Tell us about your business
I took over All Personal Gifts in November 2005 after the owners no longer had the time to give it their full attention. I'd been selling bits and bobs on online auction sites as a hobby and this was the perfect opportunity to take on a new business. I invested in my own engraver and offered the personalised engraving service on all sorts of products, from key rings to pens to mirrors and champagne bottles. I was still working from home two years later and my living room was jam packed, so it was a big relief to move into a business centre near to where I lived in Cheshire. I've since made another move to Coventry to be closer to my fiancée and I'm working from a beautiful stately home a few miles out of town. It's been converted into business suites and it's just perfect.
Tell us about your products
I started off with mainly good quality metal products and then branched out into silver and glass. I have everything you can imagine really - desk accessories, clocks, handbag mirrors, business card cases, photo frames - and everything can be engraved with whatever the customer wants. I do a lot of work providing corporate and promotional gifts, alongside individual personalised items. Recently I have completed orders that include 75 cocktail shakers for a hotel chain and 200 Formula One key rings for Mercedes-Benz.
What kind of things do you engrave?
Birth dates, wedding dates and hearts with names are always popular. There's really nothing like a personal message on a gift to make it really special. We've had some funny and unusual requests too, some would make you red faced! But most are just a lovely touch on a great product. I've recently just engraved a shamrock on a plague to go on a trophy for a horse show; you really get an insight into people's lives in a way. People ask for their names written in Chinese and text message emoticons like smiley faces are really popular. I've also been doing a lot of Zippo lighters lately for both individuals and companies, who require their company logo to be engraved onto the item. I have requests for key rings with a tax disc on that can be engraved with a personal name and date. As a general trend I'd say people are buying quality products rather than quantity.
How do you maintain that all important work/life balance?
I'm now working alone again after relocating, before I had a team of four. I work long hours making sure I get every order completed on time and made to a high standard. I don't want to let a single person down as I rely a lot on returning custom and I pride myself on providing the best customer service I can. I work six to seven days a week and around 12 hours a day at the moment but this industry is a bit like waiting for a bus. You wait for ages then all of a sudden you get lots of orders coming in all at once so you always have to be ready to hit the ground running and deliver the goods.
How much do you think Britain's departure from the EU will affect the business?
Funnily enough I actually relocated on the day of the referendum so time will tell if that was a bad omen or not! I'm lucky because I have a strong, loyal customer base but it's definitely not the time to try and be too ambitious. I'd be happy just to maintain the status quo at the moment. Generally, from speaking to customers and suppliers I know there is a lack of confidence at the moment and people don't want to spend money or commit to anything unless they really have to. It's going to be challenging but I intend to just continue producing good quality items and offer the best customer service I can.
What are you most proud of?
I offer good customer service and this is something I rate very highly, as the owner of my own business and as a customer - whether I'm shopping in a supermarket or eating in a restaurant - I like to feel looked after and it always makes such a difference when you are. All my customers are highly valued and I do my best to provide them with the best service I possibly can.
All Personal Gifts specialise in diamond drag and laser engraving of metal corporate and promotional gifts. For more information visit www.allpersonalgifts.co.uk