Country Garden Gifts is based in the heart of the Sussex Downs. When I started my company in 2015 I began by researching all of the village shops in the area. I found out what each of the shops was selling, and how much people were prepared to spend. I soon discovered that most of the village shops were selling exactley the same products as the big supermarkets. They simply had no choice. It was the every day items that people mainly needed and they both needed to sell these types of products in order to survive.
If the villagers wanted any thing nice and beautiful, but still utilitarian, they needed to go into town to find their own particular taste. The idea of setting up a country business started to form. We would sell the sort of products that the villagers found more difficult to get hold of.. I originally had the the idea of setting up a shop my self. I could imagine my self wrapping up brown paper packages, serving my local community, while the wind whistled through the windows. After looking at a few shops and researching the rent and rates, I was quite depressed. Prices for retail businesses in my area were extortionate. By Christmas I had just about given up. Then a miraculous thing happened. It snowed! A great sparkly blanket just dropped from the sky. As the snow fell, the streets became merciless ice rinks. Older people were trapped in their homes fearful of breaking a hip. As Christmas day was approached, the problems of buying gifts for relatives became a major hurdle. A thought started to break in my mind like a bright star. It wasnt just snow that kept out reach areas away from the shops, the floods were a problem as well. Not every one had the time to shop till they dropped, some people had to do the work that made Christmas, and other events so special for other people. Some people were simply too busy to shop around!
A new idea occurred to me, what about a Country side web business? This meant that I could not only help one village, but lots of villages. My idea started to grow legs. I would sell beautiful, quality goods that country people would love. The sort of things that you dont get in the village shop or the supermarket, some thing a bit more special. I also knew that even though they had to special, they had to be useful as well. Country people were very practical. For many, the idea of buying something that couldnt be used, was unheard of!
I started by getting products made by other companies.The orders were coming in thick and fast. A country web-site was certainly needed, I was getting phone calls from people stuck up a tree, and stuffing chickens.
I had been selling other companies products for a while. Problems were occuring that I had no controll over. Goods were being sent to me in a poor condition, and if they turned out to be poor quality and did not sell I had lost a large investment. I wanted more controll over how the goods were made. I also realised that my own designs were selling faster than the products that I was buying in.
I decided to change direction. I decided to move towards only stocking my own designs. In the long term I realised I would have far more controll over all elements of their production.
When looking into stocking my own products I knew that I was more of a designer than a maker. I wanted to produce items that people could use in their every day lives, not art work that they would put on a shelf. In many respects this was a harder challenge. I admired the work of Kath Kitson, Sophie Conran, and Julie Dodsworth. By using sublimation printers, I found a way in which I could produce goods like theirs.I was thrilled to bits.
My enthusiasm started to wayne. The goods were not being printed as I wanted them. Too many mistakes were being made. It was costing me a fortune to get it right. I had to rethink how I designed the products so that mistakes would be eliminated. I soon set up a system that seemed to work. The goods were now looking professional. I moved on to improving the long term quality of the product materials. For this I would need to contact the printers suppliers, the manufacturers. This is the stage that I am at right now. The hunt for quality is not something that is finite. Any artist worth their salt will continue this challenge through out their days. Some times however the story that we try to write for our selves is longer than the time to tell it.
As a company Country Garden Gifts trys to help small communities by setting up blogs and portals across the web that people can join, meet and discuss life in the same way that you would a village shop. We occassionally send out a magazine, which is completely free. We encourage you to buy off Not on the High Street. We sell diffferent goods on here than we do on our own website, so it is worth looking on both. Like us on Face book if you want to stay in touch and get our news.