GA Womens Conference

The Giftware Association (GA) organised its second Women In Gifts conference – at its HQ in Birmingham on March 7 – as part of its International Women’s Day celebrations. 

Following on from the inaugural Women in Gifts conference in December, the latest event featured four inspirational speakers and five retail panellists, together with amazing women who work in the gift industry.

The day featured a packed schedule that combined fun with learning. After anicebreaker in which delegates played Talking Tables’ Phenomenal Women in History, the day kick-started with a presentation by artist and designer Meg Hawkins, who celebrates 10 years in business this year. 

Meg’s story is one of real inspiration. Starting with a piece of paper and a paintbrush on her kitchen table, she has gradually built her business piece by piece to become a globally recognised brand. The message that you can create something from nothing was an empowering one, and really set the tone for the rest of the day. 


Next to the stage was Louise Welsby. The chair of the GA national committee and managing director of Buy-From Creative Agency shared the importance of owning and understanding your brand story. She said: “Brand storytelling is not just about selling a product or service. It’s about connecting with your audience on a deeper level, building trust, and fostering loyalty. I believe so passionately in supporting businesses to find their truth, and feel confident in communicating a story that truly resonates with their ideal customer.”

The middle of the day was an opportunity to network, while also raising money for The Benevolent Society by shopping for donated gifts from GA members. GA CEO Sarah Ward explained that The Benevolent Society is a charity that exists for the good of the members of the trade associations that sit within the British Allied Trades Federation. The charity financially assists individuals that have worked in the giftware, jewellery, surface engineering, travel goods and fashion accessories industries, as well as helping individuals start or progress their career journeys in these industries through bursaries to help with their studies.

After lunch, it was Fi Burge of BGifted’s turn to take the stage. Fi – who grew up watching her father build a highly successful greeting card company, Paper House(now The Great British Card Company) – has worked with design-led product for more than 20 years. She is now a freelance consultant under her own brand, B Gifted, offering support with the implementation of product development and sales strategy.

Next, Heather Watherston, a former director of The Lagoon Group and Green Board Games, talked about her new venture: Whiz Kid Games, which designs educational games under the Go Genius brand, aimed at the toddler to tween market. The business was set up during Covid and Heather discussed the company’s business model and journey to date, highlighting her focus on sustainability and the green aspirations of a start-up business. 

The conference was brought to a close with a retail panel featuring Sara Albright of Retail100 Consulting, Laura Matheson of St Peters Garden Centre, Joanna Final of Social Enterprise UK – eBay for Change, Samantha Gibbs of Nest, and Alex Becket of Ivy and Rose Gifts. Delegates asked them a range of questions on topics including the role of trade shows, social media, and building relationships between suppliers and retailers. 

GA CEO Sarah Ward said: “It was great to spend a wonderful International Women’s Day Eve with so many of our industry’s phenomenal women. Building on our first Women in Gifts conference, we heard from some inspirational businesswomen, and it was great to hear their successes, their pitfalls and everything in between. It was also brilliant hearing from our retail panel who offered insight into their buying trends. We hope that everyone left feeling inspired and had a fantastic day with their peers.”

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