Saturday, 29 December 2012

Strange interns!

Strange interns!

I am looking for two interns to help with the development of Strange Fruit, since launching in 2010 the business has grown and grown and now I need some part time help to take the business to the next level.  Both positions are flexible and can be done from home and will require no more than 4 hours a week.  Both positions are paid £6.50 per hour and this will be paid monthly £112.66 (£26.00 per week, £1,352 pa).

Even though these are home-based positions you will need to meet with the founder online and in person regularly. Face to face meetings will take place in central London. Skype will be our friend!


Press and PR intern

You will implement Strange Fruit’s 2013 PR plan.  Working under the guidance of an accomplished press and PR manager you will speak to journalists and key stakeholders to create opportunities for Strange Fruit to be seen in UK and international media. 

Ideally you will be studying media or communications or already be a graduate wanting to work with a small business to prove your capability and get some measurable experience on your CV.  If you think of yourself as the ideal candidate and you have not studied media please make sure you apply.

You will be available for a minimum of three months but ideally six.  You will have access to the internet and a PC or laptop with word processing and spread sheet programmes such as Word and Excel.

Essential skills

·         Enthusiastic and able to use own initiative
·         Creative and able to present ideas succintctly
·         Pro -active and hard working
·         Excellent attention to detail
·         Good writing skills and good command of written and spoken English
·         Able to work alone and in a team


Business development intern

You will carry out a range of activities to contribute towards generating new customers be they stockists, personal or corporate customers. Working under the guidance of the founder you will undertake research exercises to create targeted lists of potential customers, directly contact them and feedback their response.

Ideally you will be studying a business related qualification or already be a graduate wanting to work with a small business to prove your capability and get some measurable experience on your CV.  If you think of yourself as the ideal candidate and you have not studied business skills please make sure you apply.

You will be available for a minimum of three months but ideally six.  You will have access to the internet and a PC or laptop with word processing and spread sheet programmes such as Word and Excel.

Essential skills

·         Able to research effectively and present the findings in an ordered structure
·         Enthusiastic and able to use own initiative
·         Pro-active and hard working
·         Excellent attention to detail
·         Good record keeping skills and a good command of written and spoken English
·         Able to work alone and in a team

How to apply
For either role please send an email to deniserawls@rocketmail.com marked ‘intern’ in the subject box. 

In the body of the email please say which internship you are applying for and in less than 500 words why you are the best candidate and what you would like to get from the opportunity. Also, in less than 500 words, please tell me who your ideal dinner guest would be (living or deceased) and why.

Please send applications by 16 January 2013.  Interviews will take place w/c 21 January and the successful interns will start on Friday 1 February 2013.

Please find out more about Strange Fruit and its founder Denise Rawls on the website www.ilovestrangefruit.com

Sunday, 16 December 2012

A festive message from Strange Fruit




Hi!

As the year draws to a close we wanted to wish you all a peaceful festive season and thank you for all your support over the year. Strange Fruit is still a baby but we have taken great strides and 2013, our third year, promises to be an eventful one.


Wishing you all a really happy, healthy Christmas and we hope that 2013 is your best year yet!

"When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things - not the great occasions - give off the greatest glow of happiness."
Bob Hope

With love, hugs and lots of strange fruit,

Denise & Cory xxx

December 2012

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Strange Fruit consults


I have worked in the civil service since I left school in 1987. I worked in various teams (better regulation, building facilities, health and safety legislation and construction) across the Health and Safety Executive until one day I had to run an errand to the press office. It was buzzing, the TV was on, there was a lot and noise and a lot of paper.  

I asked the Chief Press Officer if I could come and work with her for a couple of weeks, she agreed and I never looked back. Once I understood the importance of well managed co-ordinated and targeted communications I knew I needed to get a formal qualification if I wanted to build public relations based career.  Off I went to Birkbeck University to study for my degree in Media and Business, I did this part time around my new press office job, being a mum and working weekends in a pub to pay my tuition fees. 

Since my first press office job I have worked across many government communications portfolios including construction safety, asbestos awareness, working at heights, restorative justice, community engagement in policing, insolvency, fraudulent company directors and scammers, personal debt, inward and outward investment, entrepreneurs and business success. My work consistently achieves national print and broadcast coverage and where relevant, international coverage.


Working in government communications has always brought variety; I have worked with Ministers of all levels as well as high profile business people like Theo Paphitis, Kelly Hoppen, Tamara Mellon and Ian Wright. In my freelance work I have promoted independent films, nightclubs, books, plays, CDs and business people. My written work has been published in most national papers and I have written for several glossy magazines too.

What I know is that regardless of the topic all PR needs proper planning and realistic expectations. What's more with a bit of knowledge you can achieve a lot of media coverage yourself without the expense of taking on a PR firm. I can help you with that. I can also help you select the right PR firm to work with so you maximise your PR spend.

I'm honoured people feel inspired by my successes in starting Strange Fruit and building a career in communications. I started Strange Fruit literally on a shoe-string; I sold two pairs of designer shoes to pay for my first print run. I still have lots to learn and am taking the Doug Richards School for Creative Start Ups program but it seems my experience so far is useful to others as I get requests daily for advice. 

I am always happy to give feedback where I can, however in doing so I am not spending time on my own projects or with my family. To balance this I charge a small fee (£20.00 ph) as I believe you value something much more when you pay for it.

How it works.  If you would like to get my input into your project let's have a 15 minute chat. If I can help we will agree a time-frame for delivery. I will invoice you and set up your account. We will then set up a series of phone calls or face to face meetings to work on your project. Each meeting will be followed up with a summary email from me.  

To get in touch email me at denise@ilovestrangefruit.com






Thursday, 4 October 2012

Exciting news.... here come the girls



A little update - I have been voted through as one of the Mumsclub top 100 businesses - super excited!!

Forgive me, the blog has been left hanging while I have been busy but here come the girls! And mums...its National Business Mum Week and I have been nominated for a inventors and designers award, feel free to vote for me! 

Business Mum Week was created to inspire the growth of UK mum-owned enterprise.  The week was the idea of a fellow business mum and founder of MumsClub, Jane Hopkins MBE with the aim of creating local media interest in mum run businesses and to create more mum-owned businesses.




I want Strange Fruit to be the leading independent publisher of multicultural greeting cards and social stationery in the UK. Mine is a small but distinctive company and since my our first card was sold in October 2010 I have maintained the simple aims of offering my customers great value, design led greeting cards that are always reflective of a modern and diverse society. Two years of trading has shown me that my customers are not just black professionals as I originally thought. My customers are anyone who buys and sends greeting cards with a love of vintage or a passion for diversity, the cards being sold in the Mary Portas at House of Fraser shops is testament to that. The hard work is paying off, the cards are also stocked in independent shops gift and card shops across the country and through a distributor in the USA.


As you know I still have my day job and I am building Strange Fruit in my 'spare time'.  Working the day job (which is always intense,) building a business and being a mum and a wife is not the easiest combination but I want my children and their friends to grow up in an environment where it is normal for them to get a birthday card with a child that looks like them on it.  I have much work to do but being nominated for an award lets me know I am on the right road, especially a week away from our second birthday!

MumsClub Jane Hopkins was awarded MBE this year for services to entrepreneurship she says “Being self employed is the perfect way to combine family life with generating a second income. Women now have the freedom to get paid to do something they love. Business is great for household finances, great for self esteem, great for work-life balance.  Mum owned businesses generate £4.4billion a year for the UK economy, but there is little help and support out there for these ‘part time’ business owners, so starting up from home is a low cost, low risk and incredibly rewarding option. Business Mum Week demonstrates that with support from each other, a small group of like minded people can quite simply achieve great things.
If you are thinking about starting your own craft based business and don't know quite where to start Make Money From Makes is a good place to start. I am delighted to be a case study in the book so I have read it and there is some great advice and lots of useful contact points like my nice friends Craft Guerrilla who offer a great platform for designer makers.

I have loads more to update you on, but for now packing orders and finding new places to store boxes of envelopes is the task at hand!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Has The Voice paid the ultimate price by not engaging with mainstream stakeholders?

I have just been reading The Voice Newspaper has not been given accreditation to attend the media hubs based at the 2012 Olympic Games, like most people I was initially a bit shocked by this. Then I tried to figure out why. 


When I worked at a government department involved with the media around the Olympics we were all asked to supply names of key media and journalists to cover the games, we all did. The Voice was not on my list because after 10 years of working in government communications The Voice is yet to cover one of my mainstream campaigns and very rarely do they engage with a subject matter that affects everyone and not just people of colour. 


Could this lack of working with mainstream stakeholders be what is behind the unfortunate situation the paper is now in? With my day job hat on I never even thought of putting The Voice on my recommends list because they have removed themselves from the mainstream party.


I have contacts at every key national and regional paper in the country and none at The Voice.  And I am one of the few government communicators that cares about diversity and representation.


I hope The Voice win the appeal and I hope we all learn from this lesson; mainstream may not be your thing but it holds the keys to the door and you can't change anything from the outside.


And yes, today (18 July) The Voice now has it's access to cover The Games, I just hope the access does not detract from the bigger picture.
  
(20 July) And even better thanks to this posting and the online discussions I've had I have been approached by the paper, we'll set up a meeting - after The Games of course - and we'll work on making sure issues like education and access and achievement get to the right people and when suitable into the paper.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Is this our winning Small Business Sunday entry?

Is this our winning @TheoPaphitis #SBS entry?


Each of my cards starts out as a mixed media collage so it seemed right to create an image incorporating Theo Paphitis for my SBS entry and here it is .... a piece of artwork created using several old envelopes, found images, an aged page from an A-Z, a bit of rubber stamping and a picture borrowed from the web of Theo as a child.


I have everything crossed for this week to be THE week I win an SBS RT for my boutique design company Strange Fruit  the greeting card company that is literally adding colour to the moments of life by making diverse greeting cards design-led and mainstream.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

National Stationery Day / part II


It's the first National Stationery Day - to mark its significance in my world I asked some stationery fans to share just why they love stationery....

Tinuke Bernard; my obsession …

My love affair with stationary started years before I had anything constructive to write within them. Someone sent me a beautiful writing kit as a gift when I was pretty young and I was blown away with the beautifully embossed, thick paper and the perfectly square envelopes in which to post my glorious musings. What I posted were not glorious and for the most part consisted of ‘thank yous’ to family for the rest of my gifts. But there, my friends the obsession started.



I have a note book for all occasions and have been known to spend a considerable amount of money on them too. At the moment I am loving the slick leather reporter style notepads and tend to write blog related notes within them, but there is also a time and place for brightly coloured or beautifully embroidered books too! A perfect place to keep baby name lists, to-do’s etc. You can never have too many note books.

Hand crafted cards with no pre written message inside are also amazing. I have a shoe box filled with them. They come in handy more than one would think and if you don’t already have a card shoebox, where have you been?! Birthdays, thank you, I miss you, well done, congratulations. There is a card out there for each occasion and the great thing is, this isn’t predestined, you get to make the decision based on the illustration of the card and the personality of the recipient. 

I remember the excitement at the beginning of a school year, when every other kid is grumbling about not being able to o swimming any more and having to wake up early, I just wanted to restyle my stationary kit. This lasted all the way into uni and if I’m honest, I still buy my own stationary, right down to the mouse mats at work rather than use the generic stuff they would order in for me.

For me, what you write on, what you write with and what you keep your writing in is all part of your identity and reflects a lot about your mood and personality. I use blacks and neutrals for ‘serious’ work or large flash colours for things I want to make fun or light hearted. If I invest in an expensive, hand crafted note book, I see it as precious and try to make the words I put into it, worthy of the pages on which they will be kept.

Maybe I have issues, maybe a sheet of paper is nothing more than that. But for me, this is the place where some of our greatest accomplishments have been born. Even though I admit to being a die hard tech lover, there is still a great need and deserved place for physical stationary and long may it live!

National Stationery Day: who doesn't love the stationery cupboard?? Part I

It's the first National Stationery Day - to mark its significance in my world I asked some stationery fans to share just why they love stationery....

Sarah Bates; my obsession …

Some people pray. Some exercise or meditate. My Nirvana is the stationery shop. Not one shop in particular – I have even been known to skip with glee in Tesco if they have a particular selection of coloured paperclips in a clear plastic box.

It started at an early age with me cosseting and saving ‘nice pencils’ and writing paper. I still have the Wombles’ writing paper I was bought as a child in pristine condition. I never actually completed my Doodle-art as I wanted to save the glorious felt tips that came with it. Yes, I still have them!




Working life bought more and the stationery cupboard opened its gleaming doors and I was immediately put in charge. From here I collected bright and big post-it notes, wonderful pens, paper clips of all shapes, colours and sizes and folders like I had never seen before. I would pore over the stationery catalogue and plan our orders with military precision.

Outside work, I would trawl stationery shops buying tiny versions of the hordes I had at home – rubbers, highlighters, staplers – you name it, I bought it.


My particular favourites are plain paper journals. I have a box under my bed and at the last count there were 35 unused journals and I still NEED more.

I am a freelance trainer so have plenty of opportunities to buy stationery for delegates to use. However, it makes me twitch when I see them screwing up post-it notes (the cheap ones not the ones ‘for best!). I have a particular purple flip chart pen that I guard with my life. They never get their hands on that!




But I am not alone. There is a small group of my friends who share this obsession. We are like magpies – hording our stash and whispering about what we have when we get together. One friend who I trained with about eight years ago had some gel pens. I cooed over them, held them and stared at them long enough for him to surrender them. It was a touching moment! I still have them (unused) and he still misses them.

Technology may move forward at speed but I will always covet my precious stationery and keep Paperchase in business!







Monday, 19 March 2012

Hey you teacher - leave us kids and our best friends alone

Primary schools are adopting a 'no best friends' policy to shield children from the pain of falling out
The news that some primary schools are adopting a ‘no best friends’ policy to prevent children from the pain of falling out has really got me really grumpy.  Even having a ‘policy’ on best friends is crazy in itself, but surely only a cold hearted lonely soul could even think that these relationships, even if they do come with some pain sometimes are not worth it.

I have been thinking about my best friend a lot recently for a lot of reasons. We haven’t been friends since primary school but we have been friends our entire adulthood.  Back in 1985 one of my favorite Uncles was getting married which meant and me and his fianc├ęs sisters were duly decked out in matching peaches and cream froth as was the fashion in the mid eighties. After the duty of standing around looking like a prize fools was done came the good bit – the party.  As the new Mr & Mrs took their first dance two teenagers giggled over too much rum punch and gleefully told men, who were old enough to be our fathers, to stop leering down our sweetheart necklines.  In those few short hours a deep and meaningful relationship that would outlast many a marriage blossomed.

I even made a card to celebrate best friends
That friendship is one of the most important relationships I have had and am ever likely to have.  When my daughter’s father smacked me in the head it was my best friend who held my hand when I had my skull x-rayed.  When the same man died and I was blamed for his death ( I promise I wasn’t there) it was my best friend that held my other hand while I paid my respects at his funeral.  It was the same best friend who held my hair out of my face when I chucked my guts up after drinking maybe a little too much on a stag do in Milan and that same best friend had me doing a runner (at eight months pregnant) from restaurant who gave us appalling service.  Yes she is a bad influence.  Of course we’ve had our problems over the years; we are, contrary to a common misconception only human but that relationship is me and quite simply if I hurt she hurts and if she hurts I hurt and we have no choice, for our own mental well being, to sort problems out.

But what about the relationships that are formed in primary school?  

My daughter and her bbf met at primary school.  They went to different secondary schools and now go to different colleges.  I love how much they love each other and how when they need each other they are just there.  I am grateful that my girl has found that other soul who will be there for her, protect and laugh with her and when she needs it kick her up her jacksee.  Far from being a problem, for some of us our relationship with our best friend is the one relationship we don’t give up on or walk away from, it is what makes us us and what teaches us trust, loyalty and respect and no school policy can change that.

The best kind of friend is the one you could sit on a porch with, never saying a word, and walk away feeling like that was the best conversation you've had.  ~Author Unknown

And as for you Miss De Lisser – you are the wind beneath my wings. 

Diesel and Pants forever  #mybestfriend

Monday, 12 March 2012

Since my copy of Handmade Hellos arrived I have been desperate to get crafting and design some stationery using paper, scissors and glue.



There is a project in the book that uses lined record records to make correspondence cards which really appealed to me so I popped along to Rymans on the way home from the day job last week to stock up on record cards in a selection of colours.  I spent this morning, a gorgeous sunny morning and my first day of annual leave, making myself a papercraft owl. 


When he was finished I scanned him, changed his eyes in Photoshop (they just didn't look right once printed) and printed him onto the 4 x 6 inch sized sheets.  

        

I really like that the lines on the card just show through the image, makes it really obvious the item is handmade.  As well as the blank cards, I thought the image would be nice to use for an invitation to a child's party or play-date so I printed some onto textured card.  Once I rounded off the corners, added the envelopes and tied them with the twine I thought all the cards looked really cute and best of all they are so easy to make. 


I have had so much fun making these little cards that I am going to make a few more in different designs and take them to the shop-ette this week.  I think they'll make a lovely gift for a charming child with delightful manners.

If you try making some similar I'd love to see your pictures, tweet me @ilovestrangefruit

Till then,

Denise


Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Hello Lucky!



Today, I was a very lady!  After a little tweeter banter with the gorgeous letter press stationers Hello! Lucky I was invited along to the London office to have a chat with Iain and Hamad about the greeting card business!




As Hello! Lucky were a part of my inspiration for starting my own greeting card company this meeting was just a little bit special for me - so I baked a lemon drizzle cake to take along and fortunately the boys loved it!




Tucked away on the first floor of this impressive old tannery, Iain and Hamad run the European operations for Hello! Lucky who print their stylish stationery, the old fashioned way on a letter press, in San Francisco.  




I was delighted to see that Iain and Hamad are surrounded, literally by envelopes, of all colours and that their cards were neatly stacked up in THAT Swedish shops drawers! 




Over tea and cake we talked about trade shows, not being afraid to stay in your niche, envelope quality and the options I have for growing and developing my business.  I loved hearing about the creative and business drive of founders Eunice and Sabrina Moyle who started the business in a garage in 2003.  Eunice sent some samples to a store in New York, on a bit of a whim, and they placed an order and just like that Hello! Lucky was in business!  

Having the day job means I am not as immersed in the greeting card world as I would like to be so this opportunity to talk and learn from experts in their field who I have long admired was great.    

I'm inspired, I'm raring to go and I realise I know more than I thought I did!!


Till next time,


Denise


    












Thursday, 16 February 2012

Free money?? Free lipstick? Free Tatty Devine??



So the nice people at Enterprise Nation have given me the opportunity to win £500 worth of funding towards attending a greeting card trade show!  All I have to do is have 500 people register and vote for Strange Fruit - how hard can that be???  Just so you don't miss it this is the link! And to help those votes along there are prizes too.


We all know how hard getting any funding towards a business is these days so this really is a gift.  If you are running a small business are not already aware of Enterprise Nation you should be. The advice they give and they way they give it, in really useful chunks, is totally useful and practical.


If I can get the 500 votes I will be using the cash toward attending the Progressive Greetings Show in London in May 2012.  This is a great show and means that Strange Fruit gets in front of buyers from all over the world.  I hope you can make the time to pop along and give me a vote.  It would be really appreciated so please make sure you let me know.


Even if you don't run a business you can just pop along and vote for me knowing that your vote will make the world of difference to this growing company!


And to say thank you I've got some prizes - when we hit 250 votes there is a Rockalily lipstick in Rockette Red worth £14.00 waiting to be sent to a random voter. So be sure to leave your name and comments, and yes I'll send the lipstick anywhere in the world.  When we hit 500 votes we have a Tatty Devine necklace to give away to a random voter.  Now we can'r say fairer that that!


All my thanks in advance!


Denise



http://www.enterprisenation.com/funding-applications/strange-fruit-greeting-cards/

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

This is the first card from a new collection

Our 'Cut it out' cards have sold really well, their vintage style seems to be a real winner with all our customers.  But one range is not enough so I have started designing a new one, this is the first from the range that will be launched in May. The range is very different so I would love to know what you think.


Saturday, 21 January 2012

We're getting a shop!

Yep, we really are!!  But first Happy New Year to you all!!  I hope 2012 delivers all you want it to.


So, as part of the regeneration of the local indoor market and some funding from Boris, the Mayor of London, we are joining the collective of folk who will be breathing some new life into the Wood Street Indoor Market in Walthamstow, E17!



Our shop is weeny, but it is a SHOP with a door and everything, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to have our very own space to sell both our greeting cards and some of the lovely things we would just love to have but just don't have the room for! 

We (me and the husband) have a lot of painting to do and I will be spending a lot of time on Pintrest looking for inspiration.  I will also be working out the best way for us to sell other peoples products as we won't be able to just go out and buy all the stock we'd like to.  The 'rent a shelf' set-up has been recommended and this seems like a good plan if we keep it simple and fair.  I'd love to know what you think.  Do leave your comments on 'rent a shelf'.  Has it worked for you or been a nightmare? You can send your comments direct to me a deniserawls@rocketmail.com if you prefer.

I had no idea the New Year would get off to such a busy start.  With the small person spending some time in hospital already this year things have been a bit off course the last couple of weeks.  But I am slowly catching up and the little man has made a full recovery.  That will teach him to bite his toe nails - don't ask.   

Next week I'm off to Birmingham for a very special pitch.  I randomly entered a competition to win the opportunity to pitch to the buying team of the Mary Portas shop in House of Fraser.  You can imagine my surprise when I got an email letting us know we were one of just 15 being invited to meet the team.  Even if we don't get a stocked this time round, just being selected to meet House of Fraser is amazing!  But the pitch is ready and the fingers crossed.


It really is a case of watch this space for a bit.  Next week I'll post some pictures of our little shop-ette and let you know how we're getting on, oh and how much more painting there is to do!

"A dream doesn't become reality through magic;
 it takes sweat, determination and hard work."   
Colin Powell

A little update - yep we are in. Everyone that pitched to the team got through and will be in Mary's House of Fraser shop soon.  How amazing is that!!