19 Nov 2014

Craft Fair Season is here!

Craft Fair Season, top stall tips and some great craft fairs of the North.

It's Craft Fair Season, got to love it! All those beautiful handmade pieces, jewellery, socks and wacky house clutter! I love this season, not just because of the mulled wine often on sale too. But this post is not for the average shopper, instead I have decided to give you my top tips for running a stall, a Seller's guide.

In Kenya when I worked at Kenana Knitters, I used to turn up with heaps of stock and stationery and just wing it. Everyone knows everyone in Kenya and people stop and chat. But when I started my own business in the UK, Wildly Woolly (the sister company selling Kenana products to the UK market), I thought I better get serious as I wanted to share the story as best I could, and a messy stall does nothing for attracting customers. People don't often hang around at stalls long enough to see everything, so things need to pop out at them and catch their eye to make them stop and really look and listen! So below, as well as a list of the stall essentials, I have some tips on Do's and Don'ts for a stall holder which I have found work. 

So the essentials, I know some are obvious but it covers the lot, so don't forget to pack:
  • CHANGE! The most important, as people won't be bringing you the exact amount! I usually take around £50. To decide what to make this up of, look at your products and see what prices you have, Eg. if you are charging 3.95 then you will definitely need 5ps. But if someone is paying with a £20 then you will need £10, £5, £1 and the 5p. NB, you will need more of the smaller denominations.
  • You will need something to carry all that change in, and yes I know the bumbag (fannypack, waiste pack, belt bag - however you label it) is not the height of fashion, but trust me it's less stress than a money box, it's safer on you that sat on your table or under it. It's sad yes but theft does happen. I found a great plain black one in my local charity shop for £1, front zip for my money and back zip for everything else, business cards, pens etc)
  • Carry bags are essential as not many people will have somewhere to put it even if you have decided to wrap it up (jewellery etc). You can go as posh or simple as you like with this, I always think it's nice to have a slightly branded bag so people are reminded of you. I also like the thought that the bag will be recycled, so instead of plastic bags (the world is already filling up with them but I wont go on a rant) I go for paper bags which can be recycled. I like to put a personal touch on it so I bought a gorgeous stamp to brand my bags
  • You will need some sort of business cards or fliers, as a lot of people will ask you, and you may find you get lots of sales after the day from people getting in touch. So imperative to get something official. It's always a bit of putting when someone writes their email down on a piece of paper for me. I have to admit I don't think I've ever contacted anyone who did that - the paper gets lost or I forget what they did anyway. This leads on to the imperative facebook page, website etc as a way for people to see what you do.
  • A Table cloth, a must as you never know what the table you're given will be like, or the colour. Choose something plain, I think white is the best as it creates a nice clean background for your products to pop out from. If you have a busy background your products will just get swallowed up in the patterns.
  • Sign - Print out a picture of your Logo or name (just call yourself something - Emma's Homemade Jams?) and have it stuck on the front of the table or behind you on the wall. This helps you look professional and also adds to the attractiveness I think. I also like to have a framed A4 paper with a list of what makes my items special and different from the rest.
     Wildly Woolly's tag lines

  • There are lots of little bits and bobs that make the day easier, and the most important is Stationary. I take 2 pens (in case one runs out), a notebook for anything that I may need to note down or spare paper in case I need to scribble, scissors, bluetack, pins, string, receipt book, newsletter sign up book, price stickers/signs. The list could be endless but those I find are the main ones.
  • Some people like to set out a mock up of their stall in their living room the week before and have a play with lay out. That's one option, but I like to imagine it and draw it, so I spend time scribbling a few pictures of the table.The most important thing to bare in mind is to have some different levels, some higher and some lower. So for this you need:
  • Props, these don't have to be expensive, they can be anything you have in the house, although you may need more specific things like jewellery hangers (have a look on ebay). I like to use the basket drawers I salvaged from someone's skip, I asked permission before taking them! But they make a great prop as I have some of the drawers slightly open with things hanging out and also place things on top to add some height to the stall. At Christmas if you are selling decorations I think it's important to have a tree, as this shows off you products in situ! Have a brainstorm of what you have in your house, things you may not have thought of - wander round and imagine them on the table, you will be surprised what you already have.
  • And finally, STOCK, don't go over board. Think about the size of your stall, and the sort of customers that will be coming. If it's a small one in a local village hall then your cheaper items are going to sell better as most people won't be carrying around loads of cash. Take a good range but keep a box of back ups under the table in case you find something sells really well. I usually take one or two of each of Wildly Woolly's bigger toys, and a few of each of the small ones like glove puppets.

Attracting Customers
There are a million ways you can attract customers, getting them to stop at your stall is half the battle, be creative in your ideas and make up your own. But here are some ideas to get the creative juices flowing. Have a bowl of sweets and get people to guess how many are in the bowl to win an item. Choose a number between 1-100. Drop your business card or email address in the bowl to win. If you just want subscribers to your newsletter then just ask for a sign up to win something. Whatever you decide remember that most people won't be there until the end so get them to pop down their emails or telephone so you can contact the winner, and remember you will probably have to post the item to don't choose something too large or you will be out of pocket!

Do's & Don'ts as a Craft Holder.
Lots of people set up their stall and then just sit and hope the customers will come and buy. But there's more psychology in it than that if you really want to do a great day of selling. There are a few things I have found that are Do's and Don't of Craft fair Selling:
  • DON'T just sit behind the table busily knitting or making and ignore people coming by. 
  • DON'T just continue the conversation with your assistant and ignore the customer, my sister says she hates it when people just carry on their conversation behind the table as she browses. Maybe it makes her feel like she's listening in and intruding?
  • DO stand up, preferably next to the stall and not behind, although sometimes that's the only option.
  • DO smile (even if your cheeks ache at the end of the day, you will have done more sales than if you don't), and say hello, make eye contact.
  • DO hand out business cards/fliers to those who show interest in your items.
  • Most importantly DO ENJOY YOURSELF. Chat, meet people, it's a great networking opportunity too so make the most of it.
Craft fairs in the North of England
Finally here are some of the great Craft Fairs in the North. Worth checking out and making a day or weekend of, or even signing up as a stall holder!
Don't forget to follow Wildly Woolly on Twitter and Like us on Facebook for Toys with a Tale, changing lives stitch by stitch!

31 Oct 2014

Autumn is here

A Wildly Woolly Autumn.

Well its been  a pretty mild transition into Autumn for most of us, and although the weather has been mild, Wildly Woolly has been going Wild - we've added our Christmas range to the website:

They've already been a hit and people have definately been starting early on the Christmas buying! The picture was from our stall at the Craft fair we did last weekend. Such fun and some great support, thanks!

We've been in the spotlight on an Ethical/Eco Blog we love called Moral Fibres, who told their fans about us and we had a special giveaway to thank them for their support for us! We gave away a small spider lion :

So Happy Halloween to you all, if you are a last minute person, like so many of us, here's a great website with receipes for Halloween treats www.totalbristol.com/eating-and-drinking/halloween-baking/
 Have a magical night trick or treating!

Next week, Don't Forget on Bonfire night to check your fire for Hedgehogs before lighting it.

Bring on a Wildly Woolly Winter with mince pies, sherry, warm fires and fabulous snow, and of course Christmas!

11 Sep 2014

Friendly Foraging and Homemade JAM!

At Wildly Woolly we're all about handmade, ethical and eco-friendly, so I wanted to share with you the tips and tricks to friendly foraging. It's so satisfying to make your own, especially when the main ingredients comes FREE!

So I'm taking Blackberry or Bramble Jam - an easy and delicious example.

What you need:
  • Old clothes - you will get blackberry juice on them!
  • 2 recycled tubs - one smaller for picking into (I use an old flapjack mini bites by M&S cylindrical one H12cm, W10.5cm), one larger (large enough to decant all your berries into).
  • A reusable bag, again an old one you dont mind a bit of a stain on.
  • A hedgerow near you, I use the side of the local golf course.
  • And of course - TIME - Don't rush, enjoy it!
So armed with your tubs, decked out in you old 'glad rags', head off to your chosen hedgerow. Don't forget to keep an eye out along the way for other bramble/blackberry bushes tucked away. It wont take long to find a great patch and once you have, put down your bag and take out the smaller tub, this will be your collector. VOILA - Start gathering!! Go for the big, juicy, dark purple ones, as the redder they are, the more sour they will be. Once you have filled the container, empty it into the larger one and carry on! Beware you will gain a few scratches in the process, just do it carefully and take it slow, the reward will be worth it.

I am a huge believer in being an eco-friendly or environmental forager, so remember the wildlife and insects that also roam that patch. If you see a spider or an insect allow them to escape before you 'jam' his berry-seat into your pot. Better to leave him there than wash him down the sink at home. I always try and leave some for the birds, they love them too so don't pinch the lot.

In August-September time the hedges are brimming with these delicious fruit so once you've filled your containers its time to head home. I gathered 3kgs from one small patch this year, a bumper crop, and that wasn't even half the hedgerow.

When you get home make sure you give all the berries a good rinse under the tap, this removes any leafy bits and sadly any insects remaining. I always pick out any floating ones, as I find these are usually not such nice ones. Measure your weight in berries... I used a receipe from the internet but I have my trusty River Cottage Preserves handbook for all the other tips and tricks to jam making.

Generally its 1kg berries to 1kg granulated sugar. Here's what I did:

1kg Blackberries
1kg Granulated sugar
1 packet of pectin (from any local supermarket)
1 Lemon

1 Large saucepan/soup pan
7-8 glass jars (ask family, friends and neighbours to save their old jars for you)
1 Jam funnel (optional but less messy!)
1 jam/preserving thermometer (optional)

Here I added some apples for extra pectin, but the receipe I am giving you here doesn't need these. Feel free to experiment though!

First you need to sterilise your jars, I just boil them in a large pan. But you can wash them in hot soapy water and then dry them in a warm oven. Otherwise a hot wash in the dishwasher does the trick. Dont forget them lids too!

So put all your berries into the large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, simmer until all the fruit is soft and pulpy. Bring it to the boil adding the sugar as it begins to boil, stir constantly until the sugar has all dissolved. Add the squeezed lemon juice. Allow it now to boil without stirring until it reaches the 'jam' temperature on the preserving thermometer (otherwise boil for a minimum of 5 mins. It must have reached 104.5degrees c to set).

Skim any foam off the top and then pour into the jars and seal as quickly as possible. Use within 12 months.

TaDahhh!! Enjoy!

31 Jul 2014

GLOVE PUPPETS - Handmade, Unique, Ethical, Natural and just Oh So Cute!!

So we've finally got everything together and we're about to launch our latest product at Wildly Woolly Ltd! For those on our Wildly Woolly Fan's newsletter (sign up NOW if you want to be a fan and get our latest news first) it's almost the long awaited moment.

Kenana Knitters' Glove Puppets have arrived and we've got a wonderful variety:
  • Cow
  • Sheep
  • Elephant
  • Monkey
  • Lion
  • Zebra

The wonderful Cow glove puppet!

These magical Critters are great accessories for story times with young children, for interactive play and to excite their imaginations. They make ideal small gifts.

As with our other products, the glove puppets can all be washed on a wool cycle (see Wildly Woolly's FAQs for more details on wool washes).

So by the end of today Wildly Woolly will have these lovely Critters up for sale.

Asante sana - Thank-you, for empowering women with the help of your child's smile!

Brilliant blog posts on 

14 Jul 2014

Being Gluten Free - 5 Top Tips

I have been Gluten Free for over 10 years now, and yes in the early days it was very hard, it wasn't as well recognised as it is today. There weren't the substitutes there are today - breads, pastas and biscuits. And yes I was about a stone lighter!

But today I look at it as being EASY, and you will too with these top tips for those of you GF or cooking for a GF.

The most important tip to bear in mind overall is that it's Trial & Error - Yes, in the beginning it's going to be more hard work that just grabbing a receipe and going for it. You will have to stop and think about it, BUT it's trial and error, try something and if it doesn't turn out how it should (make sure you taste it first as sometimes what GF lacks in the looks department, trust me, it makes up for it in the taste department - a GF person will really appreciate a tasty treat when the other option is nothing!), just try again in a slightly different way.

  1. Use a mixture of flours, most gluten free flours you buy in the shops are a mixture of a number of different flours, to name a few - tapioca, maize, rice, potato, buckwheat, and gram flour. The bought ready mixed packets can be expensive and although useful when starting out, I do suggest later on sourcing the individual flours separately and mixing them yourself, start with 1/3 of three varieties ie if the receipe says 300g use 100g of each (again trial and error to see what mixes make the best cakes/pastries/biscuits - it will vary).
  2. Keep a receipe book, when you try a receipe jot it down in your receipe notebook and then make comments underneath to remind yourself how to try it differently later on or if it was a great one. This way you will get to a point where you can just grab a receipe (of your own) and get on with it!
  3. Xanthan Gum, the issue with GF flours is that they dont have the GLUTEN which is the gloopy (for want of a better word) stuff that hold the flour together and makes its stretch when you make dough, the elastic part. So we need to make sure we compensate for that - eggs are a good way of making things stick. I often use a regular receipe and sustitute the flour for GF (a mixture of those above if I havent any 'bought' packets) but I will add an extra egg if the receipe says to uses eggs. But a magical ingredience is something called Xanthan Gum which you add to the flour mixture, it comes in a powder form usually in a small pot/tube (Xanthan Gum is found in most regular supermarkets, look in the free from section or the baking section, otherwise ask!).
  4. Fruity baking, if you like fruity cakes then you're in luck, these kinds of GF cakes seem to work much better. Possibly due the extra stickiness the fruit brings to it, but I suggest you try all forms of 'fruit' cakes - dont be afraid to explore, there's so much fruit out there! Plus its feels healthier!

 Finally, a few words of wisdom. I always take with me a packet of plain rice cakes when ever I go away, atleast when everyone else is tucking into sandwiches you can pull out you rice cakes add a few toppings and tuck in too. But don't forget to ask if you're at a restaurant or B&B as a lot of places do have GF products for people like us, they just forget to advertise it! I know Premier Inn often have GF products available if you ask, and these days you can request GF meals on the aeroplane if you get served food on the flight, so remember to tell your travel agent to request it, as its too late when you're already on the plane.

Below are a few website I found useful:
  • For the best Yorkshire puds receipe - http://www.dovesfarm.co.uk/recipes/yorkshire-puddings/
  •  For GF pancake with just 2 ingredients - http://www.theskinnyconfidential.com/2012/09/25/ummm-seriously-dying-ingredient-pancakes-flourless-full-protein/ 
  • For Xanthan Gum online - http://www.dovesfarm.co.uk/flour-and-ingredients/baking-essentials/xanthan-gum-1-x-100g/

12 Jun 2014

eSafety for Children

Something that is more common than people imagine is incidents involving inappropriate use of technology with children. A lot of children are taught about eSafety at school, but its good for parents to be aware as well, so that they can be there to help kids too and know what to do in the event of an incident.
Here are a few tips and tricks I was passed on:
  • Add filtering to internet access where possible - content controlled software that helps to filter out inappropriate content.
  • Restrict internet access to public spaces at home (so not in bedrooms), keeping things open between you and your kids.
  • Encourage your child to have secure passwords to their sites. Treat you password like your toothbrush ...don't let anyone else use it ....change it regularly!
  • Discuss eSafety with your children, show interest in in what they are doing online and how they use technology. Encourage them to be safe and responsible online.
  • Encourage them to talk to you if they have any concerns about anything online, and feel confident in telling you.
  • Take some time to learn how to use some of the social networks so that you are aware of the dangers, understand and can help your child stay safe on them. Be a good model of staying safe online in your own behaviours.
  • Remind your child to follow the SMILE and stay safe rules:
S - Staying safe by keeping personal details private, like name, phone number, address, age. 
M - Meeting up with someone online can be dangerous, only ever go if you have an adult with you.
I - Information online can be untrue, biased or inaccurate. Someone might not be telling the truth.
L - Let parents or trusted adult know if you ever feel uncomfortable or worried about anything online
E - Emails, downloads, IM messages, photos or anything from someone you dont know or trust may contain a virus or unpleasant message, dont open it or reply.

For further information I suggest you visit the OFSTED site:
sun smiley face

28 May 2014

Sales Calls!! Arrgh

Cold calls, sales calls, unsolicited calls, nuisance calls, marketing calls, what ever you call them I'm sure you will agree they are irritating! So I thought I would write a little piece on how to avoid those interrupting sales calls or lying scum that make you pay for something that is actually nothing, but also I want to help you understand and identify if they are a genuine Market Researcher gathering data and opinions and NOT a sales call!

To begin with I suggest you become both of the following:

Ex Directory, which mean your number is not available through the directory enquiry services or published in a phone book. This is a topic of confusion mainly with the older generations as it only reduces those calls that have used a phone book to gather their potential customers. But it is one step closer to having a bit more peace. This has to be done with your telephone network provider, so contact them and find out how.

The second is becoming TPS registered, the Telephone Preference Service, regulated by Ofcom, is an option available to those who want to opt out of Sales or Marketing calls. Let me stress here that those are not the same thing as genuine MARKET RESEARCH calls, I will discuss this more later on. So if you want to stop those sales calls, go to http://www.tpsonline.org.uk. This does take 28 days to take effect but after that you should only receive the genuine market research calls. Be aware that the TPS is free, there is no charge, but there are a number of bogus companies who will try and offer you extra assurance of call prevention for a fee - rubbish! You can find a list of some of those here http://www.tpsonline.org.uk/tps/news1.html


Just FYI - Most Market research companies use an Auto Dialer which automatically dials a number, these numbers have been randomly generated by a Random Digit Dialer generating numbers at random as it implies, and this is why they still get through to ex-directory as they are not selected from a phone book.

Having done the above, if you find your phone does ring and you hear that background chatter, the first indication its coming from a call center, just hear them out, all you have to do at the end is say 'Thanks but I'm not interested'. But what if the person on the end happens to be researching and your opinion could have an effect on something in your area that you actually feel passionate about. That is what genuine Market Research is all about, giving you an opportunity to have your say! I have worked in the Market Research industry, I have been on the end of the telephone, and no I wasnt selling anything, I hate the sales calls as much as the next person. I was doing genuine Market Research asking your opinions so that the information could be used to better our world, REALLY, there are some genuine companies out there doing this. But the problem is the others who pretend to be what their not and are really just SALES at the end of it all.

So having heard the Market researcher out, and you think you might be willing to take part, my suggestions are:
  • Ask them if they can give you the Market research society's verification service number (0500 39 69 99) which by law if they are genuine they have to offer you this number at the end, but ask for it first, they should be able to give it to you - if not they are not genuine. If you want to, tell them to call you back so you can verify with the MRS service that this company is genuine - just remember to take the name of the company so you can actually check. 
  • Whilst you are chatting, Google their company name, make sure their website reinforces what they have said they do and what they're about.
  • Only give the information you are happy to give, most surveys only need a few demographics to be able to use it, like your age, sex, and possibly nationality. The rest is usually optional so if you don't feel comfortable giving it, don't.
 However if you find you're still not interested then whatever you do, DON'T make up an excuse, 'I'm busy cooking dinner', 'I'm waiting for a taxi', 'I was literally walking out the door and I came back in for the call', they've hear it all before and it basically means its OK to call you again because you haven't actually said NO - 'I'm not interested'! Just say 'No thanks' and hang up.

Hope this helps
With smiles

10 May 2014

A day in the life of a Knitter at Kenana Knitters

Wildly Woolly Ltd is offering you handmade, ethical and natural (organic cotton and pure wool) toys for your children and for some the gorgeous product is all they need to see, but for others who want to know more, this blog will be the 'behind the scenes'.

My first blog is the story of HOW these beautiful creature are made, the daily lives of the Knitters themselves that work at Kenana Knitters.

It all happens on a farm in the rural area of Njoro, Kenya (East Africa). A place called Kenana Knitters, with 200+ women, and this is how the magic happens.

So the key ingredient, the wool is bought, handspun by spinners from near and far, who come on wool buying days (another group of people supported by Kenana Knitters). This wool is then dyed, a process lead by Monica who runs the Kitchen department. In the picture here is Susan - her right-hand woman cooking up a storm! Depending on what orders and therefore colours required, the wool is dyed using natural plant parts grown on the farm, like petals and leaves. A process I wont reveal the secrets of!

As the wholesale requests come in from around the world, order sheets are written up. Each day these order sheets are handed out to the women with the details of the products and how many are required for the sales, as well as an order date they are due by. At the end of each day the corresponding pattern, wool or organic cotton they will need for that order are also given out, along with the needles. The women are free to come in as and when they choose, they arrive in groups, on their own or with a child on the hip and one on the hand. Children are welcome and there's even a children's corner with donated books and toys. Its a beautiful beginning to the day to watch the women walking up the road knitting needles clicking as they walk with the intermittent cackle of laughter.

Firsts things first, and most women go down to the washing area where they can wash the items they have already knitted. Once washed these are then laid out to dry in the African sun. Whilst they wait the ladies sit and catch up with friends and neighbours, more laughter and clicking of needles. 

There is a radio on in the background with the latest catchy Kenyan songs, but for most this is their source of national news as well as a newspaper which also arrives daily to be shared among those able to read and spread the word.

Usually by lunchtime if they are lucky (on overcast days sometimes longer) their items might be dry and they collect them up, ready for stuffing and finishing off. Eyes and mouths sewn on, attaching arms and legs, its an inspiring process to watch these creatures come together.

Once completed they are taken up to the main table where they are checked, collected and noted down for payment. They are then sent over to the labeling table. A group of usually three or four women headed by the ever smiling Anna Akai sit at the labeling table and as the items come in they attach the Kenana labels with the Knitters name on. The products are checked again, and then put away in the store ready for the day of packing and shipping off around the globe.

As the day draws to a close the women pack up their things, there is a small store for things that didn't quite get finished in time and other bits and bobs to be pulled out again tomorrow. Lastly the various Knitters who completed their items are paid, and everyone heads home smiling, laughing some with needles still clicking.

It's a marvelous business, helping wonderful women and if you ever get to Kenya you must pop in for a visit, the campsite next door does farm tours and part of that involves a wonder around Kenana Knitters so visit Kembu Campsite and meet these women for real.