I've never had a job with 'sales' in the title, or considered myself any type of salesperson, but in reality there is some form of sales in most jobs. My last job involved convincing my bosses to spend tens of million of pounds upgrading sewage treatment works. I didn't expect to take inspiration from pleading the case for a new pump, or trash screen, to selling personalised keepsakes. But I did.
The company I worked for spent a lot of money on complex programs to analyse the cost-benefit of their investments. Every benefit of a new piece of equipment (from fewer customer complaints to safer working environments) had a financial value assigned. Once you knew the cost of the upgrades you wanted to make, and the benefits you expected to see, you could plug the information into the system and it would spit out a value. Higher numbers were better - it meant you were getting more benefit for the money spent. In theory, all the funding requests from across the company could be objectively compared to one another. Deciding which projects to fund should be easy, simply by picking the top scoring options you'd be spending your money in the best possible way. But guess how often I was asked for the cost-benefit information when I was pitching for money? Rarely. I'm tempted to say, never - in 3 years working there.
So how were decisions made? Well, quite honestly, by the stories they were sold. Despite their best efforts to create a systematic impartial approach to decision-making, many of us connect with stories much more than we do numbers. Show somebody a picture of crumbling equipment, tell them the stories of close shaves or near catastrophes, and you take them on the journey with you. A number on a piece of paper is sterile in comparison.
So to successfully get the money I wanted, I learned to tell stories and add colour to what could be a pretty bland proposal. It shocked me one day to realise that what I had done instinctively when discussing sewage plants, I had failed to do in the marketing of Scribbled Squirrel. If storytelling should come naturally anywhere, it should do here. Scribbled Squirrel is all about stories. Every piece we make has a story behind it. And yet I realised that my photography and social media posts were sterile. There was no context behind the pieces. Nothing that told of the meaning behind them, the people involved or the stories they had to tell.
I can't claim to be any kind of expert in sales or marketing, but I do enjoy telling a story. These days I try to make sure my photography hints at the story behind the piece. I mix product profiles alongside personal stories on my social media. I've seen a lot more engagement but there's still a lot to learn.
Last week was mine and my husband's 8 year wedding anniversary. We used to go away each year for our anniversary but since we've had kids our celebrations have got a little more reserved each year. The first year after we had my eldest daughter we managed a couple of nights away while my parents babysat. Last year our youngest daughter was 6 weeks old at the time of our anniversary, and wouldn't feed from a bottle, so she slept in her pram alongside the table while we had a meal out. This year my husband had to go to a class the day of our anniversary, but we did manage a meal at a local restaurant the night before (minus kids in prams).
So, over the last few weeks I've spent some considerable time looking at anniversary gifts. When looking for gifts I think we all want to find something that has a personal connection; that has that special feel and is unique and meaningful to us. Neither my husband or I wear our wedding rings much any more, but I was keen to have something less formal I could wear that recognised our partnership. It got me thinking about some new design ideas combining handwriting from two people - we're imaginatively calling it the 'yours and theirs' collection.
The idea behind the design is that one side is your writing, and the other theirs - joined together by a large ampersand. In the last week we've mocked up a couple of sample necklaces using the words Mr&Mrs and You&Me. I must say I absolutely love my You&Me necklace, I can definitely see it becoming a firm favourite. Like all of our jewellery what people choose to write, and why, are entirely open - hearing the stories and inspiration behind the pieces we make is one of the things I love about it.
Next up is transferring the design to other products - almost certainly a key chain and perhaps some wall art. They'll be hitting the store soon so keep an eye out.
It's been a tough few weeks in our house as our eldest has been settling into 'big' school. She'd been in her nursery since she was 4 and a half months old, so leaving her group of friends, and going somewhere she didn't know anybody, was understandably daunting. I hadn't anticipated the emotional toll it would take on the rest of us. Safe to say things have been more than a little fraught at times. Thankfully, she now trots into class quite happily and is full of stories when she comes home.
Over these last couple of weeks I've reflected a lot on my decision to take voluntary redundancy. Admittedly our finances will probably never be so healthy as they were, but on an everyday basis life is so much easier! My husband and I both worked for a family-friendly employer only a 15 minute journey from our home, and our daughter's nursery was on the same site. It really doesn't get much better than that for families; but none the less we were rushed and stressed.
Children get sick. Deciding which of you should leave that important meeting, or call in for another unplanned day's leave is stressful. You are letting people down. They've already been sick twice this year. No matter how flexible a company is they cannot account for the pressure we put on ourselves.
Things only get worse when they move to school and you can no longer rely on the extended hours care provided by a private nursery. While many schools offer before and after school clubs they are often over-subscribed and come at a cost - not to mention the guilt you feel thinking of your child at school while all their friends skip merrily home.
So anyway, fingers crossed we can keep this going a little while longer. And good luck to everybody juggling work and childcare - you're doing great!
This week my eldest daughter started school, and the youngest will begin nursery. It's been difficult to get much done during the baby's nap times, so the prospect of having whole days to myself is quite exciting. However, it does mean that I have to get serious. It's time to stop hobby-ing and try to turn Scribbled Squirrel into a proper (money-making!) business - or face the alternative, and return to employment.
Over the last couple of months family and friends have tried and tested the designs. Their feedback has been invaluable and has led to some exciting improvements.
Few us of us could imagine our baby undergoing open heart surgery at just two weeks old. That was the reality for Katy and her family, when her son was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. Six years, and three heart surgeries later there story is one of strength, courage and determination. So I was delighted when Katy suggested a pendant necklace made using the trace of Jack's heart beat. It's a beautiful reminder of the challenges he's already had to overcome just to run around and play like his friends.
Sadly, not every journey is happy. In those first few days it would have been easy to miss the signs that something wasn't right, in fact Katy was told by numerous professionals that everything was fine. Congenital heart defects kill more children each year than any other defect or illness combined and a third of cases are only diagnosed when a baby falls ill or dies. The UK National Screening Committee is consulting on including tests in newborn exams to identify critical heart defects - disappointingly the current advice from the NHS is against carrying out the tests. You can register your views on this life-saving test here.
I am pleased to donate £1 from every Heart Trace Necklace and Heart Pendant to Little Hearts Matter - a charity that has supported Katy and many families like hers.
My name is Sarah. I live in Warrington, UK, with my husband, two daughters and dog.