May 28, 2013
Just one of the reasons that I love being a partner on NotOnTheHighStreet.com is the annual Make, Do and Meet partner and company get together. This event has evolved from an evening nibbles and drinks and chat event, into a full day of presentations, workshops and account meetings, thankfully still with nibbles and drinks and chat!
This was the third event that I have attended and they just keep getting better. It started with a talk from founders Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish about the successes of the company over the past 12 months and the plans for the next 12 months and beyond. Accompanied by some slightly scary projections for exactly how busy we'll all be at Christmas, Holly had some great advice about keeping your turnaround times short and your stock levels high enough to cope with demand. It's great for us to get the opportunity to speak to Holly and Sophie and see just how much passion they still have for their business.
There are always presentations from some fantastic complimentary businesses. The one I found most useful was from Pretty Little Head with their insights into the retail side of the female brain. I will definitely be purchasing their book. A new part to the event was the partner panel, a chance to hear from some established partners about how they do what they do with a Q&A at the end. I was honoured to be asked to be one of the panel along with my pal, Wendy, at Letterfest and Katy from TillieMint.
There was capacity in the room for about 100 people, so it wasn't going to be too intimidating and we got to see the questions that Jenny from NotOnTheHighStreet would ask us in advance (not that I used that opportunity to plan what I would say - oh no, that would have been clever. Instead I rambled on about trolls predicting the future for me and accidentally finding myself in Waitrose instead of Tescos a bit more these days).
When we arrived though there was a virtual sea of people and it was standing room only for a while, until that was also full and they had to turn some people away. I think we were all shocked to see how popular a slot it was - especially as we were on at the same time as lunch! It was actually really fun to take part in and there were some great audience questions at the end, including "Is it worth offering framed prints as well as unframed?" Answer - definitely yes from me and Wendy. Actually I think you should tackle it the other way round and start with offering framed prints and ask whether it would be worth also giving the option of unframed prints. When people purchase a gift (which is what most of our items are) they generally prefer a complete solution. Another question was "Where do you look for your staff?" and all of us had started with friends, Mums, neighbours, friends of friends etc! But we also recommended Gumtree, local universities or colleges, and local jobs boards. Our lovely local resource is GlosJobs which is how the lovely Ellie found us! We will also be looking at internships as well over the coming months. After a quick bit of lunch it was on to the awards ceremony. We were shortlisted for Best New Product for our Personalised Playlist Cassette Print although I didn't think we had a chance of winning. On the one hand we were up against some really good products the "Kids Rule" wooden height chart by Lovestruck Interiors and the charming Feather Bauble by Button Box Cards. We'd also won an award in each of the previous two years so thought that we would be really pushing our luck with three years in a row. In fact I was so convinced it wouldn't be us that when Holly announced our name it took a good few seconds for it to sink in.
When I spoke to Sophie later on I expressed how certain I was that it wouldn't have been us, especially after our previous successes. It was apparently a very close run thing and they did consider whether they could give us another award! But she said the message to everyone was that if you keep on being great, we will keep on recognising you. I think the grin on my face after that probably blinded several low flying aircraft! But by far the best element of the event is the chance to meet other partners and say hello in person when all you have ever done is tweeted to each other before. We have met some funny (as in ha ha, not odd!), brilliant and talented people and it's fantastic and inspiring to spend a day in their company. A couple of photos later and a glass of champagne in hand I took a few moments to reflect on how positive an experience I have had with NotOnTheHighStreet. It has revolutionised our business in ways I couldn't have imagined and the continued investment we receive in soft skills, advice, product guidelines and just being associated with a beautiful, aspirational brand makes becoming a partner one of the best decisions I have ever made! Roll on Make, Do and Meet 2014.
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