AS the impact of Covid-19 grinds on incessantly, most people agree that psychological well-being is more vital than ever. And one East Lothian business, The Crafty Kit Company, is stepping up to the mark by providing thousands of people worldwide with the pleasure and joys of craftwork which can go a long way to keeping the pandemic blues at bay.
The company was founded just a few years ago by Jo Lochhead, a former teacher of English as a foreign language (TEFL) in Japan who had derived a lifelong satisfaction from sewing, knitting and other crafting activities.
Following her return to the UK, Jo started off teaching youngsters how to make jewellery, but as she began to get immersed in the subject, her ambition to create a unique crafting distribution business steadily grew.
“My father was a water colour artist who ran a business selling his own work and my brother is a potter, so I suppose it was no great surprise when I began to start a business focused on crafts such as needle felting, knitting, and sewing. I believe firmly that engaging in crafting unlocks the creativity which is in all of us and gives great joy, inspiration and mindfulness.”
Now, with an annual sales turnover booming through lockdown, from just £128k in 2018, to £400k in 2020 and a target in the current year of £600k, there seems no limit to Jo’s success.
Operating from the Old Post Office in East Linton’s High Street, The Crafty Kit Company has online customers, targeted via Facebook in the USA and elsewhere, and distributors all over the world, notably in Canada and Japan. It currently employs 15 people.
Said Jo, “we have constructed our own notion of a typical customer of The Crafty Kit Company called, ‘Christine’ – from customer surveys and our presence on Facebook.
‘Christine’ is an enthusiastic crafter who, while prepared to step out of her comfort zone to sample the entire range of kits we distribute throughout the world, takes huge personal satisfaction from crafting.
“At The Crafty Kit Company, you will find everything you need to get started on your crafty journey. From easy kits for complete beginners, through to projects for improvers, all with our fabulous five star rated instructions. If you already love to craft, you will find inspiration and bags of ideas to explore, plus all the tools and materials to let your imagination fly.
“People need to know they are not alone, especially at this time and crafting is very good for mental health. We have held a series of free Zoom crafting workshops for a while now; our, first attracted just six attendees, but we have grown that dramatically.
“We can now bring in over 100 people to each session, all of whom are delighted to discover new opportunities to expand their range of crafting activities.”
Crafty Kit runs similar sessions for customers of John Lewis and a range of independent gift shops.
And while The Crafty Kit Company has been a Russell & Russell client for a relatively short while, Jo is unstinting in her praise for its approach.
Said Jo, “it was my business coach, Daniela Grendene, who suggested I have a word with R&R when I was seeking new professional advisers.
“I have been delighted by their pro-activity; not only do we get timely and accurate annual and Quarterly accounts, but I have found that R&R’s professionalism has brought a focus on careful forward planning and a new, enhanced dynamic to our business.
“For me it is not just about increasing sales and improving profitability; it is more than that. It is about contributing positivity and creativity to our shared community.”
One manifestation of her approach is The Crafty Kit Company’s membership of Buy One, Give One UK, B1G1, the global business giving movement whose mission is to create a world full of giving.
“When you buy a craft kit from us, you are not only helping to support us here in Scotland, but you are also making amazing things happen for the people and places that need it most.
“The B1G1 scheme lets companies give back by contributing to good causes throughout the world, all of which are in line with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
“R&R are also B1G1 participants and we are delighted to have made a genuine contribution to such projects as clean water in Malawi and Ethiopia, environmental and conservation projects throughout Africa, and to helping people there to cope through the pandemic.
“Alongside our partnership with B1G1, we knew that when we launched our first needle felting subscription box, we wanted to seize the opportunity that it offered to help other good causes, too.
“For every subscription box that we sell, we donate £1 to the Edinburgh Headway Group, a charity that aims to empower and enrich the lives of adults who have survived an acquired brain injury. It is a cause close to our hearts and we are grateful to all our customers for helping us to give back in this way, contributing to Headway’s vital work”, she said.