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Archive for the ‘Just for fun’ Category

Juggling act

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Running a business and being a mum really is a juggling act!  I’ve spent the day writing social media plans for next month, whilst I’ve got a roast in the oven and washing on the line.

For many years my business was my baby, I put my heart and soul into it.  It was my life.  But, since I became a mum (and step mum) things have changed.  I now have two babies to look after!  Most days I manage to do some form of work, but I’m often checking emails whilst building a jigsaw or reading a book to my little girl.

However, despite it being a juggling act I actually get the best of both worlds.  I can be at home and have precious time with my daughter, but then run a successful business as well.  So, how do I do it…

  • Be organised

My biggest tip is being organised.  There is no way I could do what I do if I was not super organised.  I have lists for each client and what we need to do, plans for social media, plans for advertising, plans for future plans.  I then have a weekly list of everything I need to get done that week with priorities, I even then have a notepad, where I write down what I need to do each day.  I know it sounds a lot, but when you’re juggling ten or so clients at a time, you need to write everything down and plan everything.

I also then have lists at home, shopping lists and lists of what we’re going to eat each day for tea.  I have a work calendar and also a family calendar, so everyone knows what they are doing and when.  My little one is only two and a half, so I think this planning is only going to stand me in good stead when she starts school!

  • Communicate

It is also really important to communicate well.  Not only does it help you to be organised, but it ensures my clients (and family) are happy.  I have a rule that I will always answer emails in 24 hours, or even just acknowledge people if I can’t give them an answer right away.  I also pick up the phone.  We often fire out emails when we’re busy and I’m guilty of that, but if I have something tricky to explain about a piece of work, or if I need a question answering urgently I use the good old telephone to sort things out – an art, which seems to be getting lost these days!

  • Support

Probably the key to my success is the support I have from family – particularly my Mam and mother in law.  Between us, we share the childcare.  If I have an important meeting to attend, I know one of these great women will jump into action, swap shifts and be there to help.  April goes to Pre-school in November, so I will have even more time to get things done!

  • Give yourself a break

I recently let things get on top of me.  I didn’t know whether I was coming or going and felt like I was doing a million and one jobs all the time with no respite.  It seemed like I put everyone at the top of the list apart from me!  I discovered a book called The Self Care revolution, which is fantastic and really gives you a handle on how to manage things, coping mechanisms, stress and how to ‘give yourself a break’.  I think we’re all too hard on ourselves to be perfect at everything whether that is work, motherhood, looks, ageing, weight loss and some times, we just need to take a step back and realise that actually we’re good at what we do.  We may not be perfect at everything, but we’re doing our best!

I now make sure I take some time out for me, cinema, spa days and a daily dose of Yoga.  Have a read…it could help you too!

  • Enjoy it 

The biggest thing is that I love my job.  I enjoy meeting clients, forming relationships, doing marketing and seeing projects come to fruition.  I also love being a Mummy (as most mothers do) and although I say I’m juggling, it’s not really juggling as it’s just life!  It’s what I do and I love it.  I get the best of both words, being a Mum whilst running a successful business.

If you are thinking of starting your own business and you’re a mum, I’d say go for it.  Yes, it will be hard, yes, there will be times when you want to go back to 9-5, but the rewards far outweigh the negatives.  There is no looking back!

Blogging: The King of Marketing! Why we do it and Top Tips

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Everywhere we look we are inundated with content; from fashion to food, content is king in 2017. A priority in your business development strategy now, no matter how new, old, small or big your company is, is to write blogs; we are told that blogging should be a priority in our marketing plans but why is this and how can you get on top of the game?

There are a number of reasons why blogging is important.

To start with blogging drives traffic to your website. Your blog gives you the opportunity to create relevant and interesting content for your customers and you can use this as a marketing tactic to drive traffic back to your website via your social media channels.

Communicating with your social media followers about blogs on your website gives them a reason to click through to your website and it is there where they find out more information about your business and what you can do for them! 

This brings us onto our next point, Blogs help raise brand awareness and are an avenue for you to communicate with your customer what your unique selling point is, why they should be interested in your company and also can showcase your market knowledge. Blogs have been rated as the 5th most trusted source for accurate information! 

This, in turn, builds a relationship and trust with customers and potential customers and keeps your communication with them strong.

(statistic sourced from https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/business-blogging-in-2015)

Our last point, but most definitely not the least, is that creating blogs for your website has tremendous Search Engine Optimism benefits. Fresh content is key to upping your search engine game! An important factor of SEO is to have lots of content as this helps search engines recognise that your website is a resource with lots of updated information – moving it higher up the search engine! The proof is in the pudding – 70 – 80% of users ignore paid ads and only focus on organic searches – these paid ads can be rewarding but the most valuable locations in search results have to be earned through blogging and SEO, not bought.

(statistics sourced from https://www.impactbnd.com/blog/25-little-known-blogging-statistics-to-boost-yourstrategy-in-2016

So, now we know why we blog – how can we get on top of the game? We’ve popped below a few of our top tips to help you with your blogging! 

You need to make sure your blog stands out! 43% of people admit to skimming through blogs, this means you need to use headers, videos, images and other visuals to make sure your blog catches their attention.

(Statistic sourced from https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)

Create blog content that is actually useful and interesting!  If it’s useful or interesting, people are more likely to share it on their own social media channels, increasing your reach further.

Google favours more in-depth content, the search engine sees this as providing more information than a short blog post – The average word count of top – ranking content (in Google) is between 1,140 – 1,285 words!

(Statistic sourced from http://www.searchmetrics.com/knowledge-base/ranking-factors/)

Your blog (and your website) need to be mobile friendly! Google, on average, gets over 100 billion searches a month, with more than half of these searches coming from mobile phones!

(statistic sourced from http://mashable.com/google-mobile-searches)

There we have it – now you know why we blog and top tips how to blog, there’s only one thing left to do – get blogging!! 

International Women’s Day

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

 

8th March is International Women’s Day.  This is a day to celebrate women in the workplace and to encourage every person – both women and men to play a part in helping drive better outcomes for women and helping to create a more gender inclusive world.

I have never personally felt that my gender has stopped me from doing what I wanted in life or in my career.  I guess I grew up in a changing world where there were more opportunities.  For my grandmother, this would have been so much different.  At that time they would traditionally have done domestic jobs or stayed at home with the children; not having the opportunities in education as I did.  I think we’ve moved on even more since I was at school and see lots of gender inclusive opportunities for children; including my step daughter playing football or the opportunities (or acceptance) she has to pursue careers that may have traditionally been associated with males.

Being a business owner I understand the challenges faced by those who run a business regardless of being a man or a woman.  And being a Mum now too, the additional challenges I face trying to juggle both.  I’m not sure there are as many Dad’s who stay at home to raise the children and run a business?

Running a business never really occurred to me as being an option when I was at school.  However, I recently read that women account for under a third of those in self-employment, but over half the increase in self-employment since the recession started in 2008. Between 2008 and 2011 women accounted for an unprecedented 80% of the newly self-employed.

There are now almost 1.5 million women self-employed which represent an increase of around 300,000 since before the economic downturn

Women account for 17% of business owners, ie. owners/ managers/ employers.  However, there is still a long way to go.

I feel passionate about being a woman in business, inspiring young girls and encouraging them to think about running a business as a future career.  I feel proud of what I have achieved and keep achieving (despite often sending emails with a baby on my knee or catching up on work at 10 pm).

I have always been inspired by other women in business and looked up to them.  People such as Jacqueline Gold and Karen Brady are my icons.  Closer to home my old boss, Liz Pugh at Walk the Plank was such an inspiration to me.

For the past 2 years, I have won the award for Sole Trader of the year at the North West Enterprise Vision awards.  These awards celebrate women and all we do in business.  I feel this award really recognises what I have achieved and the battles I face running my own business.  There are so many fantastic women in business that ought to be recognised and by having events like International Women’s Day and the EVA awards really highlights the power and influence women can have.

I hope that when my daughter enters the working world things have moved on even further – with more opportunities, equal pay and support for women’s advancement.

Loyalty Cards – what do we really get out of them?

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

So just recently when I decided to have my annual purse tidy out, I noticed the obscene amount of loyalty cards I have managed to collect.

From supermarkets to card shops, to eyebrow waxing and smoothies, there appears to be a loyalty card for almost everything. (And between my friends, family and I, we have them all!)

Concerned about my apparent loyalty card addiction, I asked some of friends and family to share with me their hoard.

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The ultimate goal for a marketer is to engage and retain customers. As the name suggests, loyalty cards are a popular way for businesses/shops/services to encourage loyalty or repeat business. These card schemes are big business for the companies that operate them. Not only do they encourage repeat business by creating competitive offers and point systems, but they provide highly valuable data capture, including accurate and detailed information on the spending patterns of their core customers.

As customers, whether it’s collecting stamps or points we all like to feel we are getting a good deal or even the odd reward or freebie. Just last week whilst shopping in Newcastle I redeemed a free smoothie – result! Why do freebies always taste better!?

However, if the frustration of having (like me!) a purse packed full of plastic is too much, there are new technologies being introduced to combat this. Apps such as Google Wallet and Apple Passbook will allow companies to mobilize their loyalty schemes. As we rely more and more on our technology, the demand for a mobile wallet has never been greater…

Enterprise Vision Awards – I made the shortlist!

Friday, July 10th, 2015

After keeping quiet for the past week, I can finally announce that I’ve been shortlisted in the Enterprise Vision Awards (or EVAs).  The awards recognise women in business from across the North West.

I have been shortlisted in the ‘Sole Trade of the Year’ category and as far as I can see I am the only person shortlisted in Cumbria – wow!

The next stage is to attend an interview with the other people shortlisted in Blackpool on 29th July.  I will be quizzed by a panel of judges, who will make their final decision on who should win the award.  Then I have to wait until September, where I will attend a prestigious black tie awards dinner at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

Now if you read by blog, you will know that I am usually used to organising these types of events and work away in the background, so it will be lovely to be able to enjoy the event…and who knows maybe win!  Watch this space!

Closer to the time I will need you all to get behind me on social media and vote for me to win my category – I’m counting on Cumbria to help me!

So, watch this space and I’ll let you know how I get on!

Wedding Fun – the joys of event planning

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

I am writing this blog post as I am on serious ‘comedown’ from planning my wedding and returning from my honeymoon.

Weddings are typically stressful for many people concerned – not only the bride, but mother of the bride, in-laws, bridesmaids…sometimes the groom?! However, working in marketing and events I have to say I loved every minute of organising my wedding. I planned the wedding from start to finish in nine months and I have to say I did myself proud and what a ‘shindig’ it was!

For me, I tackled it like I was planning a work event, but I can see how it would be really daunting for someone who doesn’t plan events. Where do you start, where do you get ideas, how do you make it original, how do you plan it on a budget? There are so many things to think about not only the big things like venue and dress, but the little things, like when do you send out invitations, to who sits next to who, or how many drinks to have at the reception and what time you do your first dance.

If you’ve not organised events before it can be a good idea to ask someone to help you such as a wedding planner (like WeddingsbyAnnabel) or a friend who organises events (moi). Get an idea of budget and leave plenty of contingency as you probably will need it! Once of the best pieces of wedding advice I got (post wedding) which is a real gem is to choose people who can help you with various parts of your wedding and think of them as your wedding team. I am lucky that I didn’t need much help, but think about how parents, the groom, bridesmaids and in-laws can help you pull things together and make your job easier, do they have great organisational or craft skills you can utilise.

In my great planning journey I started by using Pinterest and built up some (secret) boards for inspiration. I got loads of fabulous ideas and got a really clear idea of what I wanted. Share them with friends and show them exactly what you want. If you keep your ideas together and themes in one place it can help you really focus and know what you want. I wanted me wedding to be different from anyone else’s and to make it really memorable. A few things I did included: I decorated 150 glitter jars with candles that filled the venue, had emergency provisions in the bathrooms, heart garlands hanging from the ceiling, fairy lights, a gold glitter cake, love quote wine glass charms for the ladies, glitter hearts on the pews and pack of the chairs, posters in the toilets, video diaries, made a music video with my husband’s little girl as a surprise…and the pièce de résistance was a silent disco!

Set a budget, but be realistic. Weddings are so expensive. I don’t believe in spending loads on weddings as I have other things to spend money on such as my home and family, but you will need to have an idea of what you want to spend in mind and stick to it (biggest tip…contingency as you will not stick to what you budget!). If family can help you out fabulous, but you may need to be really resourceful to keep costs down. Luckily I have lots of local contacts who were able to help out…think about whom you can ask and if you have any skills that you can return in favour to them as well.

Plan your time – think backwards about what you need to do and when. This is how I plan events….work backwards from the date you have in mind and think about what you need to do and when. Create a week by week spreadsheet and tick off jobs when you have done them. It may seem a bit weird treating it as an event, but it really does work!

Finally when it comes to it, relax and enjoy it. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to switch off from event planner mode, but picking an amazing venue with great staff really helped me and they looked after everything, so I didn’t have to worry about a thing.

I put all my effort into my wedding and didn’t get stressed about it at all (apart from the day before when I had a technical nightmare with a projector). The day was amazing and perfect in every way and I wouldn’t have changed anything about it! When people come to you after the day and say it is the best wedding they have been too I feel it is testament to how much I enjoyed doing it, but also to my business and made it all worthwhile…I want to do it all again!

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Social Media – #neknomination madness

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Have you seen the #neknomination videos going round?  Amazing how an idea can catch on and take hold.  We have certainly seen some creative videos in the Penrith area, but apparently this started in Perth in Australia.

What is #neknomination?  Well, basically it is a global video chainmail where you nominate your friends to ‘down a pint’ – however it has been taken to the extreme with people doing all sorts of random things such as dressing up as women, being filmed in the shower or on the toilet, jumping off bridges, or downing custard..not just downing a pint.  It is like everyone that does it needs to go one step further to better their friends.

There have been some extreme cases in Australia with people ‘necking’ their drink whilst driving, or doing eye cringing things to their bodies.  Someone in Australia even got arrested by the police from their video!  Some people say these videos are encouraging young people to drink stupidly; particularly if it is a famous person not wanting to be outdone.

Do you think #Neknominate is harmless fun? Or is it promoting the wrong kind of drinking culture?

I personally think it is boys being boys (though there are some odd girls in the equation) – this probably happens most Saturday nights once a group of young lads get together – I’m not sure it will turn them into hardened drinks; in fact it appears that most can’t ‘neck the pint’ and just do it for a laugh.

Anyway, it is just another prime example of how an idea online can take off and grip the globe.

If you’ve not seen the videos – check out some of the best online here  – even the ex-Prime Minister of Australia gets in on the action!

My morning with Val Armstrong on BBC Radio Cumbria

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

This weekend I was invited along to BBC Radio Cumbria to discuss the Sunday Papers with Val Armstrong.  I have done it once before, but I was actually a bit nervous before this one, I’m not sure why because as soon as you walk into the studio Val makes you feel so welcome.

Initially you are presented with the days papers and have to scour them quite quickly for some topics, which you find interesting that you can discuss with the guests, but that are also going to be interesting to the listener.
I think I had a good bunch of subjects this time round…

1 – The first subject was regarding an article about students, who pay around £9,000 a year for university courses, but are not satisfied with them.  After surveys were undertaken they say that they feel they are badly taught, the lecturers are disengaged or not interested in the subject and they don’t feel like they’re learning what they should.  This is so disappointing to hear.  I was once a student and took on the burden of student debt, however I graduated 11 years ago and the fees are a lot higher now.  I would be so disappointed to spend thousands of pounds a year to not get good value for money or to not be taught what I was expecting.

There seems to be lots of regulations for GCSEs and A-Levels and we hear lots about results and standards in the press, but there doesn’t seem to be the same level of regulation for degrees?  If you took a service off someone and didn’t get good value or what you were paying for you would certainly complain and I think this should be the same for students.

I was lucky to get on a great course and learnt so much; I was also an eager student keen to learn and made the most out of my time at University.  Let’s hope that after students spend all these thousands of pounds on education that they feel they have learnt what they should and leave equipped with the skills and knowledge to excel in their chosen field – god help us if they don’t and they are let loose on the working environment!

2 – My next subject was the age old subject of shopping around for a good deal, but this time to do with mortgages.  We might always take the easy option of sticking with a lender for years or walking straight into our banks and taking the first mortgage that is given to us, but the next article I read encouraged people to shop around.  Lots of the high street lenders dazzle people with low rates and too good to be true deals, but when you dig down there are many high fees or advanced payments in the small print.

The message was to look closer to home or on the internet.  I have recently purchased a house with my partner and we did just that.  Staying local was particularly important for me.  Being self employed it can often be harder to get a mortgage when you don’t have traditional pay slips and P60s.  However, we approached the Penrith Building Society who was able to help us and allowed us to buy our dream home.  It was great to have someone direct to talk to, know you could pop into branch and get straight through on the phone rather than to a call centre in another country.  It was such an easy process and the customer service was great – with no hidden extras.

I would always encourage people to use local businesses as the experience can really help save you pounds.

3 – At this point my head was hurting – well it was early on a Sunday morning, so I decided to talk about Downtown Abbey.  You may think it seems the easy option to talk about TV, but it was particularly topical as it was coming back onto our TV screens that night and had also been nominated for several Emmys.  Val and I were very excited indeed to see it back on the TV after a nine month break and a whopping cliff hanger.

It seems from the papers as well that Downton Abbey has taken the USA by storm with celebrities falling over themselves to make guest appearances or film parody’s of the drama – there are even a Simpsons and Sesame Street spin offs!  It seems that the quintessentially British drama not only captures the heart of our nation, but the hearts of our overseas friends as well.  There is just something different about Downton Abbey, great storylines, gossips, scandal and sex as well as a bit of fun and it is great to see how the characters develop over time.  I am certainly looking forward to this series.

We also spoke about Steven Hawkin copying the workings of a brain onto CD to help eternal life, the murder conspiracies over the death of Princess Diana and the issues of mental health and how TV star Martine McCutcheon has overcome these over the past seven years.

Reflecting Health event for Penrith Chamber of Trade

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

I run the Penrith Chamber of Trade events and every other month we have a B2B event, where members can show us round their business, give a presentation or tell us about what they do and industry developments. On Tuesday 7th May Jane Lumley of Reflecting Health gave a talk on keeping fit for business.

I have to say I was fascinated. Jane is engaging, informative and knowledgeable. It really made me think about alternative ways of staying healthy. She talked about all the various ways to keep healthy, but how after years of studies a lot of ailments can be down to the lack of water. I don’t drink tea or coffee and only drink water (apart from the odd glass of two of wine) so hopefully I keep myself hydrated and put this down to my good skin and healthy nails and hair.

However, Jane then went on to talk about muscle testing and this is where it got really interesting. I’d never heard of this before and it was fascinating to watch…you could see her adding up in her head and diagnosing people – whether they were dehydrated, lacking in vitamins etc. So, when she asked if anyone wanted muscle testing my hand shot up.

She asked if there were any areas I would be interested in. At the moment I am unable to exercise and waiting for an operation, so I wanted to know if there were any other ways I could compensate this. She told me that for me it was one simple word ‘movement’. She told me to sit on one of those exercise balls while I work or watch TV. You constantly move while sitting on them, but only a fraction, which can help posture. She also told me to put things up high in the kitchen, so I have to stretch to reach things.

Jane also said to everyone she would recommend we all take fish oil and vitamin D…so armed with all this new knowledge I am going to test Jane’s theories for 2 weeks and see if I feel any different. A exercise ball has been purchased, vitamins are on the list and everything in my kitchen has been moved up (my boyfriend thinks I’m nuts) Watch this space and I will report back…

Bells of Lazonby event with the Chartered Institue of Marketing

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Today I went to a really good event. You know the kind where you’re not 100% sure what to expect, but it turns out to be really interesting and informative.

It was an event put on by the Chartered Institute of Marketing – I jumped at the chance to attend as it was in Cumbria and not many of the events come this far ‘Up North.’ I’m also undertaking my CPD so it was a great way to add some hours to my record to show I am continually developing my knowledge as a marketing consultant.

Anyway, I found this event so interesting. A presentation was given by Michael Bell, Director of Bells of Lazonby about how they have grown over the years, since 1946. He spoke about how they have developed, the techniques they use, how they market themselves and how they have had to grow with trends in the industry. Most notably how they identified a gap in the market and began developing Gluten free products. This is now a huge part of their business as there are not very many people who produce Gluten free cakes. It appears one of the main reasons for this is because it such a complex area of development…they even have a separate factory where the Gluten free products are made to ensure no cross contamination.

It appears that ‘Free From’ products are big business, but require a huge amount of investment. Mr Bell was very passionate about his business and continuing with the traditions that made Bells of Lazonby what it is today. I certainly picked up a few ideas and thoughts about how to think about new ways of marketing in the food industry. I certainly learnt that no business can be build without passion, dedication and drive from their owners!

Mr Bell was a very nice chap and on saying goodbye I was very impressed that from my surname he knew who my family were; my Grandad worked at Bells of Lazonby years ago and it is also where my Dad trained as a baker; with Mr Bell Snr buying my Dad his first car…not many bosses would do that!

Even better we got to take away some samples yum yum!