Theo Paphitis is the biggest supporter of small businesses! You might know him from the TV show Dragon’s Den on BBC as well as starting Small Business Sunday in 2010. So I was incredibly excited when he picked Sandwick Bay candles to be one of #SBS winners back at the end of April.

I had the spent the day with the kids exploring the far end of Tolsta beach, Isle of Lewis. While they were playing on the beach I had climbed to the top to take a photo. You can even see the three of them playing on the beach.

Outer Hebrides

The beach that caught Theo’s eye

Every Sunday night small businesses tweet Theo Paphitis and #SBS. This was my winning tweet: Because I HAVE to live in the Outer Hebrides, miles away from everything but I do bring the best of candles and subscription box fun to you every month, when I’m not exploring that is @TheoPaphitis  when are you coming for a swim 

Each Monday night at 8pm the winners are chosen. I was upstairs in the loft making candles and went down to get my phone. I noticed all the tweets coming in and had a feeling straight away that I had been chosen. The words that came out of mouth shocked the lovely Emma who was upstairs helping me. Congratulations were coming in from all over the UK and we were jumping about the workshop. I’m not sure how the kids slept through it!

Small Business Sunday

#SBS official winner’s badge

 The next few days my phone was going crazy with tweets. Repetitive strain injury was setting in as I was replying to all the messages of congratulations. The support was amazing. Businesses already part of the SBS family were so welcoming and other small businesses were encouraged to tweet again the following Sunday. To say I was on a high was an understatement. Even welovestornoway.com picked up on the news and wrote a wee article – Theo’s boost for candle firm 

Winning a stand at the Autumn Fair

Then on the 24th June I was chosen as one of 12 small businesses to win a free stand at the Autumn Fair in Birmingham. This was a huge deal! I had never had the confidence to sign up to a trade show before and now I was heading to one of the biggest in the UK. With an estimated 20,000 visitors this was definitely going to be big!

#SBS Autumn Fair

Sandwick Bay candles at the Autumn Fair

This news was being picked up nationally with www.craftbusiness.com amongst others writing all about us. Theo even described the winners as being the brightest and boldest of the UK retail sector! The Autumn Fair were very excited to welcome back Theo and his #SBS Pavilion with the 12 lucky winners. We were located right next to the Inspiring Retail Stage. There was a full program of inspiring speakers and Mary Portas – Queen of Shops – was there drawing a huge crowd. I left my stand to go over and get her latest book – Work Like a Woman.

How did we get to the Autumn Fair

A lot of planning (with some panic and stressful moments) was involved in getting to the Trade Show. For starters did they realise where I lived! To get to Birmingham Lynne and I flew to Glasgow and then caught the train. We had 2 suitcases filled to the brim with candles and brochures. I had sent shelving to the fabulous Victoria who I had only met online. She was going to meet us the NEC with the shelves. I was excited to finally meet Victoria as we had been chatting online for a few years. My sister Nicola happened to be over this side of the world and planned a stopover to come and support me. So there were a lot of emotions as we arrived in Birmingham. Team work got the stand looking the way we wanted and we were ready for our first day at the Autumn Fair. The video below was created by Lynne and I love watching it as it shows all the excitement and nerves and awesomeness of the experience. Thank you Lynne and MPS Digital 

So what happened next…

The response at the Autumn Fair was so positive. Lot’s of people stopped by the stand and got in touch online. We secured new stockists and are now making bespoke candles for a number of businesses. The 11 other businesses in the #SBS pavilion were fabulous, such an inspiration and the best support crew. I couldn’t have had better people to share this experience with. I even went to Scotland’s Trade Show a few weeks later and knew the trade show lingo. Would I do it again – absolutely! In fact Sandwick Bay candles are heading to Glasgow again in January 2020 for another trade show.

This was such a big step for my small business and I couldn’t have done it without the support of Theo Paphitis and  Small Business Sunday. I now have to book my tickets for my first SBS conference at the end of February where I will get to meet Theo again. I also can’t wait to meet up with my crew below.

Autumn fair SBS winners

The fabulous group of 12 winners with Theo Paphitis at the Autumn Fair

If you are wanting any Christmas ideas then check out the below pages. There are a wonderful range of ideas and gifts and remember they will all do a happy dance when you buy from them. Just like every small business does – your purchase really does make a difference. 

Whispers of Wood

Our Little Globe

A Year of Dates

Angels’ Share Glass Ltd

Ascent Bath & Body

Beeutiful

Bottled Baking Company

Kate Chesters Art

Little Beau Sheep

The Smokey Carter

When Lulu Met Weasel