Living in the present

Meet Alison Goode founder of new online gift company A Present Affair. Not content with running a business on her own, Alison continues to work as a wardrobe mistress and as a PA to a music promoter. Her enthusiasm, determination and desire to embrace the digital world will hopefully inspire other women to follow their business ambitions. Alison shares her story and imparts some great advice for anyone thinking about working for themselves.

Tell us about yourself

I grew up in Liverpool,the youngest of three children. I now have two children of my own aged 11 and 22. We live in Buckinghamshire with my husband who works in the music industry as a lighting technician.

After leaving school aged 16 I was very lucky to get a job in the theatre working in the wardrobe department. I loved every minute of it. I have been doing the same job ever since, I’m now 47! I left Liverpool to go on tour with Postman Pat, yep you read that right! Don’t be fooled, that tour was wild.

That job was followed by working on various shows in the West End, before moving into the music industry where I have worked ever since. Before the children were born I toured full-time with many pop bands but have now cut it right back to one tour a year, but I still work on lots of concerts throughout the year. As well as my wardrobe and styling work I am a PA to a music promoter and book artists for big events.

I recently launched a new online gift box company, A Present Affair. This venture began almost three years ago with my friend and business partner but after she went through a life changing health issue we put everything on hold. Although fully recovered she felt she had to step away. I had two choices, close it down or take a deep breath and go for it. I chose to go for it.

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

My work as a wardrobe mistress never involved using any sort of digital technology, it didn’t even exist when I started out! Since working as a PA and launching A Present Affair I have had to learn a whole new set of skills. It has been extremely hard as it isn’t something I grew up with like todays young women. I booked a 1-2-1 session with Hayley owner of Southwood Social Hub and she talked me through lots of ideas and how to raise awareness for my brand etc.

I have learnt so much and continue learning everyday with regards to technology. I love the way you can connect with people across the globe and get your ideas and products out there for all to see. My gift box company is a visual product, so social media is a very important tool now days for reaching potential customers and finding great new products. Also through social media (particularly Instagram) I have met some amazing women who have supported me through the tough days.

Technology is moving so fast that it does feel overwhelming sometimes trying to keep up, find out what works for you because it’s almost impossible if you are working alone to keep up with everything!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a business?

  • When I found out I would no longer have a business partner it completely stopped me in my tracks. I couldn’t talk to anyone or do anything for a couple of weeks. I spent days just crying and saying to myself I could not do it alone. I slowly picked myself up, thought of the time and money already spent and decided to try.
  • For anyone thinking of starting something I would say talk to people. Ask for advice and maybe a few hours help. Most people don’t have the budget to employ someone in the beginning so take one step at a time and you will be surprised at what you can do.
  • The most important thing for me was having that one person in my life that puts everything into perspective when you are having a wobble. I have an old friend who is never fazed whatever life throws at him. As soon as I tell him what I am worried about he takes the fear away. Some days that quality has saved my sanity. There are some fantastic groups online you can join to meet people who can understand and relate to what you are going through.
  • Remember, when the days seem overwhelming and you feel as if you can’t carry on just stop. Go for a walk, get a coffee or call a trusted friend and talk it out. Things will always look better if you just step away for a moment and just breath.

Alison is following

@marniandmowgli
We toured together over many years, she was the hot dancer and I was the wardrobe mistress telling her to “just put the bloody costume on, you look gorgeous!”. This amazing lady has been so supportive to me as we launched our new ventures at the same time.

@whattheschujj
For her total lack of pretension, her intelligence not forgetting to mention her very wicked sense of humour.

I have to give a mention to @helloruthuk  and @lara.quin who have kept me going with cake, emails and laughs when the days threatened to overwhelm me.


Alison’s work

apresentaffair.com
instagram.com/apresentaffair
facebook.com/apresentaffair
twitter.com/present_affair

Getting to grips with digital

Meet Maxine Kerley, a digital marketer and owner of Digital Bon Bons, a marketing company for parent and children focused businesses.

Tell us about yourself

I am a digital geek and I can’t hide it. I’ve worked for a number of different industries over the years from a dental software company to a fashion brand and it was while I was working for this fashion brand that I really discovered and fell in love with digital marketing. I say love because I really did, it hit me hard and to have something you do for a living be a passion as well – I’m grateful for that.

I’d had experience working with parent and children focused brands in previous job roles and it was while I was on maternity leave with my daughter Ava, that I really started to get to know these type of businesses and what their challenges were. I returned to work in 2015 and then last summer created Digital Bon Bons – a marketing company helping business owners reach their target audiences of parents and children, digitally. I officially launched on New Year’s Eve 2016.

Top tips

Getting to grips with digital marketing takes time and making a business work online can take even longer. For a business owner, you want to see results for all the efforts you’re putting in. I’ve collated together some tips that can help you get started.

Get verified

You have a fantastic website and it’s live but Google doesn’t know about it and it won’t until you verify. You need to tell it that it’s there, waiting to be crawled and picked up for search results. This is done using Google Search Console, so you will need a Gmail Account to do this, but a Gmail Account is so important, especially if you want to take advantage of Google Analytics too. Once verified you will start seeing your site appear in listings.

Have a plan

To really make a success of digital marketing in your business you need to have a strategy outlining your goals. Ask yourself – “What do I actually want to achieve with my digital marketing?”. Is it website hits, e-commerce sales, thought leader? Whatever your goals, you need to have these on record. The next step is creating a plan. This will detail how you will achieve those goals, the actual methods that will be put in place across all the digital platforms you are using. This will not only help you stay focused but will save hours of time, crawling the internet for content ideas, posts, designing newsletters late into the night.

Local search

You want your business to get found when people type words into search engines – this is all down to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and one of the big topics so far this year is about ‘local search’. If you have a local business, for example, a class or a bricks and mortar shop then you need to be thinking about local search. Using tools like Google My Business to highlight all your business information is really key. This means when someone is searching and your business is applicable, it will not only pop up in the page results but also on the right hand side with a box full of your images, website, opening times, address and reviews.

Use tools

Being your own boss is hard work and time management is an issue a lot of my clients struggle with when it comes to social media. With so many platforms and trying to reach the right customers, it can be overwhelming trying to keep up. A social media management system is a huge help in not only planning your posts and content but also for providing reporting so that you can see how well it is all going or where your challenges are. I’ve used several systems over the years so some of my recommendations are Buffer, Hootsuite, Sprout Social (ideal for larger businesses), Planoly and Later. The last two are specifically for Instagram and while they won’t automatically post for you like other systems for Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, it does prompt reminders for you. Come on Instagram, change that API and help us business owners out huh!

Digital success definitely doesn’t happen overnight, even though it may seem that way for some. It takes work and planning but it can be done and you can do it.


Maxine’s following…

Doing it for the Kids
When I launched the business I discovered Frankie’s account on Instagram and it was brilliant. For a newly launched business I felt like I was amongst friends. The community she has created around DIFK is brilliant because not only are there regular blog posts from inspirational people but you always feel you have support and you’re never alone.

A Branch of Holly
Her blog is filled with productivity tips to help keep you focused on what you want to achieve in your business. I’ve read so many of her amazing post on helping you manage your time, how to achieve better results in your blog and much more. She is truly fantastic at what she does.

Emma Gannon
I discovered Emma on Twitter first and before I knew it I found her Podcasts and I just couldn’t stop listening. She interviews truly amazing women about their journeys, their inspiration and it’s funny and light.  Her website is a fantastic hub of life online and last year she published her first book of the same name all about growing up online. So many things I identified with having grown up with Yahoo Chat and AOL, not to mention a dial up modem.


Maxine’s work…

digitalbonbons.com
instagram.com/digitalbonbons
twitter.com/digitalbonbons
facebook.com/digitalbonbons
pinterest.com/digitalbonbons

Making your voice heard

Consumers make quick judgements about brands. We spend so much time online these days, we are constantly making snap decisions on who to follow. There can be different motivations as to why someone chooses to follow you, but for the purposes of this article I want to focus on businesses who are trying to attract new customers, and retain existing ones. If you’re looking for some quick pointers to help you stay on track with your marketing strategy read on.

BE CONSISTENT

One of the biggest turn-offs for a lot of people is inconsistency. As a consumer if you aren’t sure what a brand represents it can be confusing and you are less likely to commit to following and engaging with them. If you are starting out and want to build a community (and ultimately attract customers) you need to set out a clear brand identity for your company. I’m not just talking about visuals, but knowing how to translate your brand’s personality into the written word is crucial too. Are you funny, informative, irreverent or serious? Try anthropomorphising your brand – for example if Social Butterflies was a person it would be a career driven mother who was a savvy consumer of lifestyle products and services. If you can define its personality and attributes you can begin to see its place in the market. Being confident about this information will help you stand out from the crowd and create a niche for your business.

STAY TRUE TO YOU

Don’t keep chopping and changing your offering. Nothing says “I don’t know what I’m doing” more than a company that regularly changes its image and business offering. Being consistent doesn’t mean you can’t evolve of course, but over time. If you’re overhauling your entire proposition within a matter of months from launching (or even every couple of months) then something is seriously wrong. You need to take time out, reassess what it is and have a clear business strategy before you start marketing your services. Particularly if you are offering any kind of marketing services – this could be the kiss of death for your business otherwise.

THINK LIKE A CONSUMER

The best way to get back to basics with your online business presence is to think about how you interact with social media as a consumer. Sometimes you can be so immersed in the day to day running of a business you forget to put yourself in the consumers’ shoes. Look at how other businesses project their image online – what works and what doesn’t.

BE A LEADER

But don’t follow a lazy business model by simply copying what other people are doing. Authenticity and originality are the attributes which will engage and retain your customers, so keep it real. You’ll find that customers in a niche audience will tend to follow the same people, so you will stand out as a copycat pretty quickly. If you’ve been inspired by someone else’s success then that’s great, but trying to keep up appearances and shadowing someone else’s online persona will only lead to feelings of disappointment. Concentrate on your own strengths, your company’s USP and carve out your own voice.

DON’T OVERSTRETCH YOURSELF

Don’t compare your business offering to others and simply try to match or exceed it. If you have a strong offering in one or two keys areas, then focus your energy on building those up and making them pay. Once you’ve honed those, then you can look to expand your services or product range. Spreading yourself too thin just to keep pace with competitors is not good business practice. Always remember what your key skill sets are, refine them and teach yourself new ones.

IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE

The message is pretty simple: know who you are and what you do. It’s not rocket science, but so often people get overwhelmed by the mass audiences online and start to panic. This is totally understandable; it can be an overcrowded marketplace. But all the more reason to take a step back and have a clear digital marketing strategy in place before you go live. Be confident in your offering and if in doubt seek advice from professionals.


If you’re interested in finding out more then visit my new digital marketing consultancy website: amywhitedigital.com.

Time for a positive change

Something occurred to me this week after I’d read some lovely emails from readers of Social Butterflies, there is a never-ending discussion online (and offline) about ‘honest parenting’, we can’t get enough of books like Hurrah For Gin and The Unmumsy Mum. But how about some ‘honest career chat’? I’m not talking about flexible working – there are huge strides being made in that area, thanks to amazing ambassadors like Mother Pukka and Digital Mums. I’m talking about the identity crisis so many women feel when they put their careers on hold to have a family. So why does this issue still feel like a taboo subject?

For many women of my generation (born in the 70s/80s) we had established professional identities long before children came along (not forgetting spontaneous mini-breaks, oh how I miss you mini-breaks). But no-one, it seems, feels comfortable talking about the lows of career compromise in motherhood. The most obvious reason is because people don’t want to prejudice future job opportunities or damage their image. But I’m not talking about committing an act of career self-harm. It’s just about acknowledging those lows so you can refocus that energy on creating new highs. If you’ve taken time out, or your foot off the career accelerator, then your confidence needs building up. You’re not going to get that by feeling unable to talk about it. Knowing others feel the same way is both reassuring and empowering. When you feel part of a movement don’t you feel more energised to make a change?

So I would like to open up the conversation. But this isn’t a drowning your sorrows exercise. This is very much about focusing on the positives. It’s about recognising your worth, valuing your experience, honing your skills, retraining in some cases, pursuing a passion and giving each other a leg-up! (I’ve been there, so I should know). I took a three-year career break a few years ago (but I did have two children) so I never feel awkward about explaining that time off to prospective employers. Maybe if I hadn’t done that I might be earning more money, or have a more impressive job, but I don’t like to look back. I am where I am because of the choices I made – no regrets. I think one of the best things you can do if you are on a career plateau is to skill yourself up. Even now, with over 16 years’ experience behind me I still think it’s important to attend courses, workshops and industry events. You should never be complacent about your knowledge in the workplace. I work in digital marketing where innovations and trends move so fast I have to keep pace.

If you’re feeling out of touch with your career identity and looking to try something new, or maybe just want to enhance your existing skills, then take heart from all the amazing women we feature on Social Butterflies. So many of them have taken career breaks, or left behind stellar jobs to try something new that suits family life. You can achieve that too – all it requires is a positive attitude, determination, a healthy dose of confidence and a good support network. You too could feel like the lady in the photo (looks like a Bodyform advert, I know).

TOP TIPS

KEEP ON LEARNING
The best advice I can give anyone who is feeling out of touch with the work place is to continuing learning: take a course, attend a workshop, go to a talk. Find something that interests you and meet like-minded people. Taking courses purely for professional reasons is great too (I’m currently learning all about analytics…) but be clear about what you want to get out of it, particularly if you’re paying a lot of money for something.

RETHINK YOUR STORY
Even if you’re not currently looking for work, try writing your CV out as you would a diary-style story. It’s a great exercise to help order your career thoughts and reexamine what you have to offer in an informal way. Once you’ve got a clearer sense of what that story is, you can translate into a CV format (have a look at Pinterest for CV style inspiration). Set yourself up with a LinkedIn profile and connect with old colleagues – you never know where Barry from accounts is now working and how he could help (by the way, Barry is a fictional character, purely for illustrative purposes).

EXPERIENCE NOT AGE
With age comes wisdom. We should be proud of the experience we have gained, and not compare ourselves to twenty-somethings. Each generation has their own unique skill set  – ours is multitasking experience (in bucket loads!). Taking time out of work has reinvigorated your desire to work, not diminished it. I’m in my late-thirties and we’re not having any more children, so I represent a whole load of women who are not going to go on maternity leave and we’re less likely to flit from job to job. This is an advantage for a future employer. It’s all about changing negative perceptions and seeing the positives.

POSITIVITY PEOPLE
It’s therefore crucial to surround yourself with positive people. There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, but the doomsayers can quite frankly f**ck off! If you’re trying to lift yourself up you need people with a glass half full attitude. I always think if you project positivity you will attract it (you can have that as a motivational fridge magnet, you’re welcome).

I’m really hoping by getting this topic out in the open it will help other women out there, who felt like I once did. I’d love to hear from anyone who has felt like this and has made positive changes in their career. Please email hellosocialbutterflies@gmail.com. I’d love to feature your story and inspire other women to do the same.

The authentic face of PR

Kelly Pike is an arts and culture PR Consultant based in Bristol, and owner of Folk Public Relations. The phenomenal rise of digital and social media has changed the landscape of public relations. With that in mind we asked Kelly to share her thoughts on the industry, the age of the social media influencer, and how best to promote your business online.

Tell us about yourself

A lot of things can lead a girl into PR and for me it was books and a love of talking to people. Non stop. I spent most of my career working in London publishing houses looking after household names and award winners of all kinds. I loved it. Big time. But children and London’s crazy property ladder saw a move to the south-west and Folk Public Relations was born. Slowly and on the back of very little sleep. I specialise in arts and culture PR but am excitingly branching out into some mama-brands such as This Mum Runs.

How has digital technology and social media changed the PR landscape?

Recently I’ve found myself thinking back to the start of my career, in the early noughties. Back then we used to joke about bloggers asking for review copies and how really they were for their nan or a present. Not for promotion. Publicity was very traditional then. It probably hadn’t changed for decades. Digital technology and the social media revolution have changed my industry more than many. It’s not enough to get great coverage in a women’s glossy or a TV show. Now a campaign needs to feel holistic and organic. And it needs to feel real.

Social media is a key part of this. We’ve seen the traditionally fairly separate disciplines of marketing and publicity merge so that quite often now publicity includes social media marketing and all my plans will include social media influencers now in the way they used to include celebrities.

It’s actually quite nice because I think it all feels a bit more authentic. Influencers are already your target demographic so what you end up with is publicity which feels much more authentic and real. And PR which feels like that is much more likely to end up creating the much courted and incredibly elusive word of mouth affect.

What are your top PR tips for women wanting to promote themselves and their businesses online?

What social media has also done, of course, is make promoting yourself much more accessible. Social media influencers should be the core part of anyone’s campaign; sometimes the only part of your campaign. And because you can usually contact them directly through Instagram or twitter, there’s no excuse.

Make it authentic
You need to get to know the influencers and treat them as people. Chat to them, make friends. It’s social media after all. Then they are much more likely to want to help you by featuring your product. And you gain some new friends. Win, win. It all makes sense really. Call it PR karma if you will.

Stories
If a career in book publishing has taught me anything it’s the power of the story. Stories sell; stories get under the skin; stories help people connect with a product. Everyone has a story and the key to a great PR campaign is finding its story. I will always ask my clients if there are any personal stories behind what they are selling. And there is always something – be it that eureka moment, a journey through adversity or a family member who inspired them.

Read the papers
Whilst social media adds depth and voice to your campaign and many great brands have started out there, you lose nothing by knowing the media. I keep a reference collection of newspapers to remind myself of columns and writers and headlines which work well. And I read as much as I can. You then start to get a sense of where your story will work best – life and style sections for example, or first person columns. Keep and eye on the news to see if you can use it as a launch pad for an opinion piece.

And don’t be afraid to pick up the phone
I’ve noticed that fewer people like to do this. It feels almost rude but it’s still the best way to make sure things happen. At least you know they’ve heard you when you speak to them.

Don’t give up. Keep being you. Making friends. You’ll get there in the end.


Kelly’s is following…

This Mum Runs: I recently started running. I never ran. Ever. I would stand in the cold and laugh in people’s faces weekly at the park run as I waited yet again at Park Run. I would never run. But then I came across This Mum Runs and it’s ethos has been a total game changer for me. Mel Bound is an incredibly inspiring woman who has made it her mission to empower women who felt like they had lost themselves, or felt lonely, isolated, depressed or just lacking in me-time and give them headspace through free social runs and a hugely supportive, welcoming and active Facebook community. She also runs a totally parent friendly business and she recently was picked as a figurehead for a huge Facebook campaign #SheMeansBusiness and was picked by the Sunday Times as one of their 100 disrupters.  They have done incredible things in the south-west but are expanding to London in April. I urge all mums everywhere to check her out.

Doing It For The Kids: One day when I was felling a bit worried about where my next project was coming from I came across Frankie and her blogline Doing It For The Kids. We got chatting and before I knew it I was writing for her. It has hugely increased my love and engagement with Instagram because the community of freelance parents there are so supportive. We’re all going through the same issues. It’s great to not feel alone. Plus I got some projects out of it


Kelly’s work

folkpublicrelations.co.uk
twitter.com/publicistkelly
instagram.com/bristol_mama

Coach your way to success

Ruth Kudzi had a successful career in recruitment before moving into education, where she was a senior manager for 10 years. It was during the selection and coaching process for a fast-track head teacher program, that she became interested in retraining as a business coach. Ruth realised her skills and natural aptitude could lead to a successful career. Finding a job which fitted around family life, utilised her expertise, and that she felt passionately about, has proved a winning formula. Ruth now specialises in supporting mums who want to achieve in business. If anyone knows how to do it she does, so we asked Ruth to share her career story and top tips for aspiring businesswomen.

Tell us about yourself

I am Ruth, I started my career in recruitment and executive search before moving into education. I spent 12 years working in education, the last nine as a senior leader and consultant. In 2011 I was selected to be part of a fast track program for aspiring head teachers. Through the program I got a coach and I found the impact transformational. I started to become really interested in coaching and I began to coach on a voluntary basis as well as through work, completing various courses and training.

When I became pregnant with my first daughter I started more coaching training and set up my own blog, I worked on this and a couple of other ventures during my first maternity leave but didn’t put much effort into making them work. When I returned to work full time I found juggling my career and my home life really hard, I knew I wanted to start up on my own. So, I completed more training, got myself a coach and started coaching. It took me about six months to settle on my niche working with mums and it wasn’t until Autumn 2016 that I decided to focus on the business element. By this stage I was an experienced and qualified coach and I realised that my passion lay with helping mums create the work/life balance that I had been able to create.

I love working with mums on their businesses and it is very satisfying seeing other mums build the lives that they want and develop successful businesses.

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

It means that I can be a lot more flexible in where I work and how I work. I have clients from all over the world so I can communicate with them easily which I would never have been able to do before.

I have really used social media to build my brand which was invaluable when I had my youngest with me full time, it meant that people could find out about me without meeting me.

I have built up a strong group in Facebook and on Instagram and have met so many brilliant women – women who I am working with, collaborating with and who are working for me in various roles. It has been amazing to hook up with all of these women and help each other.

What are your top tips for mums who want to start their own businesses?

Money matters
I think planning is key and I know it is boring but financials, work out exactly how much money you need and then add 20% to that. So many businesses fail as they haven’t got their head around the financials, if these really aren’t your thing get an accountant or a book keeper to help you.

Support network
Getting support and building a network around you is key. It can be really lonely so finding others doing a similar thing is a great way of having the team aspect without working in an office. If you don’t know how to do something or you lack confidence then get someone to help you. I work with lots of women who have tried to do everything on their own and they find themselves becoming burnt out and demotivated, there are people who can help you so use them.

Devote time to yourself
Spend time on you every day. You are your business and you need to value yourself and nuture yourself for your business to be a success. When you focus on you and being the best version of you it will have a massive impact on your business (and your life).


Ruth is following…

Mother Pukka is bloody brilliant for her flex appeal campaign, she speaks to so many women as we do still want to work but just more flexibly.

Rachel McMichael

Rachel McMichael (aka the techspert) is a lady I have worked with on tech and she is really inspiring, she is the person to go to for tech presented in a really user friendly way (and is a whizz on Facebook ads).

marie forleo

I love Marie Forleo and my coach Emily Williams is awesome. They are both really authentic to themselves and show how you can create mega businesses online.


Ruth’s work

ruthkudzicoaching.com
instagram.com/ruthkudzicoach
facebook.com/groups/careerchangemums
twitter.com/ruthkudzicoach

First (and very possibly last) ‘Podcast’

We all make decisions we may live to regret, creating this Podcast could be mine. I recorded and edited this in a couple of hours to prove a point to myself, and hopefully to you too. If you’ve got an idea don’t keep procrastinating, give it a go. I’d like to quickly caveat my use of the word ‘Podcast’ for fear of retribution. I’m sure the criteria for describing it as a Podcast requires it to be longer than five minutes, informative and entertaining, I cannot promise any of these sadly. As a fan of Radio 4 Woman’s Hour I’d just like to apologise to the nation in advance.

This is for all the mum’s out there who’ve taken a career break to have children. Returning to work at a level which recognises your worth and allows flexibility is something to be celebrated. But sadly this doesn’t happen very often. How can you find that elusive job and get your mojo back?

I’m cringing as I say the words ‘mission statement’ but essentially my mumblings are an explanation for why I started Social Butterflies and hopefully how it can inspire you too. I’d love to hear your thoughts – please don’t leave me hanging in a virtual bubble! Hopefully my words mean something to you. Or even if it’s just to tell me to stop making bad recordings!