Bespoke Gems - unique clothing, stationery and gift ideas made in Wigan
- Credit: Pics; John Cocks
A Wigan mum has turned her creative drive into a thriving business producing gifts that have your name on.
As a bride-to-be excitedly planning her wedding, Gemma Markland spent hours browsing design inspiration online to help make her big day extra-special.
But instead of buying from other crafty makers, the 29-year-old from Wigan ended up designing all the favours and gifts herself.
From starting out just three years ago selling decorated box frames to family and friends, the mum-of-one is now running her own company. And Bespoke Gems is on target for a £1 million turnover next year, with the new Festive Collection bringing unique clothing, stationery and gift ideas straight from Gemma's veritable Santa's workshop at home.
It's a long way from Gemma's roots as an education administrator, but she admits that even back then, she wanted to do something special.
'When I had my daughter Grace 10 years ago I wanted something that fitted around her. I started out in admin, worked my way up and did a diploma in school business management. But I still had that feeling that I wanted to do something for myself. I've always been driven to have my own business, I've always dreamed of it.'
The drive coincided with Gemma creating bespoke gifts in 2016.
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'I started out with box frames - my most popular one was a family tree. I'd put a little wooden tree inside and then I'd hand-stamp names on it.'
The weekend side hustle gained traction over the festive period as Gemma struggled to keep up with demand for her personalised gifts.
'I suddenly realised I could make a business out of it, so in January 2017 I went all-out, registered as a business, started to sell on [online craft marketplace] Etsy. Things took off from there.'
Looking for a year-round idea that would really succeed coincided with Gemma getting engaged to partner Kyle - which is when that inspirational bolt from the blue came.
'As I sat down to plan my own wedding, I was thinking about what I could do that would make my wedding a little bit 'extra'. I'd seen robes on Pinterest - they weren't personalised, but they were really nice and I loved that idea, so I started thinking of how I could change that and make it my own.'
Gemma hit upon the idea of personalised and monogrammed items - from robes to slippers to pyjamas and beyond. She sat down with graphics programme Adobe Illustrator and started creating her own designs.
'I've always been creative and I always have ideas in my head, I don't even know where I pull them from, I just get inspired.'
Gemma then bought a sublimation printer which she used to heat transfer dyes into the fabric. And when the big day came at Delamere Manor in Cheshire, Gemma's blush pink and rose gold nuptials were exactly as she had dreamed.
'I made everything,' she adds. 'I made all the bridesmaid robes, I made pyjamas, matching slippers, matching gift boxes for all the bridesmaids, mum of the bride, gifts that went inside them like personalised make-up bags. I even made the groomsmen personalised bottle openers.'
Alongside the creative role, she staffed the customer service side of the business too - and she's still as hands-on as she ever was.
'I don't have working hours, it's just constant. I get up, do the school run, take the dog for a walk and then it's time for work. I print out all the orders, print off all the designs and go through them all, either heat press them or whatever they need done to them. I'll normally stop at about three o'clock and that's when I'll start doing all the packing and labelling.'
This hefty workload goes some way to explaining why Gemma is hoping to expand Bespoke Gems in 2020, as she's currently planning premises and staff to help meet demands.
'We bought a house earlier this year, but the stock for the business has completely taken over already,' she laughs.
Although it's hard work, Gemma believes her speedy reactions to customers are a major part of her success.
'If someone asks me for something, I can always go and find it,' she says. 'I've got 1,000 ideas in my head all the time,' she adds. 'When I was planning the festive collection, I was just tracing the trends from this year.'
The personalised Hinching notebook and matching pyjamas - inspired by domestic goddess Mrs Hinch - are a sign of Gemma's finger being on the pulse, but she's also been inspired by a new family member, as the dog bowls and matching dog pyjamas show.
'I got a boxer called Socks this year and I realise how much people love their dogs,' she explains, and now Socks' personalised clothes serve to make him another personalised Markland.
'Kyle, Grace and I have matching pyjamas. My husband says 'Do I have to do this?' and tries to be all manly, but he's always roped in! As much as I loved my job for years - I loved the people I worked with, I loved being in a school environment - there was always a voice in the back on my head telling me that I could do more, that I could have my own business. I've always wanted to be my own boss - and now I am.'
For more from Bespoke Gems, including the Festive Collection, visit craftygemsstore.com