Why I’m pressing the reset button

You may or may not have noticed but I’ve been a little (OK, a lot) absent from my blog and social media lately. In the last six months my freelance work has really taken off and I’ve simply been unable to keep up with Social Butterflies. I started the website to create an online platform to inspire women in their professional lives and hosted two events to create a real life experience offline. It was (and still is) my passion project – so much so that it inspired me to take the plunge and become self-employed. But one thing I hadn’t fully appreciated before was the amount of work, energy and commitment needed to maintain a consistent online presence and build an online community (hats off to all the full-time bloggers and influencers!). I realise this a tad ironic given that I advise clients on digital marketing, but actually immersing yourself in it on a personal level gives you a whole different perspective!

Also, I have a personal confession to make: I became a bit fatigued with the whole Insta-Influencer-World. Now, I’m not knocking the positive side of community and campaigning – two of my favourite accounts champion this ethos (@doingitforthekids and @motherpukka). But here’s the thing – you can have too much of the same thing, and let’s be honest as Instagram has become bigger and bigger over the last couple of years so has the proliferation of trendy ‘themed accounts’ aimed at women. If I see one more post stating ‘Community over Competition’ or ‘Empowered Women Empower Women’ I may choke on my bagel. I never desired to be in the ‘in crowd’ so I suppose I took a step back and watched from a far.

So, true to its original purpose but inline with my newly established freelance business I’m going to review and redesign the Social Butterflies website and work out how I can merge all the great content I’ve created collaboratively with other women alongside my own business. I hope it will be a creative hub of inspiration that showcases female talent, shares useful information and helps to grow my business profile. Hopefully you’ll stick around to see the rebrand and redesign!

 

 

Work Matters: Cate Hamilton

Cate Hamilton is the founder of Babel Babies, a company which runs multilingual music lessons from birth to Key Stage 2. After graduating from Oxford University with a degree in English and Modern Languages, Cate worked in Paris and then in various jobs before becoming an English and French teacher at a secondary school in Glasgow. She now lives in Cheltenham with her husband and three children. I asked Cate about her experiences, plans for the future and who has inspired her to succeed in business.

How did the idea for Babel Babies come about?

After I had my first baby in 2010 I realised that babies are incredible at learning languages from birth, which was very inspiring after spending quite a few years trying to convince teenagers in Glasgow that French wasn’t a total waste of their time. At six weeks old my little boy was copying me saying ‘hello’ and I was speaking to him in French sometimes, but felt a bit strange doing that in case I confused him. Plus I also speak Italian and Portuguese, so I wondered if I should introduce all of them.  I started reading up on bilingualism and multilingualism, and at the same time I was discussing with a good friend from university which languages she would teach her new baby as she speaks Russian, German and Arabic. We decided to sing songs to our boys in lots of languages, keeping a blog of our experiments, and our NCT friends joined us too. After a few months our group outgrew my lounge and I decided not to go back to teaching in schools, but to see how Babel Babies might work as a business. We hired a room once a week in a pub, encouraged people to come and sing in many languages and stay for coffee, and it really took off. The combination of our musical approach and research into language acquisition is equally as effective for adults and children, and very different to how we learned languages in school: it’s a little language revolution!

What are your plans for the business in 2018?

After six years of working with families and young children, I’ve realised that the adults love learning the songs in different languages for themselves, as much as they appreciate the opportunity to start languages early with their children. This year I am recruiting a team of language revolutionaries to expand our sessions across Gloucestershire and Bristol, extending our age range from birth up to Key Stage 2 in schools, and introduce lifelong-learning sessions for adults and training for teachers too. For me it’s very important that Babel Babies avoids becoming yet another franchised children’s business at this stage of our development. We are all working together to create new materials, in a way that only teachers can – it’s an explosion of energy and creativity. I also want to offer a truly flexible work opportunity for highly qualified education professionals, who want to build up their hours of work alongside their other commitments, including their families. So, expect lots of new social events with a language twist – languages are for talking, after all.

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring business women?

Firstly, I think it’s OK to pivot. For a while I thought franchising quickly was going to be a good plan, but actually it made me very unhappy and since I started the business to fulfil a need in my own family, it was no good going off in a direction that brought no joy. Change of tack, and we are all so much happier. Secondly, surround yourself by positive people who champion what you are doing, and who really get you and the way your brain works. I’m collaborating with some other incredible business women who I’ve met through networking events locally and nationally. Women supporting women is an amazing thing, and if you find your crowd, you can really raise each other up.

Who inspires you in the world of business?

I’m a huge fan of entrepreneurs who are trying to make a difference to the world, whether on a small or large-scale. So I love the communities that Kate Starkey and Hayley Southwood have created with CheltenhamMaman and Southwood Social Hub. There is a lot of love and inspiration in their new approach to networking groups. Instagram is a riot of colourful and inspiring businesses, and one that really resonates with me is Mother Pukka because I love Anna’s honesty and her #flexappeal campaign is close to my heart. I’m also eternally grateful to my Dad for his steady business insight: sometimes I can get caught up in this week’s drama, and he helps me see how in six months/two years it’ll all pan out if I make choice A or choice B now. It’s good to take the long view sometimes, and not sweat the small stuff, which as a tired mamma of three, can be a useful reminder!


Are you a language teacher based in Gloucestershire or Bristol? Babel Babies is looking for talented linguists to join their team – to find out more click here: babelbabies.com/Blog, or email Sarah Wilkinson: sarah@swchr.co.uk.

babelbabies.com
facebook.com/babelbabies
instagram.com/babel_babies
twitter.com/babel_babies

How to build a beauty brand

I met Jenni Retourné, founder of Willowberry natural skincare, last year at a Southwood Social Hub dinner in Cheltenham but I’d already been using her Nutrient Boost Cleansing Balm for a while. I’d been looking for product that would cleanse my skin without drying it out and used natural ingredients, plus it meant I was supporting a small business. I asked Jenni to share her business story – it’s sure to inspire anyone thinking of starting up on their own.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’ve worked in the beauty industry for nearly 15 years – I started off in journalism at trade magazine Pure Beauty, first as Editorial Assistant then quickly moved up the ranks to Assistant Editor then Editor. I eventually left and set up my own marketing company, specialising in blog PR campaigns and copywriting for beauty brands. This was a success from the beginning and I ran this for about seven years.

But having worked with so many beauty business owners over the years, I would always think ‘I want to do what you’re doing’. So eventually I decided to just go for it and create my own natural skincare brand, Willowberry. I’ve always been about living your best life, rather than a safe life! I spent 3.5 years developing it while I ran my marketing consultancy, then in July 2017 it was finally ready to launch and I closed the marketing business. Since then, it has been a whirlwind as I work hard to grow the brand. I’ve been blown away by the customer, expert and press reviews we’ve received – it really makes it all worthwhile.

How did the idea for Willowberry come about?

It was a natural process that happened over a long time – I don’t remember one defining lightbulb moment. I wish I could! It’s like my brand’s tagline ‘Your Skin’s Wellbeing’. That really defined what the brand was all about; helping to nurture the wellbeing of your skin, for a healthy, radiant complexion. How do I not remember that moment happening?! But it really was a gradual effect as the process took shape – my interests, research and product development all naturally evolving into the concept of your skin’s wellbeing, rather than a lightbulb moment for a marketing concept. Actually, I like it better that way. It’s a more honest approach.

Willowberry Natural Skincare

My interest in natural skincare grew over time as I trialled hundreds of beauty products throughout my career – I began to notice that it was the natural products that made a real difference to my (then) irritated, dry skin. Plus, it was the natural products that would help improve the condition of my skin long-term, rather than just providing a short-term effect after the product was first applied to the skin. It was when I used a pure rosehip oil that I really realised that natural was for me – that’s why rosehip is a star ingredient in the Willowberry Nutrient Boost skincare range. It is such an incredible, powerful ingredient for the skin.

As I entered my 30s (I’m 36 now), I began to care much more about my health and wellbeing, and so this naturally had an impact on what Willowberry stood for. Good skin comes from taking consistent care of your body from the outside in and the inside out, so skincare, health and wellbeing are naturally intertwined. So I wanted to load my skincare with nutrients to nurture the skin from the outside in, just as you would feed your body with nutrients to nurture it from the inside out. Even though I am getting older, my skin is in better health than ever.

What challenges have you had to overcome?

I have learnt so much in the seven short months since launch. I naively thought that because I had already run my own business and because I already work in the beauty industry that I had it all sussed. But creating and building a brand is such a different process to providing a marketing service like I offered before, so it has been a huge learning curve. Creating and building a brand is a big old beast that you have to nurture and handle with great care!

Having said that, I am so pleased that my entire career history has led to this, because it has helped to create a strong foundation for the brand. I feel like this is exactly where I am meant to be. I really enjoy the journey of the brand that I am creating, rather than just thinking – ‘I’ll be happy once I’ve achieved X’. Even the hairy scary moments – it’s what make the good times feel great and you look back on the tough moments and feel proud that you kept on fighting.

What lessons have you learnt?

  • It is so important to create a solid foundation for the brand rather than chasing the easy wins that could be detrimental to the brand later on.
  • Always work with integrity and follow your gut – this is something I have always done and it really does pay off.
  • Know exactly what is happening with the finances in your business (if numbers aren’t your thing, you need to make it your thing!) – just because you have cash in the bank doesn’t mean you are making profit, so you need to know your numbers inside out.
  • Cash flow is king to be able to move your business forward.
  • Always put your customer first.
  • Make sure you are working ‘on’ your business not ‘in’ your business, so that you are leading the business down the path you want to take it, rather than it leading you. It is so easy to spend a couple of years working hard on tasks that keep you busy in your business but isn’t necessarily driving it forward, only to look back and realise once it’s too late.
  • I have a gorgeous three year old little girl so time is always of the essence, so I have learnt to prioritise tasks and have a laser focus to get stuff done.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people. I am a member of Southwood Social Hub and it is an incredible community of amazing women running their own businesses. Everyone is at different stages in their business and we all support each other and lift each other up. When you’re single-handedly running your own business these are the people that become your team, your tribe.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business woman?

Hone your idea, make a plan, then get started. It might seem like you have a mountain to climb, but you’ll never reach the top if you don’t start walking. Baby steps, and suddenly one day you will find yourself there. And it’s a darned good feeling. I’d rather try and fail than to never have tried at all.


willowberry.co.uk
instagram.com/willowberryskin
facebook.com/willowberryskin

How to harness the power of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing can often feel like a confusing minefield, it is increasingly, however, a huge aspect of digital marketing and one which should never be underestimated. As an independent brand who has seen the real and huge benefits it can offer, I wanted to bring you my top tips for working with influencers.

I am Gabi Cox, the founder of Chroma Stationery, an online business proving colour loving personalised and branded stationery for both individuals through my website and in bulk to fellow brands and businesses. Chroma is all about creating bespoke and affordable stationery that truly reflects the personality of you or your business.

I established Chroma Stationery whilst in my final year of university. It was a uni project and after putting hundreds of hours, countless all-nighters and a lot of stress into the brand, after graduating, I didn’t want to let it go. I decided to take all the work I’d created and launch the business ‘for real’, running a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise the initial funding I needed to afford my embossing machine and the first 1,000 notebooks. Since November 2014 I have sold to individual customers across 28 countries and in bulk to brands including ITV, Max Factor, Boots and American Airlines. The brand has grown from strength to strength with new team members, an office space and a lot of new products.

chroma stationery
Chroma Stationery’s products are fun and colourful.

One strategy which has been fundamental from day one has been our work with influencers. I started this with very little background knowledge or idea of how it worked but over the past 3.5 years have established an influencer marketing strategy which works; with social media and YouTube mentions from the likes of Zoella, Lily Pebbles and Louise Pentland.

TOP TIPS: INFLUENCER MARKETING

Plan
The amount of planning you put in before implementing your influencer strategy will directly effect how successful it is. Just some of the things you should consider include:

Micro vs major influencers?
It is easy to send out some samples or stock to all the top influencers, the ones with millions of followers. But if they and their audience don’t fit with your brand, it will be a waste of time. Instead, opt for micro influencers who reflect your own target audience. Often these influencers, although don’t have millions of followers, do have a very loyal and engaged audience.

Focus on engagement not followers
With the ability to buy followers, this can no longer be an accurate representation of someones success or real reach. Looking at a posts engagement (comments, likes etc) will show you how many people actually engage with an influencers work. It shouldn’t just be a numbers game but also about the quality of the engagement.

chroma stationery
Don’t expect content in return for a free gift.

Know their audience
Knowing the audience of your ideal influencer is crucial and shouldn’t be underestimated. Always do your research. Sending out your new leather purses to a vegan influencer is not going to be a good fit. Make sure that your brand aligns itself with the influencers you reach out to; this is so important to you both and helps to ensure a great partnership.

Build sustainable relationships
Working with an influencer should never be about getting as much as you can from them, for as little as possible. It’s about building sustainable working relationships between two businesses.

What is your budget?
There are two ways to utilise influencer marketing, paid and unpaid. Paid is more of a collaborative option, working together with a person to create content that promote your brand. Unpaid is where you send an influencer products for free, in the hopes or with an agreement to post about them. Knowing your budget and where this might limit you is key before getting started.

chroma stationery
Sending a personalised product shows thought and attention to detail.

Sending something for free?
Don’t expect anything. You are not paying the influencer for their time or effort, you therefore aren’t really in a position to demand content. You can work hard to create a product they’ll love, send it at a great time, cross your fingers and hope they love it enough to mention it (Hey Zoella!) but you can’t expect anything for free or be annoyed if they don’t post.

Approach an influencer as equal, fellow business person
Bloggers and Youtubers get a lot of hard press, with some not seeing the value, time or effort it takes to do the work they do. As a brand or business you should always work and interact with an influencer as a fellow, equal businessperson. You are looking to create lasting partnerships and working relationships not quick business wins.

The importance of personalisation
This comes down to both product and interaction. Sending a product which has a personalised touch or shows that extra effort has gone into it can make a lot of difference. With regards to interaction, do not blanket send out the same email or Insta message, copy and pasted to everyone you’d like to work with. Each interaction should be unique, thought out and on brand.

By doing your research and following just a few simple steps, you can really utilise & work with influencers for mutual benefit.


instagram.com/chromastationery
chromastationery.co.uk

Five things you need to know about trade marks

1. What is a trade mark?

A trade mark is your business identifier. It makes you stand out from the crowd of other businesses offering similar products/services. It can be many different things, usually it would be your brand name, product name, your logo, but it could also be the shape of your product, or even the musical jingle you use (think of the Intel sound). Anything that uniquely identifies your business/product/service; that your customers associate only with you and your business. It gives them the guarantee that they know what to expect when they see your trade mark. It’s how you know you’re buying your favourite coffee, or avoiding the restaurant chain that gave your friend food-poisoning.

2. Why do I need to register my trade mark?

Lots of business owners believe that having their domain name registered, a company name registered with Companies House, and a Facebook page is the same as brand protection. It isn’t. Those things give you some rights in the name you have chosen, but not much more than the paper they’re written on (literally).

Registering your trade mark gives you certain enhanced rights that you don’t get so easily with reputation-based unregistered rights, including the assumed right to use the trade mark.

It also gives you provides you with a tangible asset for your business. It is something you are then able to sell, to license, even to mortgage if you need to. It gives you certainty which in turn gives key people, like investors, certainty. You may have seen Dragon’s Den and noticed that one of the first questions a potential investee is asked is what intellectual property protection they have in place.

It also makes sure that you have protection across the whole country equally. So you can prevent those pesky copycats setting up in John O’Groats just as easily as preventing the people living next door.

3. How do you protect a trade mark?

In the UK, and in most other countries, you need to:

  • Know what you’re protecting (is it a word, a logo, is it in colour etc)
  • Know what goods/services you are going to provide and list them specifically
  • Know which “Class(es)” those goods/services are categorised in
  • Know who is going to own the trade mark, as an asset of a business it might be you personally, jointly with your business partner(s), a company, a specialist IP holding company, or your Granny.
  • Have the money to pay the fees.

Once you have the above sorted, you file an application with the government office, in the UK this is the UK Intellectual Property Office. They will then review the application and check it meets their requirements. If it does, it will be published for opposition purposes – this allows other people a couple of months to object to your application if they want to. Assuming no one opposes the application, the government office will send you a registration certificate and you will be the proud owner of a registered trade mark.

The whole process takes about four months if the application progresses without a hitch. Once the trade mark is registered the protection dates from the date you filed the application.

4. How much does it cost and is it worth it?

Using a professional will mean that you incur professional fees. Just like using an accountant, web developer etc. As with all professional services, the fees vary depending on the quality and complexity of the advice, the size of the firm you use etc.

On top of any professional fees, the UK government charges £170 for a trade mark application in one “class” of goods or services and £50 for each extra class. Classes are an administrative tool that the government office uses to identify what business sector(s) you intend to operate in. Most trade marks cover 1-3 classes.

In return for your fee, they process your application and if all goes well they issue a registration certificate. Your trade mark is valid for 10 years. Realistically most trade mark applications using a mid-priced professional, will cost less than £1,000 to register. That works out at less than £100 a year for the protection. Probably less than you’ll spend on stationery each year? I would definitely say it’s worthwhile.

5. Trading overseas

If you trade overseas at all, you should consider protecting your trade mark in all the countries you trade in, preferably before you start trading there. This includes overseas stockists and distributors (if you trade wholesale goods for example). It also should include your country of manufacture if that’s not the UK, especially if that’s where your trade mark is applied (e.g. textile goods made in Turkey or China). Trade mark rights are territorial, so having protection in one country is not sufficient to protect you in other countries. Your trade mark advisor can help you work out which countries to cover, and come up with a cost-effective strategy for protecting the trade mark where you need it.


If you have any questions, or would like further advice or assistance in protecting your trade marks, please feel free to get in touch with Clare. She offers a free 30-minute phone consultation which can be booked by emailing: clare@stanmoreip.com. There is also lots of information available on her website: stanmoreip.com.

 

Work Matters: Christabel Saul

Christabel Saul is the founder of the The Mother Maker, a curated online marketplace celebrating and supporting creative mothers.

Why does work matter to you?

As a mother, work matters to me because it brings freedom and  a sense of purpose outside the home. More importantly for me at the moment it’s giving me a creative outlet and an enormous amount of drive and personal achievement. After many years of being a stay at home mum, I realised how much I enjoyed working. I have always had a strong work ethic and would want my kids to have that too. Of course, money would be nice and some security that comes with that but that’s not why work matters to me. It’s about setting an example to the future generation. I want to show my kids that it can be just as important for the mother to provide for her family financially and that dad too can share in the family duties. Aside from being your bread and butter, finding work that you enjoy can be a source of happiness, fulfillment and an outlet for your creativity.

Describe in three words what professional success means to you…

Waking up HAPPY. I know that I have found professional success when I have found something I love doing. Success in financial terms would be great too. But that will come when you love what you do and work hard enough at it.

What would be your dream job/project/company you’d like to work for?

Oh I have so many project ideas. I am a bit of a dreamer really and a crazy woman who tries to do too much at once. But I would love to work on curating a coffee table book and collaborate with makers, designers, artists and photographers or a series of children’s books would be lovely too. I would also love to work on a series of exhibitions which I am quietly planning for 2018. I would love to also see next year be ‘a year of collaborations’ and put my design and illustration skills to use. Perhaps create a homewares, accessories or childrenswear collection under The Mother Maker brand.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

I have been so lucky with most of my jobs. At the age of 18 I took on a role as an assistant stylist which I thought was the coolest thing ever at the time and felt like I was following my dreams of working in fashion. It was a shame because despite my eagerness to learn and contribute, my boss was a bit of a dick. It did make life pretty miserable at the time. It was such a competitive environment and I spent a lot of my early years offering free work.

What did that experience teach you?

It taught me how important it is to be humble and kind to others and that egos don’t belong in any workplace. If you are kind and supportive to those around you, people will respect that. It also taught me to be more confident, and to be confident of your own self-worth.

What’s your proudest professional achievement to date?

I have always had a hard time with self promotion and being ‘proud’ of myself.  I guess my entire career journey  is something I am proud of and the skills I have taken away with me across all areas of business. I worked for a long time as a freelance costume designer and stylist and never quite felt like I got the big break or spent long enough getting that dream job on that multi-million pound production. I did however make the decision to have kids so plans for a career in Hollywood were put to the side. But I think my proudest moment would be launching The Mother Maker. If it wasn’t for having the kids I would never have found my dream job. I wanted something that would allow me to choose the hours in which I can work and the hours I can spend with my kids. Working freelance as a designer was great but I was inevitably staying late on set and coming home tired and exhausted and putting my family under pressure.  I also wanted something that would allow me the opportunity to work with other creatives bonding over the mayhem that is motherhood, school pick ups, order deadlines and I now get the chance to work with all these amazing mums who understand what it’s like to work flexibly . So after almost two years of loose planning and debating whether or not to go for it, in November of 2017 I finally launched themothermaker.com. An online marketplace and events company that sells a carefully curated selection of products made by independent mum run brands and artists. We also run workshops, markets and exhibitions to promote the work of these incredible mums.

If you could go back in time who would you seek career advice from and why?

Going back, I wish I was more informed about how important it is to find something that you love doing. I don’t know who I would have sought career advice from. I spent too long doing jobs in my early 20s without too much of a guidance on what my goals were. I would have loved a mentor who taught me this early on and how important it is to set goals for yourself. Oh and a fortune teller would have been ace too. Someone who could have given us 80s kids  an insight into the future and how it would affect the way we work. Times have changed so much since my 10th grade careers advice class. Technology has changed the landscape in the workplace and the sheer volume of information we are able to share. I mean as a business owner, if  I don’t know how to do something, I can just google it or post it on social media. I went to university but never finished my degree which I used to regret, but Google has taught me a lot.

Who is your present day career heroine and why?

That’s a tough one because there are so many inspiring women out there. Suzie de Rohan Wilner is the CEO of one of my favourite fashion labels TOAST and a celebrator of the arts. I met her earlier this year, and I love how she merges her love of art and literature with fashion. She’s an inspiration. Especially as she is a mum of two and a creative who has become a pioneer in business too. She also gave me the most profound advice #makeeverymomentcount which is our hashtag and it’s about acknowledging that the time you have with your children is precious and time that you won’t get back. Another one would have to be Holly Tucker. Her continuing support of small businesses is incredible and would love to pick her brain one day.

What words of professional wisdom would you impart to the next generation of women

Find a mentor. Take as much advice as possible from them. Don’t try and fit into a ‘box’ created by our society. Don’t just try and find a ‘job’ for the sake of it. Think about the lifestyle you want, your goals in life, and the things you are passionate about. Oh and always put yourself out there for new opportunities. You never know what may happen.

Have you ever considered trying something completely different career wise, if so what

The Mother Maker is a pretty big jump and for me is the beginning of a whole new career path. Throughout my time at fashion design school it was always my biggest dream to launch my own fashion and accessories label. But if i was to take a completely different career path, (which I can see myself doing in the very distant future when I am a little older and wiser) I would love to do something helping other people. I would love to be a Doula and maybe specialise in hypno-birthing and learn these skills. I would love to give women the ability to fight their fears, and to find the strength to have an empowering and beautiful birth. I was petrified of the idea of giving birth in the lead up to my first child being born and the whole experience was terrifying and scarred me for life. I almost lost my life and suffered with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that was only diagnosed afterwards. It was only until I met Joy Horner from Glastonbury, a private midwife and amazing woman who gave me the skills and strength and knowledge to have two very beautiful home births. It’s something that I feel is important to every mother, as it’s the beginning of their journey into motherhood. It’s a rite of passage for both mother and child. Joy ultimately unearthed an inner confidence and strength and I was able to knock back my fears, believe in myself and trust that I could do anything I put my mind to. That has ultimately shaped me as a mother, a wife and a woman striving for a career.  I would love to give this gift to another mum to be.

Work Matters: Claire Lowe

Tell us about yourself

I’m Claire Lowe a mixed media jewellery designer maker based in Exmouth, Devon. We relocated to Devon from London with our three children just under a year ago and have no regrets, living 10 minutes from the beach and the Exe estuary means we have such beautiful surroundings on our door step, the pace of life is much more suited to us and our family.

I studied for a degree in silversmithing, jewellery and allied crafts and graduated in 2005, the course was fantastic and in a great location at the top of brick lane in London. The course allowed me to experiment with a lot of different materials and processes and this is where I learnt to use resin which is a liquid plastic which sets once mixed.

Tell us about your business – how did it all begin?

After graduating I continued to make jewellery and set up my business progressing my graduate jewellery into a more main stream collection. This range of jewellery was based around tea. I used tea as material and an inspiration, pieces were made with silver and resin and the tea leaves were cast inside the resin with either a clear or white finish. The tea collection is still in production and quite often gets selected for exhibitions with a tea theme.

The business has grown and paused for each baby as they’ve come along but the beauty of making jewellery is I can pick it up and put it down around nap times, school runs and once the children are in bed. During the short pauses of making I really missed the physical process of making, being a maker is a huge part of who I am. During my degree I took a short teaching course to enable me to share my skills and teach others jewellery making. Over the years I have taught a variety of jewellery courses to adults and children.

What do you make and what inspires you?

The process of making inspires new designs and allows me to experiment and create new ideas and pieces, currently I am making a collection which focuses on 3 colours and a specific set of shapes. The mustard collection combines the colour palette of mustard yellow, white and grey resin with silver and oxidised silver. The teardrop shape leads on from the collaborative pieces made between myself and another jeweller. This collection is sold through art gallery shops, independent jewellery galleries/shops and online.

The business continues to grow as my designs develop and go in different directions new and exciting opportunities come my way, It’s really exciting to get a new outlet for my jewellery or to apply for an event and be accepted. Getting an invitation to take part in a specific exhibition is really rewarding too. I really enjoy having a brief to work towards so sometimes it’s good to apply for an exhibition with a theme which will then take my work in a new direction. As the children gown and I have more time to make I hope to take on more opportunities and teach more. Getting away from the studio is always healthy and I try to meet up with other makers and exhibit at crafts fairs so I can interact with the people who buy my jewellery.

In the past I have collaborated with a few other makers. I made a collection of Jewellery with Emma from Olive Rose Jewellery for a collaborative exhibition at Unit Twelve Gallery. Emma is a textiles jeweller so we combined her textiles with silver and resin to make a small collection of pieces. I have also worked with another textiles based maker who used escape and evade maps to make a range of homeware items, I made a collection of jewellery including earrings, cuff links and pendants. I would certainly be happy to work with more makers in the future to form collaborative pieces. I quite often tailor a collection around a stockist if they have a set colour palette in mind or their space would suit a certain collection of my designs.

clairelowejewellery.bigcartel.com

Work Matters: Vicki Smith

Tell us about yourself

I’m Vicki, I’m married to Chris and we have three children, Millie (4), Arthur (2) and Oscar (7 months). We live in Kent and I spend my daytimes as primary carer for the children. But in the evenings, I jump on the laptop and my work comes to life!

Tell us about your career story to date

It’s been varied! I left uni in 2005 and went straight into a graduate job in an investment bank – I just caught the end of the high rolling, big spending, pre-crash boom. It was fun. After about five years, I switched to the private equity world and continued my career in a male-dominated, high pressure environment. I absolutely loved the energy of the financial services industry. It is such a fast paced, dynamic environment and the adrenaline of pressure and stress made me feel alive. I always imagined I would be a career woman, but then Millie was born and everything changed.

Since becoming a mum, I have launched two businesses which fit around my primary role as a mother and full-time carer for the kids. My first business launched just over two years ago – I bought a baby and toddler class franchise after Arthur was born and we now have over 500 children attending classes every week across south-east London, Bromley and Bexley. My second business launched a few weeks ago For the Love of Mum is an online store selling practical but stylish products for mums.

for the love of mum

I was inspired to create For the Love of Mum whilst breastfeeding Oscar. I didn’t like the way my body felt; or that I had no control over when or how long I would next sleep, or that I struggled to get off the sofa and play with our older children. But I had a neon pink pouch which I carried everywhere with me, stuffed full of breastfeeding pads – this pouch used to make me smile, it reminded me of who I was and am. It made me think, that at a time when you are struggling to feel like yourself – the way you look, the clothes you’re wearing, the way you feel – perhaps surrounding yourself with practical products that reflect your pre-baby, independent style could make you feel better and more yourself. So I set about searching for products that were style-led and on-trend but also useful and practical. And so For the Love of Mum was born.

How has motherhood changed your professional identity?

Gosh – in every way! I always expected to be a career women, in the traditional sense. My husband and I had always dreamt and hoped to have a family, but those plans always included some form of childcare that would allow me to return to work. So it was a total surprise when Millie was born and it broke my heart to leave her at home – no-one expected me to be a stay at home mum.

Becoming a mum changed me in every possible way. So it was a huge leap to resign from my job after Arthur was born and commit to being the primary career. Having said that, I still had a work ethic and ambition that I needed to fulfil. I’m very proud of the two businesses I am building and how they both fit alongside looking after the kids – you’ll find me logging onto the laptop every evening once the kids are asleep.

Why does work matter to you?

I was bought up to believe women and men are equals. That women can achieve anything they set their targets on and certainly match anything a man can do. I have a deep-seated work ethic and personal ambition to work and create some form of independent income. But since having children, I’m very passionate about the work I do – hoping to support and nurture new mums, helping them to feel good and have confidence and belief in themselves.

What are your plans for the future?

I don’t know! At the moment I am following my nose, seeing where life experiences take and inspire me. My time to work is very limited and I want to enjoy these precious years with the children at home. But I’m also aware that as the children get older and spend more time at school, I will be looking to work more, challenge myself and see what I can create. So lets see…

Work Matters: Emma Paton

Emma Paton is a London based blogger at Finlay Fox, a kids and mums fashion and lifestyle blog. She also works alongside Ashlyn Gibson as Website Partner for creative family lifestyle store Olive Loves Alfie.

Why does work matter to you?

I had worked in fashion since leaving university (many moons ago) and have always loved the challenge of ‘working it all out’ in buying roles where often the training wasn’t very good and it was all about learning on the job. Plus I have always liked to be kept busy and I’ve always been a committed hard worker. Since having my second child I left my 9-5 buying role to seek more flexible working through my blog and as an online web partner with Olive Loves Alfie. Work still matters as I enjoy the creativity and stimulation it brings and I think its important that my children see a strong work ethic from both parents.

Describe in three words what professional success means to you…

It used to be money, happiness and career development but I would now say (post kids) it is flexibility, working with decent people who have a similar work ethic and creativity (sorry more than three words!).

What would be your dream job/project/company you’d like to work for?

I’ve always wanted to do my own kidswear range of Finlay Fox unisex clothing (…watch this space!). I’d also love to work with someone like Anna from Mother Pukka. There are so many fab brands I would love to collaborate with too – too many to list!

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

Probably working in a bar in Corfu, Greece in the summer holiday during university.

What did that experience teach you?

Aside from how to drink Long Island Ice Teas every night (!) – to try and have fun at work and some basic marketing skills but also that I’m not cut out to work in a bar!

What’s your proudest professional achievement to date?

Probably being promoted to Senior Buyer quite quickly after coming back from maternity leave after having Finn. But also starting my blog whilst still holding a full-time job.

If you could go back in time who would you seek career advice from and why?

I would loved to have had some career advice for my blog when I started a couple of years ago as I really went in completely blind. I got some fab advice from blogger Susie Verill more recently and only wish I had had advice from other bloggers before I started. I’m now trying to host monthly blogger meet ups so we can all support and advise each other.

Who is your present day career heroine and why?

I love what The Step Up Club are doing at the moment – instilling confidence and self belief. I am really keen to attend some of their networking events soon. I also admire Johanna from Raising Women who shares stories of like-minded women and I also really respect blogger Alison Perry who has just bought out a fab range of Podcasts with some interesting and inspiring mums – always good to listen to when you’re after some inspiration and motivation!

What words of professional wisdom would you impart to the next generation of women

Work hard, get as much work experience and make as many contacts as you can. You never know what it may lead to. Also lean in to those promotions! I hope flexible working will be more standard practice for the next generation.

Have you ever considered trying something completely different career wise, if so what?

I would love to be a photographer or a stylist. At least my blog allows me to dabble in some of this at a very basic level! I’ve also loved the idea of doing some more interiors based work.


finlayfox.com
instagram.com/finlay_fox

Niki Groom: Work Matters

Niki Groom, AKA Miss Magpie Fashion Spy, is an award winning fashion, beauty, food and lifestyle illustrator based in Bristol. Her passion for colour, print, trends and a background in fashion design informs her artwork and blog. I love the way Niki showcases a diverse range of female body imagery within her illustrations. She positively celebrates ‘real’ body shapes, sizes, disabilities and skin colours in a truly inclusive way.

Why does work matter to you?

There are times in the past when I’ve been in jobs I didn’t like and I craved a different direction, and if I’m honest on those occasions work was just about money and about climbing the ladder without really thinking why. But I’ve now managed to make my passion my job, and as a result it’s become part of my life. The things I like to do in my private life (such as travel, museums, cinema) all feed in to my work – it’s all intertwined. I can’t imagine not working, I certainly don’t think I’ll ever retire.

Describe in three words what professional success means to you…

Freedom, creativity, money.

What would be your dream job/project/company you’d like to work for?

I’d love to do range of clothing for a brand with my illustrations printed on to fabric. I was a fashion designer for years so it would combine all of my skills. I used to have a list of dream clients and I got to work with all of them and that taught me a lot. For me now it’s not about the brand, it’s about the people who work for the brand and how they are to work with. I don’t hold any brands high on a pedestal anymore (apart from Dries Van Noten!).

More than anything I would like to continue my work with Clinique, they are such a brilliant team to collaborate with and I hope that my opportunities with them will continue to develop.

I’m also always up for a challenge, so something totally new and a risk would appeal. I hosted Instagram Live on the Boden feed once whilst illustrating at the same time, it was great fun and I enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

niki_groom_photo
Photo: Remco Merbis: merbis.com

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

My first job after graduating with a Fashion Design Degree was as a receptionist for a company called RMC (Ready Made Concrete). It might sound like an edgy street brand, but sadly they just sold concrete.

What did that experience teach you?

I don’t have a passion for concrete, but sometimes you have to leave your ego at home and focus on paying the bills.

What’s your proudest professional achievement to date?

My window display for Accessorize went worldwide, it’s still the biggest project of my career and it was so exciting to see photos coming in from all over the world.

If you could go back in time who would you seek career advice from and why?

I wouldn’t change anything to be honest, I’m not one for looking back.

Who is your present day career heroine and why?

Oh I have many! Gill Button, who is @buttonfruit on Instagram is one. She was a commercial illustrator for years she is now an artist, and her work is incredible. Then Helen Downie @unskilledworker who started painting aged 50 and has just done a range with Gucci. The thing that marks these two out for me is that they are also nice people. Both will chat with me on Instagram even though we have never met. I find them both very inspiring women and I feel excited by their success. I don’t quite know what path I’m on at the moment, but they inspire me to just be myself and do what feels right.

What words of professional wisdom would you impart to the next generation of women?

Always be professional and diplomatic in the way that you communicate, even if it takes a whole day to write a response to an email. On, and don’t work for free.

Have you ever considered trying something completely different career wise, if so what?

I’m currently considering doing voice overs! I get so many comments about my voice on Instagram Stories and so I’m thinking it might be something to investigate to earn some cash.


missmagpiefashionspy.com
instagram.com/miss_magpie_spy