Wild & Fine’s Round Robin Christmas Letter
As 2019 draws to a close, we are keen to look back on our first year in business, not only as a bit of a pat on the back to celebrate what we have achieved, but also as a starting point for plotting what 2020 is going to have in store.
As we sat last night, discussing what we wanted to include in our round up of the last 350 or so days (over a couple of glasses of Prosecco and a cheese board) it became clear that our review of 2019 was going to sound like a UCAS personal statement or a round robin Christmas letter. I still have nightmares about writing my personal statement, so I’m offering this up as festive correspondence to multiple recipients, which will inevitably verge on smug now and again, but comes from a good place and is motivated by the idea that you may be genuinely interested to know what we have been up to (if not, we are sorry - feel free to roll your eyes and mentally consign it the virtual recycling bin).
Dear friend/relative/customer/person we met once on holiday that we are inexplicably keeping in touch with,
Wow! 2019 has been a pretty incredible year for Wild & Fine. We launched the brand right at the beginning of the year, at prestigious trade show, Top Drawer, with our signature range of marine inspired charms and pendants. As a frequent sufferer of impostor syndrome, it felt like we were playing at being a small business worthy of attention from retailers from across the UK and beyond, but we were really pleased with the response we got and the connections we made at the show. We are celebrating a year in business by returning to Top Drawer between 12th and 14th January 2020, so if you are planning to attend, do come and say hello to us (we’re stand CRF4).
Planning for Top Drawer 2019 made Jess realise that, if she was going to have time to spend valuable hours creating in the studio, she was going to need help with marketing Wild & Fine to a wider audience. She started working with childhood friend Hayley, who is a talented photographer and social media guru, to help launch the brand and soon afterwards, started working with me to create a written identity for Wild & Fine.
The three of us spent the spring and early summer planning the rest of the year’s activity and getting valuable brand collateral together. Luckily for Hayley and Jess, the Wild & Fine collection looks really at home on sun-kissed sandy beaches, so this involved a couple of trips to Spain for photo shoots with Javea resident - and W&F model of choice – Jessica. Keen not to ignore the beauty on our own doorstep, we also enjoyed local photo shoots at Cotswold Lavender and Batsford Arboretum too.
From the earliest stages of our planning, we wanted our marketing to no only shout about the beautiful jewellery that Jess creates in the studio, but also to talk about the other artists, craftspeople, entrepreneurs and small business owners we have met along the way. We have been sure to introduce the people on our mailing list to at least one local business we love in the Local Heroes section of our newsletter and we are always keen to collaborate with sympathetic brands for social media competitions and the like. We have met so many passionate, talented and friendly people this year and they have helped us to feel like part of a thriving community of small businesses, dispelling the feeling of isolation that can arise from being part of a remote team, working from home and, for the most part, communicating online.
Despite the occasional pang of loneliness, the Wild & Fine Team is far happier communicating via email and WhatsApp than we are networking in person or standing up in front of an audience to talk about the brand or ourselves. Discovering in April that we had been shortlisted for a Warwickshire Muddy Stilettos Award was perfect for us: take some promotional pics, schedule a series of social media posts and contact everyone we know via instant message to ask for votes, then commiserate in private when we did not win.
However, as part of the bounce back from not winning a Muddy Stiletto Award - and in a moment of unexpected bravery - we entered the Blenheim Palace start ups competition. Finding out we had been shortlisted was incredible but also terrifying, as the next stage involved presenting our business to the senior management at Blenheim Palace. Overcoming the temptation to politely decline the opportunity to get sweaty palms and stutter our way nervously through a 5-minute presentation, we found ourselves writing and re-writing what we had to say and practicing it repeatedly to two very bored whippets and two equally bored border collies in our respective kitchens.
Hearing the very surprising news that we had won the competition was a wonderful compensation for the weeks of panicky preparation that we went through in order to get up and speak for four and a half of the longest minutes of our lives at the final event.
It is safe to say that our win has transformed the second half of 2019 for Wild & Fine. We have had the opportunity to supply the East Courtyard shop at Blenheim Palace and to have stands at both Countryfile Live and the Blenheim Christmas market. We now have the confidence to start 2020 by approaching the buyers at each of the establishments on our aspirational list of retail outlets that we would love to stock Wild & Fine designs. We are also in the process of developing a bespoke range for Blenheim Palace, inspired by its grounds and its rich history.
Next year will also see us launch new collections for our online shop and join forces with more of our friends, so that we can offer our subscribers and social media followers some more fantastic prizes.
We’d like to sign off by saying thank you to everyone who has supported us in 2019, especially those of you who keep in touch after you have purchased one of our designs. Hearing about the adventures that you take your Wild & Fine jewellery on is one of our favourite things. Our charms have travelled to so many places, from Bhutan and Nepal to New Zealand, Kefalonia and Thailand. Their wanderlust inspires our own and we can’t wait to hear what they get up to next!
We wish you all the best for 2020 and hope it brings us all some wonderful adventures.
A FEW OF THE FRIENDS WE MADE IN 2019…
Nadia C – Capturing the spirit and vibrancy of South America in a unique range of Panama hats that are ethically sourced, beautifully made and meticulously hand-painted. We met Nadia at the Shipston Home Nursing summer shopping event and were instantly drawn to the characterful designs and Nadia’s fun-loving personality.
Salted Clothing – Born in South Africa but currently based in Cheltenham, this boutique clothing brand produces a capsule collection of summer women’s wear. The styles are simple and timeless and use natural fabrics that are designed to biodegrade at the end of their long and happy lives. We teamed up with Salted for an Instagram competition in the summer, because we felt that our eco-conscious, summer-centric businesses were a match made in heaven.
Foraging Vintners – We met the duo behind this Isle of Man based winery at Countryfile in August. They had the stand opposite ours and, given the very warm weather and our proximity to the perfectly chilled sparkling wine they were purveying, it was only a matter of time before we went over for a drink and a chat. They were generous to a fault and their sparkling wine was utterly delicious, especially the honey and elderflower infused varieties. We can’t wait to visit the Isle of Man to see them again.
Littlemore Candle Co – We met Molly from Littlemore Candle Co at the Blenheim Christmas market. We were chalet neighbours and, at quiet moments, we would pop down to have a chat and admire the beautiful soy wax candles that Molly hand-pours in her workshop in rural Oxfordshire. Each one has a unique story behind its creation and is decorated with hand-harvested botanicals, a semi-precious stone and a sprinkling of eco-friendly glitter.
Roundabout Childrenswear – Another of our neighbours at the Blenheim Christmas market, company owner, Jo, works with talented UK seamstresses and knitters to create beautiful children’s clothes. My favourite of the items they had brought to Blenheim was a beautiful pair of trousers, which are fully reversible from baby corduroy to tractor print (and which now belong to my nephew).
Sapling Spirits – An inspirational British company that distils vodka and pledges to plant a tree for every bottle it produces. Given that the average bottle of vodka generates 2.8kg of carbon from production to consumer and the average tree absorbs 1.5 tonnes of carbon it its life time, Sapling are pioneering a carbon positive business model.
Wild Thyme Spirits – Appealing to the wildness at the heart of our brand, we loved the Wild Thyme story of escaping the rat race and establishing a distillery on a remote Hebridean island, assisted in their task by Celtic spirits. We also very much enjoyed the taste of Wild Thyme’s signature Colonsay Gin. Served with a good tonic and garnished with fresh chilli, this craft gin from the Hebrides tastes like fresh sea air on a wild island beach.
Lou Lou Creates – We met Lisa from Lou Lou Creates at the Blenheim start up competition in the summer. She started out engraving innovative British-made wooden canapé boards (which were shaped like a puzzle pieces, so that the person holding them could carry canapés on the board and balance a champagne glass in the indented end, whilst still having a hand free). Her business has since developed to include a range of other bespoke items. Our favourite is the jewellery box inscribed with a love letter in the writer’s own handwriting. Is there anything more romantic than this?