Shocked. Anxious. Elated. Joyful. Hopeful. Tearful. These are just a few of the feelings that hit me all at once when I received my invitation to meet the small business legend herself, Holly Tucker MBE. I forget that some people might not know who she is and what she does – do yourself a favour and google her! You will see that she is the founder of Not On The High Street (I bet you’ve all heard of that?) and now her second business baby, Holly & Co, is not only a beautiful bricks and mortar shop, café and workshop, but also a website with a wealth of information dedicated to inspire and educate EVERYBODY with a passion to fulfill their potential doing what they truly love.
I first became aware of Holly in March 2020 through Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast. The working from home thing was still relatively new to me and so was the world of podcasts. I turned to Happy Place, wanting to escape all the Lockdown doom and gloom, and from there I eventually found Holly’s own podcast, “Conversations of Inspiration”. I would recommend this to ANYBODY. Give just one of the episodes a listen and I promise you will come away feeling better about yourself and what direction you’d like to go in your life.
Once I found her on Instagram, I was really hooked. The Campaign Shop Independent and Shop Small ethos seemed to be just what I was looking for. Something I could really get behind and truly believe in. I almost didn’t believe I was a small business, which may sound a bit weird, but often I’m so focused on making picture books that I kind of forget that I have to get them out into the world myself and make people aware of them! I think it’s the worst part for any creative, having to self-promote and market yourself. With the support of Holly & Co, this felt a lot less daunting. Watching other creative businesses stepping out of their comfort zones on Instagram gave me the kick up the bum I needed.
I hadn’t been on Holly Tucker’s mailing list that long before I received the email inviting us all to hit the golden button to be in with a chance of winning a golden ticket to Holly’s Tea Party. Like everybody, I pressed it and thought nothing of it. I don’t win stuff anyway, it won’t happen. A few weeks later I saw an email on my lunch break…YOU ARE INVITED…!! What the...?!
As somebody whose default response is to freak out about absolutely everything, I forced myself to accept the invitation and put it out there on Instagram. There, I’ve said it, there’s no going back. Holly and Co is situated in St Margaret’s in Twickenham, a good 4 trains away from where I live in Ilkeston, Derbyshire. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had been to London, it had been a few years since I’d even caught a train and as for travelling alone as a bundle of nerves…FREAKING OUT. As luck would have it, a wonderful human called Sally popped into my inbox and declared she was also invited to the tea party and would I like to travel with her! Sally of @popsyclunk lives about 20 mins drive away from me and turns out is one of the kindest, loveliest people I have ever met. You know when you start messaging somebody and you think, “This is my kind of person”? Well that was Sally. Both nervous, both excited, both wondering what on earth we’ve done to deserve this special trip.
Friday 17th June crept up on us and before I knew it, Sally had picked me up in her car and we were zooming down the M1. I’m not joking when I say we did not stop nattering all the way down there! Anybody who knows me won’t be surprised by this. That car journey was the most fun, we really got to know each other and had the same nervous energy which weirdly seemed to level us both out and calm each other down. The funniest part of the journey which I will always remember was when I saw an email from the Holly & Co Team asking if any of the 20 tea party guests were likely to arrive early. Holly was going live on IG between 10am-11am and they thought it would be great to chat to a few of us early birds. We were on track to arrive at 10am, so I scrolled through a list of questions that Holly might want to ask us. They were meant as just a little guideline to help us prepare, but we naturally started revising like we were on the way to an exam! So funny, me reading the questions, then both of us over-analysing everything, minds going blank. It all added to the fun.
We arrived in Twickenham, parked up in the handy multi-storey and then it was a short walk to the iconic Holly & Co shop. It really is that beautiful in real life. That mix of traditional hand painted lettering with beautiful floor tiles and contemporary colours. We headed straight in where we met the lovely Sian from @robinsbobbins, and down the stairs we went to the workshop. A beautiful, colourful room with sofas and artwork, we met the gorgeous Lydia from @teppi.living. Teppi were the team behind the stunning ceramic tags and Lydia, thoughtfully, gave each of us a tag saying “Tea Party” which I have in my work room hanging on a little tree. Next, the beautiful Rebecca from @happy.crackers walked in, and the four of us got to have a little chat before we suddenly looked up to see the woman herself.
In walked Holly with her microphone, being followed by a camera, and she headed straight for Bex, who did amazingly at being interviewed first. I had never seen her products before and I honestly couldn’t believe how stunning her crackers were! What a genius idea – to take the idea of a throwaway Christmas cracker and reinvent it into a keepsake, something to be treasured and reused, something to use as part of a Birthday Party or Easter meal or even at a picnic! It slightly blew my mind. Then Holly chatted to my new mate Sally. It was a moment that nearly made me cry actually. Sally makes memory boxes, but the amount of care and attention and craft that goes into them…the photos don’t really do them justice. I’d obviously heard all about her business on the car journey down there, but to see the bespoke memory box in real life was something else. Like me, Sally is a storyteller, so her Memory boxes are designed to hold objects which tell your story. She doesn’t just focus on the outside of the box either!
Then it was my turn. I never talk on Instagram and I’ve certainly never done a Live, so it all felt a little surreal. Holly sat next to me as I explained who I was and what I did, I must admit to feeling serious imposter syndrome at this point! Still not feeling like a small business, but there I was showcasing my little picture books. Holly was as supportive as ever and honestly, when just one person shows an interest in something you’ve made, it can make you feel like flying. I gave her the books in the hope that she would pass them on to a child who would appreciate it, and happily, she messaged me a few days later me to say that her niece Olive adores them (I’m not crying, you are).
After that, people started arriving for the tea party itself and it was really lovely to meet so many different women from so many different businesses. It was one of the hottest days of the year, so I’m pretty sure nobody actually drank tea, but we all devoured the delicious cake! My favourite bit was when we were all sat in a big circle, with Holly leading the conversation and encouraging us to talk about our experiences in the current climate. How are we finding Instagram right now? How has the rise in costs impacted on your business? What is the future for your business? How can we keep going, doing what we love? Honestly, I found it all so interesting. We are all experiencing similar problems no matter what we do, and it felt like a real support network. I could have sat there all day to be honest!
Holly was so generous with every single one of us. She made sure we all had photos and a signed copy of her amazing book “Do what you love, love what you do” (highly recommend!) She really is everything I expected her to be – an inspiration, a whirlwind of positive energy and a genuinely caring person. She’s just like that that woman I’ve been listening to on “Conversations of Inspiration”!
Before we knew it, it was time for Sally and me to make the long trip home. The car snacks came out, we chattered all the way home, a FULL review was discussed. We both agreed it was the best day ever and as you can probably tell, we are still buzzing from it. I can’t thank Sally enough for that day, she really made it even more special and memorable.
I come from a town where life is a struggle for many people. I have watched my local high street deteriorate over the years, from the closure of Woolworths at one end of town, to the Co-Op department store at the other end and everywhere in between. The resilience of my local community never fails though. There is colour and light to be found, we just have to look a bit harder sometimes. The rise of independent shops and businesses feels like something to truly believe in and get behind. The Tea Party with Holly Tucker has made me realise that there is a whole wealth of creativity and products and services out there, which can make our lives so much richer. It inspires me to keep going doing what I really love, because there is always somebody out there who WILL love what you do.
@popsyclunk @robinsbobbins @china_petals @treasure.kave @curlythreadco @theartbuyer @ellierstorey @charliemccall.coach @rg_retail @coppertopcards @the.print.bug @happy.crackers @teppi.living @flourishretail @unseenicons @thebiggiftcompany @holly.co @hollytucker