Saturday, 21 April 2018

My Favourite Online Brands

There are many independent businesses out there and I am a big believer in supporting small businesses.  There are many quotes that people share about where the money goes, the bottom line is when you support  a small business you are supporting someone’s livelihood, putting food on the table, paying bills, and those ever expensive after school clubs!   In the case of the 5 brands I have featured here you are also supporting their dreams and the future for them and their family. 

These 5 brands are a few of my absolute favourites that I have either bought or tried personally.  I  happily recommend them all, hopefully after reading this you will see why, as well as learning a little about the story behind the businesses.

Jack & Freda

Jack & Freda is an online shop, mainly featuring jewellery Kylie designs and makes herself.  I discovered Jack & Freda through my lovely friend Lou and haven’t looked back.  I buy for myself, gifts for friends and am never disappointed with the service or quality of products.  I have met Kylie and she is lovely just like her products.  Last year it was all about the bead necklaces and this year it’s all about the tassels! Kylie has worked hard to build her brand and has a huge following now, and her jewellery is often featured by many different well know Instagrammers and fashion bloggers.  This week she was featured on the relatively new Selfish Mother Instazine in the 5 things we love section.  Many of you will know how exciting this is!  Read on to find out more.

I started Jack & Freda when I was on maternity leave with my second son. We'd moved to Wokingham, after living in Twickenham for 12 years and I knew I wasn't going to commute back to my old advertising job in Soho. I'm someone who always likes having a project on the go and to be honest, when I couldn't find a shop I liked in Wokingham I decided to set up my own! Jack & Freda (my grandparents names) started as a market stall in Wokingham, although just for 2 weekends (it was December!). I sourced all of my products from individual makers and designers, I knew I didn't want to be a business who bought products from large manufacturers, I wanted there to be a story behind where my products came from. I built my website and orders started coming through, so luckily I didn't need to continue on the market stall in the middle of winter!

About a year ago I started making my own jewellery and it started to sell better than any of my other products. So today Jack & Freda sells mainly my own jewellery, plus some accessories and gifts from independent brands.  My 'workshop' is a little corner of my lounge. I have 2 boys (6yrs and 3yrs) and work around school/preschool hours. I feel incredibly lucky to have built a business that I absolutely love and can fit in around family life.  

It's hard to say where my inspiration comes from - I set out to be Wokingham's version of Oliver Bonas (!), but now my jewellery just comes out of colours and styles I like and it seems to be working (for now!).

Find Jack & Freda here WebsiteInstagram and Facebook

Fred & Noah

I discovered Fred & Noah nearly 2 years ago a now, when my youngest was born.  We now have quite a collection of these fabulous leggings and a couple of jumpers too.  They are made from softest material and always have such great designs.  Natalie designs the leggings herself and regularly introduces new designs.  They are so popular the bigger sizes regularly sell out immediately!  Natalie very kindly took time out from their busy schedule to share the story behind the brand.  They are regularly on social media and their Instagram stories are fab! Also their Instagram is the best place to get the codes and new release dates!

We are Natalie & Daniel Reynolds, husband and wife, mummy and daddy to Freddie (4) and Noah (8).  We are based in Essex and work from home full time. Before our business, I was a fashion lecturer for over 10 years and Dan was a builder.

I started the business towards the end of my maternity leave with Freddie, I missed being creative and also was uninspired by the choice of baby boys clothes in the shops so created my own.  The idea behind our business is that we produce stylish yet comfortable clothing for babies and toddlers. It’s all very well dressing a baby in skinny jeans but is it really comfortable for them, are they able to fully use and move their bodies wearing this type of clothing.  Our baby leggings are made from certified cotton jersey and cut in such a way that allows a baby to move freely with comfort and looking extra cute.  All of our clothing is made here in England. 

There is no big team behind Fred & Noah, it’s us. Often working late into the evening wrapping orders, juggling the kids on school half terms and answering emails on my phone during the kids swimming lessons.  We are a family business at heart, we started this to be able to spend more time with our children and they are the reason we do all of this.  All of our clothing is designed and made here in the UK, and we are proud to support British manufacture.

Find Fred & Noah here WebsiteInstagram and Facebook

Sweet ‘n’ Flour
This amazing cake shop is owned and run by Anna Clinch, in Wokingham.  We met through our lovely mutual friend Emma.  Anna has set her cake business up, like many others from her home, and has worked really hard to make it a success.  The courses and parties she runs are hugely popular.  Read on to find out why.

I am based from my home registered kitchen and also work from Aroma Coffee Shop in Wokingham to run children’s and adults cupcake decorating parties and classes.   Having a business run from my own kitchen is a handful as it is also the family kitchen and I have to feed us a family of five daily. There is generally always something cooking or being made, and is definitely the hub of our home. 

When I was pregnant with my oldest, who is coming up 8, I realised I wanted to be able to bake her birthday cakes. Growing up my mum made mine and my brother’s birthday cakes and it was something that was important for me to achieve. Once I started I realised it was something I enjoyed doing, and then I just wanted to improve, improve and improve. I am completely self taught. The business then was discussed when friends were asking me to make their children’s cakes so Sweet ‘n’ Flour was born. 

hen I started I was concerned about the amount of local competition. However, after a while I realised that no one could replicate me. If you cut into the heart of my business I would ooze out, and no one else can be me. My cakes are filled with my love, hard work, late nights and occasionally my tears! No two are the same, even if they look it. My parties are currently very successful because people are recommending me to their friends. 

We have been lucky enough to taste many of Anna’s cakes and they taste as amazing as they look.

 Find Sweet 'n' Flour here WebsiteInstagram and Facebook

Cotton Twist

Through Jack & Freda I discovered Cotton Twist.  Kylie had stocked a few of their products and I snapped them up and the kids loved them.   I bought the  make your own unicorn bracelet and skeleton keyring. There is a range of great gifts, including the personalised themed gift boxes, make a superhero mask and the personalised keepsake tins.  They also design personalised party invitations.  Your little one can then finish making them before delivering them.

Cotton Twist is owned and run by Anne-Clare Ribbons, her office is based in Acton since Feb 2018.  The inspiration behind it is her love for Scandinavian brands alongside having children. The products are unique and simple.  The idea is sustainable gifting.

The aim of Cotton Twist and what makes them unique is the simplicity of their products and the fact that they aim for sustainable gifting. Alongside this the gifts and party bags look fun and like I want them too.  The party bags can be themed with the  invitations and thank yous.  Our favourite themes are Unicorn and Space.  
Find Cotton Twist here Website and Instagram 

Cotton & Bloom

Cotton & Bloom founded and run by Katherine who lives in Berkshire and has a workshop in Oxfordshire.  Cotton & Bloom creates celebratory tops for kids milestones.  They create a range of birthday tops and have some great slogan ones as well.  There is also a women's section along with much more.  We have ordered a birthday top for our sons second birthday and we are really pleased with it and the excellent customer service.

My name is Katherine, and I am based in my workshop in a small village in Rotherfield Greys. It is on a farm, with lots of other small businesses, and I'm in one of the old calf sheds! (all renovated!!).  The farm is literally round the corner from where my boys are at school and pre-school, so I drop them off in the mornings, then head to the workshop. If I'm on top of orders, then I tend to like to go home and take the dog out, before heading back for the school run!

I've always been into sewing, and actually for my GCSE textiles project I made a baby's snowsuit, complete with a appliqué! When I became a mum, I quit my job, so we went down to 1 salary, which made luxuries like all the lovely kids clothes just weren't affordable. So I started making tops for Xavi, and it just snowballed from there!  

Variety makes my business unique! Something I quickly picked up on is everyone wants something different, whilst pink and gold as always going to be the best sellers, there is always someone who wants orange, or purple! So, by offering made to order, my customers can have just what they want!

Find out more  WebsiteInstagram,  Twitter and Facebook

A huge thank you to all these brands for taking the time to answer my questions and share their stories and pictures with us.  We hope you've enjoyed learning about them as much as we did.

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