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New Beginnings

Posted 3/10/2021

Four and a half years ago a young girl came to me in search of a Saturday job. She was bold enough, at 15 years old to approach me herself, to ask for work and give me her CV. StephSteph saw something in this young girl, so that when a job became available, I was happy to give her work, and she didn’t disappoint me. Steph has been a valued and respected member of staff since, and when she leaves us this month to start a pharmacy apprenticeship, she will be greatly missed. Steph may look young, but she’s a well organised, clean working and efficient worker who has always shown good leadership skills. I especially will miss Steph as she helps me enormously with managing stock levels and reminding me of upcoming appointments. The shop won’t be the same without her, but we wish her all the best with her new career. In Steph’s wake, we felt we needed 2 new members of staff and welcome Nina and Faye to the team. Jo

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History in the making?

Posted 5/9/2021

10 years ago I was made redundant from a very stressful job managing a specialist dementia home care team in Bristol, I got work doing nights in a dementia care home in Chepstow, the money was good, but the hours were terrible. Care work had been something that had kept the wolf from the door, and there were times I enjoyed it, but for me it wasn’t enough, I wanted something to really get my teeth into. I thought about teaching computer lessons or maybe a glass decorating business-Ladybird Glass, but neither was quite right.

Then I found a lady in Pontefract that would teach me all I needed to know about starting my own Paint your own Pottery business, finally something creative I could do! So, I spent time learning about bisque and glazing, painting techniques and firing the kiln. It was a lot of money to start up and what if it didn’t work? But I wanted to move away from care work and so I had to make it work! On 1st September 2014 Ladybird Pottery was started as a mobile business visiting groups. InOctober I opened a small shop in part of the Abbey Mill at Tintern.

This was a brilliant way to cut my teeth in retail, the shop had a steady flow of tourists browsing, and I sold a lot of my own hand made ceramics, I was also able to rent space to other crafters to sell their wares. But I was still working nights in the care home and Tintern was very seasonal, lots of people on warm sunny days, but I could go a whole day without seeing anyone when it rained, so I was unable to take any wage from the business.

In December 2016 I took the plunge and left my night work to open a shop on Caldicot High Street. My husband was brilliant, building a kitchen in 7 days so I could serve drinks and cakes, and with one member of staff and of course help from Pauline, we managed to open 6 days a week. It was slow at first, most businesses are, but once summer 2017 had arrived trade improved greatly.

The staff team started to grow with student staff working in the holidays and Deb volunteering with the children’s activities. Deb then started helping with the coffee shop and later we joined forces and became a partnership with her decoupage and my pottery. Before we knew it, we had grown out of the first shop unit in Caldicot and were looking for a bigger place. We felt so lucky finding the old Barclays building as it has the car park at the back, the lawn at the front and lots of different rooms inside.

It took a lot of work to change the building from a bank to a colourful, creative place, and some things still need finishing. We changed the name to Ladybird Craft Centre when we moved in 2019, it made sense as we offered more than just pottery. In regards to surviving the pandemic, we’re not out of the woods yet, but things have improved, so let’s hope we’re here to tell the tail in another 7 years…or maybe more! Jo

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A crazy week.

Upcycling a Cycle

Posted 7/7/2021

Brian taking the bike apart. Brian taking the bike apart.

By now you’ll have probably seen the recycled bike outside our shop, upcycled by our Irene, but do you know the story behind it?

While Sue and Brian were holidaying in Builth Wells a few years ago, they visited an antique show. Brian spotted the bike and thought it would make a great project, before Sue knew what was happening he had paid for it and was trying to work out how to fit it into her Fiat 500. 

The old bikeThe old bike

After borrowing some tools from a very nice man, they managed to squeezed it and themselves into the car, but once at home the bike just sat in their garage. This is where Irene comes in…

“I loved painting this bike, it did take some effort to remove the 4 layers of paint! Black, white and 2 shades of blue! 

The upcycled bike in place at the shopThe upcycled bike in place at the shop

Wouldn’t it be great if those layers of paint could talk? As I worked on the bike, I wondered over the years who rode it? For which shop? A local butchers or bakers maybe? Carrying sausages or crusty bread? How many travels did it do? And did the bike have a squeak like Arkwrights?! 

Its all restored and upcycled into a Café sign now, not bad for something that was heading for the tip!” Irene Quelch.

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Newsletter and classes

Posted 31/5/2021

For some reason it takes a life time to put together a short newsletter and the list of craft classes. Or maybe its the fact I have to chase the tutors 3 or 4 times before getting dates and details out of them. They must know what I'm going to say as I head towards them, so now I just put the diary in front of them and ask them to pop some dates down. This works well until they have left the shop and I realise a date is all I have from them.

Monster Milkshake with vanilla shake, smarties and doughnut. Monster Milkshake with vanilla shake, smarties and doughnut.

 But I'm no better, I know what classes I want to run, or I can find some dates that work, but matching them up doesn't seem to be my forte!

I'll stick with writing the newsletters... but again I sit down to write, and lets face it I always have an opinion, but suddenly I can't think of a single thing to write about. 

Today was a little different. We don't usually open on Bank holidays, I don't know why but people have always assumed we'll be closed, however this bank holiday being part of the actual school holidays has usually been quite good. Today was our usual bank holiday though, with just turbel weed passing by, so when someone ordered a Monster Milkshake 3 of us staff jumped on the order! We love making them, they are indulgent, extravagant and Messy! We pile them high with cream and sweets and sticky sauce, then try to keep it all in place while we carry the glass to the table. The look on the kids faces is of amazement, the look on the parents faces is of concern. 

Once I'd started writing about the Monsters, the rest just seemed to flow and in no time I did have a newsletter, a little late, but finished. The newsletters are emailed monthly, the craft classes are emailed as soon as they're available, to sign up click here.Jo

 

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Exciting times

Posted 16/5/2021

I had intended to write an entry in the blog every week, but like most of you in UK lockdown, you'll know there has been very little to write about. Well that's about to change!

We are so excited that from this Monday we'll be able to have indoor seating again. It's been lovely having outdoor seating, but the weather hasn't been very kind to us and many days we've been finding small jobs for the staff to do like cleaning or decorating or finding a place for the Christmas tree to live (spoiler; the tree is just sat in Debs craft room). New meeting roomNew meeting room

We did decide to have a move around upstairs though. We took half of Debs stuff out her craft room, started moving her into the old staff room (the one with the sink in), then thought wouldn't it be great if we moved the other half of Debs stuff into my craft room (the one at the back with a table in) then move some of Jos stuff into hallway for a week. You see we have been very lucky to get a second kiln! So until this arrived and was placed in the back of the room with the sink then I couldn't move anything else in. Meanwhile Deb somehow managed to completely move out of her old craft room and into the one with the table, meaning she'll be able to hold small classes in there now. Her old room has been turned into a beautiful meeting room with wall mural by Irene, this will be used for customers as we continue to social distance, but can also be reserved for private groups as well. With the kiln now in place in my new craft room, the rest of my things could be moved in. While I was away last week, the staff continued to move my stuff. So I no New kilnNew kilnlonger have to trek up my garden, over slippery decking, though the chicken run and into a spider invested shed to put pottery into the kiln :D Now I just have to climb over piles of stuff I'm not sure where half of it came from, to reach the indoor kiln that isn't actually plugged in yet as an electrician is needed to deal with the fattest cable in the world.

Well we have 2 weeks to get back in the swing of being busy again before we have our first school holiday being open since last summer (we had to close for October half term, the Christmas hols, Februarys half term and the Easter hols). The staff have been enjoying planning for the holiday with special offers on Monster Shakes and classes for all ages. I'm sure we'll be pretty tired by the end of it, but how wonderful to have the building filled with happy customers again!Jo

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New Starts

Posted 25/4/2021

This week we have two new things starting. Our first Newsletter went out on email this evening, and Thursday we'll finally be able to open for outdoor seating! 

Cheese and Tomato PaninoCheese and Tomato Panino

It seems this lockdown has been so long. It didn't help working with just one person in the shop at a time. But this week we have a little normality back, there'll be a minimum of 2 staff working, we'll have all the benches and small table outside, hopefully filled with customers, and lunches will be back on the menu, I can't wait!

This months newsletter includes the details of our fantastic 10% everything offer we have for the first 4 days of opening, the return of Tots Time in a kit and the hope that adult craft classes will resume by the end of May. Front of the shopFront of the shopSo things are looking positive, and the weathers stayed dry as well. I have a lot of shopping to do over the next few days. This lockdown has meant nearly all of our food and drink stock went out of date, nothing went in the bin, the staff has taken the food as the expirations dates came and went, but even long life and freezer stock has gone out of date. Its like starting a new business, stocking up everything, letting the business grow steadily day by day, month by month. I hope its worth it. Jo

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Getting Ready...

Posted 10/4/2021

...to stay as we are. Yes Englands hospitality are allowed to open up their outdoor seating from this Monday, 12th April. I really can't understand why Wales are not allowing outdoor seating in public places, after all we're allowed to meet in private gardens and we're told its very safe outdoors. Its very frustrating as Wales also has lower infection rates than England.

However the weather has turned unseasonably cold this week, and isn't going to get much warmer next week, so maybe we're better off? I mean as much as I want to open our garden and Welcome Customers back, how can I pay staff when no one wants to sit in the arctic winds and eat a panino, or clear the snow off a bench to drink a milkshake? Maybe in 2 weeks we'll be in a pleasant spring warmth and people will want to queue up to sit down? Then I can afford to pay staff to be in the shop making food and drinks, and helping with crafts. Anything's possible right?Jo 

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Spring Forward

Posted 28/3/2021

This is my favourite weekend of the year, not least because its usually the closest to my birthday, but mostly because its the weekend the clocks go forward.

Blossoms outside our shopBlossoms outside our shop

 I always feel the weather also changes this weekend as we seem to have warmer, sunnier days, the flowers and trees seems to know the clocks have changed and everything starts to bloom. But the best part is the evenings are suddenly light! It feels like every night the sun sets about half an hour later than the last, and before we know it we're in the middle of summer. We can get the garden furniture out, have BBQs, go bear foot, have a warm walk on the beach, or just have all the doors and windows open in the house without freezing to death!

We still have no firm date as to when we can allow customers to sit outside the shop yet, for some reason its safe to have your hair cut or go on holiday, but sitting on our benches that we sanitise between each use is considered unsafe. I'm so desperate to get back to working full time, working 3 days is great, but its lonely. 

Sadly customers still can't sit outsideSadly customers still can't sit outside

The Friday and Saturdays we open 

just for drinks and cakes have become very quiet, I'm baking less cakes on the Thursdays and being too temped with the cakes that are made and sat waiting to be purchased! A lot of people have said this lockdown has been the hardest yet. But a long with lighter evenings we have something else to look forward too, coming out of lockdown. Many scientists are predicting that if we do it properly, if we open up slowly and everyone has the vaccine, we will never need to go back into lockdown, and that is an amazing thought!  So lets enjoy nature starting to come to life, as we also come back to a more normal normal. Jo

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Decorating the shop

Posted 10/3/2021

We've now been in the 3rd lockdown for 11 and half weeks and I've finally finished decorating the shop.... well half of the downstairs of the shop.... well nearly finished....

 

The craft room when we moved in 2019The craft room when we moved in 2019

I started the craft room (the room where the safe door is) just after Christmas, but it was so cold in the building I could only bring myself to go in once or twice a week to work on it. This room needed the most work doing to it because the bank had had it as 3 cupboards and a toilet and we wanted it all opened up, so we knocked down those dividing walls which left the floor, walls and ceiling in a terrible condition. We hadn't had enough time to finish it off before we opened in 2019 so being in lockdown was an ideal time to get to work again.The Craft Room today, 2021The Craft Room today, 2021

 

 

Once I'd finished the craft room, I started looking at other areas in the shop, the next room to the craft room had had lots of cables, pipes and ducting removed, along with the banks night safe and cash machine, so this room had many holes in the walls and ceiling.

 

Where the cash machine had been removed 2019Where the cash machine had been removed 2019

 

 

And of course once I started finding holes I kept finding more, but that was ok, because the filler covered well and all I had to do was patch over the filler with the same paint we painted the room when we moved in... or so I thought!

 

Where the cash machine had been, now 2021Where the cash machine had been, now 2021

 

 

Unfortunately it was really obviously where had been patched, so I found myself painting the entire ceiling, all the walls, around all the pipe work, in all the nooks and crannies and finishing with the skirting and a really good clean and tidy up. Phew, done! The trouble is the wall opposite the toilet that really needs a good lick of paint has a water leak so I didn't want to paint it until that's fixed, and who knows when that will be. Other than that the shop has been decorated! JC

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Ladybirds Log

 

Sunday 9th October 2016

It's so exciting to finally have something to update the public about the new shop in Caldicot. It's just a shame the update is that we're still waiting!

On Thursday I thought I would pop an update on my Fb page and it was received well :) So today I thought I would write in a little more depth about how we got this far.

In May I signed up to the website Startuploans.co.uk- they put me in touch with a company that would help me apply for a start up loan. Craig was assigned to me as my mentor and gave me templates and advise and sent me off to write my business plan. And then re-write my business plan. Then tweak my business plan. Then add a couple more bits to my business plan. And a cash flow forecast needed filling in for 2 years- well I still don't totally understand a cash flow, but I put numbers in boxes and somehow got it done.

Craig then asks "What evidence do you have to show that Caldicot wants this?"

Enjoying drinks and cakes outside Donnies Cafe, MagorEnjoying drinks and cakes outside Donnies Cafe, Magor

So I created a 10 question survey and with the super powers of Facebook I got 248 completed surveys in just a couple of days. Me and my husband had the hardship of visiting coffee shops and cafes in Chepstow, Caldicot and Magor to see what the competition was like and all this new info was added to my business plan and cash flow forecast.

By now it was the end of June and Craig advised me I had to apply for the Start up loan before my business turned 2 years old at the start of September.

Time was against me and it felt like everything else was against me as well. After filling in the application form for the loan Craig went on holiday and wanted to be back to work before the application went in as the process includes his company reviewing the application and Craig was needed to field any questions they had. Once the application was in some questions did come back and it involved me tweaking the business plan again. I then decided I needed a holiday- Well it had been booked 2 years previous and the timing now couldn't have been worse. I spent the week leading up to the holiday on the phone to Craig or the estate agent , sorting the Tintern shop ready for me to leave it in other peoples very capable hands and serving the Tintern customers as we were now in the first 2 weeks of the school holidays.

When I couldn't think straight anymore we went on holiday, and I did manage to relax and not think about the application for a while.

The day after we returned Craig phoned me and said my application had been accepted and the money would be in my account in the next few days. I said "Thank you". I'm not sure if it was the shock, the jet lag or the thought that now things are going to get very real, very quickly, but Thank you was all I could manage with no enthusiasm at all.

Craft Coffee LeafletCraft Coffee Leaflet

A couple of weeks later, overflowing with enthusiasm, I made the finally decide on which unit on Caldicot High Street I was going to have and handed my notice in to my well paid care job.

Well that's the story as far. I'm petrified! .....and still waiting to get access to the unit- the landlords lawyers are doing ....something or other (probably nothing to do with my unit!) but it's them I'm waiting for.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this first installment of Ladybird Log- keep watching this space for the most up to date info on our Caldicot and Tintern adventures. 

 

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