It’s been a while!

We lost two very special family members unexpectedly in 2013, one on my husband’s side and one on mine, so it felt that everyone we saw was impacted by the shock. My Phoenix business came into its own, as I stopped what I was doing and was able to be available for our children, and somehow we all began to get through the grief.

A year on, I have just received my Christmas stock, and feel ready to get back to my routine. I am chuffed, and somewhat amazed, to tell you that I have just achieved Senior Trader with Phoenix Trading! The fact that my business could tick along, with brochures, baskets and bags going out to the world, without me having to brave a ‘work’ environment, saved my sanity at the time and I am so thankful for the flexibility of this wonderful company. Thanks also go to my wonderful and loyal customers and my lovely local Team of Traders who make it all worthwhile – thank you!

I am also thrilled to share that Phoenix International Charity (the charity aspect of the Phoenix company) has made a substantial donation to the charity which supports my friend’s daughter, Hope4Mae. All of Phoenix Trading’s Christmas cards support Phoenix International Charity, as well as 3 major national charities each year. As Phoenix Traders we can nominate local causes to have a share of the charity pot, and my nomination of Hope4Mae was successful!

Mae and 'Betsy' - her walker, Sept 2014

Mae and ‘Betsy’ – her walker, Sept 2014

The donation will support Mae’s after-care and rehabilitation, following a pioneering operation to release spasticity in her spine, caused by cerebral palsy. Mae is beginning to stand and walk since her operation, and is beginning to achieve her dream of walking independently. You can read Mae’s story and donate on her website.

So, in the coming weeks I will be bringing you news of great new Phoenix items, the new business opportunity, plus that other word that starts with Chr… and ends with Mum frazzled in a chair after feeding the masses! 😉 In the meantime you can see daily news on my facebook page. Please pop along and say hello!

It’s great to be back! 🙂

 

 

In memory of my delightful Nan, much-cherished ‘Ninny’ and general bloomin’ lovely woman, and our wonderful and brave niece. Always remembered xx

Jenny

Nan

Nan

Doing the ‘little things’ for your business WILL add up!

Our youngest is off school with chicken pox this week, putting me firmly into Mummy Mode over Business Mode! Quarantine has given me lots of time to ponder, and to catch up with my blog, social media and sending my new Summer supplement out! Here are my thoughts for today….

Having received support from Success Doncaster (now Business Doncaster) as a small business, I have been lucky to attend a number of introductory workshops about promotion and social media, amongst other things. I have had sage advice from such as Social Media Marketing Angel and Be More Social, which has been invaluable. It has made the technology feel accessible to me, and pushed me to extend my wobbly legs in that direction! (Picture Bambi on ice…?)

One of the main concerns from fellow small business owners on these workshops has been their lack of understanding about social media. Today as I browsed through my facebook newsfeed it dawned on me that, far from being a major social media skills issue, some basic principles were being overlooked at the first hurdle.

I talked at length with one local business owner who wanted to increase her local profile in Doncaster. I loved her product! I shared with her that I have ‘partnered up’ with a couple of other local businesses to make sure we share or comment on each other’s facebook posts, ‘like’ photos or otherwise interact to increase how many people see what we are saying. I asked her if she has a facebook page and she had, but in its infancy. I asked her for a business card and she didn’t have one – she has been in business for two years. I gave her my business card and invited to email/phone/post me her details! She has never been in touch.

Here was an opportunity for two local businesses, with complementary products, to share their reach to a similar audience. All that was needed was a click on ‘like’ when she saw my posts. Nothing technical there. Instead a missed opportunity. I may also have become a customer if I had come away with her details!

This also got me thinking about the pages I see on my newsfeed. I won’t name and shame (far too mean!) but these are my top 5 ‘red rag to a bull’ reasons why some pages won’t be staying when I have my next facebook ‘de-clutter’:

1. ‘Please like if you can see this as my posts are only being seen by about a quarter of my fans…..’ – you know the drill. My newsfeed is littered with these posts – usually copied and pasted. How irritating! How desperate? If you post something that I like, then I will click ‘like’. That will mean more people see it. If it’s not interesting/thought-provoking/ something I want to be associated with I won’t ‘like’ – even if you add a special post urging me to 😉

2. What a ******* day I’ve had. The cat’s been sick, my life is so awful, I hate my job….I have a migraine so I haven’t got all my orders out….no-one knows how hard I work and then this ******* of a customer posts some lies about me. Why do I bother?’ Maybe you shouldn’t? If you can’t wear a professional hat when all around you are losing theirs then at least don’t post about it! If a customer complains about you remember that they are your bread and butter, and a courteous reply to their complaint is likely to have better results.

3. Sharing a cartoon/photo/story that makes you laugh but is in some way offensive to your audience. As your customer, it tells me more about you than I might want to know. I’m not a prude but if it has very strong language, racism, sexism, general bigotry or narrow-mindedness I don’t want to see it and will hide your posts, or ‘unlike’ you. Simples.

4. Bad speling or txt spk. On Twitter I understand. A little. You have limited characters but, even then, I think you can be creative! But on facebook? If you can’t be bothered to check your spelling, use capitals or write the full word, are you really going to ice my child’s birthday cake carefully, or iron my laundry with care? Some ‘ppl’ won’t care but it will instantly switch others off!

5. Ramming it down my throat. I love new products. I love to see new releases from businesses I ‘like’. Even from businesses that aren’t yet known to me – I might find a new product I love! However, streams of uploaded photos all day long drive me potty. It makes me think ‘Oh…it’s that business…again!’ My finger clicks ‘hide posts’ before I even know I’ve done it 😉 You can use scheduled posts on facebook to type all your updates in one sitting and spread them out across the day, or week. you can add new photos to an album, then post the whole album as a link, instead of a stream of photos to your timeline.

I have learned to view social media as a great opportunity to share posts and businesses that I personally like. I have chosen to seek out local businesses and promote the items that I can recommend – the things that I choose to buy. I have found that, for the most part, this has been reciprocated; organically, because we both appreciate the other business or product. And isn’t that what social media should really be about?

It’s been a while!

I’m back, following a hiatus created by a technical panic. Let me explain…..

Following advice on blogging, from a far-more-knowledgeable-chap-than-me, I decided that I may not be doing things ‘right’, so dropped away for a while. The advice was great, and sounded manageable, and would doubtless have enhanced my internet progress but…I just found it overwhelming!

Having concentrated on other areas of my business I have developed quite a loyal band of followers on facebook and my business has grown accordingly. Huge thanks go out to everyone who has joined the page and supported the development of my business!

I have come to realise that there may not be a ‘right’ way of doing things. I enjoyed writing blog posts, and sharing random news of my achievements, calamities and new shoe purchases 😉 Maybe it doesn’t push all the correct SEO buttons*, or make Google go wide-eyed over my content, but it’s real, and it tells the story of my life and my business.

So I am back….rightly or wrongly!

And I have some new shoes to show you 🙂

Oh – and some lovely new Phoenix Trading greeting cards and stationery too! THAT’S for the SEO people 😉

*Search Engine Optimisation. What…? You want me to explain it as well?!

Technically Challenged

I ought to wear a badge that announces it……

I do try my best with the technological side of my business. It’s not something that I have to do but, I learned early on in my business, that peers who tackled the social media beast had significantly more success in promoting their business than those who haven’t ventured there.

This blog arose out of a training course where I was urged to ‘start a blog’ about sarahcards.co.uk and my journey into self-employed life. This nudge was then pushed a little more by my best school friend, adept in computer wizardry, insiting that I ‘go for it’.

I can type. I can spell. I have an unhealthy obsession with punctuation and a passing acquaintance with grammar, so I knew I wouldn’t entirely show myself up. So I ‘went for it’.

In May I returned to the training course where I had been encouraged to start a blog. I learned that I am at the ‘back-end’ of this blogging platform (yes, I know…..!). For those who are in the ‘adept’ group that may mean something. For me it just means that I have to start again with a ‘front-end’ platform……

Did I say, ‘yes, I know…!’ before?

Sorry. I meant, ‘I don’t have a clue’!

I will continue to share my techno-exploits on here for the time being, but I am assured that I will need to move to another platform. Why do I have the feeling that it will be reminiscent of Platform 9 3/4, Harry Potter style? Here’s to new dimensions…….

Don’t run before you can walk…..

At the start of my Phoenix business venture I learned of an organisation that was set up to assist new businesses, to give guidance, business support and, where applicable, start-up grants or loans to fledgling businesses.

Never much a believer in something for nothing, I was sceptical about how useful it would be for me to make contact. I felt confident that I wanted to work for myself, I was enthusiastic about my product, and I had the emotional backing of my friends and family to get it off the ground. I mentioned the organisation, in passing, to a friend who said she had received some support and to give them a call. I thought I’d look into it, and see for myself what it was all about.

I found I would be eligible to apply for a small business start-up grant. I considered this would be a great way to help to pay for advertising my new venture, and to buy the non-profit items, such as business cards. I raced off and registered as self-employed, filled in all the forms and awaited news of my grant…..

Little did I know, I had inadvertently precluded myself from receiving a grant by registering as self-employed! Part of the remit for the grant was that the organisation would be able to either remove the new business applicant from receipt of State benefits, or to register the applicant as self-employed. Since I had not received benefits, and I had already registered myself as self-employed I had no boxes left to tick! I’ve never been very good at waiting for things to come to me, so it had been a natural action to register myself to start my business. It seemed harsh that this preparation rendered me ineligible for the grant.

I spoke to a really helpful Business Advisor who assured me that there were other areas where I could receive guidance. One offer was for free courses on Small Business Management, Accounts and Tax Returns and Interent Marketing for your business. All a steep learning curve, I reluctantly signed up and anticipated looking glassy-eyed at a knowledgeable business person. I learned quickly to keep an open mind about the topics. Some were techno-jargon to me in the beginning (SEO?! Never heard of it!), and some told me what I already knew. I have to say though, my general experience was very positive, and I was extremely grateful for some free advice to get me started. Unfortunately the courses I completed are not currently available, but it is worth contacting your local business advice service to see if there is anything similar near you.

I think that groundwork has helped me to be more thoughtful in my approach to my business. I have learned I have a tendency to rush into things I am excited about (which, with Phoenix is most things!) and I have been able to take a step back before rushing business decisions. It was hard to learn to slow down when my natural tendency is to tackle things head-on…..some call that stubborn, you know! 😉

I have also learned that I can do more than I ever imagined. I have set up my own website name (with welcome help from my friend!), started this blog, attended networking events with complete strangers, and made new friends for the first time since I was an employee! A year in and I have my own business, with a growing Team of Traders, and I enjoy ‘going to work’. For that alone, it was worth learning to take small steps again.