Saturday, 27 August 2016

NEW BEARHUGS CHRONIC ILLNESS PROJECT

bearhugs opportunity for people with chronic illness

As you may know if you've followed this blog or read BearHugs' story, what prompted me to start my business was chronic illness.
I was originally diagnosed with ME/CFS and later found out that I have Lyme Disease. For a long time I was unable to work but I now feel very lucky to have been able to create my own job that works around my variable health. 
From the very beginning it was important to me that BearHugs wasn't just about making money. While I feel proud to now be able pay myself a wage, I feel prouder still that my business is able to give back. I love donating gift boxes to seriously ill children through Post Pals and I'm really happy to be able to support my friend Sophia with her fundraising. But I don't want to stop there.
Going forward it is important to me to be able to support others who have found themselves in situations similar to myself.

I'm currently working on a very big project which will involve offering support to people with long-term health conditions. 

I really want this project to be the best it can be and for it to offer real value to people who access it. 
I'm going to be looking for feedback about how I can make this project as useful as possible. 
I'd love for you to get involved / register your interest if....

-You're living with a long-term health condition
-You've thought about starting a small business that would work around your health
-You live in the UK

If the profile above sounds like you and you'd like to hear more about the project please pop across to 
and fill out the form at the bottom of the page.
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Thursday, 11 August 2016

THE SOPHIA BEARHUGS GIFT BOX


On a very bleak day several years ago, the postman knocked on my front door with a package.  I wasn't expecting anything so I was surprised when I saw it had my name on. I took the package back to my bed, which I'd barely been able to leave for the past month, and started to open it. I pulled out a pretty box and was intrigued to hear it rattle with things inside. On opening the box I found it was packed full of lots of little treats; each clearly specially selected with the sole purpose of making my day a little easier and brighter. Overwhelmed with gratitude, I went on to open the small card I'd found at the bottom of the box.  As I read the message inside, I burst into tears. At a time when I felt more lost and afraid than I'd ever imagined possible, someone was thinking of me. Someone really cared and they'd put together this special package just for me. When you can't leave the house very often, anything arriving through the post takes on greater significance. That package completely turned my day around and made me feel a lot less alone. 
The incredible person who sent that package was Sophia. I don't think she'll ever know how much that small act of kindness has meant. Especially now that it has gone on to inspire this my 'hug in a box' business which has been quite literally life changing for me. Her thoughtfulness and kindness brightened my day then and continues to now with every BearHug I send.

It breaks my heart to say that Sophia is currently very poorly with Lyme Disease. Despite the fact that she faces unimaginable levels of pain every day, there are no appropriate treatment options available to her in the UK.  She is now having to fundraise to access treatment in America. I'm desperate to help her however I can.
I couldn't think of a better way to do my bit than by building a BearHug in her honour. The Sophia Box is designed to match the original package Sophia sent me as closely as possible - I've tried to match every item like for like. 
Just like the package I received, the Sophia Box contains tasty treats, hand cream, lip balm and bath salts. Sophia sent me a floral notebook, so I have included the ever so pretty Liberty floral colouring book. I've also included a 'Big Hugs' coaster as Sophia's lovely words in her card felt like a big hug. 

The Sophia Box is available to order here. All profits from this gift box will go straight to Sophia's fundraising page here. This page is also where you can read more about Sophia and donate directly if you'd like to.

This post was originally published at bearhugsgifts.com

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WHAT I'VE LEARNED FROM 1000 SALES ON ETSY


I have been selling on Etsy now for almost 3 years. I have a shop for my simple pieces of silver jewellery (all profits of which go to charity) and a shop for my 'hug in a box' gift hamper business, BearHugs.

While the vast majority of my BearHugs sales now come through my own website, I do still sell on Etsy. I was very excited to realise recently that I had cumulatively made over 1000 sales through Etsy alone.

I'm not a devoted reader of Etsy forums/ discussion groups so am by no means an expert, but here are some things I've learned along the way:



Be friendlier than necessary

One of the loveliest things about selling on Etsy is the lovely people who buy from the site. Often the people who have chosen to visit Etsy are people who have actively made the decision to support small independent businesses over huge highstreet chains. I've always found being extra friendly is a nice way to say a little thank you for the choice that they've made. Sending a cheery message or a quick update on their specific order before it goes out is an easy way to give the customer added value that they may not get from big global brands.



Use all the tags on every listing

Etsy allows you to add 'tags' to every listing. This is where you can put the keyword phrases people may search for to find your items. Leaving any of these tags unused is a wasted opportunity as they can be very helpful in getting people to your shop when they search on the site. I have found that it's useful to think about what I might type into Google if I were looking for one of my specific products. The Google Keyword tool is useful to pick out keyword phrases too. I've found it's better to make the keyword phrases as niche as possible. A tag like 'silver button necklace' is going to be far more effective than just 'necklace' as it will face less 'competition' when Etsy is deciding what to display in its search results.



Pop a note in with every order

A very simple thing that customers often remark on and provide positive feedback about is when I've sent a personalised handwritten note in with their order. It only takes a minute to do but again makes the customer's experience friendlier and a lot more personal.



You can't please everyone

While reviews are important, I've found it's best not to fixate on them too much. Nothing beats a lovely review appearing on your shop page when you've worked extra hard to make the order perfect. Sometimes though reviews can be surprising- someone might have sent you a glowing private message about how happy they are but then given a 3 or 4 star rating. Everyone uses the rating system differently and I've learned to take it less personally if the star rating doesn't match the person's comments. You could have the most accurately described listing in the world with the clearest photos for the most beautiful high-quality product but still not meet the expectations of a given customer. It's best to not get too hung up on these cases. On a couple of occasions I've genuinely messed up, I've found it's always best to put my hands up when this is the case and apply the 'be friendlier than necessary' rule. Some of my nicest reviews have come from going further than necessary to resolve a problem.



Light, bright photos

The lighter and brighter and more interesting my photos have been, the more views my listings have got. I don't have a fancy camera and I'm sure my photos could be improved upon but apps like 'Afterlight', 'FaceTune' (for whitening) and 'Camera+' have helped my amateur pictures taken on an iPhone along a lot. I've also found it's best to optimise on bright days and tend to take all my photos in batches.



Keywords at the beginning of listing titles

Just as I've found putting my keyword phrases in tags to be useful, I've also found it useful to put them at the beginning of listing titles. Not only does this help Etsy direct people to your items when they search on the site but it helps the customer themselves quickly identify what it is your selling.



Surprise customers with prompt shipping

A little while ago I added a day or two to all of my delivery time estimates (other than Next Day delivery). This small change has had a really positive impact on my feedback from customers. More often than not they have been pleasantly surprised when their item arrived earlier than they expected and commented on this in their reviews. Adding a few days also accounts for any delays in the post- I've found this especially important at Christmas time.



If you can offer personalisation options / custom products, do

Turning on the 'Request Custom Order' button has been a lovely way to get to know some of my customers and make extra special items for them. I love it when someone shares the backstory to their specific request and it's extra satisfying making something one off and personal. Not only is it satisfying to put together one-off special orders but it also often results in great feedback and loyal customers who recommend you to friends or come back time and time again.

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INSPIRED BY... SOPHIA GALPIN



This post is a really special one. It's an interview with my lovely friend, Sophia Galpin. 

Sophia and I first met at university almost 8 years ago now. Although not particularly close while studying we were brought together when  ill health forced us both to give up jobs as Speech and Language Therapists. Initially we received different diagnoses but later found out that we both have Lyme Disease. Sophia has been there for me at every single up and down, virtually holding my hand from afar and cheering me on with every tiny achievement. Lyme Disease has been especially cruel to Sophia and it breaks my heart to see her in unthinkable levels of pain. Despite all the limitations it has put on her life though, she has never let it beat her. She is without doubt the most resilient person I know.  

Sophia writes the blog Spoonie Sophia, where she shares delicious gluten-free/ dairy-free/ paleo recipes, beautiful and reassuringly honest posts about chronic illness as well as accessible, informative articles to help others understand the horribly misunderstood conditions she lives with.

I could gush about how much I love Sophia all day - she is endlessly creative, incredibly thoughtful and has real integrity (no recipe will ever go up on her website until it has been tried and tested to perfection). She is one of my closest friends and I do not know what I would have done without her over the last few years. To handle pain and ill health with the grace and humility that she has, all while looking out for others at the same time is nothing short of amazing. Sophia was recently nominated for a National Diversity Award as a Positive Role Model. It's a title that could not be more fitting and I'm incredibly proud of her. 

Sophia has just started a fundraising campaign for treatment which she so desperately needs. It would mean the world to me if you could take a minute to pop across to her page to have a read and donate if you're able. If you're not able to donate, simply sharing her page could go a long way and would be hugely appreciated. You can find it here: SOPHIA'S GOFUNDME CAMPAIGN

Alternatively, I have added an extra special BearHugs gift box to my shop, all profits of which go straight to Sophia's campaign. You can read about this here: THE SOPHIA BOX

__________________________________________

Here are the answers Sophia gave to my interview questions

What are you most proud of?

I'm most proud of the fact that I've not given up and I still really enjoy life despite everything. I still get up every day and do little things (well, big things for me) even though I feel so poorly, whether that be to send an email, write something for my blog, do a little baking, or even make it out for lunch; I achieve something everyday

Who/ what do you look to for inspiration?

My spoonie pals who continue prove that so much is possible despite chronic illness - crafts, jewellery making, blogging, fundraising, raising awareness, starting a business, you name it they've done it! Everyone in our little community is so supportive and always offering words of encouragement and advice to each other even when they're not doing so well themselves.

When chronic illness feels like a bit of a cloud, what's your silver lining?

My silver lining is that I now appreciate the smallest things in life! I couldn’t be more grateful for my friends/family & boyfriend and for the tiny things that bring me joy like the sun shining on my face, watching my little dog walking alongside my wheelchair, a phone call with a friend, a handwritten card and a good cup of fruit tea! Being grateful makes me feel happy. Also if I hadn't fallen ill we probably wouldn't have gotten a dog when we did - Copper has brought me an enormous amount of joy - he’s always making me smile and laugh, even on the particularly bad days!

What would your advice be to someone who has recently fallen ill?


I’d say try not to panic about what your future holds, instead focus on the present moment and getting through each day as bets you can - you don’t know what will happen and dwelling on it brings a lot of negativity and sadness. Hold onto hope as best you can as that will keep you going no matter how dark some days are. It’s not going to be easy, and recovery will be a long slow balancing act but you have to believe you will get there! Also to seek out the spoonie community and take comfort in the fact that there are others who truly understand what you are going through.



PLACES YOU CAN FIND SOPHIA




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