Earlier this year I attended one of Jane Mean's gift wrapping courses. I loved every second of it, you can read more about my experience of the course in my It's a Wrap - Gift Wrapping with Jane Means post. I've not had much opportunity to show off my new wrapping skills, but this hasn't stopped me from stocking up on lots of materials ready for when I get the chance, (eagerly awaiting Christmas right here) and constantly pinning new pins to my gift wrapping Pinterest board.
I recently contacted Jane and asked if she would be happy to take part in an interview for my blog. Fortunately for me (and you) she agreed. So, let's get on with the interview.
Why gift wrapping and how did you get into it?
In the 1990's I saw a huge gap in the market and have always loved good presentation whether it be a shop window, dinner table or in my case and wrapped gift.
My head was buzzing with ideas so I decided to gain my teaching qualification and write my own gift wrapping course. Being a florist also helped with my creative ideas but it took nearly 6 years to get the business off the ground as it was before the internet. It wasn't until the recession hit that the retail industry took me seriously, and I was not only asked to train staff but to help with branding, recruitment, displays and marketing.
What is it that made you change your career path?
You have one life and I am a firm believer that if you want to do something, you should follow your dream. I had to start a business from scratch and luckily had my family and friends support as well as other small jobs to bring in money. Even as a small child I was a trader and knew one day I would have my own business but had no idea that it would be what it is today.
Tell us a little about a typical day and what is involved in running the business?
For me every day is completely different but I am usually surrounded by people, so I need to delegate what I can. As well as a being a Company Director, I'm a Ribbon Designer, Author, Presenter, Blogger, Stylist, Wholesaler, demonstrator, have a Gift Wrapping Academy and do a lot of endorsements and commercials (I'm the Face of Scotchtape and have recently filmed the Christmas commercials for WHSmith.
With Christmas coming up I can be doing an early morning training course at Harrods, going on to do some workshops at a show, speaking on the radio in the afternoon, doing an evening wrapping service or book signing at an event then getting home at around 10pm to answer my emails. During the day I am also reporting to my office, phoning clients and squeezing in some social media. I work incredibly long hours but thoroughly enjoy my work. With such a heavy workload, I now take as many holidays as I can so I can enjoy silence, sunshine and sleep.
I've just started courses in Singapore and in 2016/17 I will be doing a Worldwide Gift Wrapping Tour so I will be travelling a lot as well as running a business which will be a challenge.
What is your favourite product and why?
For me it is double sided tape which has been made in the UK to my exact specification. When you use it in gift wrapping, the gift instantly looks polished and professional. I always have an emergency roll in my handbag as it is also great for sticking up posters, false nails and emergency hem repairs!
What is your top seller?
We started our gift wrapping courses over 15 years ago and they continue to attract clients worldwide throughout the year. As well as gaining skills for life, it is tailored to be a fun and laid back experience in beautiful venues with lunch. Many bookings come from recommendations and they still continue to be sold out.
What inspires you?
I get a lot of inspiration for my work with travel and experiencing different cultures. Many ribbon designs have come from vibrant colours seen in spice markets in Turkey and India.
Travel is in my blood and I was lucky to see the fantastic origami techniques in Tokyo, and bring back unusual products on my travels to the Far East and USA.
I also listen to what customers want when deciding on trends and make it a priority when sourcing new products. Everything I design has a story behind it so my collections are personal, good quality and reasonably priced
What are you passionate about besides gift wrapping?
Gosh they're so many to mention here. I adore travelling and love exploring local customs and venturing off the tourist track.
Having started a business from scratch I am passionate about new start-ups and small businesses and love offering to help, and regularly speak at conferences.
My biggest addiction has to be ribbon, what started as a shoebox of remnants has now turned in to a global wholesale business with over 50,000 rolls in stock!
If you could change one thing what would it be if anything?
Cruelty, especially to animals, the elderly, those who are vulnerable and children.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking for a creative career change?
Know who your customers, listen to all feedback, and be noticed. My biggest annoyance is blatant copying (sadly I have a lot of this), so be individual and unique.
Starting a business is not for the faint hearted and requires drive, determination, patience so ensure that you do a lot of research, and remember that you may be working long hours seven days a week with little return initially.
And finally, where can we buy your products and what events do you have lined up for the rest of the year?
In addition to our website www.janemeans.com, our ribbons are stocked in independent stores worldwide. We are exhibiting at the Spirit of Christmas Fair at Olympia (open now) plus the Country Living Christmas Fairs in London and Harrogate which will be great fun. We love catching up with our customers and I thoroughly enjoy doing book signings and workshops at these events. I'm also joining Kirstie Allsopp on stage at the Handmade fair in Manchester on November 21st and in December the team are non-stop gift wrapping for private clients and stores. Already I have some exciting TV appearances in the pipeline and there's a lot going on behind the scenes.
Huge thanks to Jane for agreeing to take part and for all the images in today's interview.
So if you’re looking for inspiration for all your Christmas wrapping, look no further than Jane Means. I can highly recommend her book too. It is pure delight with great instructions and gorgeous images.
~ Gem & Jane x