Faith Eckersall meets a woman who has turned her enthusiam for Christmas and talent for making gifts into a successful business on the internet

Christmas comes but once a year but, for Leoni Davidson it starts in early October in the garden workshop of her New Forest home.

By the time you read this she'll have been painting, writing and constructing the personalised Christmas baubles and signs she sells through her internet shop, Leoni With Love, for a good three months.

"I absolutely love Christmas," she says, "But I never really thought of doing Christmas gifts because I started by creating wedding stationery."
She launched her business five years ago after getting started as a sideline to her job in retail.

"I'd always loved creating cards and gifts for my family and friends and because my mum ran a shop, she used to sell a lot of my things in there."

After being advised to sell on Etsy, Leoni's business took off. "I took some photos of my work and within a few weeks the whole thing had snowballed," she says.

She then got into invitations and stationery after creating some for a friend's wedding.

"The great thing about being online is that people can instantly see what you do and decide to buy it," she says.

With the encouragement of her boyfriend, Leoni gave up her retail job and took her business full-time.

However: "After a while I started noticing that the wedding side was dropping off in October," she says. "I can appreciate that as I'm getting married myself in a couple of years and when it gets to this time of year everyone's really focussed on Christmas."

Taking this as her cue, Leoni decided to switch her attention to Christmas presents herself, making personalised baubles. "I'd write people's names on, if it was a bauble for a baby's first Christmas or for a couple, and did a lot of variations, including clear ones which can be refilled with sweets or a little gift every year."

After hunting for a personalised gift for her newly-married sister, she couldn't find anything and decided to make the signs which now fly off her website.

"They're really popular for new couples, probably because they remind them of their first Christmas together," she says.
Leoni is happy to admit to being 'a Christmas person'.

"I think it really helps if you love Christmas when you're making things like these," she says. "I always buy some new decorations every year to build up a collection but if I could put my decorations up in November I would, I absolutely love it."