Work Matters: Cate Hamilton

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

How did the idea for Babel Babies come about?

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

What are your plans for the business in 2018?

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

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

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

Who inspires you in the world of business?

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


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

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

How to build a beauty brand

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

Tell us a bit about yourself

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

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

How did the idea for Willowberry come about?

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

Willowberry Natural Skincare

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

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

What challenges have you had to overcome?

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

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

What lessons have you learnt?

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

What advice would you give to an aspiring business woman?

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


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

How to harness the power of influencer marketing

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

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

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

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

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

TOP TIPS: INFLUENCER MARKETING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


instagram.com/chromastationery
chromastationery.co.uk

Five things you need to know about trade marks

1. What is a trade mark?

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. How do you protect a trade mark?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Trading overseas

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


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

 

Work Matters: Christabel Saul

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

Why does work matter to you?

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

Describe in three words what professional success means to you…

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

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

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

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

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

What did that experience teach you?

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

What’s your proudest professional achievement to date?

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

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

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

Who is your present day career heroine and why?

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

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

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

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

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

Finding a work-life balance

Luisa Sanders is a social media manager and blogger who is passionate about giving mums the confidence to forge new careers or go it alone after having children. Having taken a career break of over 18 months after having her first son, Luisa took the plunge into the world of freelance, working for a variety of organisations including Netmums and English Heritage. Since 2013, Luisa has worked for Aardman Animations as a social media manager. She also writes a blog, Bristol Bargainista. Here she shares her story and explains why she feels becoming a mother has given her more confidence and made her more productive.

Tell us about yourself

I’ve never followed what you’d call a ‘solid’ career path! I had literally no idea what I was going to do with my life when I left university and in all honesty I felt pretty overwhelmed by the idea of navigating the world of work. I’ve worked in everything from publishing to gaming, but my career before kids didn’t really fulfil me. I can see with hindsight that I was often marking time in work – just filling the days and looking forward to the next pay cheque without really pushing out for more. I knew that writing was the thing I loved best about my job but I often felt frustrated by the creative limitations of working for a big organisation. By the time I’d become pregnant with my first child, I’d started doing a little bit of freelance writing on the side and realised that this was ‘my thing’.

That was almost 14 years ago and today I’m in a much better place professionally. Having children has without doubt focused me in terms of career. It hasn’t been easy – I took a break of over 18 months after having my first child, plus we moved from London to Bristol in that time, but becoming a mother gave me a new-found confidence and determination to carve out a freelance career. I never wanted to be the mother who was out at work from dawn till dusk, missing the nativity play and never seeing her children, so I become absolutely focused on making an income in a way that suited our new family dynamic.

luisa sanders family

How to you balance the demands of children and work?

I’m one of those annoying people who has managed to find a lovely employer who does their best to offer family-friendly, flexible hours. I’m constantly astounded by the lack of value society places on mothers and that organisations can’t see that they’re missing out on a huge talent pool by not offering flexible working. Personally, having children has made me much more productive at work – I fit in what I used to do in a five-day week into much less time. I think there’s a lot of time wasted in unnecessary meetings, hanging around the water cooler or simply faffing about when you have more time at your disposal. I don’t mean to denigrate those full-timers without kids but I do think you value a good employer much more when you’re a working parent; I never take sick days, am always punctual and pack as much into my days as possible as I know how lucky I am – it’s a deal that works in everyone’s favour.

In the early days, I had moments of wondering how I was going to make it all work – there were a lot of early morning starts, working at 6am before the kids woke up and then picking things up again when they were in bed. I’ve worked many weekends and have taken my lap-top on family holidays, but that’s the deal you make when you go freelance – I was happy to do those unorthodox hours to be around for my children when they were little.

What are your tips for mums trying to get back into work?

I won’t lie to you – I found the journey back to work challenging, exhausting and bewildering. I felt as if the landscape had totally changed in the time I was away, plus I only returned back to ‘proper’ work when I was on the cusp of turning 40. Rocking up to Aardman for my first day at work, I’ll admit I had a wobble; how was I, a middle aged mum, going to bring any relevance and insight to my new social media job?

But you’ve got to shut down that inner monologue and remember all the things you do, as a mum, bring to the table: resilience, patience, problem solving, time management and real life experience, to name just a few. I became a much more competent person after having children, something I reminded myself of frequently when I was feeling unsure of my abilities. That and the fact that I’d pushed a baby out and that no job interview or stressful work situation could ever be as life changing or important as that.

Writing my blog helped me to learn some great digital skills and help me find my voice – I wholeheartedly recommend this as a way to explore your creativity or hone your writing skills if writing is something you love. While I’m not a natural networker and suffer with anxiety, I learnt to put myself out there. I connected with numerous people and companies in Bristol; some I never heard from again, but some become clients I’ve enjoyed a long-standing relationship with.

I’ve also always been honest about the fact that being a mum comes first with me. Interestingly, in the interview for my first job post having children, I was asked what my proudest achievement was to date. I answered ‘having my son’ and immediately wondered if I’d just committed career suicide. But I got the job and it was – I was informed by employer afterwards – my honesty and obvious dedication to my family that got me the job. Those employers DO exist but you need to work hard to find them. So do your research, send out those emails and keep going – you can make motherhood and work work for you – good luck.

Meet-up with Kate Starkey (CheltenhamMaman)

On Monday 20th November we had 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?

The event was 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. We talked about running a business, digital marketing, social media and the tricky balance of being the face of your own brand. Below are photos from the evening, taken by Bristol based photographer Jessica Siggers, AKA @porthjess.

Newsflash: social media exists to make money

Sorry to break it to you all, but it’s true. However, the tide is turning and a new generation of bloggers, vloggers and Instagrammers are using these platforms to their advantage and making a living from them. Social media networks are marketing and advertising tools like any other, but unlike traditional forms of media (TV, press, radio) they are not subject to stringent regulation. They are embedded in our digital culture purely as ‘social connectors’ and to the average consumer that’s true (on the surface) and that’s why we all love them. But the reality is that they are billion dollar money-making corporations, not worthy social-enterprise projects.

I find it surprising that considering the overwhelming power and effect social media has on our lives that so many people misunderstand its purpose. Money and the currency of influence is what fuels these networks. But we continue to attach the morality of friendship, trust and authenticity to the likes of Facebook and Instagram and feel a sense of collective outrage and disappointment when we are reminded of the commercial realities which are bubbling beneath the surface. I probably sound very cynical, but don’t misunderstand me, I’m just looking pragmatically at these networks as business tools.

Collective delusion

Part of the reason I felt compelled to write this article is because there has been a huge amount of discussion in the last week sparked by an ‘Insta-mums‘ thread on a Mumsnet discussion forum. Several high-profile social media influencers including Mother of Daughters and Father of Daughters (pictured below) have come in for all manner of verbal abuse and criticism for making money through paid social media content. Now, personally I think that if you put yourself out in the public domain you have to be prepared for a certain degree of negativity – there will always be a few people who can’t resist judging and bitching (let’s not forget Katie Hopkins has made a career out of it). However, personal insults (or trolling) are obviously unacceptable and unnecessary, and the armchair warriors would clearly never say it to their faces. That said I do think it’s brought up some interesting points and I think there is a collective delusion going on around this topic.

Clemmie and Simon Hooper

The global corporations like Facebook (who own Instagram) are making billions of dollars harvesting all our data and selling it on to companies which in turn target us with ‘demographic specific’ advertising. We are all happy to create accounts and spend inordinate amounts of time on these platforms. The unpalatable truth is that we are all caught up in the murky net of advertising on a daily basis: consciously or unconsciously and to deny that fact is at best naive and at worst hypocritical. Where an opportunity to make money exists people will exploit it. Fact.

Winning the game

Now, if you turn this on its head and start to consider that bloggers, vloggers and Instagrammers are making these mass commercial platforms work for them as a business then you can begin to understand the appeal. After all a lot of work goes on behind the scenes building a social media brand – just take a look at Mother Pukka AKA Anna Whitehouse. Her approach and response to all this judgement and ‘Daily Mail-esque’ controversy is to be open and confrontational, but not in an aggressive way – Anna plays the game as it should be played. She’s a businesswoman making a living and is happy to discuss the pros and cons of walking the tightrope between personal and business. At least she’s open to discussing it and surely that’s the point – the more transparency the better. If she’s not your cup of tea then find someone who is.

I’m not making any judgements about specific individuals, but I think it’s important if you’re going to have a debate about the perceived unsavoury aspects of making a living by selling stuff via social media that you acknowledge the part we all play as consumers in that – we are all at the behest of big business. So, if a few people choose to make money by using it as a business tool we shouldn’t be surprised or overtly offended.

You may choose to be personally upset by the commercial partnerships some bloggers choose to go into, and that’s fair enough. That’s what the unfollow button is for. Within reason you can choose what you see (damn those pesky algorithms). So, I urge people to make active choices about what and who they follow and also remember people are making a living from platforms that are making a living from you. If you have a problem with that then perhaps social media is too morally corrupt a place for you. My philosophy on the whole culture of social media brings to mind a classic quote by Rudyard Kipling: “If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs, and blaming you. The world will be yours and everything in it”. Don’t lose sight of what drives the media-technology companies to engineer these social networks. Get what you want from them and enjoy it for what it is.

Changing the culture

Now, rather than having a go at all the people trying to make a living via social media, how about ploughing all that energy into making Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and their friends more accountable for their advertising standards. Also, while we’re at it how about better regulation generally on social media and more education in our schools, colleges and universities. How about re-educating the workforce too while we’re at it? Big businesses should take more corporate responsibility for the effects their networks have on society and be clear, open and subject to scrutiny.

Meet-up with Hayley Southwood

On Wednesday 5th July I hosted an event at The Forge, owned by Silke Lloyd (pictured right) in Bristol with businesswoman Hayley Southwood (pictured centre). The evening was an informal talk and opportunity for local women to make new business connections. Hayley inspired us all with her career story – the highs and lows. I wanted the event to feel informal and intimate and everyone was encouraged to ask questions. We then tried ‘speed networking’, which wasn’t as bad as it sounds! The idea was for everyone to make three new connections over the course of 15 minutes, and it worked surprisingly well.

I was lucky enough to work with local Bristol suppliers to provide products for the event: soft drinks from Bristol artisan producer Lovely Drinks; goody bags from Amphora Aromatics; and a selection of teas from Pukka Herbs. I worked with lettering artist Ellen Waldren and screen print artist Stephanie Orr from Flat 102 to produce limited edition tote bags. I also commissioned Bristol poet Tatterhood to write a poem which summed up the spirit of Social Butterflies.

It was the culmination of a journey I’ve been on for the past six months and it was lovely to share the experience with so many wonderful women. I started this website initially for two reasons: to connect with like-minded women who felt passionately about fulfilling their career ambitions after becoming mothers; and as a way of showcasing my digital skills in preparation for going freelance. What I hadn’t bargained for along the way is that it would become much more than that. It has become a community, a platform to showcase inspirational women and share our knowledge and experience. The best journeys take you to an unexpected destination and I’m happily embracing the twists and turns.

I’ve had my confidence lifted and my aspirations raised by connecting with these women online, but what’s made it really special has been creating an opportunity for those women to meet in real life. Social media is a powerful thing and its possibilities are truly empowering, but nothing beats the human touch and last week’s event proved that there is a real appetite for people to meet, chat (and drink fizzy). I’ll keep you posted of future events, but for now I hope you enjoy looking through the photos captured by my photographer friend Jessica Siggers (@porthjess).

 

Stop dreaming, start doing

The Step Up Club is a fresh, new voice in the women’s career conversation. We are here to celebrate all women – whatever your job. The two of us sit at either ends of the creative/corporate spectrum: we know that it’s just as valid to aspire to career contentment, as it is to want to become your company’s next CEO. We are the authors of the newest women’s career manual: Step Up: Confidence, Success and Your Stellar Career in 10 Minutes a Day. Through our stylish events, online content and newsletter, our aim is to make women feel empowered, boost their skill set and broaden their network to really love their work and life.

Phanella is a former lawyer and banker who retrained as an executive career coach, working (alongside The Step Up Club) on women’s leadership and diversity with all kind of big companies as well as individuals. Alice is a former fashion features editor at The Times, Marie Claire and Red, who alongside The Step Up Club continues to write freelance for many of the broadsheets and glossies. Between us we have five children and live in North West London.

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

Getting our message out there has definitely been enabled by social media and digital technology. Our book, of course, exists offline and contains a huge body of content, career workouts and advice. But without our blog and social feeds, it would be that much more difficult to get the more personal element of support out to our community of women – many of whom can’t make it to our events in person. We are working on a full online programme to reach and connect these women, but in the meantime we rely on these other channels to have an impact.

It is hard, when Instagram and similar feeds are bursting with edited images of life perfection from all corners of the world. It takes a mind of steel to remain completely unmoved by this – but as we say at the start of our book, finding success (and when we talk about success, we do so with a view to all facets of life) is about celebrating our own uniqueness and not allowing ourselves to have the lives of others impressed upon us negatively. Sure, it’s brilliant if other women inspire us to reach our own goals, but it is also important that we stay true to our own beliefs and values, which is why we spend a lot of time helping readers (and attendees at our events) unearth theirs. We like to refer to values as the hashtags of our lives: we can’t get away from social media, but we can let it help us guide us towards our own success.

What are your confidence building tips for women in business?

We feel passionately that confidence is an integral part of career success, fulfilment and enjoyment. Confidence turns our thoughts into actions, it is the emotional driver that we hold within ourselves and women do tend to struggle more acutely with confidence levels. Why? Because our internal thoughts, the ones that make us empathetic, kind, unique and brilliant, also have the capacity to hold us down. Who hasn’t succumbed to the voice inside their heads that says we aren’t good enough, or that that other person is much more capable? Of course, everyone has these thoughts but when we allow them to feel comfortable within our heads – when we let the proverbial devil dwell for too long – it has a negative impact on how we feel, how we function and in turn, how others respond to us too.

Confidence is not innate, which means that we all have the capacity to change our internal rhetoric and in turn, build our confidence. Also, in our book, we explore fully the practical tips that you can employ to also improve your confidence levels from the outside in. Neither will happen overnight, but if you can break the negative belief cycles that dictate your thoughts, and implement some positive physical changes – standing bigger, speaking more slowly and taking the time to really listening, all of us can become a more confident, self-assured version of your current self.

Finally, we believe that each of us is uniquely brilliant. We each have our own unique definition of success and if we play to that – no one else’s – then we will feel more confident about our careers.


Alice and Phanella are following…

Style Me Sunday: We love Nat’s no bullshit message, incredible sense of style and massive smile. She is gorgeous inside and out. We are especially loving her Friday finger slot.

Cherry Healey: We’ve both been watching Cherry on TV for years and she brings the same sense of humour, openness and honesty to her social feed and in real life.


The Step Up Club

We send out a weekly newsletter with loads of career advice, our latest blog posts, first dibs on our event tickets – they often sell out here first – and (coming soon) discounts on our favourite work related brands. At the moment we’re giving away an exclusive excerpt from our book that WILL help readers define their personal success when they sign up. Just follow this link: bit.ly/SuccessGiveaway.