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.

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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.

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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

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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

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Exciting #HugsForNoah News!!!

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Anyone who follows our blog will know that we are huge supporters of #HugsForNoah… our friends little boy who was born with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus.

Noah with Miss Daisy

The family had their home renovated by DIYSOS a couple of years ago and the episode was first shown on BBC1 in August 2014:

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I have just read the most amazing news on Noah’s mummy’s Facebook page this morning:

Shellybobbins:
“BBC1 31st March at 9pm Noah’s ‪#‎DIYSOS‬ Big Build WILL be on YAY

Amazing to be on BBC1 again they rang hubby a few weeks ago to ask and we said yes !!!!!!!! For us it’s about awareness

If your thinking of having a baby then please take folic acid B9 & B12 3 months before conception

If you already have neural tube defects in your family then you need a higher dosage and you can only get this from your doctor here’s some folic ‪#‎Facts‬

http://www.gofolic.org.uk/facts please copy & paste this info & share this help us raise awareness ‪#‎HugsForNoah‬ ‪#‎TheBoyWhoGrewABrain‬”

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How amazing is this that BBC1 have decided to re-broadcast the episode of DIYSOS featuring Noah Wall and his family – as Shelly has said, it is so important to raise awareness about the conditions which Noah has and also the importance of taking Folic Acid along with Vitamins B9 and B12 pre-conception and during pregnancy. This is something which needs as much awareness raised as possible and through Social Media and public speaking, this family are doing an amazing job of doing so 🙂

We are incredibly proud of Rob, Shelly, Noah and their family and all that they continue to achieve throughout their campaigning and their own health difficulties. They truly are an amazing family and an honour to call our friends.

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Please share this post far and wide, tell your friends and loved ones, watch Noah’s DIYSOS episode on 31st March 2016 and help share the word on the importance of folic acid and vitamin B9 and B12!!!

Together we can support this amazing family in all that they do ❤

#HugsForNoah needs your business’s HELP!!!

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As per my post on 11th October 2015, Hugs For Noah needs YOUR help to make his 2015 Gala Dinner as special as possible for his guests.

Noah’s family have arranged a lovely meal at a beautiful venue with fantastic entertainment and they will be launching Noah’s ZipZac wheelchair giveaways.

Why do we need you?

We are looking for businesses to donate small gifts to be included in the gift bags which will be given to each guest on the night as a thank you for their ongoing support.

We are looking for items, including but not limited to:

Bath and body products
Baby products
Small children’s toys
Perfume/aftershave
Keyrings
Pens
Jewellery
Chocolates
Sweets

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We are also looking for luxury items (value £50+) to be included in the luxury raffle which will take place on the night with tickets being sold at £5.00 each.

if you can help then we would be very grateful if you could contact us at admin@cardsandcandlesforalloccasions.co.uk

Or contact Noah’s mummy on Twitter at Shellybobbins on Twitter

** All donations must be received by Wednesday 28th October 2015 **

#Hugsfornoah 2015 Gala Dinner – We Need YOUR Business’s HELP!!

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* WE NEED YOUR HELP *

* CHARITY EVENT *

Good morning all and Happy Sunday, how is everyone today?

Our friend is currently organising the third annual Gala Dinner for her son’s charity which will take place on Friday 30th October 2015 in Carlisle.

Each year we approach businesses in the hope they will help by donating small gifts for the gift bags which are handed out to each guest – this not only allows us to give a ‘thank you’ gift to everyone attending for their support but also helps to promote small businesses.

In the past we have had toiletry samples, candles, keyrings, jewellery, etc and we always encourage the businesses to supply business cards, etc with their details so it’s a great advertising tool too.

This year we are looking for 135 ladies gifts and 135 gents gifts… we are hoping to find some business to help – would YOUR business be able to help with either the ladies or gents gifts?

The details of this years event are “HERE” 🙂

Each year the gift bag contains a selection of items from small businesses and I always blog after the event to thank and promote those who have been involved… again it helps with promoting their business.

Here is the link to my blog review of the first gala dinner in 2013 which will give you an idea of what was involved, etc.

https://eljay1980.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/hugsfornoah-gala-dinner-on-24th-may-2013/

It would be great if you were able to help and get involved and if you can then I will do everything I can to support and promote your business.

If you think you may be able to help then please either inbox me through my Facebook page (Link Below) or email me at admin@cardsandcandlesforalloccasions.co.uk to discuss how your business would be able to help and support this amazing event for http://www.hugsfornoah.co.uk

Love and hugs xxx

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#HugsForNoah 3rd Annual Gala Dinner – 30th October 2015

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It’s that time of year again folks… a night to look forward to, an evening of amazingness not to be missed!!

It’s the third annual Hugs For Noah Gala Dinner 😀

Tickets are officially on sale for Noah’s gala dinner, it would be really wonderful to see all my friends come along to support Noah on Friday 30th October 2015.

Venue: The Halston Aparthotel, Carlisle.

The evening will start at 6.30pm until 1.30am and I am sure will prove to be another fantastic evening!!

Tickets are £48per person. To book your tickets, please go to www.hugsfornoah.co.uk then click donate and pay either through PayPal or credit card. Please leave your name and the names of those who are attending with you in the message (for your seating arrangements).

Dinner will be set menu.

As Noah is currently being filmed for a documentary, there will be media there on the night filming all that’s going on, it would be amazing to have lots of Noah’s friends, family and supporters in the video footage too 🙂

On the night Noah will be launching his wheelchair giveaways and rocking with the wheelchair dancers – it really is a night not to be missed.

Noah with Miss Daisy

After routine scans during Shelly’s pregnancy it was discovered that Noah had sever Spina Bifida and was given little chance of survival at birth.  Noah was born with just 2% of a supposedly normal brain tissue and has been blogged about since before his birth.

Noah’s parents set up HugsForNoah to both raise much needed funds to help provide for Noah’s future needs, as everything for a disabled child is so much more complex and in turn more expensive, but also help raise awareness among would-be parents of the importance of taking folic acid at least 3 months before getting pregnant.

As a part of their campaign to raise awareness of the importance of Folic Acid pre-conception and during pregnancy, Noah is now an ambassador for FolicAcidUk.

Folic Acid UK

This year Noah was invited to join the Music Man Project on-stage at the London Palladium as ambassador for their amazing organisation. On 21st June 2015 they performed the “Music Is Magic” show. I have taken two quotes from the Music Man Project’s website to give you a brief insight into their work:

“The Music Man Project provides a comprehensive range of music education services to enhance the quality and breadth of musical opportunities for all people, regardless of any learning disability, difficulty or special educational need.

As UK’s first full-time music education service specifically for children and adults with learning disabilities, our core aim is to provide a high quality and enjoyable music education which leads to unique and inspirational performance opportunities for our students.”

“Experiencing the atmosphere and emotion of live music can develop skills and confidence in a fast and enjoyable way. Attending music concerts and taking part in music making with professional and amateur musicians is a fundamental feature of the Music Man Project.”

Noah at the Palladium

Noah’s modelling career recently began and all money earned through this will be used to buy fantastic ZipZac wheels just like Noah’s to donate to other small children who desperately need independence.

This photo was taken by Noah’s Mum on his first ever photoshoot for his new modelling career… you can clearly see the connection between Noah and the photographer and just how much difference their artificial lawn is making to Noah’s life and independence.

Noah's first modelling photoshoot

Noah Wall is an ambassador for the fantastic company Artificial Grass Limited and SIS Pitches, you can read about why they chose Noah on their website by clicking here.

Noah is now the Ambassador for the American brand (ZipZac) and the beginning of his journey as Ambassador will be launched on the night of his Gala Dinner. Noah has two of these amazing ZipZac wheelchairs to give away on the night, which will be donated from Noah to staff at the RVI Hospital Newcastle ward 1b. The story is a very touching one and will be shared at the gala dinner as to how this came about!

Noah’s Zipzac has made such an amazing difference to his life… he has so much more independence and enjoys doing his own things, he loves to dance in his wheels as you can see here:

Noah disco dancing

I am sure there will also be much, much more happening on the night and you’d be crazy to miss it!!!

Can’t wait to see you all on 30th October… Love you Noah, you are such an inspiration xxxxxx

Silent Sunday – Mum To Be #MumToBe #SilentSunday

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