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Creative Design and Print in Stamford is growing thanks to personalised gifts



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Few businesses have boomed this year, and a struggle seemed on the cards for Fiona and Darren Cox’s printing firm.

In lockdown, companies closed and events were cancelled, cutting off the need for sports brochures, menus, pamphlets and advertising flyers.

Darren and Fiona Cox with their daughter, Bea
Darren and Fiona Cox with their daughter, Bea

“It was like someone had turned off the light switch,” said Fiona, who runs Creative Design and Print in Stamford with her husband, Darren.

“We’re very used to being busy and suddenly there was nothing open.”

The couple could have scaled back their operations, but instead they developed ideas for new production lines with their business partner ‘Villager Jim’, a photographer who lives in the Peak District with his wife, Jo and daughter, Hen.

Megan and Lucy handling the metal wall art
Megan and Lucy handling the metal wall art

The personalised gift items - engraved wooden bird boxes, cut-metal artwork and customised prints for framing were instantly popular, and their team of five full-time staff and three part-time staff now fulfil about 300 orders a day, with their specialist cutting and printing machines being operated throughout the week at their premises in Cherryholt Road.

“The first lockdown brought a huge revival in doing up your home and garden,” said Fiona. “People were suddenly at home more and were keen to embellish them with items which they could buy online.

“We were based in Gas Street in Stamford, where we were printing mainly leaflets and flyers. Now we have had to move to larger premises to enable us to operate more machines.

“We have also taken on three new employees in the last month.”

Dan with one of the personalised bird boxes at Creative Design and Print
Dan with one of the personalised bird boxes at Creative Design and Print

Surrounded, at the end of a working day, by dozens of postal sacks containing items ready to be dispatched to customers, Fiona added: “We aim to produce 300 items a day and, considering a great many of these are personalised, it is a lot of work.

“We will be very busy up to Christmas, and particularly Black Friday, with the online discounts.”

Fiona admits they don’t have much time to plan the future of the business, but that they do consider themselves lucky to have had their busiest year so far, when so many other industries have struggled.

“We have had lots of support from family and friends and that has stood us in good stead to build the business,” she added.

Patsy and Carol prepare bags full of orders ready to be dispatched to customers
Patsy and Carol prepare bags full of orders ready to be dispatched to customers

Having studied design at De Montfort University in Leicester, Fiona, who turns 39 today (Friday) worked at GA Graphics in Bath Row, Stamford, before working for Creative Design and Print.

She and husband Darren, 45, then took over that business 10 years ago, and now work with ‘Villager Jim’, selling products through their website www.villagerjimsshop.com and its associated Facebook page.

Fiona has also recently launched her own Facebook page with business partners Jo and Hen, The Country Chicks, on which they share photos and snippets of life on their smallholding in Rutland and The Peak District, and are developing a merchandise range featuring fun and quirky images of the livestock they keep.

Nephew Harry, Roy Upton, Emma Dale, Jeff Dale, Max and Belle the Highlands, Fiona and Darren Cox and Beatrice. Photo: Richard Adams
Nephew Harry, Roy Upton, Emma Dale, Jeff Dale, Max and Belle the Highlands, Fiona and Darren Cox and Beatrice. Photo: Richard Adams

“My grandfather worked on a farm, and my sister Emma and I were told if we have any money, to invest it in land or property,” explained Fiona.

“So, when we could we bought some land at Ridlington.”

Soon the sisters had bought two sheep, and then came a couple of Highland cows. Slowly they have built up a flock of Texel sheep and a fold of Highlands, with their iconic cattle grazing near Barnsdale Lodge.

Bea Cox showing a sheep at a county show
Bea Cox showing a sheep at a county show

“Between my dad and I, Highlands have become an obsession,” said Fiona, whose father, Jeff Dale, is an auctioneer and Rutland county councillor.

“He has even been president of the Midland and Southern Highland Cattle Club, and I’m one of only a few women who show Highland cattle.

“I would do it full-time but there’s no money in it,” she laughed.

Some of Fiona's prized Highlands
Some of Fiona's prized Highlands


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