Breanne Cook has always worked in the third sector supporting communities. Which is why she will be stocking wellbeing gifts in her new store, The Pied Wagtail, opening in Holt on Monday. Here she explains how her Mum’s passing, last year, has made her look at what is important in life
I would describe my life as cautious, but courageous. My life has been full of adventure and experiences of growth and discovery. I’ve been very fortunate for it to be filled with love of friends and family. I’ve spent many years in the public sector as a social worker in children’s palliative care, adult community and brain injury and working in mental health. I’ve loved my work and I’ve been privileged to meet lots of inspirational people through it.
The start of the pandemic was just life as normal. Initially, work wise, it was a challenge to move a face-to-face service completely to an online service. However, that was a success and to be able to still provide such a beneficial service to people was brilliant. A few months into the pandemic, my Mum was given a terminal prognosis, so my life changed a lot. I was working a full-time job flexibly and caring for my Mum for half the week for many months before she sadly died seven months after diagnosis in February 2021. Managing a service, caring for my mum, and grieving during the pandemic was challenging but, as many other people have experienced, made me look at what was important in my life and how I wanted to live my life which has led to some changes, and it ultimately led to The Pied Wagtail.
Before The Pied Wagtail I was manager of the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s Recovery College. It’s a fantastic educational service that supports people with strategies and knowledge to manage their mental health challenges and support them on their recovery journey.
I was incredibly lucky to be in a position where I could take a month off work in July 2021. I needed a break following my Mum’s death and it was during that month I had the idea for The Pied Wagtail. I find a lot of comfort and solace in getting out in nature taking photos and the initial idea was that I would put my own photos on to products: notebooks, keyrings etc. During that month I set up a basic website and around ten products.
Originally it was just going to be a side hustle and a fun project, but I soon realised that I wanted a new challenge to work for myself and be more creative in my everyday work and that’s where the more detailed plans of The Pied Wagtail were developed. They developed into a physical gift shop which would sell a wider variety of gifts, not just those created by me as well as photography and wellbeing. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving the core of what has always been my work of supporting others behind completely so the wellbeing aspect of The Pied Wagtail became very important. This is part of the business that will grow with online courses, workshops and wellness and resilience coaching.
There are so many pressures in life: physical and emotional health, financial, family, work, education, amongst many other things and on top of the pandemic. I think that it’s crucial for people to prioritise wellbeing and implement wellbeing tools into their lives. Amongst all the pressures and tasks that have to be done, people are often experiencing a lack of confidence and self-esteem and I think it’s so important for people to reframe those negative thoughts and experiences and realise the strengths they have within them and to believe in themselves and their worth.
At the moment, there is only one gift I stock which is locally sourced, and that is the wonderful wax melts from The Scented Barn which I will be stocking a few scents of. I will be working on prioritising the inclusion of more local gifts in the future.
I hope to launch a book club soon. It will be a group that focuses on personal development and wellbeing books. I stock a range of books that I have personally read and feel contribute to wellbeing and resilience. The book group will be an opportunity for people to buy a package, including the book and a well-being gift, and to discuss the learning and application of the book. If anyone is interested in this, please do get in touch.
One of my priorities is to develop the wellbeing side of the business with courses, coaching and other products. I’d love to be able to collaborate and create partnerships with more local, independent organisations. I’m really looking forward to meeting new customers and getting to know them.