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GA’s Inspirational Women In Gifts Event

The first Women In Gifts conference, organised by The Giftware Association, was held at The Giftware Association’s HQ in Birmingham last week (6 December), featuring five panellists, four inspirational speakers, some 40 amazing women who work in the gift industry, a message from ‘Dragon’ Sara Davies MBE, and a visit by Father Christmas!  

The lively, informative event was brimming with positive energy featuring a jam-packed agenda, combined with plenty of fun. From inspirational women in gifts, alongside inspirational speakers who generously shared their knowledge and expertise, the inaugural Women In Gifts day was a fascinating, informative, thought-provoking networking event that ticked all the boxes.

2-NETWORKING
Above: Networking was the order of the day.

The event opened with an upbeat welcome speech by The Giftware Association’s ceo Sarah Ward, who advised delegates, “take a look round the room at the women you don’t know and now have the opportunity to meet.”

A lively panel discussion followed, chaired by Clare Harris, founder of Talking Tables, where thought provoking questions included what can women as individuals within the gift industry do to raise their profile; what are the characteristics, we all need to be the next Emma Bridgewater, Cath Kidston or Jo Malone; and what can we do together to raise the profile of the gift industry, to include the hugely important role women play?

On the panel (in alphabetical order) were: Sara Allbright, director, Retail 100 Consulting; Sue Marks, editor of Progressive Gifts & Home; Ami Rabheru, founder of Retail Huddle and Sarah Ward, ceo of The Giftware Association.

Above: The Women In Gifts panellists, from left to right: Clare Harris; Ami Rabheru; Sue Marks; Sara Allbright and Sara Ward.
Above: The Women In Gifts panellists, from left to right: Clare Harris; Ami Rabheru; Sue Marks; Sara Allbright and Sara Ward.

Designer Sara Miller, founder of her eponymous company Sara Miller London – winner of numerous industry awards -was the first speaker to take to the stage, sharing how the company she launched in 2016 has gone from strength to strength.

“We now have 19 partners, including Portmeirion and Wax Lyrical, with licensing partnerships for categories across gifts, home fragrance, handbags, bath and body, stationery, tableware, greeting cards, giftwrap, luggage, watches, glassware, bedding, wallpaper and upholstery,” Sara confirmed. “We also do some of our own manufacturing, but licensing has been an amazing business model for me and my brand,” Sara confirmed.

Above: Retail 100’s co-founder Sara Allbright (centre left); Sara Miller London’s founder Sara Miller (centre right).
Above: Retail 100’s co-founder Sara Allbright (centre left); Sara Miller London’s founder Sara Miller (centre right).

Among the day’s surprises was an inspirational message from ‘Dragon’ and founder of Crafter’s Companion Sara Davies MBE. Unable to be there in person, she popped up on screen with some inspiring words for delegates:

“It’s important for all of us to share our experiences about running a businessbecause as much as we do have our successes and wins, which we are more likely to shout about, it’s also really crucial, especially at the moment, for people to talk about challenges and failures, so that we can learn from them and learn from each other. We all want this industry to succeed, so I guarantee that if you ask another business they will be willing to share their experiences as well. Running a business can be hard, so take a little bit of time for yourselves because we’re all often our worst critics,” advised Sara,

Ending on a positive note for 2023, she stated: “Keep pushing forward with your brands and your businesses. Remember to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to explore lots of new opportunities.”

 

Kicking off the afternoon session was Hannah Dale, the founder and creative director of multi-award winning Wrendale Designs, which won a Queen’s Award in 2019.  Speaking about the company’s journey from the kitchen table to becoming a multi-award-winning, multi-million £pound business, employing over 70 people, with a turnover of £15m, Hannah highlighted the five key things that she’s learned.

“The first is to define your vision and values,” she stated. “Every decision you make drives a vision. Also, put things down on paper. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.I used to let it get me down, but now I don’t waste my energy worrying about things.It’s also important to know your ‘why’,” she continued, “and my ‘why’ has changed. Today we are more about product than profit, with my husband and I currently involved in turning over our 300 acre farm to rewild. My second ‘why’ is looking after our team. We have introduced a four day working week, flexible working hours and a generous maternity package because everyone we employ is like family to us. Plus, be kind to yourself – looking back to the beginning, I would definitely have told myself to go a bit easier – and lastly, enjoy it! Gifting is a wonderful industry to be in. We touch people’s lives at special and important moments and it’s fantastic to do that.”

Above: Wrendale Design’s founder Hannah Dale with the GA’s Sarah Ward.
Above: Wrendale Design’s founder Hannah Dale with the GA’s Sarah Ward.

Meanwhile, for companies still considering how Linked In, Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and AI can help to promote their businesses, social media coach Kat Rose, founder of Sharpfox Social, was on hand to explain how to maximise the potential. “A well-crafted social media strategy is vital to gain exposure,” she emphasised, with Kat sharing her expert knowhow on how to go to the next level.

The event ended on a positive, reflective note, with Heather Agan de Visser, a self leadership and confidence coach, inviting delegates to ‘Make 2024 Your Best Year Yet’ using an inter-active presentation. “It’s time to reconnect and remember who we are, making time to listen to our intuition, our gut,” she advised.

During lunch, a book swap took place, organised by book lover and GA chair Louise Welsby, with everyone asked to bring in a business book that meant something to them. Revealing her own favourite as psychotherapy tome Love’s Executioner, others shared titles that included Good Vibes, Good Life; The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down and Creativity.

Above: Sharing the books that have inspired them were, from left to right: Clarion Retail’s Franky Sequeira; Jinny Kudhail, founder of Decorasian and Bhavna Rishi.
Above: Sharing the books that have inspired them were, from left to right: Clarion Retail’s Franky Sequeira; Jinny Kudhail, founder of Decorasian and Bhavna Rishi.

Building on the success of the first event, there are already plans afoot to hold a second Women In Gifts conference in 2024.

Top: Among the delegates at the first Women In Gifts event, with Father Christmas a surprise visitor.

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