If someone had told Jane Means 15 years ago that she would one day be making a living by wrapping up a six-foot rhinoceros for an ex-Beatle, she would have thought they were having her on. Yet Jane has seen her wrapping company grow from a tiny start-up working out of a spare room into a hugely profitable and internationally renowned company, with clients including Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, Harrods, the NSPCC and celebrities we're not allowed to mention.
Jane's heart was in travelling and she got the opportunity to see the world working for an airline. But she always had the creative streak that would eventually see her become known as the 'gift wrap guru'. 'I've always liked nice presentation - I was brought up on Blue Peter - but never won a badge!' she says.
'In the mid 90s I spotted a gap in the market. I came back from a skiing trip in Austria, where I saw how good they were at wrapping and it made me realise quite how bad we were in the UK.'
Jane had the idea to start running courses where she could teach people what she had learned and share ideas, and a friend told her she should give the Country Living Fair a go. It was, she says, one of the best decisions of her professional life.
'At the first show I did really well. A lot of people booked courses. At first it was a very low key thing. My grandmother did the lunches, while my dad thought I'd lost the plot and was going to start wearing sandals and join a cult!'
But from little acorns....
'It took four or five years to get truly established. One of the key catalysts for success was when I was asked to do gift wrapping at Country Living Christmas. When I saw the crowd control barriers I panicked a bit, and it was a bit like being thrown in at the deep end but from that we made lots more bookings.'
The hobby has now turned in to a full time business with clients travelling worldwide to attend her workshops throughout the UK and she makes regular appearances on daytime TV shows and radio.
But Jane has never forgotten how it all started.
'I do not miss a Country Living show; it really launched me and I'm forever grateful, along with Country Living magazine, which has also been hugely supportive.'
As for her spare time, Jane doesn't have much of it. 'I love the outdoors, I love travelling and general crafts but I really love my work.'
In a twist of irony, when Jane decided to do a sailing course, she failed the knot element - 'I passed the second time!'.
And the most difficult gift she has every wrapped? 'It's got to be that six-foot rhino,' she says, 'although a close second would be a rocking horse in front of 200 people during a live demo at Country Living Scotland!'
Jane's top wrapping tips
- Brown Paper is a real classic and packaging can be re used. If it is heavily creased scrunch it up in to a tight ball then iron out with your hands; this will give an alternative effect which detracts the eye from old creases.
- Tie in fresh herbs from the garden; these will add a lovely aroma to you gifts as do old scented drawer liners. Rosemary and Bay (and Lavender) are an ideal choice.
- Collect sticks and feathers on country walks, these make stunning and inexpensive embellishments. Great for men too!
- Old keys and nuts and bolts make a good wrapping accessory for men.
- Use old tassels from haberdashery fringing; this gives a classic and inexpensive finish
- Tie awkward shapes with remnants of fabric or paper napkin.