A New Year, A New Plan… Moving Our Business Forward

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We are back!!!

Happy New Year, I Hope you all had a wonderful festive period with your loved ones and are having a great start to 2017.

Today we re-open Cards And Candles For All Occasions after our extended, one month, Christmas break and along with those closest to me we have decided that I need to make some changes to the way I run the business.

As much as I love the handcrafted work I do and dealing with so many amazing people, both customers and suppliers, over the past few months I have been forced to stop and look at my own health too. Since launching Cards And Candles For All Occasions in April 2010, I have been working full time hours every day of every week, some times working straight through the night to meet customer deadlines or get things all done and the realisation has now come to me that I cannot continue in this way.

At thirty six years old, I have been suffering with Fibromyalgia, Depression and Anxiety for a number of years and especially over the past eighteen months my health has been deteriorating, there are days where I feel unable to function but I sit at my desk doing the best that I can to fulfill all of my commitments to our business and customers.

The end part of 2016 was particularly difficult for me as my health was not in a good place due to the hours I was working, I was taking on more orders than I could handle as I did not want to disappoint anyone and in turn this was adding to the need for working excessive hours and stress levels were rising. It was getting to the stage whereby I could barely function effectively as I was so exhausted, in huge amounts of pain and I constantly felt stressed. Something needed to change.

I took the decision to have an extended break over the Christmas period to give myself some time to recharge (I slept most of Christmas, only really waking up for my pain medication), re-evaluate the future of Cards And Candles For All Occasions and plan the best way to move forward with my business. The thought of closing the business was considered and discussed, but this is the last thing I want to do. I know what I want to do, I just have to put those plans into action.

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Over the last couple of weeks we have made a lot of decisions about the future of Cards And Candles For All Occasions and how we plan to move the business forward… in order for me to be able to continue with the handcrafted business which I love, the biggest change I have to make is to reduce the hours in my working week.

Until now I have pretty much been working seven days a week, every hour possible and it is having a detrimental effect on my health – the increasing pain, the insomnia and exhaustion, the mental effects of Fibromyalgia, they all contribute to making me miserable and the thing I have found hardest of all is accepting that I cannot keep up with the lifestyle and working life I held before Fibromyalgia took over.

I never thought I would end up in a wheelchair with a chronic illness at just thirty five years old!! But here I am, this is the life I have and now I have to move forward with a plan to make the most of what I have, make things so that they are manageable and in the bigger picture remember to look after myself too.

I need to find a suitable “Work + Life = Balance” otherwise, as a friend stated this morning:

You need to stick to the plan sweetheart or you will be permanently closed. Invest in you xx

The last thing that I want to do is to be forced by my health to close my business, but I can totally agree with the above comment as the way I was going before Christmas I was heading for a serious burn out and I cannot afford either physically, mentally or financially to risk this in the long-term.

Today is a big day for Cards And Candles For All Occasions as not only are we re-opening for 2017, but today is also the day we are implementing the changes which have been decided upon which will allow me to continue to work with you, our wonderful customers, on the unique, handcrafted and personalised products we all love.

working_hours

As I have said above, the biggest change we are making to Cards And Candles For All Occasions is our business working hours, with immediate effect our working hours are as follows:

Monday – open from 11:00am until 5:00pm

Tuesday – open from 12:00noon until 6:00pm

Wednesday – CLOSED

Thursday – open from 11:00am until 5:00pm

Friday – open from 11:00am until 5:00pm

Saturday – CLOSED

Sunday CLOSED

We hope that you will understand our reasons for reducing our working hours and in time, once we adjust to our new schedule we are hoping that it will make us more efficient in dealing with your enquiries and processing/handcrafting your orders. My hope is that by reducing my working hours it will help to improve my mental and physical health allowing me to be more productive when I am working, therefore if all goes to plan there should be minimal disruption to our customers.

about-your-online-order

The second change that we are making to Cards And Candles For All Occasions to help in moving forward more efficiently is lead times for our orders, with immediate effect we have listed below the minimum amount of notice we will require for each product we sell to allow us to source materials, design and handcraft your product ready for dispatch:

Standard Greeting Cards
Minimum 10 days notice

Keepsake Cards (eg. Bookatrix, Easel Drawer, Handbag)
Minimum 14 days notice

Exploding Box Keepsake
Minimum 21 days notice

Ecosoy Candles
Minimum 14 days notice

Wooden Gifts (eg. Themed Frames, Plaques, Candle Holders)
Minimum 21 days

We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support and look forward to working with you throughout 2017 and beyond.

xxx Love Laura xxx

Cards And Candles For All Occasions website

Cards And Candles For All Occasions on Facebook

Cards And Candles For All Occasions on Twitter

Craft Fairs Can Be Unpredictable

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Over the last few weeks I have been reading a lot of comments about people attending their first craft fair as a seller, or just selling at craft fairs in general and a lot of the same comments are coming up. People are not selling as much as they expect to.

Something I think really needs to be remembered is that Craft Fairs are UNPREDICTABLE.

Attending events as a stallholder/seller is a constant learning curve and is ever changing in the best way we can do things.

Personally, I feel that is is very important to have your business name visible on display and eye-catching so people see and remember it.

A lot of the time people browse these events with no intention of buying so if you can grab their interest then you then have the chance of them coming to you in the future when they are looking for something you sell.

I see craft fairs as a great marketing tool – people who attend craft fairs are, more often than not, interested in handmade goods so they are largely our target market. If I was to pay for an advert in a magazine for example, then there may only be a small percentage of readers interested in handmade goods.

I definitely think that adding a variation of height in your display is a great benefit as it helps to draw people in, as does having bright colours, unusual textures and designs and a display which looks suited to the season of the event eg. Christmas, Easter, Summer.

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To me, if a lot of your products blend in to your chosen colour of table cover… I would consider a change to choose a contrasting colour of table cover to give your products maximum impact in standing out against it – I know I am more inclined to stop if something catches my eye than if everything seems to be blending together colour-wise.

Also, in the past a lot of the events we have attended, it has been specified by the organiser that the table cloth must cover the front and sides of the table to floor level as it looks neater, all stalls look more uniform in this and anything stored under the table is not visible. We find this really useful as we can keep our storage boxes, carrier bags, extra stock, snacks and drinks, etc under the table while knowing they are out of sight of potential customers.

Having attended craft fairs with our handcrafted products for over seven years we are now more selective about the events we attend – in the beginning we would attend every event we could afford or fit in the diary but over time we learned which areas, types of events, etc work for us.

If we go to a “Craft and Gift Fair”, “School/Church Fayre” etc we know to expect a mix of handmade, Bodyshop, Usborne books, Phoenix cards, etc as well as some tabletop sale type of things and a lot of the time the handmade stalls are not really monitored so there is a lot of duplication.

We have learned over the years that “Craft Extravaganza”, “Craft Fair”, “Handmade Market” type of events are far better for us as people who attend know what to expect, the stalls are 99% crafters and most crafters are very supportive of each other.

At ‘proper’ Craft Fairs the number of duplicated crafts is usually very low as the organiser wants to have as much variety as possible available for their customers and visitors as well as giving everyone a fair chance of selling on the day.

The worst thing which can happen for as a seller at any event is to arrive and find out of the twenty stalls in attendance there are five of the same type of thing eg. handmade jewellery or handmade cards.

I would also say that when you are booking a stall it is vitally important to ask the organiser questions, eg.

* What is the expected footfall at the event?

* Where is the event being advertised?

* How many of each ‘type’ of stall is being allowed?

* What size table will be supplied?

* What are the opening and closing times for the event?

* What time is the venue open for us to begin setting up our stall?

* How long is allowed at the end of the day for packing away?

These are my main questions when looking at an event but there are often many other things to consider and as you get used to attending events you will compile your own set of ‘standard’ questions for event organisers.

Something else to consider is when the event is being held. We no longer attend craft fairs after the last weekend in November or first weekend in December as we learned through our experiences that people usually have made their main purchases by this time and from the middle of December onwards we never do well at events as a lot of visitors are there to browse (or get in out of the cold lol).

As a stallholder it is also important that you advertise the event where you can, whether that be on social media, your local shops, a poster in your car, your business newsletter or even a small note in with orders you post leading up to the event.  It is also useful to have a list of future events you are attanding printed on flyers that potential customers can take away with them too.

The main thing to remember is that the organiser can advertise in every way and everywhere possible, they can get people to visit the venue but nobody can control the amount of money (if any) people are willing to spend. This varies from day to day and from event to event.

Regardless of how you feel on the day, even if you are making no sales and feel like giving up, it is important to always try to engage with visitors to the event as they pass/stop at your stall – even if it’s just a friendly ‘hello’ or a comment about the weather. Anything to start the conversation flowing as people are more likely to stop at a stall where they feel that the seller is approachable.

Sometimes it is difficult to remain positive and smiley throughout the day, sometimes we feel like giving up and going home but just remember that you never know if that one big sale is just around the corner, or going to come in five minutes before the event closes.

Positivity is key – if you are friendly and approachable on the day then it is more likely that a potential customer will contact you after the event if their buying circumstances change and they find themselves in the market to buy the items you sell.

🎄 Happy selling, have a wonderful Christmas and here’s to a crafty 2017!!! 🎄

Love from Laura and Dan

Cards And Candles For All Occasions

Cards And Candles For All Occasions on Facebook

Funsters, Stoke was FAB!!!

Last night we attended the Christmas Fayre being held by Funsters, Stoke on Trent.

It was the first time we’d been in this venue and the first year that they have held this event so we were a bit unsure about it as Funsters is located behind everything else in Stoke, but we set up our stall and sat down to see how the evening progressed.

The play area was full of lots of kiddies having fun, the cafe was full of parents and children enjoying the refreshments and there were lots of people doing some Christmas shopping… it was a FAB event!!!

Now we are busy preparing for tomorrow’s event in Kidsgrove – very busy times but we love every minute of our work 🙂

Funsters Stoke

Cards And Candles For All Occasions – website

Kidsgrove Victorian Market – 30th November 2013

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Tomorrow we will be at Kidsgrove Town Hall for their annual Victorian Christmas market… there will be lots of opportunity for Christmas shopping, treating yourselves and supporting local charities including Staffordshire SANDS.

We know for certain that the following will have stalls:

1. Cards And Candles For All Occasions – www.facebook.com/CardsAndCandlesForAllOccasions

2. Badger’s Woodcrafts – www.facebook.com/BadgersWoodcrafts

3. Felt Sew Great – www.facebook.com/FeltSewGreat

4. Kelly’s Enchanted Castle – www.facebook.com/KellysEnchantedCastle

5. Staffordshire SANDS – www.facebook.com/staffordshiresands

and lots, lots more

Come and see us, say hello and join in the festive fun at:

Kidsgrove Town Hall (Victoria Hall)
Liverpool Road
Kidsgrove
Stoke on Trent
ST7 4EL

Saturday 30th November 2013

This event is open from 10:00am until 4:00pm

At this event there will be Santa’s Grotto, Victorian Tearoom, Handmade local products (including us!!), Traditional and Vintage stalls, Dress Up Competition and lots of festive entertainment.

Come along and SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES and join us at this fantastic event… can’t wait to see you all!!

xxx Lots of love from Laura and Gordon xxx

Cards And Candles For All Occasions – website

Badger’s Woodcrafts – website

It’s that time of year – Northfield Farm’s Christmas Open Day!!

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Can you believe it’s that time of year again?

Tomorrow is the Northfield Farm annual Christmas Fair – lots of food, crafts and shopping opportunities on the farm!!

NORTHFIELD FARM CHRISTMAS OPEN DAY 2013

WHERE WILL WE BE???
Northfield Farm
Whissendine Lane
Cold Overton
Oakham
Rutland
Leicestershire
LE15 7QF

Saturday 23rd November 2013, 9:00am until 3:00pm

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WHAT’S HAPPENING???

It is the annual Christmas Fair and Open Day at the farm.

Free Entry for all!
Hot and cold snacks and drinks
Full butchery open
Gorgeous piglets to meet
Hands on wood-turning sessions,
and delightful food and craft stallholders …
We have butchers, we have bakers and
we have candlestick makers!

There is mud, so please wear appropriate footwear, wrap up warm and join us.

For full details of the venue please visit www.northfieldfarm.com/

Or to browse the Cards And Candles For All Occasions website, visit www.cardsandcandlesforalloccasions.co.uk

We hope to see you all there… please tell your friends, family and loved ones about this event, it is always a brilliant day and shouldn’t be missed if you’re in the area!!

Northfield Farm

Heard it through the grapevine…

As some of you may be aware, Gordon and Laura have spent the last few weeks working on a *secret project* – something new and exciting which has become a division of Cards And Candles For All Occasions. Something which is completely different from our usual work, while at the same time compliments our range of natural ecosoy candles.

Today sees the grand unveiling of our new venture. The opening of our new website and also the new Folksy shop.

We would like to introduce you to Badger’s Woodcrafts which you can visit at www.badgerswoodcrafts.co.uk.

Badgers Woodcrafts is the baby of Gordon Quick and is a division of Cards And Candles For All Occasions. Whilst working with Ecosoy natural wax, Gordon began thinking of ways in which his handcrafted candles could be displayed at the events and after a few weeks of sketching and trying out different ideas we had a range of natural candle holders… these are made from naturally fallen wood which is collected when walking our dogs and there are no chemicals used in their preparation, they are sanded and planed to give a suitable base and the candle holder is then drilled according to required size.

Not long after we began using this method of candle display at the events, we started to receive enquiries from customers who were interested in purchasing their own natural candle holders – something unique, rustic and earthy – and so we began stocking a small range of these items.

Whilst we both love our work for Cards And Candles For All Occasions and have a great love of crafting, we were looking for something to do in the evenings to help us to wind down and relax. Not being the sort of family to sit around doing nothing, Laura saw a demonstration of peg looms at an event and was transfixed with how quick and easy they are to use and you can see results very quickly. From this came the suggestion of handcrafting our own peg looms, which we again received a lot of interest in – to the extent we received two orders while our design was still in the prototype stage.

As our range of woodcrafts was expanding, we felt that it was not suitable to stock it alongside our handcrafted greetings cards, keepsake cards and candles as they are an entirely different range and so Badger’s Woodcrafts was born.

Why Badger? That’s simple really, for many years Gordon has had the nickname of ‘Badger’ so it seemed common sense to incorporate this in the name especially when the products being developed are made from woodland materials which is of course, a badger’s natural habitat.

As a new branch of our business we have opened a dedicated Folksy store for Badger’s Woodcrafts and also our new website.

As neither Gordon or Laura are very familiar with website building we spoke to the very talented Nicole at The Website Angel who created this wonderful, user friendly site for us… I would highly recommend Nicole if you have any website issues, the customer service and communication has been second to none, the support while we were setting up our side of the site was superb and the timeframe of having our site up and running was far quicker than we could have ever imagined. We would like to say a very big thank you to Nicole – all of your hard work is appreciated!!

If you would like to browse our new ranges at Badger’s Woodcrafts, you can do so by visiting our Folksy shop and website at:

http://www.folksy.com/shops/BadgersWoodcrafts

http://badgerswoodcrafts.co.uk/

Don’t forget to pop over to 1st Unique Gifts blog for this weeks ‘Handmade Monday’ feature 🙂

Thank you for reading and we look forward to many more updates as our range expands.

Gordon and Laura xxx