On Wednesday 5th July I hosted an event at The Forge, owned by Silke Lloyd (pictured right) in Bristol with businesswoman Hayley Southwood (pictured centre). The evening was an informal talk and opportunity for local women to make new business connections. Hayley inspired us all with her career story – the highs and lows. I wanted the event to feel informal and intimate and everyone was encouraged to ask questions. We then tried ‘speed networking’, which wasn’t as bad as it sounds! The idea was for everyone to make three new connections over the course of 15 minutes, and it worked surprisingly well.
It was the culmination of a journey I’ve been on for the past six months and it was lovely to share the experience with so many wonderful women. I started this website initially for two reasons: to connect with like-minded women who felt passionately about fulfilling their career ambitions after becoming mothers; and as a way of showcasing my digital skills in preparation for going freelance. What I hadn’t bargained for along the way is that it would become much more than that. It has become a community, a platform to showcase inspirational women and share our knowledge and experience. The best journeys take you to an unexpected destination and I’m happily embracing the twists and turns.
I’ve had my confidence lifted and my aspirations raised by connecting with these women online, but what’s made it really special has been creating an opportunity for those women to meet in real life. Social media is a powerful thing and its possibilities are truly empowering, but nothing beats the human touch and last week’s event proved that there is a real appetite for people to meet, chat (and drink fizzy). I’ll keep you posted of future events, but for now I hope you enjoy looking through the photos captured by my photographer friend Jessica Siggers (@porthjess).
You’ve probably heard the terms bitcoin and blockchain but have no idea what they mean. Don’t worry, when I met up with Helen Disney, founder of Unblocked Events, I had to politely ask her explain it to me (really simply). In layman’s terms bitcoin is a digital currency and blockchain is a public ledger listing all bitcoin transactions. Helen is a female entrepreneur in an industry dominated by men, but she’s on a mission to make blockchain technology accessible for a non-technical business audience with her new company Unblocked Events, which is a hub for events, education and information.
Tell us about your career and how you became interested in blockchain technology
My career has been largely based around influencing ideas and generating public debates. I started off working for a think tank in Westminster, looking at how to reform public services like the NHS, education and welfare to try to make them more responsive to their users. I then used that experience to go into journalism as a leader writer for The Times and a contributor to other newspapers and magazines. I wrote about everything from pension reform to the MMR jab, drug courts and the ‘Metric Martyr‘. After leaving The Times I took the leap into launching my first business which was a pan-European hub connecting think tanks and policy institutes. But after I had my children I started to crave a change into something new so I took a break from being a full-time CEO to think about what I wanted to do next. Into this gap, fell an opportunity to work on content and fundraising for a major European conference about the digital currency, bitcoin. It was during that project that I first started learning about what blockchain was and becoming excited about its innovative potential.
Can you explain to the uninitiated what blockchain is and what it can do?
Blockchain is the technology that underlies digital currencies like bitcoin. But it’s also more than that. You can think of a blockchain as a bit like a gigantic secure, decentralised database – imagine a Google spreadsheet shared by multiple users all able to access an accurate, real-time shared version of the information. This is useful because it allows many different sorts of innovations and improvements in existing business operations, but also opens up the chance for completely new business models. Imagine, for example, that you could access a hotel room using a smart key and never need to check in at the front desk or that you could trade excess energy from your solar panels automatically with local neighbours who need it and earn money from doing so, or that charities could automate responses to humanitarian crises and get money or supplies directly into the hands of those who need it at the touch of a button. All of these applications will become possible thanks to blockchain in combination with other new technologies like smart devices and smart contracts.
What prompted you to setup Unblocked Events and what are your plans for the future?
Three years after first learning about bitcoin, I founded Unblocked Events to share my learning and connect with other professionals wanting to gain an accessible understanding of this technology and build the new business services of the future. I felt that I had experienced a steep learning curve, as someone who is neither a programmer nor a financier and that most events out there about blockchain were aimed at these two groups. I see blockchain as too important not to be talked about at a level that the so-called average person can understand. By creating Unblocked I am building a wider community of interest in blockchain outside of simply financial services and acting as a bridge between the technical and non-technical worlds. Blockchain has a variety of applications in different sectors from healthcare, to energy, to philanthropy, to provenance of goods and so on. To me, it makes more sense to bring in real world examples and help people to understand what this technology can do for them, rather than getting overly bogged down in jargon.
Which women in business inspire you?
I’m particularly inspired by women who are pioneering in traditionally male-dominated fields, especially those who are honest about the difficulties of managing a personal and professional life, and having an online presence in the era of trolling. I tend to prefer Twitter for technology and political news and Instagram more for the creative side of life.
In tech, I follow Meltem Demirors who is an expert in the digital currency and blockchain field.
Healthcare Unblocked Event: 13 October in London. It will look at how blockchain is set to transform healthcare in a whole variety of ways from improving the integrity of clinical trials, to changing the way healthcare insurance operates and allowing us to take charge of our own medical data.
Who said you had to stick to one field of expertise in your career? Certainly not Helen Farmer, a freelance writer, editor, voice over artist and family celebrant. Originally from the UK, Helen lives in Dubai with her family and writes an award-winning blog called The Mothership. She writes about the highs (and lows) of being a working parent living abroad. Helen shares her career story and proves that being a mum needn’t restrict your career options.
Tell us about yourself
I knew from age 14 which degree I wanted to do, and tailored all my education options and weekend jobs to getting on it: a Broadcast Journalism course at the University of Leeds, where all of the tutors were current BBC employees, and work experience took place at the same studios where Countdown was filmed. It was competitive to get on, and even more so once I was there, with stressful projects and my fellow students frequently in tears in our ‘newsroom’ (this is back in the day when we felt lucky to have a room with internet access). I quickly realised that this wasn’t for me, and my first job was in print, working on a small magazine in Northumberland where I was both writing features and selling ads. I learnt a lot about both disciplines – fast. Afterwards came a stint in PR and marketing, working for one of my property clients. Then came a move to the Middle East age 24. In truth, it was a choice between moving abroad and moving to London – and Bahrain scared me less than the capital. Classic Northerner!
I worked as a copywriter in an advertising agency before moving to Dubai with a rather regrettable ex. Thankfully, while the relationship didn’t last, the UAE has been a fantastic place for my career. For three years I worked for a guidebook publisher, writing and editing books for expats all over the world, before launching their website. Next came three years as deputy editor on an entertainment magazine, where we worked hard, but enjoyed the best the city had to offer, from concerts to dining, plus interviewing visiting celebrities and reviewing hotels all over the world. I stayed with the same publisher and was promoted to editor of a new magazine, one I was able to be instrumental in creating, that’s all about normal life in an extraordinary place. We supported small businesses, sought out inspirational people and created a really feel-good title that I’m immensely proud of to this day.
And somewhere in there I met my husband and got pregnant with my first daughter and starting blogging, launching a website called The Mothership. I went part-time when she was a year old, then a few months later decided to go freelance, focusing on the blog, writing for other titles, working as a voiceover artist and start training as a family celebrant, allowing me to create and conduct wedding blessings and baby naming ceremonies. Something of an eclectic mix.
It’s been a year since I went freelance, and I wouldn’t change a thing (apart from the unreliability of payment). My blog has been nominated for (and won) awards, I’ve written for some of my favourite magazines, and I’m loving my work as a celebrant. It also allows me more time with my toddler and newborn baby. Yes, it’s chaotic, and there’s always something for me to be doing, but it’s working.
How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?
I’ve always written, so starting The Mothership was really just a way for me to deal with the newness and weirdness of being a mum. What has followed, however, has been fantastic, and one of my favourite parts is the social media community I’ve built – I’m all about those ‘me too’ moments in parenthood, the ones that make us feel less alone and less mad. That it’s okay to admit that you don’t love every second. Digital technology has also been really helpful for the celebrant side, from brides connecting with me on Instagram to having Skype meetings with couples from all over the world.
What are you tips for managing a multi-faceted career?
I love a routine, so after nursery drop off at 8am, the mornings are for work, then it’s pick-up, and more work during naps, and then it’s family time. I usually meet brides via Skype or in the evenings, then weddings take place in the afternoons – the first ceremony I did was a month after giving birth, and my mum was in the hotel lobby with the baby in case I needed to breastfeed her!
Helen is following…
Anna Whitehouse AKA Mother Pukka: we met in Dubai (her husband was my editor) and we all became friends. I really admire how she’s using her platform to promote flexible working in the UK, and doing it with a sense of humour. And I really respect her transparency when it comes to working with brands and doing sponsored posts. She’s a breath of fresh air – and I can’t wait to see her at a wedding in September. Mummy bloggers gone wild…
I did a yoga class with Jessamyn Stanley (@mynameisjessamyn) last year, and it changed the way I think about exercise. She’s truly inspirational, and has made me feel less self-conscious about being the biggest girl in the gym. Her Instagram feed is full of laughter and advice, and I’ve started doing her Every Body Yoga video classes via an app called Cody.
Meet Jessica Rogers, a professional coach who helps women who run their own businesses. She shares her career story, coaching tips and suggests some great women to follow.
Tell us about yourself
I started my career in marketing children’s entertainment brands and went on to manage well-known toy brands such as Star Wars and Transformers. I liked my job to an extent and I was successful it but I always felt like there was something missing, it never felt quite right.
When I had my first child, whilst negotiating my return to corporate work, I started seeing a Life Coach, it was through this process that I decided to do some coaching training as self-development. After my first month I realised that I loved it and I was good at it, I had found the ‘thing’ I had been missing for a long time. So I quit my job and threw myself into the training. I started my coaching business working with women returnees in large businesses as that is what I knew and I felt well qualified to help these women.
Now, I coach women who own and run small businesses that they are looking to upscale. We work together to clearly identify what they want to achieve and the practical steps they need to take to make it happen. I also provide interactive workshops and coaching sessions for women returnees as part of the TechPixies programme.
I’ve also always had a yearning to work with young people – I started off coaching and mentoring unemployed young people on a south-east London housing estate. Over the years I have coached young people in and out of education, now I do project work for a local group of colleges working with students who have been identified as being “at risk”. This work is really important to me as I feel that giving young people the space that coaching provides can set them on a positive path of self-awareness and taking personal responsibility for their future life and career.
How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?
When I first started coaching nine years ago I saw most of my clients in person, partly because I went to see them in their place of work but also because some people felt uncomfortable about not being able to see me. Now, whilst I still do a lot of phone coaching I also coach by Skype and FaceTime, which has meant I have a wider range of clients in a wide range of locations.
I have a bit of a love hate relationship with social media, I love the connectedness it brings and I love finding new people to engage with, but I hate putting myself out there. When I ditch the fear and do it I love what happens but I have some blocks around it that I am working on!
What are your top coaching tips for women?
Be true to yourself – always: don’t waste time comparing yourself to others – “plow your own furrow”.
Trust your gut: if something doesn’t feel right it usually isn’t despite how attractive others may want you to think it is.
Surround yourself with the right people: those who inspire you to aim higher and who have your back.
Jessica is following…
Jenny Garrett: I have known Jenny for about four years – we met on Twitter! Over the years she has been my coach and I have taken her self-development courses and attended her Happenista retreat. Whenever I have any contact with her she never fails to inspire me with her lovely manner and wise words.
The Step Up Club: I love how these two women give positive useful tips for everyday life in a stylish and accessible way.
Meet Amy Rom, a former teacher who retrained as a health coach after having children. She brings a unique and honest approach to helping others achieve a healthy relationship with food and maintaining a positive body image. Amy shares her career story and tips for nurturing a healthy mind, body and soul.
How did you become a health coach?
After embarking on the first of innumerable life long diets while still at primary school, it’s fair to say that my battles with food and my body have shaped most of my life. It wasn’t until I was fast approaching 40 that I finally decided that enough was enough.
I have two young children (now 6 and 8) and I wanted to do all I possibly could to prevent them from wasting their energy fighting similar exhausting battles with body image. The best way to prevent this happening is to prove that I can be happy, healthy and confident in my own “imperfect” body. So I started reading, learning and soul-searching until I reached a place where I now feel more comfortable in my own skin than ever before.
I took a career break from my previous teaching role in order to raise our two children, and just as my youngest started school, I decided to put my experience to good use by embarking on a change of career. I’d felt so empowered by the lessons I’d learned that I wanted spread the message far and wide. I knew that I’d be able to offer a slightly different perspective to many of the other health coaches out there, because I look nothing like your average yoga toned health coach! I have a wobbly, 40-year-old, size 16 body and I wanted to prove that if I can make peace with my body, and lead a healthy and happy life, then anyone can!
My thirst for knowledge hasn’t yet been satiated and I’m now embarking on a Psychology of Eating diploma – something that I’m very excited about!
What are your top tips for women who want to regain a healthy relationship with food and their bodies
Nurture yourself I love the concept that we should treat ourselves as we would a small child: eat good nutritious food; offer ourselves words of comfort, love and encouragement; get plenty of sleep; and try to get some fresh air every day!
Social media detox Try to distance yourself from diet culture and instead cultivate your own happy social media party. Speaking from personal experience, it really helps if you start following accounts which showcase real, every day bodies. Women of a similar age to you, complete with wobbles, lumps, bumps and stretch marks. The more you are exposed to these body types, the more you appreciate that they (and you!) are totally normal. The media has dominated and twisted our view of female bodies for such a long time that we now have to work hard to redress the balance.
Crowding out, not cutting out We could all write a book on the foods that the diet industry tell us we should cut out. But once you start concentrating on all of the things that you can’t have, you automatically feel deprived and hard done by. So try shifting your focus. What goodness can you crowd IN to your diet? You’ll find that by just making this one simple mindset shift, your food options are suddenly abundant and the world looks like a much brighter place!
Feed the soul We all know that in the real world, food isn’t just fuel; it plays an important emotional part in many aspects of our culture and pretending that it doesn’t is a waste of time. Take the time to really notice and appreciate how the food that you eat makes you. Most of the time food is nourishment for your body, but there are also many occasions when it becomes nourishment for the soul – and that is totally legitimate! But likewise when we are missing fulfilment in other areas of our life, we sometimes try to fill the gap with food. Pay attention to what really lights you up.
Ditch the inner bitch This is something that I talk about A LOT, because I believe it’s so important! So many of us are trapped in a perpetual cycle of negative self talk which does nothing but make us miserable. If your best mate came and told you that her new man was talking to her in the same way that you talk to yourself, you’d tell her to get out of that abusive relationship quick smart. Notice when that inner bitch is piping up and make a conscious effort to silence her. Tell her to shut the f**k up, and then find alternative words to fill the gap – a positive affirmation that you can memorise and repeat to yourself works a treat.
Dana Falsetti: a plus size yogi who makes me realise that all yoga poses are accessible to me, I just have to practice.
Through Happilicious, I offer a one to one coaching programme which can take place face to face at my office in Truro, or via Skype. If you’d like to find out more call me for a chat to see if coaching would work for you.
I’m also preparing to launch an online programme where you’ll be able to work at your own pace through a range of materials. If this is something that appeals to you, why not join my mailing list for all of the latest Happilicious updates? You’ll also receive a free seven-day challenge and e-book with other top tips.
If you’re looking for a body positive online body positive community, come and join my Happilicious Living Facebook group which is a private and safe space in which like minded women discuss their successes and trials and share tips, articles and support. We’d love you to join us!
The beginning of a new year is a great time to think about how you want to look. Give your wardrobe a refresh and ensure you’ve got clothes that work for your lifestyle and make you feel good. Here are a few of my simple styling tips to help you smash 2017.
As a Personal Stylist I am always telling my clients about the importance of colour. Wearing the right colours for your skin tone, hair and eye colouring can instantly make you look younger, more radiant and healthier by diminishing lines, blemishes and dark circles, bringing definition to your features and defining your bone structure.
So many men and women opt for black as it is the safe option, goes with everything, think it makes them look slimmer and doesn’t show the dirt. However not everyone can wear black. It can be draining, cast shadows and have a negative and ageing impact. I think black can be boring and dull – if I am wearing black on my top half I will usually glam up with a slick of red lipstick, add statement jewellery or a bright accessory. Most Personal Stylists offer colour analysis as part of their services if you want to find out your most flattering colour palette. Wear colour and shine!
Dress for your body shape
I love fashion and follow the latest trends but I know that not every look will work for me. The high fashion trends we see on the catwalks always diffuse down to the high street in a more wearable look but they still aren’t for everyone. I strongly believe in style over fashion and dressing for your body shape.
Look at your figure, identify your body shape and recognise your best bits to draw attention to and the areas you want to distract from. Don’t be governed by fashion, only wear the trends that are flattering for your figure.
If you love it, buy it!
When personal shopping I always have a plan of action, a list of what my client needs and a targeted approach but actually I’m all for impulse buying too. Sometimes you just spot an item and know it is right for you, in which case if you love it and can afford it, definitely buy it. Most of my favourite things have been bought on impulse, snapped up instantly with no regrets as I know it’s ‘so me’.
If you love it, wear it!
Don’t keep clothes for best. Think of how you can work the items you love and been complimented on into your every day wardrobe. You deserve to feel fantastic all the time so style them up for any occasion. Dress down your favourite dress with a denim shirt over the top. Team those killer heels you bought for your Christmas night out with jeans and a jumper. Wear that summer dress you love also in the colder months layered with tights, boots and a leather jacket. Think about making your wardrobe work harder and wearing your favourite clothes in different ways.
Show your personality
Does your style reflect who you are? If you are stuck in a style rut and need inspiration think of a celeb or someone you know whose style you admire and look at what they wear and how they put together an outfit. Pinterest and Instagram are a great source for style inspiration. Also consider making an appointment with a Personal Stylist. They are no longer just for the rich and famous and will save you time and money in the long run by teaching you how to dress for your colour and shape and avoid making fashion mistakes in the future. They will pass on tips and styling hacks to freshen up what you already have in your wardrobe too.
Add interest to your outfits
Look at how you can implement updates to the clothes you already have in your wardrobe and show your personal style. Experiment with different ways to wear your clothes.
Play with cuffs: roll up sleeves to show off your wrists, a flattering part of a woman’s body and show off bracelets. It’s also fun to layer different sleeve lengths in colder months.
Play with collars: colour on coats and jackets can frame your face or undo an extra button on your shirt to open up the neckline and reveal your décolletage or a layer underneath.
Half tuck your tops: tucking a t-shirt in on one side is a way of adding a little definition to your shape and creates a relaxed look.
Turn up your jeans: experiment with cuff thickness depending on the style of jeans and the shoes you are wearing.
Wear your accessories
In my opinion jewellery doesn’t get worn enough. So many of my clients have beautiful items stored away never to be seen. When I ask why, they say it’s either too special or stored in a way that it is forgotten about and not considered when putting an outfit together. Belts are a great way to tie a look together and highlight your waist. Scarves add a pop of colour or a different texture and can be worn in so many different ways. Quality accessories can make a budget outfit look expensive and unique. If you pay attention to the details you’ll achieve a high-end look for a fraction of the price.
Lucy Eastment is a Personal Stylist who lives in Bristol with her husband and two children (aged 4 and 2). She runs her own business Styled By Lucy and works with men and women of all sizes, shapes, ages and lifestyles using colour analysis, wardrobe consultation and personal shopping. Lucy offers simple solutions for everyday style problems and inspires her clients to look good and feel good, even when juggling family, work and social life.
Lucy’s career story…
“I was a PA for many years but when I returned to the office after maternity leave I decided it wasn’t for me and if I was going to be away from my gorgeous babies I wanted to be doing a job I loved. I was always a wannabe fashionista keeping an eye on trends and I was often asked by friends, colleagues and even strangers in the street about my style and where I bought my clothes so I looked into a career change as a Personal Stylist. I trained with Style Me Training Academy in London, following that I became the Bristol based Personal Stylist for Style Me and have since launched Styled By Lucy. I absolutely love my job and feel so lucky that I have found a vocation that I am passionate about.”
Lucy on social media…
“I have found that potential clients look at websites to find out about services and prices but they want to know more about you and see your personal style before they book. I have a website and Facebook page but it is Instagram that has really helped me grow my business. I use Instagram to show my own personal style and Instagram Stories when I’m out and about to show great buys I come across when I’m out and about in the shops or looking online. I find selfie taking all a bit cringe but I’ve had great feedback from my Instagram page and I’ve been told by clients that my visuals are why they have chosen to book with me rather than other Personal Stylists in Bristol.
Lots of my clients use Whatsapp to keep in touch with me. If they are out shopping or trying on outfits at home and aren’t sure about something then they’ll ping me a photo for advice. Likewise if see a killer outfit I know would suit a certain person I will snap it and send via Whatsapp instantly. It is a great way to connect again with previous clients and easily show them new looks and how to update their wardrobe whilst I’m on the go.”
Lucy is following…
@chloelovestoshop: “My Instagram fashion crush is west London fashion blogger Chloe, a classy mum of three who shares her daily outfits. I love how she mixes high street with designer. Her Instagram Stories are full of good buys and a glimpse into her world which is the reason I look at her Instagram account every day.”
@selfishmother: “Molly Gunn mother of two with another on the way is the founder and editor of selfishmother.com blogzine, sells #goodtees through thefmlystore.com to raise funds for charity and is a freelance journalist. The super mum has also recently opened The FMLY Store a funky shop in Bruton, Somerset selling her iconic slogan clothes and other lifestyle and homeware brands and hosting events. I have paid the shop a visit and loved the vibe and the welcoming family feel.”
@lenaperminova: “I follow Russian model, socialite and mother of three Elena Perminova for style inspiration but mainly for extraordinary luxe life ogling. She flaunts her lifestyle and wealth with a feed of dreamy couture dresses and exotic family holidays. Elena is the founder of the first global Instagram charity auction for her childrens charity @SOS_by_lenaperminova with donations from fashion houses and her high profile friends.”
Meet Charlie Male, the self-titled ‘Chief Rocker’ at Rockbox, an independent business that sells stylish and beautifully curated gift boxes. If like me you struggle to find original gifts for friends and family then these thoughtfully themed boxes are the perfect solution. You can even personalise your box, choosing from a range of covetable goodies. We asked Charlie to share her story so we could find out a bit more about the woman behind the business.
Tell us about yourself
I launched Rockbox just over a year ago, although it was a few years in the planning. The initial inspiration came in 2012 when Mr Rocker and I moved to Singapore. Whilst this was the most excellent adventure it was very far from our favourite people and their celebrations. Maintaining connections became even more important and I wanted to still send beautiful gifts that felt like I had chosen and sent them myself rather than something generic and impersonal. I struggled to find something that really hit the mark and the idea for Rockbox started to form.
We’ve moved back home to the UK in 2014 and the next life event hit – Mini Rocker was born adding another dose of (fabulous!) chaos. Time became precious and gift giving became a last-minute rush or (more often than not) totally forgotten. What I needed was a stylish yet effortless gifting solution and in 2016 I was able to put my ideas into reality and haven’t looked back since!
Before Rockbox my career has mainly been in aviation (I’m a bit of a secret plane geek!). Being in aviation has given me the opportunity to travel to some amazing places and work with some great people. I met Mr Rocker whilst working at an ‘orange’ airline where our eyes met over a check-in desk. I love to travel (I am an airport geek too!) and I have a wandering spirit, although currently my feet are firmly planted on the ground in a little village near Buckingham. I have a daughter (aka Mini Rocker) who is nearly three and Baby Rocker is due in July this year. I could live on sushi and cold beer with a large gin chaser although all three are currently off the menu until July so in the meantime I am a tea and cheese addict!
How are you embracing digital media to promote your business online?
As Rockbox is an online gifting service digital media is hugely important. Our website is our shop front and it is essential that this represents the Rockbox brand and provides a strong indication of the level of quality you can expect from our gifts. We are continually reviewing the website to identify opportunities for improvement to ensure our customers have an easy and consistent shopping experience that totally rocks!
Social media has been a huge part of the journey. Rockbox is a very visual product and it is important for potential customers and suppliers to be able to get a visual sense of what we offer and what our brand is all about. I use social media to not only promote the brand but many of my current suppliers have been sourced through Facebook and Instagram. I have built a great network of friends because of interactions on social media and get so much support from this community – it’s amazing how people you have never met in real life become your go to tribe!
What are your tips for aspiring businesswomen?
Never underestimate how much time social media will take if you intend to actively use it to promote your brand. You need to clearly define your social media presence – how do you want your posts to look, what do you want to say and make sure that it really represents who you are and what your brand is all about. Take time to plan your posts and think about what is important to share and what will engage your followers.
What are your personal favourites from the Rockbox collection and why?
I genuinely love all the our products and spend a lot of time researching the brands that I work with and the products that I offer. A particular favourite however is ‘Lazy Days’ (see photo below). As a busy working mum, I often need encouragement to take time out for myself and I believe that this box is the perfect way to get someone to put their feet up and chill. I love seeing people send this as a gift to their mothers, sisters, daughters, besties to encourage them to take some much-needed time out. The ‘Sleep’ box (see photo above) that we launched as part of our first Mother Day campaign is also a favourite and I just love the Tom Lane Alpaca bed socks – they are one of our best-selling products and I wear mine constantly!
I am a huge fan of our ‘Rock Your Box’ service where customers can choose from our selection of products to make a customised box for their favourite rocker. I absolutely love being able to offer this and it has been a very popular choice with our customers – the ability to create your own Rockbox to suit your budget and the style of the person receiving the gift really enables the customer to feel in control of their gifting decisions whilst still letting us do most of the work.
Charlie is following…
Hayley Southwood @hjsouthwood: inspires me with her infectious enthusiasm for women and business. She is a great support and is all about building women up and working together to achieve fabulous things.
Etta Loves @ettaloves: Jen is massively inspirational – she has launched a super cool brand whilst working full-time and caring for her gorgeous mini rocker Etta. I love watching her brand develop and evolve.
I attended Blogtacular last weekend (a blogging and online conference in London). Rather than write a blog post detailing my thoughts on the event I thought it would be fun (and a good way to test out new skills) to try my hand at recording a Podcast. I used the Opinion App on my phone, so bear with the quality. I think it sounds OK and it goes to show what you can do with mobile technology these days (record, edit, overlay music and share).
The Step Up Club is a fresh, new voice in the women’s career conversation. We are here to celebrate all women – whatever your job. The two of us sit at either ends of the creative/corporate spectrum: we know that it’s just as valid to aspire to career contentment, as it is to want to become your company’s next CEO. We are the authors of the newest women’s career manual: Step Up: Confidence, Success and Your Stellar Career in 10 Minutes a Day. Through our stylish events, online content and newsletter, our aim is to make women feel empowered, boost their skill set and broaden their network to really love their work and life.
Phanella is a former lawyer and banker who retrained as an executive career coach, working (alongside The Step Up Club) on women’s leadership and diversity with all kind of big companies as well as individuals. Alice is a former fashion features editor at The Times, Marie Claire and Red, who alongside The Step Up Club continues to write freelance for many of the broadsheets and glossies. Between us we have five children and live in North West London.
How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?
Getting our message out there has definitely been enabled by social media and digital technology. Our book, of course, exists offline and contains a huge body of content, career workouts and advice. But without our blog and social feeds, it would be that much more difficult to get the more personal element of support out to our community of women – many of whom can’t make it to our events in person. We are working on a full online programme to reach and connect these women, but in the meantime we rely on these other channels to have an impact.
It is hard, when Instagram and similar feeds are bursting with edited images of life perfection from all corners of the world. It takes a mind of steel to remain completely unmoved by this – but as we say at the start of our book, finding success (and when we talk about success, we do so with a view to all facets of life) is about celebrating our own uniqueness and not allowing ourselves to have the lives of others impressed upon us negatively. Sure, it’s brilliant if other women inspire us to reach our own goals, but it is also important that we stay true to our own beliefs and values, which is why we spend a lot of time helping readers (and attendees at our events) unearth theirs. We like to refer to values as the hashtags of our lives: we can’t get away from social media, but we can let it help us guide us towards our own success.
What are your confidence building tips for women in business?
We feel passionately that confidence is an integral part of career success, fulfilment and enjoyment. Confidence turns our thoughts into actions, it is the emotional driver that we hold within ourselves and women do tend to struggle more acutely with confidence levels. Why? Because our internal thoughts, the ones that make us empathetic, kind, unique and brilliant, also have the capacity to hold us down. Who hasn’t succumbed to the voice inside their heads that says we aren’t good enough, or that that other person is much more capable? Of course, everyone has these thoughts but when we allow them to feel comfortable within our heads – when we let the proverbial devil dwell for too long – it has a negative impact on how we feel, how we function and in turn, how others respond to us too.
Confidence is not innate, which means that we all have the capacity to change our internal rhetoric and in turn, build our confidence. Also, in our book, we explore fully the practical tips that you can employ to also improve your confidence levels from the outside in. Neither will happen overnight, but if you can break the negative belief cycles that dictate your thoughts, and implement some positive physical changes – standing bigger, speaking more slowly and taking the time to really listening, all of us can become a more confident, self-assured version of your current self.
Finally, we believe that each of us is uniquely brilliant. We each have our own unique definition of success and if we play to that – no one else’s – then we will feel more confident about our careers.
Alice and Phanella are following…
Style Me Sunday: We love Nat’s no bullshit message, incredible sense of style and massive smile. She is gorgeous inside and out. We are especially loving her Friday finger slot.
Cherry Healey: We’ve both been watching Cherry on TV for years and she brings the same sense of humour, openness and honesty to her social feed and in real life.
We send out a weekly newsletter with loads of career advice, our latest blog posts, first dibs on our event tickets – they often sell out here first – and (coming soon) discounts on our favourite work related brands. At the moment we’re giving away an exclusive excerpt from our book that WILL help readers define their personal success when they sign up. Just follow this link: bit.ly/SuccessGiveaway.
Meet Helen Baker, a former primary school teacher who pursued her creative passion and retrained as a fabric and soft furnishings designer after becoming a mother. We asked Helen to share her story of career reinvention and her tips on how to style your home office space.
I’ve always been a creative person and I grew up making things on my mum’s sewing machine, playing around with any left over fabrics we had at home. Over the years I learned from my grandmother and mum, who would often be running up a pair of curtains or creating cushion covers, constantly making home improvements. My home has always been important to me and became even more so when I was on maternity leave, nearly 10 years ago. I wanted my surroundings to look as good as I could whilst I was spending so much time at home with a baby. After my second child, I found returning to work as a primary school teacher increasingly difficult – trying to balance work and family life, having no time left to be creative. I decided to leave my teaching career of nearly 10 years to be with my two sons, then aged two and four years. I went on to set up a small sewing business that I could work around the children but soon came to realise I enjoyed the designing more than the making.
In 2015 a change in my husband’s job meant a move from Cornwall to Wiltshire. Whilst renovating our new home I was searching for fabrics that weren’t too feminine, floral or fussy (I’m the only female in our household) and wanted something that suited all ages and genders. Frustrated that I couldn’t find what I wanted, I looked into how fabrics are designed. I took an online surface pattern courses, taught myself digital illustration and read as many books on fabric design as I could. Throughout this learning process I was constantly refining my design principles which I narrowed down to being nature inspired silhouette designs, shapes that everyone can recognise and relate to. I sent off my initial designs to be printed onto fabric which I then made into roman blinds, cushions and lampshades for our home. I was so pleased with the results that I wanted to take the fabric design further and create my first collection.
Growing up and living in Cornwall has always been a big influence in my life so I was drawn to create a contemporary coastal inspired collection – a far cry from the clichéd nautical knots and anchors that we so often see. I wanted the designs to reflect modern-day Cornish life. Designs include ‘Cornish Clouds’ and ‘Surfboard Scallop’ in colours such as Atlantic blue and Saffron yellow. From talking to people I heard how so many people have connections with the coast and how it evokes many happy memories. I wanted people to have these positive feelings everyday within their homes through a subtle nod to the coast, whether they lived by the sea or not. This is my debut collection titled ‘You can take the girl out of Cornwall…’, my story in a nutshell. It is family friendly and gender neutral to fit with how modern families live today, increasingly in open plan spaces. My aim is to create fabrics and home furnishings that fit the needs of everyone.
STYLING TIPS FOR YOUR HOME OFFICE SPACE
We live so much of our lives online, whether it’s working from home or online banking, we all need a comfortable space that allows us to concentrate on the task in hand. With so many distractions at home it’s crucial to create the right working environment. So here’s a handy guide on how to style your home office.
THE RIGHT SPACE: To create an effective home office it has to be somewhere you actually want to be, ideally with lots of natural light. This could be a separate room or just an area within another room but a designated area is preferable to the kitchen table otherwise you will be constantly moving your work to make room for meal times at the table.
DESK: Any sort of surface can work. From small desks to large worktops, as long as you can fit all the items you need, you can make any space work. The key is to keep things organised and keeping extra items to a minimum to avoid unnecessary clutter, wall mounted shelves are perfect for home offices.
CHAIR: Is it comfortable and at the right height? Two important factors that can really effect how long you are able to sit comfortably at your home office. I also recommend having an easy chair nearby for times when you don’t need to be at your desk but nearby, taking a phone call for example, or enjoying a drink away from a screen.
ACCESSORIES: Cushions are my go-to home office accessory. They not only look good and show your personality but they provide comfort and can boost your sitting height if needed. Keep everything you need for your home office nearby so it can be easily accessible and tidied away.
INSPIRATION: Keep whatever inspires you nearby. This could be books, photos of your loved ones or an inspirational quote, but think about where they can be displayed, on a wall instead of taking up room on your desk, perhaps? Peg boards and picture shelves are an easy way to restyle items that inspire you.
PLANTS: They create fresh air and are soothing to look at, perfect for a home office. I would suggest a small plant for a small desk or again you could think about having it on a shelf or nearby rather than on your actual workspace.
GET CREATIVE: It’s your space so make it work for you! By using colours, accessories and items that you love, your home office will reflect your personality and will become a space that you love spending time in.
Helen is following…
Phillips Kay @recipeforflowers: sells the most beautiful wild and seasonal flowers from St Agnes in Cornwall, the village where I grew up. Her bouquets often include foraged snippets from hedgerows and she can send these blooms anywhere in the UK. Her Instagram feed is a floral feast.
Alison Bick @alisonbickdesigns: a friend, inspiring business woman, talented designer illustrator and creator of generally lovely stuff. I love seeing how her business and design style has grown from strength to strength over the last few years.
Mari Andrew @bymariandrew: an amazingly perceptive illustrator. Her work captures modern life and how we cope with everything that’s thrown at us. She is authentic, inspiring and has a great sense of humour.