In today’s ‘Blogstars’ post, I chat to Wiola Grabowska from Aspire Equestrian. The lovely images in this piece were taken by Christine Dunnington Photography.


Why did you started blogging?

I first started blogging in 2007 to share my new freelance coaching journey with friends and family. Most of them lived abroad and since I loved writing and wanted to practice my English language skills, the blog became my way of keeping everyone updated with my various ups and downs.
Over the years I went away from a typical diary format and now focus on growing a blog that you might call a coaching and a curious rider companion!

How do you measure its success?

The blog exists to help riders and coaches out there to ride and teach with horse’s wellness in mind. It is also my way of telling others what we do at Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy and how we do it. I consider it successful every time the post makes someone stop and think or gives them an idea Wiola Grabowskathat starts a chain of improvement in a skill they have battled with for a long time. Emails and messages from the readers as well as readers who become real life clients are my success measures.

Tell us about the post you’ve most enjoyed writing/has been the best received

This one is a funny one for me. Sometimes I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking up a post. Making sure it is what I want to convey, that it is clear and concise. It, no jokes, takes me hours to put together just to then receive a several hundreds views and no interactions whatsoever.
Then I might be in the middle of a lesson and think oh, this could make a nice quick blog post. Jot something quickly on my phone, put a post together in just about half an hour (editing photos etc), let it fly live thinking it might help a few riders just to be shared everywhere and hitting over 30k views.

To answer this question fully – the posts I most enjoy writing are those that draw from my riders’ or my own experiences, that try to address real, well-lived in issues that we managed to tackle and can now pass a little knowledge on.

How do you promote your blog?

Carefully! 😉 I have a very specific audience in mind that I want to reach so I adjust all my promotion activities to that. I mostly use social media and other blogging platforms to spread the word about each post and have in the past boosted posts on Facebook but have not done it for a long time now.

Any tips you’d like to pass on to first time bloggers/people who are interested in blogging?

Blog with passion for what you write about. Write about the things you would like to read in a way you would like to read. Add photos that make the words in the post come alive and have a clear “why” for every post you write.

Has anything ‘good’ come out of blogging?

I don’t even know where to start here and how to keep it to a few lines! I would totally monopolise Aspire EquestrianRhea’s blog space if I accounted for every amazing opportunity blogging has brought me in the last 10 years!
One of my most memorable blogging “goods” was being invited to learn from Anna Ross for several years. I think it was her mum who read my blog first 😉 I went to spend a day auditing Anna’s lessons almost 10 years ago and have learnt a lot through watching, tagging along and helping on the yards she was based. To this day I tell anyone who wants to listen to go and watch riders and coaches. Just sit, observe and listen. You don’t have to copy everything or teach the same but there is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom out there that can really be learnt by quiet observation and analysis.

Around 2010 I think I was sitting at Cafe Nero in London looking out at crazy amount of snow outside that stopped my teaching (and my income) for days when an email appeared on my screen. It was from a lady in Norway who said she’d been reading my blog and wondered if I would be interested in coming over and running a clinic for their riding club…These were the guys who trained with Andrew Murphy and many top riders and trainers in the world. I said yes of course and then spent weeks wondering what on earth could I teach them they didn’t already know!
I went over to run the weekend clinic once, twice, several times. An experience I will treasure forever that not only taught me a lot but gave me friends for life.

Similar opportunities happened over time, from invitations to run my training weekends to gaining real life, long terms clients who loved what they were reading on the blog. I have been sent products to review from various brands, met some amazing, inspirational people and that’s only the beginning as we have big plans for my little blog!

Thank you Rhea for the opportunity to write for this series!

Where can we find you online?


Sophie CallahanIn this week’s ‘a few minutes with…’ I speak to the lovely Sophie Callahan. Sophie is a vlogger, blogger and professional photographer. She’s blogged on my blog and I’ve blogged on hers. She’s an all round good egg and so flipping knowledgable.

Tell us about you and your background. What made you want to start a business?

I’m a specialist equine photographer and also a blogger and vlogger of all things equine and country. I started my career in event photography and soon got bored of photographing football tournaments and dance competitions. So I decided to give equine photography a go and never looked back.

I’ve always wanted to work for myself, so I started exploring self employment as soon as I graduated from university. I have always been creative and have ridden since I was three, so I feel like I’ve found the job I was born to do. It just makes perfect sense for me.

How is your business different? What makes your products special?

There are a lot of equine photographers out there, so it’s tough trying to constantly come up with ways to differentiate myself.

When I share the images from my clients’ shoots online, I don’t just post their photographs, I also tell their story, which often evokes a deeper level of emotion, in both my subjects and the rest of my audience. I want my clients to have ‘an experience’, from beginning to end. 

I also blog and vlog, every week, and try and share lots of fun, original content to my social media pages, which has helped build my online ‘tribe’ and I am super grateful to be able to say that I have a very loyal, supportive following. This has definitely made me more valuable as a photographer, as my audience feel like they know and trust me before they’ve even met me. Photography is quite an intimate thing, so trusting and feeling comfortable with your photographer is so important. I think being so active online has definitely helped me achieve this level of trust in my potential clients.

If you had to sum up your business in a few words, what would they be?

My dream business!

Do you have a motto or ethos?

Work hard and be kind. That’s pretty much all that matters.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring business owner, what would it be?

I have lots. I love an inspirational quote! Lol. But most of all, I think it’s to be grateful for what you have and work hard for what you want.

Gratitude is so important and it’s easy to focus on everything you haven’t achieved/got yet, rather than what you have. We’re all in a different place, so don’t compare yourself to others and remember to appreciate how far you’ve come and how much you’ve achieved, every step of the way.

One thing that helps you run your business more effectively

My other half? Lol! I’m a creative, so I’m naturally disorganised, impulsive and a little bit ditzy. He’s the opposite, so he makes sure I’m actually earning money and keeps me on the straight and narrow.

Best thing about running a business?

Just one thing? Erm… The freedom and flexibility it gives me, not only to decide my own hours, but to make my own decisions. I couldn’t stand having to go through three levels of management to get a new Facebook campaign signed off, or something. I like to just make decisions and run with them.

Worst thing about running a business?

Being everything, all of the time. Building your website, doing your own tax returns, packaging orders, sending invoices, taking bookings, sending emails, creating content… It can exhausting sometimes.

Top business blog you follow

Well, this one, obviously! And also, Jasmine Star and the Female Entrepreneur Association.

Top business book you’ve read

Get Rich Lucky Bitch, by Denise Duffield Thomas is my favourite!

Top business achievement

Building my dream job from nothing when everyone said it’d never work. This job is literally everything I could ever have hoped for. I love everything about it and feel so lucky to be doing it!

That and interviewing Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester for my vlog. Vlog goals!!

Where can we find you?





Does context matter on social media?Does context matter when it comes to your social media content? It’s something that I am constantly aware of, but a post I saw on Instagram last week prompted me to blog.

So, what do I mean? Context?

In this blog, I’m looking at the platforms and the way they work – so we’re thinking about Twitter’s 140 character limit – the ‘stuff’ that makes a platform the platform. Now, any social media user will know that all the platforms have their own style and their own limits. We have the retweet on Twitter, for example, that allows you to share other people’s content with your followers, but you can’t retweet on Facebook, you share. And you can’t share on Instagram, you repost. See what I mean?

Does context matter then?

Yes. The example I saw that inspired me to write this blog (and made me revisit the importance of this) was a competition on Instagram. Instagram is a highly visual platform, as we all know, and this competition graphic was, well, underwhelming. White background, common font, pixelated. Ugh. That annoyed me for starters. But you know what annoyed me more? The word share. Like and share. Now, this annoyed me on a number of different levels…

  1. The graphic had clearly been used on Facebook as that’s where ‘sharing’ works
  2. The graphic was rubbish and shouldn’t have generated much interest on Facebook either
  3. The competition was using liking and sharing as an entry mechanism. And having sharing as an entry mechanism breaks Facebook rules.

The last one is a REAL bug bear or mine, but let’s get back to the actual theme of the blog…

The graphic asked people to like and share to enter. How on earth can you do that on Instagram? You can’t. Saying this shows a lack of understanding for the platform and a lack of care. Context matters. It’s frustrating when someone posts competitions and even content that doesn’t fit a platform’s parameters. And there’s no need for it. If you’re doing it to ‘save time’, just don’t. Some content can be shared across platforms, I get that, but if it doesn’t look native, just don’t. It’s better not to bother. Please. Context matters. You could have killer content, but if they context is out, it just doesn’t work.

What do you think? Does context matter to you?

What do you think? Have you see requests for a share on Instagram? A repost on Facebook? How did it make you feel?

What's a hashtag?Hashtags are a big deal on social media and they’re something that you should be prepared to embrace if you want to be found. But what exactly are they and can you use them everywhere? Here’s a starter guide to hashtags. Well, #hereswhatithink

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or phrase that begins with a #. It’s just a normal word (or a few words), but that’s in front of it. There’s no witchcraft or wizardry about it. Honest.

Why are they used?

Hashtags are used, mainly, as a search mechanism, to help content be discovered on Twitter and Instagram predominantly, although some people do also use them on Facebook too (although there’s a lot of articles suggesting that on Facebook the search doesn’t really work with hashtags and it can actually lower engagement, but that’s a blog for another day!). The main platforms and the ones I’m focussing on here when it comes to the good old hashtag are Twitter and Instagram. Both work slightly differently.

Hashtags on Twitter

I believe that Twitter was the first platform to embrace the hashtag fully but, with only 140 characters to play with, use of the hashtag on Twitter has always been fairly limited. And that’s fine because that’s how the platform works. It’s generally accepted that one or two hashtags is the limit – too many and it turns people off. And you don’t want that. If you’ve gone to the effort to use a hashtag so your content is more discoverable, you don’t want people to find your tweet and move on, do you?

Hashtags on Instagram

Instagram is different to Twitter in that you can have up to 30 hashtags, and many people use them all. Using all your hashtags mean that you have more chances of your content being found, but by separating your copy with a few dashes to create space between your caption and your hashtags, or putting your hashtags as the first comment, you’re not overwhelming people.

Tips for using hashtags

  • Always keep them relevant – don’t say your content is about #chocolate if it’s about #spacetravel
  • Check them – sometimes when you combine words together to make a hashtag, the message isn’t quite the one you wanted. There was a brilliant example of this with a hashtag connected to Susan Boyle. Not good.
  • Don’t just use them for the sake of it. Yes, you can use 30 hashtags on Instagram, but you don’t HAVE to use 30 with each post. Make them count!
  • Do some research and see what people talking about similar topics are using for their hashtags. On Instagram when you start to enter your hashtags it tells you how popular (or not!) that hashtag is
  • If you want to follow or get involved with an event on social media, research the official hashtag and tweet, post or search using that. The official content should have this hashtag and content from other people wanting to follow or get involved should have this too.

What do you think? Are you a fan of the #hashtag or wish it would go away and leave you alone? I’d love to hear your comments.



I’ve been an admirer of Mackenzie & George for a very long time – not only the products but the
Mackenzie & Georgegorgeous branding too. And you know what else? The people behind the brand. Here I chat to Melanie, one part of Mackenzie & George, and chat about her business.

Tell us about you and your background

Mackenzie & George is run by my husband Chris and I.  Our story starts all the way back to 1974! Chris’ father, Bill, had a belt factory for over 40 years, producing ladies couture belts for department stores and brands like Harrods, John Lewis, Austin Reed, Jaeger and many more. In 2008, Chris had recently finished university, and with jobs few and far between in that economic climate, he started selling some of his fathers belts at Covent Garden Apple Market. Long story short – the selling really sparked an interest in the making, and so Chris started learning how to make the belts (although he has been in the factory on school holidays since a toddler, so knew some of the basics). I had recently lost my job around the same time (I’m from a music/marketing/events background), and started helping Chris, and together we looked at working with different natural and long wearing materials and incorporating traditional saddlery techniques we taught ourselves via YouTube! Eventually we started to do a few craft shows for his parents, with our own mini collection on the corner of the stand, until we took the plunge and set up our own business in 2012 – Burghley Horse Trials being our first ever Chris & Melanie - Mackenzie & Georgeevent. 

What made you want to start a business?

A combination of a terrible job market and seeing an opportunity that really bought the best of our strengths together.  Although most people would think we’re mad living and working together, we get to share all the triumphs and tribulations, and see each other at our very best (and worse!). 

How is Mackenzie & George different?

Attention to detail. Each process is thought out to the tiniest detail. For example, you won’t find a rough edge on any single part of our products – each and every sharp corner and edge is shaved off and hand buffed before being inked and sealed to give the smoothest – and most comfortable – feel and look.  It’s details often overlooked, but makes all the difference to final finish of a quality product.

What makes Mackenzie & George products special?

We pride ourselves on exemplary materials (vegetable and oak bark tanned saddle hide, solid brass hand polished buckles) that we worked hard on developing with small family run manufacturers that Chris has known for pretty much his whole life!  In addition, we take great care to ensure our products are practical, wearable and will last for many, many years (we even guarantee it!). 

If you had to sum up your business in five words, what would they be?

Honest Timeless Quality Handmade (with) Love  (I may have cheated!)

Do you have a motto or ethos?

Wearability that lasts. It’s what we consider when designing and testing designs and improving our techniques

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring business owner, what would it be?

Get up early – it’s something we’re only learning now really; it’s amazing how much more you can get done with an extra couple of hours in the morning (an 8 week old baby is helping us keep to this!).

One thing that helps you run your business more effectively 

Shopify is amazing. We use it for our website and POS, and it is great having everything in one place, plus all the apps that integrate make it a really powerful tool.

Best thing about running a business?

Something different every day, and fully utilising every bit of grey matter! In one day, our roles can consist of fashion or graphic design, product and machine engineering, (sometimes quite complex) maths, copy writing, craftsmanship, accounting, sales, website design/backend, marketing and even painting/building stand props/workshops!

Worst thing about running a business?

Impossible to turn off. And no one to palm off jobs too. In our first few years we regularly worked 12- 18 hour days, and have gone to shows having been up (quite literally) all night finishing orders! Melanie - Mackenzie & George We’re a bit more on top of demand now, but desperately need an apprentice in the workshop.

One thing we might not know about you

At school, I was voted most likely to run my own business, but also most likely to end up in prison.  I’ve never quite worked out what the shared attribute I have that makes both those things likely, but glad I ended up doing the former! 

Where can people follow you or Mackenzie & George online

Newsletter subscriber goody boxI know, I know – my inbox gets bombarded with newsletters too, but I promise you that this is a good one. OK. I might be a bit biased, but I will do my very, very best to make sure it provides you with genuinely useful information that you can use to improve your business if you choose to sign up and join the fun. AND, each month, I’ll be sending one newsletter subscriber a box of goodies that I have picked. Interested? You can sign up here.

What’s in the newsletter?

I’ve had my newsletter on the go for a while, but I was very aware that people don’t want to receive ‘crap’ in their inboxes, so I lost my way with it. I then started my 40 day blogging challenge and the response was amazing. People loved the blogs, I know that they have directly helped some people with their businesses, and I was getting lovely feedback. I went through a phase of publishing a blog a day for 40 days, which was great, if not a bit exhausting, and I know that people who really loved them will, no doubt, have missed a few. So I thought, let’s keep this simple, let’s use the newsletter to promote three blogs from the week with info about what’s in each, and let’s add a video on too – because everyone knows I like a good video. And I’ve also added a client shout out as I have so many lovely clients achieving great things, so I wanted to mention them. I decided to just keep it simple, short, easy to read, interesting and useful. And I really hope you think it is. Convinced? You can sign up here.

And what about this box of goodies?!

I regularly talk about good books I’ve read, things I’ve learnt and I am a stationery addict, so I thought that what I would do, as a thank you for agreeing to receive my newsletter and being part of my community, is bundle up some best finds each month and send them to one newsletter subscriber. It’s as simple as that really. I’ll announce the winner on my Facebook page each month, and one lucky subscriber will receive a box of things that I love and/or have found useful. I’m keen to grow my subscriber list and, of course, retain the people on my list, and while I know that content is key and will be a big focus (of course!), who doesn’t love the idea of winning something lovely? No one. So that’s what I’m doing it!

Would you like to sign up?

All you need to do is click here and fill in the form, or if you’re rather, just email me here explaining you’d like to be added to my list and I’ll do it. And if you think any of your friends might like to receive it, please send them a link to this blog, the sign up form or ask them to drop me an email and I’ll add them. I’d be really grateful.

Sign up for my newsletter here.

How to get featured in magazines part 2Following on from ‘How to get featured in magazines – part 1’ we now have part 2. The sequel. Let’s
hope that, unlike so many sequels, it’s as good if not better than the first!

Today, we’re looking at the press release. This is the main focus of how to get featured in magazines part 2.

The press release

The humble press release is something that is getting increasingly cast aside in favour of others things, and God knows there are enough ‘is the press release dead’ features around. But I don’t think it is. Well, not the way I think about it! In my world, a press release has a very simple aim. To inform the press of news. This could be a new product, a new service, news about appointments and company developments. It’s designed to inform the press as to what is going on in your world, to see if they want to create a story and feature it in their magazine or on their website/blog. Of course, it’s not quite that simple – and a fair chunk of common sense needs to be in play here. Here are 10 things to consider when putting together a press release to help you get featured in magazines…

  • Get the right contacts – make sure you are sending it to the right people or person.
  • Connect with these people before you add them to your press list and make sure they’re happy to be added.
  • Make sure the news you’re writing about is actually news. Sounds silly? You’d be amazed at the stuff I see that is neither new or newsworthy.
  • Be concise. No one has the time to read a huge document to get to the point.
  • Look into how to create a good press release. There’s a method that will be discussed in a future blog. It matters.
  • Check spelling and grammar. Everyone makes the odd typo, but check, check and check again to try and avoid this.
  • Send high res images to support your story – and make them good. Clear, crisp images are necessary for print. Well, for online too. But sending crap images will make you a whole lot less likely to get featured and, even if the story is amazing, you’re adding more work the writer’s plate.
  • Do not break anyone’s inbox. Check your file sizes.
  • Be nice. Send a nice email with your story that outlines what you’re talking about and invites people to get in touch if they need more.
  • Think about the format you send things in. I did a bit of research into this a while ago and found that most of my list were happy with one way, but another group wanted it a different way – so I send it out in two formats. Yep – it takes a bit more time, but it increases the chance of getting coverage, and that is what it is all about!

Missed part 1? Have a read here.

What do you think? Is the press release dead? Have you sent out press releases and generated great results? I’d love to hear…


This week’s ‘A few minutes with…’ features the lovely Liam Killen. Liam is the brains behind the Equestrian Creative Network – a brilliant resource for equestrian and country creatives. Find out more here.

Tell us about you and your background. What made you want to start a business?

I grew up on the family farm in County Down, Northern Ireland. Did the usual Pony Club (East Down ’til I die) and riding club stuff. Did ok at eventing, did pretty well at tetrathlon – until I started smoking *smacks hand*. My parents have a small mares’ stud breeding flat thoroughbreds and my mum’s family own studs in Kildare, so it was almost inevitable that I would follow an equestrian path. I studied for a degree in Equine Management at CAFRE Enniskillen Campus and graduated in 2007. I really excelled in the marketing modules and my tutor in final year urged me to  follow a career in marketing. 

While at Uni I spent a summer interning in Washington DC for Habitat for Humanity in their marketing department. As a result I was able to get a foot in the door at PWC straight out of Uni, in their marketing devision in Belfast. I learned lots about how to be corporate and personality-less. I grew tired quickly and decided to work for a more relaxed organisation, Belfast City Council. I then did the silliest thing ever, and fell in love. DOH! However, it would mean a move to Manchester. My other half (yup, we’re still together nearly 10 years later) is a one of the directors of a software agency and they built a super easy-to-use website tool called PagePlay. I instantly saw its use within the equestrian industry and was given the opportunity to run my own equestrian devision. I don’t think they thought it would work. Fast forward 8 years… roughly 1/3 of all PagePlay sites are horsey! 

In 2010, along with Rhea Freeman – you know her, you’re on her site right now – we set up the Equestrian Social Media Awards (ESMAs). The ESMAs were initially a vehicle through which to spread the good word of social media among equestrian business, and promote PagePlay as an added bonus. They soon became a beast. They ran for four years and by the end we had finalists from every continent and nearly every country. You can see all the finalists and winners’ acceptance speech videos here:

The ESMAs exposed a massive gap in the market within the equestrian and rural sectors. During the ESMAs we were inundated by requests from the agencies behind the accounts, with requests for coverage for their work. It suddenly dawned on me… there isn’t a dedicated place for equestrian creative professionals to showcase their work. PR and marketing people are notoriously rubbish as practicing what they preach. Doctor heal thy self, and all that. So that’s where the Equestrian Creative Network came from. 

The Equestrian Creative Network is  a directory and news site for the creative side of the horse world; photographers, PRs, writers, designers and bloggers etc. Members showcase their work with content-rich portfolios and add news stories about their work, their clients’ work and provide valuable information geared specifically towards equestrian businesses. The ESMAs ended in 2014 when we adopted our son (thankfully I stopped smoking by then). Sadly at the moment there just isn’t enough time to run a global online award ceremony. Those were the days!

How is your business different? What makes your products special?

The Equestrian Creative Network is a niche within a niche. We are solely dedicated to showcasing

Liam and one of his parents’ broodmares.

creative talent in all its guises – so long as it’s horsey/country.

If you had to sum up your business in a few words, what would they be?

The place to go to find a creative pro. 

Do you have a motto or ethos?

How can I tailor the Equestrian Creative Network’s reach for each member to get their content in front of the right eyes.  

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring business owner, what would it be?

Go for it. It takes time and by goodness it’s a slog sometimes. But if you put the hours in and really take the time to build relationships you’re half way there.

One thing that helps you run the Equestrian Creative Network more effectively

Social media scheduling. Shhhh… I didn’t say that.

Best thing about running a business?

It’s a bit like raising a child. Through your efforts you see it flourish and develop – sometimes in ways you hadn’t thought when starting out. It’s a pain in the butt at times. But always worth it. 

Worst thing about running a business?

Work/life balance is difficult to achieve at times. I need to stop myself. Should stop myself. Step away

from the emails! 

Liam and his first pony, Foxy Lady. Still knocking about. Her retirement role is as a baby sitter for the foals.

Top business blog you follow

I like Social Media Examiner and like following the work of agencies like Social Chain

Top business book you’ve read

Not really a business book as such, but Rich Dad Poor Dad changed how I look at money and how to use it. 

Top business achievement

The ESMAs. Just phenomenal!

Where can we find you online (web, social)

Samantha Hobden is the lady behind Haynet, a brilliant website that provides a blogging platform and network for country and equestrian bloggers all over the world. Here’s a bit about her and why she started blogging…

Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging purely to keep a journal of my horse’s medical condition on the advice from my vet. My horse had developed a number of sarcoids and at first were slow growing. They then started to increase in size so I kept a photographic digital journal for my own records. This then became a diary about everything to do with my horse and I enjoyed writing it.

How did you/do you measure its success?

I noticed that people were started to respond to the posts, especially when I used an alternative therapy for the treatment which was a success.

Tell us about the post you’ve most enjoyed writing/has been the best received

The post about the treatment of his sarcoids was the most successful as it offered advice on a more natural remedy.

How you promote your blog?

I decided to search other equestrian blogs as I was very interested to read about others who were having medical problems with their horses. However, back in 2011, I found searching for these blogs quite difficult to locate, let alone promoting them. I then decided to launch Haynet, which was a “social blogging network” for equestrian bloggers, to come to a central place on the internet where they could promote their own blog posts. So this was how I promoted my blog in the end!

Any tips you’d like to pass on to first time bloggers/people who are interested in blogging?

First of all, please don’t think you cannot blog because you have nothing to say or cannot put it into words. We all have something to say – it will be that someone may resonate with your posts and some may not. Don’t worry about those that are not interested in your posts, it certainly isn’t personal. Going back to my horse that had sarcoids when I first starting blogging, not everyone has had to deal with them. If your horse is lucky enough not to be blighted with them, then you probably wouldn’t read my post on it. However, with many horse owners struggling to contain these horrible lumps, my post may be of great help to them. Blog for yourself, but never make it a chore. If it becomes a chore then it may be time to stop, take a break or perhaps just change subject!

Has anything ‘good’ come out of blogging?

Blogging has changed my career! Starting my own blogging network has been a huge change in my life by creating a business out of it. I now help clients particularly in the farming sector promote their businesses through blogging and social media. I have made a huge amount of friends through blogging and made many business contacts. So an immense amount of good has come from it!

Where can we find you?

Please come and visit Haynet at:




Following the Fairfax & Favor blog I wrote a little while ago, I received a lovely email from Marc Brown from Sporting Hares. Now, if you don’t know about Sporting Hares, follow this link and find out more. You might have seen the company’s Beauchamp Blazer popping up all over Instagram, or maybe you know Sporting Hares for the bespoke KINGS sunglasses its known for? Actually, it was the sunglasses that started the company’s journey (and what we’re focussing on today!) as Marc, fresh from university, identified a gap in the market for a sunglasses brand for stylish ‘country bumpkins’ that matched their lifestyle. Preppy designs were submitted… and sold out. And so Sporting Hares was born and now has the tagline – Defining British Prep.Sporting Hares

Marc got in touch to talk about augmented marketing and how essential the ‘layers’ that surround a product (metaphorically as well as literally) are so important. In his words…

Acknowledging the extra layers

“Augmented marketing was something I loved studying in University. It’s so important in acknowledging the importance that the extra ‘layers’ surrounding the core product are. It is this that that essentially defines a brand from ‘just a product’.

How does Sporting Hares do it?Sporting Hares

“Take for example our KINGS sunglasses. Rather than ‘just a pair of sunglasses’, they are wrapped in a protective film, have Sporting Hares lens protectors on, have an anti-rub arm protector, if engraved they have a sticker label on each engraving with the initials/name engraved under it, Sporting Hares case chosen by the customer, wrapped in Sporting Hares tissue paper with sunglasses leaflet and product care card. This is enclosed in a solid, thick and sturdy Sporting Hares box which, finally, is gift-wrapped with Sporting Hares wrapping paper and a red ribbon. All this comes with our Instagram competition leaflet and, of course, the all-important hand-written note thanking the customer and making them feel special. We like to stage our product experience – rather than throw all features at the customer in one, they admire the packaging, then the sunglasses, and then the final touch – their engraved initials.

“All of these extra touches form the many layers of the ‘onion’ that represent the augmented product. It is the experience, the delights of a hand-written thank you message and the quality of the card usedSporting Hares in all information that impresses the customer in stages way before they even open the actual order they bought. 

“I cannot agree with your latest blog post enough. Well written. The packaging truly is our way of building a new and loyal relationship with the customer – it’s a huge opportunity to impress that many companies are missing out on.”

Why this matters

I have to say that when I received Marc’s email, it really did make me smile. To me, the details matter a lot. And I know that many, many people think the same way I do me. In this digital world when you can happily run your life from your laptop and not come into contact with others that often, layers that give that contact (the handwritten note) in a different way, matter. We’re all used to ordering ‘stuff’ online and usually this comes in functional packaging that does that job but is very run of the mill. Of course, the product we’ve invested in is inside the minimalist packaging, but that key chance to build a loyalty and to make us feel warm, fuzzy and cared for is missed. Does nice packaging cost more? Does it take time to write handwritten notes and create the customer experience described above. Yes. Is it worth it? Oh yes. It’s how you build trust, loyalty, additional sales and a business you’re really proud of. And that’s before we even consider power of word of mouth.

When I received my Fairfax & Favor handbag, the packaging excited me. It made me felt like I mattered. Now, I was so impressed I made a video and I have told numerous people about it (usually when they comment on how nice my bag is!). Not everyone is quite so passionate about packaging as I am, or as hooked on branding, but if everyone you sell to tells just one person, you’re making a real difference, aren’t you. Food for thought!

Find out more about Sporting Hares here.