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Christmas Fairs (Real and Virtual)

Shirley (aka Grandma’s Corner) says:

When I was young one of the highlights of the year was an annual fair held in the local church hall. My parents were involved in organising the event, and for months before we would be making things to sell. Knitting egg cosies and hot water bottle covers; decorating jars for baths salts; padding coat hangers; and nearer the actual day, baking. I remember the joy of seeing someone buying something that I had help make.

With this in mind I love buying from a small maker because I know that my purchase will make them happy.

If you are looking to buy gifts try to find time to go to a Christmas Fair and buy something from a local crafts person. If you aren’t able to physically go to a Fair there are virtual fairs you can join in. Now I have to admit, I don’t understand how these work – so I am hoping Gemma is going to add a bit below to explain to us how they work!

Remember when you buy from a small business you make somebody really happy!

Gemma (Concrete Gems) says:

There are lots of online craft events happening this year. The ones I am involved in are on Facebook and Instagram, but I imagine other social media channels also run them.

On Facebook, an event or group is created and images of products are uploaded with details of prices, sizes etc. On the day of the event, often a password is provided and you would use that password to comment on the item you would like to buy. The seller then contacts you to arrange payment and delivery, which can be through their website, PayPal, etc.

Instagram works in a similar way, except the items are just added as images to the business feed.

Online markets that are coming up as as follows:

Facebook Snowflakes and Keepsakes Christmas Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/516451422527464/

UK Crafters Online market: https://www.facebook.com/groups/459309824617879/ on Facebook, or https://www.instagram.com/ukcrafters_marketplace on Instagram

Facebook Stocking filler frenzy: https://www.facebook.com/events/336409273668553/

Concrete Gems will also be at the following actual Christmas markets:

Norden Farm Night Market, Maidenhead, Fri 15th November 5-10pm.

Willowbank Junior School Christmas shopping event, Woodley, Reading, Fri 29th November 6pm-9pm.

Etsy Made Local, ST Laurence’s Church, Reading, Sat 30th November 11am-6pm.

Reading University Christmas craft fair, Thurs 5th December 5-7pm.

craft fair virtual or actual set up at maidenhead

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Getting the balance right – running a business from your phone

I’ve recently had a painful, but insightful experience. I fell down the stairs and my phone bore the brunt of it (luckily I wasn’t hurt). But this meant, I had to send it off to be mended (for a lot of money) and I was left for four whole days with no phone. No instant access to email, no access to my Etsy or Amazon seller apps, or my website. No instant access to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest. And no camera to snap product pics and life pics. Each time I wanted to check anything, I had to log into the laptop, and if you’ve ever used Instagram on a laptop, you will know, it just isn’t worth bothering. Not to mention the annoyance of no one being able to call me either.

Balance

Anyhow, this experience got me thinking about my phone usage. Getting the balance right is a tricky business. If you are running a business from your phone, modern life dictate that customers want instant responses, and an active presence on social media is essential. And so, I do use my phone quite a lot. But sitting there with your nose stuck in your phone 24/7 is also no good. Firstly, for actually producing your products; and secondly for the rest of life –  family, hobbies, partners, friends etc. They are not going to be impressed if you are constantly on your phone.

Phone-free time

I realised from my four days phone-free that I love my phone and everything it provides me in terms of speed and ease of running my business, as well as camera quality, keeping in touch with people, looking things up on google, tracking my fitness, etc. Conversely though, I did partially enjoy being without it. I had more time for other things and gave me a feeling of freedom. I enjoyed just watching tv and not scrolling through my phone at the same time. However, I just couldn’t quite shake the feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) on orders, conversations, news etc. etc.

Getting it right

So is it really possible to get the balance right? I think that it is. In reality, the length of time it takes to reply isn’t going to make or break a sale, I don’t think. People will wait a few hours for a response. Actually it may also be quicker to do all your emails in one go, rather than constantly checking them throughout the day. The same probably applies to social media too. Less of the mindless scrolling and more intentional interactions.

A few hours a day phone free is definitely recommended anyway and I plan on trying harder to organise my time on my phone better. Less procrastinating, and more productivity. Saying all that, though, it’s so easy to fall back into the same old routine…

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Things are changing

I wanted to let you all know that there are a few changes which may affect how you view this blog and I wanted to make sure you had plenty of time to adjust.

Gem’s Concrete Gems has a brand new name, a new logo and soon, a new website.

I am becoming Concrete Gems, a more succinct name, but retaining the same ring and analogy to my name.

From 20th August, you will no longer be able to access gemsconcretegems.co.uk. Instead I will be at concretegems.co.uk where you will find not only a blog, but also my beautiful new shop. It will be changing as I get to grips with it all, so please bear with me.

To ensure you don’t miss out on anything, please do sign up to my mailing list, where you will be privy to special offers as well as the most up to date news.eepurl.com/dK3ccc

Social media links may also be changing so please keep an eye out for that too.

Apologies for any hassle this may cause, but I hope you’ll agree that this is exciting development for Concrete Gems.

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Just a Review

I started following the “Just a Card” campaign when I saw Gemma mention it. The campaign aims to get people to support small independent business such as Gem’s Concrete Gems, and to realise that every little purchase makes a difference.

The other night we were talking at our crochet group about the various businesses people are involved in. The conversation went like this:

“I saw X, she and her friend went on one of your courses and they loved it.”

“I wish they would write a review.”

Followed by a collective sigh, as everyone knew of people who love their products and services but don’t post positive reviews.

I came home and posted reviews on recent Etsy purchases that I had liked but never got round to writing. I would have posted reviews on NuMonday purchases but they don’t seem to have a review mechanism…

However I have a caveat to my recommendation to post a review. If the service or product you get from a small business is not what you would expect don’t immediately post a negative review, contact the supplier and explain why you are unhappy and maybe suggest how they could improve. I bought something that was a long time coming and what was delivered wasn’t quite what I ordered; when I contacted the supplier it turned out she was a young mum, on jury service for something lengthy, and she had sent my order out in a hurry when distracted. A negative review would do no good in this case, jury service only lasts a short time and hopefully her experience with me was a prompt to be careful in checking orders.

So when you buy something from an independent business take the time to give them a 5 star review. If they are not up to scratch don’t post a negative review unless they are dreadful and you feel strongly that fellow buyers need warning off.

If you have bought from Gem’s Concrete Gems, please consider leaving a review on Etsy or Facebook.