Saturday, 15 May 2021

A venue and dates are now in place for The Godmother

 It gives me the greatest pleasure to tell you that my first play, The Godmother, is to be performed at The Trinity, on George Street, Burton-on-Trent, on December 9 and 10, 2021.

The Trinity – which used to be George Street United Methodist Church - has a special place in the story of Lily Thomas, the Burton woman at the centre of The Godmother. It feels to me as if Lily is coming home.

I am also honoured that the talented students of StageScreen, founded and run by Heather Gallagher, will be premiering the play.

It was at The Trinity that I began writing The Godmother in 2019. Every Friday, until the pandemic broke out, you would usually find me at one of the ‘hot-desks’ that Steve Wardle, owner of The Trinity, has created on the balcony of this beautiful building. 

Interior of The Trinity, George Street, Burton
L to R: Heather Gallagher, Elaine Pritchard and Steve Wardle inside The Trinity.

Local freelancers, like me, can book a desk for an occasional day or more regularly. It’s a great way to get the creative juices flowing by working from new surroundings.

103 years before opening night                          

In the course of my research I found out that the George Street church had been a big supporter of Lily’s fundraising during World War One. They often let her use the Sunday schoolrooms – now converted to apartments – for concerts. These were one of many events across the town that raised money for Lily and her helpers to buy food, medicine and clothes that were sent off in parcels every two weeks to every man from Burton held in a German prisoner of war camp.

Also, exactly 103 years before the planned opening night of The Godmother, on Monday December 9, 1918, The Burton Mail carried reports of a thanksgiving service that had been held at the George Street Church on the previous day. That service was attended by Lily and many of her ‘godsons’, which was how she referred to the prisoners she supported. By that date, many of them had been released and sent home to Burton. They joined with Lily to give thanks in the very space where the play will be performed.

Opportunity to join the cast

The Trinity has been lovingly and sympathetically converted by Steve and his team and many original features have been preserved including the stunning stained glass windows, much of the beautifully carved woodwork and the ornate ceiling. I found it a calm and inspiring place to work on my play and it did make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck when I realised its close connections with Lily.

Stained glass windows at The Trinity
Original stained glass windows inside The Trinity

The StageScreen students will be starting rehearsals for the play in September and there is still an opportunity for any under-18s to join the Saturday morning classes if they want to take part in this and the other exciting end-of-term projects and productions that Heather and her tutors have planned for the school over the next 18 months.

Restoring Lily to the spotlight

This year also marks the 80th anniversary of Lily’s death. As I wrote previously, I think it’s very sad that few people in Burton know about the tireless work that Lily and her helpers did between 1914-1918. Lily fought red tape and negativity for years, but she never gave up. She wasn’t officially honoured after the war ended and for many years her grave in Stapenhill Cemetery was neglected. Her only daughter died childless, and she’d left her home in Guernsey when she married in 1906, so there are no descendants here in Burton (as far as I know) to keep her story in the public eye.

Thanks to the efforts of local historian Malcolm Goode, and supported by funding from East Staffordshire Borough Council, Lily’s grave has been restored. But, it might be nice to do more to remember the lives she saved by getting food and medicine to men who were starving and suicidal. Hopefully, these first two performances of The Godmother will be the start of returning her to the spotlight.

Grave of Lily Thomas before restoration
Lily's grave was in a sadly neglected state

Grave of Lily Thomas after restoration
Lily's grave following restoration

My thanks to Heather Gallagher, Steve Wardle and Hannah Beesley, The Trinity’s events manager, for sharing my passion for telling Lily’s story.

You can follow more about The Godmother play and Lily Thomas herself on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Introducing 'The Godmother', Lily Thomas

 

When I became a parish councillor, a couple of years ago, I met Burton historian Malcolm Goode and heard the story of Lily Thomas for the first time.

Lily is one of the unsung heroines of the home front in World War One. When the conflict began in 1914, she was a 39-year-old widow living in Stapenhill with her four-year-old daughter.

She decided to start a ‘little bit of war work’, as she called it, after learning that five Burton men were being held in German prisoner of war camps and had written home to their families about poor conditions.

By the end of the war in 1918, some 500 Burton men had been taken prisoner and Lily and her small army of volunteers had sent them over 25,000 parcels containing food, clothes and medicines. 

I began reading the columns that Lily wrote during the war in the Burton Mail and her memoirs, which she self-published in 1920. Her voice rang out from the pages and I became determined to make more people aware of her story. The best way seemed to be to bring her back to life on stage. Although I’ve written for a living since I was 19, I’d never written a play - until now.

The first draft of my play 'The Godmother' has just been completed and I’ll be posting news soon about its premiere in Burton Upon Trent before the end of 2021.

England remembers

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Lily’s actions saved lives. In her memoirs, she recounts the words of one officer from Burton who told her that suicides by despairing, starving men were frequent in the early months of the war.

He told her: “It is impossible to adequately describe the difference in the morale of the men as soon as the parcels began to arrive. Before they had been despondent in the extreme, and many of the deaths would not have occurred had the men had an incentive to live. As soon as parcels from strangers arrived, there went up a mighty cheer – ‘Hurrah! England remembers’. From that moment new life coursed through the veins of the men, and instead of the stony silence, whistling, singing and shouting became the order of the day, with jocular guesses and bets as to who would be the next to receive a parcel.”

So why has she been largely forgotten – including in her own home town?

A hundred years ago, everyone in Burton knew Lily. During the First World War she developed an impressive communication network including trusted British prisoners who were given responsible jobs in the post offices that were set up inside the prison camps. She invented a code that she managed to smuggle to them so that information could be exchanged, evading the wartime censors, and sounding like innocent news about friends and relatives. When serving soldiers came back to the UK to rest or recover from injury, Lily made a point of visiting them, learning more about how things worked in Germany and building trusting relationships. All this meant that Lily became the ‘go-to’ person for families across the town. They knew she would have information on injured and captured soldiers weeks before any official news was published.

No honours for Lily

Lily’s husband Edward had died when her only daughter Marguerite was one and Lily never remarried. Marguerite married but she and her husband did not have children. Perhaps a lack of descendants was one reason why Lily's name slipped from people’s minds.

Another factor may be that after the war ended, Lily received no official honour for her service. There was a homecoming party with many of the returned prisoners. They held a whip-round and bought her a tea service and donated towards a new bicycle for her.

The Order of the British Empire was introduced in 1917 to reward service in World War One. Many honours were awarded for work on the home front as well as bravery by members of the armed forces. But no awards came Lily’s way. She was an outspoken woman. Remember, this was before women had the vote and when they had less rights in law than men. It's clear that she ruffled a lot of feathers to get the job done. Maybe she upset too many decision-makers?   

Her efforts were ridiculed initially with many people believing that the parcels would never reach the Burton men, that the war would be over very quickly or that the Government would ensure that food and essentials reached the prisoners. But Lily would not be swayed. She fought red tape and complied with ever-changing rules and bureaucracy throughout the war.

Why 'The Godmother'?

The Burton prisoners affectionately called Lily their Godmother and she was delighted to return the tribute and called them her godsons. 

Lily was born and brought up in Guernsey and I'm continuing to research more about her early life there, but the play focuses firmly on the war years in Burton.

If you would like to follow the story of Lily, and the upcoming premiere of The Godmother, you can follow her on Twitter @LilyThomas_WW1 or at a new Facebook Page, LilyThomas.TheGodmother.

Friday, 26 February 2021

Staying positive and planning for a post-Covid business community

Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash

It's been a tough year. That's an understatement. But a mood of cautious optimism can be detected in the business community. We're daring to dream of what a post-pandemic world may look like and hopefully planning for it as well.

The coronavirus hub of the Federation of Small Businesses continues to help members and non-members alike. It's regularly updated and will be guiding people through the complex world of support grants, bounce-back loans, furlough and more - as it has done since March 2020.

The FSB has also been diligently lobbying national and regional government on behalf of those excluded from funding or not getting the level of support they need. It has listened to its members' concerns and relayed them to the heart of Downing Street, securing some important wins along the way.

Supportive, welcoming and inspiring

I am a volunteer champion for the FSB. In 2019 I began to host a monthly networking event for the Staffordshire and West Midlands FSB region at the beautiful Dovecliff Hall Hotel, just outside Burton-on-Trent. 

It was gratifying that some people travelled to join us from as far afield as Stoke-on-Trent, North Staffordshire, Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield. Little did we know that our February 2020 meeting was going to be our last face-to-face meeting for more than a year.

Since then, we've taken the meetings online. We've been meeting virtually on the third Wednesday of each month. Members and non-members of the FSB are equally welcome and it doesn't matter where you are based. Feedback has been great and we've been told that it's a supportive, welcoming and inspiring hour. It's also free of charge.

Liz Abram
Our next meeting is Wednesday, March 17, from 9.30am. I'm delighted to have secured coach Liz Abram, as the guest speaker for our monthly ten-minute spot. She is going to talk about setting boundaries and expectations for post-covid business. It's a subject that lots of us may be thinking about now. 

Do we really want EVERYTHING to go back to the way it was in February 2020? We have all learned so much since then about technologies such as Zoom. Will they permanently change the way we run our businesses?

Maybe we haven't fully appreciated how much we have adapted to this strange world. 




What are you going to do differently?

Liz is going to be taking us through the questions we need to ask ourselves as we plan for our post-Covid businesses:

  • What are we NOT prepared to rush back to - and why? 
  • What has lockdown shown us about how we operate? 
  • What do we know about ourselves a year on? 
  • Are there fresh ideas and opportunities we should explore?

It's a session that won't answer those questions for you, but will hopefully prompt you to think from a slightly different and resourceful perspective and prepare for the future.  

Everyone who attends gets a chance to speak for 30 seconds about their business and post all their contact details, website links etc in the meeting chatbox for others to download. To book your place at the meeting, click here.

For more about Liz, and the performance coaching work she does with individuals, look lizabram.co.uk or visit brezilliant.com for her work with teams, which she does with her business partner, Guy Hipwell.

Free publicity for small Burton businesses

Another project I work on, which that aims to bring a burst of optimism into the local business community, is Burton Small Business. I run this, as a labour of love, with fellow Burton-based business owners Cheryl Morris and Tilley Bancroft. 

Last month we launched the #BurtonBusinessSpotlight. This was an idea from Cheryl to invite small, independent businesses in our town to share their stories with us and be featured once a month. Burton's specialist cheese shop, The Cheese Station was first off the mark and became our first-ever #BurtonBusinessSpotlight.

We aim to keep the mood upbeat on our social media channels and focus on the news and information that is positive and helpful. We're back in the routine of sending out a monthly email newsletter, so if you'd like to subscribe, you can subscribe here. If you want to submit your business for a future #BurtonBusinessSpotlight, there are more details here on our website.


Wednesday, 10 February 2021

A golden ticket to the future

The news that Derby Theatre is planning a community play to mark the 75th anniversary of Derby County’s 1946 FA Cup win has set me thinking about how life can turn on a sixpence.

The phrase ‘everything will turn out for the best’ rings hollow when it seems that the fates are conspiring against you. Maybe it’s a human trait to hold fast to the belief that ‘it will be all right in the end’ and ‘if it isn’t all right, it isn’t the end’.

So, what has this got to do with Derby County football club?

I am a woman who

My dad was born in 1930 in Woodville, South Derbyshire. His dad, a coal miner in a local pit, was a Derby County fan and dad followed suit. By 1946, dad was a 16-year-old junior clerk in the offices of one of Burton-on-Trent’s many breweries.

The story that unfolded that year, as Derby County embarked on its only ultimately successful FA Cup run to date, is one that I shared when I was invited by Sandra Garlick to contribute a chapter to her 2020 ‘I Am A Woman Who’ book.

My dad died in 2018 and I think I was still processing that when the opportunity to submit a chapter to the book came along in 2019. 

If my dad hadn’t gone to watch Derby play Birmingham City in the semi-final of the FA Cup – and been sacked as a result – he would never have met my mum and I wouldn’t even be here.

That set me thinking about the leaps of faith we all take and the consequences they have. I saw there was a clear line from his decision aged 16 to follow his team (against the instructions of his boss) to a decision I took in my early 20s to resign from a secure job on the Hull Daily Mail. I slung a duvet in the back of my car and drove to London to shift on the national newspapers. Both decisions flew in the face of common sense. I had no work lined up and nowhere to live. But it was as life-changing as my dad’s choice to go to a football game.

My dad was often surprised, in later years, at his impetuous decision – which was made after his boss refused his request to leave work early one Saturday to get to the semi-final in Sheffield.

When I look back I am equally amazed at the calm certainty with which I decamped to London. If I hadn’t, I would never have met Bill and our children wouldn’t be here.

Creative pursuits and mental health

After a year that has been hard for all of us, including creatives and theatre makers, it is great to have things to look forward to and, for me, the Derby community play is certainly one.

I’m currently working on my own first play, about the home front during World War One. I started it before lockdown, devoting Fridays to it in the inspirational surroundings of The Trinity, and have continued to work on it at home in recent months,

It’s a new type of writing for me and one I’m really enjoying exploring. Have you tried a new hobby or activity during lockdown? Creative pursuits can give our mental health a real boost. When you focus on doing, making, or learning something it can distract your brain from endless speculation and catastrophising.

Next week I’ll be exploring the restorative results of reading and writing in an exclusive online ‘lunch and learn’ presentation for the business sponsors of Derbyshire Institute of Sport. I think it may be adapted into a blog post in the weeks ahead.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Business awards - the gift that keeps on giving

Business awards first crossed my radar back in the late 1980s when I was a newspaper journalist. Back then they were a big deal, certainly on the papers where I worked.The main reasons why we put time and effort into entering industry awards were: 
  • They were great for morale and boosting self-confidence. 
  • Judging panels included some big hitters in the industry, so winning was validation that you were doing a good job. It was a meaningful pat on the back. 
  • Awards ceremonies were fun (usually!) and a treat for the shortlisted staff members. The drink would flow, there would be a nice meal in a swanky venue and if it was in London or a major city away from where you lived the editor would often spring for hotel rooms for everyone. 
  • Award ceremonies were a good networking opportunity. You could chat with your peers from other papers and find out what they were doing. The innovations and ideas that had made them finalists were sometimes things you could adapt and adopt on your own newspaper.
  • Winning an award, or being highly commended, was a story to tell your ‘customers’ (our readers and advertisers). It boosted your credibility and encouraged them to keep buying the paper and advertising space.
  • Award wins helped with recruitment. The best staff wanted to work on the ‘best’ papers and do rewarding and interesting work. Individual award winners could often get poached for bigger, better jobs. 
  • Putting together the award entries was a chance to reflect on what you’d done and feel inspired to continue improving. 
  • Winning or securing nominations could get you a story in the trade press, and sometimes beyond, which was great PR. 

You can’t win an award if you don’t enter! 


Elaine Pritchard collects a BAFTA award for Headline History
Between the late 1980s and 2010, I was fortunate enough to attend a host of award nights. The highlight was undoubtedly when I went on stage in London to collect a BAFTA for a content-rich, educational website I’d devised and had commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 

I mention that to show you that anything is possible. Reach for the stars, you just never know what might happen. I would NEVER have believed that our project, brilliant though it was, would beat the BBC and Channel Four who were also shortlisted that night. 

You have GOT to be in it to win it. If you never enter then undoubtedly, you’ll never win. 

I believe that the list of benefits above, from my newspaper days, still applies today to today’s business owners in any sectors. 

Awards are great for raising your profile, boosting credibility, networking, self-confidence, PR and more. There has probably never been SUCH a wide range of awards that businesses can enter as there is today. Don’t let the weirdness of 2020 put you off entering. The award ceremonies, and the judging, may be online at the moment, but it’s a great year to show your fighting spirit and the innovation you have used to keep going. If you have taken a financial hit, you won’t be alone. Just be honest and explain how you plan to bounce back. 

The benefits of entering business awards 

Let’s put winning to one side for a minute. There are benefits that will boost your business if you just enter. 

You can usually talk about ‘being nominated’ on social media - even if you have nominated yourself. There really is no shame in that. Everyone does it. You don’t HAVE to wait for someone else to nominate you – not in most cases. 

Putting together your entry reminds you of the great stuff you have done. That, in itself, is a great opportunity to reflect on your journey and get a deeper understanding of the customers you enjoy working with most. It can help you to develop and grow your business by seeing what has worked best and what you could do more of in the future. It’s also a self-confidence boost. 

The words you write, or have written for you, can often serve other useful purposes. You might find phrases and explanations that you realise capture what you do so well that you want to include them on your website and your social media bios. Some awards may ask for case studies or testimonials from clients. Would any of those make good blog posts or articles for LinkedIn? The words of others, our happy clients, can be a powerful persuasion tool when it comes to securing new customers. 

How can I find the time to enter business awards? 

Those of us who have moved from a salaried job to running our own ventures have to learn to be self-sufficient until we can afford to delegate work and employ others. If you start a one-person business you are suddenly responsible for sales, marketing, IT and much more. So it would be easy to think, ‘I’ve not got the time to enter awards’. 

 One way to look at it is to think of ‘the award’ as a new, important client. If you had the chance to work for someone who could grow your business, bring in new customers, raise your profile and help you build the business you’ve always wanted you would find the time to meet with them and create proposals. Yes? 

An award entry is the same sort of investment. You can find people who will write award entries for you, but remember that no-one knows your business as well as you do. If you do want to delegate the work, choose a writer who comes recommended by people you know and trust and ask them about their success rate. 

If you don’t use an awards writer, DO consider using a proofreader to make sure your entry is free of spelling mistakes and missing words. It’s so easy to go word-blind on your own work and think you KNOW what it says. 

How can I benefit from being a finalist in a business award? 

If you are a finalist, PR the hell out of it: Include it in your LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram bios; use images and words on your social media cover pictures; write a blog post; use a logo or a visual on your website home page; write a story and submit it to the trade press or your local media companies. 

If you win, or secure a highly commended award, you can do it all again and have a second bite of the cherry. 

Your success in awards is a story you can KEEP telling in different ways. You are an award-winning business. Congratulations! 

Some awards organisers will help publicise you. Make sure you understand how they can help. Some will give you mentions on their social media channels. The WomanWho awards send out ‘I’ve been nominated’ logos, followed by ‘I’m a finalist’ and ‘I’m a winner’ logos for those who progress. 

How do I find business awards to enter? 

Champagne glasses for celebration
Wherever you are based in the UK you will find that your local chamber of commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses will be hosting awards each year. You can also ‘Google’ UK business awards and find more opportunities. 

A company called Boost, which also offers help with writing your entries, has a list of awards online  and you can also sign up to get an email reminder of awards and their deadline dates. 

Social media can be a good source of information. A lot of awards organisers have Twitter accounts and will post regularly when applications are open. LinkedIn is another good social media channel for news and updates about awards and who has won them. 

When you’re next chatting to networking contacts, face-to-face or online, ask them if they’ve entered any awards and see what you can learn from their experiences. 

Of course technology and the media have changed dramatically since I was a newspaper journalist, but one way in which it’s changed for the better is that we no longer have to wait for the media to report on us – we can report on our own success stories through our websites, blogs and social media channels. Don’t be shy. Just go for it.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Bouncing back with Small Business Saturday


Tough times bring out the best in many people.

Throughout this year's crisis, the Small Business Saturday UK campaign has been blasting out positivity and energetic compassion through its social media channels. It's held Facebook Live chats to share timely advice with small businesses and the self-employed. There have been many cheerful giveaways of prizes donated by small businesses on its Facebook page. Businesses who have connected online and in the real world in recent years, thanks to the campaign, have continued to be there for each other - showing the true spirit of collaboration over competition.

If you don't know what Small Business Saturday is all about, let me tell you. This isn't a membership organisation and you don't pay a subscription fee. It's a grassroots, non-commercial campaign that shouts about the importance of small businesses to our economy, our communities and our happiness.

Celebrating 100 independent small businesses


The campaign runs all-year-round, but its name reflects the highlight of its year. Since it was founded in 2013, it has called the first Saturday in December in the UK 'Small Business Saturday'. On this day, everyone is encouraged to make a special effort to support small businesses and to shout-out about their favourite local independents. Businesses might hold a special event on the day. Five years ago, we held a 'flash' conga of small businesses through Burton-on-Trent town centre.

Burton Small Business conga
Each year, the campaign team chooses a #SmallBiz100: 100 independent, small businesses that are representative of the five million-plus small businesses across the country. They are celebrated nationally and given a day to themselves in the 100 days running up to Small Business Saturday, which this year falls on December 5.

The good news is that applications are NOW open for this year's #SmallBiz100 and will be for the whole of June 2020.

It's free to apply but it's NOT a competition as such. The Small Business Saturday campaign team is always keen to avoid using the word 'WINNERS' about the 100. That would imply that if you didn't make it into the 100 you are a 'LOSER'.  No-one who sets up their own enterprise is a loser.

Every year, the Small Business Saturday team aims to create a 100 that represents both a geographical spread across the UK and the diversity of the small business community. So, for example, you'll not find a 100 that includes 50 businesses from London, or 30 accountants.

A ready-made free campaign for any small business


Over the years I've seen a host of fascinating businesses, and some not-for-profit and social enterprises, make the list: a zoo, a magician, a filmmaker, a manufacturer of wheelchairs for disabled pets, a flotation therapy centre and a murder mystery experience business, to name but a few. So, don't be put off from applying because you think you're a bit different. The beauty of the #SmallBiz100 is the range of businesses that make the list.

One firm rule is that once you have been chosen for the #SmallBiz100 you can't apply again. You are a #SmallBiz100 for life and can join a Facebook group for alumni. Applications are only open to independent small businesses, so franchises and network marketing businesses cannot apply. The reasoning behind this is that they already get support from their parent or umbrella company. Small Business Saturday is creating a FREE, ready-made promotional campaign that every #SmallBiz100 company can pick up and use.

I was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the #SmallBiz100 in 2015 It gave me a great springboard to promote what I did. I also loved attending events organised by the campaign to bring businesses together to network and to meet politicians.

The bus called at Burton in 2016 & 2018.
This year will, of course, be a bit different. No-one can know at this stage whether some of the usual face-to-face events can go ahead, but campaign director Michelle Ovens confirmed today, on a live Facebook launch, that the national small business bus tour WILL go ahead towards the end of this year. The team members are still deciding exactly HOW it will work, but the bus WILL tour the country to highlight the Small Business Saturday message.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has always been a supporter of Small Business Saturday and promotes any of its members who join the annual #SmallBiz100. As some of you know, I host a monthly #FSBConnect meeting (currently online) for businesses in and around Burton-on-Trent and Staffordshire.

Karen Woolley, of the FSB has said several times in recent weeks that the FSB was born for times like these, and I think she's right. The organisation's focus on lobbying Government on behalf of the nation's small businesses and self-employed has been invaluable. The FSB has listened to its members and relayed their issues to Government policymakers throughout the crisis. Positive changes in financial support have resulted. The solutions are not perfect and there are still gaps, but the FSB continues to fight for all small businesses and self-employed, not just its members.

Top tips for entering the 2020 #SmallBiz100


In other years, along with my Burton Small Business colleagues, I have helped to run free workshops for people interested in applying for the #SmallBiz100. I have also encouraged businesses I work with to enter and I'm delighted that some of them have been successful. So, here are a few tips for you to consider:
  1. Has 2020 been the toughest year yet for your business? Have you had to furlough staff? Have you faced financial challenges? DON'T let this deter you from entering. It's not about having the strongest balance sheet, it's about celebrating the businesses that are fighting on, perhaps adapting and finding new ways to work and stay in contact with customers. Small Business Saturday WILL accept applications from businesses that are temporarily closed at the moment. Being one of the #SmallBiz100 in 2020 would give you a powerful story to tell on your website and in the local media. Share your plans to bounce back.
  2. The application form is quite simple and straight forward. It's online here. The team wants to get a feeling for what makes you tick, the story behind your business and your values and vision. Businesses that work closely in the business community and give back are often well-received. 
  3. It's 'optional' to send a video but I would advise you in the STRONGEST possible terms that you NEED to make one. It can be simply filmed on your own iPhone. You DON'T need to pay anyone to direct and edit it. The key is to be authentic and honest. It won't be seen by anyone except the campaign team unless you CHOOSE to share it. You can show where you work, who you work with and what you do. Don't be shy about showing your passion for what you do.
  4. If you don't already follow the Small Business Saturday team on social media, do it now. Start engaging with them and other businesses and building relationships. It's not all about YOU. I've connected with people that have become good customers and trusted suppliers through the campaign. This isn't so much a tip about entering the #SmallBiz100, but it's the reasonWHY it makes a real difference. You can raise your profile but you can also help others. You can become a role model for future entrepreneurs and right now we need that more than ever.
I was on a Zoom meeting this morning where wellness business founder Rachael Field shared the thought that 'we're all going through the same storm but in different boats'.

Perhaps uniting through organisations such as the Small Business Saturday campaign and the FSB is one way we can link those boats together and sail off into a future that's different - but hopefully even better?

Monday, 4 May 2020

YOU are the expert you need most of all



Have you noticed how many people have become ‘experts’  in recent weeks?

Everyone seems to have opinions on the current COVID-19 pandemic, which are often coloured by a 'gut instinct' response to media reports rather than any direct medical or scientific knowledge.

Many people seem to have become self-proclaimed business and life coaches and are hell-bent on making you feel a failure if you’re not on target to have learned at least two new languages, mastered website development, started a new business, lost a stone in weight, de-cluttered your entire house and run a marathon up and down your stairs by the time lockdown is eased.

For some people, it appears that anxiety and fear is prompting them to post harsh, judgemental statements on social media on every topic under the sun from a news reporter’s shoes, through the BBC’s arrangements for recording episodes of The Archers, to perceived breaches of lockdown.

I want to encourage you to take a step away from the noise and chatter and find your own way.

I believe that at this time you are the expert you need most of all.

Reflection and retrospection

Mouse brain!
I’m enjoying the opportunity to reflect on how I was working and living before lockdown. 

I’m also finding my mind wandering back over lots of random incidents from the past, which then came into sharp focus when I unearthed some old diaries while I was doing a bit of tidying. 

I call it my mouse brain. It has a little run-around and pokes its nose into the dusty corners of my memories. The trick is to put it back into its cage after its daily exercise and move on.

There’s nothing you can do to change the past so I try and use it as a positive springboard to do better for myself and others in the future. I know there are things that I am going to do differently when I get the chance. I hope that the result is a better work-life balance and more time for the things that give me real joy. 

We can learn a lot about ourselves, our motives and what matters most to us at this time.

Be kind to yourself

Just chill
My final advice for now (and it is advice – not instruction) would be to CHILL if you can.

I realise that lots of key workers are still hard at work and must be weary of people talking about being bored, or doing online quizzes or gardening. There are also people busy at home, still working on their businesses and in their businesses as they pivot to new ways of generating revenue.

But if you have more free time than you would normally, I think now is a good time to put yourself first and be kind to yourself and others. You don’t have to be a productivity ninja every day. Cut yourself some slack and enjoy rediscovering old hobbies (or new ones); favourite books; favourite music and films. 

Lots of people are doing this, which I'm sure is why we’ve seen those chains of posts on FB with friends challenging each other to post a favourite book and a favourite album every day.

Eating well and getting some exercise, these are important for physical and mental wellbeing. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy a treat, Just be aware that too many of the wrong foods and drinks will put you in a bad frame of mind and may make any anxiety and sadness worse. 

I'm loving online yoga with Lisa Satchwell Energetics. It's something I'd only recently started at classes before lockdown and being able to do it in my home means I'm doing three one-hour classes a week which I find are doing me the world of good. Lisa also posts some great tips for general health and peace of mind.

I will be blogging again soon with some tips about writing, editing and marketing things you can be doing (if you want to) during these strange times.