Vicki Harris fell in love with Suffolk when she came to live in the county a decade ago. And in lockdown she began to box up the best bits and send them to friends who were struggling
I used to work in the City – it seems like a lifetime ago, now. Around 12 years ago I took a sabbatical to travel to Australia, which was the making of me. When I came home my perspective on life had changed and I was keen to move into the countryside. Suffolk was the obvious choice, having had many childhood holidays here. I met my husband around the same time and moved to his hometown, Woodbridge. Just as I was about to start a degree in Environmental Science, six years ago, I had my first child and became a stay at home mum. A second child later, I found myself searching for something fulfilling to fit around them, when I came up with From Suffolk With Love. One day I’ll get that degree!
I had the start of the idea around last Christmas when I was looking for plastic-free gifts for family and friends but couldn’t find anything, apart from toothbrushes and deodorants. The same again happened in lockdown when I wanted to send little gifts to friends who were struggling. This time, I thought, I’ll go for it! I had been looking for admin jobs that I could do around school runs but really I knew I wanted to do something to make a bit of a difference to the planet, even if a small one, as I’ve always been passionate about environmental issues.
I was dreading the lockdown at the start because of the home schooling and not having the break with the kids at school or nursery. As it turns out, apart from the odd few days here and there, I’ve really enjoyed having the extra time at home with them and doing things we wouldn’t usually get time to do. Once we fell into the new routine it was a happy time – apart from missing extended family. I learnt to make space for myself where I could, especially on the stressful days, so a morning workout for example would really set me up for a day of kiddie craft and endless games of cars and dinosaurs. I also learnt to get everyone outside and into nature – if all else failed!
The idea was born from the frustration of not being able to get plastic-free gifts for my friends and family.Most gift boxes I could find had plastic-free toiletries but I wanted things that were more to spoil people with. The sort of thing that I would like to receive! As the idea formed in my mind, I knew I wanted to use local Suffolk businesses as many had suffered during lockdown and shopping local – where possible – is important to me.
Our most popular box is The Bliss Box, which contains soap, body butter, bath bomb and a candle, as well as some luxury chocolate for that extra treat. The Calm Box has similar items, to treat loved ones to some peaceful self-care time. This one includes an exclusive yoga nidra meditation session, which I think is a really special and different gift. There are little boxes of treats to suit smaller budgets and we are about to launch The Bloke Box, a box of goodies for that hard-to-buy-for man in your life. All of our products are made in Suffolk, by some amazing talented people from some of the best small businesses in the county. There’s definitely no plastic – this is my number one requirement!
I’ve been really pleased with how it’s going so far. As it’s relatively new it’s a question of getting my presence out there. The reaction from people who have bought the boxes has been amazing, we’ve had some lovely feedback, and the support from the small business community has been really terrific.
I love the Suffolk countryside and the fact that I can be in the forest or on the beach within a 15-minute drive from my house. Bawdsey Beach is my absolute favourite place to be, and places like Shingle Street where you look one side of the road and see beautiful rolling countryside and the other is the stony beach and sea! I’m convinced that all of the beautiful countryside around us is how we have such a wealth of amazing creative people here in Suffolk.
Autumn will bring The Cosy Box, which is a lovely box of treats for those autumn nights in. We will also be releasing The Christmas Bliss Box for the festive season, with a slightly different slant on our most popular box which I think people will love.