We have some very exciting news – we’ve started a new partnership with AskHerFriends – an amazing website all about finding (or making) the perfect gift – and it’s all about gifts for girls so ladies you might want to drop this website into the bookmark bar of your nearest and dearest men! Crafternoon Cabaret Club will be providing tutorials for simple handmade gifts, as well as handmade details you can add to a bought gift to give it that little extra je ne sais quoi! How exciting! AskHerFriends is run by the lovely Ben and Rowena so I asked them to tell you a little more about what they do:
Hello, tell us who you are and what you do.
Hello! My name is Ben, and I started AskHerFriends. As for what I do, well, my job has always been to pick up the bits that nobody else wants to do, so I tend to do a lot of the boring admin stuff whilst Rowena and the team get out there meeting lots of interesting people.
And I’m Rowena (the one on the right), and I look after our partnerships and head up our marketing, which is how I found the lovely Crafternoon Cabaret Club in the first place. And Ben gets to do lots of fun things too, don’t listen to him – he actually prefers his Excel spreadsheets anyway.
So tell us about AskHerFriends?
At its simplest level, we’re a department store of ideas, and we focus on the recipient rather than a product or service. So this means that we can suggest things based on people’s styles, preferences and tastes, rather than being limited to a niche. So we have sellers across the range from the best designer-makers all the way to designer luxury, and we have products and services from handbags and jewellery to our award-winning chocolatier Rococo Chocolates and our Afternoon Tea Society.
It also means we can tie up with other great places to get inspiration, such as Secret Escapes … and Crafternoon Cabaret.
We then have lots of ‘aids to discovery’ as we call them, whether that’s our algorithm-based Idea Map, where you answer six simple questions to get tailored results, or our Bloggers Panel, where a range of different bloggers pick out their favourite gift ideas.
How did it all begin?
Well, I’ve always struggled buying gifts – there’s the now infamous worm farm story – but it’s not like people deliberately set out to get bad gifts. So when a friend and I started working on a business idea to use social connections to understand more about what the other person might like, I knew this was something I wanted to pursue.
I like lots of the more subtle aspects of the business – for example, gifts are just a symptom of how people relate to each other more generally, a really obvious symptom but one of many. So if you can help people be happier and more confident in how they relate to each other, and stop wasting money into the process, then that’s surely a good thing to do?
And there’s also the interesting psychology behind it too, for instance how men like to solve problems (hence practical gifts, like the worm farm!), or value things very literally, which is why we don’t bother with nice cards or wrapping paper. There’s lots more from the woman’s side too – it’s no secret that men and women think differently, but it seems that’s kind of ignored in how we search online.
What’s your favourite gift you’ve ever given or received?
My mum is the worst person to give a gift to in the whole world, she always says ‘you got me this’. A couple of years ago, though, I found an art print that had the word ‘Bugger’ shown artfully in a little doily. There’s a couple of stories around it in our family – she has been known to say it quite a lot – and the surprise element of it was lovely. The best gifts are the ones that show the other person how much you have thought about them, not just how much you were willing to spend on them.
Have you ever made any gifts by hand? How did it go?
Ha – I made a card once, a Valentine’s Day card. I was doing research for the site and had come across this crafting site, where you make things out of felt. So I thought I’d give it a go! I have to say, it was one of my most enjoyable ‘gifting’ experiences, I loved planning it, making it and giving it. And even though it cost me well over a tenner for the card (and I ended up with 9.5 spare squares of felt, plus 96 spare goggly eyes), it was worth it. Well, sort of. Haha, we still split up a while later. It had a pun on it – Owl Be Your Valentine. I’m a sucker for a pun.
What are your top 5 inspirations
Hmmm, tough one. My housemate, James, is great, he’s just starting his own brand called Massif Central, which is all about illustrating making great achievements like epic cycle rides. He’s very similar to me, but comes at things from a completely different angle, and when we work together in the evening, we can work until midnight like no time has gone by. Another one is my old mentor from my previous corporate life, Omar – sometimes I see old colleagues and they’re keen to challenge or even put down what I am trying to do whereas Omar is just a great boost, he’s always very keen on pushing me forward.
I’m inspired by London, the vibrancy of the place. Working on an online business, I could almost work anywhere, but even though I am a northerner, this is my home, and where I want to stay.
The other big inspiration is the amazing entrepreneurs that we work with, it’s a pleasure and a privilege to interact with such great people, like Hannah and Mark from Coulson Macleod, who have built this really great business around handmade art prints on reclaimed wood, with touching or fun phrases. They have supported us since the beginning, and it’s great to carry on working with people like that.
My final inspiration is my brother, and the company he works with. I have seen them develop from a small company of four people to one that has nearly 70, and they’re still growing. I sometimes help them out with various financial things, and I always come away inspired with what’s possible – they’re where I want AskHerFriends to be in a few years’ time.
What’s next for AskHerFriends?
Firstly, it’s the big push for Christmas, and so getting both great sellers and partners on board, as well as providing really excellent service for our customers. After that, it’s all about building on what we have – getting AskHisFriends up and running, expanding the team and the like. It’s all very exciting at the moment!
Check out our homemade gifts blog here and don’t forget to try out the IdeaMap although I’ll warn you, it’ll leave you with a HUGE shopping list of pretty, delightful, fun and awesome items you’ll just have to have.