A young entrepreneur has set up a festive workshop in Mildenhall and taken more than 100 orders for his handcrafted Christmas decorations during the first 10 days of his business.
Rhys Turnbull-Bester, 13, has been spending weekends and evenings fulfilling orders for the wooden ornaments which have been shipped as far afield as Australia.
He said: “I did not expect it - I just thought it would be through the family.”
With the help of his mum, Clare Bester, Rhys, of Red Lodge, launched the business Wooden Ribbons on social networking site Facebook in the hope of raising money towards his dream of competing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The response was phenomenal and his Facebook page, gained more than 1,000 likes within 24 hours.
In the fortnight he’s been in business Rhys has expanded his range of products to include personalised stars and bones to hang on the Christmas tree as well as larger ornaments in the shape of gingerbread men and letters all hand decorated and finished with ribbons
To keep up with the orders flooding in Rhys has had to enlisted the help of family members to keep the production line rolling at headquarters Kitchen Inc, Mildenhall.
First wood is cut into festive shapes including Christmas trees, stockings and stars under the watchful eye of Rhys’ stepdad Frans Bester.
The ornaments than travel across the room to a make-shift art studio where they are sanded, painted and personalised to the customers wishes by Rhys, who is sometimes assisted by his three-year-old brother Andres Bester who sands the shapes with a nail file.
Finally when dry the ornaments are transferred to the ribbon department run by Rhys’ grandmother Shielagh Bester who adds the final flourishes.
Even the family puppy Ted has a role as mascot inspiring doggy delights to hang on the Christmas tree.
Rhys, a pupil at The Priory School in Bury St Edmunds, has dyspraxia and mild learning difficulties.
Far from letting this stand in his way the aspiring athlete has found ways around the difficulties he encounters.
Rhys said: “If I can’t do something the normal way I will do it my way. It will turn out the same it just takes me a little bit longer.”
When Rhys first designed gingerbread man shaped ornaments he struggled to paint the intricate eyes until he turned a pencil upside down and developed a new tool.
When not designing and making Christmas decorations Rhys can usually be found training to compete on the athletics track.
This year taking part in his first season Rhys came third in the 100m under 13s final at the DSE National Athletics Championships and fourth in the final of the 200m, beating his personal best by five seconds.
His dream is to be ‘the Usain Bolt of Suffolk’ and he is determined he will be on the track in Tokyo in 2020.
He said: “It’s not so much about winning it’s more running on the track, to get to run on the track. Winning is a bonus but running on there is what I want to do.”
Rhys said his success in athletics has increased his confidence and determination to succeed in other areas.
He said: “I used to give up quite easily where as now if I find something hard I find a way to do it.
“When I first started this season with warm ups I kept falling flat on my face because I just did not have that balance but now I have got used to it and it’s second nature.”
Despite his natural instinct for business Rhys said he would rather be an Olympic athlete than a dragon in the den.
Nevertheless, for the timebeing he’s committed to Wooden Ribbons and is already planning ranges for Valentine’s and Mother’s Day.
Rhys’ products can be viewed on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/woodenribbons