Limelight’s SmallStars 2021 Christmas Gift Guide

Supporting small this Christmas starts right here! With my favourite pick* of ethical, artisan and alternative gift ideas, with love from Cornwall, Devon and beyond.

Skills-based small businesses are my jam, and I wanted to do something to give back to them this year (particularly for those on my doorstep).

*None of these recommendations are sponsored or affiliated. If you click on any of the links in my gift guide, I’ll receive nothing in exchange (except for the warm, fuzzy feeling of connecting more people with the little indy businesses I love).

So dive into my handpicked selection of one-of-a-kind Christmas presents from this year’s SmallStars and find all the festive shopping inspiration you need. There’s something nestled in here for everyone (even the trickiest to buy for!)…

Crafty gifts for kids and grown-ups

Decorate Your Own Gingerbread House


Comes as a kit with the house built and ready to decorate with all the trimmings included – or you can build your own house if preferred. This would make a lovely activity to do with your kids over Christmas, or as a gift for a young family. She also makes the most incredible decorated Christmas bauble cakes.

DIY Christmas Wreath Kit


Get creative and make your own Christmas wreath, or gift the kit to a loved one before the big day! They’re offering free delivery to the Bude area, or will send it in the post for £5.

Paint Your Own Pottery Kit


A great little gift idea to get the kids creative. Buy online or from their cute pottery painting cafe in Falmouth.

Make Your Own Sea Glass Art Kit


Contains everything you need to create your very own bespoke sea glass artwork inspired by the ones made by Black Rock Designs. They recently sold out but are making some more, so be quick if you want one. DM them to pre-order one or pop into The Workshop Collective in Bude if you’re passing.

Gifts for foodies

Kalkar Coffee Spirit


Move over, espresso martini. They’ve blended coffee and raw cane sugar with their Cornish rum to make all of our indulgent booze x coffee dreams come true. I don’t know about you, but I think this sounds like the perfect after-dinner tipple. Buy it here.

Devon Reared Meat


For the person who has everything, you can never go wrong with food. Get them a gift voucher so they can fill their bellies (and their fridge) with locally-reared meats, Cornish dairy, homemade cheesecakes and local chutneys. Not just for Christmas (dinner!)… If you like to know where your meat’s come from, and guarantee it’s going to be reeeally good, then this is the place to go.

Cornwall-Roasted Speciality Coffee


Sabins is our speciality small batch roaster of choice (and not just because it’s only down the road from Limelight HQ!). They have amazing taste in ethically sourced beans from all around the world, and introduce new lots regularly, so we’re always compelled to try the latest arrival! 

Sabins’ brew box is the perfect grown-up alternative to those chocolate selection boxes we all loved as kids. For just £5 you’ll get three samples of their latest coffees to try, with details of what you’re brewing. Order online and you can have it delivered directly either by post, or by Fiat 500 and a friendly face (if the recipient lives in the vicinity of Bude). Be warned, though: whoever you’re gifting will be hooked.

If they’re already a fan of Sabins, keep them in their favourite beans with a Coffee Club Subscription. In fact, they’ve just released their Amazing Christmas Coffee Subscription Box, the first of which includes two Sabins refill tins brimming with coffee beans (or your choice of ground), a personalised Christmas card, tasting notes, and a cheeky little extra sample.

Classics with conscience

Funky Bamboo Socks


Socks have got a bad wrap when it comes to Christmas presents, so it’s time to un-boring their old ways. Get their Cornish Christmas on with these Red Seagull EasyFit Socks that come in both men’s and women’s sizes. (His and hers, anyone?!…) They’re made from sustainable bamboo, organic cotton and recycled polyester, so they’re kinder to the planet, too.

Recycled Gold x Salt and Pepper Diamond Shoreline Necklace


I fell in love with Elle’s handcrafted jewellery as soon as she launched in 2020, and her beautiful seaglass pieces have been on my wishlist ever since. This necklace is from her new Tidal Collection, which is inspired by the ebb and flow of the ocean, and the organic geometry found along the shoreline. She individually handcrafts each piece from her home studio in Cornwall, with only a limited number of stock pieces available to buy at any one time – so you have to be quick!

Handcrafted Soap Selection


These dreamy little soaps are made right by the coast in Clovelly, North Devon, using all natural ingredients. With no nasties, they’re kind to skin, eco-friendly and smell incredible (my favourite is the rosemary and orange). They come packaged in the most exquisite art papers that make them almost too good to open, and the perfect pre-wrapped gift or stocking filler.

The 10 Bar Guest Soap Gift Set includes a lucky selection of gorgeous soaps from the full range for £19.50, or you can choose your own 10 soaps from the list to create a soap gift set bespoke to the recipient.

I also had to include this Orange and Cinnamon Candle from them, which is basically the smell of Christmas in a jar! Made from clean-burning soy and coconut waxes, hand-poured into a glass jar with essential oils and a cotton wick, for an all-natural way to get your hygge on this Christmas. They also do these cute scented soap decorations in the same scent which’ll make your tree or gifts smell divine.

Ok! I’ll stop now. Shop online or in store at their little shop in Clovelly, Devon.

Handwoven Lambswool Scarf


Add some sunshine into their lives with one of these gorgeous colourful scarves, all handwoven in North Cornwall, so each one is unique. Buy online here.

Wave Project Calendar 2022


A year of colourful surf screen prints from Devon illustrator Tushka, with a 10% donation of the sales price from each calendar going to Wave Project North Devon. It’s like two gifts in one! Pre-order here.

Handcrafted Leather Tote Bag


Made from decommissioned fire-hose and rescued Burberry leather, their Fire & Hide Square Tote is a bag with both style and conscience. What a fantastic way to repurpose something so niche that would otherwise end up in landfill. Even better? Half the profits they make go to Barefoot College International and The Fire Fighters Charity.

Unique experience ideas

Surfing Experience


If you’re looking for something a bit different to give them this year, how about a fun experience in the water learning to surf while making lasting memories? What a great gift for families, couples, kids, friends or family members of all ages. Get them a gift voucher and they can book their session whenever it suits them throughout the year.

Permanent Makeup Beauty Treatment


If the lady in your life needs a little pampering or a big confidence boost, then a gift voucher towards a permanent makeup beauty treatment could be the one. Kelly Bate PMU is an incredible Bude-based permanent makeup artist who specialises in transforming eyebrows, lips and lashlines with her magic inks, and has built up a flawless reputation in the area. Contact her through the Facebook page for vouchers or more information.

Martial Arts Classes


Looking for something that lasts beyond Christmas? A set of martial arts classes or a fitness membership would make a fantastic gift for kids or adults who want to start something new or continue their training in the new year.

The Ultimate Tennis Trip


If they’re an avid tennis fan, you can’t possibly go wrong with tickets for a Grand Slam final. Why not push the boat out with the ultimate four night tennis experience, staying at a 5-star hotel. You can even add on a cruise if you’re feeling generous. Luxury tennis packages with Courtside Hospitality start from £2200.

For the nature lovers

Ceramic Hanging Bird Feeder


How cute is this? It’s the prettiest bird feeder I’ve ever seen. What a lovely gift for someone who likes watching the birds come and go from their window or garden seat.

Winter Wellness Medicine Box


This gorgeous set contains homegrown and foraged herbal-infused products specially designed for the colder months to help them through the winter naturally.

Gifts to inspire them

Foil Quote Wall Print


Designed and made in the UK, you can buy these quote prints framed or unframed. There are so many to choose from, but this is one of my personal favourites. You can also order bespoke quote prints.

Christmas Kindness Box


Curated by a mother and daughter duo, these cute little care packages contain items from small businesses, and you can even add your own message and have it sent straight to the recipient. This one caught my eye because of the warm gingerbread wax melts (hand poured in Devon) and – let’s be honest – the Bailey’s millionaire shortbread heart. But they’re all super lovely, so give yourself plenty of time to choose! Or you can create your own.

“When you buy from a small business, you’re supporting a dream.”

Happy shopping everyone, and Merry Christmas!

Love Hannah x

8 creative branding considerations that are as important as your logo

As a small business owner and wearer of all the hats, our net can be cast so wide that it’s easy to overlook the fundamentals of branding in favour of getting our message out there and driving sales. But with so many new businesses popping up every day, taking the time to work strategically on the creative foundations of our branding is more important than ever if we want to stand out from the crowd. 

You’re bound to have heard someone say your logo is not your brand – and it’s true. But they rarely go on to tell you what branding actually is. And just knowing your business success rests on more than a clever logo or eye-catching colour palette isn’t enough. 

Below, I outline the creative elements required to build yourself a cohesive brand identity, together with tips on nailing them first time.

Brand identity: it’s not just a pretty face

Various definitions of ‘branding’ and ‘brand identity’ have been bandied about over the years. But one thing I’m sure everyone would agree on is that it’s about more than just good looks. Several well-considered, strategic elements need to work together to shape our audience’s perception and build a compelling brand. There’s the product or service itself, of course; but what about the story behind the business? Its personality? The words and visuals used to emotionally connect with the right people and help them understand our offering?

Think of Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline. It’s a motivational message that also clearly sums up their values and persona, and is consistently woven throughout the company’s marketing collateral. By tapping into the minds and emotions of its customers, Nike’s creative strategy goes far deeper than simply adding their infamous ‘tick’ onto everything. They carefully select the right words and visuals to resonate with people who will ultimately buy their products and, hopefully, remain loyal followers of the brand.

Put simply, how we communicate with our audiences – both verbally and visually – massively shapes how our business is perceived. And perception is ultimately what makes or breaks a brand.

Here’s the secret ‘5 Vs’ formula I use to help my clients build a fully-rounded and meaningful brand identity:

Vision + Values + Voice + Visuals = Brand Vibe

Setting the mood 

As with any part of an effective brand strategy, the creative begins with a clearly defined core message; the mission, vision and values of the company, product or service in question. These are the foundations around which we must build our creative – not just to ensure alignment with the core brand messaging, but to clearly express what the brand is all about and how it wants to make people feel. Its essence, if you like.

One way I’d recommend for you to guide consistency in the look and feel of your brand is to define a visual mood around your core values and messaging. Moodboarding is a great way to distil your brand foundations into a creative direction (Pinterest is my personal fave for this stage of the process). This can then be used to guide all the other creative brand elements down the line, like social media posts and print graphics, for example.

How to use Pinterest to extract your brand essence

Taking the core values, mission, brand personality, value proposition, and customer persona as your starting point, brainstorm 10-15 individual words that best describe the brand and how it makes people feel (or how you want it to make people feel). 

Then, create a Pinterest board, adding two or three pins for each of the brand words you’ve come up with. Try to include a mix of photography, graphics, typography, words, colour palettes, patterns, and anything else that catches your eye.

Once you have created your board, start rearranging the pins into groups: those that work really well together, those that speak loudest to you, those that evoke a particular emotion or feel – however you like. Once you’ve had a good play around, select the 6-9 pins you feel work best together to express the brand feel you are going for. You can then either add them to a new Pinterest board, or upload them into a template in Canva or a photo collage app to produce your final moodboard.

If you’re a perfectionist like me, you’ll probably want to shuffle the images around until you’ve got a composition you’re happy with. If not, it’s good to go!

Now you have a visual cue to guide the rest of the brand identity and creative elements, and help maintain consistency when creating marketing collateral in the future. 

Articulate your messaging

The art of using the right words to convey a brand’s value proposition to its potential customers is fundamental in how they perceive the brand. What and how brands communicate with their prospects and customers helps them form opinions about whether they like or trust them, if they’re going to buy, and how long they will remain loyal to the company.

“In the war for customers’ hearts, messaging leads the charge.”

The most successful brand messaging is shaped from one core brand message that has been crafted around the values, mission and vision of the brand – as well as its positioning, value proposition and differentiators.

Help keep core messaging consistent and build a distinctive voice and vocabulary, by creating a bank of brand words that can be incorporated across marketing copy.

Find your brand voice

For a truly cohesive brand identity, voice and tonality need to be completely aligned with the brand personality, core messaging and creative elements. It’s not just about choosing the right words to convey your message. How you say them has a huge impact on your audience’s perception of you. 

Defining and consistently using a distinctive brand voice across marketing materials is crucial if you want to become recognisable, create emotional connections with your target audience, and provide joined-up customer experiences. Done well, the same brand voice will be used across every single touch-point – from your ‘Thank You’ pop-ups and ‘Error 404’ web page, to the inside of your mail-order packaging. 

Taglines: they’re grrreat!

A tagline (or slogan, for the old-schoolers amongst us!) can become as recognisable as the logo itself – especially if it’s quotable. By conveying additional information such as brand values (e.g. “Just Do It.”) or value proposition (e.g. “Eat Fresh”), taglines help give context to the logo and let the customer know what to expect. These few select words can provide a powerful opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves from the competition. So this is one area where I would recommend investing in an experienced copywriter to help you.

Brand colours matter

Our choice of brand colours also plays a crucial role both in the audience’s perception and recognition of the company. Different colours can be used to convey specific values and personality traits, both through their conscious associations, and their subliminal effect on our emotions. There’s been a lot of research into the psychology of colour over the years, and the science is certainly worth considering when selecting the palette to represent your business. But cultural associations and our own experiences are just as vital to choosing the right colours for our branding.

Take red, for instance. Colour psychology says it’s the hue of danger, blood, fire, love. But that’s not necessarily true of the brands that use it in their identities. When you think about Coca-Cola, Virgin, Netflix or YouTube, what does red say to you then? Bold, youthful, passionate, exciting? And if our brand values are none of these things, would we choose to use red in our own branding? Probably not.

Shape up your brand visuals

Similar to colour, shape can be used to express brand values and personality traits. Not only within the logo, but also in other design elements like background patterns, fonts, photography, graphics, and even products. There’s a great article on the psychology of shapes in branding and logos over on Fabrik’s website if you’re keen to learn more on this.

Tell your brand story through imagery

Now, this is where that moodboard we talked about really comes in handy. Visual imagery is what really brings the brand to life and therefore has a significant impact on audience perception. The photography, patterns, illustrations, video and graphics we choose each help to convey a feeling, an emotion, a story, and build the bigger picture of a brand. Our job is to make sure that every single visual element we use is aligned with the brand’s vision, core messaging, and personality. 

Considerations like colour, light and shade, setting, composition, and of course subject matter, will all affect how successful an image is for the brand. And maintaining a consistent style of imagery across your website, social pages, emails, packaging and print collateral serves two purposes: 1) it quite literally illustrates what the brand is all about, and; 2) it helps build instant recognition and brand recall, keeping your business top of mind.

Choose typography carefully

Selecting the right name, words and brand voice is one thing; how these words look is another. Our choice of typeface can completely alter the perception of a message and who’s communicating it (much like the use of shape and other graphic elements in branding). The fonts used by a brand should not only be consistent across textual elements but truly reflect the brand’s personality and values. For example, a natural skincare brand with clean, eco-friendly values would be best using a simple sans serif typeface than, say, a fussy gothic font, to reflect its value proposition and communicate the right vibe.

Typefaces are usually defined as part of the overall visual identity design package, alongside logos, brand colours, imagery style and brand patterns. Brand font pairings usually comprise one ‘body text’ font for blocks of content – which needs to remain readable at smaller point sizes – and then a complementary header or title font. Generally, no more than two to three core font families are specified, one of which may or may not match the logotype design. 

Last but not least, it’s your logo design

We’ve already established that a logo does not constitute a brand, but it is arguably the most universal – and memorable – element of your brand identity. Generally used across every asset, a good logo communicates who you are, encapsulates your brand essence, and drives recognition. 

In the digital age, however, a single logo is not enough. Brand identity designers will usually provide you with a suite of logotypes, including a primary logo, secondary logo and submarks, formatted in different layouts and resolutions for use across social profiles, websites and printed materials. 

In a nutshell

We’ve barely scratched the surface of creative branding, but if there is one common thread that runs through all of these elements, it’s consistency. Without that, our audience can feel confused, disconnected and fail to recognise us.

For every creative element, we also really need to think about what matters to our audience. Whatever we do, and however we communicate, the most important thing is that it is relevant to our potential customers. 

“The goal of a brand is to be noticed, remembered and desired.”

Ultimately, we must dive deeper than eye-catching photography, beautiful fonts and clever captions. A compelling creative strategy requires both style and substance. There needs to be science and logic behind the choices we make for our branding to do its job successfully. Every creative decision should be as conscious and intentional as any other branding decision, not made purely because we like it. 

After all, it’s not really about us. It’s about our customers.