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Archive for November, 2014

Cumbrian businesswoman’s festive gift to South Africa

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Claire Shepherd, a native South African has developed a new business with a festive theme, which was set up earlier this year in Cumbria.  ZuZa Trading imports and sells contemporary Christmas handcrafted home décor and accessories, sourced from crafts people involved in vital income generation projects in South Africa.

Claire moved to Edinburgh in 1999, where she undertook an MBA in International Business studies.  Whilst there, she met her Husband, Stephen and after falling in love with the Lake District moved here in 2010 to run a guesthouse near Bassenthwaite.  Traditionally the tourist season dips over the winter months, therefore Claire was looking for something to earn extra income whilst the guesthouse was quiet during this time.

Claire often returns to South Africa to visit family and whilst there last year was inspired by some of the projects taking place in her old neighbourhood of the KwaZuluNatal region, also known as ‘the garden province’.  One of the most prevalent problems of this area is the high numbers of people with HIV or Aids.  South Africa as a whole has more HIV-positive citizens than any other nation (6.1million people), but according to figures from UNAIDS, KwaZuluNatal is one of the most affected regions – with about a third of the people living with HIV in South Africa, living in the province.*

Without the proper nutrition, health care and medicine that is available in developed countries, large numbers of people suffer and die from AIDS-related complications. However, income generation projects set up in the area are helping individuals and families earn money and build their lives again rather than relying on charity handouts.

Claire was inspired by some of the stories from the region and wanted to be involved in one of the income generation projects.  As a result ZuZa Trading was born.  She now works with a small charity in South Africa called Woza Moya. This charity has various different programmes supporting families and the communities in KwazuluNatal who have been affected by HIV/Aids.[]

Claire comments,

“I had been looking for something to keep myself occupied for a while when business was quiet at the guesthouse and after seeing the income generation projects in the KwaZuluNatal I knew I had to get involved.”

Many of the products in the ZuZa Trading range are part of the income generation project which provides crafts people with a regular income for the unique crafts that they produce.  The Christmas range includes contemporary decorations from baubles to tea light holders and centrepieces which are sold at craft fairs and events across the UK. The decorations are mostly crafted with traditional products such as Zulubeadwork and Zulu Pearls all using traditional techniques handed down from generation to generation.

Although in the early stages of the business, Claire has been able to send vital funds back to South Africa from the money she has raised through selling the products.  After attending one Christmas market she raised enough money to send two children to school for a year.

“Not only does the new business help generate extra income for myself, but also supports many craftspeople in my native South Africa and helps them make a living, giving them a good quality of life.  To say that selling one of the beaded Christmas trees could provide a family of four with their Christmas dinner or send a child to school makes it a very rewarding business to be involved in.”

Wedding Fun – the joys of event planning

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

I am writing this blog post as I am on serious ‘comedown’ from planning my wedding and returning from my honeymoon.

Weddings are typically stressful for many people concerned – not only the bride, but mother of the bride, in-laws, bridesmaids…sometimes the groom?! However, working in marketing and events I have to say I loved every minute of organising my wedding. I planned the wedding from start to finish in nine months and I have to say I did myself proud and what a ‘shindig’ it was!

For me, I tackled it like I was planning a work event, but I can see how it would be really daunting for someone who doesn’t plan events. Where do you start, where do you get ideas, how do you make it original, how do you plan it on a budget? There are so many things to think about not only the big things like venue and dress, but the little things, like when do you send out invitations, to who sits next to who, or how many drinks to have at the reception and what time you do your first dance.

If you’ve not organised events before it can be a good idea to ask someone to help you such as a wedding planner (like WeddingsbyAnnabel) or a friend who organises events (moi). Get an idea of budget and leave plenty of contingency as you probably will need it! Once of the best pieces of wedding advice I got (post wedding) which is a real gem is to choose people who can help you with various parts of your wedding and think of them as your wedding team. I am lucky that I didn’t need much help, but think about how parents, the groom, bridesmaids and in-laws can help you pull things together and make your job easier, do they have great organisational or craft skills you can utilise.

In my great planning journey I started by using Pinterest and built up some (secret) boards for inspiration. I got loads of fabulous ideas and got a really clear idea of what I wanted. Share them with friends and show them exactly what you want. If you keep your ideas together and themes in one place it can help you really focus and know what you want. I wanted me wedding to be different from anyone else’s and to make it really memorable. A few things I did included: I decorated 150 glitter jars with candles that filled the venue, had emergency provisions in the bathrooms, heart garlands hanging from the ceiling, fairy lights, a gold glitter cake, love quote wine glass charms for the ladies, glitter hearts on the pews and pack of the chairs, posters in the toilets, video diaries, made a music video with my husband’s little girl as a surprise…and the pièce de résistance was a silent disco!

Set a budget, but be realistic. Weddings are so expensive. I don’t believe in spending loads on weddings as I have other things to spend money on such as my home and family, but you will need to have an idea of what you want to spend in mind and stick to it (biggest tip…contingency as you will not stick to what you budget!). If family can help you out fabulous, but you may need to be really resourceful to keep costs down. Luckily I have lots of local contacts who were able to help out…think about whom you can ask and if you have any skills that you can return in favour to them as well.

Plan your time – think backwards about what you need to do and when. This is how I plan events….work backwards from the date you have in mind and think about what you need to do and when. Create a week by week spreadsheet and tick off jobs when you have done them. It may seem a bit weird treating it as an event, but it really does work!

Finally when it comes to it, relax and enjoy it. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to switch off from event planner mode, but picking an amazing venue with great staff really helped me and they looked after everything, so I didn’t have to worry about a thing.

I put all my effort into my wedding and didn’t get stressed about it at all (apart from the day before when I had a technical nightmare with a projector). The day was amazing and perfect in every way and I wouldn’t have changed anything about it! When people come to you after the day and say it is the best wedding they have been too I feel it is testament to how much I enjoyed doing it, but also to my business and made it all worthwhile…I want to do it all again!




Holidays are coming, Holidays are coming…

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

From 29th November to 24th December Penrith will be hosting the third Winter Festival, sponsored by Cumbrian Homes and Discover Penrith.  This year sees even more activities and events taking place in the town centre, as well as the famous Coca Cola Truck, which will make its only stop in Cumbria in the town on the 3rd December as part of the celebrations.

The iconic Truck sets off on its UK tour on the 28th November, visiting Penrith on the 3rd December from 12pm to 8pm in Devonshire Street.  Stopping at 45 locations up and down the country, the Coca-Cola truck will give fans the opportunity to take part in a unique experience by getting up close and personal to the famous vehicle. On each stop, people have the chance to take pictures with the truck as it lights up (just like the advert), whilst enjoying a winter wonderland setting and a refreshing Coca-Cola or Diet Coke as a choir sings Christmas hits.

The aim of the Penrith Winter Festival is to showcase the town and promote all the fantastic businesses and independent shops there are in the town;

Richard Utting, President of the Chamber of Trade comments,

‘’We would like to think that people would do most of their Christmas shopping in the town but appreciate that the draw of the larger towns and cities and the internet is undeniable. However would like to encourage people to spend some of their hard earned money in the town, supporting, in particular, are small independent businesses and in turn helping our town to thrive.’’

What’s on offer?

There is activity planned for each weekend of the Festival.

  • Saturday 29th November – Elfin’ about in Penrith

The first weekend of the Penrith Winter Festival will be truly festive as the town comes alive with a plethora of Santa’s Helpers taking to the streets.  There will be programmed activity throughout the day including Razzamatazz Theatre School Penrith, Beaconside Primary School, Lloyd Mini Carlisle, Mary the Faerie, Lake District Paddle Boarding, Bread and Butter Theatre, the Creation Station and the town’s lights switched on.

Santa’s Post Box will also be open in Penrith Train Station courtesy of Virgin.  Santa himself will be collecting his letters on Saturday 20th December and catching the 13.03 train back to the North Pole.

  • Saturday 6th December – Totally Locally Fiver Fest & Small Business Saturday

Lots of independent shops and your favourite ‘hidden gems’ are coming together to celebrate Christmas with a unique Fiver Fest, which will run from 15th November and end on Small Business Saturday 6th December.  People are encouraged to support as many small businesses as they can on Small Business Saturday whilst visiting the town for lots of special offers in the run up to Christmas, with the town band playing festive tunes throughout the day.

  • Saturday 13th December – Gifted: Arts, Crafts and Gifts Market

Penrith’s festive craft market, GIFTED, makes a welcome return to the town for a second year.  An undercover market, full of artisan arts and crafts created by ‘gifted’ people.  A great opportunity to find unique Christmas treats and precious presents.

  • Saturday 13th & Sunday 14th December – Brunswick Yard Christmas Fayre

The very popular Brunswick Yard Christmas Market promises the last minute Christmas shopper a unique opportunity to purchase locally handcrafted and sourced products, vintage goods & antiques all within a fusion of festive food and entertainment.

  • Saturday 20th December – Churches Together Christmas Nativity trail

Working with Churches Together the final weekend of the Winter Festival will be a fantastic opportunity to really celebrate the meaning of Christmas.  Join the nativity trail around the town and seek out the different characters from the famous story of Christmas.  Penrith will be filled with festive tunes played by the town band and of course the final weekend for Christmas shopping and grabbing a last minute gift in some of the town’s independent shops.

There will also be FREE Parking from 11am on each Saturday of the Festival i.e. 29th November, 6th, 13th and 20th December in all of the Council’s town centre car parks.

The town’s shop windows will be decorated again in the popular window dressing competition, as well as many of the shops opening on Sunday 14th and 21st December for those last minute shoppers.   People are encouraged to follow the Winter Festival online to spot Santa’s little helpers each day of the festival for even more special offers and promotions.  Check out the listings in the Winter Festival programme online or around town for events and activities in many of the town’s shops and businesses throughout the festival.