An entrepreneur in the Outer Hebrides is excited to be able to reopen her wonderful little self-built gift shop at the end of the month.
Eilidh Carr runs the Coralbox Gift Shop on Berneray on the island of North Uist and can’t wait to welcome people back from March 31.
The self-employed 29-year-old does everything in the shop, which she describes as unique and a “little different from other shops”, from social media to the online shop website, packing and posting orders, restocking the shop, cleaning, tidying, and even designing new items.
And that’s all on top of manning the shop herself and doing everything else in between.
“Being self-employed is hard,” explained Eilidh, who started Coralbox in 2015 after moving home from studying photography in Aberdeen. “But so rewarding, I wouldn’t change it for anything.
“Coralbox all started with a small idea of selling items at craft sales, featuring local photographs I had taken of wildlife and beautiful beaches.
“This idea then grew to a two-berth Dalesman caravan being converted into my first shop in 2016, before work began on my new purpose-built wooden shop, in which Coralbox trades from today.”
A hub for both locals and visitors to the island, Eilidh said the shop offers a wide range of Hebridean, nautical and island-themed items along with jewellery, soaps, jigsaws and much more.
She added: “These include my own photography items such as calendars, cards, jigsaws and tea towels, to also more than 20 other local island businesses and also from across Scotland.”
Though she was able to open Coralbox for a few months last year, this will be the first time she’s been able to open for a normal season after the pandemic closed her shop down for over 16 months.
She added: “I’m so excited and happy to be welcoming people back into Coralbox after what feels like a very long time. To me, Coralbox is more than just a shop, it is also a place for people to call in for a chat or visit, visitors old and new are more like friends to me.
“During the Covid19 pandemic, when my shop was closed for over 16 months, I launched a website for Coralbox, moving to online sales. This has been a great success and parcels have been posted not only within the UK, but to Europe and also Worldwide.
“But I really miss seeing and speaking to people face to face, hearing of their visits to the islands and also seeing people returning each year.”
Eilidh, who grew up on Berneray before moving away to study, explained that as well as both a place to visit for a chat and a place to buy wonderful items and gifts, showing off the islands and Scotland, Coralbox also gives her the chance to support other producers and entrepreneurs on the islands.
“As a small business owner myself, I like to support other people and their crafts or businesses,” she added. “From candles and melts by Barra Bliss on the Isle of Barra, Hebridean sea glass jewelery from Salka on the Isle of Lewis, to even small businesses or hobbies just starting up or still growing, it is a real mixture which I love promoting and being part of.”
Eilidh is keen to show off life on the island and even has a dedicated Twitter for her hobby – you can follow her @EilidhCarr – where she shares her pics from otter spotting, van adventures, drone photography, Coralbox, prosecco, beaches and everything else along the way.
She added: “During the lockdowns, I also launched my Hebridean webcams to bring the islands to people in their own home. These are two webcams of Bays Loch here on Berneray, streaming live 24 hours a day.
“Here people can watch the tide rise and fall along with the ever-changing island weather. Birds and wildlife of all kinds can be seen, with occasionally seals and otters spotted playing in the water.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.