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ABOUT US...

Frog and Gnome is a little online card and gift shop, but who are the people behind the scenes? What's the story behind the name? and what else should you know about this wee business? Well, Frog and Gnome is a small family business, and here is our story...

PEOPLE | Who are we?

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Hello! We are Rob and Naomi, a husband and wife team. We set up Frog and Gnome in 2016 and have been running it ever since. Some of our gift items (marked with a pink *) are supplied to us by other (mostly Scottish) small businesses, but everything else you see here, including the website itself has been wholly designed and produced by us from our wee cottage in the Scottish Borders.

The variety of themes and styles you'll find in the shop is for the most part a reflection of our broad and diverse tastes and interests. You'll notice a strong influece from the country we are blessed to call home with many strands of Scottish influence running through lots of our products - we even have a Scottish Corner for folk who come here specifically for that stuff. You'll also see the influence of our Christian faith showing up in a variety of ways - again we have a dedicated corner for faith-inspired goods. Amidst our many other themes and influences we aim to provide a broad, inclusive and hopefully delightful array of options; what unites all our designs is that we aim for each to be a little ray of sunshine that may bring a little goodness into somebody's day.

This is Naomi.

ROLE: Naomi is in charge of marketing and communications - from emails to social media; as co-creative director she keeps us ahead of the curve of what's trending and she usually comes up with our best design ideas; she also sources gifts from other small businesses.

Naomi grew up in Surrey; she excelled in dance (particularly ballet) from a young age. She studied Social Sciences at Bath, whilst also working for Bath Abbey. After graduating Naomi moved to Vienna where she worked as an Au Pair and also taught English in a local school, during which time she became fluent in German. Naomi returned to the UK to train as a primary school teacher, which she did for a number of years before she stepped back to be mum for a while. In recent years, having found that yoga was enormously beneficial for her mental and physical health, Naomi trained as in instructor. When she is not doing Frog and Gnome or spending time with family, Naomi teaches several yoga classes in the village as well as working a number of hours in a local Early Learning setting.

This is Rob.

ROLE: Rob is in charge of planning, accounts and strategy; as co-creative director he is in charge of product development, design, and photography. Rob also built and maintains this website and oversees the wholesale side of the business and order fulfillment.

Rob grew up in Dorset where his love of art, stop-motion animation, card design and photography grew from a young age. He studied Theology at Oxford; whilst a student he rode his way into the World Records books for the fastest ride from Land's End to John O'Groat's on a unicycle. After graduating he spent a year with a group running Christian summer camps before moving into teaching. He spent a decade teaching world religions, philosophy and ethics to teenagers at a school where he was also Lay Chaplain and ran the photography club. These years allowed for volunteering and much travel in the long holidays, and Rob build a photography business on the side which later became full time. When not doing Frog & Gnome or spending time with family, Rob likes to run, he also does a some outdoor education work and is trying to hone his videography and animation skills.

running, baking, dabbles in outdoor education, learning videography and animation.

These are the 'froglets'...

ROLE: our 3 children are very much part of the team - they enjoy coming up with ideas, testing new products, and sometimes helping with production and packing orders.

This photo is from one of our wild camping adventures in the Pentland Hills... we love time outdoors and learning about, caring for and engaging with nature, whether that is dicovering wildlife, litter picking or finding cool rocks, shells or other treasures on the beach. We do a lot of hiking together in our local hills and occsionally up a munro.

We also love the adventure of stories and the way they can inspire play and creativity; we're blessed that with less than 3 years between eldest and youngest it works well to read lots of stories together; favourite worlds like Hogwarts, Narnia, Aerwiar, and Middle Earth often form the basis for amazing lego creations and the background for imaginary games played in the local woods.

This is Mabel (below) and Peggy (above)...

ROLE: These girls are in charge of managing morale and they are passionate in their commitment to guard the stock room.

Mabel is a 6 year old Cavapoo x Lhasa Apso from Sheffield; she loves snuggles, cucumber, tummy rubs, tree climbing, chasing squirrels and spending time in the hills. Peggy is a 6 month old minature Dachshund from Melrose; she loves being the center of attention, hiding inside jumpers, destroying Mabel's toys, eating Mabel's food, chasing Mabel around the park and spending time in bed cuddling as close to Mabel as she can get away with.

This is the place we call home...

If you've read our story you'll know we set out aiming to raise our children in Scotland; at the start we envisioned this in the Outer Hebrides, but for a variety of reasons we ended up making the move to the Scottish Borders. We really do have the best of all world living here; we are not nearly so far from family, we have the amazing city of Edinburgh on our doorstep, and yet we get the benefits of life in the country and the incredible small community within our village. We love the hills that lie to the north and south of us, and the sea is not too far away. Although a part of our hearts do yearn for the highlands and islands, we make the most of school holidays to explore Scotland further and since we moved here we have managed at least one Hebridean adventure each year. Our children really do love the freedom they experience here and the connection they have with nature; we love seeing how the landscape, the culture, the community and that special something that seems to be in the Scottish air is helping them to grow and flourish.

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STORY | Where have we come from?

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The story of Frog and Gnome is the story of the life and adventures of a young family seeking a simple and purposeful life in Scotland...

CHAPTER 1 - WHERE IT ALL BEGAN [Outer Hebrides, Aug 2011]

Rob and Naomi were having the time of their lives exploring the West Coast of Scotland... "We were looking forward to this day because we'd booked a puffin-tour, but that plan fell through. We were left drinking coffee, dreaming of the future… we started talking about how Scotland would be the perfect place to raise children one day. But what work would we do? How about a café? Not just a café - a kind of hybrid between a café, a gift shop and an art gallery. We'd make delicious cakes, scones, soups, and the best coffee for miles around; we'd create art inspired by the landscape, and design lovely greetings cards to pair with beautiful gifts sourced from local small businesses. We'd be busy in tourist season and in the winter we'd write and illustrate children’s books. There - we had our dream! One question remained: what to call this marvellous café-giftshop-gallery?"

CHAPTER 2 - GIVING THE DREAM A NAME [Outer Hebrides, Aug 2011]

"We thought our café should open in the evenings like European coffee shops, so we thought it would be fun to follow one British custom for naming pubs - 'the [something] and [something]’ (e.g. Rob used to live above ‘The Lamb and Flag’ which was opposite ‘The Eagle and Child’). But we weren't starting a pub - our two somethings needed to be more fun and family friendly than the usual pairings; we also wanted it to link to us somehow… Naomi had been called ‘Gnomes’ by some friends for years, so we quickly landed Gnome for one half of the name (helped by the fact we had just bought a gnome named Kyle when visiting a town of the same name); but Rob wasn’t cool enough to have had a nickname. Later we were talking about our grandparents who were very important figures in our respective families; Naomi remembered her grandfather had collected gnomes, which reminded Rob that his grandfather had a collection of frogs (a menagerie of toys and ornaments)... that was it: (the) Frog & Gnome! ('the' was quickly dropped!)..."

CHAPTER 3 - BECOMING A FAMILY [Pembrokeshire, Aug 2012 onward]

"Within a few months of returning to England from our Scottish adventure we were engaged, and we married the following year. A year later and our little dream was still just that, but we grew steadily more and more eager to pursue it; we realised that if we didn't quit our teaching jobs to pursue this dream soon then it would get more and more difficult to do so - expecially if and when kids came along. So we handed in our notice and within a week we discovered our first child was on the way! Whilst we could take little steps towards our dream, Rob was going to have to pay the bills with photography work for the time being. Through this time we lived first in Rutland in the East Midlands and latterly in Birmingham; time went on and we soon had three under three - these were precious, fun, crazy, and challenging times! (In the photo here we had taken our eldest to visit the wee chapel build into the cliffs at St Govan's Head in Pembrokeshire where we got married.)"

CHAPTER 4 - BEGINNING SOMEWHERE [Birmingham, May 2016]

"It had been five years since we'd first dreamt up Frog & Gnome. We realised that if we didn't start somewhere, Frog & Gnome would probably never come to be. We couldn't afford to buy a café in the the Hebrides, so we decided the obvious place to start was with an online shop. We had by this stage got a few card designs in our back pockets, so we built on that minimal start and launched our site. Within a few months, we were setting up stall at a few festivals and trade conventions. It was small, it was not going to pay the bills, but Frog & Gnome was no longer a just dream - it was actual real thing. Real people (not just our friends and family) and real shops were willingly parting with their cash to buy our products - and everyone genuinely seemed to like what we were doing. We were overwhelmed with the encouragement we received, which spurred us on to work hard and build it up into a 'proper' business."

CHAPTER 5 - THE MOVE TO SCOTLAND [Scottish Borders, May 2019]

"We designed more cards, prints and ceramics. Our customers kept coming back. It was going well! But we were still in the Midlands. Time was passing, our children were growing, and we wanted to move north! We were discussing how to move to Scotland when we got an email from a friend based near Edinburgh. He was doing a similar thing but was 5 years ahead of us on his journey - his business was going places and he was looking to hire someone to help him take his business to the next level - he'd thought of us... Well, long story short - we went. We did a job share which allowed us to keep growing Frog and Gnome on the side. Full transparency - we didn't move our family into a tent. We moved to the cottage we are still in, but the photo (of a recent wildcamp on the outskirts of Edinburgh) fit the mood of this chapter - we were in the the right place, we had a foot in the door, but for some reason it felt like a temporary solution."

CHAPTER 6 - LOCKED DOWN & LET LOOSE [Scottish Borders, May 2020]

"When the pandemic hit we were very thankful for good health and good fortune to be locked down in the country rather than the city; as a family we upped our hiking game and climbed all the Pentland Hills in this period. But in terms of work it was a hard blow. We previously had five modest income streams between us; Frog & Gnome was for sure the smallest - and suddenly it was all we had. We prayed, we worked hard, and thankfully lock down was the season of all seasons for online businesses. Slowly but steadily our orders picked up. Within a few months Frog & Gnome became a 'proper' business: it really was finally putting food on the table for us. We started to sell gifts from other small businesses. We designed loads of new things and introduced free colouring downloads which are still popular to this day. What an amazing priviledge in those terribly difficult times to be the means by which lots of folk sent messages and gifts to loved ones."

CHAPTER 7 - RE-LAUNCH [Scottish Borders, Summer 2024]

"The challenges for all online business in our post-pandemic world have been significant; we've sadly seen many good friends forced to shut up shop. We have struggled too, taking on some other work to see us through. It has been a good moment for reflection. The last few years have given us much greater confidence in what we can offer in this space. Rather than retreat, we have decided to step up our game. We have worked hard to bring you an all new website which offers easier navigation, more features and looks like we mean business - because we do! All our old designs have been refreshed or moved on, and a huge array of new designs are set to be released in the coming weeks. We don't know whether Frog and Gnome will ever have the bricks and mortar Hebridean café-giftshop-gallery that we originally dreamed of, but we are committed to and very excited about making our online shop better than ever!"

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VISION | Where are we going?

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- OUR VISION -

If you've read our story, you'll know our dream was to set up a Hebridean café-giftshop-gallery. We remain open to that maybe happening! But in the meantime we've built what we feel is an equally special online shop that has far more reach than we would ever have had in our original plans; our wee family live in a wonderful community in the Scottish Borders where we feel happily settled for now. We're excited to release our first children's book, and have other projects in the pipeline which would realise other dreams. But the vision was always bigger than the dreams of our little family. We want to better embody our core values, to serve more and more people and work with more small businesses.

Here at Frog and Gnome, our BIG GOAL is simply to help others as they hold out a bit of light, joy and hope to their loved ones. One small but significant way people do this is by sending cards or texts which are so often a ray of sunshine cutting through the gloom. That is why our mission is to be one of the best places on the internet to come and find those little rays of sunshine to share with others.

- 2024 GOALS -

Following our 'RELAUNCH' in the summer our focus for the rest of 2024 will be...

  • To release 200+ new designs in our general cards ranges.
  • To release 100+ new designs in our 'Faith Corner'
  • To release 100+ new designs in our 'Scottish Corner'
  • Producing 20+ new free download items
  • To source and stock a new array of goods from other small businesses.
  • Releasing our first Children's Picture Book, 'My God is a Gardener'
  • Releasing an all new line up products for Christmas 2024
  • We are building our wholesale relationships, aiming to be stocked in 20 more shop.
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    VALUES | What really matters to us?

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    7 PRINCIPLES TO NAVIGATE BY...

    Over the past few years as we've attempted to navigate the uncertain waters of running a small business in really quite turbulent and challenging times, we've seen and learnt a lot. We've sadly seen lots of other small businesses struggle and some that we loved have failed; we've seen some morph into businesses very unrecognisable to where they started - and not always for the better, and thankfully we've seen a handful really flourish. Reflecting on these stories, we felt it was important for us to map out the principles that we'd like to define us as a business and give us a more meaningful measure of success than financial statements and statistics. So we made a list of 7 things that really matter to us. We're not pretending to perfectly embody these principles, but they will steer how we navigate our way as a business and we hope over time they will shape us to be better than we are now. So here are our 7 principles to navigate by...

    1. SERVICE

    People matter. This is the North point of our Frog & Gnome compass - the enormous intrinsic value of each person on this planet. It is easy to say when we think of our wonderful customers and the loveliness of what we do each day - we're all about bringing a little bit of sunshine into people's lives, because they matter! But saying people matter is uncomfortable too - because it includes the not so lovely (we do occasionally come across some!) and the unseen. We don't have all the answers, but we do believe in being full of grace, and in ensuring supply chains are fair and free of slavery and exploitation. We also think it best to work with small businesses, where relationships can be built, shared values found, and we support actual people not a faceless machine(!) Connection and community matter. Putting people first usually means we all win, but sometimes we need to choose people over profit or over exciting projects. And for us that's how it should be, after all we've chosen to do work that allows us to remain close and present with our young family - because people matter :)

    2. STEWARD THE SOIL

    It matters that we care for and nurture what we have been given.

    On one level this means being planet-friendly. We are big nature lovers who spend lots of time outdoors; being in the hills, by the sea and under the stars keeps us grounded, gives creative inspiration and provides perspective. Making planet-friendly choices can be complicated: the best choice often seems to be a compromise. E.g. we try to avoid non-recyclable and non-sustainable materials, but sometimes the supposed 'eco' alternative is actually worse... so we try to be well informed, do our best and strive to do better!

    On another level, care and nurture of what we've been given refers to us making the very best of what we've been given in terms of abilities, opportunities, and resources... We're still learning about putting this into practice, but one approach that has been good for us is identifying something that each of us love and has considerable ability/potential and capacity for - and then really leaning into and harnessing that thing.

    3. SQUARE UP TO SHORTCOMINGS

    It matters that we face up to where we fall short. It's never easy - acknowledging inadequacies, admitting failings, taking responsibility when we mess up. We've got a 3 step approach to failure - 1. Rectify (if a wrong needs to be righted, make it right - e.g. apologise), 2. Recover (breathe, get some rest and perspective), 3. Reform (figure out what can be learnt and adjusted to avoid repeating the failure). The truth is that falling short is inevitable. We need to be stretched beyond our current capabilities - to be thrown into circumstances that challenge us to rise to the occasion; that's where we grow, and not without mishap! If we're not failing frequently, we're probably not pushing ourselves enough! That said, in a business like this, where our customers depend on us reliably delivering an excellent service, it's certainly best that we get the small front of house stuff right and leave the challenging mistakes to happen behind the scenes! That's the goal, but we will get it wrong from time to time. When we do, call us out! Let us square up, sort it out and learn from it. From small saplings grow might oaks...

    4. SPREAD SUNSHINE

    The fact that light is needed in dark places matters. Whether in our thoughts or circumstances, we sometimes sit in shadow ...fear, depression, anxiety, loneliness, shame, anger, regret, hopelessness... we can't chase shadows away, but light can at least soften them for a while. Light comes in many forms - understanding, wisdom, hope, reassurance, love, peace, laughter, beauty, inspiration... and there are many of sources - friends, music, art, poetry, literature, scriptures, the natural world, serving others, exercise... Shadows are cast where light is blocked, so we all need somebody (even ourselves) to direct a little light our way. Clearly this applies to the the value of sending someone a little card in dark times with just the right words to make them feel seen and loved and to give them a little strength... but here the bigger application is a personal one - about taking the medicine ourselves - being people who bask in sunshine, who are familiar with different light sources, and who let light shine into our own darkness. Then, maybe, we'll be ready and know where to reach for the right lamp to pass to a friend when they need it...

    5. SEMPER REFORMANDA

    Getting better matters. We want to see progress, improvement, growth. We want to think better, to do better, to live better, to be better - in all areas of life. There may be incredible people who stride forward in leaps and bounds of awesomeness each day, but that is not us. For us the journey to better it is a gradual faultering stumble foward. But each little step counts. The path to progress is about tiny incremental changes which add up over time. It's the British Cycling Team's principle of the accrual of marginal gains; it's the goal to be 1% better than last time every time; it's the concept of developing virtuous circles (chains of events where one desirable occurrence leads to another which further promotes the first occurrence and so on resulting in a continuous process of improvement); it's the principle of the reformers, 'Semper Reformanda' (latin for 'always reforming'). So we keep our minds and hearts open to new ways of thinking and doing, we listen to and learn from others, we try, we fail, and together we try again and again. Given time, little by little, together we grow.

    6. SET SUPPORTING STRUCTURES

    Structure matters - because it expands our potential for flourishing. A vine without a structure can achieve little growth and probably no fruit, but good structures will give the vine the support and space it needs to achieve tremendous growth and a huge harvest. In our family we all balk a little when we introduce a new structure assuming we will find it restrictive; however, there is no doubt we are all a lot more productive, efficient, happy in our endeavours, less stressed, and able to make more space for everything we need and want to do when we have good structures. We even sometimes have a sense of mastery over our time and activity! We can structure our time, but we can also structure our stuff - physical and digital - our rule is: 'everything with home, everything in its home'. We also structure tasks and workflows, making systems that are easy and efficient and in some cases partly automated. Good structures take time, trial and error, and frequent tweaking. It is all still a work in progress, but slowly we are refining a set of structures that is helping us bear more fruit, bringing us more freedom and involving far less faff.

    7. SHINE BRIGHT

    Our attitude and the energy we bring matters. Here in Scotland folk often quote Alfred Wainwright, 'There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing!' We can't control the weather, but we can control our choice of attire - with the right gear even the the worst of weather is bearable. Well, similarly, we're of the opinion that there's no such thing as a bad day, only unsuitable attitudes(!)... out in the hills, your attitude can be every bit as important as your attire in determining the outcome of a hike. And attitudes like clothes can be chosen. So, we try to develop the self-awareness and self-control to be aware of and in check with our emotions, with the tone we are setting, with our demeanor - and to have the courage to be the sunshine we want to see in the world around us. As a business and as individuals we don't always get this right, and want to learn from our customers, so many of whom have hearts of gold. We want to be people who choose joy, who meet a thunderstorm with a sunburst, who set out to make other people's days and be uplifting wherever we can - which brings us back full circle to service!

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