Can you tell us about how you came up with the idea of a reusable cracker?
I worked for a long time in Body Shop. That's really where it all started. After that, I went on to work in a partnership design business. As part of the job, we used to put together client gifts to give to our clients. So one year I decided to look at Christmas crackers and I was working with a fair trade producer in Nepal.
And the idea really came because of the crackers were so beautiful. The handmade paper was so beautiful. It just seemed like such a shame to just to tear it up and throw it away. So that's really the germs of the idea where that came from.
My thinking was on how to create that product and to make it something people might want to use and keep.
So after the idea was there, what changed to make you set out on your own?
I started looking at it and thinking how there must be a way, I decided to do some product trials and tests to see whether it was something I could get manufactured at a larger scale here in the UK. That's really where the idea came from. And then at one point I thought, now I need to go full time and give this a go.
The statistics when it comes to the waste are quite eye watering. I think it's estimated that there's about 100 million crackers are pulled in the UK every Christmas season. I worked out that if you laid those end to end they could reach to the North Pole 8 times. That’s amazing when you visualise it. And that's not to mention the packaging and all the gifts that go inside them. And it all goes in the bin.
I'm tackling this from so many different angles. They come flat packed, which means that the packaging is minimal. The packaging is also reusable, you can store them away after you've used them back into the packaging. And one of the main advantages is you can put your own gifts inside.
You can basically use them several years. I've got customers that are telling me they're still using them five years on.
What were the challenges to establishing your business?
It was tough to begin with, very few people were even talking about reusability, least of all Christmas crackers. It's really been in about the last 3-4 years that it's starting to change.
I'm not having to justify what I'm doing now. As soon as I say reusable crackers, I get positive feedback from people. I've already got customers searching for me, including trade customers, and I always ask how did you find me? And they say, well, we've just searched reusable crackers. That didn't happen five years ago. That's development.
I've supplied the National Trust shops across the UK. I sell to galleries, garden centres, gift shops, independent gift shops, online retailers and I also sell direct to customers on my website, Not On The High Street, avenues like that. So that's where my business is at the moment.
Did you find support to help with the operational side of the business?
Over the COVID period there was so much support online. I started to access a lot of support through webinars. I started to pick up a lot of information that way, but nothing formal or structured. Going on the EnterprisingYou programme was the first time I embarked on a kind of structured plan.
I'm lucky in that the timing was perfect because I have time to work on the business from January to July. Then it’s customers and buying time. I was able to take that time and I really need it, because people would ask me where do you see your business in five years’ time?
It really helped having the initial assessment of where are my strengths are, and where are my weaknesses are. We identified a lot of inefficiencies in my business. I needed to streamline a lot of the operations.
The networking has been fantastic as well.
My Business Advisor on EnterprisingYou was great because he was putting me in touch with the departments I needed to speak to within the GM Business Growth Hub.
He got me in touch with the Eco Innovations team, which is how I ended up on the Eco-FORCE workshops. From there I did the Journey to Net Zero programme as well, which was fantastic because I've been able to actually write an environmental policy statement. it's been fantastic learning curve.
I've had a lot of support from the Digital Innovation team. I've got a brand new site. It went live in August. The team have helped with fine tuning and on the trading side of things. So that's been fantastic, that level of support.
Do you have plans to hire anyone to help you?
I’m it for this year. I've got some plans to try and expand a bit more next year and start supplying larger quantities and get bigger customers. So hiring is something that I may look at for next year, but definitely maybe if it's not employing somebody at least using some third party resources like fulfilment houses and storage.
But right now, I am a one woman factory.