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Gifted Local Blog

Should I be marketing my small business during the Coronavirus outbreak?

Should I be marketing my small business during the Coronavirus outbreak?
Written by Helen Robinson

With everything going on I've been a rabbit in the so called Covid-19 headlights, not sure which way to turn. Do I carry on, business as usual like so many companies who are still promoting Mothers Day? While some other companies seem to be using Coronavirus as a marketing tool highlighting their products & services that might be useful in the coming weeks.  Gifted Local - a gifting delivery service to your front door - could potentially do very well over the coming weeks and months but there is no way I'd want to cash in on something that is, and will be, so devastating to everyone. 

So I've sat on my hands for a few weeks not knowing what to do.  But recently, I've started to notice how this is bringing our community together. I've seen shout-outs on local Facebook groups for those who are willing and able to help others who are already in self-isolation or might be in future.  Local committees and WhatsApp groups are forming to keep each other updated with who needs help and how to keep those in isolation entertained.

We're all worried about our health, our jobs, our financial security, how to work if (and when) the schools are shut etc. I have over 40 sellers on the Gifted Local site, they are all small businesses who are just as worried as me. Weekend markets will probably start to empty and other retail opportunities may disappear as people start to socially distance themselves.

With that in mind, and thinking about what a lovely community we live in, I've decided to carry on promoting the site, the sellers and what we can offer.  Buying from one of the Gifted Local sellers will help a small local business in your local area. And at a time like this, I think we all need to help each other as much as possible.

Shop all Gifted Local gifts here

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Flatlay of Gifted LocaL products

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Seller Spotlight: Aimee Spillman | Woodle Books

Seller Spotlight: Aimee Spillman | Woodle Books

Interview by Helen Robinson

The first of Gifted Local’s ‘Get To Know’ series highlighting the incredible sellers in our community.

Please tell us about Woodle Books

Quite simply, I make gorgeous handmade notebooks that are all unique. All of the books that I make are made with love and I agonise over the combinations of paper and covering material. Nothing is just thrown together. I choose the wording with the colours. I try to imagine who is going to want this book, and then decide what sort of phrase they are going to want.  Each book is handmade from scratch so it takes about 6 hours to make each one. Each one is also completely bespoke and unique, there is never more than one Woodle book featuring the same phrase, front colour, inside pattern or size. 

Feminine notebook

Why did you set up Woodle Books?

I have always loved books and I grew up surrounded by them. Whilst working at the British Library I applied to do a course in book binding at City Lit. Having completed this course after a year I then got an internship at Windsor Castle in the Book Conservation department and experienced and learnt so much. I then moved onto a Bindery and loved every minute of it but eventually decided I wanted to work for myself so I started out on my own. I love what I do and being my own boss makes me love binding even more. There's something about taking a large stack of flat paper and turning it into a beautiful book, it’s a uniquely satisfying thing!

Feminism is also extremely important to me, I’ve stopped promoting messages of female empowerment as they are for all and there are a lot of people out there who need to be empowered who don't identify as female. I’m growing as a feminist and want to spread the word as loudly and proudly as I can, and if my notebooks help someone stand up and say what they are worth or just bring a smile to someone’s face it's all worth it. We should all be feminists and I hope I’ve helped one or two people begin their journey.

notebooks and cactus plants

In what ways are you ensuring your products are ethically produced?

Woodle Books is all about empowerment and I am a strong believer in doing as I say so I source end papers from other female business owners:

  • Jemma Lewis - Marble
  • Esme Winter - Geometric
  • Alphablots - large bright papers
  • Paperchase - the papers I source from here are made by women in Nepal all earning a living wage
  • Artway - made from 50% recycled coffee cups and this is what I use for the main body of my books

Pattern inside of handmade notebook

What do you use as packaging and how do you ensure this is minimal / environmentally friendly?

I re-use all the packaging I receive from my suppliers and general packaging I receive at home. I never buy anything new and have moved onto using washi tape instead of plastic tape. 

What has been your strangest request by a customer so far?

I had a beautiful request for a photo album where I incorporated part of the customer’s wedding dress into the fabric of the cover.

How do you feel when someone buys a book?

I only make books that I love so it’s always hard to part with them. I get attached to books quite regularly and have to make sure they are going to a good home.

Because of the messages on the books I am often told they are being gifted to some very powerful and amazing women: lawyers, judges, human rights activists and that really makes it all worthwhile. I especially like it when they are bought by a male customer or bought for a male friend as a present!  I love being at markets and what’s especially great is seeing older members of the public laugh at the swear books – they often do a double take followed by a wry smile. 

handmade notebooks

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Everything! I love the flexibility, of being able to sit in the garden and read for two hours in the sun and work later into the evenings when the sun has gone down. Meeting all the amazing people that I never would have if I had stayed at my job. I have never met a better group of people than I have doing markets, the camaraderie and just general awesomeness has got me though a few dark, cold and rainy days. It’s a community I didn't know existed but one I’m so proud to now be part of.

What’s the worst thing about running your own business?

Everything! It’s tough, I’ve had more than a few days where I wanted to give up and go back to the easiness of being employed and having a regular income. It can be really lonely and it’s hard if you don't have people who know how utterly soul destroying it is to have a bad day at a market when you can’t help but take it personally as everything you have made is personal. But… I am lucky to have amazing people around me who know how to pick me up and have kept me going.

Where do you get most of your work done?

I sew all of my books at home and make all of the cases as well. I then get myself to the London Centre for Book Arts ( where they have the big machines I need like the Guillotine and the Pragnant, which is the machine I use for blocking.

How did you feel when Gifted Local contacted you to be part of the site?

Extremely excited, it’s a great idea and makes gifting so much more personalised. North London is full of really talented makers and it’s great that so many of us will be all in one place.


Where do you live?

Wood Green in London is where my husband and I bought our house eight years ago having rented in Bounds green for a while. We love being on the Piccadilly line, it’s so quick and not that sweaty in the summer and it’s such a green area - we have four parks in close proximity to us which is great for our dog Stan.

How do you support your local community?

Being a small business I realise the importance of all of those sales. Just one can help out so I try to buy small and local as best as I can.

Finally, what is your Top Local Love?

I love living in such a hilly part of London. We get great views of London and all of the surrounding areas! There is a secret view of London a few roads from where I live which is glorious. 


Order Woodle Books products here and sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear about new sellers, seller stories, products and discounts.

View all Gifted Local products here.



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How 'Off Trend’ is Trending: 6 ways to decorate more ethically for the long term

Written by Audrey Whelan

I'm an interior designer with over 20 years experience who is really passionate about empowering people to make confident decisions when it comes to their home interiors. Helen kindly asked me to write this article for her site and while discussing it we both realised we didn’t want a formulaic trends piece which would be outdated in a few months. Instead we wanted something that reflected our values and ethos around long term and local purchases.

So here are six 'off trends' that are emerging in the world of interior design which I believe are here to stay:

1. Unique & Individual

There is a message, slowly but surely evolving, about trusting our instincts and buying items, not because they are ‘on trend’ but because they reflect our personality. When we purchase items because we intrinsically love them they offer a timeless quality resonating with meaning or memory, rather than an association with a particular look or trend that fades over time.

  Personalised print of a floral name, Ava

Catch of the Day Dinnerware Handbag Plates by Ali Joe Designs from Gifted Local ‘revives the traditional decorative plate with a witty, contemporary twist’.
Personalised Floral Print Name by Charlotte Hogg Design

2. Longer Term Thinking

We are becoming more conscious of our precious but fragile environment and needing to be more mindful of what we are purchasing and throwing away as consumers. Buying things that will last is becoming more important. For many people the solution is to buy fewer things, but of better quality.

 Posy and Pot Pink and White Hand Tied Paper flower Bouquet in Glass VasePosy and Pot White Hydrangea Paper Flower Bouquet in Glass Vase

Paper Flowers: Pink and White Posy and White Hydrangea Bouquet by Posy & Pot from Gifted Local ‘will last for years without water and are easy to care for’.

3. Connection & Conversation

In our digital age, it’s more important than ever to have items that encourage connection and conversation in the home. This could be as simple as a soft blanket to encourage family members to snuggle up together on the sofa – the cosier the better! It could also be a conversation piece to delight visitors and give some insight into you and your interests - encouraging you to discover common ground and foster relationships with people around you. When it comes to artwork I love to find items that have a connection to the homeowners interests.

Sobu Handmade Soft Light Grey Wool Blanket Foldedvisual tribute to some of the great characters who have played for the British and Irish Lions, using the iconic periodic table as the framework by on a sixpence
Light Grey Wool Blanket by Sobu Handmade on Gifted Local would be perfect draped on the arm on a sofa or loveseat ready for some snuggles. The bright stripe comes in a choice of colours.
The British And Irish Lions Rugby Print by On A Sixpence from Gifted Local ‘is a visual tribute to some of the great characters who have played for the British and Irish Lions, using the iconic periodic table as the framework.’ A must for British & Irish Lions Rugby fans!

4. Sustainable & Natural

We are seeing an increase in bamboo, cork, linen and other sustainable materials in interiors and more people choosing a particular material or product due to it’s low environmental impact.

 Large natural linen cushion with grey appliqué star by sobu handmade100% linen with personalised white cotton appliqué letter or symbol by sobu handmade

Star Linen Cushion and Personalised Linen Cushion by Sobu Handmade

5. Layered Patterns

Not just on fabric and wallpaper, we are seeing more pattern on smaller objects for the home such as table top items, picture frames etc. You can layer up many patterns together and as people become braver with this we will see even more of it!

Rosh Nutt 3 dotty tea towels layeredRosha Nutt dotty tea towel on a white table with a candle

Dotty Tea Towels by Rosha Nutt from Gifted Local. A great way to bring some extra pattern into a kitchen!

6. Foliage & Flowers

Biophilic design is a buzz word in interior design at the moment and will grow as we increasingly realise the benefits of having plants in the home is much deeper than just visual appeal. We are seeing this filter through to greenery patterns on artwork and accessories too. This can be a great way to ‘bring the outdoors in’ and help create a healthy happy home!

2 watercolour Giclee art print of Colourful Leaves on a white wall. Painted using lovely tones of greens, pinks, greys and blues by Charlotte Hogg DesignsMini cactus in a hand painted magenta concrete pot by cactus joetwo wild bulb terrariums side by side using up-cycled light bulbs with cork stoppers

Mini Cactus in Magenta Pot by Cactus Joe, Colourful leaves Art Print by Charlotte Hogg & Light Bulb Terrariums by Wild Bulb from Gifted Local are all great ways to bring some greenery into your home.


If you’d like to learn more from Audrey book one of her interior design workshopsHeld regularly all over London, Audrey recommends you take along photos of the room you want to redesign and she’ll walk you through the process to create actionable design ideas!

'Audrey's workshop was inspiring and exactly what I needed to start with my first interior design project. I now feel confident putting together moodboards using Audrey's technique and tips and will definitely attend future workshops' 
Workshop attendee Nov 2019
'Very helpful session with some excellent tips and ideas. I found the scaled drawings quite helpful in truly understanding how I wish to use the space (in particular taking into account the elevations / wall space'
Workshop attendee Feb 2020


For products which have all been made / designed by local people in North London check out the Gifted Local Homeware section.


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Better Than Black Friday?

#blackfriday is such a milestone in any retailer's calendar and we have struggled, as a new business, to know what to do about it. Should we jump on the discount band wagon to battle it out with all the big retail outlets? Continue reading

Our Story

This is online shopping with a difference: our sellers are encouraged to hand deliver where possible and to use minimal and recyclable packaging. And, of course, delivery miles are reduced as our sellers and customers live within the same neighbourhood. Continue reading