Occasionally, I stop setting up elaborate practical jokes to break with tradition and talk about something quite serious and important to me.
This is one of those times.
Last night, I had the privilege of accompanying my wife to 2015 Make Awards, created and administered by Not on the High Street. She and her company, Hoobynoo World, were nominated for Best Pet Product. I am fiercely proud of her achievements, but to underline just how much work she has put in, just how far we have come as a family and just how virtually important NotHS has been – as a company – to my wife and to her endeavors to create a business, I need to explain the background to our journey.
As many of you know, in 2002 my literary agent made publishing history by securing the largest advance on record with Disney for my ‘Illmoor’ novels. This enabled us to buy our first home, live very comfortably, get married and start a family without a lot of the usual worries and financial strains that accompany such major life hurdles.
I should point out right away that my wife was always a creative, driven woman…but she put a lot of her dreams and aspirations on hold purely because of the whirlwind that surrounded us during the few years when the publishing industry put me on TV chat shows and sent me all over Europe and America in the hope that the series would turn out to be the successor to Harry Potter.
It didn’t. However, we were careful with money, had two beautiful children and settled down to a very ordinary working life. Harry Potter and Twilight came and went and children’s book advances began to go back to where they were before JK Rowling arrived – a high part-time or low full-time wage (at best).
While I continued to write further books (thirty, so far) for Hodder UK, my wife started to work variously for an online novelty company and for Waterstone’s Bookshop….but she never gave up on the idea of working for herself, not least because she’d earned a degree in Graphic Design and wanted to explore the potential of marketing her own artwork.
One day, she came to me – literally out of the blue – and said: “I’m going to start my own jewellery business. I’m going to produce cute, quirky artwork and have it made into acrylic pendants. I’ve been reading about this company called Not on the High Street and I think they would be a good platform for them. There’s a bit of an outlay, but I think it’s going to be worth it. Can you read this?”
She put the laptop in front of me. I have to admit that I was pessimistic right off the bat: I’m an incredibly negative guy, and I’m one of those people who can view a great house without seeing any potential in it whatsoever. I immediately looked at the idea, read a bit about Not on the High Street and decided that my wife’s idea for a company was a lovely, hobbyist pursuit that would give her a lot of pleasure and that would perhaps end up supplementing my increasingly small writing income.
I discovered just how wrong I was a few months before Christmas 2013. I remember it really vividly. My agent was locked in negotiation with publishers over a new book deal, I was very concerned about money and Chiara walked into the room and asked me to help her with the post for her Not on the High Street orders.
I remember looking up irritably and saying. “I helped yesterday: now I’m trying to write a book. Can’t you do it on your own today?”
She said, simply. “No: there’s too much.”
That’s when it happened.
That’s when I walked into a room with a floor completely covered in envelopes, orders and merchandise.
That’s when I realized people were tiring of the same old shopping centre gifts and had started to look for something unique and personalized for Christmas, instead. The truth behind the power of Not on the High Street is that it’s a place for people who want their gift’s to be remembered.
You might not recall who got you that CD or those vouchers, but you’re hardly going to forget who got you the BBQ apron with your own name on it, the one that says “Dave – Chief Sausage Sizzler.”
It’s also when realized I suddenly didn’t have the most important job in the house any more, and that – for the sake of our family – my time needed to be devoted primarily to helping my wife.
I started to pack the orders.
Then I called some friends to help me, and they called THEIR friends.
We just about managed that Christmas, but the following Christmas we were more prepared.
These days, I’m incredibly grateful to my wife….and to Not on the High Street. Their incredible platform has enabled our little family to be self-sufficient and to run on our own steam.
My job is now manufacture and quality control: I personally create a lot of the products my wife designs…and my mother has joined the company to control the mountainous wealth of orders we tend to get through on a weekly basis.
In my spare time, I write children’s books: I’ve been a lot more productive since the pressure came off.
So, here’s a big thank you to NOT ON THE HIGH STREET. If you want to get someone a gift they’ll always remember, you really shouldn’t be looking anywhere else.
This post was originally written by Davey Stone in 2015.