Free Ticket Giveaway!

We’re going to be busy again this November. Making hay whilst the sun shines and all that.

Although, thinking about it, it’s going to be November so the sun aint gonna be shining.  So maybe a better saying would be: “let’s spend a load of money and book up those Christmas show stands because everyone’s looking for Christmas gifts and we sell excellent Christmas gifts so we need to put our gifts in front of those people so that they spend their hard earned money on the fruits of our hard earned year round labours.”

But that isn’t quite as snappy.  So we’ve booked up our November to ‘make hay whilst the sun shines’ and hopefully make enough money to keep producing the gifts that we’re proud to create.

It really is that simple.

Now, because we spend so much money on these stands, the organisers give us some complimentary tickets and we would like to offer them to you!  We’re not going to run a competition because we find that it ends up on some ‘money saving’ site that has a url to directly click through and even an answer that you may need; and then we have 1000s of requests from professional competition enterers. (One time, a bright spark had put the wrong answer up so we had to discount around 90% of the entrants).  It’s not that we’re judging competition enterers (see what I did there).  I can remember buying “Take a Break” in the late 1980’s and armed with just a few postcards and a book of stamps, I would very happily use my free stuff – particular favourites included the sun-cream and the bright blue mesh shower pouf to exfoliate my legs in the shower (do you remember those? awful things).  It’s just that we’re not Ambre Solaire and we don’t need tens of thousands of email addresses for people who simply aren’t going to see us on a supermarket shelf.

So, please only respond to us if you genuinely want a pair of tickets to one of the shows.  You are under no obligation to buy anything, to visit our stand or even to like us or follow us on our feeds (although that would be very nice).  We would just like to know that we’ll be sending out codes to claim tickets to people who will make use of them.

So, if you’d like the chance to win a set of 2 tickets to either the Spirit of Christmas at Olympia or to Country Living Christmas in Islington, then please EMAIL ME and tell me which show you would like to attend.  That’s it.  I won’t save your email address or bother you or do anything.

I’ll simply pick 15 people at random on September 30, which should give you lots of time to plan your trip.

We also have ONE precious set of tickets to the Wealden Midwinter Fair to give away so if you’d prefer to not come into London, do put Wealden as your preferred choice.

That’s all.

Further show information can be found by clicking on the images below:

MW17 email signature.jpg

1 Set of 2 Tickets up for Grabs!

SOC2017_REDBLUE_CMYK_Dates Venue_2017dates (2) copy

10 Sets of 2 Tickets up for Grabs!

 

London MPU

5 Sets of 2 Tickets up for Grabs (Saturday not included)

 

SaveSave

Advertisements

To CheesePlant or not to CheesePlant

I have been in turmoil people.  Absolute turmoil for the past 3 months or so and I have thrown tantrums and stormed from the office to the high street to eat biscuits and drink hot chocolate in a coffee shop on more than one occasion and yes, I inhaled those biscuits and yes, I felt guilty afterwards.  But there’s nothing quite like frustrated indecision to get you onto the biscuits I’d say.

Now you wouldn’t think that something as innocuous as a cheese plant could do that to a grown woman would you?  But boy, have they plagued me.  Sometimes, most days.  Some days all day. The relationship that is Sarah and cheese plants is starting to wear thin.

I liked cheese plants.  We had one in our first flat and we kept it alive for a number of years (which I think goes to show how resilient and therefore how lovable cheese plants can be).  But once we’d managed to kill our beloved cheese plant off, circa 1994, I don’t think I gave the genus another thought.

1aRoll on to summer 2015 and I had a very rare girlcrush on an item of clothing.  It was a Vivienne Westwood dress and, you’ve guessed it, the pattern was cheese plant leaves.  I liked the greens and I liked the cut and I managed to snaffle one at a rockbottom price and realised I couldn’t really walk in it… but still…. I stroke it and look at it in my wardrobe now and again and just, well, love it.

(and that’s fine because if you were to line up photos of me at trade shows over the last 7 years, you’d find that I really do get the most out of every item of clothing I buy – so having one in my wardrobe just for strokes isn’t that profligate).

 

Moving on….

So let’s get to 2016 when I take an idle wander around the floors of a well known department store to see what’s ahappenin’ and I notice that, yes, owls have, indeed, had their day.  The pale pink and grey ‘Pantone colours of the year!’ are moving on and we’re still trending through flamingos, pineapples and Rio stylee stuff.  (please see “Mid Week Rant” for the other trend that prevails).

and there I am, surrounded by flamingos and pineapples

…. and I think to myself.

“It’ll be cheese plants next”

And so, as I liked cheese plants more than I like owls, pineapples, flamingos, toucans and, indeed, unicorns (they’ll be everywhere soon….) I thought…

“I should design some products with cheese plant patterns”

Turmoil.  Because I’ve been drawing spider plants, ferns and cheese plant leaves for months now; moving them around the screen, playing with colours, tweaking, changing layer layouts, taking out elements, putting them back in, putting new ones in, isolating, combining.  And then I’ve looked at the cost pricing of having product printed and worked out the cost-trade-retail ratios and yes, may just make some money here and then I wonder if the artwork is good enough and whether we’ll get a garden centre or two interested and then I start to see cheese plant leaves popping up in a few places.

… and suddenly, I’ve found myself feeling sick in a coffee shop with crumbs down my front thinking “I can’t compete with them.

Last week was particularly bad. I was beginning to question it all, and I mean everything.  The very existence of cheese plant leaf artwork on my desktop felt like a virus in the files.  And it’s taken a lot of soul searching to conclude that I’m going to pop all of those artwork files into a folder and chuck them into the virtual abyss that I have named “Artwork in Progress” and here’s why I’ll probably never do anything with those files:

  • I’m not talented enough to compete with the true artists out there.  If I were, I would spend my life being an artist and making money from my art would make me happy.
  • I don’t want to lose sight of what 2littleboys.co.uk is all about.  We make cool shit to keep kids happy, beautiful stuff to keep memories and the odd funny thing for older people.
  • We don’t make patterns
  • We’ve never followed trends or even capitalised on trends we’ve foreseen before. Why start now?
  • We’re not big enough (or talented enough) to compete with the companies who create beautiful product with patterns and who can create a ‘story’ with their ranges.
  • I kinda like unicorns, pineapples and toucans, but not enough to create a range of stationery around them.  What if the trend after cheese plants was something I really didn’t like?

But most of all, and this is key.  

I don’t want to.

And that’s the joy of being the boss.

But it won’t stop me cringing every time I see a cheese plant leaf on a product. I’ll get over it, because FINALLY, I am exhaling and the turmoil of indecision is over.

And now I’m off to buy some soil, fertiliser, a nice big terracotta pot and a plant to grow in my living room.  I’ve moved on from cheese plants. I’m thinking a ficus.

1b-01

If there’s any company out there who likes some of these designs – don’t copy them, license them…. We’re fabulous licensors and our rates are very reasonable ;).

Please feel free to share or to follow us by pressing any one of these tab things:

2littleboyscom on Twitter 2littleboyscom on Instagram Facebook 2littleboys on Pinterest Wordpress blog Google Plus 2littleboys

and here are links to our 2 websites.  Memory Books for our award winning Yearbooks and 2littleboys for our award winning everything else 🙂

Web   Web

 

 

 

The Stationery Show and the C Word

I was reminded over the last couple of days that at least one person had read the blog I had written about embarrassing things I had done at the Stationery Show TWO years ago. (Thanks Simon).

I thought I’d follow up this year with another round up as I’d like to think two days at a stand in Islington is an excellent barometer of where the industry/world is right now.  In reality, I accept that it is actually a mediocre barometer of my mental state.  You tell me.

Firstly, I should like to address the C word head on.  It is a word that I have been known to judiciously use, sometimes converting it to an adverb (i.e. this is so C…… ingly shit).  Yes, I do think it works.  So it was, during conversations with various visitors over the two days, the C word and its veracity and position within our collective lexicons was discussed.  It seems that there is a seismic shift in opinion.  Not one person actually said the word, but most agreed that it does, indeed, play an important role in expressing extreme views/emotions/general feelings toward certain people in our lives/friends’ lives and life in general.  One of my particularly clever customers gave me his view on the entire issue which went something like this:

The C Word is to the F word what the F word was to the word Bloody a couple of decades ago.  Read it again, I think it makes sense.

I don’t think I’ll be putting the C word on any products in the coming decade or so, but never say never.  And I think the shift in the general feeling toward the four letters in a very particular order is interesting.

So what else happened at the Stationery Show this year?  It was busy.  The same people who always walk on by our stand did exactly just that.  I was rude to approximately the same percentage of potential customers as I usually am.  There were, this year, however,  a disproportionate number of people taking photographs without asking, some in such an obvious clandestine manner that I’m relieved that they spend their time taking undercover photos of notebooks as opposed to actually having to take actual clandestine photos. Please just ask to take a photo – I accept times are changing and the ‘no photography’ rules are a thing of the past.

There were some lovely bloggers.  In particular, three woman who were very complimentary and made me glow with pride and then they confused me with acronyms   of social media stuff.  I await enlightenment; a lightbulb moment of clarity that I’m hoping will make it all seem worthwhile.

Two very young ladies popped by and spent ages going through everything and taking photographs (without asking), loudly proclaiming their opinions on each title to each other (and although most of their views were favourable, they did offer up their considered and experienced opinions that some were simply shite).  So, having already ascertained that I must be deaf, being only a metre away, they scowled at me as I took a single step toward them, rictus smile on my face.  “What is it you do?” I ask and they tell me the name of the retail chain in which they work, or maybe their mums worked there, I don’t know.  I had obviously heard of the chain, but I genuinely didn’t know what they did.  So I asked and I can’t tell you what they said, because they looked down and mumbled.  Sam told me once they were out of earshot (you know, more than a metre away).  They weren’t the power tool manufacturers that I had always assumed, but they were just as unlikely to buy my stuff as a power tool manufacturer and I’m not entirely sure what they were doing at the STATIONERY show.  Still, they were good for a bit of righteous indignation.

Ummm, what else; one of my lovely customers brought me cake on my birthday and a thing of beauty that slice of strawberry sponge it was. I offered some up to my next door neighbour.  She promptly declined and then proceeded to extol the virtues of its aesthetics, taking photographs whilst breathing rapturous promises to herself to paint its delicately coloured layers.  All of which, and I’m only guessing here, is what makes her a great artist who deserved the TWO awards she had received the night before.

I, as someone who is currently overweight bemoaned the cake’s calorific content, saw no future potential for the beauty of said cake slice and ate it.  Which probably goes a little way to explaining why I didn’t win an award the night before.

I had a few wobbly moments when I hated everyone (is it just me? Please tell me it isn’t just me).  So a few extended breaks were taken.  I outraged Sam by taking my M&S salads upstairs, borrowing a plate, knife and fork from the cafe, decanted and ate like a civilised human being.  It was brazen and I don’t know their rules, but I revel in that whole middle-aged ‘what are they actually going to do about it’ state of mind.  I even sent Sam proof just to get that whole ‘I can’t believe you did that’ response from him – you know, from the man who’s survived proper muggings without a whiff of PTSD.

food

I had a lovely time talking to fellow exhibitors, some extremely experienced, others not so much, but all of us aware of the rule of mid-sentence stop and slight nod of head to denote potential new customer crossing the invisible line onto the stand.  I laughed a lot during catch-up-on-life sessions with old friends and I didn’t cry.  Not once.

So all in all, I’d say it was a successful and exhausting two days. Will I return next year?  You’re C….tingly right I will.

 

 

Do share away or pop over to our social feeds:

2littleboyscom on Twitter 2littleboyscom on Instagram Facebook 2littleboys on Pinterest Wordpress blog Google Plus 2littleboys

 

And if you’d like to buy some of our stuff – click on one of our site logos.

Web  Web

IMG_1609

 

 

 

 

Being Ahead of our Time!

I’m just going through some of our product images and found this one – I wrote the copy, the lovely Lenalisa designed it and it was published in 2006.  2006! 

For those who would like a gorgeous notebook/sketchbook to capture their moments, just click on the image to be taken to the MotherShip site.  I still use mine and I do love looking back.  Here’s what it says on the back of the book:

“Moments, we all have them.  The first time you hear “I love you”, your baby’s first steps, an amazing gig, a profound comment, a silly joke that made your stomach hurt, a truly awesome view.

Write them here, keep them for inspiration, for fun, for life.”

Actually, I think that’s rather nice.  #keepingmemories

moments-01

Embarrassing things I did at The Stationery Show

IMG_0054If you follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook or suffered through my various blog posts (well done and thank you!) you’ll probably have already gathered that we returned, after a five year absence, to the National Stationery Show in Islington this week.

I have waxed lyrical about my thoughts on trade shows before, so, just to sum up the general gist of my feelings for these events, it was with enormous trepidation that we set up our little stand on Monday afternoon.  The costs, the energy, the emotional investment and the general rolling of the die in the gamble of ‘do I put myself through that again or not?’ have all been spoken of before.

I should also mention that there was an added cost/benefit aspect to the decision to return to the Stationery Show this year. It’s a very expensive business having to taxi from West to North London every day! No prima donna me, just a messed up panic attack sufferer – and trust me, I still had to take pills for the cab rides as I’m phobic of traffic jams (I know, a Londoner phobic of traffic jams!! Go figure!)).

I digress…

I woke up on Tuesday morning to make my first coffee of the day and found our beautiful 2 year old cat dead on the kitchen floor. She was a rescue cat who, in the short 5 months of her occupying our home had wormed her way into our hearts and it was horrifying to see her just lying there dead. Vet can only surmise a congenital heart disorder and family of five were left in shock and rightfully really upset. Not the most auspicious of starts to the first day. I was quite relieved to leave the home/office that morning as I’m sure that I would have moped all day waiting to hear for the cat flap clicks.

So, we were at the stand by 9 for a 9.30 opening. The doom set in at about 10am (possibly the wearing off of pre-taxi ride pill, who knows) but our stand was empty and the usual doubts whirled around my head like chattering dementors (bad enough when they don’t speak, but these ones are really verbal with the usual insults of doubts). And yet, at 11am, all heaven broke loose, PEOPLE! Not just people, stationery people. Stationery people who actually buy stationery for their stationery shops to sell to other stationery people. Yes, I know, the clue was in the title of the show, but I’m not so used to the joy of the ‘build it and they will come’ concept. Come, they did and we were busy on both days, taking a few orders, but more importantly, having the right buyers take the time to look through our products and to talk to us.

Time folded to speed the days and the monumental traffic jams on the way home were a good opportunity to catch up on emails and orders that had came in.

So, here’s to the embarrassing stuff:

  • Like an idiot, I noticed a name badge bearing the hallowed company name ‘Scribbler’ and literally just shouted “Scribbler” at the top of my voice (I wasn’t known as ‘foghorn’ for nothing at school). He duly turned around and I tried to style out my shock at my outburst as best I could; mumbling my way through the ranges and hoping that my initial impression of being an utter loon didn’t stick.
  • I told a very important potential client after she took a photograph of one of our notebooks, that should her company copy me, I would personally track her down and kill her. She then went on to tell me that she had run out of business cards but would write her contact details down. I duly pointed out that I now had a way to find her, hunt her down and kill her should her company copy us. She pointed out that, perhaps, if I thought rationally, should she be devious enough to copy our designs, she would probably have the guile to write an entirely fictitious email address in our pad. I couldn’t disagree with her logic. I liked her. I really hope they don’t copy our designs.
  • A really lovely lady from a multiple retailer that we would dearly love to stock actually turned up on our stand, declared herself and made all of the right noises about stocking us later in the year. I grabbed her, with no warning, and hugged her. I suspect she will be reporting to her boss as I type, that the woman at Two Little Boys is possibly a little too weird to deal with. I genuinely hope that she felt the love, but understand I may have overstepped the customary business parameters.
  • A wolf pack of ladies turned up from another multiple retailer, splitting up and checking out the stands. The tension amongst the exhibitors around us was palpable. Even though these ladies had partially hidden their name badges, we all knew. Two stopped at our stand and, as usual, produced no business cards when requested and left with a catalogue and impervious expressions on their faces. I then promptly followed them to see if I could get a glimpse of their names, but forgot to take my glasses with me and now apologise for what must have looked like a middle aged female stalker staring at boobs.
  • My body failed me and my immune disorder that is normally kept under control with drugs spiked through a little, so my chin and bottom lip swelled up – which meant that I left the after show awards ceremony way too early and, if anyone had noticed, would have assumed I was a sore loser.
  • Two young ladies wordlessly approached the stand, took a photograph of a few products and left without a single acknowledgment. I said ‘how rude’ quite loudly (and I still hope they heard). A further lady came to the stand, had the foresight to smile and then she took a photograph. Like a caged lion, I pounced, demanding to know what she was doing, to which she flashed her badge and meekly responded that she was ‘press’. I looked at her badge and apologised profusely.

Other than periodically making a fool of myself, I had a great time! The lovely couple on the stand next to ours had travelled all the way from the US to sell their leather pen holders and on the rare occasions that we had time to chat, we put the world to rights. I should also mention that knowing the guys who had put the entire show together and being able to thank them personally and acknowledge their hard work and success was an added bonus.

I loved catching up with old neighbours from years gone by, seeing delightful existing customers and hugging a lot of people that I was genuinely really happy to see again and I also met a silly number of new people.

And yes, only 2 of the 10 buyers who we had specifically asked, nay, begged to ‘pop by’ on their rounds did, in fact, pop by.

But right now I’m so buoyed by the response from everyone else, I actually spent a couple of minutes this morning thinking – “Their loss.”

Have to stop now – I have got a lot of emails to write starting with the words:

“Sorry we missed you at the show….”

And then I’ll have another cup of coffee and fill in the contract for next year.

IMG_0056

An early lesson in Entrepreneurship

Of course I kept everything from my first plane journey to Spain. I paid for half of that ticket!

Of course I kept everything from my first plane journey to Spain. I paid for half of that ticket!

I’ll never forget running to my parents, aged eleven shouting with joyful excitement.

“I’m going to Spain this summer! Lisa’s grandparents said I can go with her and stay with them!”

My parents looked at me and said

“No”.

I can clearly remember that typical child-like sensation of feeling entirely impotent, devastated and confused, which in hindsight, I am sure manifested itself as an out and out paddy/tantrum with tears. But that, it seemed, was that.

For about half an hour.

The Conversation

“How did you think you were going to get there?”

“By plane” (duh).

“And who do you think was going to pay for it?”

“You” (and again,duh).

“So you expect us to pay for your plane ticket, just like that?”

“Ummm” (yes! Obviously. My weekly £1.75 pocket money isn’t going to help with this.)

And so the conversation continued and as I felt my parents move toward some compromise, all I could think was “oh my God! I’m going to go on a plane, I’m going to Spain, I’m going to be away for three whole weeks. In Spain! With Lisa! On a plane”.

So I agreed to the compromise with alacrity and very little thought.

The Compromise

I pay for half my air fare, I go.

Laker airlines: £110 return, 8 weeks until take off. 2 weeks pocket money already saved (£3.50). Oh yeah baby, I can DO this!

The Plan

Now, if any of you know me, or have read previous blogs, I am nothing if not organised. That OCD need for order was not learned, it was innate, and already evident in an 11 year old me. My parents wrote lists of jobs that needed doing with prices next to each task and I picked and chose in the following weeks, working out which were most time/price effective. My father’s tasks paid far more – arranging his receipts for VAT returns into date order being just one that paid £3. My mother’s highest paying task was the painful weekly house ironing, which I undertook for £2 every Saturday –  my father’s arm was the entire length of the ironing board and he only wore cotton shirts. And yes, there were 5 to do a week plus the rest of the basket.  More often, I would take the smaller jobs: Put the cookery book shelf in size order (20p); sort through the baking ingredients and spices cupboard (20p); the cupboard under the sink (20p), the cupboard under the stairs (50p). You get the picture. I admire my mother’s ability to search for more and more tasks to complete as my energy and appetite for them seemed boundless.

By the end of the first week, I had about £6 and 7 weeks to go.  The cupboards in the house were spotless, the ironing only a weekly task and I was too young to take on a paper round (started that at aged 13). And so I learned my first real life lesson.

The Solution

I spent that hard earned money. I spent it all.

Not only was I organised, I could make a mean cupcake. I knew that the girls at my school had disposable income – their parents gave them, on average, 50p more than their lunch money every day, and I also knew that our school didn’t have a tuck shop.

So I went to the supermarket and I bought ingredients and I borrowed old ice-cream cartons from my mother and I made cupcakes and chocolate crispie cakes and packed them in the cartons daily and I travelled 30 minutes on the tube every morning into school to sell them. 6p a cupcake, 4p a chocolate crispie. And I never ate one myself (no biting into profit margin) and I never returned home with one unsold, even when doubling the quantities and finding travelling with them almost too awkward for comfort. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I had to make more and more each night to keep up with demand and to cater for the home market. My brothers and parents would buy a few each every night and whilst I was grateful that I wouldn’t have to carry those to school the next day, I also hated a furtive 11.30am request from a Year 7 girl asking for more and being unable to supply. A potential 6p being snatched away from my grasp. I also think that after 3 weeks, I increased my chocolate crispie price by a penny, another lesson learned because no-one batted an eyelid.

My corner of the playground became a sugar rush filled speakeasy and my ‘allotted’ shelf at home filled with ingredients was ordered and always replenished with my earnings.

The Result

Did I make enough money?

£68 in 8 weeks. It’s one of the only numbers that I can actually remember. I had £68. I wrote out a receipt in my best handwriting declaring that I had given the princely sum of £55 to my father for the express purpose of purchasing a Laker Airways return ticket to Malaga.  This receipt was presented along with the money in the presence of my brother and all had to sign with the greatest solemnity. I proudly stated that I had £13 spending money. My father generously doubled this for ice-cream money in the gloriously hot sunshine of the Costa del Sol. And my mother probably spent a similar amount in sun cream and sunhats.

My God! Did I enjoy those three weeks. Eating pomegranates straight from the tree; day after day of mucking around in the pool; bus trips up mountain roads with tyre tracks going over the edges; remembering to wear flip flops on sun baked sand; ice creams twice daily; learning to play Mahjong in the lazy warm evenings with my best mate’s grandparents. It was brilliant. Made more so by the knowledge that my hard work had paid off and that, even at 11, I could make money.

I’ve worked ever since.

So starting Two Little Boys Ltd in 2002 was not such an enormous leap of faith for someone who started in speculating to accumulate at the age of 11. It’s hard work, it’s frustrating and it’s rewarding, it’s exciting and it’s dull; but it’s working. Although, I should mention that I have just opened my warehouse invoice and I can’t help but think: Why didn’t I stick to chocolate crispies?