Category Archives: retail

Direct Sales

Happy New Year!!  New Year is traditionally a time when we think about making a new start.  Many Mums start doing some Direct Sales as a way of earning a bit of extra money in a sociable role that they really love.  Direct Sales means getting a group of people together and showing and selling them your products.  It’s a way for a group of friends to have a nice evening in and do a bit of shopping from the comfort of their own home, but with the opportunity to try before they buy.  It’s perfect for Mums as it’s so flexible, you set your own hours and targets.  It’s also great for Mums as becoming a Mum has likely introduced them to a whole new social circle who are likely to be in their target market.

There are so many companies now offering these positions (Pampered Chef, Neal’s Yard Organics, Craft Superstore, Avon, Kleeneze, Usborne Books, Body Shop to name a few), you are bound to find one that sells products that you are passionate about and can enjoy selling.  You can choose to sell at evening parties at a host’s home, daytime groups (playgroups etc), a party in your own home, at events like school fetes, or door-to-door.  With most of these companies you now also get a personal website so you can do some online sales as well, and customers can buy your products again and again without coming to more parties.


Anita started working as an Usborne organiser in Exeter in 2012. She is a mum of two and already worked part time, but needed to find a way to boost her income. Direct Sales was a good option for her, as it had such flexible hours to fit around her part time work and children. You can even take your kids along with you when you are hosting book parties so this saves on childcare.

“I love their children’s books and also meeting other people so the work is enjoyable. It doesn’t always feel like work because parties can take the form of coffee mornings, playdates or even an evening with wine and nibbles! I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for people trying to get back into employment, especially parents with young children.”


Caroline is Mum to Jack, 4, and works part time in Customer Services. She became a Pampered Chef consultant in October 2011. Pampered Chef sell high quality kitchenware, and during their parties consultants use the products to cook some goodies for all the guests!

“I was recruited at a Pampered Chef party hosted by a friend. It’s not something I would ever have dreamed of doing but I love it. I love the flexibility, meeting new people, my new cooking skills and newly acquired confidence.”

As well as the social aspect of hosting parties, most of these companies bring their consultants together on a monthly basis, so there are additional networking opportunities. Caroline has met many other Mums at these meetings who have also used Direct Sales as a stepping stone into work after having children:

“Having children seems to lower women’s confidence and it can take a while to build this back up. I can honestly say that the women I meet now are so confident and love what they do.”


Nicole has two young daughters and works as a Supply Teacher.  She attended a Neal’s Yard Organics Party at a friend’s house and was so impressed with the products that she decided to become a consultant herself.

“I’d thought about different ways of supplementing my income and maybe trying out running my own business, and after investigating yoga for children franchises I decided that the cost of these was completely out of my league and the risk was too great. A friend mentioned that Neal’s Yard did something and it wasn’t expensive so I had a look. There was a special offer on for that month and signing up was half price … only £50, so a bit of a no-brainer! I knew that the company upheld what I believed in and were ethically sound. So I had nothing to lose! And I hadn’t even been to a party! It has been a great way of adding to my income … you get out what you put in. And I have a house full of products for myself and family! I consider myself to be the local ‘tester’ so when people ask me about certain products I can speak with confidence! The training is great; loads of opportunities for face to face and phone training, as well as two conferences per year and endless incentives. It can be hard work but I know that I can boost my income at certain times of year if I need to save for something.”


Direct Sales could give you the skills and experience you need to improve your employment potential too.

Naomi trained as a Beauty Therapist at college.  She became pregnant when she was 18 so did not have the chance to gain much work experience.  After having her son, she started doing Direct Sales for The Body Shop At Home.  Through this experience she gained lots of new skills and confidence, and when a job opportunity came up with Benefit – one of her favourite cosmetics brands, she leapt at the chance.

“I love my job.  I’d never have had the confidence or experience needed to do it if I hadn’t worked for The Body Shop At Home first.”


Have you considered Direct Sales? Have you been to any parties like those described above? If you’d like to discuss some of the options for getting started, give us a call on 0800 043 2440.

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Voyage Fairtrade

Sam Birtwistle is a young entrepreneur from South Devon.  His business, Voyage Fairtrade, sells fair trade and ethical goods, handmade by artisans from all over the world.

What is Voyage Fairtrade?

Voyage Fairtrade sells a wide range of Fairtrade and ethically handmade goods – from ornaments to practical home items.  The huge selection of goods come from all four corners of the globe, not just from the stereotypical Fairtrade countries you may think of, helping as many local economies and artisans as possible.  This means that if you buy from Voyage you are not just buying a beautiful, practical item for you, a loved one or your home, you are helping alleviate poverty and helping countries develop: it is a win-win situation.

What are your plans for the future of Voyage Fairtrade?

I am expanding our range of products so they will be 100% unique and buying from more countries.  With the name Voyage I wish to be involved in different countries, cultures and societies.

What was your inspiration to start your own business?

I have had a number of inspirations, but my biggest was when I was 16.  I was working in my first job, in a shop at a holiday park; the park wasn’t performing very well and I thought ‘I would like to buy the business off the manager and show him how to run it properly!’

What has been your biggest hurdle so far?

My biggest hurdle so far has been marketing and getting my name out there, especially social media: I know that’s important!

What is the best thing about running your own business?

You are your own boss and it is your own life, you can do pretty much anything.  You can even have that extra hour of sleep if you need it!

What advantages and disadvantages do you think you have as a young entrepreneur?

I think my biggest strength is my motivation and determination; I haven’t made a success of this yet, but will force myself to make something out of it.  My biggest weakness is I should be a bit more organised, as that can make a world of difference!

What advice would you give to young people considering self employment?

Anyone with a good idea, drive and a strong work ethic can start a business, you don’t even need qualifications!  I have epilepsy and sometimes I have to stop work and sleep it off.  I have other disabilities too, as my balance and coordination is quite bad so it takes me longer to perform tasks for example typing on a keyboard, which isn’t that great if you want to start a business!  So if I can start a company then I’m sure you can too!

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A while ago, I was given the opportunity to go on a photoshoot for Pip’s Garden.  Pip’s Garden sell high quality, personalised gifts – bedding, towels, dressing gowns, and children’s clothing.  The photoshoot was held at the Fisherton Farm in North Devon.  Fisherton Farm has three beautifully restored caravans, and you can hire out the whole beautiful secluded meadow for a Glamping weekend with up to twelve people.  It was the perfect setting for a photoshoot with a difference.  Photographer Simon Gilbert, from Gilbert and Evans, was able to turn what was in fact a drizzly, dark, cold evening into a beautiful set of sunny photographs.  This was amazing to see first hand, looking at the photos you would have no idea that it was so cold!!  Pip actually commented on the day, “this is why the models always look cold in their sunny bikini shots”.  Carmen Croxall from The Very Vintage Hire Company provided some props for the shoot, and modelled in it too.  It was really interesting to see just how much work goes into getting one perfect photograph, and it highlighted for me just how hard wedding photography must be!


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Angel Face

A few years ago, in a previous job, I was looking for voluntary work for a customer and stumbled across some opportunities to volunteer in a Bridal shop.  It wasn’t right for that customer, but it looked like such an amazing opportunity, I stored it away in my memory for the future.  Fast forward a couple of years, and my boyfriend surprised me with a proposal!  I immediately remembered the shop that I’d seen all those years ago, and got on Google to see if they were still there.  I was in luck.  I got in touch with Angel Face and a few days later (and more than a year before the wedding itself) I found myself in there trying on what would become my wedding dress.  (In my haste, I tried that dress on, not in the traditional company of my Mum and bridesmaids, but of my 3 month old son.)

Angel Face is much more than a bridal boutique.  They are a social enterprise.  They provide fantastic, friendly and personal service that makes you feel like the first bride they have ever worked with, and then they invest their profits in young people.  They create training, sponsorship and employment opportunities – helping young people discover their talents – in design, seamstressing, modelling, photography or event planning.  They also showcase young and local designers in their shop.

If you are lucky enough to be looking for a wedding dress, I highly recommend visiting Angel Face’s lovely shop on the river in Buckfastleigh, Devon.  You can also follow them on Facebook.

The Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust

Supporting families since 1853.  The Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust (FTCT) was founded over 150 years ago, to support disadvantaged children, whose parents or carers work in the UK fashion and textile industry.  We provide grants to support all aspects of a child’s well-being including sickness, disability, bereavement, and issues arising from financial hardship.   Here in Devon, thousands of parents are, or have been, employed in retailing in clothing or shoe shops, working in manufacturing or working in our historic Mills. When family crisis strikes or financial hardship takes hold, children are often on the frontline of suffering.  This amazing charity provides essential grants to ensure every affected child can still thrive and achieve their dreams.  Learn more about FTCT here.

The BIG Little Dream Company

This is the non-profit arm of Angel Face devoted to helping children and young people gain self confidence, skills and belief in their talent.   We provide a broad range of skills based programmes to help discover and nurture the best talent in the South West, particularly amongst children, young people and women who have faced significant barriers in their lives.   We believe passionately in the heritage of local communities and reviving skills in industries that have declined here in the UK.   We want to inspire a new generation of designers, craftsmen and women, sales and marketing leaders and young entrepreneurs who embrace the concept of social enterprise.   We link emerging young leaders with experienced industry contacts to provide mentoring and support as they set about turning their dreams into a big reality.  We aim to contribute to the re-generation of vibrant, prosperous local communities here in the South West.  For more information:  01364 644988


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Direct Sales: Pampered Chef

Direct Sales is an excellent way to get into self employment with the backing of a larger brand behind you.  Many Mums choose to do Direct Sales either as their sole work, or alongside part or full time employment, as it offers such flexibility.  Pampered Chef is an example of a Direct Sales company.  Consultants come to your home (or workplace, school, youth club, day centre, etc) and do a cooking show where they showcase their products whilst creating lovely nibbles for your guests.

Caroline Cannon is Mum to Jack, 3, and became a Pampered Chef consultant in October 2011.  She also works part time in Customer Services.

Pampered chef is an American company that was founded in 1980. It offers high quality kitchenware and tools and is sold through the party plan (like Tupperware, Ann Summers).  It offers hosts amazing incentives for having a party; consultants (like myself) are incentivised and rewarded for selling the goods and people that buy the products are investing in amazing superior kitchenware that will not leave anyone disappointed.

I was recruited at a Pampered Chef party hosted by a friend. It’s not something I would ever have dreamed of doing but I love it. I love the flexibility, meeting new people, my new cooking skills and newly acquired confidence.

When my director (who was the consultant at the party I attended) talked about extra money and ‘how £50 was a lot of money you could earn instead of watching the TV instead of an evening’ I realised this was a real opportunity I should grab.

It instantly appealed to me and I haven’t looked back since. It’s an excellent way of meeting new people and will give you a confidence you probably never knew you had!

There are monthly meetings and these introduce to you all the other consultants in the area and there is always a cooking show. It’s a great way to see how others might do a cooking show and everyone is always very friendly.  My experience in going to these meetings is finding out about everyone else and their story about getting into Pampered chef. There are many who used it as a stepping stone to get back into work after having children. And this is massively successful. Having children seems to lower women’s confidence and it can take a while to build this back up. I can honestly say that the women I meet now are so confident and love what they do.

How much you want to work is entirely up to you. You can choose to pursue it as career, and indeed a very successful one at that.  Or you could do what I do and hold one or two parties a month.

I am more than happy to talk to anyone about Pampered Chef, and if you want to discuss anything please don’t hesitate to call me on 07810 501385 or you can email at

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Easter Craft Fayre

Shaldon pre school are holding an Easter Craft Fayre on Sunday 24th March from 2.00pm – 4.00pm to raise funds for the pre school.  There are a few tables still available for just £6 each.  If you would like to showcase some of your lovely crafty goodies, call 07815 960516.  If you’d just like to come and shop, bring the kids along and they can visit the Easter bunny!

If you run a craft business online, craft fayres are a great opportunity to meet some of your customers, gain some new customers, and get feedback on your products.

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Why I started my own business

There are so many reasons why I decided to start my own business, some more sensible than others!

  • I got hooked on using slings, but couldn’t understand why they were so expensive (though since starting my own business this has become clearer!)
  • I wanted to use ring slings and tried about 5 styles that I didn’t get on with, so I designed my own and wanted to share my design with others
  • I discovered Meme – a new fabric shop in Exeter – and needed an excuse to buy lots of their beautiful fabrics!
  • Friends kept trying out my Kozy Carrier and going and buying their own, so I saw that there was a market for them to be sold locally
  • I didn’t want to have to work a third day in my office job, but needed to boost my hours at work so that I qualified for Tax Credits
  • After I was made redundant and couldn’t apply for jobs due to being pregnant, I wanted something to apply myself to, to boost my confidence and self esteem
  • I wanted to create a flexible job role for myself that would work around my family
  • It’s nice to have a bit of extra money!
  • My partner wanted to try his hand at web design so I wanted a project to give him!

What made you take the plunge and start your own business?

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EccoBots Reusable Nappies

We all know the environmental and economic benefits of using real nappies, and more and more Mums are choosing real nappies (full or part time) for their children.  In Devon, the Real Nappy Project provides free trial kits for Mums who want to give real nappies a go without committing to buying a kit that they might not end up using.  I did the trial when my boys were born and was instantly drawn to EccoBots nappies, partly because they are really pretty and brightly coloured, but mainly because they are made locally.  This is how Caroline started up EccoBots.

Eccobots nappies

“I have always since childhood loved making and creating, always drawing designs of clothes that I would like to one day make, and when my first daughter Alesha, was small, I embarked on many courses, from dressmaking and sewing to crystal healing and colour therapy, which spanned several years.  I was able to enjoy my time as a new mother, whilst gaining new knowledge and skills to help me progress in the direction I wanted to flow in the future.  I practised as a Crystal Healer for several years and teaching Introductory workshops for the Institute of Crystal and Gem Therapists, and also began creating unique crystal pendants (which I still create to this day, as they are also a real passion of mine).

One of Caroline's crystals

I enjoyed making an array of clothing for myself, and nothing felt more wonderful than wearing something that I had made, and receiving a compliment, it did and still does fill my heart with so much joy and gratitude.

When my second child, Eva, was born, she suffered with eczema and I found that cotton nappies rubbed and were not suitable for her sensitive skin….so a little research began into alternative fabrics.  Bamboo was the most appealing for its sustainability and anti-bacterial properties…not to mention its beautiful softness.

I decided to make Eva some nappies, which was real fun, to see her in a nappy that I had created was the best buzz ever.  I then got hooked…..and after friends trialing the nappies and receiving positive feedback, I set up EccoBots.   I also became a volunteer with the Devon Real Nappy Project, run by Devon County Council, taking re-usable nappy kits to families in and around Exeter so that they were able to try a variety of cloth nappies before they buy (and my nappies were able to be in the kits).  This was invaluable to me as my business began to establish itself, as I was able to gain even more feedback regarding my EccoBots nappies.

eccobots 077

As the business began to grow I found I had less and less time to deliver kits and collect them, and Jen Harris of Exeter Babies, and Arabella Greatorex of The Natural Nursery, were also volunteering with the DRNP, taking around trial kits and holding numerous events, and Nappachinos in and around Exeter which they are amazing at…..if you are not familiar with the DRNP do check out their site, and also Jen and Arabella’s websites for information regarding events that they are holding (they both work very hard and are so very enthusiastic when it comes to cloth and all things re-usable and baby).

Eccobots nappies

I am so grateful to the support of DRNP and both Jen and Arabella and the other nappy advisors in Devon who have supported my business and who still have EccoBots nappies and accesories in their trial kits.  It has really helped with getting them out there to new mums and dads who maybe were not aware of a cloth nappy business based here in Devon 🙂

As EccoBots evolved into a small business, new ideas and creations were added, like the blankets and re-usable cleansing pads.  Once Eva began school I was then able to really start to throw myself into my little business and make more items and play with my creativity.

I feel very blessed and inspired by both of my daughters.  It is because of them that I have kept learning and evolving and enjoy being my own boss.  I am able to work around them, whilst they are at school and then taking time out when their school holidays arrive.  I still maintain a small amount of work whilst they are off, but I try to keep it to a minimum so that we are able to enjoy the holidays together having fun times.

I am able to juggle being a Mum and running my own business…….How?……I have wonderful support from my family and friends.  My partner Rich is wonderful and helps out in many ways and is very supportive and positive.  I also have hobbies, loving yoga and tai chi to relax and calm, and gardening……I love my garden and it provides so much food throughout the year for me and my family.

If things start to get stressy, I will take time out and go and spend time planting seeds, weeding, tinkering, and my hands in the Earth makes me feel so much more grounded and centred, or  I take a walk along the beach or through the fields with our dog, Coco.

My advice to other mums……Keep working at your ideas….creativity seems to flow even more freely once our children are born, (read this post for more on that!) it ignites a special something and it allows us to get creative and who knows where it may lead 🙂  Don’t give up and when things get too much (which they do from time to time….this is EccoBots’ 5th year and I still have times where it all feels a little too full on), take some time out and allow yourself to breathe, this is a time for you to grow your little business and make it how you want it on your terms, so that it fits around you and your precious family.

I hope EccoBots continues to grow at a steady pace, helping to create less landfill and caring about our environment for our children and theirs.  There is such a positive feeling each time a nappy is made….I still hold them up and smile at their cuteness.  Every time I finish a nappy, a blanket, wrap, cleansing pads etc I can’t help but feel happy and proud…I love all of what I make so much and hope that this shines through into their fibres 🙂

Five years on, it keeps me busy and creativity continues to flow, I have recently started creating items of clothing for women and a few items for children, I love working with colours and some one off pieces, along with my very unique pendants (which I have been creating for over a decade), I love self-expression and enjoy people’s responses to all of my creations.  Check out Caroline Quartz on Facebook and my Etsy shop.

So yes, I am super busy, but it for the most part flows really nicely, with support from loved ones, family and friends.”

You may also be interested to read Arabella’s recent guest post about using different techniques to get your products out there without needing to open a shop.


Filed under childcare, children, creative, Inspirational Women, online business, retail, retraining, school, self employment, work-life balance

Seashore Ceramics

Half term is here!  If you’re looking for an activity to do and live in the South Devon area, why not check out Seashore Ceramics in Shaldon this half term.  They are running pottery painting sessions today, tomorrow, and on Friday 22nd February at the Methodist Hall in Shaldon from 11am to 5pm.  Pop in for a cup of tea whilst your child does some painting – the perfect half term activity!

Seashore Ceramics opened a pottery painting workshop in Teignmouth in 2011.  Unfortunately, like so many shops, they had to make the difficult decision to close the shop after around 18 months.  They closed the shop in September 2012, and are now running “pop up” pottery painting sessions in schools and other groups.  They have also started making and painting their own ceramic items to sell at craft fairs and through their Etsy Shop.  Read their full story here.

The main thing I have learnt from being self employed is adapt, adapt, adapt! It’s very hard to do so when a business, especially a shop, becomes your ‘baby’, but I feel really positive about the opportunities the future holds for our business.

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Rocket & Co.

Becoming a Mum seems to bring out our creativity (I think maybe after we’ve managed to make something as beautiful and perfect as a baby we feel like we can make anything!), and lots of Mums start crafting.  We meet lots of Mums who have started making their own products and want to start up a business selling them.  Rocket & Co. is one example of a Mum who has done this really successfully.

Susie Thomas is from Taunton in Somerset.  She has a degree in Illustration and had been working as a Designer before she had her first child in 2011.  Her previous job had involved long hours and a long commute, so she wasn’t able to continue with it after she became a mother.  Her sister asked her to make something to sell at a stall at an event she was hosting, and Rocket & Co. was born!  She makes beautiful, individual artworks from recycled and often vintage bits and bobs – buttons, maps, scrabble tiles, comic books.   She had intended for Rocket & Co. to be a sideline to her freelance illustration work, but it has taken off and she now finds that she spends most of her time on it!

I get a huge amount of satisfaction and pleasure from creating and developing the ideas I have and having the freedom to work on projects I feel excited by.

These are Susie’s tips for anyone wanting to start their own business:

If the business you’re starting is something you feel passionately about then I think that’s the most important thing, as you will always have the enthusiasm and drive to work your hardest on it.   If you work from home and have a child try and have a space that is behind a closed door to work in, it’s very easy to get distracted by your nearest and dearest!   Make sure you register as self employed, keep all business related receipts, record all sales and try and have a system!   Enjoy being your own boss and remember why you’re doing it!

Read the full interview with Susie here.

If you’d like to start your own business selling products that you have made yourself, get in touch on 0800 043 2440.  As well as helping you get set up, we could even arrange a focus group for you to gain feedback on your products.

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