Truth be told, I’m really nervous about writing this today.
Your Gift Horse is 16 years old this year and what an adventure it’s been over the years. We started out selling horse gifts 100% online in the mountains of Wales and attending most of the major horse events across the UK with a pop-up shop to spread the word. The business was set up by my mother Sandra and over the years I’ve become more involved but it was always more her baby than mine, even when she stepped away to semi-retire. Mum was really shy about appearing on social media or in emails (it took me years to persuade her to set up a Facebook profile) so you might not have heard from her very often, but she was always here in the background and many of the products we sell feature her artwork or were sourced by her.
You’ll notice I say was… Deep breath here as I break every rule of gift shop marketing…
6 months ago mum stepped out of the office on a Friday afternoon to meet a local gallery owner about exhibiting some of her artwork. During that meeting she had a massive stroke and passed away in hospital shortly after.
Which is one of the reasons things have been a bit quiet around here. The run up to Christmas passed in a blur, the focus being to keep plodding on in our busiest time of year - as a small business there is no luxury of months of paid leave and to be honest, work was a blessed distraction.
Once Christmas was done & dusted, it was time for a serious look at my own life and as a big part of that, my businesses. Mum was only 60 when she died, so that does tend to focus the mind on the question of is what I’m doing in my life right now what I should be doing with my life. Alongside the ecommerce business I also have a thriving digital agency & know I spend far too much time at a desk.
Yourgifthorse was tricky for me - hard to focus on lovely feel good marketing when you feel bloody miserable yourself plus so much of the business is a reminder of mum. Making decisions about product lines to discontinue because they aren’t profitable is a normal part of biz, but when the products in question were designed by her, not so simple.
But that was minor tinkering, deep down the question I’ve really been pondering is what’s the point of this business? On a superficial level, it keeps me in horses and gin, plus helps the British economy by paying taxes, employing & buying from other British companies which is a good thing.
But still that nagging voice, is this it? Is this enough? Is there something else I should be doing which matters more?
Let’s face it, there are thousands of gift retailers in the UK, as customers you are spoilt for choice. Would me shuttering the doors of this one make any difference? Not really.
At this point we were in early February and I had broken up with my boyfriend of three years (hence why there wasn’t a lot of Valentines promotions going on ;) ). I was being an idiot and it was a spoon that saved our relationship. I’ll write more about that spoon another day but in a nutshell the spoon was his way of showing he cared. A typical northerner, he doesn’t talk much about feelings and until recently, neither did I.
But I’ve lost my filter (if you’re still reading you might have worked that out by now ;)). I no longer have much patience for small talk nor am I doing that typical British stiff upper lip of avoiding all feelings and soldiering on. Still scared shitless about it though, which is why it’s taken me a month to write this!
Which leads me back to Your Gift Horse and the giving of gifts. I suspect that there are a lot of you out there, lurking in cyberspace, who like me, find it easier to give someone a gift to express how you feel, than say those feelings outloud. (We’ll ignore those gifts that you ‘have to give’ for now, like when your kid is invited to a party or you get dragged to your bosses second wedding when you can’t stand her new husband…)
Gifts allow you to show people that they matter to you, when sometimes you can’t always tell them in words. Your mum, your dad, your sister, your brother, your aunt, your uncle, your niece or nephew.
Your best friend, your old school friend, your uni mates who have those dodgy pics sat in their attics from the time before Facebook existed.
The teacher who inspires your children, the carer who looks after your elderly parent, the mentor who’s guided your career.
These people matter to you and I want to help you tell them that.
So what does this mean? No more stiff upper lip and bland, faceless marketing. Things are getting gritty around here. On a practical level, Your Gift Horse & Your Gift House are being merged into one website, full of lovely gift ideas.
But more importantly, I want to help you have those conversations with the people that matter to you.
If that sounds appealing, then that’s great, stick around because there’s lots more like this coming your way. Feel free to comment below and let me know what resonated with you.
If it doesn’t appeal, then that’s great too. Of course, you are welcome to return at anytime but I know this direction isn’t every ones cup of tea and that’s absolutely totally fine.
I now feel in need of a stiff gin to hit publish on this post - still a work in progress but am closing my eyes, hitting the button & sending it on its way…
Your Gift Horse