Start of Something Bigger – Guest blog by @emporiumoundle

We are going to open our own shop. Our own shop, with real shelves and a till and a window looking out to the high street. With little paper bags with our name on and a bell that goes ‘ping’ when someone comes in.

It is, without doubt, the most excitingly-scary thing I have ever done. More scary than walking on glass? Would you like to see me walk on glass –  (Warning: I really am).

A bit about me…

But that’s stepping forward a little. Hello, my name is Rebecca and I am an Illustration and Animation graduate from Coventry University. I graduated in 2010, moved back home and then found that no-one really wanted an illustration graduate with no work experience; but were very, very happy to let me work for them for free in their offices in London or Oslo or the US for free.  With little savings and a big wodge of student debt, moving out to live in London or Oslo and getting paid nothing didn’t seem like a great idea. So I got a job in my local pub (which was lovely, actually) and spent many of my days pulling pints and having a Really Good Think.

My inspiration…

After a while of thinking I realised I love making things and I really, really love getting handmade things as gifts for people. I had heard of Etsy and Folksy, but found the sites tricky to navigate and didn’t like the fact you ordered bits from each seller and they shipped out to you (meaning big shipping prices) and the often really long wait for items (crafters are fab people, but many juggle Real Jobs, so making your item and shipping it fast takes a back seat) often put me off from buying, especially for time sensitive presents like Christmas, Valentines or Birthdays.

Why not make my own shop sourcing the best in crafts made in the UK and locally to me?

I thought, why not make my own shop sourcing the best in crafts made in the UK and locally to me, put them in one place, list them online with lots of lovely photos and ship them out from the one place with firm shipping times, gift wrapping, etc?

handmade gifts

A selection of handmade gift and treats sourced for the website – we have Oakwood Soaperie, Fyne Silver, The Mosaic Garden, Emporium Candles and Birdie and Beau. All handmade in the UK and all very lovely people who were hidden away on Etsy and Folksy, not getting the attention they deserved.

Getting Started – Help from the Princes Trust

I approached the Princes Trust, went on a two-week course on running a business, then was granted a loan to get things moving – but only just enough for an on-line shop, no bank would touch me except to gently and kindly shoo me out of the door.

The Handmade Emporium was born

The Handmade Emporium was born – . Lots of really amazing artisans joined and we have gone from strength to strength getting more and more lovely things, a fab customer base, loads of support on social media and even a plug from a BBC Dragon in July of 2011.

Theo Paphitis “Small Business Sunday” Winner!

sbs winner

My badge from Theo Paphitis, BBC Dragon. Very nice chap.

And now a local shopkeeper in my lovely home town of Oundle is offering me to rent part of her shop, all for me, separated from hers with my own window and doorway.  And we open on the 1st of February. I’ve no idea how this will go – will this be the start of bigger things – a revolution in how we buy things made in the UK? I hope so! But, until then I have a whole lot to do…


About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email
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