Its better to give – and give

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MARKETING specialist with Johnson & Johnson who took sabbatical leave for charity work in Tanzania has launched an internet based Fair Trade wedding gift service after spotting a gap in the market. Brian Walmsley whose father was with Oxfam, discovered there was nowhere specialising exclusively in Fair Trade wedding lists for his own wedding. Brian, 35, who was brought up in Cookham and went to Desborough School set about sourcing products with his wife Jo (pictured left with baby James) and is enthusiastic about the quality of crafts which can be obtained from developing countries. They are keen to help them build their economies by opening up fresh avenues for trade through the family internet list service called Fairgift and a traditional internet gift shop, also involving fair trade products. He said: “Two thirds of people in the UK have a wedding list with just four high street companies – John Lewis, Debenhams, Marks and Spencer and Argos. Many would like to do something a bit different but when you get married you don’t really know what is out there. The business is a real opportunity to have something a bit different and a bit more original and perhaps something that is not so commercial.” His father, Charles, was formerly head of Oxfam Activities and still works as a volunteer. His step mother, Barbara, is renowned for an annual fast outside Sainsbury’s. All of them are keen to show there is more to Fair Trade than purchasing coffee and bananas. Although Brian no longer lives locally, he has established an appointment only showroom in Henley for the business at his sister-in-law’s home. “It is the ideal opportunity for people to have a glass of Fair Trade wine and choose the wedding list and set it up online,” he said. The 12 months leave not only allows him the opportunity to get the venture off the ground, it is also the ideal opportunity to get to know their seven-month-old son James William. “We have searched the world to find high quality products that make lovely wedding gifts, much better quality than people imagine. Each beautiful item is traceable back to the original producer and their community, so people can find out more about the people who make them,” he said. He offers the sort of variety normally found on traditional wedding lists such as stylish tables, quality bed linen, pretty wedding albums, funky cushions and rugs and useful household accessories. Most of his Fairgift items are handmade and manufactured in small quantities by skilled craft makers who have a sustainable income and good working conditions. “One of the much admired gifts for instance is a hand-made photo album made of recyled cotton and rose petals scattered over the top. It has banana leaf separating the pages. No-one would guess it is made from discarded rags from the cotton industry. It has natural dyes and hung up to dry in the sun.” In addition 10 per cent of the profits will be donated to Traidcraft’s charitable arm Traidcraft Exchange – the international development charity that enables producers in Africa and America to develop their businesses, find markets and engage

effectively in trade. He said: “It’s not just an ethical approach, it’s also a way to ensure superior quality, because the products are made by people who have a real stake in what they are doing.” Setting up a gift list with Fairgift is simply a matter of logging onto the website and completing a few personal details before making a selection. Photos of all the products are on the site or people can inspect them personally at the Henley showroom. Ben Lock, head of sales at Traidcraft, adds: “Traidcraft welcomes Fairgift’s innovative solution for couples who want to support producers in developing countries by setting up a Fair Trade wedding list. Traidcraft is delighted that many of its fairly traded products are being m a d e available through this service, which guarantees those producers a fair deal.”
HOME FRONT: Fairgift cushions and rug.

An Ideal way to do business
OVER a thousand visitors braved torrential rain to visit the Ideal Business Show Thames Valley and hailed it a great way to do business. Exhibitor Ken Green director of A3M said: “We had many quality leads and even sales. The show was busier than we’d expected and there was a great vibe to the place. And the visitors were not just sightseers – they were definitely there to buy.” The show, at Newbury on April 29 and 30, followed the proven formula of Ideal Business Show Wales last June, with keynote speakers, seminars and exhibitors. Drawn by top speakers, expert seminars, local and nationwide exhibitors and a host of networking opportunities, the show attracted an audience of owners, entrepreneurs and decision-makers. UK Ultimate provided the VIP hospitality coach where VIP guests to Ideal Business Show could go to meet, relax and network. Sales and marketing director of UK Ultimate, Alison Crook said: “Our aim was to increase our brand awareness within the Thames Valley area and we felt that this was achieved due to the networking opportunities within the show. Having an advert in the show programme, our product being used as the VIP area plus a stand at the event ensured maximum exposure to both visitors and exhibitors. “We came away with 15 hot client leads, new suppliers, formed four new partnerships and grown our brand. We definitely want to see the show back next year.” Those who didn’t stay to the end of the show on the first day missed a gem of a speaker. Former Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke was in cracking form as he told about the highs and the lows of his job and provided sound advice for others in business. Former Dragons Den entrepreneurial investor Rachel Elnaugh and Gerald Ratner were also hits. Rachel is pictured here with Maidenhead networking queen Mary Flavelle, host in the Innovation Theatre who also raved about the quality of the show saying: “It was a fabulous event. Everyone was very enthusiastic and enjoyed the events and made the most of business opportunities.” Expert seminars included Edward Gibson, Microsoft UK’s chief security advisor and UK’s No1 Small Business Growth specialist, Ben Kench. Speed networking, run by Corkscrew Events, was also a success. Its director, Andy Smith, said: “The speed networking was very well attended with about 100 people taking part each day. Some came back for more sessions and a couple even took part in all three sessions on each day.” The show goes on and for those who missed this event there is another in Wales at the Millennium Stadium, on July 16 and 17.

Employers diagnose serious sick headache
EMPLOYEES pulling sickies are giving employers a £13.2 billion headache. That’s the shock finding of a bosses survey revealing cheats take as much as seven days off in hot weather or award themselves extra free time at weekends. Steve Rankin, Thames Valley regional director of the Confederation of British Industry urges companies to be more vigilent against sharp practice saying: “Everyone agrees that sick people need time off work. But employers face two serious and expensive challenges – dealing with bogus sick days, and helping those with long-term illness return to work when they are fit to do so. “People who awarded themselves ‘sickies’ to enjoy the recent sunny weather or to extend a weekend away are acting unfairly, leaving their colleagues to pick up their work, and costing taxpayers and employers over a billion pounds a year. “Those with long-term illnesses need time to recover – nobody expects anyone to be at the office checking their emails the day after a heart bypass. But in many cases, like those involving stress or back pain, firms that keep in touch with employees and offer flexible working have been successful at reducing long-term absence levels. The national CBI/AXA Absence Survey also found that the gulf between absence rates in the public sector and the private sector has grown to a record level, another cause for CBI concern. “A fresh, proactive approach to managing long-term absence could help stem the flow onto incapacity benefit – which currently costs £12.5 billion a year for 2.5m people - and help employers to retain skilled employees, many of whom will find that work can improve their health and outlook. “But we really have to question if there is a medical explanation for the higher levels of long-term absence in the public sector. Low morale, poor management and a culture of absence are at least partly to blame.” The survey showed that average absence levels in the UK across the public sector stood at nine days, which is 55 per cent higher than the 5.8 day average of the private sector. The private sector improved its absence levels over 2007, while the public sector stood still. £1.4bn of taxpayers’ money could be saved if public sector organisations matched the private sector average.


UXURY serviced apartment provider esa is delighted to welcome four new team members on board as the business expands across the Thames Valley. These key roles will focus on supporting the high standard of serviced accommodation and excellence in customer service that esa is renowned for by its corporate clients. esa’s new commercial director Chris Minhinnett will work closely with his team to ensure that every guest’s experience of their serviced accommodation is first class. “We place the requirements of our clients and the comfort of our guests at the very heart of our business, and pride ourselves on the high standards that we set in meeting these needs,” Chris explained. “My role will be to ensure that the operational side of the business is robust and all the processes are in place to deliver this exemplary level of service at all times.” Coming from the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire, guest relationship manager Emily Browne brings a great depth of expertise to esa. Her new role will be to ensure that the high standards demanded by a hotel are mirrored at esa, whilst retaining the home comfort edge that makes esa serviced accommodation different. Housekeeping standards

manager Pamela Jasper will work with her team of housekeepers to ensure the same meticulous level of cleanliness is enjoyed by every guest staying in esa’s luxury apartments. And finally, business development manager Patricia Wilson’s focus will be to maintain the strong relationships esa has with the corporate clients who use the company’s serviced apartments as a cost effective alternative to a hotel. Introducing the new team members, esa managing director Charlie Turner commented: “The esa team is already expert at delivering a superior service and as we grow our business these new roles will enable us to focus on each area of our business, ensuring that both the client and guest alike receive the highest standards of service and support. Chris, Emily, Pamela and Patricia join esa at a very exciting

the smarter alternative to hotel living

time in the company’s development and I wish them every success in their roles.” For more information on esa serviced accommodation visit

executive serviced apartments
luxury apartments in convenient locations across the Thames Valley • ideal for the business traveller • cost effective & no minimum stay • fully equipped to a high standard • high-speed wireless internet & Sky tv included • weekly housekeeping service

for further information call us on t 08458 521100 e w


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