House of Coco had a tea and biscuit Skype chat with Gemma Rawlinson, the owner of Box & Cox Vintage Hire, a wedding and event hire company based in Cornwall.
HOC: Tell us how Box & Cox came about, Gemma?
GR: I started in Sept 2014, so it’s a fairly young business. I was on maternity and I knew that I didn’t want to go back to pedal pushing; I wanted to be creative.
I did go back to work after I had my daughter as had to and I did the 3 months you have to do [to get your maternity leave] and then gave up. I’d had a whole year out of work [while on leave] to think about what I wanted to do and I started making bridal accessories. This didn’t make me any money but did figure our that decor and vintage games hire was what I really wanted to pursue. I did a small business course, got a loan and went for it. We do around 100 events a year so it’s going well!
My clients hire through me as they want to do [their wedding or event] themselves but don’t want to buy all the little bits and pieces or pay for stylist – I’m the half-way option.
HOC: Are there many businesses like yours?
GR: When we got married, in 2010, companies like mine didn’t exist but they’ve started to creep in. They are more common in America and the South East of the UK but certainly not in Cornwall. I’m the only person who supplies this style of games in cornwall so I’ve got monopoly over the market!
Initially I was just going to do it part time and cover 30 events a year but as soon as I launched people completely got it! The business boomed and I ended up doing three times as many events as I’d planned to do. So it’s my full-time job, alongside family life. It certainly keeps me busy!
HOC: How do you balance work life and family life?
GR: My biggest challenge is being a working mum and managing my time. During term time my daughter does 15 hours in school, but I work 40 hours a week! My parents live abroad and my husband is also self-employed and works for 60 hours a week so it’s mostly down to me!
Summer holidays coincide with wedding season so she often comes on deliveries with me. I do try to explain it all to her in the hope she’s learning about being a business woman. I hope she’s also learning that if you can’t find a job you love, you can create one for yourself; that there can be creativity in business.
We do live in a very rural place full of fields and farms. So she gets to spend a lot of time outside, I do think parenting is easier in the countryside.
HOC: With the loan you mentioned, did you get a mentor?
GR: I did have a mentor for the first year but they weren’t a local person which was a shame. They didn’t really get the wedding industry so I would explain things and they didn’t get what I was talking about; it didn’t work out as well as I thought it would.
HOC: Do you have any tips for driving business forwards?
GR: I’m a big fan of networking. It can seem daunting but all it is is talking to people and finding out their passions and creating common ground. If you show that person how you can work well within their setting it can open all kinds of doors. For instance, a number of local florists mentioned they needed wedding arches so I agreed to start stocking them if they recommended me to their clients. We can make each other’s lives easier by just being willing and able!
HOC: And how do you find your customers?
GR: I only work within Cornwall so if you search for what I do in Cornwall you’ll find me [HOC; we googled and found her straightaway!] I work hard on my SEO and manage my website myself, tagging everything and do a small amount of blogging. We also have a fantastic local wedding magazine called Wed. The biggest thing that I’ve found to help is getting onto other blogs so you are being tagged by other suppliers, I do this through styled, collaborative shoots.
I don’t meet around 90% of my customers, as most of them don’t live in Cornwall. It’s a real destination wedding location, for couples who grew up in the area and then moved away or others who just want to get married by the sea.
HOC: What’s next for Box & Cox?
GR: The vision is to become a kind of ‘one stop shop’ for vintage wedding and event hire. I’d like clients to be able to style their venue completely from our stock. Everything from furniture to chandeliers and cake stands. However, as we currently only supply within Cornwall, growth has to be based on our clients’ demand.
Storage is a bit of a pain for me and I’ve just taken on my second storage space in time for the wedding season. I’ve considered getting a space to show off all my pieces. As it is, when my customers want to see all my stock I have to ask them in advance what sort of thing they are after so I get can everything out of its hiding place!
I’d also love to be able to offer a styling service for my clients, so I’m starting to think about ways to make this happen.
HOC: What’s the favourite event or shoot you’ve been involved in?
GR: I recently did a styled shoot which was outdoors during Storm Imogen! We lost the door off the van and the couple were soaking, but it looked great.
I’m really looking forward to one that’s coming up which is with 16 suppliers collaborating! I’ve had pieces in Vogue, Rock My Wedding etc – I’m becoming a bit of a badge hunter! I do love working in Cornwall, everyone in the industry knows each other and I feel like part of something bigger than just my business.
HOC: I don’t know about you but we’re off to snoop on some of Box & Cox’s styled shoots and hope we get an invite to a wedding in Cornwall real soon!