A couple, whose events business was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, are now celebrating the success of their online drinks gift venture – A Toast In The Post.
David and Jane Charnley, who studied together at the University of Sunderland in the early nineties, have worked in the events industry for more than 20 years.
However, when Covid-19 put a stop to all major events, the couple set up A Toast in the Post last year as a much-needed lifeline and focus during difficult times.
In just six months, they’ve sold more than 6,000 drinks and won two national awards.
A Toast in the Post allows people to celebrate special moments when they cannot be together by sending a favourite tipple through the post along with a personalised photo message card.
Jane, who studied Business Computing at Sunderland, came up with the idea two years ago when she was unable to attend a close relative’s funeral.
She thought it would be nice to send the family his favourite drink with a message and a treasured photo of him, to celebrate his life when she could not be there in person.
“The idea has been with us ever since,” the 47-year-old said.
“But with our successful exhibition stand business and my wedding table plan business, the time was never right.
“Neither of our industries are back on their feet yet, so we are so pleased we took the plunge and turned the pandemic into something more positive – both for us as business owners, but also in being able to help keep the nation connected through sending personal sentiments when people couldn’t be together.
“Coming out of lockdown, online sales are very much here to stay and it’s lovely seeing a rise in engagement and wedding greetings returning.
“We also have more and more companies enquiring for corporate gifts, sending hundreds of colleagues A Toast in the Post to celebrate the successes of their workforce.”
David and Jane first met in Lancaster while they were studying for their A-levels.
Deciding to stick together, the pair headed to the North East to continue their studies at Sunderland, where they graduated in 1996.
A year later, they launched their exhibitions business LoveExpo – building bespoke stands for national and international clients at large trade shows.
Then, in 2000, the childhood sweethearts got married.
A decade on, in March 2020, the couple invested and moved into new purpose-built premises in Blackpool, just as the pandemic hit.
A Toast in the Post went live eight months later and has continued to go from strength to strength.
David and Jane, who now live in Lancashire, bagged Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis’ national Small Business Sunday (SBS) award just six weeks after they started trading.
A Toast in the Post has also had other celebrity endorsements, with Britain’s Got Talent star Amanda Holden praising their venture when being sent a toast for her 50th birthday, as well as winning the national Women of Wednesday (WOW) award, set up by Jaqueline Gold of Ann Summers.
David, 47, who studied Environmental Studies at the University, said: “It’s been a whirlwind six months, seeing daily orders triple from our original expectations and trying to keep up with demand for people wanting to let loved ones know they are thinking about them in these difficult times.
“It’s not been easy – we’ve gone from running an exhibition and a wedding business for more than two decades, to setting up an e-commerce website in a few months, with all hands on deck sourcing 100 per cent recyclable packaging, the right miniature alcoholic drinks and posting from our storage cupboard in our Blackpool warehouse.
“But seeing sales grow and winning a national award by a well-renowned Dragon’s Den entrepreneur certainly makes all the long nights of packing worth it.”