Monday, December 03, 2007
I have had so many really lovely responses to "Ups & Downs" - thank you to everyone who took the time to be encouraging. It has really helped actually. It probably doesn't hurt either that the web orders have been flying in - helped by having one of the Hotty Covers in the Times on Sunday (thanks to Not On The High Street - interesting for those of us who have been chatting about it on other blogs). The Twice website has been busier than ever too, so the rush for the post each day is getting to be quite something, but that is the kind of problem I do like.
James is packing the van (big thank you to him, because it is freezing tonight) for me to set off in the morning for the very last trip of the Christmas season. I'm going down to a little sale near Lancaster with just three of us selling, which as any similar operation to Twice will tell you, can be the absolute best of sales. Not only do people only come if they really want to buy but they can really concentrate on your stuff and they also tend to be really friendly affairs. I will report back, but I am quite sure it will all be much jollier than other recent events!
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
I also want to bring to your attention the completely delicious Christmas wreaths that Jane at Snapdragon is doing - I have put in an immediate order! I really think they are the happiest I've seen. Jane - I tried to nick a photo to put here, but Blogger is being beastly and I can't make it work.
The links to Dorothy and Jane are both on the right -
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Along the way I have met some of the nicest people - Karon (Dream Acres) at Duntreath Castle, Anna (Luna Lighting) at Spirit of Christmas and Simone (launching her new business, Simply Twisted, at Spirit and without who's fanastic tool box I would have been in deep trouble). The VitaMix boys - who fed us all week with smoothies and ice cream (incidentally everyone, the machine I bought has yet to turn up!). It was great to see Harriet with her Hunter Gatherer again at Country Living. My immediate neighbours there were lovely - thanks to all of them for allowing me the breathing space to have the odd coffee break - Jo and Jane at Home Scents and Debs and the gang at Lilybrook.
I then had a morning which reminded me exactly why I am so glad we left London - I packed up my stand at CL on Sunday evening and left everything ready to pick up on Monday morning before heading home to Scotland. I duly left Stockwell, where I was staying, at 8.30am, thinking it would take me about an hour to get to Islington. How wrong can you be? Very wrong. At 9.30 I was stuck in a stationary traffic jam at the Elephant & Castle, having programmed the SatNav to avoid the Congestion Charge. Realising the implications the traffic was having on my home time, I decided to spend the £8 on the charge and avoid the traffic. Oh yes? No. I turned up towards the City expecting to go straight through the wonderfully free moving congestion charged streets, only to find ..... exactly the same level of traffic as there was outside the zone. I'm not sure that I was ever out of a traffic jam and finally arrived at the Business Design Centre at 10.45. It had taken me the best part of three hours to go 4 or 5 miles and my estimated time of arrival at home in Perth had moved from six in the evening to nearer nine. It was the longest time by far that I've been away from my family and I was really feeling it. The result was that when someone was rather sharp with me at the BDC I burst into tears and had to be comforted by Walter, an incredibly kind parking manager. I have to say the man is a saint - at the time he was also trying to deal with the fact that an articulated lorry had pulled into the already cramped loading bays, causing the mother of all bottlenecks, with attendant effing and blinding from all around.
I finally got the van loaded and headed up the M1, M6, M74 and M80 (I think) back to Perth. I am only happy that the afternoons get dark so soon or I would have been seen with tears flooding down my face when they played Westlife's "Back Home" on the radio. When I finally made it I can honestly say that I have never been happier to be home.
That was last Monday. Since then I have been up to Banchory in Aberdeenshire for a one day sale, then to Hopetoun House near Edinburgh for a three day sale and then today I completed a two day sale in the Agricultural Mart in Perth (called agricultural, smells agricultural).
[YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED, MISERABLE BIT COMING UP .. Ed]
And so, after all this, where is Twice and where am I? Well, on the face of it, it should all have been worthwhile. The bank balance is healthier, lots more people have seen what I'm doing, lots more people have shown enthusiasm for it and I've had lots of compliments. But I have to admit that I feel very flat. And the reason is this. It is unbelievably hard to run a company that produces the kind of goods we produce at Twice in the UK and compete. I'm not sure that the fact that our fabrics are vintage and that the linen and leather we use are made in the UK means enough to enough people. The people who were really successful at the fairs I exhibited at were, by and large, sourcing or manufacturing their products abroad. I had some great companies approaching me to enquire about stocking Twice goods, which they liked precisely because they were original and made in the UK, but because of the relatively high production costs we have, there isn't sufficient margin to sell to trade customers. It costs me more just to have things made here than people are selling the equivalent product made abroad for at retail.
So, I am sitting here this evening wondering whether what I am doing at Twice is ever going to work. Even with all the lovely things said about it, from other exhibitors, from customers, from magazines, the bottom line is that most people seem to want something for nothing, or as near to it as they can get and I just can't produce what we do at Twice for nothing, or anywhere near it. There are, of course, some ethical and interested customers out there who are prepared to pay for what companies like mine do and I love them and really, really thank them - but all the small companies like mine rely on these customers and I am really wondering if there are enough of them to go round. And while everyone talks about wanting to support local businesses, the fact is that I may talk about the wonderful linen mills in Kirkcaldy that we work with and the deerskin tannery in Glasgow and the machinists in Dundee, but it doesn't translate into the majority of peoples' willingness to spend.
If this all sounds a bit depressed, it is. I'm sure it will all seem brighter in the morning, or the New Year, or sometime. But I know that there are lots of us out there feeling just like this - putting hours and days and months of effort into something that should be right for our times with all the re-cycling and ethical trading and supporting our small businesses that is constantly being talked about in the media. What to do, what to do?
First day without a set up, breakdown or sale for weeks tomorrow - can't wait.
PS. Can't quite believe I'm about to publish this post - my blog was supposed to be a marketing tool, not an outlet for my exhausted emotions! Forgive!
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
So, next Wednesday the campaign starts with a trip to the Camphill Christmas Fair at Bedale in North Yorkshire. I'm really looking forward to this one - it looks a beautiful house and there are some really great companies exhibiting. It will also be the first chance for me to see how our new Christmas decorations and Advent Calendars go down with the customers - I am so pleased with them but the proof of the pudding is in the buying. Then I'm off to Glasgow to the Duntreath Christmas Fair near Blanefield. Again, lots of really good companies showing. The really big push starts the week after when I leave early doors on Monday morning to drive down to London to set up for the House & Garden Spirit of Christmas Fair at Olympia which runs from 7th-11th November and then straight into the Country Living Christmas Fair from 14th-18th November at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Phew! 10 days of showing and 6 days of setting up and taking down. If I'm still standing at the end of that, I'm off up to Aberdeenshire on 21st November and then it's all move to Hopetoun near Edinburgh for a three day sale there. That segues nicely into a two day fair in Perth and then there's a bit of a break until I go back to Yorkshire for a sale in a private house there.
It will be exhausting but it is always really lovely to hear feedback from customers and to see old customers who so often come and seek me out. And, hopefully, by the end of that we will have sorted out loads of Christmas present problems for people and put lots of little presents into stockings!
The picture on this post is a close up of one of the fabulous advent calendars that I have managed to find in Germany. They are really traditional and right up my street - lots of glitter, lots of angels, reindeer, Father Christmas and general proper Christmasiness!
I'm going to sign off now and finish labelling stock for all those fairs.
PS. I was very excited to see our little covered notebooks featuring in Country Living this month - lovely to be in the magazine again and thanks to all the readers who've visited Twice since.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
It's been really exciting so far - and I've been contacted by the Daily Mail and the Guardian to feature our products. Wow! Anyway, it's a fantastic website for anyone looking for something a bit different and well worth knowing about - so here's the link: www.notonthehighstreet.com
Unbelievably beautiful in Perthshire at the moment - the trees are all turning - it really doesn't get better than this. The apples are au point and I feel a bit of crumble coming on for Sunday lunch tomorrow.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
I'm thrilled though that the Nigella forum has found us - it's really fun to be involved in your swapping. And I would hope that the spurtle measures up too. I spent ages finding the right one to go with and was really pleased to find Hugh Leishman, master wood turner, to produce them for us. Some of the Nigella forum have also seen these spurtles at David Mellor, who Hugh also produces for - and that should tell you something about the quality.
It's getting very very busy here now - children all back to school at last (not that I don't love having them home, but you know ..... ) and I am putting my mind to the gargantuan task of making sure the stock is all ready for Christmas. Fairs start for us on 31st October and run right through to 5th December - my feet won't touch the ground but it will be great to be out there taking all our gorgeous things around the country.
It is beautiful today, and was yesterday - where was this weather when I had three stir-crazy children under my feet? It's not fair ;-) !!
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Monday, February 26, 2007
We're just put the finishing touches to the stand infrastructure - this picture shows the first dress rehersal. Very pleased with how it all looks. In the forefront are our wonderful new Cot Quilts, which we are launching at the Fair. I am so pleased with how these have turned out. I have been thinking about them for ages - I wanted to find a way to use vintage patchworks in a different way - and this really works. We take the patchwork and back it with vintage blanket and then edge it using the fabulous Scottish natural linen that we use whenever possible. I think they will be a real heirloom piece - each one is very much a limited edition, with no more than two in each patchwork - I know I would have been thrilled to have been given one for any of my babies!
It's a glorious day in Scotland - I really feel we are through the winter now. It is light when the children go to school and light when they come home - it's always such a good feeling when we come blinking out of the dark into proper daylight - a palpable feeling of having got through it again! And the first daffodils are just about to come out.
Monday, February 12, 2007
As you may know, we are exhibiting at the Country Living Spring Fair in London in March, so it is especially heartening to have made it into the magazine just before we exhibit. Really looking forward to it (although, as it is the first time we have exhibited outside Scotland, also more than a little nervous!) - and if the reaction to the magazine is anything to go by, it will be a very exciting time for Twice.
Not as miserable about the Scottish weather as I was in my last post - have realised that there is good snow in the Highlands and, if the temperature doesn't rise too much before Wednesday, I am off to Glenshee to ski with Ellie (eldest daughter) who is on half term. It's possible to be on the slopes in under an hour from here - and when it's good, it's very, very good (and, yes, when it's bad, it's HORRID!).
Saturday, February 10, 2007
One of the really helpful things that Helen produces is her Basics Collection - a range of classic shoes and boots which don't change, so that you can always replace that favourite staple in your wardrobe. I'm just about to replace my kitten heel black suede ankle boots as the current ones have been worn to death - and I love the fact that the new ones will be just the same.
So, check out Helen's website and then you know where to get the shoe bag that your new shoes deserve!
It is really miserable here today - horribly cold with non-stop sleety rain - and none of the snow that we were promised. Only one thing for it - a roaring fire and a good film!
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
For those of you who are interested in following our fabrics through to their final incarnation, the archive number for this on is 152-07 - this will eventually be put on the label of any design made in this fabric. Do get in touch if you would like more information about this or any other aspect of Twice and our fabrics - email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.