#SBS winner causes sparks

Indie retailer digs deep for extra eco effort and blacks out island school

 

Indie retailer Janet Ross-Jordan went from hero to villain in a matter of days – having dazzled entrepreneur Theo Paphitis with her eco-friendly paper tape she then blacked out the local school by causing a power cut!

Janet, who has run Cards And Gift Wrap from her Isle Of Lewis home for 10 years, met Theo at the annual #SBSwinners event a few days ago after being picked by him for retweeting as one of his six Sunday winners back in June after describing her business to him on the social media platform.

Above: Janet in her official Theo picture and arriving at the Birmingham event
Above: Janet in her official Theo picture and arriving at the Birmingham event

She tweeted a couple of pictures of the bestselling stars paper tape she created when she got fed up with removing sticky plastic-based fastenings from wrapping paper to recycle it – and Janet even handed Ryman stationery chain owner Theo some rolls that she packed in her luggage for the long journey by ferry and train to the Birmingham event: “I told him they were for wrapping his presents for Mrs P!”

But she then came back to earth with a bang on Friday, 3 March, when she had to apologise to all the parents and staff at Sgoil An Rubha, the school next to her house in the village of Bayble, after cutting through the electricity cable so the children had to go home several hours early.

“We didn’t know about the electricity cable lying just under the grass, unmarked and unboxed,” Janet explained. “Luckily it wasn’t someone just digging with a spade that went through it but I’m sorry for the inconvenience that we blew the power and closed the school!”

In keeping with the eco-credentials that run through her business, Janet was having a polycrub installed, a gale-proof version of the polytunnel that’s made from recycled salmon farm pipes, so she can grow her own veg in the wild island environment, and it sits next to the Cards And Giftwrap shoppie, as Janet calls the building she moved the business into after starting it from her bedroom.

Above: The polycrub that caused the power outage is next to Janet’s shoppie
Above: The polycrub that caused the power outage is next to Janet’s shoppie

She told PG Buzz: “When the digger when through the cable it cut the school off too so they all had to go home mid-Friday, a couple of hours earlier than usual. I think the children loved me, parents and teachers not so much.

“Living on an island is great, we have beautiful beaches and wild scenery but we also have wild weather and, other than potatoes, gooseberries and rhubarb, we haven’t been able to grow much. Unfortunately, there was a very shallow unknown electricity cable under the site of the crub – it’s now buried under it.

“If there continues to be a salad shortage I may have donate a few cucumbers to the school canteen as recompense!”

Having started off selling bookmarks, Janet expanded into cards, giftwrap and stationery, and got into paper tape because she found it difficult to source a recyclable version for the brown cardboard boxes used to pack orders for posting.

Above: Theo Paphitis retweeted this post for Cards And Gift Wrap’s #SBS win
Above: Theo Paphitis retweeted this post for Cards And Gift Wrap’s #SBS win

She said: “I wanted it so the tape didn’t have to be ripped off for recycling, and thought others might like to do the same so I designed a Christmas paper packaging tape. But my customers started using it to wrap presents too and I realised there was a need for paper tape to go with recyclable gift wrap.

“You can make presents look awesome with 100% recyclable wrapping – it looks better, saves time, doesn’t cost the earth and helps you have a greener lifestyle. I’m now looking in to designing some wrapping paper to go with the tape.”

Cards And Giftwrap is a mainly online business, stocking publishers including Flamingo Paperie, Citrus Bunn, Cake And Crayons, Wrendale Designs, Roger la Borde, and James Ellis, as well as wrapping paper, fabric wrap, the paper tape and Janet’s own greeting card designs with Gaelic captions.

Above: Janet managed some on-the-spot marketing to Ryman owner Theo
Above: Janet managed some on-the-spot marketing to Ryman owner Theo

“There’s a shortage of those,” Janet said, “and, with it being a main language here in the Outer Hebrides, there is a need. It’s something I’d like to expand, along with the wrapping paper and the few notebooks I’ve designed myself.

“But I probably suffer from imposter syndrome like so many artists and don’t really consider myself an illustrator so I suppose that holds me back a little. Winning the SBS award and attending the event really helped me with that imposter syndrome. I left the event feeling I had every right to be there!

“Meeting Theo was amazing, he was so easy to talk to and he loved the tape. I gave him a few rolls and he said he liked the tape and ‘we’ll talk later’ – I have no idea what means! Should I be expecting a phone call!?

Above: A selection of Janet’s recyclable paper tape designs
Above: A selection of Janet’s recyclable paper tape designs

“I’ll never forget him studying my tape and exclaiming ‘I like that!’ When a successful entrepreneur like Theo says they like something I’ve designed myself it’s a huge confidence boost.”

Selling her tape both wholesale and retail through her website, Janet is keeping wholesale availability restricted to small independent businesses as “you always get something a bit extra when you shop small so I’d like to do my bit to support other small retailers by offering them the chance to stock something you can’t get at the supermarket”.

She also retails via the online platforms Faire and Isle20, which was set up during the pandemic to help people support small island businesses, and she sells to locals through the shoppie in her garden.

Janet added: “Having my shoppie – which I raised money for, converting part of our garage, through a Kickstarter fundraising project – means local customers don’t have to come in to my house and I haven’t got boxes of cards, giftwrap and more under the proverbial bed anymore.

“It’s called a shoppie because it’s small but I also live in hope that shoppie beats the social media algorithms that seem to blacklist any selling terms in social media post wording!”

Above: #SBS winner publisher Nicole Elders was also at the Birmingham event
Above: #SBS winner publisher Nicole Elders was also at the Birmingham event

The latest #SBSEvent marked the 10th gathering since Theo started his Small Business Sunday movement in 2010 and almost 1,000 of the 3,750 businesses now in the network were in attendance – including publisher Nicole Elders who was one of the winners back in May.

Businesses can enter via Twitter, where they should tweet Theo on @theopaphitis between 5-7.30 pm on a Sunday using the hashtag #SBS, then he picks six small businesses a week to retweet to the growing network. On Instagram companies can enter by posting on their feed or commenting under the #SBS open Instagram post, and need to follow and tag @theopaphitis, plus include the hashtag #SBS.

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