Despite being seasonal, there’s still lots to do all year round (Picture: Metro.co.uk)
Imagine running your own festive business, bringing Christmas cheer to the masses.
It sounds joyful, but running a business that’s tailored to one specific event in the year can have its drawbacks.
To find out what it’s really like to have a Christmas business, we spoke to three teams who run their own.
There’s a pair of snowy window designers who create wintry scenes for the likes of Kirstie Allsopp and Jamie Oliver, an inclusive brand that makes decorations of colour, and a artist who makes personalised baubles and ceramics.
They told us about the best bits of running a festive brand, and why it keeps them busy all year long.
‘Our snow windows were a winner’
Tom and his wife Keri paint beautiful snowscapes on shop windows (Picture: Snow Windows)
Last year, they transformed every shop on Hartley Wintney high street in Hampshire. They live in Sandhurst with their 11-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son.
Keri tells us: ‘Neither of us have a background in art. I came from a marketing background and Tom is a musician who has always loved drawing, especially whilst out on the road.
‘One evening I’d gone to bed, leaving Tom with a bottle of beer and a can of fake snow.
‘I came downstairs the next morning to make myself a cup of tea and discovered this beautiful, delicate Christmas cottage, etched out of spray snow on the kitchen window. From there, Tom started painting snow pictures for family and friends and the word spread on social media.
‘We had no idea it would become as popular as it has. I remember Tom coming home from his day job and asking me how my day was. I responded, “Great, The Empire State Building has enquired about getting a Snow Window!”
Food For Friends in Brighton got a snowy makeover (Picture: Snow Windows)
‘In 2016, I entered a competition the Chris Moyles Show was running where Chris and the team would create adverts for businesses if the businesses donated to their chosen charity, Make Some Noise.
‘Snow Windows was selected! This led to Chris asking Tom to come in and spray the studio windows, which he’s done ever since. Shortly afterwards, Jamie Oliver asked us to spray his windows, and it snowballed — no pun intended — from there, with regular clients like Kirstie Allsopp, as well as high-profile and regional businesses booking Tom in for windows.
‘The importance of organisation and perseverance is one of the biggest lessons we’ve learnt along the way.
‘The Christmas rush is absolute mayhem, with early morning starts until late at night. We prepare as much as we can, but every year the interest in our business increases.
‘Last year, we branched out into other seasons, like Halloween, Valentine’s Day, spring and summer. Already we’ve had lots of enquiries about windows and street transformations for the Queen’s Jubilee. We’re extremely busy, but we wouldn’t want it any other way!
‘One of the high points — and there have been many — comes back to a conversation with our daughter Rae when she was seven. She said, “Mum, when I grow up I want to play for Arsenal and be a hairdresser.” I laughed and said, “I’m not sure if that’s going to be possible.” She responded, “Of course it’s possible, Mum. Dad sprays snow on windows for a living; anything is possible if you put your mind to it!” That moment I realised we’d taught our children such an important lesson.’
Tom adds: ‘I’ve always enjoyed Christmas and that surprise for Keri seemed like a fun and festive thing to do. I’m not sure I knew what it was that I was actually trying to do. I just saw a blank canvas. It wasn’t particularly large, so it probably only took me an hour.
Lewis Pharmacy in Ealing was transformed into a wintry village scene (Picture: Snow Windows)
‘After the first year I surprised Keri with the window, our friends would come over every Christmas to see what I’d sprayed on the windows, then they’d ask if I could do theirs as well, including their businesses.
‘And Keri posted a picture of one of my windows on a Facebook group page local to where we live in Berkshire, asking if anyone would be interested in getting a window. Within an hour, she’d had more than 800 responses!
‘The length of time for a bespoke window depends on the design and size. I worked in one venue for 15 hours in one go! Over the years the demand for bespoke installs became so great I couldn’t fulfill it, so we decided to branch out into DIY stencils and stickers, simple enough for families to use, and to give them the satisfaction of creating something themselves.
‘We wanted to make sure the products were reusable, from an environmental perspective.
‘Covid was a complete rollercoaster. We had an increase in bookings this year and last year. I think households wanted to add magic to Christmas and the shops wanted to encourage people to come and visit. For both of us, what we enjoy most is the people we meet because they’re usually very excited for our arrival.
‘After Christmas, we rest up for a couple of weeks in January, then planning starts for the rest of the year. We design new consumer products, create bespoke self-clings for businesses, and start to book in the festive installs.’
Find them on Instagram @snowwindows.
‘I wanted to see fairies and angels that looked like us’
Working mums Natalie and Alison have designed a diverse range of Christmas decorations (Picture: Abi Oshodi)
Founds in October 2019 by working mums Natalie Duvall and Alison Burton, March Muses is a Christmas brand that aims to share the magic of an inclusive and diverse Christmas with their range of decorations of colour. Natalie, 38, lives in Croydon with her daughters, aged ten and seven.
‘Back in 2018, when decorating our Christmas tree, my daughter asked me, “Mummy, can fairies be black?”, and I was caught off guard,’ says Natalie.
‘As I looked at my Christmas tree filled with white Santas, fairies and our white elf on the shelf, I felt ashamed. How could I have missed this?
‘My daughters didn’t see themselves. In their home, their safe place. They were still not represented. So off I went, looking for something more suitable.
Natalie and Alison wanted to make decorations that would represent their daughters (Picture: March Muses)
‘I’m an online shopping queen, and it still took me three days of solid searching until I found some ornaments of colour. But they were being shipped from the US with £20 postage and packing fee. Why should I have to pay that much just to see fairies and angels that looked like us? Why were there no UK options? I was flabbergasted. March Muses was born!
‘Filled with ideas, I walked into 2019 on a mission to diversify Christmas. Not just for my children, but for every child out there who had never seen themselves at Christmas.
‘My business partner Alison and I started researching and brainstorming while trying not to get angry. It doesn’t just stop at skin colour, we have to look at skin tone, hair, type of body. We started designing and creating, and after weeks of searching we found an amazing manufacturer who brought our vision to life.
‘We launched in October 2019, just on Instagram, asking people to share, and share they did! We were very nervous about changing something so iconic, but we knew change had to happen.
‘We launched six products and they sold out within weeks! We currently sell our decorations mainly online, but we’re stocked in a few shops and boutiques. This year we exhibited for five days at the Ideal Home Show and the response was amazing — people really embraced our products.
‘We’ve already started planning for Christmas 2022! This is a year-round business for us. Shops start looking in March for new products for their Christmas range and we want to be ready. But the Christmas rush really starts after Halloween, and it is non-stop.
You can find their range of Santas, angels and elves of colour in Selfridges (Picture: March Muses)
‘As we’re a small business, we really know our customers very well. We receive emails daily about how inspired people have been and we try to reply to every one.
‘The biggest lesson we’ve learnt along the way is that there is a YouTube video for everything — like if you don’t know how to create a flyer, a logo, are struggling with designing a website, or learning how to market your product, immerse yourself in it. It can be hard to judge how much stock we should have, getting the balance right is tricky.
‘Our biggest obstacles have, unfortunately, been trolls — some people just aren’t ready to see a brown angel.
‘We even had someone say, “Oh, so now it’s okay to hang a black man off a tree.” My mind was blown!
‘We are growing the business by introducing new diverse products around other special occasions, such as weddings and baby showers.
‘Alison and I are both obsessed with Christmas. In my family, we wear matching Christmas pyjamas, we watch Home Alone religiously, and mulled wine is on tap.
‘It makes us very proud that we are changing the world one decoration at a time. As parents we want our children to grow up with good, honest values and embracing all people from different religions, races and backgrounds.’
Find them on Instagram @marchmuses.
‘Christmas is a 12-months-a-year job’
Jayne makes beautiful festive ceramics (Picture: Emma Lewis)
Jayne Redmond makes magical personalised baubles and ceramics. She studied art and design in Dublin, launching her first pottery studio and shop in 2005, before moving back to Surrey in 2013. She is 39, married, with an eight-year-old daughter.
‘When I finished university, me and my mum set up together making ceramics. I didn’t really know who my audience was, or what my personal style was, I just knew I loved it,’ she tells us.
‘My pieces were quite popular and so I opened a small shop in Dublin. It was then that the Christmas side — or more the celebration side — of the business started to grow. Many of my lovely customers were looking for something to mark a special occasion and show someone they cared, and Christmas was the big one.
Her Christmas decorations proved especially popular (Picture: Jayne Redmond)
‘I’ve always loved Christmas, but my pieces were bringing Christmas joy to so many people it was hard to stop. We started making more options and making them earlier and earlier. Customers’ faces when they saw the collections, the excitement the time of year brings and the opportunity to create future heirlooms is always a thrill and that’s how I think I found my niche.
‘Then, when Harrods agreed to take us on, that’s when the bauble business really grew, and Christmas became what it is for us today.
‘Learning to say no is definitely the biggest lesson I have learned along the way. This is both learning to say no to opportunities if we just don’t have the capacity and also setting deadlines. We set our deadlines to ensure we can deliver and easing them due to last-minute requests never ends well.
Her designs got picked up by luxury store Harrods (Picture: Jayne Redmond)
‘The part of the business I love most is creating a collection. We’ve already had our first calls with Harrods for Christmas 2022. In January, I will lock myself away to develop Christmas 2022 and I can’t wait to have that time to be creative, be inspired and be quiet! Then, I get to see it come to life, which is always a huge thrill.
‘We have big ambitions for 2022. We dipped our toe in the water with Easter and Halloween recently and I think there is a lot more we can do there. We are also looking at developing tableware that people can enjoy all year round.
‘However, Christmas really is a 12-months-a-year job!’
Find her on Instagram @jayneredmondhandmade.
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