To trust or not to trust?

To trust or not to trust?

You’ve started your business and you are so excited and want to share your wonderful concept with the world.

two rocks posing as people holding hands

Immediately the fears creep in.  What if someone else thinks it’s a good idea and tries to steal it.

When is it right to trust or not to trust that instinct?

The wrong tone

That spirit of fear, or distrust, is now contaminating your copy.

You temper your tone and are careful who you mention, keeping the attention firmly on yourself and not crediting anyone else.

Perhaps you are a bit cagey about exactly what’s on offer – you don’t wish to give too many secrets away. 

The right energy

There is an art to gaining attention and drip-feeding content for momentum and a big reveal.  Done with fear your energy will be off.

Trust in yourself and your product or service and be open to sharing.

Ask yourself, what is that fear really about?

It is doubt about whether you are good enough? Do you have a fear about someone else being better than you?  Are you feeling the dreaded imposter syndrome?

Recognise this for what it really is.  Take some time before you write, post, call and share your news to get in the right positive energy.

Get over yourself

Usually your business concept will be done by someone already – there is very rarely a completely unique idea. 

Do some market research.  Who is the competition and what are they offering?  Don’t go down that rabbit hole of not being as good as them.  Remember, you are the unique element of what you offer as nobody can do you. Get over yourself and own that talent that got you here in the first place!

Competition can be a good thing.  Coffee anyone?  How many artisan coffee shops are in your local town?  Which ones do you visit?  The one or two that resonate with you, that have the friendly barista or your favourite cake?  So everyone comes to your town for great coffee – not everyone chooses the same coffee shop. People will choose you, the others are not the enemy.

What are you missing?

Could you collaborate with another outfit that is similar to yours?  Do you offer an element that they don’t and visa versa, meaning you can offer a bigger or better package to your clients?

What about the possibility of sending work to each other when you are too busy?  Have a grown-up conversation at the outset about the arrangement and keep a note of what happens.  If you are willing and open to try it may work out really well for both parties.  If not, you can politely withdraw from the arrangement at any time.

Act with fear and shut others out and you may damage your reputation in the community.

You can get burnt

There is always a risk in working with others – but that attitude of mistrusting everyone will not serve you well in business.

Work out the upside and the potential downside.   

Go back to your strategy.  Can this relationship/arrangement help you achieve your goals?

Obviously we have all had a bad experience, one that we wish we had not allowed to happen, but you will learn so much more from the odd mistake.

With experience you become more confident about your decision-making process and know when it’s right to trust or not to trust that opportunity or person. 

Are you ready to start your own business (with or without chocolate) and feel that fear but do it anyway – trust yourself and put your faith and trust in the good ones out there. Good luck.

100 Ways to Unwind!

100 Ways to Unwind!

A list of 100 ways to unwind – because it’s all about YOU

A landscape at dusk
  1. Breathe – sit quietly, notice your breath in and out, breathe deeply
  2. Walk barefoot on the grass
  3. Sign up for a yoga class
  4. Have a PJ day
  5. Light a smelly candle and let the smell calm your senses
  6. Take a long, hot soak in the bath
  7. Meditate – as little as 5 mins a day can be beneficial, set a timer, get quiet and let thoughts flow, you can download guided meditations if that is helpful for you
  8. Visit the woods – hear the rustle of the leaves, the snap of a twig, notice the light filtering through the canopy, the majesty and strength of the trees
  9. Start the day with some yoga poses (use youtube to find out how to do them properly)
  10. Visit the sea, listen to the sound of the waves
  11. Watch the sunrise, notice the potential in a new day
  12. Watch the sunset, notice the beauty at the end of the day, and be thankful for at least one good thing in your life right now
  13. Celebrate a full moon, stand and wonder at the bright moon in a vast sky
  14. Sign up for a Pilates class
  15. Take a walk in nature – notice your surroundings, the sounds, the fields, the trees, the sunshine, the rain, the sky, the clouds
  16. Read a book
  17. Journal your feelings – find a lovely notebook and write regularly
  18. Go for a swim
  19. Visit the mountains, take in the view
  20. Drink lots of water
  21. Enjoy some peace and quiet and some alone time
  22. Go for a jog or run – studies have recently shown and even a short run each week is beneficial
  23. Sit by the bank of a river and watch the water flow, imagine your worries flowing by
  24. Get baking or cooking and notice the lovely smells permeating the home
  25. Have a cuppa
  26. Talk to a good friend
  27. Visit a museum
  28. Buy a colouring book and some decent pens – do some colouring
  29. Watch your diet, enjoy eating healthy foods and avoid too many sugary snacks
  30. Can you break down what you are worried about?  Set aside sometime each day to worry – instead of allowing worries to undermine you all the time, say to yourself, you will worry about that at ‘worry time’ and sit and think about all those things that are worrying you in detail.  Some you may be able to fix, some you will not.  Acknowledge each thing you are worried about and then move on until the next worry time.
  31. Go to a fitness class
  32. Stick on your favourite tune and dance around the kitchen
  33. Watch something easy and light on TV
  34. Listen to your favourite podcast
  35. Read/watch or listen to someone inspirational – Ted Talks have lots of wonderful options to choose from
  36. Book yourself a massage or other beauty/relaxation treatment
  37. Eat a little dark chocolate
  38. Declutter a cupboard, a room, or a space such as your desk
  39. Do a crossword/quiz or sudoku
  40. Have a laugh; listen to comedy, joke around with friends, watch a comedy show
  41. Draw or paint something
  42. Do your favourite sporting activity
  43. Take up a new sporting activity
  44. Spend time with animals – visit the zoo or a farm
  45. Take the dog for a walk or spend time with your pet(s), join in with a friend on a dog walk if you don’t have a dog yourself
  46. Play an instrument
  47. Hug a tree
  48. Watch children playing
  49. Do some retail therapy – maybe just some window shopping will be enough
  50. Create time in the day to think or daydream
  51. Go for a cycle ride or a spin class
  52. Go fishing or sit watching someone else fishing
  53. Climb a hill (or mountain) and enjoy the view from the top
  54. Visit an art gallery
  55. Watch a film at the cinema
  56. Go to the ballet/theatre
  57. Buy yourself some flowers
  58. Work in the garden, allotment or help someone else with their garden/allotment (even a planter or window box will suffice)
  59. Be grateful for what you have
  60. Try essential oils and aromatherapy
  61. Visit a comedy club
  62. Go to a festival/music gig
  63. Think about your next holiday, do some research and book something to look forward to
  64. Get organised, make action plans and lists and tick things off as you go
  65. Visit a coffee shop, buy your favourite drink and sit and watch the world go by
  66. Knit or crochet
  67. Learn to play a new instrument
  68. Do something mindless – some housework, clean the car, organise a drawer
  69. Smell the roses – notice the aroma from your favourite blooms
  70. Write something – a blog or some fiction
  71. Buy yourself a little treat
  72. Take a power nap
  73. Look at some inspiring photos
  74. Visit a spa
  75. Organise your emails and sort your inbox
  76. Write a letter to a loved one
  77. Visit a church or cathedral and wonder at the amazing architecture and history
  78. Visit a beautiful garden
  79. Get an early night
  80. Visit the library
  81. Take up a new hobby/learn a new skill
  82. Get up earlier and finish your ‘jobs/tasks’ earlier to create more free time
  83. Visit a food market and marvel at the delicious wares on sale
  84. Enjoy the sunshine on your face
  85. Change your bedding and notice the lovely smell of fresh sheets
  86. Skim stones across the water
  87. Visit a beautiful lake and marvel and the view
  88. Have a lie in or a duvet day
  89. Go and watch your team play a sport
  90. Plant a tree
  91. Talk to someone – a problem is better shared
  92. Ask for help, delegate something, you don’t have to own everything
  93. Remind yourself that perfection is overrated – good is good enough
  94. Put on a facemask, or an eye mask
  95. Watch a tearjerker film and have a good cry
  96. Ask for a hug
  97. Support someone in need
  98. Light some incense. Scents like Sandalwood and Sage can help calm anxieties and aid relaxation.
  99. Avoid negativity – don’t judge others but try and separate your identity and emotions from it.
  100. BE YOU! 
It’s all about you

It’s all about you

The airplane analogy is often used. We need to put on our oxygen mask first, ahead of our loved ones, to be able to help them.

Air hostess in a cabin wearing a mask

So how well do you look after you?

If you push on regardless it can become too much, you may find yourself unable to carry on in the same way.  

I thought it timely that we take a moment to focus on ourselves. Yes, this is all about YOU, because you matter and when was the last time you focused on what you need?

Where are you now?

If you are reading this quickly before dashing off to do something else which needs to be ticked off the list. Stop, really take a moment. Sit quietly, slow the breathing down, turn off distractions (if possible) and tune into yourself. This requires a little bit of your precious time, some concentration, and honesty.

How are you feeling? 

That’s a bit of a big question, so let’s break it down into three areas:

  • Stress/busyness/commitments
  • Worry/anxiety
  • Feeling low/depressed

Stress/busyness/commitments

I need a bit of busy in my life – I find I thrive on it (mostly) and it makes me feel alive. Some stress I find necessary to keep me focused and motivated. In those moments I’m saying yes to everything, I can take on the world. Suddenly something changes and a bit of stress tips into stressed out, over-committed, and overwhelmed.  

On the flip side, if I find myself with not enough to do, that’s demotivating. The less I do the less I want to do until it drives me a bit bonkers, and I take action.

Be honest and work out where you are taking on too much and where you might want to put more energy instead.  

Worry/Anxiety

This is a biggie. With recent and current life events, our world seems more worrying and anxiety-inducing than ever.

What’s normal for you?

Can you manage the level of worry and anxiety that you are experiencing, or it is stopping you from leading your ‘normal’ life?

As we get older, we can find ourselves concerned over details we would never have given a second thought to in the past. Perhaps there is an element of extra worrying we are willing to accept. If this tips into catastrophising about what might happen and affecting our mental health, then it may be time to seek help.

I suffered from anxiety in the past, which was becoming a problem and difficult to cope with. My GP offered some CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which I found very helpful.  

Two strategies that I took from the process were:

Set aside worry time each day 

Acknowledge each worry or fear as it occurs. Park that thought but give it proper worry time at the allotted time each day. (Don’t do worry time just before bedtime.) This seems unlikely to work, but I found it helpful as instead of being overwhelmed with worrying thoughts and not dealing with them, I knew I would spend time each day thinking about those things that concerned me most.

Worry Tree

What are you really worried about? If you can identify each worry and write it down then think about all the things that could happen, drilling down into the worst thing you can imagine. It may be that there is nothing you can do to stop the worst thing from happening but acknowledging this can be helpful.

You may find that your worry, when drilled into, is not as bad as you originally thought it was.

Feeling Low/Depressed

We all feel low and a little depressed at times.

If it feels like it is ongoing and not improving, it’s important to talk to someone and/or seek help.

I’ve often found that those low moments are the true turning points of life.   

Happy Place

If I were to describe an amazing happy place it would be wild swimming in the most beautiful location, looking up at a vast blue sky, the mountainous landscape surrounding me, the gentle sound of the water as I floated along, opening my arms wide to the world and being so thankful to be present in that very moment.

What’s your happy place? Please pop over to my Facebook page and share.

Treat time

Now you have thought about good things, what small treats can you build into everyday life to fill up your tank?

  • Quiet time/reading
  • Breathing/meditation
  • Exercise/sporting activity
  • Spending quality time with friends/family
  • Diet/water consumption
  • Sleep
  • Laughing at comedy or the TV
  • Dancing/listening to music

Here’s a list of ideas – 100 Ways to Unwind if you need some inspiration.

It’s all about knowing ourselves, acknowledging where we are and putting on that oxygen mask to give us energy and ensure we are the best for those that are dear to us. We owe it to ourselves too.

Let’s give ourselves permission – make it all about you for a change!

The Easter Bunny recommends…

The Easter Bunny recommends…

Whether it’s the best eggs to buy, running the best egg hunt, enjoying a special lunch, or munching on a delicious hot cross bun with a cuppa, read on for some Easter inspiration.

Easter Bunny sitting on a tablecloth with spring flowers

The Easter Bunny recommends….

The Best Easter Eggs

Good Housekeeping has done all the Easter Egg research for you this year.

Chocolate Easter egg sitting on a bed of smarties

Chocolatiers and supermarkets submitted their recommendations to the Good Housekeeping Institute. They actually tested 135 eggs (are you now thinking you need a new job?). Hot Cross Bun Egg anyone?

These are the categories they cover:

  • Milk chocolate Easter eggs
  • White and blonde chocolate Easter eggs
  • Dark chocolate Easter eggs
  • Kids Easter eggs
  • Vegan Easter eggs

The Best Easter Egg Hunt

Colourful eggs and a basket on the grass

If you want to try some alternative ideas for your hunt this year, Country Living Magazine has come up with 27 creative hunt ideas for indoors and out and including online options.

The Best Hot Cross Buns

I love a hot cross bun. 

I’ve tried making them, they are a lot of work and mine were a bit of a disaster. Hot Cross Rocks would have been the better description! There are so many varieties to choose from these days.

Here’s a list of good supermarket buys from Olive magazine. Alternative options include dark chocolate and ginger and a white chocolate and lemon version mmm.

The Best Easter Lunch

The BBC Good Food team has come up with the ultimate Easter lunch menu. It does sound rather tasty:

  • Pea, mint & spring onion soup with parmesan biscuits to start
  • Roast lamb studded with rosemary & garlic (they also give plenty of veggie alternatives), served with dauphinoise potatoes, spring vegetables, and lemon & thyme baby carrots
  • Chocolate egg baked tart

I’m very pleased to see they ended the meal with chocolate. If you want more chocolate pud inspiration, try these.

Whether you celebrate Easter or not, I do hope you are able to enjoy some downtime with family and friends and of course add lots of chocolate into the mix too.

Happy Easter

What’s your why?

What’s your why?

When did you last take a moment and think deeply about what motivates you, what’s most important to you, and what makes you tick?

It does not have to be profound and/or huge (although I’m sure we could all agree on world peace and an end to suffering). The smallest things can be so important. Whatever is real and meaningful for you matters most.

If you want to start your own business, then it’s imperative to work out the reasons behind your decision for doing so. Without being tuned into your ‘why’ you will lack focus, drive, and ambition to realise your dreams. So, what’s your why?

Where do you start?

Break down your life into general segments and review each to see where you are on a scale of 1 to 10. 

1 being it’s not working well at all to 10 being just perfect for you. Think about where you are now and be honest. This will help you score more accurately.  

  1. Work
  2. Home
  3. Health/Fitness
  4. Family/Friends
  5. Money

What’s your dream?

Do the exercise again, this time daring to describe each category as a true dream scenario for you. 

What would absolutely fantastic look like for you?  

I would like to pass on the wise words of a well-read coach I worked with (Paul Webb), which is ‘suspend disbelief’. If we use our logical brain, we will be telling ourselves all the things we can’t achieve, if you are able for the moment to suspend disbelief then surely anything is possible!

Focusing on the work element – what would having your own business mean for you? Really spend some time imagining working in a way that you want to, doing what you love and earning some money too.

It will not just be about the money. There will be so much more to it than that. The freedom, the chance to be creative, to be able to spend more quality time with family or friends, to pursue passions whether within or outside of work.

Mind the Gap

What life elements are furthest away from where you want to be?  

Where in your life need some focus and attention?  

Can you start to take some small steps to achieve more balance? You may not be able to tackle everything at once, but acknowledging where you are and taking small steps to improve or change a given situation (or even to acknowledge that there is nothing you can do right now to change it) will help.

What did you notice?

So which bits about your life filled you with the most joy?  

What did you find easiest to think about, dream about?  

What fired up your passions? 

Or maybe, what came so easily that you hardly realised it happening – because that bit is where your personal magic lies! The stuff that comes to you with ease, that doesn’t ever feel difficult, that gives you pleasure, where time literally flies – that is where you need to send some focus.

Watch this Space

Keep a diary, make a note, reflect and record. Now you are tuned in to what is happening, try and find out the bit that makes you sing more than anything else.   

Add in the elements of trying to find more balance in your whole life and it’s from there that you can start to identify your why.

It’s not just about you

I was training someone recently to start their own chocolate workshop business where they live. They asked me what’s the point of what I do. 

I thought it was a good question, without hesitation I showed this photo:

Two ladies smiling and laughing with chocolate smeared on their faces.  Having fun on a chocolate workshop experience.

This picture sums up exactly what I want for my customers.  

It really matters to me that everyone has a good time. I spend time creating the best possible customer experiences with chocolate that I am capable of delivering. The fact that people are spending their hard-earned cash with me is something I would never take for granted.

Although I need to own the responsibility for my business and what I offer, it’s not just about what I want. What do my customers want or need and how can I deliver that for them. How can I meet and hopefully exceed expectations?

What’s next?

Good luck with discovering your why. Will you dare to take the next steps and put a plan into action?

You will start to experience some fear, that’s normal, when faced with change we are bound to experience fear, but it will hopefully also be mixed with excitement! Now it’s time to take some action.

Your why, the thing that makes you tick, may just be something that helps, inspires, motivates or brings some joy to another.

Be a Better Speaker

Be a Better Speaker

Are you one of those that hear the word speaker and run for the hills?  

If you can overcome that fear and use speaking in your business, it will do wonders for your confidence, offer opportunities for growth, and mark you out as the expert in the room.

Your comfort zone will kill you…….so here’s how to be a better speaker:

Get out of your own way

Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Do they want to watch you on stage dying of embarrassment and being too nervous to deliver your message? Imagine what that experience would be like for them. They will feel uncomfortable on your behalf, and your message might be lost.

That may sound rather harsh, but if you are able to get out of your own way and think about the experience of the audience listening to your message, it really does help overcome some nerves.  

Think about your speech in terms of the need to share your message. Why not give the audience the best chance to hear what you have to say and benefit from what you have to offer?

Fake it ‘til you make it – act more confident than you actually feel, and you may just find yourself feeling far more confident in the process.

Study the experts

Pick someone you admire who speaks from the stage and watch them intently. What is it about their delivery that really speaks to you? How does their delivery method work and resonate with the audience? Can you notice any tricks they employ to keep engagement and interest?

Ted Talks are a great place to study the greats – Brene Brown is a personal favourite of mine. Don’t despair or think you can never achieve such levels as those on Ted, use it as a learning opportunity and something to aspire to.

There are plenty of courses on offer too should you wish to invest in training.

Tell your story

Stories really sell, people are interested in other people, what bought you here, what do you have to share about your journey to get there.  

You may think it’s insignificant and other people might not be interested, but it makes it real and human and will definitely resonate with someone (if not many) in the room.

Weave stories into your business, anecdotes, something funny, real-life examples of how your product or services has impacted your clients.  

This will make you and your business far more memorable in the minds of the audience.

Be authentic

Don’t read from autocue or cards, this is not a corporate presentation where you have to stay on message. That’s totally boring and never interesting for the audience.  

This is you, your business, your way with your personality and that is what makes the experience unique.

Yes, you have to bring more energy and life than a conversation around the water cooler, but you are still you. 

Try and be as natural as possible. 

Fake a little confidence (to yourself) until you start to feel that confidence grow.

Once this happens, you will notice how you are able to play with the room a little. Suddenly you are able to access that wealth of information you hold in your head, even banter with the room as you are able to ditch some of the nerves and start to enjoy the experience (I promise).

Have some tricks up your sleeve

Bad luck, they gave you the graveyard slot (after lunch) and everyone has had a slump in energy. You feel you are losing the room.

Keep your own energy up. 

Have you seen Tony Robbins? He bounces around on a mini trampoline before hitting the stage.

What can you do to change the energy? A show of hands, standing up, changing places, high-fiving your neighbour? Judge the room, it can easily be over-done and become a bit too cheesy (I’ve definitely been on the receiving end of a very American-style vibe, which was just too much).

Here’s something to help if it feels like it’s all going wrong.

Know your stuff

Once you have decided what you are going to say, practice, practice, practice.  

If you are comfortable and confident with the content, it will help your delivery.  

People are giving up their valuable time to come and listen, you owe it to them to give it the best shot you have.  

If you have not taken the time to study, practice, understand your audience it will show.

Your position

By standing at the front of the room, or on the stage, you are seen as the go-to expert.  

That’s a powerful position for you and your business and is a great opportunity to gain credibility, increase awareness and if relevant, make some sales.

Don’t be afraid to ask for the sale

If there is an opportunity to sell from the stage, take it.  

Keep the energy and language in the same tone, stay upbeat. Don’t suddenly start to falter or stutter because you are about to ask for money.  

Get really comfortable with your sales pitch and really make it sing.  

You may lose some of the room if they are not in the mood to buy, but don’t be afraid to mention what you have to sell confidently, if appropriate for the speaking gig.

Enjoy it

I was petrified of speaking. 

My only previous experience was from the corporate world, I disliked it and considered myself rubbish at it.  

Once I started my own business, I decided that I was going to tell myself a different story about speaking. I wasn’t following someone else’s script anymore, and I decided to bring my personality to the stage and get better at it.  

Now I speak lots, in fact, speaking is an integral part of my business. I still get nervous for some speaking events but know those nerves are good. Nerves help keep you on your toes and focused as to what you want to deliver.

I absolutely love it; the buzz, the energy, the ability to influence, help, guide and support a group of people through speaking is just great.  

Say YES

Start with small events and gatherings and work your way up to larger audiences.  

Say yes to speaking opportunities when you don’t feel ready or comfortable and challenge yourself to get better at it. Decide you can and will do it, and see what you can achieve through observation, practice, and experience.

I’ve had people fall asleep while I’ve been presenting (very off-putting – but it was in a care home and after supper) and made people laugh or cry as I’ve touched a nerve and resonated with them.  

It’s an honour to have the opportunity to speak to an audience and will reap benefits for you personally and for your business. Good luck.

What I learnt from it all going wrong

What I learnt from it all going wrong

Let’s assume that you have done everything in your power to plan and prepare for your forthcoming event. 

Without this element, you can absolutely expect it to all go wrong!  

The situations described below have genuinely happened. Sometimes you really have to step up, out of your comfort zone, and deliver something more than you intended.

Here’s what I learnt from it all going wrong…..

The right people

The organiser has had a meltdown and is so overwhelmed that are unable to carry out their duties. There is no point pointing the blame and expecting a different outcome. Something has happened to bring them to that point. They may be out of their depth and have had to step in and take on a role they are not fully equipped for. Life may have happened outside of work and caused too much stress. Whatever the reason, the person you need to help you get started is out of action (hopefully temporarily). It’s time to step up and find a solution if possible.

Find someone different to help. There are usually the people in the background that make everything happen without most realising how much hard work has gone on behind the scenes. 

Think maintenance people, IT gurus, caretakers, etc. Put in a polite plea and explain what has happened, without being rude about their colleague and see what can be done.  

Your materials

Instructions were received about sending in power points ahead of a presentation. On arrival, slides were nowhere to be found.

Although you may have been told what will be present on arrival, assume the worst and have copies or back-ups of presentations or materials that are required on the day.

Plan B

If a particular problem cannot be solved in time for what you need to do, then you will need to find an alternative way to deliver your content.  

What outcomes are you hoping to achieve?

What are the most important elements and try and focus on these if not all are possible on the day?

You

Believe in what you are delivering and stick to your principles. If you start to doubt yourself or don’t deliver your event with conviction, whatever is going on around you, your audience will start to doubt it too.

Yes, you will be swan-like, frantically paddling away underneath the surface while trying to appear calm on top, but you do need to always be professional. Even if those around you are not.

Keep calm and keep smiling if possible. If you panic too much you will not think clearly. It may not be your fault, but you can only do everything in your power to make it as good as you possibly can.

Treats

chocolate lollipop with sprinkles

Ahead of an event, I will usually make prizes or thank-you gifts to hand out.  

I always keep a few extra chocolate treats on me and hand these out to all those that have helped me solve any problems as a thank you for their time and effort. Acknowledging that others are going out of their way to make your visit work will pay dividends on the day and nice gestures are remembered if you are called back to visit again.

Escalate the issue

It may not be fixable. 

Your event may start to unravel to a point of no return due to problems encountered.  

Here I would seek out management and explain what is going on and agree on a joint solution.

Might it be better to reschedule and visit another day?

Do the organisation wish you to deliver whatever is possible, knowing it will not be quite what was agreed upon. Actively trying to resolve something rather than going into melt-down mode will at least be constructive and hopefully gain you credibility with the organisation you are dealing with.

Timing

Allow plenty of time for everything. Factor in extra time so if something does go wrong, you will have time to try and fix it.

Keep perspective, hopefully, nothing is life-threatening, only frustrating or potentially embarrassing. 

Audience

If you experience a disengaged or challenging audience, it can be a tough gig to bring them around. Study a speaking guru and practice, practice, practice.

Keep up the energy and try hard to get your message across. Use engagement techniques, like asking questions, raising arms for a quick survey. Try and change the energy in the room and get buy-in if possible.

Don’t keep shouting above the noise, if necessary, stand still and silent and wait for calm. Usually, other members of staff will help if things get too disruptive – you can ask for their help if necessary.

Believe in your audience and make sure they know it. Prove you really mean it.  

Here are some tips for running successful school events.

Review

What went on? What can you do to make sure you improve and hone what you have control over?

Make a note of everything that went wrong as some things will be out of your control. If you intend to visit the venue again, have your notes to hand so that you can cover potential issues for next time.  

Feedback

Do give constructive feedback to the organisers. They did not wish you to visit and experience problems. If there are issues to fix, don’t moan or be too negative but do ensure you point out where outcomes may have been adversely affected.

In your feedback ensure you celebrate any achievements made, despite the circumstances.

It’s stressful and hard work and has a knock-on effect on you personally when something you have put a lot of energy and effort into goes wrong or is particularly difficult. Do your best and hold your head high. It’s a learning experience if nothing else. If you run your own business, it’s in your power to choose not to return if you wish!

Love Affair with a Lentil

Love Affair with a Lentil

One of our clan became veggie a while ago and we played along. We cheated quite a bit, using veggie substitutes like bean burgers and veggie sausages a bit too much I feel.

Then lockdown happened. 

A family of five (all grown up and with huge appetites) needed feeding on a drastically reduced budget. Both hubby and I were unable to operate our blacksmithing and chocolate workshops for the foreseeable, and changes to the food shopping were required. 

We decided to eat mostly vegetarian from that moment on.

So started my love affair with a lentil.

Large lentil cottage pie in ceramic oval dish
Lentil Cottage Pie

Proper Veggie

It was time to embrace veggie eating properly. No more substitutes but good proper cooking from scratch.

I learned to think differently about cooking vegetarian food. With meat or fish, you have a star of the show with veggies as the side act. 

Cooking veggie meant that dishes needed to work together, there might be two or three dishes making up the ‘main’ element, working in harmony to create a feast.

Veggie food usually takes longer or a bit more effort to prepare. In my experience, there is more work in creating a tasty dish and making the veggies sing.

One of my veggie foodie heroes is Ottolenghi. Stock the spice cupboard with different ingredients and leave some time for cooking up a feast. You will never be disappointed but be prepared for smoky kitchens and prepping for a couple of days in advance!

Ottolenghi is very generous in sharing his recipes, check out social media, or find him writing for The Guardian.

Batch Cooking

Life is set to get considerably more expensive in the coming months. Eating well doesn’t have to be super expensive, but it will take up a bit of your time. Cooking is my therapy, so I really enjoy a bit of batch cooking and the sense of achievement when all the meals are prepped for a later date.

Lentil and spinach bake in large and small greeen ceramic oval dishes

That’s why I like to cook up a huge batch of green lentils. I boil them in vegetable stock to add a bit more flavour.

In a separate pan, I sauté onions, garlic, carrots, and celery then split this into two. With half the lentils I recently made a cottage pie mix, adding bay leaves, fennel, cumin, tinned toms, and a spoon of magical yeast extract. 

Marmite is so good for adding colour and great flavour to your veggie dishes.

The other half got the spice treatment. Adding chipotle chillies, lots of smoked paprika, passata, and a tin of red kidney beans.

The results: a family-sized cottage pie, two individual cottage pies to pass on to an elderly relative, and a vat of chilli. This was made from about half a pack of green lentils with just a bit of time and effort thrown in.

Once you have your base, you can make spag bol, lasagne, curries – all those family favourites for a fraction of the cost of meat or veggie substitutes. It tastes great and they are good for you.

Posh Lentils

You can go all Puy and go a bit posh with your lentils. I love these in a salad. I usually just have something crunchy like an iceberg, Puy lentils, and some goat’s cheese with a lovely lemony dressing. Great to go a bit posh if you have having people for dinner.

Texture

Split lentils are great for dhals or thickening soups or purees. They will go soft on cooking. If you want more texture, then stick to whole lentils. There is no need to soak lentils you can rinse and cook straight away. They will happily sit in your store cupboard for ages, with a long shelf life until you are ready to release them into something tasty.

Dhal is another family favourite – you can take your base and add lots of other lovely spicey veggies to make it a meal in its own right. Or add in some coconut milk for a lovely creamy twist.

Here’s a dhal recipe from a member of the BBC Good Food community.

Lentil Inspiration

Olive magazine shares their best lentil recipes here, including vegetable slice and an aubergine dhansak as well as some using Puy lentils too.

Jamie Oliver has some lovely lentil inspiration, whether as an accompaniment or a delicious meal in their own right. He shares some great salad ideas too.

How about this one from Delicious magazine, a halloumi-topped lentil stew – yes please!

And if you think I’ve forgotten about chocolate, then fear not. Add some cacao nibs or dark chocolate into your lentil chilli, delicious!

Are you going to start a love affair with a lentil?  

Why I started my business

Why I started my business

 I usually tell everyone about my love of chocolate and people, I just put the two together and created The Melting Pot.

Of course, my reasons for starting run far deeper than that.  

Dawn Fry

Here’s why I really started my business:

I took a job to fit around the needs of the family and it was driving me mad. It was something beneath my skill set for the part-time element and often left me unfulfilled and bored. Trying hard to turn it into something else wasn’t working, which just added to my frustration.

Life’s too short

My Dad became ill with serious cancer, followed by my husband in the same year. The next months were a blur of sitting by hospital beds and supporting them both. It was a tough time, with both seriously ill at the same time and three young children to support too. Driving around the M25 day after day, spending hours at a bedside, sitting watching loved ones suffer, and getting home and trying to be something for the kids. It took its toll.

Eventually, I went back to work but being in that environment was the final straw for me. How could I continue to work in something that didn’t serve me when life was so short and precarious?  

The only way is up

After a gruelling time and against the odds, we received good news, both my dad and hubby survived and are still well to this day, touch wood.

However, I now found myself teary and upset a lot of the time. The past had taken its toll. Not only did I not want to be in my job, but I was also not coping that well at all. It was hard to believe that everyone was going to be OK, even though the news was good, and I certainly didn’t feel OK myself.

One day there was a passing comment made in the office. It typified everything about what was not going to happen for me in my current role. 

I found myself in the toilet crying and knew something had to change.

The lightbulb moment

It was getting to that really low point, that kicked in some form of survival instinct and finally got me to tune into my need to reinvent myself. Time to start my own business, be my own boss, set my own agenda…..but what could I do?

I did literally have a lightbulb moment – I knew my business had to be with people and some sort of food and one day I just went, “chocolate, that’s it”. Running chocolate workshops felt right; I had created my new business idea, now to make it happen.

Redundancy Cheer

Redundancy is no joke; I’m not trying to make light of how awful it feels for some to know that they are going to lose their job and security. For me, it was a cheery and fearful moment. I was called into the office to be told that my job was being made redundant (it was the height of a recession in 2009). My response was ‘hurrah’ as it meant I could focus on my dream. I’d not been there long enough to qualify for redundancy pay, but it did give me the opportunity to start creating a chocolate workshop business as there was no job to full back on. This was the catalyst I really needed to make it a reality.

I left the job in June 2009 and launched The Melting Pot in September 2009.  

Why stop at workshops

After many years since I took the plunge, I still offer chocolate workshops and now so much more….

Hot Chocolate Team Day

So many courses and bespoke events have been created for clients – I say yes, then work out how I’m going to make it work.  

My hubby was inspired too, and for some years has been offering ‘be a blacksmith for a day’ experiences from his forge. We’ve even collaborated and created ‘hot chocolate’ team days.

I’ve documented everything I did to create a ‘business in a chocolate box’ and sell this to others wishing to run chocolate workshops where they live.  

New Dawn start-up business training came out of mentoring and supporting those starting a chocolate workshop business. Not everyone wants to work with chocolate – can you believe that?

Lack of confidence seemed to stop the people I met from starting something, they didn’t believe they could do it. If I could surely others could too? A free creating magic challenge and building confidence course were born.

Who knows what might be next…..

What I’d like to pass on

  1. Don’t stay working in something that makes you unhappy. You can and deserve to be happier at work. If you find yourself having a cry in the toilet, please make a change.
  2. Be brave – stretching your comfort zone will feel uncomfortable at first but the rewards are enormous.
  3. Choose love – firstly learn to love yourself properly, this is so important if you want to support all those that are so important to you too. There is nothing like working for yourself to really explore you and your capabilities.

There it is, why I started my own business. I love being my own boss, flexible, challenging, interesting and you will be so surprised at what you will learn about yourself.

Why All Relationships Matter

Why All Relationships Matter

We are talking business relationships here, but it’s personal too.

The most obvious relationships are those we have with our customers. The customer is king in every business. However, there are so many more to consider for a successful business to survive and indeed thrive, including the one you have with yourself.

Let’s explore why all relationships matter:

What relationships?

Meeting at a desk, with notebooks, drinks and laptops (you can't see their faces, just there arms writing in their books)

Sometimes we focus so much on the obvious (our customers) we overlook other opportunities.

Who do you have relationships with?

Customers, employees, contractors, suppliers, competitors, family, friends – are all key relationships within your business.

Another thing to consider is your potential relationship with someone where you are simply making an enquiry.

Maybe you are looking at a business opportunity?

How you behave will reflect on how you are perceived by the vendor.

Do you ask, realise it’s not for you (right now) and then ignore all the follow-ups? What if you later change your mind. If you didn’t go back to them explaining not right now, have you burnt your bridges for a potential transaction in different circumstances?

Send a simple reply explaining it’s not for you and why, and come across as professional and considered.

Supplying the Goods

Think about the importance of getting your supplies for example.  

Cacao beans

You are spending money with your suppliers and may think that you need do no more than hand over your hard-earned cash. What about a shortage in supplies (something that we are often facing in these difficult times).  Your supplier may have to choose which customer to send limited supplies to.  

What if you need a rush job and will need a supplier to go the extra mile for you?

Might your supplier recommend your services/goods to another customer if you are great to do business with?

A good relationship can reap unexpected benefits.

Money Matters

How do you pay for your supplies?  

Pink piggy bank

Cash flow can be an issue at times, so you may leave certain suppliers waiting for payment.  

Is this something you accept personally?  

Are you willing and able to wait for payment from a service or goods you have delivered?

What are your terms, and do you act with the same integrity with everyone else you do business with?

If you do hit on difficult times and you need to speak to your suppliers about extending credit for a limited time, your payment history will come into play. Have you built credibility with your supplier to afford you some leeway when it might be most be needed?

The Competition

Hide your head in the sand, feel threatened and defensive, or completely oblivious – what is your attitude to the competition?

Competition can be a good thing. If more people are offering what you do, there must be a demand for it. Always check out the competition and keep an eye on what they are doing. Is there an opportunity to work together, to collaborate?  

No one can do things the way that you do them. You are what makes your business unique.  

Make friends with the competition where appropriate and explore ways of potentially working together. 

The team

If you employ people or use contractors, then they are representing you and your business.

Do they clearly understand and operate by your values? Have you adequately trained and equipped them to achieve their tasks properly?

If there is one big lesson I’ve taken from running my own business, it’s all my fault. If an employee/contractor makes a mistake, then the buck will stop with me. Choose good people (we need to part ways with those that are not the right fit) and train them well.

Build good strong relationships with all members of your team and it will reap rewards.

Customers are King

Without customers, we don’t have a business.  

Building strong relationships with your customers and providing the best possible service matters. I like to create sticky customers (ones I cover in chocolate, but also stick around for more). Working with chocolate is a good hook for building rapport, but you don’t need to work with it to use it to your advantage! Here are 100 ways to make your customers go WOW.  

You

Nothing will test you like running your own business. It is the best personal development programme you will ever encounter. You will experience highs and lows, but the benefits of being your own boss far outweigh the difficult bits!  

Be YOU. People buy authentic, tell your story, be yourself. 

If you do not it will be exhausting and not something that you can sustain long term.

Set boundaries for yourself and stick to them. Respect yourself and others will follow suit. Treat everyone in the way you expect to be treated yourself.

The relationship with yourself will be tested and you need to know who you are and what you stand for.

All relationships matter.