Chapter 7: Christmas in July

Audrey Williams

The sun is out and temperatures have risen to ensure we have a balmy summer. As I grew up in Cape Town all I wish is that this sun and heat last well into September. My homesickness is brewing at the moment as we are feverishly working away on Christmas, planning and buying, as well as putting final touches to a huge event in The English Beagle calendar, Christmas in July. A two-day press event in London which allows us to showcase what we have handpicked as our hot picks.

Why homesick do you ask, well, I grew up with Christmas in swimsuits and seeing who could make the biggest splash. Watermelons too big to fit in the fridge were chilled in the pool, along with buckets tied to rope weighed down with the bottles of wine and beer; while Boxing Day was spent at the beach with friends. Taking part in a Christmas event in July is just heaven.

 

The event The English Beagle is taking part in is the www.xmasinjuly.co in London and open only to press and influences. This allows us to showcase the best of what 2018 has to offer and what will be hot for Christmas this year. Only in its second year, it has proven to be the press’ go-to event for the season.

Some brands are already stocked; like Bookshell Bindery with their luxurious British leather journals and Catherine Colebrook with their gold printed mugs. Others include Seedballs and one of my favourites Grace and Favour Home.

There are a couple of new brands which I am so excited to start working with. The first being Lena Hill Apothecary Candles, of which I can not begin to describe how luxurious her candles are.  Then there is Louise-Tate Illustrations, the creator of beautiful children’s imagery which has been put onto table mats and puzzles.

 

 

I have also been fortunate to work alongside Port and Lemon who have designed a fun and decadent range of kitchen and baking accessories exclusive to The English Beagle. Everyone is a Star Baker in their own kitchen!

 

 

 

I am hopeful that I will remember to pack everything for the event. The van is booked and gift boxes are wrapped. The press pack folders and gift guides have just been delivered and I am over the moon, I even did a little happy dance when I opened the boxes! It is strange that something little, as in an A5 size booklet, can make a grown woman almost cry. The English Beagle is my baby and have put my heart and sole into it. It is amazing to think that I started all of this only one year ago.

 

I promise to take lots of pictures and upload a video link or too to Instagram and Facebook next week, so please keep watching. If I get a chance I will sneak a peak and what others are predicting for Christmas 2018 and let you all know.  It is only 4 ½ months till Christmas and my Christmas List pen is poised!

Happy Christmas in July everyone.

Chapter 6: A crash course in photography

Audrey Williams

School holidays throw me completely out of sync.  I am sure that it down to the lack of routine; not having to get up by 7am to do the ‘mommy’ jobs before school run, fit work into the next 6 hours before having to rush out the door again to fetch Mimi-Me from school. Being a single parent and running a business ensures that I have a lot of hats to wear and sometime more than one at a time.

At the moment I am still recovering from an inset day after half term. My brain says it is Wednesday but it is already Thursday. I am shocked to see that my desk is fairly organised and everything is in its place. Perhaps it is just an organised mess…

Mumtrepreneur's Desk

There were a few things I had to learn very quickly when starting The English Beagle and photography was one of them. I was fortunate to take part in a 1 day crash course hosted by Claire Witz from Tunbridge Wells Mums in Business with Janet Penny of Hushabye Photography and Claire Williamson of Little Olives Photography. 

www.hushabye-photography.comTunbridge Wells photographer, Kent photographer

 

I do not have a ‘posh’ camera and take all photos on my beloved Sumsung. Thankfully I did not need to have camera for the course and was able to use my phone during the day.

Various topics were covered, starting with the basics and building up from there. Most important lesson I learnt is never use the flash on the phone. I then had to get my head around White Balance, which is the process of removing unrealistic colour casts; if a product is white, it should appear white in the photo. Or in my language: the colour of the photo adjusted by the temperature of the light. A cold/blue picture vs a warm/yellow picture.

For someone who thought direct sunlight onto a product was the best option, I was relieved to learn that this is something to avoid. North facing windows are the best as the sunlight has been diffused already. Have a white table cloth handy to act as a diffuser if something is casting a shadow onto the product. And make sure that the props used are packed safely into one container ready for the next photo shoot! Unfortunately my bedroom has become the photo studio as the light is best late morning, so my prop box now lives in the corner.

We were also told about a few apps that seem to have made my photo-taking experience far easier now too.

mumtrepreneur

  1. DSLR Zoom Camera: same features as a ‘posh’ camera. Exposure (something which I did not quite get my head around) and white balance are easily managed; plus image sizes can be pre selected.

  1. Snapseed: Fantastic for editing images. Colours can be tweaked and I now use the ‘pop’ colour on all my photos. Plus lens blurring can be added afterwards. Additional white balance editing can be used too.

 

  1. Canva: A brilliant app that enables you to create your own image layouts. A wide selection of templates to choose from and can be used on both phones and desktops.

 Even if photography is a hobby and not purely for business, the apps listed above are great and will bring a new dimension to your photos.

Happy snapping everyone.

Audrey

Chapter 5: Relationships

Audrey Williams

I had no idea what to write about for the next installment of Becoming a Mumtrepreneur when something happened in my personal life which got me thinking about relationships, and more importantly, surrounding yourself with the right type of people.

A couple of days before the event happened, the lovely Lisa Dawson @_lisa_dawson_  planted the seed. Lisa responded on Instagram to a post about bullying that was experienced on a so-called ‘friendly and welcoming’ social media group. I replied to Lisa as I agreed to her comments and that what had happened was uncalled for. I never actually took part in anything on this particular social media group as when I did visit from time to time, I found most people to be negative in their approach, complaining and moaning. I actually removed myself from a couple of other social media groups as I found the exact same thing; everyone seemed to complain about one thing or another and it drove me mad. I now find myself only getting involved with those social media groups that have the same mind set as my own.

Over the years I have met many wonderful people who promise to keep in touch but over time, many of these relationships have come to a point where it seems to be very one-sided and I am tired of doing all the work. It is at this point that I decided to stopped making all the effort. Why must I do all the work when a relationship is a two way street. Without going into too much detail about the personal event in question, it was a perfect example of a one-sided relationship that I had no more time for. It infuriated me when I was told that this person felt excluded. How dare they! Why should they feel like that when they have not bothered to get in touch? There is so many ways of communication these days, social media, mobile, telephone, email, there is still ‘snail mail’!

I have learnt the hard way what happens when you surround yourself with people who complain all the time and have a negative outlook on life. I lived under a cloud for so long and it took its toll. One day I decided enough was enough and I took a stand. I proceeded to eliminate the negativity from all aspects of my life. It was a long hard battle, but it is so worth it at the end. It is not easy to find the right people who offer guidance, people who praise and support, and even those who offer constructive criticism. But when you do, together the relationships will be nurtured. 

 

Chapter 4: Stress Awareness Month

Audrey Williams

April is Stress Awareness Month and I have been wondering what to write. I have started this on several occasions only to stop, read it back and give up. Then it hit me, like a pair of freezing cold feet touching your legs in the night. Firstly, those pair of cold feet belonged to my daughter, and secondly and more importantly I have decided to write about what makes me stressed and try to put in some type of order.  

So here goes, I do hope you enjoy reading this and can relate in some way to some of the points.

PS, these are in order too, from most stressful to least. It is quite funny to read that my dog is causing the most stress!

  • My dog, the wonderful and loving Suzy, is causing my biggest stress bursts at the moment. We moved to a new house recently and Suzy is peeing inside! My dad may say that she is only marking her territory, but why does she have to do it inside? I get so angry with her and when she sees me coming, she slinks away to hide under the table or in the bathroom. I am so paranoid that my house sticks of dog and now I am paranoid it smells like dog pee! It may still be ‘fresh’ out but the back door is now wide open so that we do not have this again. And her name has been changed to Pee Pee Pansy for a while.

 

  • My weight is something which I also get anxious about which in turn causes stress. I need to lose about a thousand pounds but I am an emotional eater. I eat for and with emotion. It is a life battle I will always had and always will, however I am only now finding comfort in my own skin which is shifting the focus. The book ‘On Eating’ by Suzie Orbach has been recommended and I love it. A simple read and easy to digest (excuse the pun) points make sense to me. I have started running again, well more like a ru-lk or a wa-n, but I am doing it. And once I am home again and glugging down the water I feel so alive. So running is my stress buster, along with the long soaks in the bath.

  •  Starting The English Beagle was stressful, running it is stressful and trying to make it a success is stressful. A certain level of stress is required as it keeps us on our toes, but I find myself using that stress as a determining factor to keep striving for excellence. The stress comes in, I turn it around to my advantage, and out goes new and exciting work. At the moment I am working on exhibiting at the Christmas in July PR Event and I am secretly petrified as I am putting the brand on display. I am using this stress a standard that I must achieve. I want to be the best brand on display and the best gift store there, all the while my knees tremble with fear.

 

  • Being a single parent can stressful. There is no back up. My daughter has slept in my bed for a good couple of years now and at first it was comfort for her, now it is comfort for me. I love listening to her snore quietly while I drift off and the cold feet that attack me in the night. Right now, I love being single parent and do not find it stressful, yes there is more to do and manage, but when you have 3 calendars like me nothing is forgotten, well almost nothing. I have her all to myself and I know that no matter what happens, she will also be snoring softly next to me at the end of the day.

 

  • The last stressful point I can think of right now is making sure I have the right wine in the fridge for a surprise visit from my mother. Mom always says on her last day here that she is looking forward to going home, Cape Town, so that she can have a decent glass of wine. Maybe I should put this down as the 1st point as I have 2 weeks left to find her decent wine!

Chapter 3: Women's Day

Audrey Williams

 

February 2018

The sun is shining and I may sound optimistic here but I feel like spring is in the air.  While gazing out and letting my mind wonder for a minute I began to think about all those women who have influenced me over the past couple of years and helped me get to this point.

This is not written for those women from politics or tinsel town who we all admire at some point in our lives, but for those women who I can actually call and have a chat with. Surely these women impact our lives far more?

The first to mention is a wonderful woman with years of retail experience. Diane Lee is a former Director at BRU UK and I was fortunate enough to work with her in a former life. Diane was one of the first people I spoke to when I was thinking about going out on my own and she did not have one negative thing to say and was full of encouragement and I was spurred on to plan further. Although I have not spoken to Diane since October, I think of her every week and at times find myself asking: ‘What would Diane say?’

The second is a local lady who I do not want to mention by name at this point. Those who know me will never say that I am a shy person, but we all have our flaws and why I am currently admiring from afar.  I have not known this person for very long, nor have I spoken to her more than two or three times, but she is always smiling, always positive and never has anything negative to say.

I can not sit here and not write about my friends: Janine, Karen, Georgina, Charlotte, Gunilla and dear dear Pam. It is amazing how your friends give you the support when you least expect it. It has taken me a few years to get to this point in my life and each of these wonderful women have been there when I needed a shoulder to cry on or a giggle to cheer me up. I am only now starting to see in me what they see in me.

The only way I can describe my grandmother, or Ouma, was as a spirited woman. Full of life and never staying in the same place for very long. Without getting too tearful here, Ouma would be the first to call me after I had come back from a business trip to some far away country. I believe I caught her adventurous outlook on life. I trekked in the Moroccan desert a couple of years ago and at one point I found myself mentally struggling. It was hot and as the path seemed never ending, I began to cry and suddenly missed her very much. Now Ouma always had a beautiful garden and it is one thing that I always remember about her. It is by some miracle that at that very point in my life, with tears mixing with dust on my cheeks and wishing I was anywhere but there, I climbed over the very next dune to come across a field of desert bushes with small white flowers. It was like she was talking to me, reminding me that I could do whatever I wanted to do and to never give up. Tears brewing so moving on…

The next woman to influence me is my mother. Even though Mom and I live opposite ends of the world our relationship is as though we live next door to each other. Mom always knew the plans for The English Beagle, but when I told her that I had resigned from my job and was jumping in with two feet, Mom was the first to jump in with me. Mom has also been my rock over the past couple of years and always knew that no matter how I felt, Mom was there to listen.

So to all woman who read this, have a wonderful Mother’s Day and know that International Women’s Day on the 8th March is dedicated to all of you.

Chapter 2: What have I got myself into?

Audrey Williams

December 2017

No matter how many times I have thought to myself that I need to sit down and write the next chapter of ‘Becoming a Mumtrepeneur’, I always find an excuse not to. It is not that I don’t want to write, it is because I am too scared to sit back and analyse what I have done over the past couple of months.

The English Beagle has been my baby for a very long time now and since launching 2 months ago certain aspects have gone from strength to strength. Others have made me sit back and wonder what I am doing wrong and is this actually for me.

Let’s start with some of the good things… Social media is growing and I am amazed at how quickly it has taken off. I just love the interaction with people; whether it is on a competition or a picture of Suzy, there is always a friendly face or comment. I am even beginning to notice the regulars. Although I have taken part in far too many Christmas Fairs this year, the feedback has been great as people recognise the name and tell me how much they like the social media platforms and the website. It is at times like this that I know that I must be doing something right.

When working in retail, you have to plan well in advance to ensure that you stay both on trend and ready for anything. Thankfully my gut instinct and passion for product development has led me to partner up with several brands, including Molly & Monty, Selfie Clothing and Port & Lemon, for exclusive lines in 2018. Watch this space as I am so excited about them.

Now onto a negative aspect. I work from my home office and although I do have some wonderful chats with Sophia on the phone about work and life, I miss the background ‘jibber jabber’ of an office environment. I have come to learn that working for yourself in a start-up business can be very lonely. This is compounded by the fact that I am a single parent so there is no one to talk to in the evenings. My poor parents just listen and give me all the support I need and I am sure my mother has developed selective hearing.

I am also tired. There is no other words to describe this feeling. I try to maintain a good work life balance even when the office is just off the lounge and I can hear every time the phone goes ‘bing’. It is very hard to stop thinking about it: what is happening? What order has just been placed? If I pack it now will I make the last post today? I catch myself lying awake at night reaching for my phone to see the latest on Instagram and Facebook, only to put it down and tell myself that this is the reason why I am tired.

And now, I sit here and read back and think to myself that this is what I wanted to do. This is what I dreamed to do and I will succeed. Rome was not built in a day, so why should The English Beagle be any different. Even for all the tiredness and loneliness I feel, I dream one day The English Beagle will have its name up in lights and everyone will know about it. So next time I feel tired I am going to sneak in a nap before rushing off on the school run or pick up the phone and call someone for a chat when feeling lonely. Maybe I will call someone for a chat while lying in bed! Now that is a dream.

Chapter 1: Mumtrepeneur

Audrey Williams

I began this blog not knowing what to write as I have never written one before. When I started this journey a few months ago social media never crossed my mind, let alone blogging.

Let me start at the beginning, at the young age of thirty something I decided to become a Mumtrepeneur. A change of role and a change of pace is what I needed and wanted. I quit my job at a successful Children’s Brand and after years of traveling the world, visiting manufacturers of every description I wanted to do something that I was becoming quite passionate about, championing the local producers and craftsmen.

Why British you ask – well, I grew up around crafts women and it influenced my career choice. But as the years sped past traveling I began to consider the local producers. In an industry where price is key I soon realised that price is not everything. Quality, heritage and provenance can offer far more value to life.

So I set out to find Brands who I could relate to. Mumtrepenures, environmentalists and companies who champion special causes. I have found wonderful brands that some may never have come across and hope to become the place where the two sides meet. The gift creator and the gift giver. 

I have learnt so much about myself and who I can count on when the road seems never ending. I would say to people ‘I am trying to set up a company’ until a wise lady replied ‘Why do you say trying? You are already doing it.’ This changed my way of thinking. I am doing this and so far it is proving to be successful, even social media does not seem to scare me anymore.

I sat working one recent afternoon and realised that although I am working late into the night, I do not feel guilty anymore at being a ‘working mum’; whereas I always felt guilty when I worked 9 to 5. My daughter is my guiding light. Her occasional cuddles in the office and her curious questions on what I am doing always make me smile and I am so proud that she shows interest.

When I started this adventure I did not know where the road would take me and I can see only wonderful things ahead. I have learnt so much so I will end off with a key piece of advice for those wanting to do something for themselves and by themselves: Do not be scared to ask for help or seek a professional opinion.  I have met fabulous women along the way all who have contributed in one way or another to The English Beagle. Without them I would not be sitting here writing this and I am forever grateful to them.