Thursday, 25 October 2012

Well that's the Halloween party regalia sorted - thank you lovely M&S. I know they're a bit pricier sometimes but actually their pinata was cheaper than the big T's and they are doing 3 for 2 on decorations and sweets. Overall, today has produced a rare moment of pre-Friday shopping for me ( I usually do it all online) but I managed a trip to Primark as well. Totally stocked up on gloves and hats for the boys - which will no doubt end up lost in a gutter before the last leaf falls off the tree outside my kitchen window - plus cosy fleece socks, monster slippers, pyjamas and a skeleton outfit. All for under £30.

Talking of lost things a lovely thing happened this week - someone handed in my cash, which I dropped somewhere between my car, the school and the pet shop a couple of weeks back. It was kindly recovered by the lady who picks up the children from school when their parents can't, so she shall be getting a big hug next time I see her. I might even use tongues, (kidding)!

Here is a picture of the first shop to stock my products. It's such a beautiful place, one of those shops you could spend hours in and based in leafy Chislehurst.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

This has been an eventful week - both business and personal-wise, which is why I haven't had the time before now to post.

I received a phone call whilst sitting outside the boys' school at 3.15; it was the nice lady from Annabel's, a luxury gift shop in Chislehurst which bases itself on Fortum and Mason. I'd had a meeting with Carmel the previous week, with a view to them buying my products for stock. It was all going well, we'd made a connection and I was feeling at home in the snug shop with my pink cup and saucer when Carmel asked the 'M' question: money. Had I prepared a spreadsheet on wholesale prices for Annabel's? No. Had I even worked out a percentage wholesale price? Negative. The words of Michelle Mone rumbled through my ears: "fail to plan, plan to fail." I had played out this moment in my mind so many times  - hundreds - in the past two years and yet here I was, stuffing it up. My darting eyes rested upon a calculator next to the shop's cash register, which I grabbed, plucking a random sum from my head and writing some calculations for Carmel on the back of an old envelope (really!) She told me she would speak to her colleague and get back to me, then asked for a business card. I didn't have any of those either.

Felt deflated for the rest of the week, but Carmel was true to her word, bless her, and when the call came, she told me they would like to buy 6 of each product. I was ecstatic, floating into the playground to collect my offspring with a silly grin on my face. Oscar has tutor on Monday's so I took the other two for a celebratory cake in the expensive bakery and they chinked their Tango's on my latte.

The blanket PR campaign has continued, every spare moment spent scouring magazines, newspapers and the web for beauty editors' names. A few weeks ago my mum gave me a copy of Stella - a Sunday Telegraph supplement - from which I promptly extracted the beauty writer's name and e-mailed over my press release. The lady came back quite quickly - which is something I'm learning about the world of journalism; if someone is interested in me, they will come straight back, otherwise I hear nada. Anyway, she asked for some samples which I promptly sent and on Tuesday evening she told me she will be featuring the Circulation Boost Skin Oil in a piece she will be writing. Was so excited, I forgot to ask when it'll be in.

My best friend from school rang me up, asking if I wanted to be in the Come Dine With Me Christmas special. She knows how I sadly watch repeats of this and have already planned several menu's, so obsessed am I with the programme. Ewan, my eldest also likes to watch with me whilst putting together one of his 1500 piece puzzles. In fact all my children really enjoy it and Oscar has already been bragging to his classmates that mum's going to be on Come Dine. My friend's friend is a producer for the programme and they have been casting in my area. By the end of Thursday I had chosen my menu and submitted an application form which promises a christmasy dinner party complete with pass the balloon and 'name that tune' - will find out next week whether I will be on.

Had a semi-review from a beauty editor  - she has received the products I sent and so far so good - fingers, knees and thumbs all crossed.

Went to a book signing at the 'Come Dine' friend's place of work  -  a wonderful bookshop in Crystal Palace called 'The Bookseller Crow.' As usual where she is concerned, it was an interesting evening with an eclectic mix of people involved. The author himself was dressed up in lady's attire, complete with PVC trousers and velvet handbag. I also learned that Crystal Palace is home to a British cheese shop where you can take your own wine (or port ) along to taster evenings. Shall definitely be going to one of those.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Lots to think about this week; another day has almost ended and poor little April hasn't been found. 

This situation has prompted me to have a stranger refresher chat with the boys but I'm not entirely sure it makes much difference. I've instructed them that if they are lost, to find a lady to help them. I've also said that if one of those creepy men driving white vans which seem to patrol our school-concentrated area approaches them, they are to walk up to the nearest house and knock on the door. God knows where that could lead them; makes my stomach curl up on itself like my mum's hall rug if I think about it all for too long.

Yesterday I met a lovely man (a previous client's dad) and gave him a reflexology treatment. Every other word started in 'f' and ended in 'king"and he was at turns hilarious and sad. A worrier. He paid me, I was in a hurry to leave and shoved the cash in my back pocket as I often do, then I noticed it wasn't there at around 5pm. I handed the cooking and application of fish finger trimmings over to A and jumped in my car, desperate to re-trace my steps. First the walk to the school: it started pouring, I didn't have a coat and several teachers gave me funny looks. The ball of cash wasn't there, although tenners could easily be camouflaged by the autumn leaves I considered afterwards. Then is was off to the pet shop where we had earlier stopped to buy Chub-Chub the hamster some bedding. The money wasn't there either, although the last black kitten still was, bless. "That shredded paper cost me £45," I wanted to cry at the helpful shopkeeper. On my way out I noticed a betting shop two doors down which struck a philosophical cord in me; I hoped that someone had at least had a good win on my earnings. 

Later, after a cup of tea I went online and realised that this is Breast Cancer month. One of my mum's oldest friends and a real supporter of our family after my dad died, was in St Thomas's this week having a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Poor love, by all accounts she is very poorly following her big op. This got me thinking about the wearing it pink thing, and I soon made the connection that the Inner-Soul Organics range includes the Romance Me Skin Oil - which has a cerise label. I immediately signed up with the Breakthrough Breast Cancer website and will be donating a British pound for each of these products sold until October 31st.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Today I went to my Monday morning regular job at a local nursing home which involves offering aromatherapy massages (usually hand) to the residents. I can't afford to give it up currently, due to the new baby (business), but to be honest it gives me a weekly healthy slice of grounding, plus a reminder of my own future. 

Most weeks one of my regulars has died, which I learn about from the rose attached to the outside of their bedroom door, in place of their crumpled photograph. Today, Mrs. M was calling out repeatedly that she hadn't been fed. A passing nurse told me she'd had porridge, which I reminded her of several times afterwards, but she couldn't take it in. Sadly, she could tolerate only a very short massage, which didn't affect her agitated mood.  

I spent the afternoon 'PR-ing and selling myself. I contacted a blogger, and a local newspaper who said they are considering me as a feature in their business supplement. The blogger came back to me asking me to send her two of my products, so I e-mailed back asking if she can confirm for definite that she will use them as review material. Is this wrong? It feels wrong, but I am tryng to be honst about my limited budget.

I also spoke to a beauty editor at a well-known glossy. She could barely hide her disdain at my request for a review, and told me to contact her in January. She must be busy, I thought.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Doing my own PR campaign

My newly launched organic skincare business, Inner-Soul Organics, is on a tight budget. This is because we had our house pretty much gutted (it needed it!) a year ago. Then A's 12 year old marketing business began to take a slide, which has all meant that my launch budget has been halved.

I spent 7 months building my website in between making sure everyone had broccoli with dinner, sorting out label design and finding out whether my packaging can be recycled, (it can).

After the website launch in August, there was the sound of tumbleweed and an eery breeze through our house, where online orders should have been. So I decided a PR campaign was in order. I have written poems before, but never a press release. So I collared a mum at school's husband (another A) to help me out. He kindly gave me an hour, during which time I learned exactly what to write.

"Start with local press," he said, and "don't be afraid to approach internet mags."

This'll be easy, I told myself. Wrong.

I have now sent off a total of 33 press releases and three weeks down the line, I've managed to procure a free gift box giveaway via a not-very-glossy magazine. And this wasn't even because of my outstanding writing. I got this via a free trial of Response Source, which I would highly recommend and is basically a pool for journalists to put out an e-mail about what they are researching. The downside is that my weeks' trial runs out in 3 days and the service usually costs £350 plus VAT annually. Boo.

Anyway, on a more positive note, I had a meeting with the Katie Piper Foundation yesterday and have secured a partnership with their 'One Club' which basically means for every product sold, the Foundation gets £1. I've always admired Katie and her determination and will also enjoy returning to my former glory as an aromatherapist by giving massages to beneficiaries of the Foundation at their next workshop in November.

My husband says I'm green, that I'm only just learning the harsh ways of the corporate world. I think what I'm learning most is that the free things are usually worth more.