Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
My name is Charlotte Biggs. I’m an online marketer and I help greetings card and gift businesses to showcase their products online. I run 2 websites; Card & Gift Network, which is B2B (business to business) covering the trade side of the industry and Piccadilly Lane which is B2C (business to consumer) and specialises in showcasing independent card and gift businesses to consumers. I’ve been working in marketing for the last 7 years; before that I used to work for an independent greetings card publisher. Now I combine the two worlds helping to promote card & gift companies.
What does a typical day involve?
Well working for myself there’s a lot of flexibility in my days so I tend to pick and choose between a variety of jobs. Generally I have a writing day (or two) per week; this is when I create product features, interviews and gift guides to help spread the word about new products, and the businesses behind them. I also have marketing days which covers everything from social media and blogging to public relations and search engine optimisation.
My other big task at the moment is developing and coding a trade directory for Card & Gift Network. For the first time I am hoping to open up the site so designers and makers can have a permanent spot of their own to showcase their business to trade customers. A lot of the independent designers I work with want to get their work in front of the right people and with a pre-built audience of trade buyers I think I’m ideally placed to help them do that.
Where do you work? What is your workspace like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
I work from an office in my home. I only really need my Macbook, a WiFi connection and some stationery to do my job so my workspace is not especially fancy. I’m usually surrounded by lots of card and gift samples and a lot of press releases. I am also lucky enough to have a view over the Leicestershire countryside so I do have something to look at when I’m not staring at a computer screen.
I’ve not been having much time off lately as there’s always a huge list of jobs to do but when I’m not working I like to go to the cinema or meet friends. I’ve also been having my fair share of tea and cake dates recently, which is a great excuse to catch up with friends and family for a few hours … and have some cheesecake of course.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing owners of independent shops (both on and offline) at the moment?
I think one of the main challenges facing independent shops is an age-old problem of having to do everything that the big businesses do, but with limited resources. Where a big company will have staff, budget and time, independents have to compete on the same level with hardly any staff, budget or time.
With independents now having to have both an online and offline presence it means an even bigger workload. Happily the online world does offer some great potential for independents so it’s not all doom and gloom.
Today’s independents really need to be super smart with the resources they have so they can make the most of every opportunity. They also get to take advantage of being an independent; being small means they can be more agile and they don’t have to deal with the hoop jumping and corporate restrictions that often slow down their bigger rivals.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
My short term priority is to get Card & Gift Network’s Trade Directory live. It’s been 2 years in the making and there’s been lots of work to get it right but it will soon be ready to start showcasing designers, retailers and suppliers, which is very exciting.
I also want to expand the mentoring and teaching I’ve been doing with card & gift designers and makers. Our industry is very competitive and I want to make sure even smaller businesses have access to all the skills they need to make it. Since I’ve been working in this industry I’ve seen too many card & gift businesses close and it’s always so sad. If I can do anything to stop this and help more companies succeed then that’s an ambition I definitely want to pursue.
Oh and there’s also a new version of Piccadilly Lane in the works for 2017, which is going to be bigger and better than ever!
Do you have any tips for fellow small business owners and designer/makers who are reading this and may be just starting out?
I think when you’re a small business owner you don’t have a lot of time or budget to waste, so it’s really important to have strong plans and systems in place that you can constantly test and review. Whether you’re implementing a new sales idea or a new marketing channel, test it and review; you can then keep what’s working, ditch what’s not, and not waste precious time and effort on things that aren’t helping you. A lot of the small business owners I talk to spend so much time doing a 100 tasks they’re “supposed to do” but get very little out of the majority of them. Sometimes it’s best just to keep it simple and focus on what is working and what would have the greatest impact.
Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?
Yes, I read up on the campaign when its founder Sarah Hamilton got in touch with me on Twitter. I’d featured Sarah’s work in the past on Card & Gift Network so I think she knew I would appreciate what she was trying to achieve. I champion people shopping with independents via Piccadilly Lane too, so the Just a Card campaign fits in perfectly with what I spend my days trying to encourage. A greeting card is a great example of a small purchase that I think most consumers wouldn’t think could make a difference; but added together all these small purchases make a big impact.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
It’s very important. Not only does it tie into my belief that we should all support independent businesses more, but it also shines a light on the greeting card and gift industry. I think the card and gift industry is a world that independents do really well and is a great way to showcase what makes small businesses special. It’s so easy to pick up a cheap mass produced card or gift from any old supermarket these days but if people went to independent shops for these items I think they’d get something a lot more unique and enjoy the experience.
Where did you hear about the campaign & which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently?
The campaign’s founder Sarah Hamilton reached out to me on Twitter about the campaign. I think she’d probably been bombarded with enough #ShopIndie tweets from me to know that I would be sympathetic to the cause!
I’m on pretty much all of the social media platforms but I think Twitter is probably the one I use most frequently; although my Facebook followers have grown quite dramatically recently so I’m having to pay more attention to that one too.
What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
I think to support the campaign people really need to do two things; they need to help spread the word and they need to take action and start making purchases (small or large) from independents.
I already have a personal policy to integrate independents into all my shopping but I will make sure I try and do this more; I also want to add more indie cafes and restaurants into the mix too, rather than going to the familiar chains over and over.
I will also be helping Sarah spread the word about the campaign. I have a great platform to showcase Just A Card so I’m more than happy to help shine a light on anything that aims to help small business.