I will be speaking about ‘confidence’ alongside Chiedza Sowah, founder of A Bunch of Mums, at Sunita Harvey’s Lucky Things event in Bristol (click here to buy a ticket). Join us for an afternoon of socialising, networking and inspiration. Sunita’s events are a great way to make real life connections.
I first met Sunita at Blogtacular where she was speaking on a panel with author and broadcaster Emma Gannon and writer and blogger Alison Perry. So, I was hugely flattered to be asked to speak about a subject close to my own heart – confidence. As a newbie blogger (I began Social Butterflies this January) I’ve been overwhelmed by the opportunities, experiences and connections I’ve made via social media.
My story is one a lot of you will relate to: finding your professional identity after becoming a mother. I’ve been on an incredible confidence rollercoaster over the past seven years but maintaining a positive attitude and believing in my own abilities has enabled me to keep on going (even when I’ve felt like giving up!).
We are our own worst enemies when it comes to confidence. We unrealistically compare ourselves to others and delude ourselves into believing in perfection. As I get older I’ve becoming more conscious about my strengths (and weaknesses) and I’ve come to the conclusion that being the best version of myself is more than good enough. I hope that along with Sunita and Chiedza we will create an interesting discussion around what confidence means to us – I do hope you can join us.
On Wednesday 5th July I hosted an event at The Forge, owned by Silke Lloyd (pictured right) in Bristol with businesswoman Hayley Southwood (pictured centre). The evening was an informal talk and opportunity for local women to make new business connections. Hayley inspired us all with her career story – the highs and lows. I wanted the event to feel informal and intimate and everyone was encouraged to ask questions. We then tried ‘speed networking’, which wasn’t as bad as it sounds! The idea was for everyone to make three new connections over the course of 15 minutes, and it worked surprisingly well.
It was the culmination of a journey I’ve been on for the past six months and it was lovely to share the experience with so many wonderful women. I started this website initially for two reasons: to connect with like-minded women who felt passionately about fulfilling their career ambitions after becoming mothers; and as a way of showcasing my digital skills in preparation for going freelance. What I hadn’t bargained for along the way is that it would become much more than that. It has become a community, a platform to showcase inspirational women and share our knowledge and experience. The best journeys take you to an unexpected destination and I’m happily embracing the twists and turns.
I’ve had my confidence lifted and my aspirations raised by connecting with these women online, but what’s made it really special has been creating an opportunity for those women to meet in real life. Social media is a powerful thing and its possibilities are truly empowering, but nothing beats the human touch and last week’s event proved that there is a real appetite for people to meet, chat (and drink fizzy). I’ll keep you posted of future events, but for now I hope you enjoy looking through the photos captured by my photographer friend Jessica Siggers (@porthjess).
You’ve probably heard the terms bitcoin and blockchain but have no idea what they mean. Don’t worry, when I met up with Helen Disney, founder of Unblocked Events, I had to politely ask her explain it to me (really simply). In layman’s terms bitcoin is a digital currency and blockchain is a public ledger listing all bitcoin transactions. Helen is a female entrepreneur in an industry dominated by men, but she’s on a mission to make blockchain technology accessible for a non-technical business audience with her new company Unblocked Events, which is a hub for events, education and information.
Tell us about your career and how you became interested in blockchain technology
My career has been largely based around influencing ideas and generating public debates. I started off working for a think tank in Westminster, looking at how to reform public services like the NHS, education and welfare to try to make them more responsive to their users. I then used that experience to go into journalism as a leader writer for The Times and a contributor to other newspapers and magazines. I wrote about everything from pension reform to the MMR jab, drug courts and the ‘Metric Martyr‘. After leaving The Times I took the leap into launching my first business which was a pan-European hub connecting think tanks and policy institutes. But after I had my children I started to crave a change into something new so I took a break from being a full-time CEO to think about what I wanted to do next. Into this gap, fell an opportunity to work on content and fundraising for a major European conference about the digital currency, bitcoin. It was during that project that I first started learning about what blockchain was and becoming excited about its innovative potential.
Can you explain to the uninitiated what blockchain is and what it can do?
Blockchain is the technology that underlies digital currencies like bitcoin. But it’s also more than that. You can think of a blockchain as a bit like a gigantic secure, decentralised database – imagine a Google spreadsheet shared by multiple users all able to access an accurate, real-time shared version of the information. This is useful because it allows many different sorts of innovations and improvements in existing business operations, but also opens up the chance for completely new business models. Imagine, for example, that you could access a hotel room using a smart key and never need to check in at the front desk or that you could trade excess energy from your solar panels automatically with local neighbours who need it and earn money from doing so, or that charities could automate responses to humanitarian crises and get money or supplies directly into the hands of those who need it at the touch of a button. All of these applications will become possible thanks to blockchain in combination with other new technologies like smart devices and smart contracts.
What prompted you to setup Unblocked Events and what are your plans for the future?
Three years after first learning about bitcoin, I founded Unblocked Events to share my learning and connect with other professionals wanting to gain an accessible understanding of this technology and build the new business services of the future. I felt that I had experienced a steep learning curve, as someone who is neither a programmer nor a financier and that most events out there about blockchain were aimed at these two groups. I see blockchain as too important not to be talked about at a level that the so-called average person can understand. By creating Unblocked I am building a wider community of interest in blockchain outside of simply financial services and acting as a bridge between the technical and non-technical worlds. Blockchain has a variety of applications in different sectors from healthcare, to energy, to philanthropy, to provenance of goods and so on. To me, it makes more sense to bring in real world examples and help people to understand what this technology can do for them, rather than getting overly bogged down in jargon.
Which women in business inspire you?
I’m particularly inspired by women who are pioneering in traditionally male-dominated fields, especially those who are honest about the difficulties of managing a personal and professional life, and having an online presence in the era of trolling. I tend to prefer Twitter for technology and political news and Instagram more for the creative side of life.
In tech, I follow Meltem Demirors who is an expert in the digital currency and blockchain field.
Healthcare Unblocked Event: 13 October in London. It will look at how blockchain is set to transform healthcare in a whole variety of ways from improving the integrity of clinical trials, to changing the way healthcare insurance operates and allowing us to take charge of our own medical data.
Meet Jessica Rogers, a professional coach who helps women who run their own businesses. She shares her career story, coaching tips and suggests some great women to follow.
Tell us about yourself
I started my career in marketing children’s entertainment brands and went on to manage well-known toy brands such as Star Wars and Transformers. I liked my job to an extent and I was successful it but I always felt like there was something missing, it never felt quite right.
When I had my first child, whilst negotiating my return to corporate work, I started seeing a Life Coach, it was through this process that I decided to do some coaching training as self-development. After my first month I realised that I loved it and I was good at it, I had found the ‘thing’ I had been missing for a long time. So I quit my job and threw myself into the training. I started my coaching business working with women returnees in large businesses as that is what I knew and I felt well qualified to help these women.
Now, I coach women who own and run small businesses that they are looking to upscale. We work together to clearly identify what they want to achieve and the practical steps they need to take to make it happen. I also provide interactive workshops and coaching sessions for women returnees as part of the TechPixies programme.
I’ve also always had a yearning to work with young people – I started off coaching and mentoring unemployed young people on a south-east London housing estate. Over the years I have coached young people in and out of education, now I do project work for a local group of colleges working with students who have been identified as being “at risk”. This work is really important to me as I feel that giving young people the space that coaching provides can set them on a positive path of self-awareness and taking personal responsibility for their future life and career.
How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?
When I first started coaching nine years ago I saw most of my clients in person, partly because I went to see them in their place of work but also because some people felt uncomfortable about not being able to see me. Now, whilst I still do a lot of phone coaching I also coach by Skype and FaceTime, which has meant I have a wider range of clients in a wide range of locations.
I have a bit of a love hate relationship with social media, I love the connectedness it brings and I love finding new people to engage with, but I hate putting myself out there. When I ditch the fear and do it I love what happens but I have some blocks around it that I am working on!
What are your top coaching tips for women?
Be true to yourself – always: don’t waste time comparing yourself to others – “plow your own furrow”.
Trust your gut: if something doesn’t feel right it usually isn’t despite how attractive others may want you to think it is.
Surround yourself with the right people: those who inspire you to aim higher and who have your back.
Jessica is following…
Jenny Garrett: I have known Jenny for about four years – we met on Twitter! Over the years she has been my coach and I have taken her self-development courses and attended her Happenista retreat. Whenever I have any contact with her she never fails to inspire me with her lovely manner and wise words.
The Step Up Club: I love how these two women give positive useful tips for everyday life in a stylish and accessible way.
Meet Amy Rom, a former teacher who retrained as a health coach after having children. She brings a unique and honest approach to helping others achieve a healthy relationship with food and maintaining a positive body image. Amy shares her career story and tips for nurturing a healthy mind, body and soul.
How did you become a health coach?
After embarking on the first of innumerable life long diets while still at primary school, it’s fair to say that my battles with food and my body have shaped most of my life. It wasn’t until I was fast approaching 40 that I finally decided that enough was enough.
I have two young children (now 6 and 8) and I wanted to do all I possibly could to prevent them from wasting their energy fighting similar exhausting battles with body image. The best way to prevent this happening is to prove that I can be happy, healthy and confident in my own “imperfect” body. So I started reading, learning and soul-searching until I reached a place where I now feel more comfortable in my own skin than ever before.
I took a career break from my previous teaching role in order to raise our two children, and just as my youngest started school, I decided to put my experience to good use by embarking on a change of career. I’d felt so empowered by the lessons I’d learned that I wanted spread the message far and wide. I knew that I’d be able to offer a slightly different perspective to many of the other health coaches out there, because I look nothing like your average yoga toned health coach! I have a wobbly, 40-year-old, size 16 body and I wanted to prove that if I can make peace with my body, and lead a healthy and happy life, then anyone can!
My thirst for knowledge hasn’t yet been satiated and I’m now embarking on a Psychology of Eating diploma – something that I’m very excited about!
What are your top tips for women who want to regain a healthy relationship with food and their bodies
Nurture yourself I love the concept that we should treat ourselves as we would a small child: eat good nutritious food; offer ourselves words of comfort, love and encouragement; get plenty of sleep; and try to get some fresh air every day!
Social media detox Try to distance yourself from diet culture and instead cultivate your own happy social media party. Speaking from personal experience, it really helps if you start following accounts which showcase real, every day bodies. Women of a similar age to you, complete with wobbles, lumps, bumps and stretch marks. The more you are exposed to these body types, the more you appreciate that they (and you!) are totally normal. The media has dominated and twisted our view of female bodies for such a long time that we now have to work hard to redress the balance.
Crowding out, not cutting out We could all write a book on the foods that the diet industry tell us we should cut out. But once you start concentrating on all of the things that you can’t have, you automatically feel deprived and hard done by. So try shifting your focus. What goodness can you crowd IN to your diet? You’ll find that by just making this one simple mindset shift, your food options are suddenly abundant and the world looks like a much brighter place!
Feed the soul We all know that in the real world, food isn’t just fuel; it plays an important emotional part in many aspects of our culture and pretending that it doesn’t is a waste of time. Take the time to really notice and appreciate how the food that you eat makes you. Most of the time food is nourishment for your body, but there are also many occasions when it becomes nourishment for the soul – and that is totally legitimate! But likewise when we are missing fulfilment in other areas of our life, we sometimes try to fill the gap with food. Pay attention to what really lights you up.
Ditch the inner bitch This is something that I talk about A LOT, because I believe it’s so important! So many of us are trapped in a perpetual cycle of negative self talk which does nothing but make us miserable. If your best mate came and told you that her new man was talking to her in the same way that you talk to yourself, you’d tell her to get out of that abusive relationship quick smart. Notice when that inner bitch is piping up and make a conscious effort to silence her. Tell her to shut the f**k up, and then find alternative words to fill the gap – a positive affirmation that you can memorise and repeat to yourself works a treat.
Dana Falsetti: a plus size yogi who makes me realise that all yoga poses are accessible to me, I just have to practice.
Through Happilicious, I offer a one to one coaching programme which can take place face to face at my office in Truro, or via Skype. If you’d like to find out more call me for a chat to see if coaching would work for you.
I’m also preparing to launch an online programme where you’ll be able to work at your own pace through a range of materials. If this is something that appeals to you, why not join my mailing list for all of the latest Happilicious updates? You’ll also receive a free seven-day challenge and e-book with other top tips.
If you’re looking for a body positive online body positive community, come and join my Happilicious Living Facebook group which is a private and safe space in which like minded women discuss their successes and trials and share tips, articles and support. We’d love you to join us!
Meet Charlie Male, the self-titled ‘Chief Rocker’ at Rockbox, an independent business that sells stylish and beautifully curated gift boxes. If like me you struggle to find original gifts for friends and family then these thoughtfully themed boxes are the perfect solution. You can even personalise your box, choosing from a range of covetable goodies. We asked Charlie to share her story so we could find out a bit more about the woman behind the business.
Tell us about yourself
I launched Rockbox just over a year ago, although it was a few years in the planning. The initial inspiration came in 2012 when Mr Rocker and I moved to Singapore. Whilst this was the most excellent adventure it was very far from our favourite people and their celebrations. Maintaining connections became even more important and I wanted to still send beautiful gifts that felt like I had chosen and sent them myself rather than something generic and impersonal. I struggled to find something that really hit the mark and the idea for Rockbox started to form.
We’ve moved back home to the UK in 2014 and the next life event hit – Mini Rocker was born adding another dose of (fabulous!) chaos. Time became precious and gift giving became a last-minute rush or (more often than not) totally forgotten. What I needed was a stylish yet effortless gifting solution and in 2016 I was able to put my ideas into reality and haven’t looked back since!
Before Rockbox my career has mainly been in aviation (I’m a bit of a secret plane geek!). Being in aviation has given me the opportunity to travel to some amazing places and work with some great people. I met Mr Rocker whilst working at an ‘orange’ airline where our eyes met over a check-in desk. I love to travel (I am an airport geek too!) and I have a wandering spirit, although currently my feet are firmly planted on the ground in a little village near Buckingham. I have a daughter (aka Mini Rocker) who is nearly three and Baby Rocker is due in July this year. I could live on sushi and cold beer with a large gin chaser although all three are currently off the menu until July so in the meantime I am a tea and cheese addict!
How are you embracing digital media to promote your business online?
As Rockbox is an online gifting service digital media is hugely important. Our website is our shop front and it is essential that this represents the Rockbox brand and provides a strong indication of the level of quality you can expect from our gifts. We are continually reviewing the website to identify opportunities for improvement to ensure our customers have an easy and consistent shopping experience that totally rocks!
Social media has been a huge part of the journey. Rockbox is a very visual product and it is important for potential customers and suppliers to be able to get a visual sense of what we offer and what our brand is all about. I use social media to not only promote the brand but many of my current suppliers have been sourced through Facebook and Instagram. I have built a great network of friends because of interactions on social media and get so much support from this community – it’s amazing how people you have never met in real life become your go to tribe!
What are your tips for aspiring businesswomen?
Never underestimate how much time social media will take if you intend to actively use it to promote your brand. You need to clearly define your social media presence – how do you want your posts to look, what do you want to say and make sure that it really represents who you are and what your brand is all about. Take time to plan your posts and think about what is important to share and what will engage your followers.
What are your personal favourites from the Rockbox collection and why?
I genuinely love all the our products and spend a lot of time researching the brands that I work with and the products that I offer. A particular favourite however is ‘Lazy Days’ (see photo below). As a busy working mum, I often need encouragement to take time out for myself and I believe that this box is the perfect way to get someone to put their feet up and chill. I love seeing people send this as a gift to their mothers, sisters, daughters, besties to encourage them to take some much-needed time out. The ‘Sleep’ box (see photo above) that we launched as part of our first Mother Day campaign is also a favourite and I just love the Tom Lane Alpaca bed socks – they are one of our best-selling products and I wear mine constantly!
I am a huge fan of our ‘Rock Your Box’ service where customers can choose from our selection of products to make a customised box for their favourite rocker. I absolutely love being able to offer this and it has been a very popular choice with our customers – the ability to create your own Rockbox to suit your budget and the style of the person receiving the gift really enables the customer to feel in control of their gifting decisions whilst still letting us do most of the work.
Charlie is following…
Hayley Southwood @hjsouthwood: inspires me with her infectious enthusiasm for women and business. She is a great support and is all about building women up and working together to achieve fabulous things.
Etta Loves @ettaloves: Jen is massively inspirational – she has launched a super cool brand whilst working full-time and caring for her gorgeous mini rocker Etta. I love watching her brand develop and evolve.
Johanna Rossi is the woman behind Raising Women, a community that supports each other through the challenges of motherhood. We asked Johanna to share her story.
Tell us your professional story
I’m a trained interior architect, however I started my career working for The Walt Disney Company designing children’s clothing. When I moved to Monaco I work as a freelancer and then worked for a photographer here who also published a fashion magazine. My husband opened a restaurant so I started working with him, before having our first child. After my second child I studied to be a health coach and then set up my first company Live a Nourishing Life, a holistic coaching, cooking and organic produce delivery company here in Monaco. I then launched Raising Women in September 2016 when I stripped back to concentrate on coaching. Recently I have taken a step back from my work to reassess and have made the decision to stop coaching and realign my work with my creativity. For the moment I’m enjoying writing a lot.
How has social media changed the way you work?
Social media has changed the way I work hugely, for better and for worse. Social media allows us to connect with people all over the world, that we would very probably never have the chance to connect with. However I do find social media has also been detrimental to my creativity, and often to my confidence as trying to grow a brand at the same time as evolving on a personal and creative level can be hard when there are so many ‘rules’ to adhere to if you also want your business equally grow.
What advice would you give to women who are lacking in confidence?
Make sure you know what it is you are trying to do/achieve, confidence comes with clarity. The clearer you are about what it is you want to do and what it is you want to create the more confident you will be.