Carol Robinson and Kerri Williams-Moore became friends at a distance this year. Here they describe what led them to set up The Norfolk Creative Box
If you had to describe your life up until now, what would you say?
Kerri: Walking on a fine line! After university I did the ‘usual’ thing – buy a house, get married, bigger house, career in London as a senior manager in L&D.
Then I got cancer and that pretty much turned everything on its head. My career, which I’d worked so hard for, meant nothing to me. In fact, everything became meaningless, so my husband and I decided to up sticks and buy a house in Suffolk that had potential to earn a living as well as live self-sufficient.
After having Stage 3 cancer, I adopted a mantra that life wasn’t important unless it was organic. I had to feel what I put into life, it had to mean something to me.
Unfortunately, on that journey, my husband and I separated and I sold the successful business after trying to run it myself for a year on my own.
I then travelled a lot; I did things I’d never done, being with someone from such a young age. Which brought me, four years ago, to work in events when I wasn’t travelling – a lifestyle which, as a single person, was great.
I’m a great believer in ‘everything happens for a reason’, so, pre Covid, I met someone special and in March this year all my event work dried up, completely forcing me to look for work avenues closer to home and focus on my partner.
Carol: My life has been relatively ‘normal’ – school, uni, worked in advertising and marketing for 20 years. I’ve always been in competitive environments and surrounded by confident people and we always compared ourselves to others, so, although I was confident, I didn’t believe in myself then.
Having children changed life, as it does for many, and I struggled with the long working week. I loved what I did, but it wasn’t conducive to family life.
Unfortunately, I miscarried after my first child but was then lucky to have my second child and, turning 40, I decided to change my life, move to Norwich from London and set up One of a Kind Club, following my passion for jewellery making and inspiring confidence in others as well as myself. Plus I was running a marketing coaching consultancy and looking at other opportunities to grow my business – I like to be busy.
Both: We met in Norwich at The Norwich Free Market where we became friends and met up – socially distancing. We had so many similarities to our stories and obviously had different strengths – but we both believe in supporting independents and love Norwich.
What were you doing at the start of 2020?
Kerri: I’d just come back from Egypt and started to form my events calendar for the year.
Carol: I was three months into running One of a Kind Club and looking at event plans for pop-up shops, collaborations and growing my business, but I wanted to do more to support other businesses.
How was lockdown for you? Did you learn anything about yourself that you didn’t know before?
Kerri: I completely lost my life of travelling for three months a year and working in events for eight months. My single life came to an end and it’s made me focus on the home and what I can do for other people during the pandemic. Previously, I would help communities whilst travelling, such as teaching (Sri Lanka) or setting up a HIV clinic (Uganda). The pandemic made me look closer to home and I helped organise the Norwich Free Market alongside the Norwich Mosque this year. My ethos to help those that have lost their jobs through Covid.
Carol: Lockdown has been interesting and a journey for a new entrepreneur. Also, home-schooling two young children has been fun (but challenging, trying to get everything done). It’s had its highs and lows, but we are so lucky to be in Norwich and have the support of kind people – and not to be working the intense hours I was before. Also, I’ve developed the ability to pivot and adapt my plans, and I’ve learnt a lot about what matters to me: family, friends and calmness.
Both: Without lockdown, life would have carried on. We believe that life happens for a reason – it’s why we met – and we need to support smaller businesses and shout about the amazing Norfolk we live in.
What’s The Norfolk Creative Box?
Both: With the disappointment of many shops, markets and fairs being cancelled this year, we’ve turned a negative into a positive story by pivoting and using our strengths to launch The Norfolk Creative Box – gift boxes of varying budgets filled with beautiful and curated products from Norfolk makers.
What is it about working with local makers that appeals to you?
Both: We feel there is such talent in small businesses in Norfolk and we want to showcase their offerings. There’s also a real appetite to support small businesses in these unusual times. Plus, with the physical barrier of not being as easily able to go out to shop, we wanted to make it easier for people to find a one-of-a-kind gift boxes for the people they love.
Any future plans?
Both: We’ve got so many plans and so little time to do them all! We’re loving the support for our Christmas gift boxes and are planning to continue these during seasonal times of the year, next year, so watch this space. We only have one life so we’re just passionate about helping people to help themselves – Norfolk has a wealth of talent to share!