The Book Matchmaker is a small business from a small town called Shrewsbury in Shropshire. Local artist Sam Pooley-Stride started PS SHOP UP, which is a collective of creative businesses who are all offered the opportunity to showcase their products at different local events throughout the year.
We were offered the opportunity to attend Old Spitalfields Market at the end of August as a collective local group of traders under the PS SHOP UP umbrella.
I obviously jumped at the chance to be involved, I had wanted to sell my Book Dates in London since the very beginning but the reality seemed rather daunting on my own.
I got in touch with two other businesses that I knew were also going and we organised booking an apartment near to Brick Lane. Sarah from Polly Pea decided she would drive which was great as we needed to take so much stuff.
Getting organised to go was a little difficult due to it being the summer holidays and two demanding children. I also had no idea how many books to wrap? I have previously attended the local food festival and had two busy days so used this as a bench mark and wrapped 30 books - 15 for each day.
We finally arrived in London after 5 hours in the car and Sarah driving through the city centre for the very first time, which she did very well (something I would never have the balls to do!). Heading into Brick Lane at midnight was an eye opener - lots of loud music and bars and happy people surrounded by colourful graffiti coloured walls. We were so excited to be amongst it all.
The weather was beautiful - gorgeous blue skies at 7am! Entering the market for the first time I was blown away by its size! Huge ceilings with an industrial feel surrounded by trendy shops and amazing street food stalls.
Once I was happy with my set up of my stall using theses amazing adaptable wooden stalls designed by Fosters + Partners, I got myself a brew and tried to relax a little.
By 11:00am the market started to get busy, lots of people on the search for something tasty for lunch no doubt.
Selling at a market is a bit difficult for the Book Matchmaker because when you look at the stall from a distance it is not obvious what we are actually selling. Once you get nearer and read the sign or ask for an explanation it all makes sense. Explaining to confused faces and then watching their joy as the penny dropped was just fantastic.
By 4pm I had just 8 books left!!! I spent the next two hours trying desperately to find a nearby book shop on my mobile - I eventually discovered their was a small WH Smith at a nearby train station. I packed up and hopped in an Uber and picked up 20 more books. Finally getting back to the apartment and feeling exhausted I spent the next few hours wrapping the new books ready for the next day.
Whilst enjoying some early breakfast my phone pinged to say that the lovely Gemma from the brand MUTHA HOOD had mentioned me in her stories on Instagram - letting her followers (all 64.8k!!) know that I would be at the market which was a great start to the day!
Sunday at the market had a completely different vibe to it. The people were a lot more relaxed and wanted to browse and take their time. There also seemed to be a lot more tourists than the day before. By 10:00am it was starting to pick up, I quickly ran out of flyers and business cards and then pre-loved book dates. After a busy few hours by 4pm I was down to just 5 books!
WOW! London you were amazing! After 2 and a half years in business I finally felt like I had found my audience. I may have repeated myself over and over again explaining the concept but it was worth it every time to see people fall in love with the idea.
I had a few people say "oh yeah I've seen these on Instagram!" which made me want to leap over the counter and high five them!
I had a few visitors come and say hello who have bought or received gifts from the Book Matchmaker in the past. I am so grateful to everyone who made the effort to come and see me and show your support it really meant so much.
Before I went to London I had pretty much lost my whole mojo when it came to this small business of mine. Working full time and looking after my small family was taking its toll and needed a break.
London came at just the right time - the weekend before our online shop was due to re-open after some time away. It was just what I needed to give me a boost that motivated me to want to drive The Book Matchmaker onto bigger and better things.
We will be heading back to Old Spitalfields Market on November the 10th & 11th with some special London limited edition Christmas wrapped Book Dates and I can't wait!
main images by the very talented Birgitta Zoutman Photography