the dark days all of us have at times, how hard it is to keep going when things don’t seem to be going your way. His advise? Think happy thoughts and talk to others in the same boat. Sometimes working at home on your own in a back bedroom, shed, garage or kitchen table day in day out can be lonely and soul-destroying. It’s great to know even Theo has been that person too.

After a lengthy Q&A session and the news of an #SBS website http://theopaphitissbs.com designed by previous #SBS winner Chris @Metalfrogst, Theo spent another couple of hours smiling whilst we all queued in alphabetical order to have an individual picture taken with him. This, he said should be used as leverage for press releases and media attention.

I can only praise everyone who was involved with organising the event. All of us winners were really made to feel very special and nothing was too much trouble for Theo.

He is a true inspiration and listening to him gave all of us a renewed vigour and determination to make our businesses the very best. As he said you can’t be shy about your business. And speaking as a very shy person that is the one major lesson I am taking away from an absolutely amazing day.

Spring is in the Air

Well its been a few weeks, since I last had a spare minute to sit down and blog! So much has happened since my last post in mid Feb…the question is where to start?
Well on a personal level, we have moved home! 3 weeks ago today I was madly loading a lorry with all our worldly possessions! And believe me I am NEVER EVER moving again! It was a disaster from start to finish..we completed at 10.15am which is unheard of in my experience (and having moved 15 times in about 20 years I have some experience) so we were out of the old house and sitting on the drive of the new house while the owners were still packing!
When we finally got in at around 1pm the house was absolutely filthy…It took 5 of us almost 2 days to clean it before we could really even think of emptying any boxes! My Mother in law was using a razor blade to scrape the ingrained fat off the kitchen tiles…does that set the scene?
Anyway, 3 weeks on and we are settled and everything is unpacked and we have a home again! Now the hard work starts of renovating the whole house..but that’s another story!
I had no Home Broadband for 12 days, so you can imagine by the time I got back on line properly I had so much to play catch up on.
I was honoured to be asked to feature in My Family Magazine as one of their Mumpreneurs! Here’s the link if you fancy a read Page 45 is where I am http://www.myfamilymagazine.co.uk/ and we had some of our products featured on pages 20 and 50 too! So it’s been a great piece of exposure for the website.
I have also applied to be A “Britain’s Great” you can vote for me here: http://www.thegreatexhibition2012.co.uk/greats/httpwoodandwillowcouk would be great to get some more votes!

We are also being featured in the May edition of Your Home Magazine and the June edition of Woman Alive Mag so please look out for them!

I have spent the last couple of days doing a complete stock take, which has to be the most boring job ever! But I will be doing an end of line SALE in the next few days so have a peek http://woodandwillow.co.uk for some great bargains!
Today was supposed to be my Website update day, but you know how it is you start doing something and other things seem to just happen…
I had an email from the team of the Channel 4 show “You deserve this house” which in on every weekday morning at 11..they are going to be using some Wood and Willow items for a makeover next week!
It’s very exciting and great exposure, the items they wanted were picked by Joe McCann the show’s Interior Designer and include this rustic looking wall shelf http://www.woodandwillow.co.uk/product.aspx?Id=154
Two of the other products chosen, are by two of my UK Handmade businesses Andy Crafts and Chic-Shack who have very kindly offered to help me out with the chosen items, this lovely Acorn Oak Clock http://www.woodandwillow.co.uk/product.aspx?Id=185 and these gorgeous cushions http://www.woodandwillow.co.uk/product.aspx?Id=207 So I would like to say a big thank you for your help guys, you’re great!
I will let you know when the show is due to go out and hopefully you may spot our items!!
Catch up soon and thanks for reading, don’t forget please leave a comment I love to hear from you :-) Have a fab weekend!

Aside

A winning week for Wood and Willow

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It seems I get a chance to write a new blog post whenever my eldest has a Uni Interview! I spent yesterday sat in a chilly University reception area waiting for her, writing this blog post so definately not time lost.
Another busy week has passed for me, as I am sure it has for you too. In my last post, I had just visited Spring Fair at Birmingham’s NEC and I am still excited about some new suppliers I found and in the process of adding more new fab Easter and Spring stock!
I hope you had a wonderful Valentines Day if you are a couple who celebrate it? My hubby and I don’t celebrate but I think that’s because we have only been married 2 years this year so we are probably classed as still being in our “Honeymoon” period.
So Valentines has passed us by, meaning the next “Day” of celebrations is Mothering Sunday. This year Mothers Day falls on Sunday 18th March (the day after my daughter’s 18th Birthday) and as I am organising a family party for her on the Sunday I doubt if I will be celebrating this year!
But for those of you who are now looking for lovely gift ideas for your Wonderful Mum have a peek at these lovely things http://bit.ly/yrl5J8
I also have some more fab UK Hnadmade designer/makers joining our pages this weekend so watch out for some more gorgeous gift ideas for Mothers Day. Talking of our UK Handmade dedicated pages, I would like to welcome Martin from Chic-Shack and Rebecca from Posh Yarns as our latest new additions.
If you have read my blog before, you will know I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of Theo Paphitis Small Business Sunday winners on Sunday 15 January, this exposure lead to me being on BBC Radio Northampton talking about Wood and Willow and starting up a business in this tough economic climate. The interview ahs now been added to the website, so if you fancy listening just follow this link http://www.woodandwillow.co.uk/press-interviews
Exactly one month since the SBS win, I was thrilled to receive an email from the fab ladies at MumpreneurUK telling me I had won a Silver award for the website! I really am so excited about the win, it’s great to know that I am doing something right. And I am sure my web designer Martin at http://systemwizardry.com is happy too. A pint or two are in order for Martin I think! I get a great Silver badge which now sits next to my Gold SBS badge on the website homepage. The award really has made my week and given me a great confidence boost.
On a different note, one of my Twitter friends has launched her website this week http://www.minimunchkinmarket.com/ and we have worked with MMM to offer her customers a great offer. So, if you have a young family and are on the look out for daily deals do please take a look at her website. I would like to wish Belinda every success in her new venture.
I am very excited that our Mangowood Garden Trugs are being featured in Saturday’s The Scotsman Magazine. Once I get a copy of the feature, I will post a pic. It’s another wonderful item that would make a lovely Mothers Day gift if you have a Mum who enjoys her garden or allotment.
I would love to hear from you with any ideas of items you would like to see on the http://woodandwillow.co.uk website, so please do get in touch.
Just two things left to say, thank you for having a read, I really do appreciate it and any comments you leave I do enjoy rreading. And lastly, hope everyone has a fab weekend!

The Calm before the Storm

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Well that is another week in 2012 that seems to have flown by! Is it just me or do the weeks go faster the older you get? It has been another very busy week for me. I met with my web designer to discuss some more modifications to the web site and as his “other half” is a very old friend the “meeting” was of course over a very leisurely lunch!
Wednesday meant a visit to Spring Fair at the NEC, a trade fair, 17 miles of home, garden, jewellery and handbags…what more could I wish for? But as I’m sure those of you who also make a visit will know it is a very hard day. I came away with a few new suppliers which I am looking forward to bringing to the http://woodandwillow.co.uk website.
Amongst some of the new stock I have found are gorgeous traditional Willow Picnic Hampers and other picnicware. I have had a very positive response to these lovely hampers since putting them on the site. I have also found a lovely Chiller Basket so instead of carrying those ugly plastic cooler boxes you can now arrive in style, have a look and see what you think. http://bit.ly/xnHWWO
Our UK Handmade didicated pages are growing! I have another 3 UK businesses coming on board within the next week, which I am very excited about. So keep an eye on the website and on Twitter to find out more about them.
I am also delighted to have joined the From Britain with Love website to help promote all the fab UK Handcrafted products on our site.
I have put together a Mothers Day Gift Idea photo album http://on.fb.me/wmdDDw as before you know it the 5 weeks until March 18th will have flown by. So I hope this little collection may give you some inspiration!
I may be a little lean on blog posts for a couple of weeks as we have at last exchanged contracts on our house and will be moving in the next two weeks! I haven’t started packing yet wish me luck!
Oh and before I forget, Valentines Day is almost upon us (next Tuesday) so I hope you all have a lovely day (if you believe in it!)

Wood and Willow UK Handmade pages

I have a few spare minutes so thought what better to do with the time than update the blog and let you all know about the UKHandmade pages that are now live on http://woodandwillow.co.uk
I have four fab British businesses on the UK Handmade pages so far, and I am working on adding more within the next couple of weeks. The newest Business to join us is Andy Crafts, Andy Driscoll is based in Warwickshire and designs and makes the most beautiful English Oak clocks, Driftwood Mirrors and Chalkboards. I am very proud to be a stockist for Andy’s products and look forward to hearing your thoughts on these items.
I am hoping to add more soft furnishings to the website in the coming weeks so please keep an eye out.
I am still working closely with my web designer Martin from http://systemwizardry.com on the new pages, and I think they are looking great, hope you do too!
Also added this week, is a links page for recipricol links, press page which shows press so far and my radio interview and a guest blogs link too! So it really is all coming together now.
I am hoping to find someone to be a guest blogger on here soon, any suggestions are welcome. I was thinking that maybe another working mum who has more admin/business experience and could give the rest of us some advise!!
I am even more determined to buy stock from UK Businesses, I had to send a huge delivery back this week as nearly all of it was faulty or damaged, I don’t think the supplier even sees the items before sending them out. It has increased my determination not to buy goods made in the far East, but it can be hard to find UK made items at a price I can afford to buy in at. So that seems to be my current task.
If you have any suggestions on UK suppliers or for that matter items you would like to see featured on the website, do please get in touch.
I am supposed to be doing some packing (we are moving in 3 weeks) but am doing anything possible (even my accounts and cleaning the bathrooms) to put off doing it! Not only do I have the house to pack, I have my stock and office to move so it really is a job I am dreading.
We have 3 Birthdays coming in the next few weeks, my eldest Daughter, and Hubby’s eldest Daughter both turn 18 in March! and Hubby turns…(even older!!) so as well as moving I am trying to Birthday pressies and treats. But what do you get an 18 yr old girl these days?
I remember receiving a chq from my parents, they had saved money through an insurance policy since I was born and I was lucky enough to get £1000!! Which back in 1988 was a HUGE amount of money! I was supposed to put it towards my first car, but I bought a flat and used it for the deposit (not happy parents lol) Also there was only me, whereas Hubby and I have 6 children between us so really not in the same position. So what do I buy? Jewellery? Or let them have money which is what I know they would both love, but I don’t want them to throw it away willy nilly…
It’s a dilema which I haven’t resolved as yet, but hope I can come up with a truly original life long gift they can treasure.
Have a great weekend, and if you have the snow where you are, that is forecast please stay safe and keep warm. I am sure you will all be snuggled up in front of your log burners as it seems everyone on Twitter I speak to has one!!

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