Hi, my name is Alison and I own Tiny Land - a small operation with a big heart, making Gluten Free Play Dough, Paint and Vegan Crayons. All food grade and safe for little ones.
When I opened in late August last year, I joined the regional show ‘BABYTODD & BEYOND’ in the hope that it would get my name out there. I met some amazing people who are now friends as well as business contacts (who says you can't mix business with pleasure?!) I have sold at their shops and stalls, received business advice, gained great contacts for design work and much more!
I continue to attend babytodd's monthly networking events which I look forward to very much. I have beneﬁted from the show so much that I have decided to take it to the next level and do a London event. This year I am only doing 2 shows - London Olympia Allergy Show 6th - 8th July, and ‘BABYTODD & BEYOND’ on the 29th September at the South of England Showground, Ardingly.
I am just at the beginning of my journey but here is a fabulous story about another mum who has gained her success from a Regional Show.
A few years back - way before I had children (OMG a lifetime ago!) I was at a show - again at Ardingly Showground - when a stall offering vinaigrettes caught my eye. I had just got into balsamic glaze (if you haven't tried it you need to!) and these dressings were sweet and fruity and perfect for BBQs. Since then I have come across them at my local village deli alongside The Bay Tree pasta and have seen the company grow from a local handmade set up to a national operation.
Being on the start up side myself, I wondered whether this inspiring woman would speak to me and answer some burning business questions I couldn't get google to answer.
I wrote an email to the company - www.suzannesvinegars.co.uk I was surprised to get a reply from Suzanne directly agreeing to not only meet me, but to meet me within my very strict childfree hours.
Here I am waiting for her to arrive!
Well as it turns out, her family is not new to business. Her Great Grandmother actually founded Maynards Wine Gums and her Uncle only founded Kenwoods!! So ﬁrm roots in the food industry! When Suzanne was growing up, her family made vinegars at their Sussex home for the Sunday lunch. They used fruits from the garden such as Elderberry and Raspberry.
As Suzanne grew older and had her own family, she continued this tradition in her home, and when she established a Guest house in Devon, she set up cookery courses for her guests. It always amazes me just how much women seem to be able to achieve; raising a family, running a guest house AND cookery courses "on the side"!
Suzanne moved back to Sussex and continued with her vinegars, but this time evolving her recipe and showcasing them at local fares and shows. It was either herself or a family member that must have sold to me those years ago at Ardingly.
Suzanne remembers working in her kitchen late at night prior to events once the children were asleep. An evening I recognise all too well! She won a Waitrose cooking competition and took her products to bigger shows. It was at the Regional trade show in Exeter that she got her big break. Someone approached her from a company who manufacture on a large scale. They worked together to adjust a recipe for larger scale production.
This is where I am. How do you multiply 'a pinch of salt' by 100 or 1000? When you increase the volume of production, the margin of error can be huge, and it can all go horribly wrong! Recently I have been able to remove an ingredient in my gluten free playdough because I found that 5ml too much of something may not have an effect, but 1 litre of an ingredient in a larger portion may be a completely different story.
Today Suzanne still sells directly - mainly to catering companies, but does not manufacture. The Bay Tree handle all her regular wholesale distributions. Here is Suzanne and I after our little lunch with our products! She was such an inspiration and a very kind person who deserves all her success.
Shows bring a lot to traders - the opportunity to meet and learn from other small businesses doing the same thing. But shows also bring many things to the customer. Smaller companies who have worked day and night to produce something that is close to their heart, and something they are passionate about. That pretty much guarantees quality and good service. The opportunity to find brands who are innovative, passionate and fresh!
‘BABYTODD & BEYOND’ will be showcasing the best local brands for Pregnancy, Birth, Baby and Beyond! 29th September at the South of England Showground, Ardingly. Tiny Land will be sharing their Arts and Play materials at babytodd's craft area at the show, and can be found at www.tiny-land.co.uk