Fri, 13 Oct 2017
Hannah Foster, of Gift Pop
EMBRACING social media has seen one Newbury business surge this year.
I’ve managed to grab an hour with her and, sitting at that kitchen table talking about her success over a coffee, it is
obvious that she is working flat out to keep up with that increasing demand.
The surge in interest in the bright and beautiful products she stocks means she is now preparing to head to India in search of new suppliers.
Although her first job was in retail, it wasn’t her plan to create her own online emporium – until she had a family.
Born and educated in Ascot, Hannah spent her childhood in the town before moving to Bristol to study sociology and politics at university.
After finishing her studies, she moved to London to take up a job with Addison Ross Ltd, a company that, by coincidence, is based in Newbury, which is where Hannah and her family now live.
The firm is a picture frame supplier and she was tasked with looking after the department store accounts for them.
“I worked with stores like John Lewis and Saks Fifth Avenue,” she explains. “It gave me the most amazing insight into retail and I got to travel a lot.
“I got to go to trade fairs abroad, in places like New York and Frankfurt.
“I absolutely loved working there and I am still in contact with them today.”
After three years, Hannah moved on to work as an event organiser in an exclusive London venue, George, on Mount Street.
“I was responsible for organising parties and meeting and greeting people,” she says.
“It was another job I absolutely loved and ended up staying there for three years.”
She was then poached by a customer to run the marketing at his bar and restaurant, No 5 Cavendish Square, which she continued to do right up until she got married and had children.
“I was looking after a lot of celebrities and organising events like Kylie’s album launch and Ant and Dec’s 30th birthday party,” she explains.
“But the hours were awful and they clashed badly with my husband’s working.”
Hannah’s husband is journalist Max Foster, who at the time was working on a breakfast show.
“He was getting up for work at 2am and I was just coming in from work at that time,” she says. “We just didn’t ever see each other.”
The answer to their clashing diaries came with the birth of their first son, when Hannah gave up her job to be a stay-at-home mum. But three children and seven years later it was time to start work again and in 2014 giftpop.co.uk was born.
“By that time I was ready to do something again and financially I needed to do something,” she adds. “At the time I didn’t think Gift Pop would grow as fast as it has done. It’s been fantastic.”
Hannah bought her first pile of stock on a credit card and hasn’t looked back since.
“I bought some sparkly Moroccan baskets and tassel necklaces and went along to a few school fairs and house sales and I just sold loads and loads,” she explains.
“So I very quickly built my own website and I think that really helped me.
“I also started to use social media very early on and for the first 18 months I just went everywhere, getting my name out.
“Three years in and I am not doing nearly as many fairs as I used to because the website is doing so well.”
In January she started Instagramming and working with fashion bloggers and is expecting to see her turnover triple this year off the back of it.
“The website took things to another level, but using Instagram has just seen things go wild,” she adds. “I make sure I do all of my social media myself too, because I don’t think anyone else can put that emotion into it for me.
“I have found this amazing community on Instagram for mothers running their own businesses; there are so many great people out there offering advice to each other.
“The friends and work colleagues I have met through social media is phenomenal and people who haven’t experienced that will be really surprised at how much of a support it can be.
“It’s been a steep learning curve; I have learned absolutely everything as I’ve gone along; but it’s been a wonderful journey.”
While running her own business allows Hannah to be there for all the school runs, harvest festivals and Christmas plays, it does also mean she is up and working at 5.30 every morning and still at it long after she puts the children to bed every night.
But the 42-year-old wouldn’t change it for anything and is rightly proud of how far she has come, even if she is a little reticent to admit it.
Gift Pop currently offers 30 different lines, including sweatshirts, bags, belts, baskets and jewellery and has anything from 20 to 60 orders to process every day.
“I am now doing a lot of collaborations with other local small business too,” Hannah explains, showing me the brightly coloured pin boards and prints that adorn her own kitchen walls.
This month she will also be going on her first buying trip to India, where she is looking for new jewellery suppliers and by next spring everything she sells will be branded with the Gift Pop logo.
She hopes to look at moving in to a new unit in the near future, leaving her kitchen table free for family meals again.
With new lines being added to the website regularly and interest from abroad in her products soaring, business really is going ‘pop’.