Meet the Maker – Leiho
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Leiho Leiho is a social enterprise where every purchase helps to fund impact driven projects and essentials items for those in need. From their range of smiley bamboo socks to organic cotton T-shirts, their mission is to inspire a more purposeful way of gifting and wearing socks whilst also improving the quality of life for vulnerable communities.We caught up with Joey Li from Leiho to find out more about the business. Take a look below for the interview… How did it all start?We started Leiho when we found out that clean socks were one of the most requested items of clothing at homeless shelters. Alongside that, there are many essential items such as toiletries, clean underwear, clean water or even a hot meal that those without a home don’t have regular and easy access to. We want to build a brand with purpose that helps to fulfil the basic human needs of warmth, comfort, safety and health for those in need whether it’s through projects or donations. The story behind the name… Leiho means ‘hello’ or ‘how are you’ in Cantonese and sometimes, all we need is a bit of acknowledgement to show our compassion and care. Where are you based? Both my co-founder and I are based in London. I grew up mainly in Singapore and Hong Kong and Thuta grew up in Myanmar! What inspires you?Being able to create a brand that helps people has always inspired both Thuta and I. We feel extremely humbled to be able to work with different homeless charities and organisations to really support people in need and try to make a positive difference in their lives. The feeling you get when you do something good is quite fulfilling and to see so many brands creatively tackling social and environmental issues is very inspiring. What is your creation process? The most important thing for us is to have our products represent a ‘feel good’ aspect of giving and living. If you own a pair of Leiho socks, you are guaranteed to be walking around with literal smiles on your feet (our logo says it all) but we also want to design simple products that encourage others to do good. The product development process also means that we create things that genuinely stand for a brand looking to make a difference.If you’re asking for our design secrets, it’s literally Google images, Microsoft word, Canva and our logo. We genuinely are so grateful for our suppliers for being so patient and understanding about our design briefs because we are no graphic designers which means we aren’t experts at creating cool templates of our products. If you have a look at each collection there is always a pair of socks for someone out there. From a funky pattern, funky colours to black and white socks – we design basically design sock personalities. What makes you, your brand or products unique? Our logo represents our brand perfectly. It’s all about being kind, caring and spreading joy.We’ve built such an amazing relationship with our supplier who goes above and beyond for us because she truly believes in what we do. So our new product lines are always much more developed than the previous whether it’s being more sustainable or more durable, we are constantly evolving as a brand and that is literally all down to our supplier Sule (a.k.a our sock hero).We do have other products that sit as a limited edition or test product. We like to spice things up sometimes and source products with suppliers who are constantly improving their methods of sustainable manufacturing too. What is your next project? Our next project is to start producing different types of socks. We get a lot of athletes request for sport socks so we think there is a really interesting market to tap into. After 2 years of patiently waiting, we recently launched kids socks too and we can’t wait for people to start gifting Leiho socks to kids! We want them to represent a future generation of changemakers. If people can gift socks to their 7-10 year old kids and tell them the story behind the socks, perhaps that might inspire them to make impactful decisions and even incorporate more acts of kindness into their everyday life. What are your plans for the next 12 months?It’s a secret but we hope to really grow our impact in the next year that will feed into the products we sell. We have plans to really work on more exclusive projects with local charities to help boost people’s confidence, morale’s, hope and self-worth even if they are going through a tough time in life.We also want to be able to shift more towards the B2B side and be present in lots of events, corporate gifting as well as with consumers. I think socks make great gifts all year round and if we can spread a simple message through a pair of socks to people of different ages and backgrounds then we are happy. What is your biggest achievement? We’ve had a few big achievements for both the business and the impact. In terms of business, it would definitely be the fact that we’ve been bootstrapping for nearly 3 years, meaning everything we make is being reinvested back into the business and we’ve survived those 3 years somewhat comfortably with growth. The next 3 years is a different story but to come this far without seeking for investment is a challenge we wanted to accept and are really proud of.We are also extremely grateful to have worked closely with Legacy Marketplace to secure Spotify as a co-brand client. There are currently 1040 exclusive Spotify x Leiho socks out there and we couldn’t be more grateful to have been able to produce socks for such an inspiring company.In terms of the impact, our biggest achievement is working with SPEAR, a homeless charity in South West London – we’ve supported and worked with them in many ways from donating essentials to their residents, hosting cooking workshops for their clients and helping to support their health days with the NHS for people experiencing homelessness and refugees. The partnership is far from coming to an end and we can’t wait to continue supporting Nicky and her team at SPEAR. What is your best-selling product/line? Our hero products are 100% our bamboo socks. They make great and fun gifts, and we can’t wait for the socks to hit different shelves nationwide. The best-seller by far has been our Forest Green bamboo socks. We’ve done 2 shades of it now to get the right colour so that it’s a classy, fun but subtle. It could pass off as funky socks but you could also see it paired with a suit in a boardroom, so I’m not surprised as to why it’s the best seller! What are you looking forward to the most about exhibiting at the Christmas Fair?We are so extremely grateful to have even been considered for the Christmas Fair. A lot of our customers are Country Living fans too so it’s a great place to meet them in person and really get to know the other exhibitors. As we are starting to grow, the one thing we will never stop doing is pop ups, markets and fairs! I think the UK has such a big market for events like this and it’s just a very important thing to keep these events running. It genuinely brings a lot of people together and it’s really nice to see.Also, Country Living Magazine is such a dream, so for me it is basically everything in the magazine coming to life in one place at the best time of the year – we are so excited! Your three top tips for crafters and makers…Build something that people will like, use and benefit from. Do your research and ask people for opinions even if it’s choosing colours, designs or styles. People love to get involved and watch brands grow, so build loyalty and make them a part of your journey.Understand people’s needs and values when creating. If you can create something that makes someone think twice about their own lifestyle choices, their gifting behaviour and their purpose – then you truly are a great crafter!Don’t be afraid to try out different things, repeating what you know is safe and comfortable but it’s not as thrilling as experimenting and being innovative. You learn so much more by stepping out of your comfort zone. Any advice for fledgling businesses… Do it with passion, integrity and confidence. The industry now is full of new brands, products and the world is more innovative now than ever before. Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere but the greatest challenge is to really understand how you can do it better, how you can get your foot through the door and how you can survive the rollercoaster ride! Never compare yourself to other brands and businesses out there because what you’re doing is different and everyone has different ways of doing it. There will be lots of challenges thrown at you every single day but having the right mindset to get through the hard days knowing that tomorrow or next week will be better is very important.
Meet the Maker – Irish Black Butte...
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Irish Black Butter The Irish Black Butter Company was launched in October 2017. Alastair Bell,  who has a family background in farming, took time out from his events management and farm model customisation business to explore the potential for an exciting new business, and from there founded Irish Black Butter LTD.We caught up with Alastair from Irish Black Butter to find out more about the business. Take a look below for the interview… How did it all start?It all started through noticing black butters whilst on holidays over a number of years. In 2017 when starting out on a project to write a children’s story book, I took the plunge and began exploring the possibility of creating Irish Black Butter. Over the Summer the recipe was perfected and in early November 2017 the business was launched on a beach at Portrush. People came over and asked what it was and where they could get it and this lead to the first jar of Irish Black Butter being sold on the beach that day. The story behind the name… Black Butter is said to be of Medieval origin. Made with apples, it was a way of preserving fruit. Irish Black Butter is a modern interpretation using EU PGI status Armagh Bramley Apples, local cider, brandy, treacle, sugar and spices. Armagh is known as the ‘orchard county of Ireland.’ The heart of the product is Armagh Bramley Apples therefore it was fitting to call our product Irish Black Butter. With further research I established that people in times past had been making black butter locally so it was nice to bring something back albeit in a contemporary format. Where are you based? We are based at Portrush in County Antrim. What inspires you?Spreading a little happiness and doing something positive. Central to the business is a desire to create something that people near and far can enjoy, that has an authenticity and provenance, which brings happiness and a smile to peoples faces. I took inspiration from a cassette tape in 1979 and it has stayed with me. What is your creation process? Using local, tapping into heritage and spreading a little happiness. What makes you, your brand or products unique? Irish Black Butter is a unique product in Ireland. Using the EU PGI status Armagh Bramley Apple taps into the rich heritage of apple growing in the Armagh area. The ‘butter’ isn’t actually a dairy butter – it is an apple butter which is a concept widely recognised in the USA, Canada and parts of Western Europe. This is a very inclusive product in that it is dairy and wheat free making it suitable for vegetarian and vegan uses. What is your next project? The next big project is really a continuation of what we are already doing and that is to tell people what Irish Black Butter is and how it can be used. What are your plans for the next 12 months?To make our Irish Black Butter available to consumers, chefs, gift/hamper companies and food ingredients business across the UK, Ireland and overseas. What is your biggest achievement? There are a few. Three stars in the Great Taste Awards was awesome. Taking part in Dragon’s Den was a superb experience. James Martin using Irish Black Butter on national television was amazing. I could add the fact that different businesses are using Irish Black Butter as an ingredient and that is absolutely tremendous. In particular ALDI Ireland used Irish Black Butter as a glaze for their Christmas Hams and more recently Henderson Group in Northern Ireland have started using Irish Black Butter in their Chicken and Ham bakes as part of their highly successful ‘The Chef’ range. What is your best-selling product/line? Our biggest selling line is our 225g retail jar of Irish Black Butter. Will this be your first Country Living Fair?Yes, this will be my first Country Living Fair. I’m looking forward to being at a great event, meeting lots of people and hopefully introducing them  to the great taste of Irish Black Butter. What do you love about Country Living Fairs?It’s the mix of people, traders and consumers that together create a nice atmosphere. Added to that I would say that after the  challenges of the pandemic it is especially nice to be out and about again at events. Your three top tips for crafters and makers…Tap into who you are and what you enjoy. Do your best. Persist. Any advice for fledgling businesses… It all starts at the beginning – you choose the when, the where the what and the why. Go forward knowing that you are doing something rather than look back regretting doing nothing.
Meet the Maker – Paige Denham
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Paige Denham Paige Denham is a print designer influenced by pattern, colour, and play. Paige designs and produces a bright array of homeware, stationery and gifts which include, the most colourful of cushions and the most cheerful of cards. As well as her product line, Paige also offers a mural panting service, painting directly onto the walls in your home.We caught up with Paige to find out more about the business. Take a look below for our interview with her… How did it all start?I graduated from Loughborough University in 2019 where I studied printed textile design and fell in love with the traditional handprinted process of screen printing. After graduating I founded my own creative practice gaining support from both the Princes Trust and Cockpit Arts. Two years in and here I am doing my first Country Living Fair! The story behind the name… I wanted to create a brand that was transparent and celebrated the maker behind the prints. Therefore, I decided using my own name, Paige Denham, was the way to go. It is important to me that my customers know my story, the processes used to create, and for the brand to be personable. Where are you based? I am based in a collaborative studio with Cockpit Arts. I was fortunate enough to be awarded their ‘Make It! 2020’ award which has seen me being based in their Holborn studios for a year and a half now. I live in Thamesmead, south east London, and also do a lot of community arts work here. What inspires you?I am inspired by shape, colour and people. I am a big advocate for community and representing those who may not have the same platform as me. Enabling people to be creative regardless of skill or ability is my passion, I aim to show this through the colourful work I create and the places I inhabit as an artist.My latest collection, that I will be bringing to the fair, is named the ‘Playtime Collection’. This is inspired by the theme of play in my hometown of Thamesmead. I love to use storytelling in my work, every shape signifies something, I am very proud of that. What is your creation process? All my work starts with a drawing or collage. I then scan it into the computer and play around with scale, colour, and composition. When I am happy with a design, I will apply it to either a cushion, card or adapt it for screen printing.The murals I paint come about slightly differently as I will spend some time talking to the client, asking questions, and getting a real feel for what they want. I then begin the drawing and collage process before scanning it in and playing with composition.What’s important to me is that everything I produce, albeit homeware, stationary or a large-scale mural, is hand rendered. I want everything to feel like it’s been made my me, by a person, an independent maker. What makes you, your brand or products unique? Everything I put out there is whole-heartedly me. I design prints that bring me joy in the hopes that they will make you feel the same. I am completely transparent when it comes to my creative practice and will often post on my social media channels ‘honesty posts’ about the ‘up’s and down’s’ of being a business of one.The new ‘Playtime Cushions’ are a great example of that. They are brand new this year, measure 45X45cm and will sit cheerfully on your bed/sofa. I wanted the cushions to radiate fun as in my home I want to surround myself with things that make me happy. There are 6 new cushions in the Playtime collection, and they are each double sided. A pattern on each side means you are guaranteed twice the amount of joy in your home! What is your next project? To keep colouring in the world one cushion, mural and artwork at a time! What are your plans for the next 12 months?In the next 12 months I plan to start offering print workshops to help encourage everyone to explore colour and be creative. What is your biggest achievement? My biggest achievement so far has to be working with my local community to produce a 10-metre public mural in my hometown of Thamesmead. The print and patterns in this mural have now inspired my latest collection ‘Playtime’. What is your best-selling product/line? The celebration cards always get the most incredible feedback and, I love to hear who is going to be receiving the cards you buy, but I have to say the collage packs always sell out. The collage packs are made up of offcuts of my screen-printed papers, colourful card, quirky shapes, and stickers. They come with a full set of instructions on how to collage and there are lots of examples of the collages on my Instagram – @PaigeDenhamPrints. They make the most perfect gift, stocking filler or creative aid. Will this be your first Country Living Fair?This is my first time exhibiting with the Country Living Fair London, I will be on stand NB8 on one of the newcomer stands, come and say hi. What do you love about Country Living Fairs?I have been a visitor to Country Living Fairs many times and I love the atmosphere. I especially love that the fairs support new makers. Your three top tips for crafters and makers…Do what you love and make everything with passion. There is no point in making something that you don’t absolutely adore and/or would spend your own money on purchasing.Identify your brand values early, they really help to shape every decision.Be brave, it’s scary to invest in yourself, but if you see a place for your product in the world make it happen. Any advice for fledgling businesses… Continue learning, collaborate and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Oh, and things always take a lot longer than you think they will!
Meet the Maker – Oath Home
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Oath Home Oath Home is a not-for-profit company that creates cushions, Christmas stockings, and other luxury furnishings for the home. Oath Home works with interior designers, fashion studios, and production companies, rescuing their unused fabrics that would otherwise have been sent to landfill or have been incinerated.   This charitable organisation’s team of dedicated craftspeople then uses these linens, silks and other luxury fabrics to create handmade – and often one-of-a-kind – home furnishings. 100% of Oath Home’s profits go to Step by Step, a charity that works to support homeless children. We spoke to the team at Oath home to find out more about their business. Take a look below for our interview with them… How did it all start?  Oath Home began when a friend of Anna Allington – Oath Home’s founder – retired from a 25-year tenure as a high-end interior designer. During his distinguished career, he had amassed countless roll-ends that clients no longer wanted but he could not bear to see go to landfill or incineration; on his retirement, Anna offered to take these rolls off his hands, determined to put them to good use.  In the height of summer, surrounded by literally tonnes of fabric, Anna decided to take these offcuts from other people’s homes and create luxury items for your home… the seed for Oath Home had been planted.  Anna, however, was not done there. Anna wanted to take the off casts from the very highest echelons of society to benefit those who are not at the top of fortune’s wheel, choosing to donate all profits to Step-by-Step, a charity that works to support homeless children and young people.   Anna’s founding aims were to reduce unnecessary waste (the UK alone destroys 206000 tonnes a year of unused fabric) and reducing homelessness (one in one hundred children experience some form of homelessness).  Which brings us to…  The story behind the name…  Offcuts Assisting The Homeless Take Something Unwanted  |  Create Something Beautiful  |  Do Something Good   Where are you based?   Oath Home’s main studio is in Wimbledon, but they work with a team of talented craftspeople who are spread nationwide. What inspires you?  The generosity of strangers.  Following the nest-egg donation from the retiring interior designer, word has spread about Oath Home’s aims, and they are now proud to partner with many different suppliers – most of whom donate anonymously; these donors include an interior designer, a film production studio, a tv company, a luxury interiors company, a sustainable warehouse and the capital’s biggest bespoke curtain manufacturer.   What is your creation process?  In addition to possessing amazing sewing skills, Oath Home’s creative team have a wide range of styles and tastes. This gamut of approaches means that Oath Home’s cushions, Christmas stockings and other accessories have styles ranging from the classic to the most modern and everything in between. Because of the nature of the fabrics they receive, their production runs are very small, which means that every day is a design day full of inspiration and excitement.  What makes you, your brand or products unique?  Oath Home has two main areas that make them unique: genuine sustainability and a 100% limited edition catalogue. Oath Home prides itself on being sustainable from start to finish, coving the three pillars of sustainability. Environmental: with the exception of the cotton they use to stitch things together, every single piece of fabric has been saved from its journey to the incinerator or a landfill site.   Economic: Not only does Oath Home pay everyone who works for them a genuine living wage, they offer complete flexibility of work to allow people with specific time restrictions (such as childcare) the opportunity to engage in meaningful employment. Social: From day one, Oath Home donated 20% of the sale price to Step-by-Step in order to support the vital work they do in caring for homeless children. Since February this year, however, Oath Home took the decision to move to be completely not-for-profit, donating 100% of profits from all sales to Step by Step. The second aspect of Oath Home that separates them from the pack is their strictly limited-edition runs. Because every piece of fabric is donated, and each of those donations is an offcut or roll end, most of Oath Home’s luxury home furnishings are created in runs of only one or two.  What is your next project?   Diversification! To allow for the continued stability of the not-for-profit aims of Oath Home, earlier this year the team behind Oath Home launched Oath Events (oathevents.co.uk). Maintaining Oath’s aims of sustainable, ethical, charitable, Oath Events offer private and corporate events of all shapes and sizes, but with a twist: the vast majority of the companies that supply Oath Events, are small, family run businesses, steering away from the big names in favour of boutique, sustainable luxury.  What are your plans for the next 12 months?  Oath Home’s main aim for the coming year is to spread the name and aims of their organisation. With features in Vogue, World of Interiors, London Life and many others, the team hopes that Oath Home will continue to establish themselves as the go-to company for sustainable luxury.   What is your biggest achievement?   Whilst the extended team numbers in the twenties, the core of the company and the day-to-day business of the organisation is handled in its entirety by just three people: Oath Home’s Founder and Director Anna Allington, Emilia Wilson, Oath Home’s Head of Design and Dan Sproat-Clements, Oath’s Head of Operations. Whilst all three have very specific portfolios on paper, their remits are wide ranging, taking in everything from payroll to emptying the bins!  What is your best-selling product/line?   Due to the short production runs of their products, picking out a single best-seller is a little tricky, but new Katie Collection cushions have been flying out of the door and the Marie Antoinette Christmas stockings have been incredibly popular.  Your experience of your first Country Living Fair (year, exhibiting or visiting)  The team are yet to be able to attend the fair but are hoping that this year will be the first of many!  Your three top tips for crafters and makers…  1 – Take your time. You are not a sweatshop; your clients are coming to you for the craftsmanship and the precision that a small business or maker can bring to their products.  2 – Know who you are. Write and rewrite a succinct paragraph about who you are, what you do and why customers should buy your wares – if you don’t know who you are, how will they?  3 – Don’t forget about other craftspeople. In a world where you can buy literally anything on amaz**, and the next day delivery is omnipresent, don’t forget to support, interact with, follow, and tout the skills of others in our end of the market.  Any advice for fledgling businesses…   1 – Plan early. If you are just starting out, plan your stock and record keeping from the very beginning – the processes might seem pointless or time consuming at the beginning, but you will be glad that you have your processes in place when your orders are flying out of the door.  2 – Ask for help. No one can do everything, so do contact other people in your industry and ask what they did when they were starting – small business owners will remember all-too-clearly the pains of starting out and will (hopefully) remember the support, advice and direction that they received at the beginning.  3 – It’s not going to be perfect straightaway. You will make mistakes and things won’t go to plan – this is a certainty. Take the opportunity to really review what went wrong: if the error came from the planned process, review and revise your process; if the error came because there was no process, write one! 
Meet the maker – Isle of Barra
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Isle of Barra The adventurous spirit of Barra people inspires Isle of Barra’s unique gin. The award-winning Barra Atlantic Gin is distilled from 17 handpicked botanicals foraged from the island shores, capturing the essence of their beautiful home. Born from the island, every drop is distilled, bottled and labelled right on the Isle of Barra.  From their first batch of gin back in August 2017 to today, Isle of Barra Distillers continues to operate as a very small family-run company. The story began with husband-and-wife Michael and Katie, now the team has grown to six, with Debbie handling all the customer related departments & Andrew & Iain making sure all the orders head off to make their journey to your door. Their team may be small, but they all work passionately to build and strengthen the Isle of Barra Distillers together. A company so close to the heart and their Island home is the major drive behind the Isle of Barra Distillers continuous success.  We caught up with Debbie to find out more about their family-run business and the story behind the brand… How did it all start?  It all started with husband-and-wife team, Michael & Katie Morrison. After years of studying and working in the city of Glasgow, they wished to return home to live, start a family of their own and create something special for the Island. A Distillery has never been opened on the Island before and they wanted to take up that challenge and create opportunities for themselves, their family and the Island itself.  The story behind the name…  Barra Atlantic Gin. Our Island Spirit showcases our beautiful Island and the Atlantic Ocean that sits by us. Our key botanical, Carrageen Seaweed is hand-harvested on the shores of Barra. The Atlantic Ocean and the Isle of Barra pay a huge contribution to our brand and our Gin flavour profile. Where are you based?  You’ll find our Distillery in the small village of Castlebay, Isle of Barra. Standing out in the Atlantic on the far western edge of Scotland, you’ll find our home, our distillery. Distilled and bottled on the remote Scottish Island of Barra, our gin has a piece of our home in each bottle. We are Scotland’s most westerly distillery. This is distilling on the edge. What inspires you?  Our Island, our home inspires us as a company. The Isle of Barra is undoubtedly an island of paradise, from its deep blue surrounding sea to its vibrant green land and tropical white sandy beaches, it really does have it all. It’s often hard to believe that our hidden gem of a home is part of Scotland for many people.  Taking advantage of the surrounding beauty of Barra and cunningly using it as inspiration to create the award-winning Barra Atlantic Gin, we are able to produce the freshest island-born fearless spirit which is the delicious gin we all love and enjoy today.  What is your creation process?  We distil our gin for 6 hours through a vapour method/botanical basket. The finished distillate sits at 87.2ABV and we leave this to settle for 3/4 days before we then dilute this down to 46%ABV ready for bottling. We chose to be particular about what distilling method we do and we do not re-use the heads/tails from the distillation. We believe by only ever using the heart, then we have the purest part of the distillation run, and although it is a more expensive method, we believe the end product is one that can hold the name of Barra and one that we are proud to share with the world.  What makes you, your brand or products unique?  Our Key Botanical, Carrageen Seaweed. Each piece of our key botanical is hand-picked from the shores that surround our island home, creating a bold flavour, rich in maritime notes. Our signature botanical, the carrageen seaweed, is what makes our gin special. Also known by its scientific name Chondrus crispus, carrageen seaweed is a red algae native to the cool Atlantic waters skirting Europe’s rocky coastlines, including our beautiful Isle of Barra.  Like many of the other seaweed varieties found on the Scottish coast, carrageen is harvested after the spring tides, when the water is furthest from the shore. Once harvested, each piece of carrageen seaweed is washed through with fresh water and left outdoors for 5-6 weeks for the wind and sun to dry or ‘bleach’ as it is known on Barra. Once the carrageen has dried and has changed colour to a light white/purple it is then ready to be used to create our award-winning spirit, the Barra Atlantic Gin.  What is your next project?  Isle of Barra Single Malt Scotch Whisky  What are your plans for the next 12 months?  We’re working behind the scenes on a host of new projects, which we’ll be delighted to share with the public at a later date.  What is your biggest achievement?  Opening the Isle of Barra’s first legal Distillery. We’ve achieved so much from so little and are extremely proud of how far we’ve come. Our family run business has grown from strength to strength in just 4 short years since our launch and we’re looking to the future, to produce the first Single Malt Whisky from Barra.  What is your best-selling product/line?  Barra Atlantic Gin  Your experience of your first Country Living Fair (year, exhibiting or visiting)  We’ve exhibited at the Country Living Fair Glasgow a number of times now and have always had a positive experience and response. It’s become a regular show for us now!    What do you love about Country Living Fairs?  We find the Country Living Fair suits our product and brand very well. The customers that visit the Fair are always looking for that unique gift and our Gin is very well received. We enjoy the variety of exhibitors at the show and even manage a little shopping ourselves.  Your three top tips for crafters and makers…   Stay relevant with trends  Pour your heart & soul into your business and products Be confident in yourself and your work. Any advice for fledgling businesses…  Work hard, stay determined and it will all work out in the long run!  
Meet the maker – Crafty Kit Compan...
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Crafty Kit Company Founded by Jo Lochhead in 2012, The Crafty Kit Company produces best-selling craft kits that are stocked by both independent and national retailers in the UK, the USA, and Canada. Voted Best Sustainable Craft Company in the Craft Business Awards 2021, the company is proud to produce all of its kits in Scotland, and has placed giving back to both international and local charities at the heart of its business.Find out more about Jo and the Crafty Kit Company in the interview below! How did it all start? I’ve always been crafty, and grew up in a creative family: my father was a watercolour artist, my brother is a potter, and my mother has always been sewing or creating something beautiful! The Crafty Kit Company grew out of a previous business, a specialist bead shop which I opened in 2004. After running an art gallery in Aberdeen, and teaching English in Japan, I eventually became a teacher, and would hold jewellery workshops for pupils. I discovered that there weren’t really any specialist bead shops in Scotland, and decided to open my own. Over the years the shop evolved as we began stocking craft supplies and fabrics, as well as a few craft kits we had developed.  The story behind the name…  When we attended our very first trade show we had a really positive response to our craft kits, but visitors kept asking why The Bead Shop Scotland was stocking crochet kits. As I drove back from that first show I was chatting with my colleague Fiona (who has been working with me for seventeen years now!) and said “we really need to name this new business – why don’t we call it ‘The Craft Kit Company’?”  We both agreed that this didn’t exactly roll off the tongue, so when Fiona suggested “The Crafty Kit Company”, we immediately knew that it was perfect, and have never looked back!  Where are you based?  We’re very lucky to be based in the beautiful village of East Linton, in East Lothian, Scotland, where our premises are in the old village post office! What inspires you? I take inspiration from the amazing landscape, flora and fauna that surrounds us here in East Lothian, where we have so many stunning walks right on our doorstep. East Linton is like a little Scotland in miniature, with hills and valleys, a river running through it, and hedgerows filled with wildflowers in spring and summer! Woodland animals and birds are always popular with our customers, who love to connect with the natural world as they craft. I also like to draw inspiration from current trends – such as dinosaurs, and gnomes, which have been a huge hit over the past year!  What is your creation process?  I’d like to think that I have this down to a fine art now! Once I’ve decided which animal or flower I’d like to create, I first make a prototype, writing the instructions and taking the photographs at the same time, just in case it turns out perfectly the first time round – which sometimes happens. Once I have the instructions written and photographs taken, I hand everything over to my graphic designer – AKA my husband! He then works his magic, producing the beautiful packaging and instructions that our customers love.   What makes you, your brand or products unique?  We are extremely proud to be the first craft business in the UK to partner with the non-profit initiative B1G1 (Buy One Give One), and for each craft kit that we make, we’ve committed to donating one ‘impact’ to charitable projects around the world, such as clean drinking water to families in Cambodia, or sight-saving vitamins to children in Kenya. This means that when customers buy one of our products, they know that they’re also making amazing things happen for the people and places that need it most.  Alongside this we work with good causes closer to home, for example by holding fundraising workshops in aid of Edinburgh Dog & Cat Home, and The Scottish Seabird Centre, as well as donating £1 from the sale of each of our subscription boxes to the charity Headway, who support people with acquired brain injury. I’m also very proud of the wonderful online community that we have developed and nurtured in our Craft Your Way to Happiness Facebook group, which has grown from just a few hundred members last year to over 2,000 now. During the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, I began holding free online needle felting workshops as a way for members to connect with other crafters at a time of great isolation, and it’s been just wonderful to see those friendships continue to grow now. Members often say that it’s the most supportive online community they’ve encountered, and anyone who has a question about making our kits will always find a friendly answer there!  What is your next project?  I’m very excited to be launching our first Needle Felting Advent Calendar! It will contain 24 crafty gifts, covering the 1st December through to Christmas Eve, including 13 full needle felting projects that we have developed, all with a festive theme! What are your plans for the next 12 months? We’re currently planning a move to larger premises, still within East Lothian, which is exciting! I’m also looking forward to working on new products that will celebrate some of the important occasions in life that we’re all just beginning to enjoy together again…  What is your biggest achievement?  This one is easy: I’ve been a fan of Cath Kidston for many years – almost from her kitchen table days, in fact. So when I was asked to design a range of craft kits for Cath Kidston, you can imagine how starry eyed I was! Having said that, I’m fortunate to feel a sense of achievement most days in this business.   What is your best-selling product/line?  Over the past year it has to be our Nordic Gnomes, which have been a huge hit with our customers! They’re a fantastic introduction to needle felting, and it’s been wonderful to see how people have adapted our original design, once they have learned the technique. We’ve had graduation gnomes, gnomes in team colours for football-loving grandsons, Valentine’s gnomes…  Your experience of your first Country Living Fair (year, exhibiting or visiting)  I first visited a Country Living Fair in Glasgow around five years ago. I just loved its festive atmosphere, and was blown away by the quality of the products on offer.   What do you love about Country Living Fairs?  I love the range of beautiful products on offer, and the wonderful atmosphere of the fairs – if I’m not exhibiting, I’m buying!  Your three top tips for crafters and makers… Use the best tools and equipment that you can; it really is worth being generous to yourself in this department. Buy your supplies locally if you can, and make friends with your suppliers – you never know when their help might make all the difference to you when you’re faced with a tight deadline! Charge enough for your work. I mean – cover all your costs and PLEASE value your time when working out how much to charge! We undervalue ourselves and others when we price our handmade items too low, in the false belief that customers wouldn’t be willing to pay more.Any advice for fledgling businesses…   It IS possible to build a business doing what you love. Always start by asking yourself WHY you want to do this, why it’s important to you and how it will impact your life and the lives of those who matter most to you. Turning your creative hobby or passion into a business ‘just to pay the bills’ won’t bring you joy or fulfilment. In fact, you might find that you become so busy wearing all the hats required to run the business, that there’s little time left for that joyful hobby that started it all off. Defining a purpose for your business that’s bigger than just making enough to get by is what will drive you to do better, bring joy and impact more lives as your business grows.