Tiddler and Fox News
Christmas is coming! I know, I know...it's only the 4th October, but I've been planning and making for Christmas since July so this doesn't feel weird for me, but I do appreciate that it may be a tad early for some. Now that my Christmas collection is on the website for all to enjoy, with further products to follow over the next couple of months, I thought I would briefly share with you how I have gone about planning for the festive period.
As this is my first year as a fully fledged retail business owner, the thought of starting my planning for Christmas in July seemed a bit daft, especially as I was sat here in shorts and t shirt whilst doing it (very difficult to get into the right mindset of snowflakes and silly jumpers when its over 24 degrees!) but I was so glad I did. The retail world really does start to think about the festive season in January, and in a way I wish I had too and I will be doing just that for 2017.
However, having said that, the past year or so has been a massive learning curve and my ideas, goals and plans have evolved and changed constantly over that time, so any Christmas ideas would most likely have changed too.
So, not having the faintest idea where to start I stumbled upon a course run by the lovely Jenny Hyde, called Christmas Support (www.thejennyhyde.com). Run over the month of August with five live webinars, a Facebook group and the chance to ask daft questions to Jenny too, it was money well spent. Not only was I able to have my questions answered by someone who didn't think I was an idiot, it was great to know that I was not alone in needing the support for this coming festive time, that Jenny was able to give clear guidance on all the different aspects; financial, social media planning, designing, making and creating that I should be thinking about. We were encouraged to visualise what our ideal Christmas would look like and how our products would be used and what feelings they would provoke.
I had a vision of what I wanted my Christmas plan to look like, what images I would need and the feel I wanted to create. I've tried really hard to achieve this. Not being an expert, I'm fairly happy so far, with plenty more to do, but my skills don't quite live up to the results I wanted and neither does my budget! However, by the end of this month I hope that I will have created something festive, cosy, nostalgic and warming, evoking that feel of a traditional Christmas that I love and that I hope my customers (you!) do too!
So along with making and creating new products, ordering festive products from my suppliers (candles and candle holders) and making decisions on what to stock when, I also had what seemed like the mammoth task of deciding what my social media strategy and images would look like. Wow. I put this off for about two weeks, not really understanding how to go about it. I already plan a lot of my blog posts, newsletters and social media posts in advance but doing it for a theme like Christmas that would pretty much cover two whole months or more left me feeling a bit overwhelmed - where do you start?!
Well, the answer to that is wine...no, not really...instead I made the decision to set aside an afternoon to plan. So armed with about 20 sheets of A3 paper, notebooks and lots of lovely colour pens, I sat on the living room floor and basically didn't move until I have a plan laid out in front of me!
I had a list of images I wanted to post on each platform, for Instagram I now have a list of images for every day in November and December, which is a first for me, as it means I'm not winging it for a change! Twitter and Facebook and my website all have a plan with topics and images mapped out. Still some gaps to fill and I haven't tackled Pinterest yet (LOVE Pinterest!), but I have blog posts planned and some drafted, and now as I write this, the Christmas collection is live too.
After two days of photography and editing and a whole 8 hours of uploading and writing listings, it's there! Phew. Still more lovely gifts to come but I'm so pleased that I've managed so much this early in October. You can see it here
It does mean that the office wall is covered in wall planners and sheets of A3 but I can go into the Christmas season feeling so much more confident and hopefully, ready!
I now promise that I won't mention the C word again until next month!
Until next time...
The positive effects of nostalgia and how listening to 80's music is actually good for you. I recently wrote in my weekly newsletter about my slight obsession with Absolute 80's radio and the fact that the 10th August was Duran Duran Appreciation Day, which came as a surprise to me but then there are so many weird and wonderful celebration days now that it shouldn't be and neither should the idea of appreciating something from our past, even if it is 1980's pop music.
I've been doing a bit of reading about the impact and influence nostalgia has and just how important a part it can play in our lives. There have been extensive studies and a lot of research on this subject in the past 20 years or so and one of the main benefits that has been discovered is that nostalgia can help us to feel more optimistic about the future, it makes us feel more socially connected to others, which in turn makes us feel better about ourselves. Feeling better in the moment can give us a boost of positive feeling.
Amazingly, nostalgia was originally considered to be a neurological disease when the term was first used in 1688 and a 'mentally repressive compulsive disorder', but thanks to research so much more is known about it's positive effects and these are also common to people around the world.
Feeling nostalgic can make us more willing to part with our money too and retailers, advertisers and even charities use this effect to their advantage. Those positive feelings and optimism means that our desire for money doesn't have such a strong effect on us and we are happy to give more away.
Nostalgia is ever popular on social media too and as time goes by there are more and more images and memories being archived that we can return to again and again. Facebook itself capitalises on this by sending us albums of photos friends have shared on the Facebook anniversary of your friendship...I experienced this recently and really enjoyed looking back over the past 8 years of shared fond memories.
Studies have shown that nostalgia can have a long lasting effect on our decisions politically as well.*
There is evidence to show too that nostalgia can protect and foster mental health, counteracting feelings of loneliness, boredom and anxiety.^
It can also help us with transitions in our lives, from child to adult for example, as we experience leaving home, getting our first job etc, we benefit from looking back at fond memories of school or family holidays during that time.
So, back to my obsession with Absolute 80's radio and these theories help to explain why I like it so much, but also listening to nostalgic music can actually make you feel physically warmer, nostalgia is more common on cold days apparently.
All of which makes me feel even better about the fact that I love listening to the music of my youth and having hard scientific fact means I can fully justify this when my partner moans about having to listen to yet more 80's pop!
Let me know in the comments what makes you nostalgic. Is it music, memories of holidays as a child or even certain smells, I would love to know!
(*Lasaleta, Sedikides and Vohs 2014, in the Journal of Consumer Research)
(^Zhan, Sedikides, Wildschut & Gao 2008, Psychological Science)
So here we are in August and is it too early to talk about Christmas? For those of you who are in retail, you will know that the answer to that question is no, as you will have been thinking about/planning it/making for it for some time already by now and possibly you plan/make all year for it too.
For me it's a relatively new concept, getting to grips with the fact that we have to be planning the festive season in the height of summer. Not that thinking about Christmas is a problem for me, as I love it and I'm very happy to be thinking about it, but what I'm not used to is how to plan for it with regard to my business and all the fairs and markets I will be attending (click over to this page to see where I will be in 2016), and what about online sales and sales in the emporiums too?
There is a huge amount to think about, plan and make for. When do I order stock, when will my suppliers have their christmas ranges ready to order if not yet already available? How much will I need to order?
Thankfully, I do have some help in the form of Jenny Hyde (www.thejennyhyde.com) who is currently running a fabulous and comprehensive Christmas Support course for those of us (or is it just me?) that don't know or need help to feel more in control about the Christmas selling season and these are all things that we will be covering throughout the month. Phew!
This is a huge unknown for me, not having sold at this time of year before, so let's face it....could be a disaster, but with Jenny's excellent course under my belt I should at least be able to tread water and not drown under the weight of the festive buying frenzy...the frenzy that I hope will take place! Not only the idea of selling lots, but all the prep for communicating about it on social media etc too, having great images and stories as well as plenty of stock.
I have to admit that it is a little bit scary, actually scrap that...it's a lot scary and at the moment I feel a bit out of my depth here. The past year has been an enormous learning curve for me, everything has been new and at times, very difficult, but it's a journey that I am enjoying wholeheartedly and trying to throw myself into 100% (not always possible 100% of the time!). So this is just another step on that ladder to being able to feel like I actually know what I'm doing and that I am a proper business woman. Small steps.
But time flies doesn't it? I still can't fathom how it's August anyway and that as I type it is only 136 days and 9 hours until Christmas. Seriously. I have to admit that I am a little bit excited though, the thought of the build up to the big day, all the lovely traditions we have as a family and ones that I have developed over the years. Nothing too exciting, just that I have to watch Muppet Christmas Carol at least once in December and that there has to be a bottle of Baileys in the house so that I can add it to my coffee. Wishing the time away here just thinking about it....mmm....Baileys.
So I have been pinning lots of festive ideas and images to my Pinterest Boards 'Vintage Christmas' and 'Handmade Christmas' (you can see them here) and I wasn't all that surprised when I realised I'm not the only one on Pinterest that is already in a festive frame of mind. So that made me feel less mental than before, after all I think I was sat here in shorts and t-shirt whilst pinning Christmas images at the time!
Pinterest is an in-exhaustable place of ideas and inspiration and I've certainly found a few new paths to go down and things to try this year. I hope that I can translate all my ideas into lovely products that people want to buy and will love for years to come.
So what are your Christmas traditions? Is it too early to start thinking festively or are you a lover of Christmas like me? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time...Happy Christmas!
I'm sure that other new business owners will be able to relate when I say that I frequently suffer from overwhelm and the urge to just go and pour a glass of wine at 3pm. It's something that I feel almost every day and I am finding difficult to manage.
But just how can I/we deal with all the information and traffic that comes our way be it through email subscriptions or social media.
We all know that social media can be an excellent way to drive traffic to your website and encourage customers to engage with and get to know you. But have you ever felt that all those posts, tweets and images can just be a little bit too much?
I flippin LOVE social media and have totally thrown myself in at the deep end and, to be fair, have swum pretty well since starting my business and trying to get the word out there. So the traffic that comes from being part of a community isn't what gets me overwhelmed as I love that interaction with customers and potential customers and advocates of my brand. I love the fabulous images that get through on my Instagram feed, the events that get posted on Facebook and products that I've found on Twitter, and I don't want that to end.
What does get me into a tailspin is the amount of information that comes my way that is trying to teach me something. I'm one of those people that is very easy to convince that I might just be missing out on something here and I MUST read that email, sign up to that free course, be a member of this group or that.
I love to learn, always have, but starting my own business has made me paranoid. Paranoid that I'll miss the latest insight or piece of info that will dramatically help me in my business and the way I run it. That I might just miss out on that key piece of PR or exposure for my brand. But is that true? Probably not.
A lot of things I've learnt in the last 6 months since launching my business (is it really 6 months already?!) have been from my own endeavours and hard work, talking to other traders, the amazing people/friends I network with and also my lovely, lovely customers and taking on their feedback. I have also learnt a great deal from experts in my field and other consultants I've worked with and I am extremely grateful for their input which has been amazing.
So how do I learn to stop the panic rising if I actually unsubscribe from that email newsletter that is promising to transform my life and business? Do I really need to read the dozen emails that dropped into my inbox this morning? Hopefully not!
I do pick up snippets of information from some emails but some just seem to be there to give me a line of solidarity and then try and sell me stuff, so in that case I will:
- Review the subscriptions I have as and when I get an email and look at what information I ACTUALLY receive
- Unsubscribe from the emails where I don't perceive any VALUE
- Create files for emails that I find USEFUL and I can then refer back later on
- Keep my goals in mind for each platform and area of my business so I know what I should be reading and equally what I should ignore!
Hopefully, I can start to feel a little more in control rather than my inbox being in control of me!
How do other business owners feel about the information available to them, what resources do you use and find valuable? Do you read a lot or very little preferring to learn for yourself? I'd love to know, so drop me a line!
Until next time, Rachel x
I've come across so many inspirational stories lately, about how creative business owners have come to be where they are today and they have really resonated with me. I have been learning so much lately and growing in ways I had never expected and it has got me thinking about my journey, where I've come from, how different I am as a person and where I'm going, or at least where I intend to go.
It seems to me, the more and more people I meet through the business and through networking, that we all seem to share similar journeys and moments of inspiration that drive us and that we take a roundabout route over a long period of time to get there and have often overcome a few obstacles along the way. It's great to find out from others that overnight success doesn't exist and that hard work and determination can get you where you want to be and that everyone feels like they are winging it from time to time too, just like me....thank you for that!
My background is a mish mash of industries, starting out in retail and banking (banking = not for me!) whilst living in Somerset. I took a degree in Psychology and always intended to pursue that but ended up working in shops instead! Along with a move to another area of the country in my early twenties, a change in career followed and I took the opportunity to get into Human Resources, something I had been keen on for some time. After 2 years of hard work studying and working full time, I was qualified and a 10 year stint as a HR Generalist in several different companies followed. Life was good, we had a decent income as my now ex-husband was doing well in IT and we had a lot of holidays and great experiences, met some amazing friends too along the way.
But after my divorce 7 years ago and a return to Somerset to be close to family, I had to rebuild my life; my goals, dreams and priorities changed in a dramatic way. I was no longer the person I thought I was and certainly wasn't leading the life I thought I would at the age of 35! Moving back in with mum and dad at this age was not on the agenda! But they were brilliant and the support I desperately needed at that time, along with some very close friends who I couldn't live without (you know who you are!). After an amazing holiday in New Zealand, I found work again and continued to use my HR knowledge in subsequent jobs, along with gaining experience as a PA, Office Manager and general dogsbody!
All very useful experience and skills I need today along with newly found commercial skills. But fast approaching the ripe old age of 40, I decided that in order to preserve my sanity (I was fed up of doing disciplinaries almost every day and feeling unappreciated), I needed to check out of corporate life and do something, that for the first time in my life, was just for me.
I had met my partner and it was an exciting time, everything was changing but was getting better and better. We got our cats Bailey and Teasel, had a few holidays and had fun. I knew I had his support and that of my family and friends so felt the fear and went for it. I started out in my new self-employed world renovating properties, but this wasn't quite what I wanted. I was having to temp still as well, so after 18 months I knew I had to do what I really loved, and that was to turn my (some new and some long held) hobbies into a business, or at least attempt to!
And that is how I came to be running a creative business, not sure I would call myself a solopreneur just yet - I have a million miles to go before that - but I'm on the way and loving it and determined to make it a success. It's a wonderful feeling knowing that I'm working hard for me and my family (ok, two of them are cats but I can't have children so they are family to me instead!) everyday and that is motivation enough.
I would love to hear of other business owners and women out there doing it for themselves and their special journey to get there, let me know your story in the comments.
In my first blog post last year, I talked about how I found myself in business and what drives me to succeed and today I’m going to tell you about a fantastic mentoring programme that I have been a part of since last November that is helping me on my way.
Setting up tiddlerandfox.com was a huge vertical learning curve for me, I had a brilliant web developer helping me (thanks Scott!) but once the website was up and running, I was in the dark when it came to marketing the business online.
During 2015 I had attended some free business courses locally run by Cosmic UK (find out about them here: http://www.cosmic.org.uk ) and had been told about a new mentoring programme they were launching called LOVE Digital. I applied immediately knowing that this could be just what I needed to get my business off the ground.
I was one of 30 business women from across Somerset and Devon chosen and in November 2015 (I was amazed at the time that I was chosen) we all embarked on a 5 month long programme of one to one mentoring sessions (via Google Hangout), live workshops across the region and a conference held on International Women's Day in Exeter, (I was asked to speak at the conference about my experience) all backed up by a brilliant Facebook group and heaps of information on the LOVE Digital website - in fact mountains of info!
(Me braving public speaking at the Love Digital Conference in Exeter, March 2016)
So when I launched the business I had 2 followers on Twitter - with no idea of how to gain more or how this could benefit the business. I now have 399 followers and it's growing daily. Likewise Instagram, a platform that I already used personally, I now have 176 followers, over 120 Likes on my new business Facebook page and a growing following on Pinterest. Hopefully in time this loyal following will become my loyal customers, fingers crossed!
With still so much to learn, I am so much more confident in how to utilise these channels for my business than I was and not only that, I am enjoying the process so much more than I could have imagined.
Being part of a mentoring programme, I expected to have one to one meetings but my time with my mentor, Helen Bottrill has been so important and Helen is incredibly knowledgable, encouraging and supportive of my journey. We have covered so many topics from email newsletters, to Twitter to video and one of Helen’s best pieces of advice has just been to give it a go and to enjoy it. Right from the start I found that a great way to get to know whatever platform I had previously been petrified of! It's been great to be able to ask questions and sanity check along the way with someone who has run their own successful creative business.
Helen knows exactly what I am going through; the highs of a sale and the lows of wondering when the next sale is going to come through. And there are plenty of times when its been far too easy to wonder what on earth I thought I was doing when I went into business but perseverance is the name of this game and knowing when its time to just walk away from a project or the laptop and have that glass of wine is actually really important. It is very early days for me and for Tiddler & Fox and there will be many more moments like those I'm sure!
(the lovely Helen, my amazing mentor)
I know I will miss those sessions with Helen enormously. #sadface….5 months ago I didn't even know what a hashtag was! I'm over 40....thats allowed...
I have some tall ambitions for my business and I know that with my newly found confidence in digital this will be achievable. I’m pushing my business in lots of different directions. I have taken on space at two local emporiums and sales are starting to take off, I'm attending local fairs and markets and have many planned for this year. I am also looking for more online sales channels that I can utilise throughout 2016. To be honest, I probably wouldn't have been so far ahead with all this if I didn't have the confidence that has grown out of this programme.
What’s also been great about this programme has been the useful, informative and enjoyable workshops. Each one has left me with plenty of information, facts figures and so on, but also a really good understanding of how to translate each topic to what I am doing, making it easy to go home and make it a reality.
Meeting up with all the other mentees at the workshops has been great, being able to share our knowledge (or lack of!) and being able to support and help each other. The free biscuits have been pretty good too…lets face it you can’t beat a good chocolate biscuit to get you through a learning session! There has been so much opportunity to learn from each other and plenty of laughs too, so enjoyable and a delight to be a part of.
I've appreciated being able to talk to all the other wonderful ladies on this programme via the Facebook group. Giving us that platform to share information and ask questions was genius and has been a valuable resource. I gain a lot of strength from knowing that the support is there. I know that we all aim to keep in touch and to meet up regularly as well as carry on using the Facebook page once the programme has finished.
And the programme does have to finish, in fact we only have two weeks left to go….A sad thought, I think that all the mentees agree that we don’t want this programme to end. Testament to what a great job Cosmic UK (and their partners Peninsula Enterprise) have done.
But its not all about me, this programme has opened my eyes to just how many hard working, dedicated and talented business women there are out there, slogging away to make their dreams a reality and they are successful and happy to share their knowledge with a novice like me. I’ve met some amazing people, made some new friends too and I’m looking forward to continuing my journey with them....it doesn't get much better than that.