Find your inner goddess

Meet Lizzie Astin, the creator and founder of The Goddess Body Formula, a 12 week transformation programme for busy women.

Tell us about yourself

I started my career in recruitment, working long hours, sitting on my bum, drinking too much and eating badly. Seven years into my career, aged 29 I was dissatisfied and frustrated I decided to chuck it all in and re-qualify as a Personal Trainer. I started my business in 2015 at a mainstream gym and very quickly developed a reputation for getting the best from clients with fun sessions and an inspiring attitude.

lizzie aston

By 2016 I had carved a niche as a Transformation Coach, working only with women who really wanted to overhaul their physical health. I started to develop the foundations that would later become the ‘Goddess Body Formula Programme’. In 2017 I moved to a private studio in Bristol, I launched the online version of the The Goddess Body Formula and rapidly built a new client base of women who were all going through major transitions: divorce, babies, marriage or milestone birthdays.

What motivated you to start your business?

I started my business in 2014 for two reasons: I wanted to do something that mattered and truly made a difference and I wanted to do something that allowed me the opportunity to choose to live life on my terms.

Having lost 15% body fat and three stone I went through a serious transformation. But it wasn’t just my body that changed, everything changed. I actually cared about myself for the first time in a long time and I started to make empowering decisions. I gained weight because I didn’t care enough not to, I ate crap, drank too much and didn’t exercise. At first it was my changing physically appearance that provoked me into changing my habits, but that wasn’t enough, I couldn’t stick to anything and I didn’t know how to undo all the damage. In 2012 my mum was diagnosed with cancer and suddenly I did know what to do. I made it my mission to live as the best version of myself, starting with my body. I became fascinated with mindset and personal development and started to apply these principles to physical training – the results were incredible.

When I was angry, I worked out, when I was sad, I worked out, when I was happy, I worked out. I had an outlet – an empowering habit and I was addicted. My new-found passion allowed me to be a better person for her. Not being comfortable in my own skin had consumed me, made me selfish, snappy, fragile and self-absorbed, now I felt vibrant, energetic, strong, I had faith and belief.

In 2013, I quit my job and qualified as a Level 3 Personal Trainer. I didn’t really have a clue about running a business but I figured if I brought the same enthusiasm to my clients that I had for my own training and I gave them the benefit of my experience then things would change for them too, and they did.

lizzie astin

I spent two years working in a gym, business was flying but I was exhausted, delivering 30 hours of one-to-one training, fitting in my own workouts and all the planning outside of the gym was too much, the level of service was in danger of being compromised. I knew for me to carry on serving at that level the business model had to change. I moved to a private studio and the Goddess Body Formula online was born. The programme gives all the practical advice, mindset, nutrition, workouts and support I give, but it is delivered remotely and can be done from the comfort of your own home. I still work with clients one-to-one, but space is limited.

I built the majority of the online content for my programme whilst down in Cornwall caring for my mum full-time during the final four months of my mum’s life. The cancer got her, she never gave up and I won’t either. I came back to Bristol in April 2017 and moved into the new studio, taking on just a few clients and giving myself time to heal too. I work with up to 10 clients face to face at a time and take on 2-4 new clients each month. In addition to formally launching the Goddess Body Formula online I will also be launching my podcast which will be a combination of tools, tips, insights, stories and interviews to support and guide your journey to a happy and healthy body for life.

How are you embracing social media to grow your business?

Instagram is hugely popular in the fitness industry and it is very possible to develop a huge following using this platform alone. However, I have my misgivings about it! I do not deny that aesthetics are a big motivator for many and can be empowering, however, to focus solely on that misses the point and can create feelings of low self-worth. I am all for a bit of body ‘inspo’, but I want to make it inspiring for the right reasons, there are too many fitness models with low body fat, fake boobs and fake lips. I use Instagram to share the journey, to encourage my followers to fall in love with the process and show case the results I have helped my clients achieve.

Facebook is a great tool and they are always developing the platform for business owners. I have a private Facebook group called the Goddess Body Community which is a safe place for me to share my own journey and the journey my clients are on. In this group I offer practical advice as well as theories and stories that inspire and motivate my members. I use my business page to advertise, my focus has always been on offering value, mainly through blogging. I share practical information demonstrating how to simplify eating for weight loss, and I share my own personal experiences to allow my audience to engage with me on a more personal level, it’s important to understand the journey that helps you to achieve the result.


Lizzie is following…

mollie sapp

Molly Sapp: she has really helped me from to understand the ways I have previously limited myself, how to overcome money mindset issues and in no uncertain terms cut through the BS. They didn’t teach us how to run a business in school, there are load of coaches out there but Molly’s messaging speaks very clearly to me and where I am at right now!

emily skye

Emily Skye: she has an amazing body and she has a great training style that I know works, but more importantly she teaches great mindset principles, she is authentic about the challenges she has faced and honest about the reality of the effect of pregnancy on her body, it’s refreshing to see!


Lizzie’s work

Social Butterflies meet-up with CheltenhamMaman: 20th November 2017

Join us for the second Social Butterflies meet-up with guest speaker Kate Starkey, founder of CheltenhamMaman, the online platform and events business for parents. Kate’s business is going from strength to strength and she has won two awards recognising her achievements: UK Blog Award winner in the 2017 Parenting category and Digital Woman of the Year at the Gloucestershire Women of the Year Awards 2017. Who better to discuss business, the power of social media and represent the South-West?

You’ve heard of ‘Professional Networking’ – think of this more as ‘Prosecco Notworking’

The event is hosted by me, Amy White, founder of Social Butterflies, a website and online community committed to celebrating and connecting women seeking professional inspiration and wanting to expand their career horizons. Like lots of things these days it all began with a blog, the blog spurned a wonderfully supportive online community and so it felt like a natural progression to create events so people could meet in real life (preferably over a glass of something).

My experience is a very common one – I took a career break to have children and when I returned to the workplace I’d completely lost my professional identity, and with it most of my confidence. These events are designed for women who don’t necessarily identify with the corporate world and treading a traditional career path. We are happy to challenge the conventional 9-5 culture in order to fulfil our career ambitions and hopefully achieve a better work/life balance. This is a totally informal evening for women (not just mums) looking to expand their networks beyond the realms of social media and chat about their careers, business aspirations and discuss how the digital world can transform their professional lives.

I figured you might have a few questions about the event, so I’ve outlined some key points below…

Venue

The event will be held at The Square Club in central Bristol, on Berkeley Square, just off Park Street.

What can I expect from the evening?

– Glass of Prosecco (obviously) and a goody bag

– Talk with our speaker Kate: sharing her experience setting up and running a successful online and events business.

– Q&A with guests: Kate & Amy will answer your questions.

– Speed networking (or as I like to call it) ‘notworking’: 15 minutes divided into 5 minute intervals where we will actively encourage you to make three new connections (I promise it will be fun).

What will you get out of it?

– Make connections: meet women at all different stages of their professional journeys.

– Feel inspired: hear from our guest speaker Kate, Amy and other guests.

– Gain knowledge: opportunity to ask questions and get advice.

Who is the event for?

– Women who want to expand their professional networks in a relaxed, social and non-judgemental setting.

– Those with a keen interest in developing or acquiring digital knowledge that will help them in their professional lives.

– These events are not aimed at ‘mums’ but are for all women, all ages, all backgrounds and at all stages of their professional journeys.

– You might be running your own business, a freelancer, working in an organisation, on a career break, on maternity leave, wanting to retrain, or simply just curious about the possibilities that expanding your digital knowledge could bring.

Ticket info

Tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable between events, however you can transfer the ticket to someone else just email: hellosocialbutterflies@gmail.com.

Email updates

I’ll be keeping you posted on information about the event via email.

Pursuing a creative passion

Meet Vanessa Dennett, owner of The Simpson Sisters, a small business which runs creative workshops in relaxed and collaborative settings in Bristol and North Somerset. Like many women, Vanessa put her career ambitions on hold whilst raising her children, but now she is finally able to pursue her passion and showcase her creative talent through her blog and the workshops she runs.

Tell us about yourself 

I grew up in a small village in North Somerset and had a pretty idyllic early childhood. I went to the village primary school and then onto the local comprehensive where the idyll ended. I became pretty unmotivated and much more interested in horses and boys than anything academic. I was however considered bright enough to be studying the sciences at O-level and consequently wasn’t allowed to continue with the more creative subjects which I enjoyed.

Vanessa Dennett

Suffice to say that I was not successful at O-level, and after an unhappy start at a new school for A-levels I persuaded my parents to let me leave and go to secretarial college instead. I never particularly wanted to become a secretary, rather it seemed a good escape route. A couple of years temping and travelling persuaded me that office life was not for me and I applied for nurse training because I liked people and didn’t have sufficient qualifications to do anything else medical. It’s fair to say I could have given these decisions a little more consideration!

The following years were spent nursing and, following a knee injury, in various medically oriented sales and admin jobs – I recruited Australian nurses for the UK and sold plaster casts amongst other things! During this time I met my husband and we have lived and travelled around the world as he has pursued his career. Australia, Germany, South Africa, Belgium and Sweden have all been home at various times.

Since the birth of our two daughters I have explored a number of potential careers, largely based upon what I could fit around the demands of caring for children while living overseas without any established network and a husband who travelled. I drew upon my secretarial skills typing at home in the evenings, my knowledge of anatomy as a massage therapist and my sewing skills as a technician in a school’s textiles department, but nothing left me feeling very fulfilled or enthusiastic.

How did the idea for your business come about?

While living in Belgium I was offered the opportunity to participate in a pilot online coaching programme by a friend establishing her business. I finally spent a bit of time thinking about who I am, my skills and my interests and concluded that what I would really like to do would be ‘something creative with other people’. At this point we moved again twice in short succession and I put these thoughts on hold. We returned to the UK and I found a job almost next door at St Peter’s Hospice where I helped manage their hospice based volunteers on a short-term contract. At the end of this contract I again felt the frustration and entrapment that I have so often experienced in office environments, and much as I love the hospice I looked again at the outcome of the coaching programme and thought “I just have to try something, anything, more creative”. It was at this point that several threads began to weave together.

simpsons workshops

  • While overseas we had bought a small disused barn from my parents when they downsized from our family home and I had begun to blog very sporadically about the project, simply as a personal record and a way of family seeing what was going on. I had great intentions but too many moves got in the way and I never really got going.
  • While at the hospice I undertook a Digital Mums social media management course in order to up-skill a bit and with the notion that this type of flexible working might suit me. During the course I attended an Instagram workshop at The Forge with Emily Quinton and was introduced to Makelight and the online world of creatives which had somehow been a secret to me until then.
  • Originally a Simpson, I thought that The Simpson Sisters would make a great name for a business. Though I wasn’t sure what business I could possibly run I had bought the domain name a few years ago.
  • Attending creative workshops of all sorts, from cake decorating to pottery, watercolours and stage make-up has been how I have met some of my best friends in various locations over the years and I have spent many happy hours learning new skills in this way.

It suddenly occurred to me that workshops were just exactly doing something creative with other people and that I could either keep attending them, or I could start running them. Being interested in so many different creative pursuits it seemed to me that collaborating with others would be a really great way to do this.

It has taken me a while to nail exactly what it is that I’ve been creating, but I’ve loved finding my way over the last year and can now confidently tell people that The Simpson Sisters is a small creative business whose aims are to encourage and enable creativity by offering a variety of creative workshops in a warm, friendly and relaxed environment, and by providing a small attractive venue for other creatives to use for similar purposes. I love sharing my home with people and workshop days are my absolute favourites. In fact, I’m teaching my first sewing workshop in September and have often wondered how different my life might have been if I had pursued textiles as a subject at school!

How are you embracing social media?

Social media has been a huge learning curve for me over the last 18 months, I didn’t even have an Instagram account until last year and had never tweeted until then either! However, it has proved a wonderful resource and I have benefitted enormously from so many of the lovely people I have met online. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are where I’m found regularly and although I sometimes find three platforms challenging I believe that they each offer something quite different to me. I would love to grow my audiences and have worked hard to improve my photography to this end.


Vanessa is following…

me and orla

Me and Orla : I love Sarah’s honesty and no nonsense approach, her Hashtag Authentic podcast has been one of my favourites.

simple and season

Simple and Season: I had followed Kayte’s blog for a while and jumped at the chance to hear her speak at Blogtacular. I was not disappointed and found her marketing advice invaluable.

makelight

Makelight: without some of Emily and Stef’s courses I would never have pursued Instagram, updated my website or begun sending a newsletter.


Vanessa’s work…

thesimpsonsisters.co.uk
eventbrite.co.uk/o/the-simpson-sisters-11355703362
instagram.com/simpsonsisters

Interior design with a difference

Zoe Hewett began her career as an Art Director in the film and television industry before retraining as an Interior Designer. She is now expanding her digital business offering and running workshops alongside her consultancy work. We asked Zoe to share her story and tell us about her plans for the future.

How did you become an interior designer?

Growing up in Cardiff, I spent my childhood making rudimentary props and sets for the plays we would put on for the grown ups, and my teenage years making giant carnival costumes and redecorating the house when my parents’ backs were turned. When I took the school quiz to find out what career path I should follow, I got into trouble for being interested in too many topics. Little did I know at the time that is precisely one of the best qualities for being a designer! I knew that I wanted to be a set designer though, so I went to art college in London and had a ball making live performance art installations in broom cupboards, period costumes and miniature models of monolithic opera sets.

The reality of making a living as a jobbing designer in Wales was incredibly difficult, particularly as I had trained in a different city and didn’t have those all important college to industry links. I was an outsider in my home town, and never quite managed to get enough work. Instead I found work in the film and TV industry as an Art Director. It was heaps of fun and better paid than theatre, but the crazy hours and feast or famine nature of it all eventually left me feeling disillusioned and burnt out. To get out of this rut I moved quite suddenly to Bristol, and as cringe-worthy as it sounds I kind of found myself, or at the very least my mojo, upon starting Capoeira. It had a profound effect on my outlook and confidence (not to mention physical fitness).

I decided to retrain and enrolled on an open learning Interior Design Diploma. Although the design process and required skills are exactly the same for both roles, the two industries are quite different. As career changes go this was more of a tweak than a total transformation, but that’s just as well, because having been creative all my life because I can’t really do anything else. So far it has gone smoothly, probably because people expect to have to pay interior designers, whereas the art world runs on air and broken dreams.

My business, although micro, is finally starting to grow after being in start-up mode for an extra long time. Midway through my first big job (a furniture store) I found myself unexpectedly expecting a baby with a (very) new man. Our daughter was then born suddenly at 26 weeks. It was a pretty hideous time and as a result she has additional needs, so it is imperative that at least one of us has flexible work, and for the moment that’s me. It is important to me to be able to also offer something affordable, because consultation, design and project management fees are exclusive for most, so I have started running interior design workshops which seem to be going well. That also fits around family life better than a full-time job with a commute!

How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?

Digital technology has absolutely revolutionised how I work. When I was documenting scenic continuity on film sets the preferred method was (the now amazingly retro) Polaroid camera! Digital cameras were just coming in but it was easy to lose track of scenes. It also used to be almost impossible to photograph anything in a dark theatre without paying a professional photographer, which would have cost most of the design fee, but of course without photos of your work you can’t get more work.

The iPhone for me has been amazing. Being able to show all your previous work in the palm of your hand is serious luxury after years of lugging around a heavy A2 portfolio of artwork in all weathers. I used to have to burn CDs with home printed front covers to send people my portfolio, which makes me feel like an old lady saying “we didn’t have TV when I was young”. I did go on a Dreamweaver course to make my first website, and I managed a one page CV with a photo which was pretty impressive for someone as analogue and non-techy as me.

Now, my website (an easy drag-n-drop template, of course) is all singing and all dancing with video, a shop and a rather earnest design blog. All these little graphics apps are my favourite, for editing photos and overlaying text on images to quickly get messages out on social media – it is just amazing. I just need to keep gradually growing my audience.

Tell us about your new design packages

The idea for the Newlyweds Nest came from wanting to give friends a meaningful wedding present at a time when I had no money. They had not long moved into a new house that needed some character, so I gave them some pointers and it grew from there into a comprehensive interior design service. Initially it was email based, which is quite a popular concept in the States but hasn’t really caught on over here. Somehow I arrived at the idea of putting it in a gift-box, to make it a more tangible present, which is infinitely more charming than printing out documents from an email!

The idea is for couples to enjoy filling in the questionnaires inside the box together, whether their home is old or new to them, and return their answers with photos and dimensions to me. From there I can put together a bespoke design scheme for the room of their choice, complete with sample boards, drawings and a budget spreadsheet, with an action plan for them to follow, to make it a reality under their own steam.

There are two packages: a classic monochrome version and a rainbow pride ribbon option for LGBT couples, and those who just prefer joyful colour. I think there is something fun about using the postal service in this crazy digital age. This is a scaleable business model which is potentially quite exciting, plus because I never meet the client in person it is easier for me to work and still do the school run.

I love face to face client work, but there is a limit to how much I can take on, because the logistics of getting to site to let tradesmen in and simultaneously take a small person to school without any grandparents nearby are a bit tricky. Luckily I have some fantastic builders and project managers to call upon for help with bigger jobs where we do meet the clients and undertake the installation work for them. But I think the digital-postal design packages like Newlyweds Nest (I have more in the pipeline) are likely to take over, because it is also a more affordable slice of luxury service,  especially for clients who would rather save money by doing or organising the hands-on redecoration work themselves.


Zoe is following…

@blackparrotsstudio: Sarah Mitchenall won The Great Interior Design Challenge in 2016 and kindly loaned me a few of her fab monstera lights for a roomset I designed for Grand Designs Live last year. As a former garden designer, her work with jewellery designer Alexa as Black Parrots Studio is just utterly fantastic. There’s a lot of interiors ‘noise’ on instagram, but these women actually HAVE IT!

@ware.london: Jewellery designer Emma Ware is a long time buddy of mine from when we were students at Wimbledon School of Art. When she quit TV working as a Focus Puller to set up her brand, she was a huge inspiration to me and set the bar high. Her work is hugely stylish, wearable and ethically produced. Amazing!

@iris.apfel: How could I not follow this inspirational woman? Interior designer turned fashion and style icon, still working in her 90s, Iris Apfel has such a wonderful outlook and a gentle, joyful demeanour. She is an incredible wit, huge intellect and cheers up my feed every time. I also covet her architect’s glasses!


Zoe’s work 

zoehewettinteriors.co.uk
instagram.com/zoehewettinteriors #mybristolhome
twitter.com/zoehewettdesign
pinterest.com/zoehewettdesign/zoe-hewett-interiors
facebook.com/zoehewettinteriors

Curator of colour

Jessica Siggers is a photographer, social media influencer and Instagram consultant who lives in Bristol with her family. I first encountered Jess via her Instagram account Porthjess, a platform which has helped to build and cement her profile as a photographer. In person Jess is refreshingly humble and honest about her influencer status. It brings with it a whole host of opportunities which some people may feel unable to turn down. However, Jess is in the self-confessed “privileged position” of being able to select commercial collaborators that fit with her sense of identity (she has worked with Farrow & Ball, Pret A Manger, Canon, Cross Country Trains and Finisterre). But she’s also realistic about why others may choose a different path. There is a lot of judgement on social media which has given rise to the “armchair warrior”, but like anyone who has an online presence she has learned to turn the other cheek and focus on the positives and what she’s really passionate about – creating photographs that inspire others.

Jessica Siggers Porthjess Instagram photographer
“When I was trying to think up a name for my business a few years ago, I wanted something which contained my name but also tied in with me living on a harbour plus my love of the sea. ‘Porth’ means ‘harbour’ in Cornish! Et voila.”

A love of Bristol, rainbow colours, the coast and cars are what has made her loved by over 40k followers on Instagram. This strong sense of creative identity is what Jess intends to build on in 2017. So this year Jess will be returning her focus to the art of photography and establishing different ways to earn income. As a respected Instagram influencer Jess has started to run a series of workshops ‘Unleash your Instagram potential’, run in conjunction with Bristol Media and she is also involved in Digital Gaggle (marketing meet-ups and conferences in Bristol).

Jessica Siggers Porthjess colourful bristol street

Alongside her Porthjess persona Jess also runs the the official Instagram network for Bristol: IgersBristol. This is a photography showcase of Bristol and a job which keeps Jess’s feet firmly on the ground. Although she sometimes feels like “a dinosaur” amongst the young Instagram crowd it’s a good way to keep track of the latest photography trends and what is popular online. But that doesn’t impact on her signature style, if anything seeing what is trending has only reaffirmed what subjects she loves to photograph and makes her happy.

Jessica Siggers Porthjess Instagram photographer bristol street

One thing I respect and admire is Jess’s strong sense of identity when it comes to work and family life. Although the two need to coexist in a practical sense they aren’t linked in Jess’s mind: she’s not an Insta-mum. Whilst being a mother is an integral part of who she is, it’s not what makes Jess a successful photographer. I for one am looking forward to seeing how Jess’s career develops in 2017 and I’ve been lucky enough to attend one of her popular Instagram workshops.

JESS’S TOP TECHNICAL TIPS

1) Do you use your phone as well as your camera? If so how do you use them differently?

“I never leave the house without my compact Canon M3 DSLR and crummy old Samsung phone, permanently set to camera mode. I tend to use my phone for those quick shots where timing is everything (in my case usually an old car going past) and the camera for more structured shots where picture quality is important. I also have my ‘Big Camera’, i.e. my Canon 5D, which I use when specific shots are required for clients.”

Jessica Siggers Porthjess Instagram photographer stokes croft bristol beetle car

2) Do you alter the images at all for use on Instagram?

“There are three things I always do before any of my photos make it to Instagram: run them through the auto-straighten feature on the Snapseed app, to tidy up any wonky horizons; crop out any unnecessary bits, again through Snapseed; use one of two filters from the brilliant ‘A Color Story’ app. My filters of choice just lighten the photo and enhance the colours to how I like them so that my Instagram grid always looks cohesive.”

Jessica Siggers Porthjess Instagram photographer ss great britain bristol

3) Hashtags are an important part of Instagram: how do you choose the ones you use and are there specific ones you like to use?

“I have a list of my favourite hashtags saved in the Notes function on my phone (for ultimate Instageekery, they’re also saved into different categories such as ‘Doors’, ‘Cars’ and ‘Colour’). These are all either hashtags which have worked previously and continue to work for me and my style or hashtags which I’m just using for now but may drop in future (e.g. seasonal tags). It’s good to mix them up a bit and find new ones from time to time. Helps you find great new accounts to follow too.”

Jessica Siggers Porthjess Instagram photographer bristol street scene

4) What’s your top photographic tip for people who take photos using their phones and uploading direct to Instagram?

“Turn your gridlines on in your camera settings. Helps you to align your shot perfectly and avoids too many of those wonky horizons!”

Jessica Siggers Porthjess Instagram photographer harbourside bristol

5) What advice would you give aspiring photographers looking to grow their online profile?

1) “Look up the local Igers (Instagrammers) network for your area such as Igers Bristol. We host regular free photowalks or ‘Instameets’ where lots of like-minded photographers get together and provide support and fresh inspiration!”

2) “Find a hashtag which relates to your style of work, e.g. I like #candyminimal, or even the hashtag for your area, e.g. #Bristol. Like and leave nice comments on photos that you like and others might do the same to you. This helps build followers.”

3) “Come to one of my Instagram workshops!”


Jess is following…

Valuable Content bristol logo

@valuablecontent (aka @sonjajefferson and @sjtanton): “Two clever, brilliant fellow Bristol Media members who are at the top of the content marketing consultancy game and also happen to be mothers. I’m also lucky enough to have them as my neighbours and my career took a big turn for the better when I took their advice over pastries at Sharon’s kitchen table one morning last year. They’re like my business fairy godmothers.”

Dolly Land

@dollyland“’Dolly is Sharon, a mum of five who lives in Clovelly, Devon. We became friends through Instagram via our love of the sea and met just before Sharon became social media manager for @2minutebeachclean, a +20k strong community of barefoot warriors taking two minutes out of their day to keep our beaches clean of rubbish. My family and I now never leave a beach or riverside without having a quick litter-pick first and that’s largely down to Sharon.”

Sara Venn Edible Bristol

Sara Venn, aka @saralimback“I’m ridiculously proud to call Sara my friend. She runs @ediblebristol, a branch of the Incredible Edible movement, launched to make Bristol the UK’s first edible city. In most areas of Bristol you’ll now come across an edible garden planted by Sara and her team. She’s also mum to one daughter like me and gives the best hugs.


Jess’s work…

porthjess.com
bristolcolourcapital.org
instagram.com/porthjess
instagram.com/igersbristol

Interview with Amy White

The florist who is living the dream

Meet Fiona Lafon, a lawyer turned florist living in Bristol, and owner of Emerald & Jade. Her story proves it’s never too late to pursue a creative career. In fact, Fiona is also launching a new coaching programme, so it’s going to be one busy year.

Tell us about yourself

Originally from France, I have always loved the creative arts. Although born in Versailles, I am lucky to have mostly grown up in the French Alps, with a few years initially spent in Ireland. This, combined with the fact that I spent a lot of time travelling thanks to adventurous parents, lead to my love of nature and green things coming about really early on. I went to an International School in Grenoble, I then came to the UK to complete a law degree in French law and English law at University of Kent. I never intended to become a lawyer, but found myself qualifying as an employment lawyer in Bristol a decade later. There, I met my husband to be and have been living here since.

Following the birth of my two children, I started a blog: Green Loving Girl. Through this I remembered how much I loved writing, and realised how much I was craving a more creative job. I loved running this blog, but my corporate job as a lawyer took too much time for me to run it properly. At the time, my job also took over everything else, leaving me stressed, run down and generally not a very pleasant person to be around, and it seemed my partner and children got the worst of me.

Following a series of events in my personal life, my mind-set changed and I started to think that there had to be more to life than working in a stressful job which seemed to leave me with nothing good, there had to something else. I have always been a proud working mum. Going back to work after having my children was always my choice. I always enjoyed being at work, and I knew the children thrived at the nursery we chose for them so I had no guilt.

However, it got to a point where I really did not want to go to work, so I started thinking about handing in my notice. Financially we worked out that I would be better off for not working, as my salary got engulfed into childcare (crazy isn’t it!!). But I had no plan B. I was really scared but I also knew that I couldn’t carry on like that. It took my 3-year-old to have appendicitis & peritonitis whilst on holiday abroad, which forced me to be off work for 4 weeks, to think it all through and actually hand in my notice. I decided that I would take a career break for a maximum of two years. This left me time to explore my options, and the children could then go to the local preschool and school, therefore facilitating childcare options. It was terrifying, I had never envisioned being a stay at home mum and I had never not worked from choice. However, I have always trusted my gut feeling, and I knew things would be ok. I had no idea at the time what to go for. All I knew was that for my next role, I wanted to start-up my own business and follow a more creative route.

Fiona and Barry on their wedding day.

I therefore took various opportunities that presented themselves to me. I was already blogging on a monthly basis for French Wedding Style writing about my wedding planning. The editor then offered me an internship, which I started shortly after leaving my legal job. From there, I met a lot more creative entrepreneurs, and started seeing a different world and a lot more opportunities. Around this time, I was helping my sister plan her wedding, as she lives in Australia but was getting married near Bath. I found her a florist, and got chatting to her about where she’d trained etc. Before I knew it, I had attended a taster session and then was signed on to an intensive training course via the fabulous Tallulah Rose Flower School in Bath. Emerald & Jade Flowers was born, and I have since been working as a Florist, working on weddings, funerals, events and holding workshops. I love it!

I absolutely love being a florist. Going to the flower market, meeting so many creative, talented entrepreneurs in the wedding industry. It truly is a wonderful industry to be part of, and very supportive, even amongst florists. I am so happy to be part of it. A couple of years after I started my business, I started to feel as though there was something else I could be doing. I had a feeling I wanted to help others but I couldn’t quite figure it out. This took me a good few months to work out (and assistance from my own business coach) to figure out that I had a new passion which could be turned into a business. Since starting my own business, I have loved this new world I live in. I realised just how much I love talking to people about starting their own business and the journey that goes with it. I have loved my journey and am really excited about what is it still to come. I have also greatly benefitted from a business coach. Whether someone is thinking about starting their own business, fancy a change from their job, or want to make some changes to their lifestyle, I always love talking to them about this and trying to help them find how to materialise their thoughts into actions. How to make that seedling of an idea in their mind, grow and blossom into a new, beautiful way of life. In light of this, I have just set up my own coaching programme, due to be launched this month under Emerald & Jade Lifestyle.

How has digital technology and social media has changed the way you work

I’m all about my online presence. Running a blog and doing an internship for an international award-winning wedding blog has helped me gain understanding on SEO and other terminologies. It was like a foreign language at first, but it’s amazing how quickly it can be picked up with some research and good mentors. My businesses are both home-based, therefore I always knew that my online presence had to be strong and clearly represent me so that, when people saw a photo or an Instagram post, they would automatically recognise it as mine.

My online presence is effectively my shop window. This is why my website is quite different to most florists. I knew it had to reflect me and the type of work I like best, in order to attract my ideal clients. I have had brides tell me that as soon as they found my website they knew they had found their florist, and that was great feedback to hear!

My website is a great base. I also love using Facebook as I can tag in my clients and other suppliers, which makes it a great networking and sharing tool. My all time favourite though is Instagram. With my floristry business, it allows the photos of the flowers to speak for themselves, and again, it gives people and potential clients a great first insight as to what my business is about.

For my second business, Emerald & Jade Lifestyle, it will have a different feel to it, but still in a way that reflects me. I am going to focus this one more on my love of travel with almost a dreamlike, yet energising, positive feel to it. Learning to find my voice for each businesses has had a great effect, and is clearly reflected on my social media and my online presence. These are noticeably different to my personal Instagram account greenlovinggirl. Yet all three fully reflect me, and I love that.


Fiona is following…

@laurapaynestanley: I met Laura when writing for my blog Green Loving Girl. She asked me whether I would like to blog about my wedding planning journey for her website French Wedding Style. When I decided to take a career break, she offered me an internship. She has now been my business mentor for over a year. I have known her over three years now and can safely say that my life has changed since meeting her.

@victoriafarrmua: I discovered Victoria and her work about three years ago. I have seen her business grow and love seeing how she made her business her own and made it incorporate her love for travel. She is also really lovely.

Nicky King/@Bobbyrabbitkids: I met Nicky when I was looking for ideas on decorating the kids bedrooms. We realised we had a lot in common and have since become Instagram friends. When I first met Nicky, she was working on her new business. Bobby Rabbit is now a great business and I find it really inspiring seeing where she is now, knowing how hard she worked, especially as she has children similar ages to mine.

Joanne Hegarty/@stylistandthewardrobe: I have just discovered her feed, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I love her Instagram account, filled with gorgeous photos of her son, her home and her travels, it is really beautiful to look at and inspiring, reminding me that as a woman, a mother, we can still aspire to living a beautiful life and having beautiful things and travels. This is a big part in my businesses.


Fiona’s work

emeraldandjadeflowers.com
instagram.com/emerald_and_jade
facebook.com/EmeraldandJadeFlowers

emeraldandjadelifestyle.com
instagram.com/emeraldandjadelifestyle
facebook.com/emeraldandjadelifestyle

Something for the weekend

Meet Claire Robinson, a travel blogger, digital trainer and consultant based in the Cotswolds. An established career as an advertising creative enabled Claire to go freelance as a creative copywriter seven years ago to work more flexibly around her daughter. As well as writing her travel blog Weekend Candy, running training courses and launching her digital consultancy, Claire has found time to share her story and her Spring weekend recommendations with us.

Tell us about yourself

By day I’m a freelance copywriter for digital and advertising agencies, then by night I’m the founder and owner of a travel blog about weekend breaks in the UK and Europe. I’m not quite sure how I ended up here, but I guess it had something to do with doing English at university, followed by a creative writing MA. I’d always wanted to write (particularly about travel) and kind of fell into my first writing gig with a small nutritional company after university. From there I went to a publishing house, then to advertising agencies where I worked in the creative department and came up with ideas for advertising and digital campaigns. I went freelance about seven years ago to help fit in with being a single parent to a beautiful girl. I didn’t know if freelance would work, but I’m a big believer in ‘leaping and building your wings on the way down’. Thankfully it worked (big yay) and I’m still freelance with a good base of clients. My blog Weekend Candy, started after I won Eurostar as my freelance client. I was writing travel destination content and it reignited my passion for this sort of writing. In the old days, to be a published travel writer you’d need to be featured by a magazine or newspaper but digital has changed all that (very big yay!). Knowing this, I gobbled up books about blogging and went on courses about starting and running a blog – then I just did it. I pressed publish on my first piece and have never looked back!

How has digital technology and social media has changed the way you work?

Digital technology has made it possible to live my dream: travel, write and share my stories with others. I think it’s incredible that people with a passion can now turn that into a viable online business, it’s so exciting, so liberating. It’s wonderful watching and sharing in others successes online.

I love the way digital has broken down traditional barriers: we’re no longer tied to 9/5 or an office desk. We can work from just about anywhere. One day I hope to be fully remote, working when I want, where I want – that’s the next part of the dream. I also love the instant gratification that comes with working in a digital medium as opposed to print. I can see immediately who’s read my posts, who likes my stuff, the affect my work has had (if any!).

Social media is my closest friend! It’s the lifeblood of my blog, driving traffic my way, but more importantly, allowing me to connect and reconnect with exceptional people, readers and long lost friends. I love that I’ve friends via social who I’ve never met but feel close to because I follow their online lives.

I’m a huge fan of live broadcasting and ‘stories’. Both are great for my brand because they give people real insights into me and my life. It also allows them to see behind the scenes of the work I do. I think that helps people feel connected to my brand and, hopefully, deepens their loyalty to me.

Social has also allowed me to co-found a group called Cotswolds Bloggers and Influencers – connecting brands with local bloggers for mutual benefit. We started it with a Facebook group and the group is growing rapidly. We host social events and will be launching training sessions and Insta-walks soon, too. All thanks to the power of social.

TOP WEEKEND CITY BREAKS FOR SPRING

BRISTOL: FOLLOW THE BANKSY TRAIL

DO THIS: Zip straight to Bristol’s gritty graffiti core with a Where the Wall Banksy Street Art Tour. Led by street art legend (and Banksy mentor) John Nation, it’s two hours of brilliance serving up works by Banksy, Inky, Stik and Nick Walker.

SEE THIS: Cruise around Stokes Croft for a while longer – the tour ends here – lapping up the eclectic vibe before heading to Bristol’s historic waterfront. Bristol Harbourside today is almost Parisian in its cosmopolitan style. Trendy bars, shops and galleries flag the dock where the city once traded with new colonies. Cross to the M-Shed where Bristol’s past and people are innovatively celebrated in three exhibit-filled floors. Don’t forget to check out the famous Banksy The Grim Reaper on the First Floor just outside the Bristol People Gallery.

EAT HERE: Fill your belly with a distinctly modern crust in Pieminister, Stokes Croft. Industrial in décor, inventive in design, it’s got enough hipster pies to satisfy the most fussy pie-lover.

STAY HERE: Retreat to the enchanting Boutique Arthouse B&B five minutes’ drive from Bristol’s city centre. Run by art lecturer Sadie Spikes and her husband, it’s a B&B that’ll leave your soul nourished and your spirits forever lifted. I can’t wait to return.

DISCOVER MORE: What to do in Bristol in 2 Days

EDINBURGH

DO THIS: Walk the The Royal Mile, said to be the oldest street in the city. It snakes through the old town from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood house flanked with shops selling tartan, whisky and shortbread; restaurants, bars and cafes; and historic monuments. Afterwards, pay a visit to Edinburgh Castle. It costs £16.50 to get in, but is worth the fee for the treasures inside.

SEE THIS: Take a tour of Greyfriars Kirkyard – the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk church near Grassmarket. It’s alive with history and character and is particularly famous for Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal police dog that wouldn’t leave his master’s grave for 13 years.

EAT AT: Scotland is synonymous with whiskey. So to mark the partnership, eat at the Whiski Rooms restaurant where they serve seasonal Scottish food. And if you want a dram of whiskey on the side, you’re in the right place: tastings are also on offer.

STAY HERE: Just a 10 minute stroll north of the hustle and bustle of famous Princes Street, you’ll find Nira Caledonia – a boutique, luxury hotel nestled quietly in a high-class, historic neighbourhood. (Romantic Getaway Packages start at £176.)


Claire’s following…

Paris in Four Months
For her beauty, style and astronomical success I have to say Carin Olsson. I love her pictures and watching her Instagram Stories. She’s definitely my go-to Insta-Crush for inspiration and to stay on focus in that medium. She’s also my injection of Paris beauty when it’s a grey day in the muddy Cotswolds!

Melyssa Griffin
A true girl boss and entrepreneur. She went from designer to creative coach in a relatively short space of time. I love the in-depth, no-nonsense, smart-talking, free value she gives to women who want to rock their online business. I’ve bought a couple of her courses and find her a real inspiration.

The Blonde Abroad
Kiersten Rich was the first travel blogger I came across and had the sort of fizzy, feel-good blog that I aspired to. She’s always full of beans and her articles and pictures are so vibrant that you totally get sucked into her travels.


Claire’s work 

weekendcandy.com
instagram.com/weekendcandy
twitter.com/weekendcandy
facebook.com/helloweekendcandy

Workshops
I’m fortunate to be working on many exiting projects at the moment. The first is two workshops I’m running with Lucy from On the Luce. We’ve co-founded Cotswold Bloggers and Influencers and are now offering training to aspiring bloggers and businesses. Our first two sessions, Blogging for Business and Social Media Booster, are being held at Meggies in Stow on the World. Click here to book tickets: cotswoldsbloggers.co.uk/training

The Business Suite
Secondly, I’m also setting up a digital business suite for SMEs who want to start rocking their online presence, called The Business Suite. Once launched, it’ll have online courses, free downloads and bags of free advice about blogging, social media and websites. To sign up click here: weekendcandy.leadpages.co/weekend-candy-business-suite

The artist celebrating UK cities

Emmeline Simpson is a Bristol based artist who produces artwork and gift products which celebrate the UK’s best loved cities. The inspiration for turning her hobby into a business came when she became a mum – she rediscovered her love of Bristol whilst pushing her young son around the city in his buggy. It was then that Emmeline realised there was a gap in the market for creating products which showcase artistic cityscapes.

Tell us about yourself

It all began 2008 when some friends in Bristol were getting married. What gift could I get them instead of vouchers that would really mean something?  As I gazed at their view from where they lived one day, with the vibrant yellow of the Bristol ferry ‘Matilda’ and the coloured houses of Cliftonwood, I decided I would create a collage of this view as a gift for them. I had always had a passion for painting and drawing, now was a chance to put it to use for a purpose. Around the same time I was developing my work of Bristol as a hobby, having exhibited every year at the Totterdown arts trail. I was seeing that people really wanted to buy a picture that would bring back a memory, or that they had a personal connection with. People would come to me with lovely stories like: “I wanted that picture because we got engaged on the suspension bridge”, or “I live in one of those coloured houses”.

The opportunity to turn my hobby into a business came in 2009 when I pushed my first son Finlay around the streets of Bristol in his pram. Having worked away for some time, I was re-discovering Bristol again and I would spend time photographing the city. As I did so I also could see that the city was not being celebrated enough. Having lived here for ten years after moving from Surrey I saw Bristol as a vibrant city with a strong identity that people really connected with. I myself am extremely passionate about the city and feel very fortunate to be living here. Yet as I walked around and saw what was on offer in independent shops, the tourist office and the museum, I saw that there was a need for high quality souvenirs which celebrated the city. I could see from my experiences exhibiting at the arts trail, that people also wanted something more than a picture to display on their wall, perhaps there was a place for a functional objects inspired by Bristol?

 

So I began to consider what products I could create which would fill this need. I developed my work further and got my collage images made into greetings cards. Gradually local shops began to stock them and I set about developing the range further into other products. The range now includes mugs, tea towels, placemats, coasters and fridge magnets. I have also recently expanded to develop products inspired by the cities of Bath, Oxford, Cheltenham, London, Cardiff and Edinburgh. My aim is quite simply that my work will be loved by those who live in these cities as well as those who are passing through, and that they will bring back happy memories to those who have moved on.

How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?

Digital technology is essential to the process involved in making my collages as whilst they begin as a collage drawn and assembled by hand, I usually take these collages and work on them in Photoshop to produce the finished artwork which is reproduced on placemats and coasters.

In terms of social media, Facebook has grown hugely since I started the business and having a Facebook page has really helped to grow the business and the brand. It’s been a lovely way for customers to interact with me, for example when someone posts a picture of some placemats that have made their way to New Zealand, or one lady in Australia who made a skirt from one of my tea towels. Instagram has become the social media platform where I feel most at home, especially being a visual person, and it’s been a great way of sharing my new artwork or products with my followers. I have really enjoyed been part of Igers Bristol especially as it’s all about posting photos of Bristol which inspires me to look at my city from new and different angles and get inspired by the photos of others – I try and go along to their ‘Instameet-ups’ when I can and this has really helped build the Instagram community and put faces to names. There is also a great community of fellow artists and small business on Instagram and being part of it makes you feel connected which is really important when you work on your own a lot of the time.

As someone who creates artwork inspired by UK cities, where are your favourite places and why?

Bath: I love walking to Victoria Park from the centre, and going past the Royal crescent, it reminds me of how inspired I was when I sat there drawing the scene a few years ago – the park itself is such a great place to take the kids.

Edinburgh: I love Victoria Street which leads down to the Grassmarket, it’s on my list as my next Edinburgh scene to draw!

Oxford: I love the meadows at the back of Christ Church which are so pretty in the summer. I have drawn the Christ Church quad but not that view as yet!


Emmeline is following…

 

 

 

 

@porthjess (Jessica Siggers): I always remember how she was one of my first supporters, and customers, and how she then asked me for business advice over a slice of cake. We have become firm friends over the last few years as I have seen her business grow and flourish and now I feel like I am the one coming to her for advice!

 

 

 

 

@poppytreffry: I had the pleasure of meeting her recently and I’ve always loved her work. I admire her for what she has achieved with her business, especially with so much of her work being hand made.

 

 

 

 

@lovegiveink: their Instagram is so pretty to look at (not to mention their fantastic business story).

 

 

 

 

@jennyhyde: Whose wisdom and honesty I admire.


Emmeline’s work…

emmelinesimpson.co.uk
facebook.com/EmmelineSimpsonDesign
twitter.com/emmelinesimpson
instagram.com/emmelinesimpson

Stockists: Bristol Guild, Bristol Museum, M Shed, Pod Company, Stanfords and Bristol Tourist Office.

Collage technique workshop: Saturday 8th April, @19alexandraroad.

Top tips for aspiring travel bloggers

Heather Cowper is a professional travel blogger based in Bristol, writing at heatheronhertravels.com. In the nine years she’s been travel blogging Heather has worked with many leading travel brands and destinations, regularly speaking at conferences about blogging and social media. Heather has a great deal of knowledge and expertise in this field and is involved in several blogger collectives, including: Travelator MediaBristol Bloggers and Influencers and Bristol Travel Massive.

Heather Cowper headshot

How did you became a travel blogger

I started my travel blog heatheronhertravels.com over nine years ago after an inspirational trip with a couple of girlfriends through Ecuador and the Amazon basin. While I was there I would post photos on Flickr (this was before the social media platforms were so established) so that they could be seen by my friends and family. On my return I remember asking one of my work colleagues who was into all things technical “So how do I get into this blogging thing?” and with a few pointers I was away. For a long time I just did it for fun but gradually I become more serious about the blog and a year ago I decided to become a full time blogger so that I could devote all my time to the blog and associated projects in blogging and social media.

How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work

When I started out, the blog was seen as the main hub that you wanted to bring readers back to. However, over the years I’ve been blogging, so many new platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat have emerged, as well as Facebook and Twitter, and I have different audiences who are following my travels on each of these platforms. These days it feels that you need to have a presence everywhere to be a serious blogger. It’s more about sharing your content where the audience is, rather than always trying to bring them back to your blog. I seem to spend half my life on my iPhone, flipping between social channels to check what’s going on, posting photos from my travels and responding to reader queries.

heather cowper
Heather in Burgundy

What are your top tips for aspiring travel bloggers who want to make a career in the industry

When I started out the travel blogging community was so much smaller and it felt as if it was possible to know everyone. These days of course there are so many new bloggers and so I think it’s more difficult, although not impossible to build a career this way. My top tips for aspiring travel bloggers are:

  • Take a while to work on your website’s design, build your audience and to find your voice, as this will help you to gradually refine your niche. I wouldn’t rush into making a career directly from blogging, as it’s a hard slog and there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s better to take things at a sustainable pace and learn your craft, while working out what your audience responds best to.
  • Take a look at the skills you may have, perhaps in writing, photography or social media that you could use to build up a freelance income stream by working for other people. Most full time bloggers earn at least 50% of their income this way and this will support you financially while you built up your blog’s traffic to the substantial levels required to make money from advertising or affiliate sales.
  • It’s good to attend travel blogging conferences and events where you’ll meet both other bloggers for support and PR professionals who may want to work with you. Conferences are a great way to improve your skills and knowledge while networking and having a fun time – otherwise it can be a lonely occupation sitting in front of your laptop.

Heather’s following…

I love following travel bloggers who share my passions of food, culture and sightseeing and who bring their work to life with colourful photos, videos or great writing that inspires me. Being in my 50s I also tend to gravitate to bloggers who are at the same life stage as me – I love reading the work of inspirational older women rather than being impressed by 20-somethings doing yoga poses on the beach.

 

 

 

Zoe Dawes at The Quirky Traveller

 

 

Kathryn Burrington at Travel with Kat


Heather’s work…

heatheronhertravels.com
twitter.com/Heathercowper
facebook.com/Heatheronhertravels
instagram.com/heathercowper
pinterest.com/heathercowper
youtube.com/user/Heatheronhertravels
linkedin.com/in/heathercowper