Website of the Year

Gift Wrapped & Gorgeous

Amanda Charteris talks about the online gift boutique showcasing the best British designer makers.

Gift Wrapped & Gorgeous champions the work of British designer makers and artists whose beautiful and unique products make your lifestyle less ordinary and your home more gorgeous! It provides an online luxury boutique for artisans to showcase their products nationally and internationally and also provides press and marketing services directed specifically at creative businesses. We talk to founder, Amanda Charteris, to find out more.

What was the inspiration for the site?

Having run a wedding decoration business, I came into contact with lots of creative businesses who needed an online portal to showcase their products, which would also offer them marketing help and some PR to help them develop their businesses.

I had discovered a press website which had been successful for me with getting some of my pew decorations into magazines and this resulted in the phone ringing off the hook with orders! I thought that if there was this much interest for my little decorations, then how much more interest would there be for other designer makers? Bigger companies were showcasing mass produced products so there was no reason why I couldn't do the same for designer makers and artists and also provide them with a readymade online boutique too.

With my husband working shifts as an airline pilot, having a bricks and mortar shop didn't really work with having a young child and having an online marketplace was the solution! I could also see back in 2009 that the way forward for shoppers would be online so I wanted to get started as soon as possible.

When did you launch the site?

We launched the website in January 2010 after a year of research into e marketing and ecommerce websites, including lots of competitors!

What are your greatest challenges?

Our greatest challenge is funding our marketing budget and having enough pairs of hands to do all the work we need to do. We do it, but we work crazy hours! We started this business on a shoestring with a grant from Creative Leicestershire and a lot of blood sweat and tears!

Another challenge is to know when to stop working! We know which marketing pillars we need to develop as the business is now ready for serious growth so although the business is generating revenue, the main challenge is financial, especially as there is far more competition now than there was when we started up. A huge challenge is dealing with the frustration of knowing exactly where we need to be and what we need to do, but not having the funds to get there!

What's your background?

Gosh, my background is really varied but has mainly been in sales, marketing, PR and customer service. I spent twelve years in the airline industry as airline cabin crew, which was an amazing experience. Alison, my co-director is much more down to earth in more ways than one as her background is in logistics and project management. She worked for the same company for sixteen years before leaving to join me at Gift Wrapped & Gorgeous! So I guess our skills compliment each other. I am the ideas person and Alison is the implementer. She also keeps my feet on the ground when I get carried away!

Who do you admire in business?

I have got to say the Dragons, especially Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne. We were fortunate to meet Peter at BT Tower in London and he was such an inspiration. Duncan is a fellow Scot and when you read his first book you will see how hard he worked to get where he is today and the amazing charity work he does too. I really admire Deborah's devotion to British design, the environment and her love of animals. I also think she was robbed of her place on Strictly! Deborah's was the first business book I ever read and I will never forget it as all of a sudden I felt I had found my niche in life. She has been very supportive of GiftWrapped & Gorgeous on Twitter too which means a lot to us.

I must also mention our new stakeholders Prompt Interim Management. David Stone who is director of Prompt Interim is also someone we really look up to as he sees so much potential in our business and keeps us focused.

Please recommend a website that helps you promote your business

I couldn't live without social media, especially Twitter. When we first started our business, I used Twitter to launch it and advertise for partner companies and it has opened so many doors for us.

What is the best piece of business advice you've been given?

Know your numbers! I have a type of dyslexia for numbers so right from the start we have had our accountant Natalie looking after the books. She has the patience of a saint with me. It also makes much more sense to get a professional to sort out the accounts as they will do it much faster and more accurately than you. You still have to understand things of course, and I understand it is much safer to keep me away from the VAT return!

What is your motto?

'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again'

Where do you see the business going from here?

We were very lucky to have been accepted to pitch for investment on, which we hoped would completely transform Gift Wrapped & Gorgeous by allowing us to initiate our marketing plan for the next three years. Sadly we didn't gain the investment we needed. With Crowdcube in particular you are expected to have a substantial amount of investment already to encourage other more prestigous investors and this is where we fell down. However, we did get a huge amount of interest from a key group of potential investors who have asked us to implement various marketing pillars and report back to them. Moving forward there will be much more website development to help our partner companies and customers' experience of using the website, lots of focused and targeted e-marketing and the launch of a new service.

Have you entered an award before?

We entered the Mumpreneur UK Awards and also Mums In Business. Both times we reached the finals and were highly commended. We entered to give Gift Wrapped & Gorgeous more publicity and draw attention to the beautiful products our partner companies provide on the website.

December 2014