Do you want the good news first or the terrible news?
I’ll give you the worst of it first… The inevitable has happened. My trusty brick laptop has finally failed me. It has been in a terrible state for quite some time – lots of gaffa tape and some bodged wiring have got me this far, but alas, it seems last week (also possibly the busiest week for Bluebird yet) was its time to go.
So I am having to make do until the new year as all of our pennies are tied up in ridiculous amounts of Christmas Cake tea – which has been selling so well we’ve had to get in lots more this week to try and keep up with the demand. That’s the first bit of good news.
Second is that we have (so far) survived two long, bitterly cold, weekends dressed as Victorians at Gloucester and Worcester Christmas markets. The police and the weather man tried their best to ruin our chances – putting out severe flood warnings BUT people still came out and apart from the frost bite, successful weekends were had all round.
Like the costume?
So the big news is that in November I was presented the opportunity to utilise some space at the Gallery at Bartons – which also hosts a monthly comedy night, among other things, that is well worth a visit.
Every month we attend ‘Not The Camden Market’ at Bartons. There is something about the old Bartons plot that inspires creativity and attracts such an incredible array of visitors. I am always impressed and humbled by the incredible turn out.The old Barton site has a magical charm that attracts people to see what its up to next.
After taking part in various pop ups over the summer I thought it would be excellent for Nottingham to have a similar project to showcase all the local talent that I’d seen in my home town.So over Christmas we opened the doors to Nottingham’s first Pop Up Boutique hosted by Bartons Plc and organised by us.
With the future of the high street so uncertain I think the pop up concept is a brilliant way of helping small businesses find a platform to share what they do in an affordable way. Not only does it make sense for smaller start ups and independents to have their stock out on display for sale rather than sitting in their back room but it can also be a brilliant chance to learn more about how your business works in different environments and how different people responded to your products.
I have lost count of the number of courageous people I have met this year who say they were made redundant or couldn’t find a job so they decided to set up their own businesses. A pop up makes the most of a difficult situation and helps those who have been brave enough to face their own, and the countries problems head on.
Mike wasn’t too sure about it in the beginning because we were already so busy over Christmas but I championed the project (and nagged. A lot.) until I got my way… and by promising that he wouldn’t have to do anything and that he wouldn’t even notice the extra work(!)
The idea was to provide a stress free, all in one shopping destination packed full of unique gifts from a variety of independent businesses, mostly local start ups too. I wanted there to be a real variety of top quality, not on the high street gifts so I was sifting through applications to settle on 15 of the best local and independent designers, makers and small businesses with all sorts of unique, mostly hand crafted gifts.
I’m proud to say we had a little bit of everything- from real ale to spices, paintings to bears, tea to little lion fancy dress costumes, Jewellery, Natural cosmetics, Children’s clothes, Vintage clothes, Knit wear… the list goes on.
We also set up a Bluebird Tea Bar so people can grab a cup of Gingerbread Chai Tea Latte while they shop!
The Pop Up Boutique launched the first Wednesday of December with a late night shopping party. The local Magpie Brewery had their real ales on tap and Bluebird did their hot winter tea cocktails! (Rudolph’s Red Nose, made with Christmas Cake tea, Amaretto and Sloe Gin, was a BIG hit!) There was also live music from local musician and Mesters (Nottingham’s vinyl recording studio) owner, Laurence Kirk.
It has been a bit nerve racking being on the other side, being an event organiser. I’m more than happy to take risks on gut feelings with my own company, it’s a bit different asking other people to take a chance and let me do that with their businesses.
My organisation skills are good (I think!) and I’m not afraid of hard work but something the organisers of the Gloucester Victorian market said to me, after the 60mph wind blew over a row of market stalls, stuck in my mind this week – He said that you never really get any gratification because when things go well traders think ‘Oh my products are so good they sell themselves!’ (which is true because we do it!) and when things go badly they think ‘My products aren’t the problem it must be the organisers who haven’t done their job properly’ (again we are also guilty of this!)
All in all it has been a successful project and I am sad to say goodbye to it. It has enforced my desire to continue working on interesting projects and collaborating with others as well as reminding me how much I love being in a customer facing role, making people smile and meeting new faces.
Hopefully it wont be too long before I will be able to do that with a Bluebird space of some kind!
Love + Tea