Most of the categories were not applicable to Slingtastic, but I entered two, the Micro-Business award and the Sole Trader award. One of my many lovely customers is a professional bid writer, and is currently on maternity leave and, slightly twitchy to do some writing, so she kindly offered to help with my bid. Clearly, in true ‘parent-of-three-children’ fashion, I forgot to enter until the last minute, and couldn’t take her up on this offer, so had to throw together an entry in the last few hours before the deadline! (thank you for the offer though Milly!).
Part of the reason that it was not high on priorities was because I really didn’t think would win it. And despite really enjoying meeting the judges and talking through all the different aspects of my business, and hearing about theirs, I know how many fantastic businesses there are out there. I was also told that IF I was shortlisted, I would be told about it, so on the night, I went along to meet some new people and find out more about how these things work, mostly for the experience, and to be honest, I am very happy for an excuse to miss the bathtime/bedtime melee at home.
The location of my seat, at the back, end of row next to the railings? Definitely not expected to win – and there were hundreds of people there . I was pleased to be with Marie from Eire Fairies and we were VERY excited when her logo and name came up as a FINALIST for the Micro-Business Award. Another of our neighbours, Role-Play World, was also a FINALIST for the Customer Service Award – an amazing recognition for all they do and how they work with their customers – and also Wessex Fleet from who are based at Wilton Village Shopping were there as Finalists for the Business of the Year Award.
So – thank you to the judges for the Sole Trader Award. There was a lot of competition, from amazing businesses that I really respect and admire, so I feel very honoured to have received this for Slingtastic. Ceri Hurford-Jones, who was reading out all the nominations, pointed out I was shaking, which I didn’t take on until I got back to the seat – the lights were very bright, I am delighted that no-one has recorded my ‘speech’. I so seldom find time to network, but I DID know Dan from Blue Bee Solutions who presented me with the award and it was great to receive it from a friendly known face who has always been positive and supportive when we have met in the past. It was a shame that Jo, Kate and Heike were not able to make it, as I think they would have enjoyed the night, and are such an important part of what we do here at Slingtastic.
Luckily you cannot see that i had not actually brushed my hair.............. This did not stop Marie and I heading off for a post event celebratory meal at Koh Tapas in Salisbury as part of the prize was a free meal that night!
So what does this mean for us here at Slingtastic?
This award has given me confidence to do a couple of things:
1. Move forward. Despite amazing support from suppliers, sling consultants and of course the fabulous sling experts who help in the shop (Heike, Jo and Kate make this possible) it is still a tough time for retail but I believe in the service we offer and the importance of slings and one-to-one support and advice. We do have to make changes in the next year to grow, and at the moment I am talking to lots of people with different types of knowledge and experience to make sure that i make the right choices.
2. Properly network. I cannot tell you how much just entering this award did for my understanding of how businesses outside the sling industry could help. It is so hard when you are in your shop, working with customers all day then rushing home to personal commitments, to connect or even understand the importance of reaching out. It is going to happen much more.
3. Carry on the bits we love. Helping new and experienced parents and carers find slings, try slings, and feel confident and safe is the bit with love them most – and adding on beautiful clothes and accessories is an added bonus.