December has rolled round again and it’s Small Business Saturday!
If you move in similar circles to me, you’ll have spotted a few posts today, probably from your friends, family or colleagues who run small businesses themselves.
For my part, I thought I’d do a mini feature on a few of the fellow UK small businesses who have made my 2019 pretty wonderful – here goes!
First up is Karen Cooke at Bench Space – a silversmith who has worked on some incredible pieces in her career, she runs jewellery classes for beginners upwards from her gorgeous workshop in Brightlingsea.
She’s a really lovely human, no question is too silly and no idea is impossible – I’ve just finished the beginner course and am thrilled to bits with my makes, and am starting the improver course in January.
Karen also holds freestyle evenings, where you can have full use of the workshop and its various tools and equipment (I’m not brave enough to have a soldering torch at home, lol) and taster sessions where you can go for a morning with friends and come away with a silver ring or bangle you’ve made yourself.
Highly, highly recommended.
Verity Clarke Hair
Everywhere I go, I get compliments on my amazing unicorn hair. It’s almost entirely down to the skills and patience of this fabulous human (and a certain willingness on my part for my bathroom to look like a My Little Pony murder scene every few weeks when I top up my colour!).
Verity is known as the Colour Magician and she lives up to it – she creates some incredible colour combinations, and is patient, knowledgeable and realistic when deciding on new colour.
She also never bats an eyelid at any of my mad schemes… it’s lovely having a business friend who’s as weird as you are! Verity is based close to Colchester and the salon contains a custom glittery colour bar, upcycled from a vintage dresser, so you probably need to get over there quick.
Louise Rose Couture
No roundup of small businesses would be complete without Louise Allison. A ridiculously talented bridal and fashion designer, she’s both my business bestie and my actual bestie, and I’m pretty sure neither I nor my businesses would still be around without her.
Her work is breathtaking, so much so that despite being very firmly single at heart, my go-to ballgown is a skirt adapted from one of her wedding dress designs. It is one of my very favourite, most treasured possessions.
Louise has the magical ability to bring ideas to life in dresses, jumpsuits and styling – and we worked together on a stunning modern fairytale shoot a few weeks back, so keep an eye out for those images!
She’s also one of the hardest workers I know, endlessly generous with her knowledge, and supports my business endeavours even more fiercely than her own – and I love her dearly for it.
Copywriter and fellow photographer Sarah Wayte creates pictures AND a thousand words, bringing your personality into your business in a wonderful way.
She’s the reason I didn’t throw all my gear out and give up photography when I was having ongoing equipment failure, and although she’s now moved to Canada, we chat most days and keep each other accountable, and talk each other off ledges when necessary – turns out the 8 hour time difference is actually really helpful when the UK person (me!) is a ridiculous night owl!
I love how she’s adapted her business to suit her, embraced multipoddery and started all over from scratch on a brand new continent – she’s a very inspiring lady.
Sarah and I are launching a new podcast together in 2020, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Who said being 4,692 miles apart meant you couldn’t collaborate?!
Chloe Redfern Embroidery
Chloe and I first met on a forum in 2005, which feels like quite early days of making friends on the internet – and in person in London about a year later, both of us awkwardly cautious in case behind our model horse & photography-loving usernames lurked a dodgy person.
Fortunately, although we’re both proud weirdos, neither of us was dodgy and we hit it off just as well in real life as we did online.
Fourteen years later, I am in awe of her amazing small business, her talent with fabrics & threads, and although we don’t see each other very often, we have continued to talk online and write letters, and generally keep each other sane through the madness.
She regularly pops up in magazines which always makes my heart happy to see, and she creates embroidered art, embroidery patterns so you too can embroider her beautiful artwork, and hanging decorations.
Her art is the kind which makes you happy just looking at it – my dressing table is proudly adorned by custom decorations of my cats Luna & Clover, and my Mum’s mantelpiece has a Chloe Redfern camel in pride of place.
Karen Julia – Photo SEO Lab
Karen is a photographer I know from a group I’m part of. As well as her photography, she runs Photo SEO Lab, and is super knowledgeable about some of the web stuff which makes my head hurt!
But what has impressed me most is her kindness and customer service – before I am even a proper customer. I recently had an incident where someone’s unsolicited comments knocked my confidence about my beautiful little website, and rightly or wrongly, and definitely out of character for me, I panicked. (It’s December – small business owners are frazzled between September and Christmas, ok?!)
I posted for reassurance more than anything else, and she jumped into the conversation with reassurance, solid facts and a personalised video showing me where I could make changes and where things were, in fact, absolutely fine.
As our conversations before that had been limited to just interacting in the group, I was blown away by her taking the time (especially at this time of year!) to reassure me and share her considerable knowledge, even though we don’t know each other well yet.
I’ve since slept and got my techie head back on, and can wholeheartedly recommend her, her knowledge & her ability to help – also highly recommended!
Bothwell School of Witchcraft / Rogue Events
Bothwell School of Witchcraft… Bothwell is the single most lifechanging thing I did in 2019, and is definitely competing for most lifechanging event ever (that I have chosen).
Crewing April & August’s wizard schools at Herstmonceux Castle brought me joy, happiness, belonging, imagination, confidence, creative chaos, creative immensity, bravery, courage, friendship, intense platonic love, exhaustion, peace, and growth.
The ripple effect is still spreading through my life – I will never be quite the same person again. As a wise friend put it – there are some things in your life which quite unexpectedly become markers – you have who you were before them, and you have who you are now, after them.
Bothwell is without a doubt one of those things. Tickets for the next event go on sale 10th December. Don’t miss your chance to be part of the most magical event I’ve ever experienced.
It’s been quite a year! And that’s by no means a full list, just some who have influenced 2019 to be the extraordinary year it has been. More fabulous humans who keep me sane and run amazing businesses of their own include Annastasia at Vool: Vegan Cool, Alex at A Life More Extraordinary and Artist Philly.
I hope your Small Business Saturday has been a brilliant one – if you still have Christmas shopping left to do, please give your local small businesses a look – they have some incredible gifts, experiences & beautiful things for your loved ones.
On that note, I’ll also link here to my other businesses, for Christmas gifting purposes:
Ink Drops – delightful stationery, dropped through your letterbox. Subscriptions, build your own box and curated collections of stationery <3 inkdrops.co.uk
Carla Watkins Photography – lifestyle, pet & mermaid photography for you & your loved ones (yes, the four-legged ones too). Give the gift of everlasting memories – gift vouchers available. carlawatkinsphotography.com
Mermaiding UK is your one stop mermaid & fairytale shop, full of sparkly things for the magical mermaid fanatic in your life! mermaiding.co.uk