Theo Paphitis’ #SBS Event 2015 – Birmingham

In September 2013 I was honoured to be chosen by Theo Paphitis for his Small Business Sunday Award, and got a retweet of my business, .

Not only this, I became part of a wonderful group of small businesses who have also won this accolade. This group of people are so supportive, being from all different sized businesses at different stages of development. There is so much to be learned from them. We all look forward to the annual networking event, where we also receive gems of wisdom from top business people, including Theo himself, who have been through setting up a business.

I’m just back from the 2015 event in Birmingham, where once again I’ve had a fantastic couple of days. It has to be said that, on my second trip to Birmingham for this, I have realised that the event itself, although it’s the main part, is not the only thing I look forward to. Arriving the night before and meeting up with dear twitter friends is also high on the agenda! We have several characters who are well known by most #SBS winners for being extremely supportive, and in my case, we share great banter on twitter too! So, after a night of socialising we got a rallying speech from our Kim ( @Welshroyalcrystal ), encouraging us all to be on the look-out for anyone nervous or unsure of themselves and to bring them into the ‘fold’. Also of course to make the most of this wonderful opportunity. Hear hear!

Kims speech thur night

Event day was great. A lot of us had already found each other and once we had our badges we were off into the hall for networking. I found lots of people I’ve known on twitter for a while, but not met yet. I was also really pleased to meet Jen from @Grippyleads who had only just won her #SBS and managed to get to Birmingham with barely any time to organise it! Not only that, she lives down the road from me! It’s fantastic to have another #SBS winner so close.

Hubi Jen grippyleads & me

We took our seats as the excitement built.

Joy me selfie in seats

Kypros from Rymans started us off and then introduced the main man onto the stage.

Theo just arrived

Theo speaks very well, and keeps us all laughing. He’s not beyond a little chat with people in the audience. Bubblegum Balloons had the right idea, bring three beautiful balloons that hung above their heads, prompting Theo to HAVE to ask who they were, mid-speech! He also was a pretty good sport as a few of us interrupted his speech with big “ooooooo”s at the sight of the giant picture of last year’s macaroons on the screen behind him! “She nearly swooned at his macaroons”, he joked!

He buoyed everyone up and gave us all some great advice. He said you won’t get anywhere with out a lot of hard work, and there will be some very tough times. He also mentioned that most people, when they become a success, are not on the their first business, but have moved on. We all need to shout about our businesses until we have bored everyone about it, then shout about it some more!

Chris Wheeler from Metalfrog then introduced us to our new-look #SBS website, which has been made super-search-engine-friendly! Just what I need as such as small business ‘fish’ in a very large internet pond. The moment came where Theo was about to reveal the new website by pressing the refresh button, and he made us all wait to build the tension!

Theo pressing button with Chris

All went well of course. Chris has done a great job for us and we will be able to find other #SBS businesses on the site too. Anyone can search the site, using the new search criteria, so pop over and have a look. There are some great businesses in this special group!

Panel - Rob Gandys flip flopf Julienne Callede Judy st tropez TP

Next we had the panel of experts telling us the stories of their businesses and the pitfalls and successes they went through to get where they are today. We heard some truly inspirational speakers: Judy Naake, who brought St. Tropez to the UK,explained how she used to drive around and pick up a few salons a day on her client list, until she was at the stage where she decided to offer celebrities free tanning on the understanding she could advertise their endorsement of her product. This helped the business take off, and went on to sell it for £70 million!  It wasn’t her first business, and she was 47 when she started it, so it’s never too late.

Julienne Callede set up , not by having a new original idea, but by choosing a new way to do it, bringing great designs of furniture to the public at much lower prices than others. Also, as he put it, “by doing it better than anyone else!” They were online only, but took a risk (the only one that required the board to vote) by adding a showroom in their offices. This gave the company a huge boost and on it went from there.

Rob Forkan from Gandys Flip Flops set up his business with his brother after a terrible tragedy in this family. He chose to raise money to buy children’s orphanages and, to begin with, did this without using the story of his motivation. Eventually they decided to reveal what had happened and have shown that a strong belief in what you are doing, and never giving up, are strengths we should all learn from. See more here for their incredible story here

The panel took a lot of questions from the #SBS winners, providing insights into how they have made a success of their businesses.

The other aspect of the day was the networking. Hubi, my cheeky ladybird puppet, made a lot of new friends. Here are just a few people he met!

Hubi Julienne Callede Julienne Callede!

Hubi and kim Hubi alison batman PilHubi and Miki Hubi & MattHubi Kim Ruth fancy dress meHubi Chiara (hoobynoo) & me

Just as he left the stage, Joy from @apbassetts (my guest) raced off and managed to catch Theo to present him with a bag of liquorice allsorts (as Bassetts are the sweetest law firm in town!). She’s definitely going to be an #SBS winner by next year!

Joy handing over allsorts to Mr P

The new winners then queued up for their photos with Theo. He must have stood there for a good couple of hours with his “best cheesy grin” as he put it! I think everyone went away feeling like a VIP, with a goody bag from the sponsors and lots of new ideas to take their businesses to the next stage. I’m certainly very proud to be a member of this wonderful group.

If you would like a chance to win #SBS , tweet @Theopaphitis about your business between 5-7.30pm on a Sunday evening using the hashtag #SBS. You never know, you could be with us at the next event!

Hubi the ladybird is available here:

Is it sad that stationery shops & catalogues excite me?

I don’t know about anyone else, but I think this must be a hangover from childhood. My total and utter love of lovely new sharp pencils, coloured pens, gel pens or tiny-nibbed pens that write beautifully has never waned since I was a child! Back then it was the excitement of shopping for the longest possible set of felt-tips, like a giant rainbow, all organised by colour in a well-known high-street stationers (one of two in my town in those days). My colouring would be that bit neater for a while to honour the new pens. They’d be kept in pristine order, and it would be so sad when they finally dried up – mind you then came the chance to buy MORE -yipeee!

I still have a set of pens, in their black plastic holder, in order, with my name (as was) written neatly in in my cursive writing (which means we’re talking Primary school or early Secondary school, because I changed my writing to suit me as soon as it wasn’t expected to be totally joined up and in ink pen).


Actually, one thing I never got that excited about, the exception to the rule, was cartridge ink pens! I dabbled with Calligraphy for a while, using turquoise ink and a posh pen I’d had for my birthday. My dad was all into that too. Having to use them at school was a pain, but also a right of passage. You had to be in the top year at Primary school to be allowed!

During secondary school years, outside of school, I wrote important things in a mixture of grey & pink (very ’80s). This was pretty time-consuming as I alternated, doing one letter of each colour as I wrote! On to Uni, and I favoured a sharp pencil for ALL writing, apart from work to be handed in of course. I even wrote reams of pages as letters to my family, friends and boyfriend in pencil, using normal, lined A4 paper. I obviously wasn’t at all bothered about the paper, though being a poor student doesn’t really allow for luxuries such as posh writing paper.

Anyway, the point of these ramblings is just that I have just opened my new Rymans Business account, a benefit of winning the #SBS award from Theo Paphitis for my bug-filled online shop ( ) . A gigantic catalogue has plopped onto the doormat and an equally generous credit is waiting to be spent!


So, the problem I’m struggling with is do I buy what I need (printer ink cartridges etc yawn) or what grabs my eye (multicoloured mechanical pencils, beautiful sets of pens, colourful organising bit & bobs)? I keep finding more & more possibilities! I promise I’ll make the right decision, but for now, I’m in a stationery wonderland & I am going to enjoy looking!

Theo Paphitis’ #SBS Event 2013 – Buggie in Brum!

Well, the day finally came last week when I travelled to Birmingham to attend the #SBS Winners Event, and meet Theo himself! Excited doesn’t cover it! I was allowed to take a guest, and as hubby had to stay home looking after the kids (mwahahahaha), I choose my local friend and #SBS winner-in-waiting, Joy Bassett from AP Bassetts, Lostwitihiel (@apbassetts). Joy bravely decided to drive us there and we made it in good time to our hotel, The Hampton by Hilton, Broad Street.


Buggie was very comfy there.

I could go on and on here about our first night in Brum, suffice to say, we met up with wonderful Twitter friends and lots of squealing, eating and drinking ensued. We did manage to get to bed before 1am though….well some of us did,

Theo had graciously started the event at the lovely time of 11am, which meant a leisurely breakfast and stroll en-mass up the road towards the ICC, excitement building!

Walking in we saw the first sign, and yes, over-excitement got the better of me and I did a silly pose!


After collecting badges we wandered into the conference room and started right away to meet other #SBS winners, some of whom we ‘knew’ from Twitter, and plenty of new contacts too. It was wonderful to put faces to names! Trying to find each other was fun, but we soon saw that all the screens had the twitter feed for #SBSEvent2013 showing. So, what else would you expect, but everyone, standing in the same room, still tweeting furiously to each other, trying to find people. I had to laugh -it was the funniest thing, heads buried in phones everywhere! Mind you, I also HAD to see my own tweet up on that screen, so did a couple myself :0)


I soon found another way to find people, the shifty-over-someone’s-shoulder-look at their name badge (rather than the more embarrassing walk-right-up-looking-at-their-chest kind). Numbered tables around the room helped too of course. I did manage to find a few fellow Cornish businesses (of the 10 who have won #SBS since it began). Here are lovely Fiona from @CoombeMill and Karen from @JustBunting . I also saw @MrsCassieKemp from Cake Top Characters, and there’s a photo of us together somewhere.


The main event began with Kypros Kyprianou, CEO of Ryman Stationary, telling us about the new sponsors of #SBS. More sponsors have joined forces with Ryman to support this fab Small Businesses group. I had a seat quite far over to one side at this point and could see the main man – Mr. Paphitis – sliding about in the wings, having a sneaky peak at Kypros during his speech!

Then, on he came, to great applause from all of us.


I don’t think the grin left my face from start to finish to be honest, I must have looked a bit of a wally, though I suspect others may have done the same! Theo spoke with humour and honesty, and made us all feel 10 feet tall for getting the award. At one point he showed a short presentation of a few winner’s stories, and I was suddenly looking at the photo of me and the kids and newspaper headline which resulted from my Press Release when I won – cue the odd squeal from the audience, including me! Eeek that was a HUGE screen, and a HUGE surprise! I still have the music in my head too, it’s the one the used for the walking along the corridor slowly in Kill Bill!


We heard some exciting new developments for the #SBS family, including pending improvements to our very own website, run by fellow #SBS winner Chris Wheeler (@MetalsFrogst) and his team at Metal Frog Studios. Chris was brought on stage and gave us a run-down on the changes coming up – all of which were going to be done ‘Monday’ :0). Then came the main announcement from Theo; the arrival of the #SBS Angels. These are a group of successful business people, who were invested in by Theo via Dragon’s Den, coming together to choose one #SBS winner to receive a £50,000 investment. #SBS winners were invited to pitch to the #SBS Angels for this, in a Dragon’s Den style!

There was so much discussed, and I could go on and on. I think we were all struck by what a good speaker Theo is, and were very impressed with how long he took at the end of the presentation to answer questions from the audience (going way over the allocated time). Questions ranged from sensible to crazy, with continued golden nuggets of business advice from Mr. P throughout. He made one lady’s day with an on-the-spot decision to have the Buying Manager from his most recently acquired business, Robert Dyas, meet her to discuss featuring her British-Made cookware. This was prompted by her telling him she was banging down doors trying to spread the word of her products, but many places didn’t even bother to reply to her. When she said she had felt a bit shy asking a question, he responded with “I know, I noticed you put your hand up about four times and then put it down again”.

After this, we went straight into a huge queue to have our certificates presented and meet Theo. Every lady got out her make-up & mirror! So, here is an unofficial snap of my moment with Mr. P. Of course, Buggie made it into the picture too. Theo was pleased I brought him along!


We left, Rymans goody bags in hands, feeling buoyed up by being part of such a fantastic group. Members of #SBS have the benefit of advice from all sorts of different business people, from around the country, with expertise in a huge variety of areas. For me, relatively at the beginning of my journey, this is invaluable. The possibility of mentors offering their services to #SBS members is exciting, and this support is something most Small Business owners cannot find. I would advise anyone who has thought about entering #SBS (on a Sunday between 5 – 7.30pm on Twitter) to do it! Have a read of this to find out more. Twitter itself is a great network, and #SBS a wonderful group of people. Long may it continue to grow and inspire people – Thanks Theo!

#SBS Award-winning For the most fabulous Bug-Themed gifts, clothes & toys. Bright, fun & funky. Have a buzz around!!

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So, I made it to the papers over the last couple of weeks! Now looking forward to the #SBS Event 2013 in Birmingham, and meeting some of the lovely people I have met via Twitter, as well as the man himself! Am keeping everything crossed that new winners will get the photo with Theo that last year’s winners got.


And even better, the kids now think they are famous:


My neighbours were joking that they now need my autograph. How funny! My new Christmas stock is coming in though and I am very happy to be able to have my favourite caterpillar back in the shop! Watch this space…… :0)