These are difficult days for all businesses but especially for small or family-run businesses. As Covid-19 restricts our movement and stops us interacting, businesses are starting to feel the effects. We are in a very fortunate position of being able to work remotely. Our studio in the beautiful Stirlingshire countryside is still operating and we will continue to make and dispatch our personalised and engraved lockets for as long as Royal Mail continues to deliver. We love what we do and will continue to do it. As many of you know, our business is a politics and panic-free zone. In fact, I sometimes think that what we do at Lily Blanche – making bespoke, personalised lockets with lovely photos of families and reminders of happy times – is an antidote toeverything that is happening right now.
We’ve been so lucky to meet or talk to so many of you through our website and through social media. In fact, we have dealt with thousands of customers and almost without exception – I would say 99.9% of the time – the people we deal with are not just polite but absolutely charming and lovely. So either we are very lucky or people generally are much kinder than we are sometimes led to believe. It’s a bit of both, I think.
It is also the case that whatever happens at with coronovirus or Covid-19, or around Brexit, there is a lot of uncertainty for business. It sometimes seems that the entire country is holding its breath. A couple of you have asked if there is anything you can do to help and I thought I’d share what I am doing to help the businesses I support.
The most important thing is spreading the word, especially at this time. Everyone gets stuck for ideas so if there are friends or family you can share with, that is a fantastic start. It actually makes a massive difference. Word of mouth is our number one source of new customers.
The second thing that makes a big difference is reviews. So many of you have already done this for us. I’m always humbled by the reviews we get. I can honestly say there have been days in the past, particularly when I was just starting out, when a glowing review has given me the impetus to keep going. Now, when we get a five star review, it boosts the whole team. Click on the stars to read our reviews.
Sometimes customers who have bought from us more than once ask if it is ok to leave a second review. The answer is that second and subsequent reviews count for more, so please do. The Trustpilot reviews are fantastic but if you are also able to leave a review on our Google Business page here (the bit with the Google map and star rating on the righthand side of the search results) that is incredibly helpful too. If a company gets enough of these, Google puts the stars into the listings. Reviews also help to keep the internet safe and free, so by leaving reviews for the companies you buy from, you are doing everyone a service.
The third thing is engaging with social media pages. Facebook, Instagram Pintrest and Twitter decide how many people they will show business posts to based purely on engagement from friends and followers - likes, shares and comments, particularly comments. More importantly, even for big businesses, it is a real person who writes the posts and it is always lovely to get feedback.
We endeavour to respond to every comment left for us because it is so important to find out what you think. Engaging with people on social media, by email and on Live Chat is a really fun part of the business and there is always a race in the studio to answer the Live Chat.
So even if you are not in a position to buy from a company, you can actually do an enormous amount to boost that business and help keep people in employment just by spreading the word, leaving reviews and engaging with them when you see them on social media. You are effectively cheerleading for the whole economy.
I never really thought about any of this until I started my own company so now I do it for all the businesses I support. Over the next few weeks, I’m thinking about introducing you to some of the businesses I’ve discovered and that I plan to buy gifts from. They are all British, design-led companies doing lovely things and hopefully you won’t have heard of them and it will give you some great ideas. It’s not an advertising thing and there is nothing in it for us, other than we’d love people to do this for us too.
I just feel that we all have a lot more power than we sometimes realise to influence things for the good and until we get out of this political and economic stalemate, we should do what we can.
Meet Louise of Lux & Bloom. Louise Rushford launched her independent design company in Bath in 2015 and now supplies everyone from John Lewis to some of the biggest names in interior design.
Louise, who is originally from Glasgow, studied fine art and then contemporary dance in London. Her experience in art and choreography, give her wonderful textile and interiors business its unique signature style.
I first met Louise at a trade show and her work stood out for its quality and style. It did not surprise me one bit when companies such as Liberty’s and John Lewis came knocking. Her silks have amazing quality and her printed velvets are all done by hand. The designs are very appealing. I have her magpie cushion and her Crow Patrol cushion and a number of her wonderful silk scarves.
Lux & Bloom are the best of British design and will certainly be on my Christmas list this year. Gillian
The next business I'd like to introduce you to is One Hundred Stars. https://onehundredstars.co.uk/
I first came across this lovely brand when I was looking for a lightweight robe to take on holiday. They make the most beautiful kimonos and their use of colour is superb. The kimonos and gowns are made in a very lightweight fabric which makes it ideal for hot countries. The Evening coats and duster coats a little heavier. One Hundred Stars was founded in Sheffield five years ago by sisters Heather and Rona Stevenson. The sisters have collaborated with Kew Gardens to make a range with elaborate floral designs. Nigella wore their Venice gown on her television show and looked great and the gowns featured in Mama Mia, the film version.
One Hundred Stars are definitely on my Christmas list and I'm looking forward to giving the kimonos to friends.