Firstly let me tell you a bit about myself. My name is Vivien Exon, I was married for a long time and have two grown-up red-headed sons.
|Useful No.1 son, Henry.||Me!!||Very handy 2nd son, George.|
I often get asked why I started the business and that's a long story but I will try to be brief. As a small child (about 3) my grandmother, Minnie Sells, used to take me to have tea with a little old lady, Mrs Lynn. She used sterilized milk in her tea and I remember being warned not to say anything and just to smile and drink the tea no matter what I thought it tasted like! I was a good girl and did as I was told!. One day Mrs Lynn gave me a string of graduated coral to ward off ill health. I loved my coral beads and wore them all the time and slept with them under my pillow. Eventually I got too big to wear the necklace and it broke. I carefully put it away and vowed to myself that one day I would "do something with it" to make it wearable again - it was to be nearly 35 years before I fulfilled that promise.
Life moved on, I went to school, then college, worked, married, had the children, set up my own dressmaking business and then went back to work. Then my grandfather, Edward Sells, died leaving me a small legacy. Having had a taste of working for myself I was looking for a business opportunity. I then simultaneously came across a book called 'Beadwork' by Ann E. Gill (now sadly out of print) and a course on beadwork at The Elstow Craft Centre in Bedford. I enrolled on the course and read the book. During the course and several that followed many of the ladies started to complain that they were fed up with having to buy their supplies from a number of different places and they wished there was a catalogue with everything in so it was quicker and easier to obtain supplies and they could save on the postage charges etc. Now was my chance. "Give me six months". I realised I had spoken out loud and a silence had fallen in the room!! Exactly six months later at the beginning of October 1993 with the help of a grant from and training by The Bedfordshire Training and Enterprise Council Charisma (Beadwork Supplies) went into business as a mail order company operating from my home.
|Henry took this one of me busy catching up with paperwork in my office which once upon a time was a conservatory and ought to be a breakfast room!|
In July 1995 I took a table for one day a week at The Corn Exchange Craft and Antique Centre in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. This is a beautiful little town full of architecture and speciality shops - quite unlike any other town you will ever visit. Hitchin has been an established market town for over 400 years and has plenty of parking. Lots to interest the non-beaders if you call in on your way to visit other people or places. There is also a partially covered patio garden at the back of the shop where escorts are welcome to sit while they wait - even when it's wet - but not cold!
|This is a picture of my kiosk in the Corn Exchange, which was situated in the entrance corridor, it was very cold in the winter which explains my bundled up appearance!|
I gradually built up to the full 3 days a week the Centre was open and then took one of the permanent kiosks, sharing with another trader for a while before moving into a kiosk on my own.
When The Corn Exchange closed at Easter 1997 I took the lease at 25 Churchyard, again sharing with another trader to start with.
As you can probably imagine the beads really began to take over from the Crafts and by early 2001 I really needed more space so at the end of May 2001 I decided to 'go it alone'. The business changed it's name to Charisma Beads and the shop had a major refit! The lighting was redone, the window display area stripped out, upstairs reorganised to allow workshop and "Hand Made Things" display space, redecorated throughout and all the stock moved. It took us 12 days, myself, Henry and Roger (my handyman!) did the mucky stuff. Jan kept the mail order going and Katy did the clean stuff and served the customers - no we didn't close!!
...in 12 days!
You are welcome to call in for a browse and pick up a map of speciality shopping in the town and a recommendation of where to go for coffee or lunch! There is a general market on Tuesday and Saturday and an antiques market on Friday.
And now we have a new store!! I will have time to write about it one day!
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