Blue Eyed Sun

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Card Industry News

  • The war on single-use plastic and how we can all help

    The War On Single-Use Plastic

    Dubbed “The Blue Planet Effect” shocking images of vast swathes of rubbish in our oceans in David Attenborough’s documentary aired on the BBC appear to have galvanised millions of viewers to take action in the war on single-use plastic.

    The Queen has announced a ban on single use plastics on the Royal Estate, both the BBC and Sky have pledged to eliminate them by 2020 and communities up and down the UK are planning to go plastic free.

    I spoke about this trend to retailers at Autumn Fair. The environment and socially conscious living are at the forefront of the minds of the biggest wave of consumers to walk the planet: Millennials. 

    Millennials

    With £4.4 trillion in earnings, millennials have more spending power than any previous generation. When it comes to traditional media like TV, radio or newspapers consumption is down by half, with most choosing to learn about the world via their mobile devices.

    They research products carefully and spend more freely when they choose to do so. They value authenticity in brands and retailers and will shun those they find disingenuous. They are obsessed with health, wellness and travel. Most importantly they have a passion for the environment.

    Part of the reason Blue Planet has resonated so deeply is how shareable clips of it have been online. Waking us all up to the effect our mindless waste is having on our world. Particularly plastic and why it is so problematic.

    Plastic Population

    Plastic bottles can take 450 years to break down, plastic bags are even worse. Packaging and cups made from styrofoam may be around forever (Americans currently use 25 billion of them a year). Single use coffee cups made from paper have plastic linings and 2.5 billion of them go into landfill each year in the UK (100 billion globally). There’s half a trillion single use plastic bottles produced in the world annually. We send 6 billion of them per annum to UK landfill sites.

    Plastic is everywhere 72% of European tap water is contaminated by microplastics. It’s pretty much impossible not to find them in the food we prepare in our homes and in the fish and meat we buy at the supermarket. Even the clothes we wear affect our environment. A typical polyester fleece, for example, sheds 250,000 micro plastics in it’s lifetime. Much of which is washed out to sea. So much so that there is now more plastic in the ocean than fish. 

    Plastic Problems

    Plastic are polymers derived from hydrocarbons which are mostly derived from oil. Oil is effectively made from the hundred million year old corpses of living things that came before us. Microplastics attract organic pollutants and then contaminate our food chain causing both animals and humans a host of health problems.

    BPA and Estrogenic chemicals in plastics have been linked to health issues like heart disease, hormone imbalance, increased caner risks, infertility, ADHD and even genital deformaties.

    What can we do?

    It’s not just Millennials that were affected by the images from Blue Planet, most of us want to do our bit too. There are four simple steps that we can all take to reduce the plastic we use in our lives.

    1. Refuse

    You can refuse unnecessary plastic packaging.The biggest one in our daily lives is food packaging. Plastic food packaging increased by 25% between 2004-14 using 800,000 tonnes pa only a third of which is recycled. Feedback to your supermarket that you don’t want it and choose fruit and veg that isn’t wrapped in plastic. 

    Share excessive packaging photos on social media to get companies to take action and make change. If you are company that people are doing this to then engage with them and take action. Talk through what is needed and how you can change.

    Some independent shops are now refusing to stock plastic bags. Even changing a single word at checkout can help customers to change. A retailer told me recently that they stopped saying “do you want a plastic bag” and asked instead “do you need a plastic bag.” The result was a huge drop off in single use plastic bags taken by customers.

    If you can’t eliminate plastic in your life then the next step is to reduce it.

    1. Reduce

    Laminate or cello glaze is not recyclable so try to reduce your use of them. The biggest source of this in most of our lives are Tetra Pak cartons which are laminated in polyethylene and contain a layer of aluminium which makes them difficult and costly to recycle. Most councils don’t take them at the moment. You can reduce your consumption of liquids using Tetra Paks or find alternative sources. 

    Glass milk bottles are on the rise again because of this trend. Similarly, SodaStream is seeing an uplift in sales as people reduce buying carbonated water in plastic bottles and make their own at home.

    The card industry is making real progress on reducing plastic packaging with trials in supermarkets selling ‘naked cards.’ Asda is removing cello wrapping from the vast majority of its cards and will save over 50 million cello bags annually equivalent to 100 tonnes of plastic. Unless the card requires a bag to protect delicate handcrafted elements it makes sense to reduce the reliance on cellos or shift to greener alternatives.

    1. Reuse

    It helps to reuse materials repeatedly, rather than discard them after a single use like we do so often after one use. That’s why it’s nice to enjoy your birthday cards or Christmas cards up around the house and even hold on to ones that have special meaning for you. 

    It’s the reusability that has a significant impact on single use items we get through everyday like plastic bottles, coffee cups and plastic shopping bags. Actively reusing reusable water bottles, reusable coffee cups and reusable shopping bags are small changes in habits that have a big effect when we all get involved and do our bit. There are fantastic commercial opportunities for retailers stocking these reusable products at the moment.

    You can also get involved at work by reusing items whenever possible. For example, we reuse pallets and cardboard boxes when shipping from Blue Eyed Sun. This little shifts all help to reduce waste. Share this with your customers and shout about it on social media.

    1. Recycle

    When it’s not recycled the plastic we use is either going into landfill and breaking down over hundreds of years or gets into the environment and winds up in the sea. It is estimated that we are effectively dumping a lorry load of plastic into the ocean every single minute.

    We need to recycle all of our plastic both at home and in the office. Councils don’t currently recycle polypropylene film so compostable bags could be a better solution, especially if we can get all councils to make industrial composting more accessible for consumers. Greeting cards themselves are an easy material to recycle as the majority are made from paper which is recyclable.

    Make sure you use your recycling bins at home and at work and encourage others to do so. If you are passionate about the environment recycling is a really important way to improve things. Small changes have a huge effect over time.

    What to do Next?

    Build environmental awareness and sustainability into your business. Take action, join the conversation and get involved. There are beach clean ups across the country you can join. Take little steps towards improving every month.

    One way to do this right now is to book your place at the GCA AGM on 17th October at Knebworth House. Sue Morrish from Glebe Cottage (aka the Eco-friendly Card Co) and Ceri Stirland from UKG will be discussing the card industry’s environmental issues and options open to publishers and retailers. You’ll have a chance to get involved and learn what’s best for your business as well as benefitting from all the other talks and seminars on the day. I look forward to seeing you there.

    Global waste produced whilst you read this blog post:

    3,350 plastic straws, 19 million plastic bags, 10 million plastic bottles, 41 tonnes of nappies, 10 lorry loads of plastic dumped in the sea - all of which take hundreds of years to break down.

    Read more about Business and the Environment

    Find out more about our Bamboo Products

    How to change your habits for good

    Click on the image below to see the slides from my talk at Autumn Fair:

  • Four Amazing Benefits of Thinking of You Week

    Thinking Of You WeekHow would you like to improve your mental and physical health, become more attractive and have more sex? Believe it or not these are some of the potential benefits of taking part in Thinking of You week this September.

    That’s because sending thinking of you cards is an act of altruism that is often rooted in empathy and/or compassion. Specifically, altruism is an action that benefits someone else. It’s different to empathy (our emotional experience of other’s feelings) and compassion (our emotional response to suffering and authentic desire to alleviate it). 

    If you have all three it can be good for you, good for others and even good for your business.

    It’s Good for You

    When we act generously towards others, we benefit as much as those to whom we are giving. The Dalai Lama playfully calls this “selfish altruism.” For example, a Harvard Study has shown that those who give contributions of time or money “are 42% more likely to be happy” than those who didn’t give  (Ask those who have contributed so far to my Mongolian fundraising and those that haven’t - the latter are definitely more miserable).

    For those that donate their time, psychologists have identified something called “helpers high”. Giving produces endorphins in the brain that produce a mild morphine type hit. Neuroscientists have even shown that the same part of our brain that lights up when we have sex is triggered by giving money to charity.

    It’s not just our minds that benefit, our bodies do too. Compassion can also protect us from stress, through a lower heart rate and lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) amongst other health benefits. Spending money on others may also lower blood pressure and those that volunteer have been shown to experience fewer aches and pains, better overall health and less depression. According to one study, older volunteers even have a significantly lower chance of dying.

    Taking part in thinking of you week might also improve your love life. One survey of 10,000 people across 37 cultures found that kindness is the single universal requirement and the most important criterion for choosing a mate. Altruists are considered more attractive than non-altruists and they also have more sex.

    Taking the time to focus on others rather than ourselves is undoubtedly good for us. What’s more important is that generous acts like sending a card are good for others too. 

    Good for Others

    None of us ever really know what’s going on inside other people’s minds. So often, those who appear to have everything we might might want in life, decide to end it all. These deaths are a tragic and important reminder for us to take care of one another and let each other know that we are loved. Even those who don’t go to suicidal extremes may still be suffering in silence behind masks of happiness, success, etc. If you love someone, care about them or think they’re great in any way then let them know. A few kind words in card can really brighten someone’s day.

    Royal Mail’s scientific study several years ago showed that mothers have a more positive emotional response towards greeting cards compared to electronic messages on social networks, via sms or email. They also felt twice the amount of happiness receiving a card or handwritten note to digital alternatives. Furthermore, a nationwide survey showed that a handwritten note is the main thing mothers want on Mothering Sunday.

    We all know how special it is to receive a handwritten card from someone who has taken the time to buy, write and post it to us. The 54 videos I made last year on the Greeting Card Project provides further anecdotal evidence of this. Card sending and acts of altruism in general have positive effects on the neuro-chemicals in our brains.

    Leaders that are generous, by giving time and energy for example, can alter the biochemistry of their team. Generous behaviour releases a chemical called oxytocin which creates intense feelings of comfort and security. What’s interesting is that oxytocin is released in the recipient, the giver and anyone who witnesses the sacrifice the leader makes.

    By this rational, the sender of a card the recipient and those that see cards on their loved ones mantlepieces might also all receive the same hit of oxytocin themselves. A great example of this is Stephen Kelly, the CEO of Sage Plc, who regularly sends cards to his team to thank them for projects they’ve worked on or contributions they’ve made. Many of them keep the cards on their desks for months afterwards. The knock on effects can be greater than first perceived.

    Sending cards is a powerful way to spread good feelings around the world and within businesses.

    Good for Business

    More and more consumers now want businesses to spread the love too. They want them to treat their employees and suppliers fairly, to be socially responsible in how they source their goods, sustainable with their impact on the environment, ethical in their behaviour and to contribute charitably to communities and causes they value. Essentially, companies that are kind are the more attractive and can generate more sales when this kindness is built into their brand dna.

    A study  published in the Journal of Business Ethics showed that charity might make corporations more valuable. What’s important in both business and personal altruism is that the gestures are not perceived as self serving. In other words, the altruism has to be authentic.

    Companies are using stories more and more to connect with their customers through their brands. People want these stories to reflect their values and the needs they relate to most. It’s important for businesses to recognise this shift and to embody values like contribution, community and the environment at the heart of their organisations. These are vales that resonate with all of us right now as we see more and more footage online and in the media on the effects of climate change, single use plastics and over consumption of resources. 

    Thinking of you week is a great opportunity for businesses to get involved and send cards to their employees, suppliers and customers to let them know they are special and appreciated. It’s a nice alternative to Christmas as it’s secular and not tied to a religious holiday. It’s simply a time to be grateful and kind to others.

    It’s Contagious

    Many studies have shown that altruism inspires more altruism. Even when the cascading ripple effects diminish over time the total result can be three times greater than the initial act of generosity. 

    In fact, I saw this first hand in my fundraising for the Christina Noble Foundation recently. One of my first donations was for £1,000. Soon after I had a second £1,000 donated by someone who was inspired by the first donation. This inspired others to donate higher amounts than I usually receive on fundraising endeavours. In line with one study on giving, the total raised was over three times greater than the initial large donation.

    Conversely, selfish behaviour can spread just as easily. When we behave selfishly this can have a negative effect on the behaviour of others that ripples outwards.

    So, we have a choice to make about how we live our lives and the impacts our actions have on others. 

    We can choose to be kind, generous and loving on a regular basis and have a positive ripple effect on those around us. We can do nothing. Or we can spread negativity.

    So, why not choose to spread a little love, send some cards during thinking of you week and create a ripple effect of love and kindness in the world. Who knows what might happen!

    5 Great Card Sending Initiatives

    Why Thinking of You Week Matters

    Free Downloads on the GCA Site

     

  • Gobi Desert Challenge for Christina Noble Foundation

    Jeremy Corner - Gobi Desert Motorbike

    Blue Eyed Sun MD and Giftware Association Chairman, Jeremy Corner, is embarking on a challenging 1,500km off road motorbike trip across the Gobi Desert in Mongolia from 2 - 11 July. Starting in Ulaanbaatar he will be riding with a group of eight friends and a support vehicle and staying in Gers (small huts) on a route that will cover distances of 150-200 miles each day.

    Riding KTM 450 6 Day Enduro off-road motorbikes on this self funded trip, he is aiming to raise £3,000 for the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation which helps street children in Mongolia. The charity helps youngsters in desperate need on streets of Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital city in the world where temperatures drop to -40 degrees Celsius and unemployment runs at 60%. The funds raised will provide the children with access to warm accommodation, nutrition and social support through the Blue Skies Village initiative which Jeremy plans to visit during his trip. If the target is reached it will be enough to purchase a new ger for the village.

    Jeremy is a keen supporter of children's charities having run several marathons for the likes of Barnardos, Save the Children, RockinghorseCLDF and UNICEF. He was inspired to support the Christina Noble Foundation after seeing Noble, a film about Christina's own life.

    "Having a son and knowing how vulnerable children can be makes it all the more important that we help kids in the most challenging of conditions. They are the future of our planet and it makes so much sense to show them that there is love, generosity and compassion there for them. In time and with luck they will grow into adults who share these values." - Jeremy

    The Gobi desert is the fifth largest desert in the world and Asia's second largest. It's 500,000 square miles with a mixture of terrains and temperatures ranging up to 30 degrees celsius in July. In addition to physical training, Jeremy has spent the last six months learning to ride a motorbike, passing his license and training on off-road bikes in the UK to be able to complete this trip.

    If you’d like to support Jeremy’s fundraising please donate what you can here: https://www.justgiving.com/gobidesertenduro

    Christina Noble Foundation Mongolia

    Gobi Desert Enduro

  • Jeremy Corner elected as Chairman of the Giftware Association

    Jeremy Corner Chairman The GA

    Blue Eyed Sun MD, Jeremy Corner, has been elected as the new Chairman of the Giftware Association (a.k.a. The GA). This follows two years of serving as Vice Chair to outgoing Chairman, Henri Davis, who will take over as Deputy Chair from Michael Pape from Ravensden. Gert Schyberg of Sebnini has taken over as the new Vice Chair.

    The GA is a trade organisation founded in 1947 with a rich history of contribution to the heart of the industry. Most famously it birthed Spring Fair and Autumn Fair as well as creating the ever popular Gift of the Year Awards. It boasts around 700 supplier and retailer members and is positioned at the heart of the Giftware Industry. It is a lifeline of support to it's members for its enormous range of resources, lobbying of government and offers a selection of discounts from key industry suppliers, small business services and trade shows.

    "I am honoured to have been elected as the new chairman of the GA. I'm excited to be working with Henri and Gert (pictured with Jeremy above), our experienced team of dedicated volunteers on the National Committee, our knowledgable BATF board, our talented Chief Executive, Sarah Ward, and our hard working in-house GA Team." - said Jeremy.

    "Our challenge is to continue to drive active member engagement and grow membership numbers. Improving our website, our blog, enhancing our social media activity and updating our CRM system will all help. As will increasing the number of members paying by direct debit or standing order to reduce wasted time chasing outstanding payments. If you are a member, you can assist us by automating your payments to enable the team to spend more time helping you and other members. You can also help by keeping us informed of the issues that matter most to you and what you need in your business right now. We are here for you, please do engage with us."

    Jeremy took on the new role at the GA Member's Day, held this year at the Mockingbird Cinema in Birmingham. The day included a talk on retail by retail expert Michael Wheedon and three informative panels discussing topics ranging from GDPR and legal compliance to awards and future proofing your business.

    Jeremy is also currently the Treasurer of the Greeting Card Association and an active mentor to small businesses in the card and gift industries through initiatives like The Ladder Club. Blue Eyed Sun has been a member of the GA since 2003 and Jeremy has sat on the National Committee since 2011.

    What is the point of Trade Organisations?

    What I learned from the Dutch Greeting Card Association

    Join the GA

  • Business Ambition with Peter Jones from Dragons Den

    Jeremy Corner Peter Jones

    Watch Blue Eyed Sun MD, Jeremy Corner, on a Facebook Live panel session with Dragon's Den star and tycoon, Peter Jones. The panel was led by Kevin Poulter and included Janice B Gordon, both fellow Sage Business Experts. Organised by Sage the broadcast on 13th June was part of their ongoing support for business builders.

    The discussion included topics like ambition, what makes British business great, brexit, greeting cards and BambooCups. The evening continued with a fireside chat between Peter Jones and Sage CEO, Stephen Kelly. Attended by Sage customers it was fascinating to listen to Peter's journey and to hear tips for businesses within the audience.

    Click on the link to download a free ebook on Business Ambition.

    You can watch the playback of the discussion by clicking on the image below:

    NB. There are some issues with viewing this video internationally. We are working on this.

  • Business and the Environment

    Business and the Environment

    Someone cynically once said to me that people can only be environmentally conscious when they can afford to be financially. It sounded like a reasonable argument at the time, although these days I’m less sure. That’s because there now appears to be real momentum for environmental change, despite that fact that we are not currently experiencing a boom in the economy. 

    Britain recently successfully implemented the 5p plastic bag levy, which has contributed to a 90% reduction in their use. We’ve literally slashed consumption of single use plastic shopping bags by billions and there’s even talk of introducing the levy in retailers with fewer than 250 employees.

    Single use plastic straws are now in the firing line with bars, restaurants and cafe’s around the world no longer offering them as standard in order to discourage unnecessary plastic waste. Single use plastic lined coffee cups may also soon be targeted with a latte levy. Waitrose are committed to removing all single use coffee cups from stores this year. Pret a Manger and Starbucks already offer discounts to customers using their own cups (more on cups later).

    Changing Habits

    What’s significant about these changes is that people are actively engaging with habit change. If you can carry reusable shopping bags in your car, rucksack or handbag then why not carry a spare reusable cup? Changing habits aren’t just limited to reducing plastic consumption they’re also affecting what we consume everything from goods to food to power.

    This is exciting for the world as we move to embrace environmentally friendly renewable energy sources like wind and solar. There’s also been a rise in the number of vegans and vegetarians. Netflix hits like Cowspiracy and What the Health have emphasised the importance of eating less meat in order to save the planet’s resources and reduce CO2 emissions. Viral internet hits like the Story of Stuff are affecting the way consumers purchase, with a shift from goods to foods and experiences.

    The most important thing to be aware of with these changes is that they are increasing as people get more comfortable with making these small adjustments in their lives.

    Ideal World

    I guess in an ideal world we’d completely reduce or offset our carbon footprints. Perhaps we’d stop consuming altogether and live more simple lives. We might reduce our number of fashion items like those taking part in Project 333 or we could even move into a tiny house or a van conversion to minimise our impact on the planet. We may even decide not to have kids (one fewer child per family is said to save 58 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions per year). 

    These extreme alternatives are also growing in popularity, especially amongst millennials. It’s important that we start to become aware of these shifts so that we can accommodate them in our business models and avoid losing valuable customers.

    What can we do?

    As someone who loves to buy and send cards, I personally don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. I don’t find Facebook messages and SMS’s nearly as intimate as sending a card (besides, even websites contribute to CO2 consumption). I find writing cards with my fountain pen a soulful and profound way of connecting with my fiends and loved ones. 

    I’m not just saying that because I publish cards. I genuinely love them and always have done. If you watch The Greeting Card Project videos I made on YouTube last year you can see the effect sending more cards has on us. For those that love to send and receive cards they have real meaning and importance.

    Having said all of that, the environment is important to us too. How can we reconcile these two seemingly polarised values? How can we reduce the impact we have on the environment and still enjoy doing something we love?

    Sources

    The first thing to figure out is what we are buying and where does it come from? For example, are the boards and papers ethically sourced from responsibly managed sources? At Blue Eyed Sun we have been using FSC boards since we first started although we don’t actively promote this on the backs of our cards (partly because we are design snobs and find the logo unsightly on the card backs and partly because administratively burdensome chain of custody requirements). FSC stands for the Forest Stewardship Council and is one of several organisations that promote responsible management of the world’s forests. It verifies that cetified cards are not made from rainforests.

    We are currently carrying out a company wide audit of all of our material components. Once this is completed we will be able to pinpoint areas for improvement. We’ll also be in a better position to communicate the environmental provenance of our cards to our fans and advise them on how best to recycle them when ready. 

    Communicating

    It’s all very well doing the right thing, it’s also important to spread the word and let your customers know the facts about your products so that they can make informed decisions. This includes being transparent on your website about where your products are sourced and how best to recycle them.

    Having environmental and social responsibility policies that you can share on your website helps with this sort of thing. Once we have all the facts about our sources this will be easier to communicate.

    Integrity

    Of course, being environmentally friendly doesn’t just stop with our products. How we run our businesses on a daily basis also affects our environmental impact on the world. Are your lightbulbs still tungsten based for example or have you switched to lower wattage alternatives? Our new production and distribution facility is fully equipped with LED lighting, which saves on electricity consumption. 

    We also recycle the majority of our waste at Blue Eyed Sun, which I thought was pretty good until I met Bruce Podmore from Windles at a recent GCA National Council meeting. His factory recycles over three tonnes of nails from his pallets each year and uses the wood from them to fuel his heating (reducing their bill by a phenomenal 85%). 

    Not only is Windles actively working to minimise their environmental footprint for the good of the planet, these actions are making good financial sense too. Their frequency controlled fluorescent lighting has reduced power consumption by 85% and saving money in the process. Their staff are more engaged with solutions and improvements. They’ve even won awards for their hard work in this area.

    What inspired me most about Windles is how they’ve  systematically identified areas for improvement throughout their business and are continually working towards reducing their environmental impact. This is the key I think. To start taking some steps. One at a time. Lots of small ones as many big ones as you can manage.

    For us, solar panels is the next big investment goal we are working towards to reduce our consumption from the grid. It’ll take time, but long term we will feel proud of making a difference using it.

    Working Together

    At the GCA we are working hard to try and improve communication of factual information surrounding the use of foils, glitter, recycling and so forth. There’s still so much to be understood and it’s important to share resources, learning and best practice. 

    It’s tempting for any business in the industry to use such knowledge to gain competitive advantage over others. To do this is to miss the bigger picture. We all need to work and act together to show how we can minimise our environmental impact on the world. We only have one planet after all.

    New Products

    As we continue to work hard to improve the environmental credentials of our greeting cards and the way we work as a business at Blue Eyed Sun, I’m also very excited about a recent exclusive distribution deal we’ve signed for a range of Bamboo Products. 

    BambooCup is an environmentally friendly alternative to single use plastic lined coffee cups, 2.5 billion of which go into landfill in the UK each year. Reusable cups are a booming category in retail and we are thrilled to be involved in a fast growing niche that’s making a difference to our planet.

    We still love publishing cards. Now we want to offer our customers even more.

    Find out more about BambooCup

    CelloBags and Recycling

    How to Change Your Habits for Good

  • Special Willie's Cacao Offer for Blue Eyed Sun Customers

    Willies Cacao

    At Blue Eyed Sun we love chocolate and our customers so much that, as a special treat, we have included a gift of Willie's Cacao truffles with every Valentine's greeting card order shipping in January. Click here to login and order.

    We've also persuaded our friends at Willie's Cacao to create two special intro offers for you:

    1. A Free case of Praline Truffles worth £26.52 for gift orders over £170.
    2. A free wooden display stand with 8 cases of 50g bars

    Discover the wonderfully tactile, artist sculpted golden cacao pod tins and astonishingly delicious praline truffles. For details contact Anna on mail@williescacao.com or call 01884 840 650. No minimum order. Free delivery over £170 + VAT.

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze, from Channel 4's Willies Chocolate Revolution, makes some of the best chocolate in the world. His aim is to introduce everyone to real chocolate with the pure, beautiful flavours of the world's great single estate cacaos.

    Willie's dream of making the world's best chocolate was born in Hacienda El Tesoro, his cacao farm high in the cloud first in Venezuela. With beans bought direct from farmers, he makes them into chocolate in small batches in his factory in England, using neither vanilla nor soya lecithin, so preserving the highly individual flavours of the beans. One batch may take up to 18 days, which is a hundred times longer then industrial chocolate.

    Don't miss out on this wonderful offer. We hope you enjoy the chocolates!

    Click here to find out more about Willies Cacao 

    See Blue Eyed Sun at Top Drawer - Stand T42

    See Willie's Cacao at Top Drawer on Stand FE443

  • The Power of Groups

    Group PowerIt’s easy to think that we are alone in this world; trapped inside a bag of skin and doing our best to survive. The truth is far more beautiful than that, for we are all profoundly connected with each other and with our environment.

    Self Made Myth

    We love the idea of the self made man or woman. The idea of the leader or visionary that saw the future and led us all to it. Such people are lauded as heroes in magazines, films and books despite it not being the whole truth.

    In his commencement speech at the University of Houston, Arnold Schwarzenegger believes that the idea of the self made man is a myth. None of us can get anywhere on our own. Every person who put him up on their sofa in the early days when he had nothing, everyone who helped him with his training or English or who gave him a break at a different points all contributed to his finding success later in life.

    There’s a wonderful image from the movie The Straight Story by David Lynch which really sums this up. The central character, Alvin, recounts how, as a game, he used to give his kids a stick and tell them to break it, which they did easily. He’d then ask them to tie a bundle of sticks together and try and break them. They couldn’t. “That bundle… that’s family” he’d say. To illustrate my point, that’s the power of the group.

    As soon as you understand that you got where you are with a lot of help from your groups, you realise that it’s time to help others. Time to work together to build something greater than all of us.

    Family Power

    Group Power

    I got this a long time ago, which is why I agreed to help the late Lynn Tait with The Ladder Club seminars back in 2004 and have been speaking there for free every year since.

    I’ve also been an active member of both the Greeting Card Association (GCA) where I am currently Treasurer and the Giftware Association (The GA) where I will become Chairman this year (I give away 10% of my time each year to helping various groups).

    We need groups like these to help our industries thrive, to help those who need to grow and to help those who are less fortunate (through benevolent funds and the like). More importantly, these groups need us. Yet, so often, many of us are pushed for time or strapped for cash and we hold back on getting involved, because we are looking out for our own interests.

    Speaking from experience, what’s most interesting is that the more you give, the more you receive. It’s like love, the more you love the more love appears around you in the world. Like the brightest star, loving beings light up the darkness around them. Groups which are full of generosity and giving are like the brightest of galaxies, like a milky way lighting up the sky at night.

    It’s the same with teaching: the more we teach, the more we learn (The Roman philosopher, Seneca, observed this almost 2,400 years ago). Every year, after returning from the Ladder Club seminars I say to my team, “OK. These are the words of advice I’ve given others, are we still practising this ourselves? If not, why not?” Every year we improve a little from doing this.

    The Protége Effect

    Researchers have found that students that tutor others work harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately and apply it more effectively. Scientists have called this the protége effect. Student teachers score higher in tests than those studying for their own sake.

    Similar studies have concluded that first-born children are brighter than their later born siblings due to time spent showing them the ropes. Cascading mentoring programs, where students teach others all the way down the education system, can help everyone in groups get smarter as they progress.

    These days we are always learning, but are we always teaching too? What are our contributions? Where do we sew what we have reaped?

    Online Groups

    Social media can feel like busy marketplaces full of noise and shouting, without much listening. For me, one of the most exciting areas of social media has been the groups that I’ve been involved with online: primarily with Facebook and WhatsApp (although I have also tested group tools on LinkedIn, Telegram, Slack and Allo).

    Good online groups can be very supportive environments for niche subject areas in order to learn and grow. One of the reasons Ladder Club publishers have been so successful in recent years is the Facebook group that alumni can join for year round support and encouragement. I’ve answered hundreds of questions in this group and it’s so lovely to see how other members (who were previously students) are now answering a lot of questions for others themselves. The group as a whole has grown in strength as a result.

    I’ve also been involved in several networking groups on WhatsApp and have developed and grown friendships that have opened all sorts of interesting opportunities, lessons and personal growth over time.

    Network Thinking

    I’ve written before on the importance of fully understanding Network thinking (which is open, random and supportive) over Institutional Thinking (which is closed, selective and controlling). You cannot be the latter and ignore the former online, especially not in groups. People can sniff out self interest a mile away. Most importantly, it erodes trust. They say of trust that it is won in inches and lost in miles. So take care when building it online.

    Building trust through being open, random and supportive takes time. You have to be open to all comers, it’s random so you cannot simply pick and choose who you respond to based on how it will benefit you personally and you have to be supportive of others instead of just looking out for yourself.

    It sounds easy when I say it like this, but it takes time to adjust. My friend, Thomas Power, who first articulated this distinction and who spoke on the subject at the GA Members’ Day  a couple of years ago reckons it can take up to ten years to make the change from CSC institutional thinking to ORS network thinking.

    Practicing Network Thinking

    When I first watched Thomas speak on the subject I understood what he meant as I have instinctively operated in a similar way for many years. Last year, I decided to test myself on this to see if I really had the stomach for fully adjusting to it.

    Buying and sending other publishers’ cards on The Greeting Card Project felt like madness at times (from the CSC perspective) and yet it was totally essential to encouraging more greeting card sending overall. It would not have worked had I promoted Blue Eyed Sun in the videos.

    The experience has completely changed me and how I see greeting cards. It’s opened my eyes to the life of retailers, publishers and card buying consumers.

    I want to invite you to join the next stage of this project’s journey so that you can experience all of this too.

    Join the Group

    The fact is that I can’t continue to do it alone. I’m like the twig on it’s own in the earlier analogy. I’m at breaking point with it and I need your help to grow this project. It was only meant to be for a year, but I feel at over 20,000 views on social media, that this project has some momentum and could help our industry as a whole if more people get involved this year.

    It’s too much to ask any one person to continue to make videos every week on card buying and to share them online. Collectively however we could do more as a group. Perhaps not just with videos, but with images and hashtags as well.

    So, if you have been at all inspired by The Greeting Card Project last year and want to get involved in sending more cards this year to make it even bigger and better, please join the group at www.Facebook.com/groups/TheGreetingCardProject

    Watch The Greeting Card Project Videos

  • Blue Eyed Sun meets the Small Business Saturday Bus

    Small Business Saturday 2017Blue Eyed Sun MD, Jeremy Corner, was recently invited for a Facebook Live interview with the Small Business Saturday bus in Brighton to discuss greeting cards, retail and small business.

    Small Business Saturday is held on the 2nd December 2017 in the UK. It's a grass roots, non-commercial campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to 'shop local' and support small businesses in their communities.

    Retailers and small businesses can get involved in a number of ways:

    1. You can register your business and advertise for free in the Small Business Finder.
    2. You can download and use the logo on your website and social media.
    3. Download the free marketing pack in English and Welsh.
    4. Have your social media amplified by sharing with the SBS team.

    As consumers, we can all get involved by shopping local on the day. Support your independent stores rather than just buying all of you Christmas presents with the big online companies.

    The Small Business Saturday bus tour took in 29 locations around the UK this year and offered free business mentoring to small businesses supported by ACCA accountants.

    The video has been viewed over 1,160 times already. You can watch the full interview below.

    Find out more about SBS

    Watch our interviews with the Startup Van

    Visiting Downing Street with the Startup Britain Bus

  • Festive Friday 2017 at Blue Eyed Sun

    Festive Friday 2017

    It's Festive Friday 2017 this week, the day that kick starts UK Christmas card sending and we take time to think of all those we care about and get busy writing and sending them Christmas cards.

    The UK Greeting Card Association launched the Festive Friday campaign four years ago to encourage card publishers and retailers to send their Christmas cards early to help remind everyone to remember to send theirs. There are around 100,000 people working directly and indirectly with the UK card industry. If each of us sends 10 Christmas cards to arrive in the first week of December it will have a fantastic ripple effect from those first million gestures. Last year had a fantastic effect on our industry and we hope that this fun initiative will continue for many years to come.

    At Blue Eyed Sun we've been getting into the Christmas spirit early and held a 'christmas card writing hour' for our team to write and send cards to their loved ones to support the Festive Friday 2017 campaign. We sponsored the cards, their time and the postage to support the GCA campaign. All our team had to do was to write as many cards as they wanted to in the hour. We managed over 200 Christmas cards between us, which will be making their way via Royal Mail over the weekend to their lucky recipients.

    Our team had a lot of fun on Festive Friday 2017 with Christmas jumpers and Santa and Elf hats to get us in the spirit. It's a wonderful feeling when we think about all of the love going out into the world from this short amount of time dedicated to card sending and we recommend it to anyone involved in the card industry.

    Even if you are not in the card industry, it is a special time of year to connect with your customers, friends and loved ones. Send them a nice Christmas card with a warm message in it expressing your gratitude and wishing them all the best for the New Year. We hope you enjoy spreading festive cheer around the world.

    Download a Free Toolkit for Festive Friday from the GCA website

    Cards can have valuable emotional impact in your loved ones' lives.

    There are only a few days left to get cards in the post though, so do get started this week. I've listed the Royal Mail's last posting dates below. Want to print this info out for your customers? Click here to download the dates in a PDF.

    Find out more about Blue Eyed Sun's Christmas cards for 2017 here. Available at all good card retailers.

    Festive Friday 2017

    Last Posting Dates 2017

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