Words and photo by Tristan Ovington.
James Skinner, 31 and Claire Hayward, 30 own Willow Crafts New Forest where they produce scented candles and chopping boards with laser-engraved wooden lids.
When remembering how the business got its name, Claire recalls: “My family have lived in the New Forest for over 400 years, with my late grandparents living in a property with ‘Willow’ in the name.
As a touching tribute to them, as our products involve the use of wood, and we are in the New Forest, we chose the name Willow Crafts New Forest.
Being eco-friendly is important for the business partners. “We use as much renewable energy as possible to make our products, such as solar power for our laser engraver, which we use for our candle lids, chopping boards and for labelling cardboard packaging.
“We also use as much recyclable packaging as possible and we’ve recently changed our labels to recycled paper and we will continue to use biodegradable bubble wrap and recyclable cardboard boxes.”
And the ethical approach doesn’t end there. “The business is self-sustained. We started by using some old furniture we had in storage, upcycling it and selling it on. This helped us buy more products to expand the business to where it is today.
“Our biggest success is that we have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to sell our products in a charity run emporium called The Shed, which has been set up for adults with learning disabilities to learn employable skills and have the opportunity to connect with the local community.”
Right from the beginning, Willow Crafts New Forest has been a family affair, as Claire’s dad donated her late granddad’s work van allowing them to collect and deliver more items.
Friends and family have bought products as gifts and regularly share business content on social media platforms.
“Our customers regularly comment on the strong scent of our candles,” said Claire, “along with the uniqueness of the engraved wooden lids. We have had some of our products taken to France and America as gifts, so we have become a truly international business.
What have they learnt from running the company? “If you have an idea for a business, absolutely go for it, but remember success doesn’t always happen overnight. Keep at it and don’t give up. Eventually you will be reaping the rewards!”
Find prodcuts at Stuff Emporium, Salisbury The Shed Emporium, Netley Marsh Wokshops and The Shop in the Courtyard at The George, Fordingbridge.