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Mind your language!
By Tracey Bearton
16 May 2023
Hebridean publisher and retailer responds to Islanders’ demand for Gaelic greeting cards
Everyone knows if you move countries then learning the language is a major step to being included as part of the community, and that also works right here in the UK, with greeting cards playing their role too.
English might be the official language but it’s definitely not the only one spoken across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – and it’s not even the mother tongue of many who consider themselves complete natives of these islands.
With plenty of publishers now offering Welsh language cards, as well as the more niche Cornish captions and dialects such as Scouse, Geordie, Brummie, and Mackem, Janet Ross-Jordan has expanded her Cards And Gift Wrap retail business to include her own Gaelic designs.
Based in the Outer Hebrides, Janet’s often been asked for Gaelic language cards but said she “struggled to find affordable and attractive” designs from publishers – the ancient Celtic language of Gaelic was always dominant in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, while the Lowlands spoke Scots which is much closer in style to English.
She explained: “Historically, it’s the native language of the islands but Gaelic speakers have faced persecution over the years from several angles. There’s now a desperate drive throughout Scotland, but especially in the islands and on the west coast, to boost the numbers who speak Gaelic so it doesn’t die out, and becomes a widely-spoken native language again.
“Old-fashioned designs weren’t going to help the image of Gaelic being the current and still relevant language that it is.”
The demand has meant Janet now offers her cards wholesale as well as retailing through her online store and wee shoppie at her Isle Of Lewis home – she also offers her own paper sticky tape that’s been championed by TV’s Dragons’ Den and Ryman stationery chain entrepreneur Theo Paphitis – and she’s been amazed at the diversity of requests.
Janet added: “A local hotel has requested my card designs for their customers, in particular tourist groups who inevitably includes someone who has a birthday and so want to buy a card – the opportunity to give a card in the local language of their holiday destination has extra appeal and helps promote the beauty of the Gaelic language.
“The challenge has been getting the phrasing right. I’m not a native Gaelic speaker but my children all are. Like all languages, Gaelic is fluid and still evolving so there are generational differences in how someone might say Happy Birthday. Even in English we have different birthday phrases on a card, such as Happy Birthday or Birthday Wishes, and it’s the same in Gaelic.
“There’s often more than one right way to say something. When I ask for feedback on social media about a design wording I get many different responses, but I find language fascinating so I’m enjoying the challenge. My latest balloons design is causing controversy between the older and younger generations just now, so I may change the wording!”
The May issue of Progressive Greetings has a full diversity and inclusion cards feature, click here to read it.
#SBS winner causes sparks
By Tracey Bearton
9 March 2023
Indie retailer digs deep for extra eco effort and blacks out island school
Indie retailer Janet Ross-Jordan went from hero to villain in a matter of days – having dazzled entrepreneur Theo Paphitis with her eco-friendly paper tape she then blacked out the local school by causing a power cut!
Janet, who has run Cards And Gift Wrap from her Isle Of Lewis home for 10 years, met Theo at the annual #SBSwinners event a few days ago after being picked by him for retweeting as one of his six Sunday winners back in June after describing her business to him on the social media platform.
She tweeted a couple of pictures of the bestselling stars paper tape she created when she got fed up with removing sticky plastic-based fastenings from wrapping paper to recycle it – and Janet even handed Ryman stationery chain owner Theo some rolls that she packed in her luggage for the long journey by ferry and train to the Birmingham event: “I told him they were for wrapping his presents for Mrs P!”
But she then came back to earth with a bang on Friday, 3 March, when she had to apologise to all the parents and staff at Sgoil An Rubha, the school next to her house in the village of Bayble, after cutting through the electricity cable so the children had to go home several hours early.
“We didn’t know about the electricity cable lying just under the grass, unmarked and unboxed,” Janet explained. “Luckily it wasn’t someone just digging with a spade that went through it but I’m sorry for the inconvenience that we blew the power and closed the school!”
In keeping with the eco-credentials that run through her business, Janet was having a polycrub installed, a gale-proof version of the polytunnel that’s made from recycled salmon farm pipes, so she can grow her own veg in the wild island environment, and it sits next to the Cards And Giftwrap shoppie, as Janet calls the building she moved the business into after starting it from her bedroom.
She told PG Buzz: “When the digger when through the cable it cut the school off too so they all had to go home mid-Friday, a couple of hours earlier than usual. I think the children loved me, parents and teachers not so much.
“Living on an island is great, we have beautiful beaches and wild scenery but we also have wild weather and, other than potatoes, gooseberries and rhubarb, we haven’t been able to grow much. Unfortunately, there was a very shallow unknown electricity cable under the site of the crub – it’s now buried under it.
“If there continues to be a salad shortage I may have donate a few cucumbers to the school canteen as recompense!”
Having started off selling bookmarks, Janet expanded into cards, giftwrap and stationery, and got into paper tape because she found it difficult to source a recyclable version for the brown cardboard boxes used to pack orders for posting.
She said: “I wanted it so the tape didn’t have to be ripped off for recycling, and thought others might like to do the same so I designed a Christmas paper packaging tape. But my customers started using it to wrap presents too and I realised there was a need for paper tape to go with recyclable gift wrap.
“You can make presents look awesome with 100% recyclable wrapping – it looks better, saves time, doesn’t cost the earth and helps you have a greener lifestyle. I’m now looking in to designing some wrapping paper to go with the tape.”
Cards And Giftwrap is a mainly online business, stocking publishers including Flamingo Paperie, Citrus Bunn, Cake And Crayons, Wrendale Designs, Roger la Borde, and James Ellis, as well as wrapping paper, fabric wrap, the paper tape and Janet’s own greeting card designs with Gaelic captions.
“There’s a shortage of those,” Janet said, “and, with it being a main language here in the Outer Hebrides, there is a need. It’s something I’d like to expand, along with the wrapping paper and the few notebooks I’ve designed myself.
“But I probably suffer from imposter syndrome like so many artists and don’t really consider myself an illustrator so I suppose that holds me back a little. Winning the SBS award and attending the event really helped me with that imposter syndrome. I left the event feeling I had every right to be there!
“Meeting Theo was amazing, he was so easy to talk to and he loved the tape. I gave him a few rolls and he said he liked the tape and ‘we’ll talk later’ – I have no idea what means! Should I be expecting a phone call!?
“I’ll never forget him studying my tape and exclaiming ‘I like that!’ When a successful entrepreneur like Theo says they like something I’ve designed myself it’s a huge confidence boost.”
Selling her tape both wholesale and retail through her website, Janet is keeping wholesale availability restricted to small independent businesses as “you always get something a bit extra when you shop small so I’d like to do my bit to support other small retailers by offering them the chance to stock something you can’t get at the supermarket”.
She also retails via the online platforms Faire and Isle20, which was set up during the pandemic to help people support small island businesses, and she sells to locals through the shoppie in her garden.
Janet added: “Having my shoppie – which I raised money for, converting part of our garage, through a Kickstarter fundraising project – means local customers don’t have to come in to my house and I haven’t got boxes of cards, giftwrap and more under the proverbial bed anymore.
“It’s called a shoppie because it’s small but I also live in hope that shoppie beats the social media algorithms that seem to blacklist any selling terms in social media post wording!”
The latest #SBSEvent marked the 10th gathering since Theo started his Small Business Sunday movement in 2010 and almost 1,000 of the 3,750 businesses now in the network were in attendance – including publisher Nicole Elders who was one of the winners back in May.
Businesses can enter via Twitter, where they should tweet Theo on @theopaphitis between 5-7.30 pm on a Sunday using the hashtag #SBS, then he picks six small businesses a week to retweet to the growing network. On Instagram companies can enter by posting on their feed or commenting under the #SBS open Instagram post, and need to follow and tag @theopaphitis, plus include the hashtag #SBS.
© Max Media Ventures 2023. The publishers cannot accept legal liability for any errors or omissions, nor can they accept responsibility for the standing of advertisers nor any organisation mentioned in the text.
Dragon’s stamp of approval for Point ‘shoppie’
Created: 04 July 2022, Written by Annie Delin for www.welovestornoway.com
A small business based in the Isle of Lewis has scored a big thumbs up from an acknowledged expert in business success.
Janet Ross-Jordan of Bayble has seen sales jump since Dragon’s Den judge and small business champion Theo Paphitis picked her as a Small Business Sunday (SBS) company in mid-June.
Janet said: “Each week Theo picks six winners from people who enter with a tweet explaining why they deserve to be selected.
“You submit your own entry, which of course has to be short and precise for Twitter, and he decides which six each week attract his attention.”
Janet caught Theo’s eye with her eco-friendly business, https://www.cardsandgiftwrap.co.uk, run from her home in Bayble in between duties as a mum.
She entered her home-designed eco-friendly gift-wrapping tape, with the tweet: “I got fed up removing tape from paper to recycle the giftwrap. Now I design eco-friendly paper tape.
“You can make presents look awesome with 100% recyclable wrapping – looks better, saves time, doesn’t cost the earth. Helping you have a greener lifestyle.”
After Theo had announced her name as one of his SBS six on 20 June, and had re-tweeted her message, Janet immediately noticed increased interest and new orders coming in.
She said: “I have had people who I didn’t even know were followers congratulating me and it’s definitely given my business a boost, with lots of kudos and as a way to underline that I’m serious about this business.
“I have heard from other businesses in the SBS network and have had some orders from them – the effect has been noticeable, especially given how slow retail is at the moment.”
Being social media savvy has been important to Janet in the ten years since she set up her business – but so has the ability to innovate.
She said: “You have to make the most of social media, living on an island. There are a limited number of people to be face-to-face customers so when I started the company I knew I had to look beyond the island.
“Having said that, I have a physical shop presence here at my home, and I have recently introduced ‘borrow-boxes’ – a shop in a box for people who are stuck at work through the day or stuck at home through ill-health.
“I lend the box of cards, gift-wrap and other items out for a week and they can browse and decide what they would like to buy, then I collect the box back from them.
“It works really well for workplaces like GPs surgeries, school staff-rooms and other places where people are not able to pop out to the shops during the day.”
Janet’s also got new paper tape designs on the way, including stars, moons, hearts and spots, allowing people to make up their gifts and packages to be completely recyclable, plastic-free and affordable.
And if success comes from a Small Business Sunday listing, that’s exactly what Theo Paphitis intends. As he said: “I started SBS to help give small businesses a leg-up and help them achieve their potential, so it’s always a pleasure when I’m able to see my winners thrive.”
You can follow Janet’s business at https://www.facebook.com/cardsandgiftwrap.co.uk, where there are links to other social media accounts.
Pictures show Janet at work on her subscription boxes, her recyclable paper gift tape, and the borrow-box scheme (Janet Ross Jordan)