Fi Thomas (87-91C) has been shortlisted for Amazon's Small business of the Year.
Life’s Little Recipes has been selling on Amazon since 2017 and this is really the main platform where I sell. I have my own website and I sell on Ebay too.
Michelle from Home and Garden was extremely kind to give it a go for me in store but we soon realised that I needed to do more work on in store display so for now I’m concentrating on the online business. I was inspired to follow the idea for Life’s Little Recipes as I used to be a cancer nurse (spent the last few years of my nursing career as a Research nurse at NDDH) and then after training in TA psychotherapy in Exeter, I was very lucky to become a counsellor with FORCE cancer charity in their Outreach centres in Tiverton and Okehampton.
I believe, after many years of therapy and the experiences I have had, that people need to be recognised and to be loved. We all need to be seen and communication is so important so we can connect with each other. Just as importantly, we need to smile and have fun! The Recipes, I hope, allow people to connect with each other, recognise and perhaps say the sentiments we sometimes find hard to say … all mixed with a little fun too! The Recipes (bags) have six ‘ingredients’ that are objects that are attached to a sentiment. I hope that the Recipes are affordable to the majority so many people have access to them and in their own way, they promote positive mental health. This business is the product of the love and support of family and the local community!
When I was working with FORCE, the idea started to materialise that this could be a way that people could authentically connect with each other. I had no business sense at all and I was working too so the idea was very slow in coming together. Unfortunately I became very unwell and it was at this point that my dear friend, Rachel, who also runs an online business, Strawberry LACES, stepped in and believed in me and the product and helped me put the business together.
Her husband, Calum, and her were so incredibly supportive and very patiently taught me what to do. Rachel is still my ‘go to’ with questions, wobbles and when I need a little confidence to try a new idea! Mum and Dad are a constant source of strength and have been dedicated in helping me! They have kept me going through times when I’ve been poorly – no idea what I would have done without them both! They work so hard and are also there to organise me and tell me off when I need to take a break!! They are truly incredible!
My husband Steve has been very brave and it wasn’t long after I started to recover that we realised I didn’t have the resources to return to work and we re-evaluated our life and realised that the family was our most important priority and I would stay at home to work this amazing opportunity whilst also being available at home as Mum! Steve gives me business advice and often explains this new language (!) and he often grounds me too particularly when the business can start to take over!
Even the children have helped out … Will has helped me with IT and social media (thank goodness for the youngsters and their fearless ability to give it a go!) and Molly often asks if she can help - they are great inspiration for ideas as well! I need to say thank you to Laura, who has helped me with Excel spreadsheets and our wonderful friends Steve and Julie who also have local businesses, Blue Panda and Promocaps. They supply my magnets and skilfully drew and created Unimole whilst very patiently interpreting what was in my head!
Mark is my IT guru as is Sharon, my lovely neighbour! Last but not least, Sam who is truly a gem who works two to three days a week making the bags and all sorts of other jobs too – and providing light entertainment during our day!
My family have also been an incredible support and motivators to keep going and giving expert advice of how to progress …. Whilst my niece sends fabulous photos that can be used to post on social media! Having an Amazon business has enabled me to work whilst being poorly, to be a Mum and wife and have a platform where my Recipes can reach so many people! Online businesses can also seem faceless and stereotypically lacking any emotion but I don’t believe that needs to be true. I hope the positive experience starts with the customers and they need to feel of worth too - great customer service is so important. One can still listen online and respond effectively to what is being said and allow personality to be seen.
Everyone’s reason for needing a Recipe is unique and important to them and so that needs to be recognised, valued and respected. Every small business needs to be celebrated as I now have an appreciation of the hard work and commitment that goes into running a business – there’s never an end of a day or a day off! It’s also so incredibly satisfying too and I love what I do – I know how lucky I am to have a business I can run from home and I’m so thankful to my friends and family who have made this work for me.
A special mention to Ruth Sweetland (89-91C) who keeps the numbers in order as my bookkeeper.
If I win, it will be wonderful for everyone who has helped me to be recognised and I look forward to the advice and help that Amazon will offer me for the business! This is an amazing opportunity and I would like to thank Amazon for short listing me. Public votes are on the Amazon homepage (banner at the top) from 15th October to 24th November!
We find out the winner on the 4th December. The award is: a trip to Amazon in Seattle, 6 months of account management, onsite marketing by Small Business Empowerment team and advertising credit in the amount of £10,000 towards search advertising! Wow! I do know that I’ve waffled on but I feel there’s so many people that have been part of Life’s Little Recipes’ journey!If you would like to vote for Fi, you can do so HERE