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Meet a fellow mum in business, Debra McVicker from

Partners in Hampton Blue Debra McVicker and Tracey Houston (sisters)Hampton Blue

My sister and I launched our gift website called  in June 2009.  It’s an online boutique for jewellery, accessories and gifts. We stock everything from costume and semi-precious jewellery to occasion bags, scarves, photo albums, candles, gifts for children, men’s gifts – the list goes on. Hampton Blue is a one-stop shop for self-indulgent treats and all those gifts for family and friends.
As a mother of two young children, age 8 and 3 (and one more on the way) I was faced with the choice of going back to working as a Training and Events Coordinator for a major charity and having to pay childcare for two children or going self-employed and attempting to grow my own business.      As much as I enjoyed my job, I had reached a time in my life when I wanted to have more control over what I did every day and I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my two kids.   Hence, the idea for Hampton Blue was born!  I also managed to talk my sister, Tracey into coming on this little adventure with me.

When did you found the business?

After many months of research and a lot of hard work, we launched our website on 5 June 2009 (our mum’s birthday coincidentally).

What have been the main obstacles you have faced so far?

There is a huge amount of work and long hours involved in setting up any business and it is not for the faint hearted.  Therefore, personally, it is sometimes a struggle to fit it in around family life and I find myself on the computer late into the night.  We have loads of ideas for the business that we want to implement, but there are only so many hours in a day and so much cash in the bank!
Also, neither one of us has worked in retail, except from part-time jobs when we were younger, so it’s a steep learning curve.  The whole domain of e-commerce is something else we have had to learn from scratch.  We know our limitations and therefore, it was obvious to us to bring in the professionals when needed.  Hence, we hired a graphic designer and web designer to design our logo/brand and our website.  It was extremely important to project ourselves and our business in a very professional manner at all times and this begins with what people see on screen – the Hampton Blue website.
The main challenge of online retailing at this point is getting people to the site and impressing those individuals enough to want to buy and come back again and again for repeat orders.  It’s not like a bricks and mortar shop, where you have an immediate passing trade.  We need to raise our profile and let people know we exist.
Also, unlike bricks and mortar retailers, potential customers can’t touch and feel the products, so it’s imperative that our photos are clear and our descriptions as accurate as possible. Additionally, a number of individuals are still apprehensive about the security of shopping online, so it was our intention from the beginning to install secure measures on our website to help instil confidence in our website.
Potential customers want a site that loads quickly, is easy to navigate, aesthetically pleasing and secure to shop on – we hope we have achieved this with Hampton Blue

What are your plans for the future?

We want to build on our product line and bring new and innovative gifts to the consumer.  It’s a work in progress and we hope to add a wedding gift section, as well as offering gift vouchers very soon.
Also, consumers are becoming increasingly interested in where the products they purchase come from and how they are made and therefore, we would like to add more Fairtrade products to our website and are constantly on the lookout for new Fairtrade suppliers.  Additionally, it is our intention to source local artisans for more individual and locally crafted products that we can offer on the Hampton Blue website.

What makes your business stand out?

We have created an online boutique that offers consumers an aesthetically and intellectually appealing forum where they are able to have a stress free and relaxing shopping experience and at the same time find unique and interesting gifts for any occasion.  As a mother of two young children, I know firsthand how hard it is to manage everything on a daily basis – work, family life, social events, etc., so we hope that we have made life a little bit easier for the busy consumer.
We offer our customers a high standard of customer care and efficient delivery service. Our products either come wrapped in tissue paper with a Hampton Blue sticker or in a gift bag and we offer a wish list service on our site that individuals can use for birthdays, weddings, Christmas or any other special occasion.  They can make their wish list and then email it to friends and family.   There are many other ideas in the pipeline, but as a start-up business, funds are limited, so one step at a time!
Looking back at how much we have achieved in such a short space of time I am extremely proud and would encourage any individual with a business idea, but a little bit of reservation to take the plunge – after doing their research off course!

To visit Hampton Blue Click Here

Hampton Blue Logo

New prints by Zutano

I’m really pleased with the new prints and designs by Zutano. This range of clothing is a particular favorite of mine as everything is bright and fresh looking, but its stuff that you can mix and match which is great for little ones.

Big Dot Chocolate Bib

What have we added?

We’ve added a selection of Bibs, Onesies, Baby Blankets, Socks, T-shirts and hats. The above bib is Big Dot Chocolate which I think is my favorite.

There is also:

Bugaboo BlanketThe Bugaboo Blanket – This cotton blanket is 100% cotton and is fully reversible with one side of little friendly bugs and the other stripey. Also available in this print are bibs and t-shirts.

Paisley OnesieLovely Paisley is a very girly print and is available in Hats, Bibs and Blankets.

There is more to come and will let you know as soon as they are available on site.

For the full Zutano collection Click Here

Brighten up those Wet Weather Days

Children's Wellington Boots by KidorableI’m looking out of the window and the sky is blue with not a cloud in site. Whilst the look is of a beautiful day, stepping outside is another matter. Having put my first load of washing on the line today it was absolutely freezing. I mustn’t complain.

Having said that, rain isn’t that bad when you have a child that will quite happy toddler their way to the park as long as they get to splash in the odd puddle or two along the way.

Kidorable make the most adorable outer wear which is fun but practical for puddle splashing wet weather.

Within the range we have a selection of Rain Ponchos, Umbrellas and Wellington Boots in a selection of designs including:

My First Boots – Lotus
Ladybird Rain Poncho
Bee Umbrella

I think these would make a lovely yet practical gift.

Click Here for the full Collection

Meet Sarah from

We have just recently announced the addition of Personalised Canvas Prints to the Site, so I thought what better than to introduce the lady behind the designs.

Introducing:  Sarah Thexton from Photofairytales Logo

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.

I’m a married mum living in Norfolk, near to the coast. We haven’t always lived in Norfolk – we moved here from Bath about fifteen years ago following a job offer. I was originally born in Surrey, but spent many years living and working in Bath where I met my husband whilst working at the Theatre Royal there. I now run my online personalised gift business, PhotoFairytales from my home. I have a young daughter called Amy who is 7, and who was basically the inspiration behind the business and the whole reason why I do it!

Where did the idea come from and when was the business founded?

When Amy was a baby (like most new parents) we ended up with millions of photographs of her every move! One day I sat to have a play with one of my favorite photos of her on the computer, and created an image of her peeking out from a rosebud. I’ll be the first to admit it wasn’t very good, but it set the seed for an idea of running my own business. It took me many, many months of planning and research – not to mention honing my skills! – before I felt ready to set the idea before the public. I worked hard at developing a range of themes and designs for my fantasy portraits – basically creating artwork from ordinary photos. Once I had enough designs to offer, I started in a very low key way late in 2008 after Amy started school full-time, and began officially trading very soon after that. After leaving sixth from I attended art college for two years, but had then gone on to have a career mainly in theatre marketing and publicity, so this was a great way to return to my first love and be able to do something creative again.

What’s been your biggest challenge so far?

I wanted to work for myself so that I could have some flexibility around my working hours. My husband runs his own business too and often works unsociable hours, and I needed to find something that would work around Amy and meant I could be here when I was needed. I tend to work from the dining room table – it’s a place where I can work but still be in the hub of the home. However, this does have its downsides (apart from having lost the table to paperwork and computer cables!). It does mean that my working day lasts from about 6.30am when I first switch on to check emails, until 11pm when I finally close down for the night. There are, of course, breaks in the day – I try to stop work completely when Amy gets home from school until her bedtime so that we can spend quality time together. School holidays are probably the hardest to cope with – it seems a constant battle between my feeling guilty for not being one of those gingham-clad story book mums who bake cakes and go on daily picnics, and reassuring myself that I’m doing the best I can: both for myself and for my family. At the end of the day, I’m contributing financially to the family and providing a role model for Amy that shows her that becoming a mum doesn’t mean a day simply filled with cleaning and baking – modern women can do both (even if they do have to work 17 hour days!).

What plans do you have for your business?

The business has grown so much in the last year. From the early days when I simply created fantasy portraits, I now have an ever-expanding range of personalised products on offer. In the last few weeks I’ve just introduced a range of personalised box canvas prints which are selling extremely well – far better than I hoped. I’m also in the process of adding another range of designs and products in which customers can add names and messages into photographs so that they appear part of the image. I’ve introduced the ability for other traders to offer many of my products on a dropship basis now too, and I’m hoping to expand on this during 2010.

Where can we find you?

My website is at– hope to see you there!

Of course you can purchase her gorgeous Personalised Canvas Prints direct from us, or pop on over to her site for her full collection!


Easter Time

I was in Sainsbury’s last week and was really impressed by their selection of Easter Eggs, but in particular the ones that are now called Retro Easter Eggs! As a child me, my sister and my brother would each get an easter egg with a cup. We had Wispa, Kit Kat, Crunchie, in fact I’m pretty sure that we had the whole collection between us, and would quite often argue that the other one had the better egg/cup.

So now they’re called Retro Easter Eggs!

Smarties Easter Egg

I’m sure that the Smarties cup was mine, but my sister would definitely argue that it was hers! I wrote this post as it stirred up childhood memories of how many Easter Eggs we used to get, AND it was the only day that we were allowed to eat chocolate for breakfast.

Just in case you’re wondering this isn’t a sponsored post, but just for information Sainsbury’s are doing three Easter eggs for £5.00 and Tesco are doing BOGOF on selected eggs.

I’ve been really good and bought and stored all of the Easter eggs.

Job done!

*Pic from Sainsbury’s website