Getting ready for a photoshoot for your brand

Rhea Freeman - Equestrian PR and marketing - business coachAs you’ll know, I’m lucky enough to work with some amazing photographers in the industry. And I was even luckier when Sophie Callahan gifted me a shoot as a Christmas present. Bless her. The shoot was one of her portrait shoots, but I also wanted to use the opportunity to take some images for my website. Because images are SO important for your brand. Now, I’ll level with you – I was a teeny bit anxious before the shoot, but definitely in a good way. But I thought I’d use my experience and share it with you. So if you’re thinking of having a shoot and you’re on the fence, I can (hopefully!) reassure you. So this first part is all about getting ready for a photoshoot for your brand.

Getting ready for a photoshoot for your brand

Well, the first thing I did was book the date with Sophie… and I’d suggest that is THE place to start! I was lucky in that I could be really flexible on the date… the only real issue for me was the time of year (my horses were involved, both live out, and they don’t look their best in the winter!). We managed to coincide Sophie’s visit with a trip to The Game Fair as it was at Ragley Hall this year, which is only about an hour from me… so that worked.

So, the date was booked… and it snuck up on me a little. The weekend before I had all my clothes sorted… but realised that even though the horses looked good coat wise, they were a bit grubby. I have a skewbald and a piebald. And both have a lot of white. More than I realised. I think you start to realise how much white a horse has when you’re scrubbing away at it! So, the areas of prep… for me at least…

What I was going to wear

For me, I wanted to wear clothes that I was comfortable in, looked good and I loved. I felt quite organised, despite a small pile of ironing. Then it was hotter than the sun, so the tweed gilet (by Rydale- SO gorgeous!) and burgundy tweed jacket (by Really Wild Clothing, that I bought at Badminton and was really excited about wearing), were going to be featured, but not in the central way I expected. Because I was pretty sure I would melt. I also had three shirts (two by Joules, one by Rydale), my newly cleaned Hiho Silver jewellery (thank you Michelle!), my Fairfax & Favor Explorers with plum tassels, two fedoras from Mackenzie & George and a Bora sunhat from Annabel Brocks. Sounds like a lot, but I want to use these for a good while, and I didn’t want to look the same in every image!

The heat concerned me. But I shouldn’t have worried. When Sophie arrived I showed her my pile of clothes and she made sure that we took pictures of everything I wanted but in a way that would ensure I didn’t overheat. So we got everything ready and in position before I put my gilet, jacket or fedora on, for example. And actually, I didn’t feel that much warmer for wearing them because everything was slick. Complete credit to Sophie here… I wouldn’t have just sweated and got stressed.

What about the horses?

Well, after my realisation that the horses needed *some* work, I set to work on Monday afternoon and gave them both a good scrub… and they looked much better for it. I did manes and tails and legs, and trimmed what was needed. I had left myself rhea freeman equestrian business coachThursday morning to rewash them, but was pleased to get the bulk of it done. Of course, horses being horses, they needed a fair bit of rewashing on the Thursday morning too. And a bucketload of mane and tail conditioner, but that’s life.

Now, although I am pleased that I washed them twice and did all this (although I’m pretty sure they were both convinced they were being sold!), I was cross that I couldn’t make them really shine. They live out 24/7. And you know what horses are like. You nearly kill yourself washing them and then they roll. When Sophie arrived I apologised profusely for the state of them, and she wasn’t even remotely concerned. She (quite rightly) pointed out you couldn’t even see the grubby bits I was stressing out about. Argh!

And the location for the shoot?

I’d always planned to do the shoot in the field, but as for exactly where, I didn’t really think about it. I knew there was plenty of space, but I also knew that Sophie would know what would work the best and understand light and shadows and all the things that I don’t really get and make all the difference. And I was right. Sophie had a little look when she came and got two or three ‘locations’ in the field earmarked.

Are we talking about a shoot for a brand or a portrait shoot?

In my case, it was both… actually, we also did a commercial shoot for a client of mine too as the location worked and we had the right ‘resources’ (Ok, my children!!) to make it work. I’m going to go into this in much more detail, but it was an absolute breeze and so much fun. Sophie’s good with horses, we know this, but she’s also very good with children and people, so it worked incredibly well. But more about that soon.

For me, I wanted pictures of the horses with me, pictures of the horses without me, and some ‘headshot’ ones of me, because I’m being asked for more and more of these and keep recycling one from a while ago! I’m planning to use all of these on my social media and in my content.

But isn’t preparation key to a good shoot?

Yes, yes it is… but you don’t need to stress yourself out over it. Sophie is very, very laid back and is there to help. She’ll help you put outfits together, help you with your horses when you get changed in the middle of a field (!), listens to what you want and also gives ideas to make it as successful as possible for you. And more than this, she knows what is editable and what isn’t. As the shoot progressed, I was getting hotter and hotter and was worried I’d be way too red (it was the hottest day of the year I think…), but Sophie assured me it would be fine. And she was right. I’ve seen all the pics now – the image on this blog is one – and I have to say I’m delighted.

As I may have said, Sophie very kindly gifted me this shoot for Christmas, but I have already booked next year’s shoot (not an actual date!), so if that doesn’t reassure you about how much I loved it, nothing will. For someone who doesn’t like having their picture taken, this is quite a bit deal!

To find out more about Sophie’s photography skills and what she can do for you and your business, have a look at her website (just click here!)

 

Behind… Super X Country’s new SXC Summer Breeches

Super X Country - SXC Summer BreechesI’m delighted to be able to share you a bit of what goes on behind the scenes in this blog. Today, we’re focusing in on Super X Country’s new SXC Summer Breeches. I have the absolute honour of working with Becci Harrold, the brains behind Super X Country, and continue to be blown away by what she creates. Not only this, the testing, her commitment to her customers and to what she does is second to none… and she’s a thoroughly good egg too! So, over to Becci to find out more about Super X Country’s new SXC Summer Breeches…

Behind Super X Country’s SXC Summer Breeches

You must be super excited to get your SXC Summer Breeches out – what makes them so special?
YES! The wait has been painful for me, but I am delighted now that they are here! I had so much fun designing the Gel-Tech knee, which is unique to us. It was a long process but I think the end result looks fantastic, especially with the other contrasting grey details.
Tell us about the knee patches – they look great, but they’re clearly clever too?
They took a long time to get right, but I am really pleased with how the knee grip has come out. The design is unique to us, and features our logo within the print. It’s subtle but does the job that is needed, which is what I wanted.
I love the grey stitch detail – what made you go for grey rather than a brighter/matching colour?
Grey is my favourite colour at the moment! I like something that looks classy and adds detail which stands out, but isn’t in your face! Especially when used for competing.
Can you talk us through some the features of the SXC Summer Breeches – the wide waistband, pocket, and the bottom of the breeches, for example?
I always love a good wide waistband. I hate to see and feel like I am popping out of my breeches! The 3″ waistband offers the perfect support to this problem! The pockets I have designed to be deep enough to hold the biggest iPhone. It makes them more practical when riding and walking the courses, as the phone can sit further down your leg, not in the annoying place on your waist! The Lycra sock at the bottom of the breeches is great. I wanted it to complement and bring out the other grey details, whilst offering close contact fitting under your boot.
What kind of testing have the SXC Summer Breeches had?
I have had these breeches now since November last year (2017) and have been testing and making changes to make sure they were exactly what I wanted. I am looking forward to
bringing out new colours now I am happy with the design.
They’re made from a lightweight fabric, so great for summer, but could you wear them in the winter too? Maybe with another layer underneath?
I designed these with summer in mind. Nothing is stopping you wearing them if it’s a mild winter! But I will be bringing out autumn/winter versions to cover all angles. These were focused on the summer market. They are the only breeches I haven’t got hot and sweaty in competing in this heat, which is saying something!
To find out more about Super X Country and the SXC Summer Breeches, just pop in over to Super X Country’s website, or follow them on social media through any of the links below…

What I wore for my photoshoot

What I wore for my photoshoot - Sophie CallahanI’m really, really excited to be able to share the pictures from my photoshoot with Sophie Callahan. You’ll see these on my Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, blog, website… OK, everywhere. I want to give you a bit more information about what I wore for my photoshoot. Because I do get quite a few questions about where I get things from (which is lovely). I also really, really adore the things that I wore for the shoot and wanted to share them with you…

What I wore for my photoshoot…

Jewellery

Yep, it’s mostly Hiho Silver… so I wore…

Exclusive Double Chained Cherry Roller Necklace with sterling silver and 18ct rose gold plated beads – I’ve had this for a little while and adore it. I wear it all day, every day, and feel naked without it.

Snaffle Ring – my husband bought me this about five years and it still looks as good as new. As per my necklace, I wear it all the time.

Exclusive Cherry Roller Bangle with two solid rose gold rollers and three CZ purple ones – this has been tweaked and adjusted a few times! This started off as the classic two tone version… and then the sparkly beads came out and I loved them, so I sent it back to Hiho and swapped one bead for one. Well, long story short, that’s happened a couple of times now. I still love the original, but this is really special as I designed it. Well, with a bit of help from Michelle. I should say, this is an option for everyone, not just me, you can just decide to customise your cherry roller and pick all the beads when you buy… or you can swap beads as and when by sending it back to Hiho or getting it adjusted on the show stand.

Exclusive Fox Roller Bangle with 18ct rose gold plated fox – I was given this as a gift – isn’t it cute? I don’t wear this all the time, only for special occasions, but when it’s not on my wrist, I hang it on the top of a kitchen cupboard handle so I can admire it when I’m in there!

Exclusive Sterling Silver Foxtail Bracelet with three beads (Badminton 2018 and 2017 and CZ red bead) – I always loop this through my cherry roller- no idea why! The beads are a work in progress as I just keep adding to my collection as Hiho brings out new ones I love. That’s the great thing about the Foxtail.

Springy Bangle in sterling silver – another bangle I have had for ages and wear each day. I think I’ve had it for four years now? Maybe? A long time anyway!!

(I should add that Michelle at Hiho very, very (very) kindly cleaned these for me pre-shoot… that’s why they look so shiny!)

My wedding and engagement ring – these are white gold and the engagement ring has three diamonds, two of which were from a ring belonging to my late grandmother.

Diamond earrings – I always wear these – they were my grandmother’s too

Hats

What i wore for my equestrian photoshoot I wore two different hats for the shoot…

Annabel Brocks’ Bora Hat – this is superb. It arrived on the morning of the shoot and it’s so clever. It’s adjustable thanks to the adjustable elastic band inside, and it has a SPF of 50. Having got sunstroke a few weeks ago, I’m now a bit obsessed with hats. I mentioned my sunstroke to Belle when we were chatting and she very, very kindly offered to send me one of hers. It’s so lovely. I’ve bought one in blue and cream for my mother in law since!

Mackenzie & George Fedora and Feather Brooch. I love this combo so much. I had the brown hat and pin picked out as the tan coloured band coordinated with the colour of my boots. I do also have a lovely navy version, but the brown went better with this. The hat feather moves between the two as needed… although I have got my eye on a peacock feather one for my navy one too!

Shirts

I picked three shirts to wear. All were quite loose and floaty because it was SO hot I just couldn’t bear anything tight to be honest with you. I also really love these shirts – I’ve had all for a little while…

Rydale Willow Shirt – I’ve had this for a while and bought it in the sale, it was a complete bargain. I have the navy spot version and love the fit. It is so easy to iron, goes with everything and is a lovely length. There’s a pale blue daisy version too which is rather lovely.

Joules Dog Walker Shirt – I bought this for my TEDx talk and haven’t worn it much since, but really do like it a lot. It’s cream with a dog walker print on it, nice neckline and it’s a light and floaty material that is really cool.

Joules Pheasant Shirt – this is a classic… I think everyone has one of these, don’t they?

Jacket

Really Wild Clothing – I bought this at Badminton Horse Trials in the sale (I know- I do love a sale!) and fell in love with it. I mean THAT COLOUR! I also thought the length was really flattering and would work well with jeans, skirts and trousers.

Waistcoat

Rydale Bramham II Gilet – I was very kindly gifted this by Rydale. It combines tweed with suede-like fabric on the top of the shoulders, around the collar and down the fastening too. It’s really lovely. It has a closer fit than I would usually buy (and I ordered the size I usually am!), but I tend to order everything in a bigger size because I don’t like things that cling. However, this gilet fits really nicely and for a tweed gilet it is super flattering too. I was planning to wear it to The Game Fair, but due to the heat wave, I left it at home. There are a number of colours available.. and it’s an absolute bargain. This one is £45 and is made in the UK. They have great deals on in the sale too.

Boots

Fairfax & Favor Explorers – I wear these every day, whatever the weather, so I was always going to wear these for my shoot… although I did think I’d wear my Reginas too for a bit. In the end, I decided that when trying to hang on to two horses in a dusty field, good grip was a must… and I just felt the smooth leather, rather than a suede, would be better with all the dust. I switched the self coloured tassels for the burgundy suede, because, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I do like burgundy!

Jeans

Well… these weren’t actually proper jeans, they were jean leggings and were about £8 from Matalan.

And the horses…

They both wore their bridles. Marilyn (the piebald) has a Kate Negus bridle with padded headpiece and diamante browband. Gu (the skewbald) has a Kieffer bridle with a pair of Kate Negus X-Suregrip reins.

So that’s what I wore for my shoot… and what the horses did too… 

If you do want to see more of Sophie Callahan’s amazing work, have a look at Sophie’s website.

When Instagram Face Filters changed the game – Kylie Jenner

As I was looking through Instagram Stories on Friday night, something caught my eye. I was watching Jasmine Star’s Insta Stories and under her name it said the filter she was using. The Face Filter to be precise. What was strange was that I hadn’t noticed she was using a filter. And that was kind of the point. This was no ordinary Instagram Face Filter. This was an Instagram Face Filter by Kylie Jenner. And, for me, it’s really changed the game on filters.

What’s an Instagram Face Filter?

First things first, if you’re not sure what I mean by Instagram Face Filter, let me explain. Have you seen people on Instagram Stories with dog ears and rainbows and other craziness on their faces? Yep? Instagram Kylie Jenner Face Filter - augmented reality (1)That’s a Face Filter. They’re usually comical in some way and it’s very, very obvious that one’s in use. But this was different. It wasn’t like that at all.

Kylie Jenner

I am sure you don’t need me to tell you who Kylie Jenner is… but I’m going to because if you don’t know then the next bit of this blog is going to make very little sense to you! Kylie is part of the Kardashian clan, and she has her own make up collection. As you’ll know if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, I have no idea about make up. It’s more luck than judgement that I know about her make up range, but I digress…

So what’s the Kylie Face Filter?

It’s a form of augmented reality and an absolute stroke of marketing genius in my opinion. I had a jaw dropping moment when I realised what the filter did and how it worked. So, unlike comical filters, the Kylie Face Filter makes you look, well, really quite good. But it’s more than that. Inside the Kylie filter you can chose from one of eight different looks with the central focus being the lip colour. These eight different options show a range of colours and are, wait for it, based on her lip colour collection. This sounds good – I mean, when I discovered it I was pretty tired and I was not looking my best…. and this filter definitely improved things, put it that way. But it’s SO much more than this. I really believe that this is part of the future of marketing. Want to know how make up is going to look on your with your colouring? Easy. How about furniture in your house? Clothes? All from your phone. Even through on of your favourite apps?

The one obstacle in the way of shopping online has always been that you can’t really see the products and how they’ll look on you through a computer screen. With this kind of technology being used, can you imagine the scope? Can you imagine the potential?

Blummin well done Instagram. Another absolute triumph in my eyes. And I for one can not wait to see how augmented reality grows in this accesible way.

Behind… the new Lavenham Leather Tote by Annabel Brocks

Lavenham Leather Tote - Rainbow Edition - Annabel BrocksIf you follow me on social media, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Annabel Brocks. Not just the brand and the stunning products, but the lady herself too. Belle is one of the sweetest, nicest and most creative people I’ve ever met, and is an absolute joy to be around. I love seeing her Annabel Brocks brand continue to grow and develop, so you can imagine my delight when the new Lavenham Leather Tote popped up on my radar. As this style of bag is new to the brand, I took the chance to catch up with Belle, to find out all about the Lavenham Leather Tote… are you ready?

Behind… the Lavenham Leather Tote by Annabel Brocks

I’m really excited about the new Lavenham Leather Tote – it’s gorgeous! Can you tell me how you came up with the design?

Thank you for your kind words, I am glad you like them! Following the success of our Pina Festival bags lots of customers asked if I could design a larger bag. It had to be roomy enough to carry  a laptop/tablet, bottle of water, make up and generally fit in everything you might need in a day.

I wanted to offer two base colours which work well to complement other products in our collection. I am a tan girl in the summer months but the navy is equally eye catching and can be used in the cooler months too. I wanted a strong colour pop and classic bag so I designed two variants. The classic Lavenham is your day to day bag. Elegant, but with the tassel and contrast stitching it can be dressed up or down. I played around with trims and just fell in love with the rainbow. To me this sums up my designs – contemporary,  fun and the colour pop will brighten any outfit.

Tell me about the special edition lines – what made you create them and how have people received them?

I wanted to introduce Limited Editions for those customers who like to have exclusive products which are not mass produced. We are offering a certain number and once they are gone they are gone. We have loyal customers who like to have something unique.

Tan is a big part of the Annabel Brocks range with many of the belts having a tan base – what made you pick navy and tan for this range?

I always design around what I would wear or need in my wardrobe (so I can of course steal samples!) and the tan to me is such an easy to wear colour for Spring/Summer but I know I will use this year around. However the navy is such an easy to wear colour and I am not really a fan of black bags as I wear blue or white jeans. The navy is so striking worn with one of our sweatshirts or t shirt and jeans. I looked at other colours but you can’t go wrong with tan and navy.

I love the tassel detail on the Lavenham – what made you add this to the bag?

I just wanted to add a bit of interest to the bag and our contrast trim tassel does just that.  I have also incorporated the contrast stitch detail so it matches the design on other areas of the bag and who doesn’t love a tassel?!

What kind of testing period did the Lavenham have? Did it take a while to perfect the design?

I always do all the testing on any protypes and used the bag around the house and used it to go to the office. I wanted  to see how much I could cram in and used it on my daily errands. The children used to laugh as I  used it as an additional shopping bag. Could it carry wine (yes) , crumpets (yes and yum),  a magazine (yes) , a bottle of squash (yes), M&M’s (yes)?  I thought bingo, it ticked all the boxes for me so I was happy to sign it off as an approved new product.

What details about the Lavenham Leather Tote do you really like?

I am biased but I love the simplicity of them, but being a horsey girl, I love the fact both saddle and bridle leather are used to make the bag. The smell, the way it’s a natural leather which is strong and provides the structure which will wear and soften, and I think every crease in leather adds to the charm. The detail is subtle from a distance yet strong when inspected closely. The rainbow Lavenham Leather Tote is one of the best things I have designed. I literally squealed when the sample arrived and I am not letting my one leave my side

To find about more about Annabel Brocks and the gorgeous collection of bags, including the Lavenham Leather Tote, see the Annabel Brocks website.

 

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/annabelbrocks/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/annabel_brocks/

Twitter – @AnnabelBrocks

Website address- www.annabelbrocks.com

What I learned from my equestrian photoshoot with Sophie Callahan

what I learned from my equestrian photoshoot with Sophie CallahanWell, now the dust has settled, I wanted to talk to you about 10 things I learnt from my equestrian photoshoot with Sophie Callahan. Why? Because I learnt such a huge amount in quite a short space of time that I wanted to share. I think you might find it useful if you’re thinking of having a shoot, well, that’s the aim!

What I learned from my equestrian photoshoot

  1. Preparation is key, but don’t kill yourself over it. It was incredibly hot when Sophie came to do my shoot. I’d washed the horses twice that week and had put a huge amount of time into getting them, their tack and myself ready. I feel like this helped a lot… but I wasn’t ‘ready’. They’d rolled, I was hot and I was thinking I should wash them again. This wasn’t the case.
  2. You will forget you’re being photographed. To start with, I was very aware that Sophie had a camera and it was pointing at me, but then we were chatting and I was messing with the horses and I forgot about it. And the pics I love the most are ones where I have clearly forgotten what’s going on.
  3. Know what you want to wear… but listen to advice too. I knew what I wanted to wear – I’d ironed clothes – but it was so hot that I was getting worried about that. Sophie suggested the order that we would shoot and helped me with the styling before we started the shoot, so that helped a lot and allowed us to crack on when we were in the field.
  4. Be comfortable. I had a ‘trouser crisis’ in the morning. Not a real crisis, more a ‘what should I wear?’. The advice was to go for comfort. Yes, you want to be smart, but if you’re really uncomfortable you won’t feel happy and will spend most of the shoot pulling at your clothes.
  5. Editing helps. I love Sophie’s editing style – in my time with her I learnt a huge amount about her ideas on editing and I can see it in the images I have. I don’t think the editing has made the images seem artificial in any way, I think they’ve made them more realistic in some ways, I mean, surely that’s what editing should be about? To make images look better but more a best version of the real you?
  6. Black background shots are amazing… and very easy from a handler point of view! When Sophie suggested a black background shot, I was concerned because we don’t have a stable. ‘No worries, we’ll use the field shelter’ and that’s what we did. I know there’s a fair bit of ‘witchcraft’ involved on Sophie’s side (OK, editing), but from a handler point of view, I just did as directed and it took a few minutes, and the results are stunning! If you have an equestrian photoshoot and this is suggested, give it a spin!
  7. She has tricks. Worried about your horse’s ears and the direction of them? Don’t be. Want to know the best way to stand or where to put your hands? She’ll know and help you.
  8. It’s not about the camera. I’ve known this for a while, but I think in an age where phone cameras are nothing short of incredible, this is a really good point to make. You might have seen Sophie’s pic on her Instagram feed that I took at The Game Fair? It’s a great pic – I’m really pleased with it… but although I pressed the button (well, TWO buttons) and used the big camera, it was really Sophie who took the picture. She set it all up on the camera, looked at the background, light, edited it, etc etc. I know it’s not the camera that does the work. It’s like giving someone a computer and saying ‘taa dahhh, you’re a writer’. You’re not, You have a tool that is capable of allowing you to do this. It doesn’t mean you are it.
  9. It’s actually really fun. Even in the heat (did I mention it was SO hot?!). I had one of the best afternoons ever. It was fun and relaxed and the horses behaved. And I was confident in Sophie’s ability.
  10. Photographs of you are important. I have known this for a long time… and when I started getting braver on Instagram and showing my face on pictures, the engagement and response I got increased. Now, can you imagine if those pics were actually really good ones? And where else you could use these and what it would/could do for your business? Exciting, isn’t it? We’ll throw huge sums of money at websites, for example, but what about what goes on them? I put one of Sophie’s posts on my Instagram a few days – the first one I had put on… as I write this, it’s one of my best performing posts ever in impressions, best ever in likes, second best ever in engagement. All the rest have been up for weeks, if not months. I’m obviously hoping to beat these, but it’s pretty impressive, isn’t it?

So, there are my 10 things. If you have any questions, then do reach out to Sophie and ask, or drop me and email and I’ll do my best to help you. I’m so excited to use the images over the coming weeks and months, add them to my website and lots more besides… keep you eyes peeled!

And to find out more about Sophie, or equestrian photoshoots, have a look at her website here.

Are you coming to #styleskillsandsilver?

I’m beyond excited to be part of Hiho Silver’s Style, Skills & Silver, which will be taking place at The Fish Hotel, Broadway on Thursday September 6th. I’ve had a few people ping me messages about it, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to have a little chat with your about this fab event. Whether you’re a business, a blogger or a vlogger, I KNOW that you’ll love this event!

What’s #styleskillsandsilver all about?

Well, that’s the hashtag for the Style, Skills & Silver event – but as for the event itself, read on…

The event, hosted by Hiho Silver, has been designed to bring together Hiho’s brand ambassadors, team, brand friends and more under one roof. The day will be lighthearted and fun, but also packed with value. There will be…

  • A style workshop run by Melanie Clarihew from Mackenzie & George, Harriet Edwards aka A Girl About Country, and Karen McConnell aka Karen & Clan
  • A skills workshop run by Rachel Bragg from Sweet Images, Sophie Callahan from Sophie Callahan Photography, Emma Warren from Hiho Silver and Ruth Chappell from Dressage Anywhere, and me too.

And they’ll be lunch, tea, cake and the most amazing goody bag.

What will happen in the workshops?

I’m heavily involved with the Skills workshop, so I’m going to focus in on that! I know that we’ll be learning all about flatlays and have expert advice on how to create them and use them on in our businesses, we’ll have real life examples of how flatlays can work for all businesses including service based ones too. We’ll chat about the power of social media and how to harness it for what you want and we’ll be looking at how to repurpose and use the content you create, to help ensure that all your effort works as hard for you as possible AND generates the response you want. We’ll also be talking about how to manage that little voice in your head that suggests you shouldn’t do things and you shouldn’t try… because what if you’re not good enough? What if you fail? We don’t like that voice… we appreciate his good intentions but there’s no need for that kind of madness in #styleskillsandsilver.

In the Style workshop, the three ladies will be looking at how they style outfits, how accessories make all the difference, and how you can dress up and dress down looks with a few minor tweaks. I’m excited.

But I won’t know anyone at Style, Skills & Silver?

You know me, don’t you? In all seriousness, I know all the ladies involved and they are all absolutely lovely and within a few minutes you’ll feel like you’re lifelong buddies. I also reckon that you’re connected to a lot more people than you think. That’s the beauty of social media. I know a lot of people from my Small & Supercharged group are going, so if you’re in there, it’s a great place to meet the people you chat to. In real life. And if you’re not in the group, you should join now… here’s the link.

But in all seriousness, I get it. It can be really daunting to think you’re going to be spending the day with people you don’t know and you’ll be on your own and isolated. You won’t be. The way the workshops are designed means that you’ll have lots of chances to engage, interact, chat and enjoy. Yep, the day will be really interesting and you’ll be learning new skills, but you will also have chance to speak to people, pick up ideas to help you grow and develop your business or blog, and meet new people. And if you’re feeling funny, I’ll be the tall one eating the sweets and the cake – we can have a chat, OK?

OK, you’ve twisted my arm, how do I book a ticket for Style, Skills & Silver?

I know that #styleskillsandsilver only have a few tickets left, so crack on! You can book up through EventBrite here. If you have any other questions, just drop me an email or a DM. I promise you that I won’t bite and that I’m really looking forward to the event. I should be able to answer your questions, but if I can’t, I will find the answer! Hope to see you on 6th September in Broadway!

A Friday treat from Cocoa May – divine brownies and a behind the brand too!

Cocoa May Salted Caramel BrowniesOh – brownies. I love them. I can’t bake them (they are basically hard lumps of dry cake when I try… or raw…) but I can eat them. I’m good at that! A little while ago, Rosie from Cocoa May contacted me. She asked if I’d like a box of free brownies (umm… let me think), and if I liked them, if I wouldn’t mind sending her a review. Well, rather than simply sending her a review, I wanted to pop something on my blog. She hasn’t requested this, but I want to share. To be honest, being self employed and working hard means you sometimes need treats. These are the perfect way to treat yourself. More than that, these squidgy gems would also make excellent clients gifts. If you can bear to give them away. And I won’t think badly of you if you can’t. I was thinking of where to hide them so I wouldn’t have to share.

Cocoa May’s packaging

I know, I know… the packaging obsession continues. The brownies arrived in a really nice package that was simply branded but really classy and elegant as Cocoa May use a white and black colour palette which is clean and complements the brown kraft style box the brownies came in. I stored mine in this box too as it closed properly too. As a client gift, I think a sturdy box is really good as it gives you confidence that your gift will arrive in one piece and not smashed to oblivion. Because that’s a bit depressing!

And now for the brownies

I was sent the salted caramel brownies… and oh my goodness they were incredible. They were beautifully gooey, the salted caramel was delicious, and they were great on their own and with ice cream. They’d probably be great with fruit/greek yoghurt/cream… but I didn’t try them with those! They didn’t last that long as they kept ‘talking’ to me. I know how Gollum felt in Lord of the Rings with his Precious. These were mine. My Precious. The box they came in was great for keeping them safe and would also be a lovely thing to receive through the post. My little chocolately gems arrived it perfect condition and I wouldn’t hesitate in sending them as a gift to someone. They’re also really good value I Cocoa May Salted Caramel Browniesthink. By the time you’ve bought a nice box of chocs and parcelled it up to send someone as a thank you, you’re pretty close to how much these cost to be honest… and in buying these you’re supporting a small business and giving someone a hand baked gift that they will absolutely adore.

Find out more about Cocoa May brownies here.

Now, because this wouldn’t be a true ‘behind…’ feature without some information about the brand and business, it’s over to Rosie, founder of Cocoa May, to tell us all more about the brand…

Tell us about your name… Cocoa May – where did that come from?

I had to do a lot of brainstorming to land on Cocoa May, but I knew I wanted to keep my business name simple and open. I may want to branch out at some point and produce another range alongside my brownies, so this keeps my options open but included the all important chocolate vibe! Oh, and my birthday is in May – I thought it had a good ring to it.

I love your branding, it’s really simple, clean and elegant… what was your thinking behind it?

Exactly that to be honest. I really wanted to keep it as simple as possible – less is definitely more in my opinion.

What’s the idea behind Cocoa May? What’s your USP?

To produce a simply delicious range of amazing chocolate brownies. I think the fact that I bake everything myself, fresh to order and in small batches to ensure the highest quality gives me my edge, and definitely makes a huge difference to the end result. You can taste when someone has poured their heart into their cooking.

What’s the best bit of business advice you’ve been given?

Make sure that your product is better than anyone else’s.

Do you listen to any podcasts/what’s your favourite business book?

I’m currently reading “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” by Gary Vaynerchuk. It’s all about how to increase and improve your presence on social media. Worth a read for anyone starting a small business and trying to make an impact online.

What’s your favourite social media platform?

At the moment, it’s Instagram. I used to be a big Facebook fan, but since starting Cocoa May, instagram can provide me with fresh ideas, a community to discuss business with, and an enormous pool of potential customers.

What’s been your biggest achievement to date?

In relation to Cocoa May, I think just getting this far is a great achievement. When I launched the business, I didn’t really know how it would go, and I am just so thrilled with the reactions and feedback I’ve had so far.

In my personal life, my biggest achievement has to be running the London Marathon earlier this year. It was absolutely amazing – I ran it for an awesome charity, MS-UK, as MS has sadly affected my family for many years. As someone who could not run a mile a year ago (I know everyone says that, but in my case it’s honestly true), it has changed my outlook on life massively and makes you realise that you really can achieve anything you set your mind to.

What’s been the most surprising thing about running a business?

It’s amazing just how much you have to do to keep everything ticking over, let alone grow your business. It’s easy to look at small businesses and assume it’s all quite straight forward and simple, but there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. That said, I love it and am learning so much as I go along.

What can we expect to see in Cocoa May’s future?

A lot more brownies!

Where can we find you online!

You can order brownies via my website www.cocoamay.com and follow me on Instagram or Facebook @cocoamayuk

How to… pick fonts to represent your brand

how to pick fonts to represent your brandFonts can be a game changer when it comes to a logo or brand identity. In all honesty, the biggest change between my old logo and my new one is fonts that were used. Picking fonts to represent your brand can be challenging, but the good thing is that if you get the right one, it can make a HUGE difference.

How do you pick fonts to represent your brand?

I start with magazines, Pinterest and searching the web. There are a LOT of fonts available, a huge amount in fact. These go through fashions, like all design does, and more are being added all the time. There are a few different kinds of font family:

Serif type fonts – these are generally older style fonts and tend to have small lines at the tops and bottoms of the letters. A good example is the Word favourite Times Roman. When I say ‘older style’, there’s nothing wrong with using older style fonts at all. They can show heritage, knowledge and tradition when used correctly. Baskerville is a really nice example of a font that works really well today. You’ll see it’s classic and elegant but not old fashioned. Have a Google!

Sans Serif type fonts- sans means ‘without’ in French, so you’ll find a sans serif font doesn’t have the little extra bits. Generally these fonts are seen as a little bit more modern and feel a lot more curvy and round because there are no extra lines. This can make them feel soft and friendly too. Arial is a popular example of this (again, a Word favourite!), Avant Garde is another good one.

Script types fonts- should make you feel like they have a handwritten quality, even though they’re obviously more uniform than handwriting. They tend to flow and feel approachable too. The font I use for ‘Rhea Freeman’ is a hand lettering script font, but my previous one, Lobster, is also a Script font.

Decorative fonts- usually more elaborate than a Script font and can look incredible if used carefully. Some of the decorative fonts are not that easy to read (of course. some are!), but they should be used with caution in branding… in my opinion. Pick the right decorative font and it can work really well, but there are many caveats.

How to pick the fonts

So now you know the different font families (and it is useful because now you know what you’re Googling!), think about how you might use them. My logo is made up of two fonts – a premium handlettering font called Winsome and Oswald, and I use another font for my website copy. This means I can use these fonts in different ways on my website, social media graphics, etc etc. Size is important as, especially with a decorative or script font, if it’s too small, you won’t be able to see it. And if the person who is reading your website can’t actually read it, you might have the most beautiful font in the work and it won’t do the job!

But how do I know which fonts represent my brand?

Well, you need to think about the values of your brand, your customer avatar (and what they like and expect) and lots more. Some fonts sit better with different kinds of jobs – you’d expect a solicitor to have a very bold, easy to read, no nonsense font. This doesn’t mean it can’t be a premium font or even bespoke. This works with the values of the brand, the serious nature of the business and more. But if you’re an artist or more creative, a more decorative font can help you express your creativity in a way that doesn’t undermine your work… see what I mean?

A good place to start is to look at the kind of fonts that similar businesses use. You’ll probably see a pattern in the families they use and the styles. You don’t have to do the same, but it’s a useful reference point and place to start.

A word of warning about fonts

Less is more. There are so many beautiful fonts available that it can be really hard to pick which to use. The good news is you can use more than one font in your branding, but these need to a) work together and b) be limited. Too many fonts can confuse a message, and fonts that clash rather than complement can feel amateur and a bit manic… which no business wants!

 

Your official introduction to Marilyn the super cob

Marilyn by Sophie CallahanI feel that if you follow me on Instagram in particular, I’m doing you a disservice. You’re finding out little bits of information about Marilyn, my super cob, but not the full story about how I became her ‘keeper’. I say keeper because although she’s mine (in that I paid money for her and am her registered owner), you don’t really own a horse like Marilyn. She allows you to care for her. And I kind of love that…

How we met

I met Marilyn a while ago… 18 years ago to be precise. She used to come for schooling and holiday livery at an event yard I worked at. She belonged to a great friend of the owner of the yard, and although Marilyn wasn’t like the other horses you’d see on the yard, she clearly didn’t care. Everything else was mostly thoroughbred, most were well over 16hh, some over 17hh. Not Marilyn. Marilyn is a 15.1hh/15.2hh piebald cob. She was bought from somewhere in Shropshire, where she ended up after being brought over from Ireland. She was (and is!) very easy to do in some ways, stubborn as hell in others, but she was and continues to be a very sweet soul.

She has always been an interesting character… I think most mares are. If they’re on your side, you’re sorted. If they’re not, you’re screwed. And this still remains very true of Marilyn. We always got on well. But she wasn’t flashy. I’m tall and at the time had a very big ex-racehorse who, quite frankly, wasn’t meant for me. We didn’t get on. I tried hard with him but after a few pretty nasty incidences, he went back to his owner (as I had him on full loan) and last I heard he was happy hunting – which would have suited him down to the ground.

I wanted another horse and went to look at a lot. None were really ticking all the boxes. Then Marilyn was put up for sale. She’d done nothing wrong but her owner’s life had become more ‘full’ due to an ageing mother, running a big company and more. Marilyn, although a lovely person, had not been the most straightforward. Despite sailing through a vetting, a couple of months after arriving, she’d had a foal, the process of which had nearly killed her (and the foal was sadly stillborn). She was also much younger than people thought.

But I didn’t want her. I mean – she was too small and too chunky – she was a cob. I wanted to event. I had also really REALLY lost my nerve and Marilyn was about the only horse I actually felt safe on all the time and would jump over anything. I mean, I’d ride most horses, but very fit event horses are not that straightforward either. One would show you the inside of her shoes when you went to retrieve her from the field, one enjoyed terrorising you in the stable, one was an absolute swine to mount, one was incredibly cheeky jumping and would stop for kicks and so on. Marilyn wasn’t. She wouldn’t dream of using the energy required for most of these thing.

Anyway. After a while of getting to know her much better, there was only one option, and that was to buy her. The view was that I would learn a lot with her, but I would also breed from her and get my flashy, faster eventer in the future. And so that was that. I bought her. From my now mother in law.

Marilyn is responsible for my life now

Big statement, I know. I’m not going to tell you about her various health issues, trips to Bristol vets school and attempts to die on me… we’ve had them. But through her, I met my now husband. And if I hadn’t met him, I wouldn’t have the children, probably wouldn’t be living where I am, and wouldn’t have Gu, her son. And I also think she would have had a pretty challenging life given the issues she’s had. She’s responsible for a lot… but more than that she has taught me more than any book could. And for a book addict, that’s a big thing. She is the kindest, sweetest soul… but cross her and she remembers, and she’s not very pleasant to people who have treated her badly in the past (Ok- switch ‘not very pleasant’ to ‘will happily damage’). You can put a two year old or a 90 year old on her (I’ve done both) and she’ll look after them. She chats away to you if you go and pour your heart out to her and always makes you feel better. She is the kindest ‘person’ I know and I have never known a horse fight harder. We used to compete and she would always ALWAYS try her hardest. If she did something a bit special it would be because she hadn’t understood the question. When she knew what you were trying to do, she’d get on side very quickly.

So, to me, Marilyn isn’t really a horse

I know it sounds soppy. She might look like a bog standard horse – well – she looks like a gypsy cob. And technically she is. But she is far, far more than that to me. She’s a friend, a fighter, fiercely protective over those she cares about and spiky to those who have wronged her. She’s an incredible mother, even now, to her son. And she oozes personality. She’s also a constant reminder about how a single decision can change your life for the better. What if I hadn’t bought her? Well, I would have probably ended up buying something flashy and pretty, over-horsed myself and given up on anything horsey. My ex-racehorse experience really shook me… I was pretty brave until then (not as brave as I was before I compressed my spine in a jumping incident!), but wasn’t after a few nasty falls and a fair amount of concussion. That kind of thing does make you wonder why the hell you’re doing it. But Marilyn restored that and then some. In addition to being great to ride (for a cob she has very nice paces and is a hoot – a cross or excited Marilyn is one of the most amusing things in the world…), she’s just lovely to have around. She’s always pleased to see you but isn’t needy in any way. She’s the perfect pal.

Why am I telling you about Marilyn now?

Well, I had a photoshoot with Sophie Callahan in July and Marilyn has, obviously, featured a lot. I’ll tell you all about Gu soon too, but without Marilyn, there wouldn’t be a Gu. Actually, there might not be any of this! Weird, hey!

The gorgeous pic is by Sophie. If you want a shoot she has a few spaces left, so get ’em quick!