The Unique Gift Co is a partnership between Dave Christian and Jacquelyn Cook, who make gifts and furniture from recycled/foraged wood – plus anything else they can lay their hands on!
Tell us a little about The Unique Gift Co…
Our ethos is to take something which is dead and give it a new lease of life. We are based in Barnsley where we have a showroom at the Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre (BBIC). Dave also has a separate workshop near our home in Skelmanthorpe (near Huddersfield).
Dave does most of the ‘making’ and creates a wide range of home-wares and custom furniture from materials which would otherwise be thrown away. He has even done a couple of kitchens now made entirely from pallets and scaffolding boards.
Jac is a pyrography artist, who also works with recycled wood using the natural grains and defects to inspire or compliment a theme. Most of her work is inspired by nature/fantasy but she also undertakes a wide range of commissions.
How did you start out?
It all started about five years ago when Dave’s niece found a particularly nice piece of driftwood on the beach near Skegness and Dave made it into a tea-light holder for his sister… being out of work at the time a hobby soon turned into a business.
Where do you sell your products?
Mostly at events and markets around the north of England. We have an on-line shop via eco-create.co.uk which links to our own website. We also get a lot of requests for custom work and bespoke furniture, which we promote through our website, facebook and local networking.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing small business at the moment?
For us the hardest part of being self-employed is keeping a continuity of work, and with limited cashflow we need to make enough sales at peak times to see us through the quiet ones. Not knowing if/when the next job is going to come in is a bit scary sometimes.
What tips do you have for fellow small business owners?
Never give up! When the times get tough, as they often will running a small business, remember why you set out to do this in the first place, believe in yourself and just keep going! And if you’re struggling seek support – in Barnsley particularly there are many groups and organisations offering advice to small businesses, or talk to other businesses owners. It’s through helping each other that we all succeed!
What makes you stand out from the crowd?
Initially our ethos of using only reclaimed materials made us stand out as something different and ‘unique’. As time has gone on, and awareness of upcycling has increased, there are more businesses around doing similar work but none are ever quite the same – what makes us different is ‘us!’ Our own take on a particular project, our dedication to customer service and our slightly quirky personalities are what sell our work.
How important is social media in promoting your business?
For us it’s vital! We have no budget for advertising so tapping into social media is the best way for us to get our name out to as many people as possible.
What has been your most successful promotion/marketing idea?
We run a ‘monthly offer’ via our social media accounts – this month there’s 20% off our coat racks with pigeon holes (pictured above) We find this helps in reminding our customer base of the range of products available.
What are your plans for the future?
Just to keep going! We try not to make too many plans but aim to keep enough business coming in to enable us to carry on doing what we do. Starting the business for us was a lifestyle choice, a chance to get away from the pressures and frustrations of working 9 to 5, and to explore our creativity. We do have some new projects in the pipeline but you’ll have to look out for those on the facebook page!
Quick fire questions:
Favourite song: The Levellers – One Way of Life
Favourite film: The Crow / Lost Boys
Favourite animal: Dolphin / Tiger