I was nominated for Best Online Business at the Mumpreneur Conference and Awards 2010 and although I didn’t win, it was afantastic event as always with a lot of my favourite speakers, including Alison Rothwell of SEO Training Club, there to motivate, inform and inspire the audience of businesswomen. I went to two seminars, one ‘break-out session’ on SEO and listened to two motivational speakers. More info and links coming soon, meanwhile there’s an interview with me below by Family Friendly Working which talks about what I most enjoyed at the conference.
I just wanted to report back on the Mumpreneurs Meetup which I organised for the Tower Hamlets Mums Business Club. It was hosted by the excellent Ping Pong Dim Sum in Appold Street, who as usual gave us their lovely Private Dining Room ( I can’t sing their praises enough, they provided lovely flower teas for the mumpreneurs and they really do their best to help groups like ours).
Our first speaker was Leanne dal Santo from Smartbags. Leanne gave up a safe corporate career as an accountant to start her business after being inspired by a visit to Australia where she found out about eco friendly non woven polypropylene bags. These are made using much less toxic processes than normal plastic bags and are reusable and fully recyclable. Leanne approached the company who were importing them in Australia and set up a handshake deal to start up her own site in the UK and import the bags from the manufacturers in China (who work from an independently audited factory and ship rather than using air freight). As she had manufacturers and designs all ready to go, Leanne’s start up costs were low. Leanne works with her husband, who focuses on sales, giving her time to concentrate on PR, strategy and design. She also has two children, and has to juggle a lot! She has lots of tips for mumpreneurs wanting to follow in her footsteps:
- Know your competitors
- Focus on sales and target your audience
- Being green is not always enough, you need to look at cost as well
- Packaging is really important for your products: make sure it’s sustainable
- Communicate with your customers: don’t forget to stay in touch!
- At some point you are going to have to pick up your phone and ring potential customers! Don’t be shy!
- Outsource the things you can’t do well to give you time on the things you do do well
- It makes life easier if you don’t hold stock!
Our second speaker was Hannah McHalick from Oh Baby London. Hannah was a graphic designer for 15 years but was on maternity leave without pay when she had the idea for Oh Baby London. She designed her babygrows (including the fabulous “Inside for 9 Months”) and came up with the company name – and designed the catalogue – while pregnant. Hannah didn’t get start up funding and just went for her idea, getting samples made up and taking them around baby shops to get whole sale orders. Her brother-in-law designed her website and she started taking orders – and getting press – right away. She was offered her shop premises two years later through the workshop where Hannah was based. However, her shop and website weren’t initially Hannah’s main priority, she was focused on wholesale orders. After a near-disaster where an order wasn’t produced in time for a big wholesale customer, Hannah realised it was time to grow the retail side of her business and switched to retailing. Her turnover was the same, but her profit was much larger. It also meant she has more than one route to market.
Hannah’s tips for mumpreneurs:
- Have some money before you start, so you don’t run out in a crisis!
- Constantly monitor everything you are doing
- If something goes wrong, try to see the positive side
- It’s really important to believe in what you are doing, and keep your eye on the prize
- Know where you are going and how to get there
- Wear blinkers: be aware of your own route and don’t spend too much time looking sideways at your competitors
- Don’t ignore scary stuff; learn to love spreadsheets and profit and loss forecasts and be aware of your cashflow
- Remember to relax and look after your health and your mind: yoga and running are both recommended by Hannah
- Switch off when it’s time to pick up the kids
We had some great mumpreneurs attending the talks, including Jennifer Robertson from Scamp Baby Gifts, who makes gorgeous embroidered and personalised pictures for babies (you can follow her on Twitter too ), and Samantha McCulloch from Virtually Optimized, who offers virtual PA services for stressed mumpreneurs like me! We also had several lovely ladies who are thinking over ideas for their new businesses (including one with a nine month old baby, and one with an eight week old baby, our youngest networker yet!) and hope to add their links when they launch. All agreed that it was an inspirational event, and we hope to meet again during Business Mum Week with advice about PR, SEO and social media.
I decided to try this excellent recipe for sardines escabeche. I adore Spanish food which is much maligned and misunderstood. It’s simple to make and took me about ten minutes. The paprika turns the oil a lovely red colour. I am hoping this is a good way to rescue frozen oily fish like sardines!
We also cooked up a lot of our organic home grown tomatoes in a fresh pasta sauce with a lot of garlic. So am feeling quite virtuous at the end of Zero Waste Week! I still have not sorted out the food composting, but it is on my list.
I got a little behind on posts, so this will be a roundup! On Thursday I had a sandwich at the gym, as I hadn’t packed a lunch. For dinner, we had steak with left over baked potatoes, reheated. I cleared out my kitchen cupboards and found a truffle I brought back from Italy so we ate some of that with the steak. We are not a vegetarian family, however I aim to have meat free days two or three times a week as I know that this is a more sustainable lifestyle. We also mainly buy organic meat.
On Friday we had our planned supper, lamb tagine and couscous. We still haven’t eaten our beetroot and cauliflower, do these need to be cooked today, and I am also going to try and pickle the fish!
What have I thrown away this week? A third of a loaf of bread which had gone mouldy, some grapes that had gone brown. I think this is definitely less than usual and menu planning has helped. It has made me think strategically about what needs to be eaten next and I think I have saved money by sticking to my list.
I have also been round to my mother’s house and was given two pots of her home made jam! I would love to make jam myself so once I have tackled the chutney, I am going to try this. Personally, I love cooking but find certain areas (baking, preserves) a bit challenging, perhaps because they involve measuring ingredients. Learning these skills would be fun and perhaps would tempt the children to try some new recipes!
Add a Shop Tab
I have been doing a bit of maintenance on my Facebook Fan Page and came across this excellent add-on, Shoptab. It’s only useful if you have products to sell but it is fantastically convenient and simple to set up if you do. I have a self-hosted ecommerce website but having a shop on Facebook too is great in terms of visibility and I think fans are bound to be more engaged if they can shop and view products directly from Facebook rather than having to go to a different site. It costs $10 a month at the moment, which I think you’ll agree is a bargain! I had to hack around with my Google Merchant product feed in order to upload it to Shoptab, but the results are worth it and meant 200+ products were uploaded in an hour or two. If you don’t have the ability to export a Google product feed from your own ecommerce site, you can create one manually using a spreadsheet or just type the products into Shoptab, one by one.
Build a Custom Landing Page
Another useful tip from Mashable is to build a custom landing page which will be my next project on my own site.
Customise your Profile Page Image
You can also hack the profile page image on your Facebook Fan Page which I’ve done on another Page I admin, the Dappers Fan Page. It’s a bit fiddly and only recommended if you are familiar with image editing techniques.
Creating Custom Tabs on your Facebook Page (including Newsletter and Youtube tabs)
I’ve used Static FBML (which is essentially simplified HTML) to create custom tabs on my own Mimimyne Facebook Page, including a newsletter sign up tab with code from Mailchimp which will provide you with ready made code, and a customised Youtube Tab with embedded Youtube Videos (I learned how to do this from this blog).
Apps are constantly being created to do jobs like these but it really is worth investigating Static FBML if you want to have control over your Page and how it looks.
There is a great round up on customising Facebook Pages on Techcrunch which links to Static FBML as well as some of the apps that can help you do this if you don’t want to mess around with code.
Tips on essential apps for your Facebook Business Page
Finally, here are some great tips from Matt Silverman on apps that can improve your Business Facebook Fan Page! It’s amazing what we can do with these pages nowadays, even if you are irritated by certain tricks Facebook pulls on Page Admins such as suddenly changing the size of images allowed in Pages, they have given us the opportunity to make Business Pages very engaging and entertaining.
We had fish pie last night using my mums recipe (she is the author of the Paupers Cookbook and taught me all I know about food!). This used up our home grown tomatoes and some frozen prawns which had been lurking for a while). I fried the beetroot leaves in butter with peas, they are delicious cooked this way).
Tonight we are having a frittata, essentially a fat omelette you cook in the oven. I substituted the grated courgette in Abel and Cole’s recipe for rocket which I had in the fridge and was getting close to its use by date. I also left out raisins, as I don’t think they would work.
I have discovered some frozen sardines lurking in the freezer so am going to try pickling them and have bought some pickling vinegar. I am also going to try and make chutney from some unripe green tomatoes from our home growing efforts so I will be using vinegar for that as well. Recipes coming soon!
This is last nights macaroni cheese, plus some sustainably sourced scampi that needed to be eaten by tomorrow. Not many veggies today but they have had some grapes!
I forgot to take a photograph of the beef goulash I made last night with the leftover beef from Sunday, as I was too hungry and wanted to eat it… But it was very good! I added some mushrooms, chili powder, lots of paprika and served it with mashed potato, parsley and sour cream. I made a beetroot leaf salad as well, another tip from Abel and Cole. I still find the leaves a bit chewy but they are tasty, although we did have some left over. I will probably wilt them with butter as a side dish today with our fish pie.
The children are having some left over macaroni cheese that I made for them yesterday, with hot dogs. I tend to cook for them separately as the eldest is so horribly fussy, although it does make extra work for me! I’ll try and post a picture of that as well, although it didn’t come out quite right (I never get the amount of cheese right as I’m too impatient to do all that measuring).
The weekly meal plan for this week is meant to be Monday fish pie (using sustainably sourced pollack which I get with my veg box delivery), second day frittata (using an excellent Abel and Cole recipe), third day quiche, fourth day chicken wings which is a new recipe I tried out recently and final weeknight couscous and lamb tagine.
I haven’t done my weekly online shop yet (I’m already behind!) so with the view of using up leftovers first I am going to turn leftover Sunday roast beef into goulash and shuffle the fish pie to Tuesday. This also involves using up some store cupboard rice, although to be honest this never sits around in my cupboard for too long as we love rice and eat it at least once a week. I’ve also got plums in this week’s veg delivery, so I will make plum crumble, and some beetroots and cauliflower which I will need to cook soon. As a result I think I will skip making the chicken wings this week and do a beetroot and orange salad or borscht instead, and do a cauliflower cheese dish or curried cauliflower. I’ll keep you posted on how I’m getting on trying to avoid wasting food!
I did a great store cupboard meal last night though and used up some vegetables that were hanging around: I found some miso paste packets in the cupboard and added a few mushrooms, broad beans sliced diagonally, frozen peas, noodles and tofu pieces I’d bought for a stir fry. It took about 10 minutes to make and was a delicious change from stir fry.
It’s Zero Waste Week and although in my case that clashes a bit with “Back To School” week, I’m going to be making an effort to cut down on family food wasting this week. Firstly, I’m going to use my Google Calendar meal planning system to keep a beady eye on the family food shop. This is a great tip I got from Simple Mom. I don’t want to restate everything on the Simple Mom website, but essentially you set up a separate Google Calendar from your usual one and set each meal as an “Event” to recur every 2 weeks. I put the URL for the recipe (if I’m using one, there are a few dishes I could probably cook blind fold by now) in the Where/Location field and the text of the recipe in the Notes section. You can then email yourself reminders of what you’re cooking each day.
Why do this? The basic reason is that having a menu plan eliminates waste. If you know what you are going to cook for the week, it is a huge help when doing your weekly shop, stops you ordering too much food (and having to put it in the bin or panic eat it before it hits the use-by date) and helps you keep an eye on whether you are cooking nutritious food for your kids. You can plan things sensibly, for example if you are cooking chicken every second Sunday, you know you will have chicken stock and so make sure you have the ingredients for risotto, soup or whatever you usually make with it. I have now saved my shopping list for each scheduled week in my Ocado account, so all I have to do is bring up “Week 1 Shopping List” in my account and add all the items straight away when doing my shopping online. If you use Epicurious and some other recipe websites, you can also email yourself a shopping list.
Secondly, I’m going to try and use up everything in my store cupboards for non-planned lunches etc. I don’t menu plan for lunches so I am often tempted to go out to a cafe (very easy if you work from home and get fed up of the same walls) but this week I am going to concentrate on using up old ingredients and taking out packed lunches if I go out using leftovers.
Thirdly, I’m going to either see if I can persuade the council to pick up my food waste recycling (they used to at my old address) or get a bokashi bin or wormery that will fit into our small back garden.
I’ll let you know how I get on!