You’ve got to hand it to Derbyshire online gift boutique owner Michele Hill whose genius lockdown idea nearly drew in more customers than she could handle!
Her exquisite gift-wrapping by hand service was the clincher for her clients stuck at home during lockdown. They were unable to get out to shop for birthday and Christmas gifts, let alone deliver them in person.
Michele responded by offering a personal gift-wrapping for visitors to her online shop Poppy Hill.
The sweet scent of success is now extending to her latest luxury candle range.
Michele (51) said: “Many of my customers have said how they really appreciate the gift-wrapping, especially when the shops were not open.
“I take great care over every gift which is wrapped in black tissue paper and Poppy Hill label. For the gift wrap option, the tissue wrapped product is then placed inside a high quality white gift bag, and finished with a hand-tied black grosgrain ribbon. I hand-write all the gift cards with words of the customer’s choosing. So much better than a generic gift service offered elsewhere.”
Michele will celebrate the one-year anniversary of her company in August - one that was hatched at the kitchen table of her Derbyshire home.
She lives in a village at the eastern edge of the Peak District with her partner and a beautiful 13-year-old Lhasa Apso, who is in fact called Poppy Hill!
She said: “I had worked in estate agency for nearly 20 years and loved it, but lockdown gave me fresh impetus to launch a business and work for myself.
“Whenever I visit anywhere on holiday or a day out, I always seek out the gift boutiques. I just appreciate lovely things. Who doesn’t?
“My life outside work was getting busy. We own a couple of holiday lets nearby so I was becoming engrossed in more than my job.
“I realised I couldn’t do everything and be dedicated to my role at work so took the plunge and resigned on the first day of lockdown in March 2020."
Michele made another unusual decision to keep her business idea a secret from family and friends until she felt that she had the finished product. She spent four months building her website while sitting at her kitchen table, devising her branding and researching gift suppliers, all of which are UK-based.
"I didn’t let on to anyone as it was so important to me that it looked spot on before I did," she said.
“My partner and daughter knew I was up to something but didn't know exactly what. When I showed them the website in August 2020, they were both amazed.”
Michele has converted two of her outbuildings at home to house her stock of candles, accessories, jewellery, bags and many other gift items.
“I surprised my friends when I launched my website and Facebook page and they were really enthused about, and supportive of, the new business,” she said. “I am pleased to say that, after a year, many of my customers have come back to me time and time again.
“Christmas was exciting but exhausting and almost overwhelming as I handled everything on my own. My turnover in December was three times that of the previous month. The day after the last posting date for Christmas, I literally collapsed in a heap. I will definitely be getting in some help this year!”
Michele has now launched a luxury candle range, exclusive to Poppy Hill. Each one is hand mixed and poured, using only top quality oils, eco and vegan friendly wax and wicks - and the incredible fragrances last from first light to the very bottom of the candle.
The candles come in three beautiful ranges to reflect well-being, aspirational lifestyle and traditional luxury fragrances.
She said: “People do like to give a great gift and the candles are definitely that. The Lavender and Chamomile is perfect for a deep de-stress, while Amalfi takes you straight to Italy with the fragrance of Sorrentine lemons. They really are beautiful gifts to both give and receive.”
Michele admits she has turned to daughter Emily (25) and her friends for market research.
She said: “What I love is that my family and friends are part of the informal focus groups I’ve set up on WhatsApp.
“Emily and her friends in that age range are in one group. I suggest a product and ask what they think and whether they would buy it.
“They are very honest and really make a difference to my views on buying certain products. They have definitely saved me from making some expensive purchasing mistakes!
“It is the same with the group made up of my friends who are just as upfront about suggested purchases.
“My Facebook site very soon turned into a lovely, friendly environment, and I never tire of carefully wrapping the gifts and writing the messages.
“There is a lot of joy and love in what I do and I hope that is reflected in the joy I bring to my customers.”