thetncard – Interview with founder, Jess Gibson
One silver living of this awful situation is that I have been able to work alongside the lovely Jess Gibson, founder of the tn card. I interviewed Jess (over the phone of course!) about what motivated her to set up the tn card and learnt that she’s as passionate about Tonbridge flourishing as I am!
Tell me a little bit about your professional background.
My background is corporate events and marketing. I’ve been a freelance social media consultant for the past six years as it works well around the family.
Why did you set up your blog, About these Boys?
I began the blog when I was expecting my fourth son, Jude. Parenting boys is an absolute privilege yet I received a ridiculous number of negative comments (as I still do): ‘“You must be brave’ to “Poor you!” and of course the classic, “Will you try again for a girl?” as though I’m not 100% blessed to have four gorgeous, healthy children! I decided that boys get a hard rap and wanted to stick up for them a bit.
I don’t have much time for the blog at the moment but still use it to share my experiences as a busy mum. I have a parenting group on Facebook for parents of boys too.
Last year through the blog I launched a series of parenting talks at EM Forster Theatre, inviting well-known and respected parenting experts to speak to us parents about a variety of parenting topics. I’m looking forward to more events when life returns to normal.
What were the motivators behind thetncard?
Through the blog I’ve supported lots of our local businesses – retailers, restaurants and bars, family days out – writing reviews and running competitions. I’m passionate about our town and wanted to start supporting independents in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells in a more tangible way. I also wanted to do a little good and help one of our fantastic local charities.
Local businesses join thetncard for free and provide a generous offer for members in return for marketing. Individuals can then purchase annual membership for £20 at www.thetncard.com which entitles them to a range of rewards for supporting local. We’re able to support West Kent Mind and their work in our community by giving them 10-20% of card sales.
How did you go about setting it up?
The business model is a pretty simple one. I designed the membership card and marketing materials, created the website and found printers who could manufacture and personalise cards for me. Most of the work is in building relationship with our local businesses, finding out how I can support them most effectively and delivering on that.
During the lockdown I am working with some great people to launch an app for our members to use on the go, plus a brand new website. I want to be in a position to support our amazing independents fully when our High Street finally re-opens.
How have you adapted in the current climate?
I’ve tried to be as responsive as I can during these uncertain times to support our small local businesses, whether they’re thetncard partners or not.
After setting up the Tonbridge Covid-19 support group on Facebook I created a list of local shops and producers who are delivering food and drink supplies. This resource is now being used by Tonbridge, Hildenborough and Tunbridge Wells support groups, and has merged with the list maintained by you to include cafes and restaurants in Tonbridge too.
There’s now a page on our website dedicated to the same plus we now have a Lockdown directory on the website which lists all the businesses that continue to provide offers for our members. Despite the current situation, we have 40 offers still running, and that’s growing as we welcome new businesses to the scheme, and existing partners move their businesses online.
To be fair to our members, we have extended the expiry date of all existing memberships to June 2021 and new members enjoy an extended membership period too.
What does the future hold for the card and for you?
I sincerely hope that our amazing town is busy once again, and the doors to our local businesses re-open, very soon. On that day I will support the business community in any way I can.
In our first two months since launching in February, thetncard welcomed over 100 businesses to the directory and more than 400 people in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells joined as members. I can’t wait to see this momentum return and am looking forward to seeing thetncard grow and develop this year and into the next.
thetncard is about community. It has been incredible to see Tonbridge come together as a community over the past month, supporting and valuing local like never before. I hope this continues long after things return to normal.