Tuesday, 14 May 2013

In it together....

It's so lovely to be located in a beautiful part of Wales, surrounded by mountains, cycle paths, forestry, and pretty little villages. We often go away and visit places within a few hours travel for something to do, or should I say prise the boys away from their Xbox. We pop into coffee shops, and places of interest, and in conversation, people do ask where we are from and how did we find them. Our explanations are normally the same, "pop a pin in the middle of a map of Wales and that's where we are". The responses vary, some know the Elan Valley which is where my photograph of the bridge was taken. Some have no idea. So, this is where we point our places of interest, places that they might have heard of, and places that sound interesting to them. We often leave a business card or leaflet if they ask for information about what we do, and it's great to hear that some people are new to our products and services.

These days so many businesses have a Facebook or Twitter account, and its great to be able to keep in touch via the wobbly web. If people are given an insight into your surrounding area, they are more inclined to remember you, and hopefully pop in and visit the local area. We have welcomed so many new people into our business this way, and always point them in the direction of a local place to eat or visit.

So my tweets, as some of you may notice, do point out things that are local to us, showing how vibrant our community is, and how much we all have to offer. So rather than "just us", we turn it into "all of us". Brings a locality closer together, and shows how a community can grow when we work together as a combined team.

So, please check our our links, please do have a browse, and you will see that we do have so much more to offer, plus, you might also drop by and visit us here at the Showroom one day!

Our Twitter link


Places to visit and stay in Rhayader

All about the Elan Valley

Monday, 11 June 2012

The search for Superman

Every weekend arrives and my children always want to go off and spend their hard earned pocket money on the first thing they can see that resembles a toy. This weekend was no different, but we had a disaster earlier on in the week and a much beloved favourite, Superman to be exact, had been lost and after many turned up beds and hands down the sofa, we had to admit that he had been lost. After a few tears and consoling, we promised to have a good attempt at finding a replacement. The original had been a fluke in a charity shop in Bristol, so we had our work cut out for us.

On Sunday, we chose to go for a drive and stumbled across a car boot sale, and all jumped out with a determination like no other to see if we could find another Superman. We mingled into the throngs of people all pushing and shoving looking for their own plunder. So many cars with tables laid out with china, material, baby clothes, everything you could think of was out on display. We sorted through box after box of toys and jigsaws but to no avail. We all got fed up of rifling though so many items and not finding what we were looking for. My son's face was a picture of misery. We all went for a sit down and tried to cheer him up with a kitkat and a drink.

As we sat there I could see the people with all the same determined look as us, clawing through boxes trying to find what they had set out to find. Then a thought cropped into my head,  if each person selling items on their pitch listed what they had in their items for sale, surely people would be able to go straight to the right pitch and come away happy after finding their item? There would be no sad faces, no huffing and puffing and throwing around of their other items, and the buyer leaves your pitch happy and content, and obviously a few pounds less after giving the seller his money.

On reflection, selling your items online is just the same. You know you have a product that people are looking for, you have it at the right price, it's the best out there, and yet no customers come jumping onto your website to purchase from you. How frustrating is that? How can you and your product be visible for that customer to spend their money on you and not your competitor? The beauty of choosing the correct words and name to promote yourself will drive people to your site. The importance of picking the right words  in your search engine optimisation choice is vital. Once your website has these in place, this projects your company up in the search engine lists and your customer can find you and your product more quickly.

This is all sinking in to my brain every day, and when I do my weekly Google Analytics check, I can spot the word searches and trends, and it is helping me improve how we project our company and product to the marketplace. It really is a simple as that. Keeping my eye on trends, the most popular used search word combinations used by people on search engines is so important to us to maintain our place in the marketplace.

So from being in a manic carboot sale, it has shown me how important it is to promote yourself in the right way to grab the customers attention and keep our soon to be customers happy, and our sales sheet healthy.

To finish the story of Superman, we came home typed in "Superman Toys" on Google, and within seconds we found our new replacement and he is winging his way to us shortly. He is coming from Hong Kong, the only place we could find him, but it begs the question, would we of found the perfect replacement without the use of the computer and how did the seller in Hong Kong make his Superman visible to us? SEO is the answer. He is happy and few pounds better off, and we have a very happy five year old watching out for his parcel delivery.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

A Rather Grand Affair

So, as some of you may already know, Welsh Royal Crystal was bought out by us in May 2011 and it was action stations as we were busy moving to a more suitable premises. With all hands on deck, we set about organising the building layout, and there were electricians , plumbers and forklift trucks everywhere as we were building the interior from scratch. All of our machinery had to be relocated and placed in order for Alan and David to be able to work their magic. A new coffee shop was being built and we were slowly moving trolley load after trolley load of our stock into the new showroom. We had announced that we would be open for business as from the beginning of May 2011, and friends and family all came to help. As the phone lines were being transferred, we had a call out of the blue to inform us that we had been selected to produce a Wedding Present for Prince William and Kate Middleton. This would be the official gift from the Assembly Government and the National Assembly of Wales.

Alan sat down with their staff and sketched out different ideas on glass, and this is where our pretty Cymru design was born. A pretty pattern cut with daffodils, which would be used around the bottom of the large footed Cambrian Bowl, along with the the personal message engraved in the front panel. Normally such a commission would take up to four weeks and we were asked to have it delivered with just over a week to work on it. In the middle of the move, but with such a commission to work on, we all knuckled down and worked around the clock. Adrenalin pumping,  we finished the commission, and it was placed into the most beautiful velvet padded case and then whisked off to Cardiff where a representative of the Palace came to collect it and take it back to present to the Royal Couple. 

The press had been tipped off by someone ( who could that be I hear you say) and within four hours of speaking to the team from the BBC Wales team, it was online and the news spread like wild fire. We hit the National  and local newspapers, and there were websites all over the world talking about the news of the Welsh Royal gift from the people of Wales. So many phone calls asking about whether they could see the finished piece, but the answer was of course no, it couldn't be shown until after the Wedding. I can remember sitting down to watch the Royal Wedding in our front room and feeling a moment of personal jubilation for our little company in Rhayader, that had been picked to produce such a personal gift for such a world renowned couple. A few glasses were raised in triumph that day!

Oh and yes, just in case you were wondering, we did open for business as promised, and we had people coming in their droves to look at the replica of the gift which was on display for all to see. We also produced a very beautiful rose bowl to celebrate the occasion with our customers. If you look, you can see the daffodils cut on the side. This is available to purchase online now.

So are we up to date now? No not quite! The Diamond Jubilee is just around the corner, and to celebrate, we produced our pretty Diamond Jubilee Bowl which is available to purchase online. How will you be celebrating the day? Our town has many events happening, and we will be attending waving our red white and blue flags with great pride!

Also, what's coming up next?

 We have a superb new LIMITED EDITION announcement happening, and it will be tweeted sometime tomorrow so keep your eyes peeled! Clue? A group of boys sang a song on a show where a certain Mr Cowell was a judge. It's also a rousing song sung at Welsh Rugby matches. 

Until tomorrow!

Monday, 28 May 2012

The day another Dragon breathed fire into Welsh Royal Crystal

Grand Slam Six Nations Champions  2012

So as you are aware, we are slightly rugby mad here in Wales, and the flags were flying high and proud in our town ready to start singing Calon Lan at the top of our voices as the matches started. The weeks and wins flew by and it was looking really exciting and promising for a superb Grand Slam win. It came down to the last match for Wales at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff with over 250,000 supporters willing us to win against France. As it happened we were away for the weekend and had crept into a pub in Tewkesbury to watch and screech at the screen. Alex Cuthbert scored the game's only try and Leigh Halfpenny kicked the rest securing Wales' third Grand Slam in the last eight years We had a wee celebratory dram and then chased back to the hotel to respond quickly. We then announced the release of our Grand Slam Winners 2012 Crystal Tumbler within half an hour of the final whistle. By the next day  the phone was red hot with people wanting to place orders.

We returned home and shortly after heard the almighty news that Welsh Flanker Dan Lydiate  had been chosen as Player of  The Championship. Being rather elated to hear that a local lad had been picked as the winner (started his rugby career on the green grass of Rhayader) we thought that he deserved a momento to highlight this terrific honour. So with the help of Twitter, we contacted him and asked if he would like to come and collect some specially engraved Crystal Tumblers from us. He responded and said he would be delighted to visit, collect his Crystal and do some media promotion with us. So with the newspapers tipped off, we agreed the date and the press arrived eagerly testing their cameras and pens to write up and get the best pictures possible. Dan arrived fresh from an interview with Scrum Five Live and strode into Welsh Royal Crystal towering above us all. It was school holidays and my two boys were there and thought he was a giant. Even when he bent down to shake their hands they still had to look up! 

After lots of photographs and smiles and giving interviews to the newspapers, we had organised for Dan to sign some Limited Edition Certificates which would accompany some Grand Slam 6 Nations Champions Crystal Items. Half of the money raised is going to Dan to donate to his charity of choice. 

Dan spent a whole hour with us that day asking about our new relocation and products. He signed our visitors book and then spotted my 8 year old peering into his car and popped him into the front seat which made my his day. He thanked us for a great time and then jumped into his Jaguar and sped off to do his training session with the Newport Dragons with his Welsh Royal Crystal carefully placed next to him. What a wonderful supporting local hero. It is a day that we will always remember with great pride! 

So, once again, with the press on our side, we hit the headlines again over Mid Wales for two weeks and the response we had was amazing . As well as the Limited Edition Crystal items, the Grand Slam Champion Tumblers  have been selling wonderfully online, and we  are still having visitors come through the door thanks to that media coverage. So, fish and chip paper again, but it shows the vast majority of readers sometimes hold onto their newspapers slightly longer when a local hero is peering back at them!

So, did you spot the relocation mention? Well my next blog is about our move, the excitement and honour that we had been asked to produce a rather special present for two people who were hitting the headlines in April 2011. The Wedding Bells were getting ready to ring out in London!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The importance of having the press on your side!

Getting back to Rhayader we knew that we had our photograph with Theo Paphitis and now we wanted to get the news out there. With the help of The Brecon & Radnor Express, The Mid Wales Journal and The County Times, we blasted the whole of Mid Wales with our #SBS news. Over three weeks we had amazing coverage thanks to the great support of the local media. I also popped a copy of the above press release in the local Post Office. A lovely big copy, and it is still there today. I think they have a soft spot for Theo!

The importance of having people know about you is vital. We had taken over the business over a year ago, and  yet people assumed that the business had closed. Yes, yikes! We had been in the press for the take over, which I will tell you about later, but sadly the saying that today's news is tomorrows fish and chip wrappings is true. You have to have a regular drip feed of media coverage for people to be aware of what you are about and what you are doing. Thanks to the press releases, we had people returning to us from far and wide and so relieved to find us. The #SBS logo and picture of us with Theo really was a talking point for our customers and they wanted to find out all about it. A little manufacturing company in Rural Wales meeting a BBC Dragon? Wowzers indeed!

 It.was a superb morning when I had a tweet from Theo confirming that he would like some of our Crystal Glasses for his medicinals. It's only right to have the right glass for the right drink right? He allowed us to choose the pattern design for him and plumped for a nice Welsh Celtic pattern alongside the wonderful new #SBS logo. When he received them he very kindly tweeted us with the above picture.

At last back home after a weeks DD filming and look what was waiting for me .. Cheers

The tweet got people talking online, and now we have customers drinking from our brandy glasses due to this single tweet. They didn't get the #SBS logo though! But, most importantly, this again proves the power of Social Media.

So, we now had a Dragon drinking from our lovely Crystal, but there was also the little matter of a World Cup Rugby hero waiting to come and pop his head into say hi....

My next blog is taking you through how we engrave a picture onto one of our lead crystal items.

 Pretty simple process people may think. 

Read on and then tell us your verdict after.

Stage One - The blank glass 

We have used a champagne glass to show how we do this process. The "blank" glass is cut by our Alan, who you met in our first blog. Our order form will tell Alan to leave a panel, so he cuts it, leaves the panel and then sends it through to the engraving department.

Stage Two - The artwork bit

David, our engraver will then do his magic of creating the artwork using Paintshop/ Photoshop on his computer. He prints it out onto vellum paper, and then a photo-resist film is developed by passing ultra violet light through the vellum and this then transfers the image onto the film. Below is the art work prior to going through the ultra violet phase.

The picture below is of the machine that David uses to transfer the image onto the film. This process can take up to 15 mins. Once this process is complete, and the film has dried, it is then transferred onto the cut glass ready for stage three.

Stage Three - Sandblasting

Here is our sandblasting machine, it's a fierce piece of machinery! A fine white aluminium oxide power is used to blast the areas on the film in order to create the desired image. David will know when this image on the glass is adequate.

If you look closely in the picture below you can see the purple photo-resist film and the fine powder being aimed directly at the image. This is very tricky as you can over blast the glass with the powder and the film will dissolve and the image will not transfer correctly. Once David is satisfied with this process, the film is then washed off leaving the glass with the picture on the champagne glass.

Stage Four - The Dragon Assay Mark

Once the glass is clean and dry and all traces of the powder and film removed, the glass then goes for it's stamp of quality, our much talked about dragon assay mark. This is similar to the sandblasting phase, and a tiny picture of our dragon is blasted onto the base of the champagne glass. Here is the machine that we do this with. 

Here is our little dragon assay mark showing the sign of quality, and our customers will know that is was made in our workshop. We love our Welsh Dragon!

Stage Five - Into the shop

The glass then receives our green Welsh Royal Crystal sticker and it goes into the shop or out for packing and distribution.

So that is how the "simple" part of engraving is done here at Welsh Royal Crystal. Not as easy as it sounds hey!

Engraving is a huge part of our business, from engraving a personal message, picture or company logo on a purchased lead crystal item, to engraving crystal sports awards and trophies. The Royal Wedding Gift from the people of Wales went through this very process, as a personal message was engraved onto it for William and Kate.

If you have any questions relating to this blog, please drop us an email, or leave your enquiry below and we will be happy to answer.


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

A lot can happen in a short space of time!

 The last time I sent a blog, we were working hard at letting you see how we produced our engraved items, and the process of collating artwork and sand blasting. The blog received a lovely response and I can remember wondering what I would do in the next blog.

Every weekend we sit down and have a chat about what the next step for us is going to be, and I can recall chatting about Theo Paphitis and his #SBS Winners Party and how some of my Twitter friends were getting excited about the prospect of attending this almighty occasion. I looked at the calender and it yelled " two weeks to go" It was a Saturday afternoon and I sat down and started thinking about my #SBS Tweet. What  could  I say, what would grab his attention, and what would make us stand out from the rest? I wrote a few things down and decided that I would make my choice on the following evening.

The evening arrived and I typed out my #SBS tweet and pressed *tweet* and read it out after to my husband David. He seemed impressed with it anyhow, so I was pleased with that feedback. As usual, Sunday evenings are hectic, baths for boys, ironing and packed lunches for school kept me busy. That evening was a busy one and when I sat down to catch up on Twitter everyone was asleep. I hit the "Connect" button and saw CONGRATULATIONS everywhere. It was 9.37pm on 11th March 2012 and I could see my tweet retweeted by Theo, the very last one to be picked! I stood up, sat down and stood up again and felt my legs give way so plumped for the sitting down option and refreshed the button. Yes, it was us. I charged upstairs, whacked the light on and thrust the laptop in front of David and yelled we b***dy well won! He gave a half smile, yawned and said "well done" and went back to sleep. Meanwhile I was up and downstairs searching for mobile phone and house phone to call my Mother in Spain. She has no idea about #SBS but was yelling well done, as Mothers always do when their kids do well! After telling her about it in depth, and marching around the kitchen to calm down, I do have to own up to having a little sob. Just reading all of the tweets that were zooming in on my timeline was a feeling that I can only describe as enthralling and surreal. By 7.30am the next day I had 527 tweets of congratulations to read and so many new followers it took a whole day to follow everyone back.

The #SBS event day arrived, we left Wales at 8am and headed towards Birmingham. It was only when we hit the motorway at Worcester that the enormity of the event hit me and my heart rate went up. I spotted the Chrome car and knew we had arrived at the right place. The welcome from the Ryman's staff was wonderful and really made us feel welcome. We popped our badges on and jumped into the lift to where everyone was  waiting. So many people, so many badges and we spent the next couple of hours badge searching, saying hello to other winners and trying to remain calm . I met Nicola from Wood and Willow at last! We had tweeted each other the night before and now we were standing in front of each other for real! I also met Miki from Wine Glass Charms, and I think we screeched at each other for a good 30 seconds before coming up for breath. My Batman introduced himself, the one and only Phil from Working Metals. He was our winner for the World Book Day Challenge and it was so wonderful to see him too. I remember standing in a circle of fellow #SBS Winners, Sharon from TransK9, Sarah from Hi Tiny Gems, Stacey from SAS_Stacey and thinking "is this really happening"? The man himself quietly walked into the room and you could see everyone turn and stare at the BBC Dragon who had made this all possible with the help of Mr Kypros Kyprianou from Ryman's who had kindly sponsored the whole event. What I hadn't seen was the tweet from Kypros earlier that very morning saying that it felt like he was going to a Cup Final. Gives you some idea as to how important this event was to him. Nice to read and nice to know how much he supports #SBS. A true supporter to all of the #SBS Winners.

What followed was an amazing rousing speech from Kypros who introduced Theo Paphitis, and the music (that I do have to play every Sunday now) started up and up he jumped onto the stage and held us captivated for way longer than he had planned. The #SBS website launch was announced by Chris from MetalFrog and we all were given the run though of how we now all had our very own #SBS website. Amazing work, and exciting for us all to see. The Q+A came and went, and then we had our pictures taken with Theo. So many businesses, and he smiled, chatted, and happily had his picture taken with every single one of us. To say that he made us all feel important was a major understatement.

We eventually had to concede that it was all winding down so we said our goodbyes to everyone and David had cleverly booked us into a beautiful Hotel in Droitwich Spa for the weekend as my reward for getting us the #SBS win.

What a weekend, what memories to hold onto, being chosen as one of many amazing winners throughout the UK by a businessman like Theo Paphitis, and to experience a day like that, is something that Welsh Royal Crystal will remember for a long long time to come.

Mind you, what happened next was another exciting moment for Welsh Royal Crystal!