On Friday 23rd February I had the pleasure of meeting Theo Paphitis. This wasn’t because we just happened to be in the same place at the same time, but because I had won an SBS award back on the 16th July 2017 and was invited to the 2018 SBS event in Birmingham, run and organised by Theo and his team.
Since SBS launched in 2010, 329,000 small businesses have applied for the award, and I was very fortunate to be one of the 0.68% that won. It is still mind-boggling! It was an absolute pleasure to be invited to this event, sponsored by great businesses, all with the purpose of nurturing and advising us little ones.
Opened by Ryman CEO Kypros Kyprianou, you could feel a buzz of excited energy about the room at the honour of being at such an event with these big names. Sponsored by eight companies, Ryman, Robert Dyas, DHL, iLaw, 123Reg, Square, Western Union and HP, each of the groups introduced themselves and gave some information about how they would like to support us small businesses.
This year’s focus was on brands, so after Theo introducing himself, Stephen Cheliotis, the expert at SuperBrands gave a great talk about the importance of brands within business, but also that a main importance is a customer’s perception of the brand, and how it makes them feel. Colour and shape of the logo is not as important as the feeling behind the brand experience.
As we are all small businesses being spoken to by the large ones, a lot of questions occurred, starting with ‘I know I’m small, so I can’t do x & y, but…’ to which Theo stopped and pointed out that just under 50% of gross value added to the UK economy comes from small businesses, so actually we can! How crazy is that, that this small business is helping contribute to that figure in some way.
One of the most uplifting things for me is that apparently most small businesses will fold in the first 2 years. As some of you may know from my recent 2-year celebration and giveaway, I have just passed that mark! As many doubts and worries for this business run through my mind, something must be going right, and I know that most of that is because of you lovely people supporting me.
The afternoon consisted of a fireside chat from AO founder John Roberts and Theo. Eye opening and so honest. They both emphasised how important it is to be transparent, honest, and admit when you have made a mistake. Don’t grovel, just fix it. But most importantly, be upbeat! You set the tone for your company. Being brand recognised is something but having a positive recognition or experience from a company is more. Speak to every customer like you would your grandparents and look back at your actions and assess if your mum would be proud. Most of all, use common sense, and stay grounded.
The day ended with photos with Theo. As I found out from collecting name badges at the start of the day and having my winners certificate signed, everything had been done alphabetically, but luckily the photos were not! We had been told that we wouldn’t have time for a conversation with Theo as he had over 200 people to take a photo with, and it was only 4pm when pictures started – understandable, as no one wants to head home late, especially on a Friday. As the excited and stuttery person I am when nervous, I went straight for facing the camera for a photo after saying hi, but Theo actually struck a conversation with me instead. His daughter has the same name as me, and as my certificate was the last to be signed by him (being alphabetical and all) he remembered doing it, and asked what my business was, and what I do. He was really positive about it all, and it was great to have a lovely, although brief, talk with him.
One other thing I can take away from all this, is don’t be afraid to ask others for help/ advice/ support / whatever it may be. This event happened because Theo thought of it one Sunday evening back in 2010, and it wouldn’t be possible without all the sponsors he had asked to be on board with him. These companies, and the amazing guests, all give up their time for free to be there. It shows that being a supportive community really does win. As I always like to say, community over competition!
I had a fab day out, I think my mum did too (she was my plus one) and I came home with an SBS branded notebook, goodies, and a lot of great advice.
To anyone out there with a small business, I recommend entering SBS – I did, and the next day found out I was a winner, that has now opened me into a whole world of business support and love.
It is with great excitement that I can share that Z-O-E is now on Not On The High Street!
As NOTHS state they are “the home of the UK’s best small creative businesses”, it makes us so proud to be a part of their site too. Originally launching on their site with our new ‘Welcome To The World’ gift boxes designed especially for them, we have now added the majority of the products that are on this website, so you can get comforters, baby grows and blankets there too. As we were accepted on their site based on the gift boxes, there are some exclusives on their site, which you are welcome to see, here.
All The ‘Welcome To The World’ gift boxes have been designed so that you are able to mix and match your favourite patterns, and have them packaged in a luxury gift box ready to gift to the new little one entering this world. There are a variety of boxing options, from a few essential items all the way to a set of everything! Of course, they are all packed with care, neatly folded and wrapped in tissue with a card stating what is in the box, before being placed inside.
So, let us know what you think of them!
Although I have called these little squares of muslin ‘wash cloths’, there are more versatile than just cloths to wash your face and body. Since using these products for a variety of roles, and hearing how you lovely customers use them too, I have created a little list of 6 uses for these mighty muslins:
1. Wash cloth – muslin is a great material to softly exfoliate with, removing dead skin cells and impurities without harming your skin itself. It is one of the reasons why muslin is great for eczema sufferers, as it gently removes the dead skin cells, allowing for better absorption of skincare treatments
2. Sweat band alternative – a number of customers have bought these for family holidays. Great to have in your pocket when hiking, or running, as they wick away sweat easily, and will exfoliate and remove dirt at the same time. One added bonus- they dry quickly too, so they won’t be damp in your pocket for long. Great at the gym as a mini gym towel alternative, or your wipe down cloth
3. Mini muslin – for the on-the-go days when out and about, they are fab to have in your pocket for quick and unexpected uses. Whether your baby has dribbled and needs a quick wipe, or you want a clean surface to put a snack down on, they are a great size to fit into your pockets
4. Handkerchief - they are a soft alternative to the standard cotton ones, being kind on your skin
5. Face cloth - For the same reason as using the wash cloth for your body, they are great at softly exfoliating your skin. I use my muslin cloth with the Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish hot cloth cleanser, as it is a fun patterned alternative to their muslins when using the product. They are also a great substitute for flannels, as they dry super quick!
6. Cleaning glasses – great for the dinner party set up, they polish dry glasses fantastically to give that great shine! (It doesn’t have quite the same effect when the glass is wet though)
I think it’s time I changed the name of this product..… but whatever your use for the muslin cloths may be, don’t forget to wash them regularly too!
The first collection of baby muslin squares have landed on z-o-e.co.uk! (27.1.16)
As mentioned on the ‘about’ page, the baby muslin squares are just the start of the collection. And these prints are the start of the muslin square designs.
Designed especially for you, the muslin squares are made with the softest material and highest colour number I could find. The two main criteria I had was that they had to be super soft- the best grade I could get, and contain the highest number of colours to print in the pattern as possible. So with the thickest, softest muslin my manufacturers could supply, and the highest number of colours they could print with, here is the birth of the Woodland and Mechanised Dodos gift box collections.
When it came to designing and selecting the prints there had to be animal designs in the collections, as for me, they are what I love drawing and painting the most, with florals coming in a close second.
As I have lived in the country, surrounded by National Trust land since I was six, having a woodland themed collection was a must. This welcomed the Bluetit, Rabbit & Hare, and Columbine Flower designs.
To compliment and not compete with this collection, I decided to create a pattern with less watercolour fluidity, brighter and bolder, that was still hand drawn. As I had to include a bird design (I have managed to include a bird print in nearly every collection I have done so far) I thought of bringing back the dodo. And what would be better than a group of mechanised ones. This led to creating Mechanised Parts and Blueprints to unify the Mechanised Dodos collection.
Two different collections, made with equal love and care. At the end of the day, my aim is to connect with you through my passion and love for design.
After designing for fashion, home and gifts brands, those near and dear did wonder ‘why start with muslins?’
It was something back in my university years that had briefly caught my attention when researching products to design for, but at that time I chose to design for interiors. Then a few months later my mum mentioned my patterns would look good on muslin squares. Other than agreeing, I didn’t think much more of it as I focused on finishing the interiors collection for my textile design degree.
Fast forward to a year ago, when one of my friends announced she was pregnant, and as friends do, you search for a gift for the new arrival. Being the first friend to have a little one, the whole baby section in stores was still pretty unknown to me. I wanted to find something that was a little bit of me, and be both practical and essential. I came across muslin squares!
They were something I loved as a little girl, and used as a comforter all through my early years. They weren’t something that got put on a pile to hand down to my cousin once I had outgrown their use for burping, feeding and general mopping of spillages. They were carried on holidays, snuggled to at night, and even accidentally taken into school. Now this was a product I wanted to give that new little one, so that he would have those same fond memories (if he chose to become as attached to them as I did).
Don’t get me wrong, there are some lovely muslin squares out there, but I was looking for one bursting with pattern, showing more colour than the white muslin, super soft, and beautifully presented. Every box I found was just missing that one ‘thing’ I was looking for that would show my friend the colour-clashing pattern-bursting creative mind I had, and wanted to share.
And there it was, that lightbulb moment.