A week in the life of a Small Business Owner - Refugee Week.


I run Dr Zigs.  We’re a small toy manufacturing business that is first and foremost a sustainable and ethical company.  For me this means also focusing on the work that comes under our ‘Bubbles Not Bombs’ umbrella - working with Refugees and those in need.  This is a short diary of a week at Dr Zigs.  



I’m up early to speak on BBC News  about the flights to Rwanda and what impact this will have on Refugees.  I’ve been so relieved that last minute legal decisions means that this first flight hasn’t left.  As always I worry that I haven’t said enough.  

I’m in the middle of a restructure at Dr Zigs, I go in to work, our Bubble Factory, and it’s all abuzz with new systems and great energy.  Throughout the day we have members of our local community popping in with donations of clothes and sanitaries that we’re collecting as part of our work with Pobl i Bobl and local refugees.  

 We’re also working out how to ship Bubbles out to Bucha in Ukraine, to some Bubble Artists there who need equipment for their work with kids.  Few are shipping and costs are prohibitive.  I will look for alternative solutions. 

This is an incredibly moving picture that they sent.  Their town was on the front line, and the horrors have been unimaginable. 

Kyiv Oblast Bucha, Ukrainian Bubble Artists from Duo Magic make Bubbles over burnt out Russian Tanks that have been abandoned May 2022
Pic Credit - Duo Magic Play http://magicplay.com.ua/



With our restructure, new system set up and stocktakes, unsurprisingly work has gone on later than expected, so I’m late to our Pobl i Bobl AGM meeting - our local Refugee Support group charity that I chair.  It’s lovely to arrive and see everyone, a fab group of volunteers who have become friends over the years, and several new faces too.   

I’m super proud of being able to work with this group.  The achievements are amazing, over £8000 raised this year, tens of families and individuals assisted. And even though Brexit has seen us pivot completely from a group that collected and shipped aid - we’re now a hive of support and activity for those arriving in our local community.  


This morning I work on tweaking our new Bubble Mix - I’m working towards a fully plant based formulation, but am struggling with one of the ingredients.  It’s looking good in tests, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist.  And believe it or not at the moment it's all in how it pops!  



Our Facebook Memories has come up with some reminder photos of us collecting aid at Dr Zigs 8 years ago.  So much, and so little has changed.  The Pobl i Bobl WhatsApp is busy as usual - our local Sports Hall has kindly donated some court hours so one of our volunteers has been coordinating and supporting.  And one of our Syrian resettled families has given birth to a baby boy.  So lovely!  I wonder what it must be like to be so far from family and home.  


 This morning is Bore Coffi - a Coffee Morning Fundraiser.  It’s sooo lovely to see so many people turn up!  I’ve gone along with Ziggy, I think it’s so important for him to be a part of this too.  I’ve arranged to meet Kristina here, a lovely young girl from Kyiv, and we’re going to set up an online space on facebook so that arrivals and volunteers can share events, support, questions etc.  I sit with her and three other young girls recently arrived from Ukraine.   All so smart, in the middle of starting careers and jobs, all left family behind, all with visible trauma.  It’s hard.  And hard to know what to say.  



We raised a whopping £600 yesterday!  Really happy and so proud of everyone.  There is immediately a request for sanitary stuff for new arrivals, and our new baby needs a cot.  Great to be able to help.   We also get a concerning message from one of our resettled Afghan friends.  Whilst all refugees are allowed free travel on Transport for Wales at the moment, this works well only for white Ukrainian refugees.  Many transport staff are refusing this for other refugees, even with the correct paperwork.  It’s frustrating.  And very hard not to see it as racism.  We decide as a group to write several letters.  Again. 


Work is exciting at the moment.  Lots happening, new systems, new products, new website!  This morning we’re standardizing some of our Bubble Kits, which of course means testing and putting Charlotte, the latest member of our team IN a Bubble.   



The parcel for Bucha still sits in the office.  One of our Ukrainian friends have said that we may be able to get this out on some of the unofficial transport routes from Poland.  We’re waiting to hear more and I need to investigate.  As we have found over the years it’s the grass-roots organizations and people that really help us make things happen. 


 Product design day and some exciting new plastic free toys on the way for Christmas!  Crazy to work on this in the middle of summer, but also great to feel that we’ll be well prepared.  We’re talking a lot about the cost of living in the UK, and if we can make a toy for under £10.  And we’ve been working on our For Hire Kits.  Could we track a For Hire Bubble Kit as it travels across the UK this summer?  It would be fun! 

Train strikes are meaning we’re organizing lifts and transport for a couple of Refugees, one who needs to get to London urgently, and a second who needs to get to the airport to return to Ukraine to fight.  It’s hard, and scary to hear that.  Yet within hours a network of super stars has appeared to offer lifts and negotiate travel through Wales.  It’s heart-warming. 

I’ve reached back out to friends in Palestine as well.  We’ll hopefully be sending more equipment into the West Bank in the near future.  It always takes a lot of organizing to make sure that these Bubbles get to people who are on the ground and can really use them with kids.  


Website, blog posts and social planning meetings today.  All around ongoing work on our MRP (Manufacturing Resource Planning) system. Busy and exciting.  We also need to check stock that may be delayed getting in to the UK, and a pallet lost in transit on it’s way to France.  I take a call from the Department of Trade and Industry - they would like to nominate us to be Export Champions!  Exciting and funny considering how we battle the border restrictions most days! 

Office working at Dr Zigs on our MRPEasy system working out stock levels and Bubble Kit ingredients

The Bubbles for Bucha still sit on the desk.  We need to try and find out more, they are needed on the ground as the work with traumatized kids in the area continues.  Also I remember we need to track down pictures from Eid and the Bubbles that went out to one of the camps in Lebanon.  

We’re also all hoping that weather will hold, with Pobl i Bobl we have a big picnic panned for this coming weekend for all our resettled refugee families and volunteers.  

In the evening I take part in a meeting online organised by Mantell Gwynedd bringing together all the volunteer groups across North Wales.  There are so many good people out there doing great things!  

It’s always busy at Dr Zigs, and this little diary has been a great way to keep track of part of it.  Refugees are essentially people like us.  Who we are so proud to have as part of our community, but wish that we didn’t have to - that the world was different and that the were not fleeing war and political upheaval.  Our community here in North Wales is phenomenal. Kind, dynamic and so very welcoming.  I’m proud that we are a part of it.  

If you would like to support the work of Pobl i Bobl you can find our facebook page here

And be assured, that EVERY SINGLE BUBBLE KIT you buy from Dr Zigs will contribute to this important work that we do - locally here in Wales, and far beyond too.




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