‘I love where I live and want to see our towns thrive’

'I love where I live and want to see our towns thrive'
TN Card launches

With internet shopping de rigueur for most, and the added headache of escalating business rates and large chains slowly taking over the branding of our retail districts, this has meant we’ve seen a number of our favourite shops, independent cafés and bars either suffer a huge downturn in customer footfall or, worse still, have to shut down completely.

But, unlike most people who have just sat back and watched the demise of our high streets, one woman, Jessica Gibson, a mother of four, has decided to do something about it. So passionate does she feel about ensuring that residents in both Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge do not lose out on a local shopping, dining or family experience, she has recently launched the loyalty scheme ‘Thetncard’.

In brief, it’s a new customer rewards initiative that aims to encourage more of us off our screens or delivery apps and back out into our towns – hence the TN reference – to support shops, eateries and leisure services by offering a variety of enticing discounts, unmissable special offers and unique money-off promotions.

The idea for the card, says Jessica, who has a background in marketing and corporate events, is simple: “I love where we live, and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else so I want to see our two towns continue to thrive.”

Jessica Gibson in Jigsaw, who are Thetncard partners

Jessica and her husband moved back to the area in 2010 after a spell living in South Africa. “Since then we’ve lived in both Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge and have brought up our boys here. They are aged nine, seven, five and three. We’re now based in Leigh and my youngest is at preschool four mornings a week, so I’m squeezing the work into those hours – and catching up during the evenings!”

Jessica also runs a popular local parenting blog About These Boys, which boasts over 1500 followers on Twitter. Through it she also curates a regular series of parenting talks at EM Forster Theatre – last month saw Noël Janis-Norton, author of Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting, coming to speak about her parenting strategies.

Courtesy of this social platform Jessica has managed to create an impressive contacts book in order to set up Thetncard – which boasts an annual membership of £20, £2 of which goes to the West Kent Mind charity.

The lifeblood of our community

“Through my blog About These Boys I have worked with many local businesses, from reviewing family products and activities in the area to running competitions with our local shops. A loyalty card for Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge felt like a natural extension of this and a more tangible way of supporting our local independents – the lifeblood of our community. At the same time, I’m thrilled to be able to make a difference to West Kent Mind and to give local people welcome discounts at a variety of brilliant businesses right on our doorstep.”

The scheme started last month after two separate launch parties at Hotel du Vin and The Old Fire Station. Both venues kindly provided free room hire but Jessica has funded everything else herself, and although it’s only a matter of weeks old Thetncard now has over 125 businesses signed up. They range from Cycling Made Easy and the Shuffle House in St John’s to Carluccio’s, Closs & Hamblin, The Wine Rooms and Whirligig toy shop in Tunbridge Wells, to Nancy’s Tea Rooms, Havet and Gorgeous George giftshop in Tonbridge.

So with a decent number of both independents and chains signed up, have there been any actual challenges so far?

“I enjoy working for myself, but the biggest challenge is definitely time, particularly as the scheme has grown organically very quickly,” responds Jessica. “From conception to launch it was three months, and since then new businesses have been joining every day. The scheme appears to have struck a chord with companies keen to be involved in a community initiative such as this, and with residents who love being rewarded for supporting local.

“Our priority is supporting local independents. However, we have welcomed a handful of national chains known for their community focus, such as COOK, Jigsaw and JoJo Maman Bébé.”

Local heroes

Jessica says that the rate at which the business is growing is ‘fantastic’, but means she now needs to gather a team together so she is able to maintain Thetncard’s momentum. She is also keen to explain that although Tonbridge already has its own loyalty card scheme via the Tonbridge Town Team, she is keen to collaborate with them as opposed to create competition.

“Tonbridge Town Team’s Tonbridge Loyalty Card (TLC) gives shoppers the chance to win vouchers in a monthly prize draw. Shoppers can get their card stamped when they spend money with a TLC member business, and once their card is full they can submit their card for draw entry.

“Thetncard differs in providing instant offers for members who show their membership card. I have worked with Tonbridge Town Team to ensure the two schemes complement each other and many of our partner businesses participate in the TLC. If our members are collecting stamps they will receive two instead of one at TLC businesses.”

In terms of how Jessica has promoted her new venture, she says that word of mouth has been the best publicity. “It has really picked up as people get out and about using their membership cards.” She acknowledges that social media is a ‘fast, easy way’ of engaging with members and promoting the scheme, but ultimately Thetncard is ‘all about community’.

“We have an enthusiastic and highly engaged online community on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and therefore use these platforms to announce new business partnerships, promotions and events as well as last minute offers.”

2020 vision for Thetncard

Jessica says that 2020 is all about ‘spreading the word’ and ‘establishing ourselves in the community as a recognisable, trustworthy and honest brand’.

“I will listen closely to our partnering businesses and members, and gather feedback to find out their priorities for the scheme and adapt as necessary. I want to upgrade the website and introduce an app so that members can access their membership details and offers on the go more easily. And I’ll be working alongside West Kent Mind and local businesses to launch our member and business events.

“The scheme is all about community, about people. I love being out and about in our town centres speaking to our business owners, and hearing from our members on the deals that they’ve enjoyed. I’m also delighted to be able to support West Kent Mind, raising awareness about the charity and mental health issues as well as raising funds to support their incredible work.”

For more details visit www.tncard.co.uk

How does Thetncard work?

There is no cost to join the directory, but businesses need to provide a generous reward for our members – and choose an offer to suit them. In return, I will endeavour to ­introduce them to new customers as well as providing existing ­customers with an extra incentive to return. Businesses who sign up feature on Thetncard’s website directory, on our social media platforms and in monthly member newsletters.

Newsletters will keep participating businesses ­informed on what’s planned for the scheme and how they can get involved and showcase their product, and there will be networking events twice a year.

Membership, which costs £20 a year, with £2 going to West Kent Mind, unlocks rewards at independent and community-focused businesses in and around Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge – there are 125 businesses in the directory and counting.

In addition to purchasing membership via the ­website (www.thetncard.com), people can now sign up to the scheme at Biggie Best, Geography bar and ­Whirligig in Tunbridge Wells, and Flowers by ­Enchantment, Gorgeous George and Tonbridge Old Fire Station (TOFS) in Tonbridge.

Offers include two-for-one tickets at the ­Assembly Hall Theatre, complimentary drinks at Havet and ­Carluccio’s, discounts at Delaney’s and Fuggles, money off your shopping at Stampede and Bird & Blend Tea Co., reduced price entry to Crazy Jeans Soapbox Race in June and Kids go Free at Spa Valley Railway.

From the summer we will run exclusive member events such as wine tastings, private shopping events and pampering evenings with our business partners, in aid of West Kent Mind.

Thetncard is the first scheme to span both Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge, and independents in the villages between the towns.

In addition to selling individual cards, we are also ­giving local businesses the opportunity to purchase cards for their employees at a reduced rate. For ­business orders, we donate 20 per cent of the sale price to West Kent Mind.

It was important that our membership cards are environmentally friendly, so we are using cards made from Teslin, a fully degradable plastic alternative that starts to wear down naturally in nine months to five years.

Sweet charity

“West Kent Mind is a charity close to my heart. I have struggled with mental health issues myself and as a mother I’m mindful to keep a close watch on my sons. Mental health problems affect one in ten children, and boys are more likely to have a mental health disorder than girls until the age of 11.

I have touched on mental health in my blog and had been speaking to West Kent Mind regarding a future talk at EM Forster Theatre on children’s mental health, so when deciding to launch Thetncard I thought of the charity straight away. I’m grateful to West Kent Mind for embracing the idea at the earliest stages and providing encouragement and support in getting the scheme to this point.”

Did you know?

Jessica also writes a blog about raising her four sons and family life called About These Boys (abouttheseboys.co.uk) Through the blog she curates a series of parenting talks at EM Forster Theatre – last month saw Noël Janis-Norton, author of Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting, coming to speak about her parenting strategies.

Why I love Tunbridge Wells – Jessica Gibson

Where’s your favourite place to shop?

I love The Zero Waste Company on The Pantiles. They’re the first completely plastic-free store in Tunbridge Wells and offer refill stations on seasonal food, household goods and toiletries. Zero Waste Company were one of the first businesses I approached to join Thetncard, and they were as enthusiastic as I was about the scheme. Our members enjoy a 10 per cent discount on in-store purchases, excluding fresh produce.

And to eat out?

Family-run Il Vesuvio on Camden Road is my first choice, for their authentic and delicious Italian food and friendly service. They’re brilliant with my boys.

And for coffee or cocktails?

You’ll often find me in Tonbridge Old Fire Station enjoying one of Ben Sulston’s legendary brunches. I have as many business meetings as I can there.

Finally, where’s the best place to go locally in order to get away from it all?

With young children it’s not often that I manage to get away from it all! For our tenth anniversary last year my husband and I enjoyed our first night away in seven years at Hotel du Vin, which was heaven.


Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter