Customer service

Customer service should be at the heart of every business, but particularly a small one. Having exceptional customer service that helps to support customers and makes them feel special can be a defining factor in whether someone decides to shop with you or not. There are some things that you won’t be able to compete with the big boys on, but customer service is an area you can ace!

The great thing about this is that it doesn’t have to cost you money. Time, patience and a willingness to really help your customer and make sure you’ve done your best is all that’s required. You don’t need a huge budget to do this.

But customer service shouldn’t be overlooked. It shouldn’t be a ‘nice to have’. Looking after your customers can be an incredible PR and marketing tool too. In today’s social media fuelled world, getting positive feedback matters, and it matters on your website too. Having someone leave a review and sing your praises can win you fans and give people that final nudge to help them feel reassured that you’re a good fit for them.

In this section of the blog, you’ll see lots of examples of great customer service and tips too, to help you outperform the competition.

LiquiproofToday’s blog is all about why I love Liquiproof on my Fairfax & Favor boots.. and if you’re on the fence about buying suede boots, you might just love this blog too!

A while ago, a pair of Fairfax & Favor Reginas entered my life. I had been admiring these for a while but I was definitely concerned about how these would fit in with my life. I have two toddlers, a crazy trailhound, horses, and general madness is very much the order of the day. I do go out occasionally (!) and would wear the boots then. But the suede. The fact that they were made from suede bothered me a lot.

How could suede Reginas bother anyone?

Well, the short answer is, I didn’t want to ruin them. They aren’t cheap to replace and although I loved them, and had loved them for a while, I felt that my lifestyle was incompatible with suede. Suede is BEAUTIFUL when cared for properly, but it can stain easily, it’s not known for its water repellent qualities, and I would be really cross if something got dropped on them, or they got rained on when I was out. And I really, really didn’t want to turned into one of those people that shrieks when it starts to rain and panics that their attire or look will be ruined (we’ve all seen them… it’s like they’re melting when it rains!). As much as I don’t enjoy getting wet (and God knows my hair hates it), I’ve never needed to worry about my footwear getting wet. And I didn’t want to start. I have enough quirks.

Enter Liquiproof

I was talking to Felix (he’s the ‘Favor’ part of the Fairfax & Favor brand!) about my concerns. I wasn’t quite as quirky as above, but he got the idea. And he suggested Liquiproof as the answer to all my suede based problems. I Googled Liquiproof and looked at some of the videos showing the kind of abuse products can take after application… I mean beer, ketchup, milk… all manner of suede hating liquids… and it looked incredible. I mean. It looked a bit too good. How could something do that? It must be full of all sorts of witchcraft, but anyway, I agreed. I mean. I did really want the boots and Liquiproof seemed like the answer to my boot based prayers.

So did it Liquiproof work?

Yes. A million times yes. Fairfax & Favor sell little Liquiproof kits with all you need in them, and clear instructions that even I could follow. I didn’t do much with the boots before applying the Liquiproof as I was worried about them getting damaged, but I think that actually helped as I was applying the Liquiproof to a properly clean surface, so I only needed to do minimal prep. It really was very, very easy to apply (I can do it… and I filmed it as proof – video here or below!) and it’s also eco-friendly and non-toxic. I do genuinely worry that some of the liquids and lotions used around the house, and on products like this, do more harm than good, but according to everything I’ve read on Liquiproof, it’s the exception.

And I found the courage to put my new suede Fairfax & Favor Reginas under the tap when the Liquiproof had dried. And there was no screaming or crying. See the full results here.

 

Have you tried Liquiproof? What have you used it on?

Becci Leigh HarroldHave you heard of Super X Country and the lady at the helm, Becci Leigh Harrold? If you went to Blenheim Horse Trials, you might have seen Super X Country’s stand in the tradestand village. With bespoke cross country colours as well as a range of technical clothing designed for time in the saddle, in a range of stunning shades, Super X Country is definitely a must-see if you’re looking for clothing with a difference. Now, without further ado, it’s over to Becci…

Tell us about you and your background
From school I went onto do my A-levels specialising in Textiles, IT & business. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do, so I went to work for the family business after this, learning the locksmith trade. I’ve always been mad on horses and finally got my own pony when I was 9. Not coming from a horsey background was difficult, as I always had to push my parents to let me do things that were unknown to them so they were always on the cautious side! I finally got to event when I was 16 on my 14.2hh pony and that’s when I got the bug and my business idea started to form.

What made you want to start a business?

I have always loved business, when I was little I used to buzz off doing car boots with my family so I could sell! One of my best friends always reminds me when we were 13 I mashed up her grandma’s soap and re-moulded it into something else. And then went to sell it her as a new soap range!! We still laugh at it today, but the natural selling instinct is there, even though my day job is selling locks, keys and CCTV, I still enjoy it. Selling is selling. Naturally my business idea just came to me, I saw a gap in the market for a better choice of xc colours when I went shopping for some myself. I designed my own colours on my sewing machine, but it wasn’t until they had their first BE outing and lots of compliments that it hit me. I could actually sell these!

How is Super X Country different?

We developed our own unique designs from what was currently on the market. And now we offer custom colours in the fastest time scale so you can order them and have them for your next event. You don’t have to wait weeks. We make the silks in the UK, which gives us a great edge to be able to offer so many colours, designs and styles.
Super X Country
What makes your products special?

We can create such a personalise product, exactly how the customer imagines it. It’s so nice to see their own designs come to life.

I have come up with all my current designs and products myself. My new breeches are such a highlight to have been able to put pen to paper, draw them, find a manufacturer to get them made, test them, tweak them and then finally go to production. It was just unreal. Such an exciting journey to see them start to finish.

If you had to sum up Super X Country in five words, what would they be? Affordable creative technical equestrian apparel.

Do you have a motto or ethos? I always try to offer the very best customer service I possibly can, no customers – no business.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring business owner, what would it be? Believe and achieve. I am such a great believer in you get out what you put in.

One thing that helps you run Super X Country more effectively.

My iPhone, I couldn’t live without it. I am constantly on the go, answering emails whilst riding, uploading pictures on social media whilst in bed or eating tea! And printing off orders whilst at work for when I get home with my smart printer! It never stops. Instagram is also huge for us, so my iPhone is needed for that too!

Best thing about running a business?

Being able to take it in the direction you want to and make the final decisions.
Worst thing about running a business? For me its not been able to put 100% of my time into it.
Top business blog you follow. I must say the first business blog I’ve really followed is Rhea’s! Does watching the apprentice and dragons den count?!
Top business book you’ve read

I wish I had the time, definitely my next new year’s resolution! I tend to watch a lot of videos online, true story films & programmes on the TV!
One thing we might not know about you

I think I gave it away in an earlier comment, my full time job is a locksmith engineer.
Top business achievement

Selling to a royal at my second ever tradestand, and closely behind my first £1000 order to a customer.
Where can people follow Super X Country online
https://www.instagram.com/superxcountry
Website https://superxcountry.co.uk/
https://twitter.com/superxcountry
https://www.facebook.com/SuperXCountry/

Sophie Carroll

Photo by Lens & Hound

Have you seen Evemy & Evemy’s social media this week? If not, I’d suggest you head over there as soon as you get to the end of this blog, because there’s a first birthday celebration going on and there are some amazing prizes up for grabs!

What is Evemy & Evemy?

Evemy & Evemy is a really lovely British brand headed by its founder Sophie Carroll. Sophie is a client of mine and I have to say she is an absolute joy to work with. The products she designs and sells all have really interesting stories, and are carefully thought through and created to ensure they exceed expectations and give the wearers delight every time to they use and wear them.

What products do Evemy & Evemy design?

There are many lovely products on the Evemy & Evemy website, but the Pluma Scarf is one I’m going to talk about today as I think it really shows what makes the brand special. To the person who doesn’t know, Pluma looks like a beautiful silk scarf with hand drawn game bird feathers. And that is completely true. But the feathers were actually drawn by Sophie’s mother who is an illustrator. I love

Evemy & Evemy

Photo: Lens & Hound
Model: Amber Zakrezewski

this connection, not just to the countryside and customers in terms of the drawings on the scarf, but also between Sophie and the talented artist and illustrator who drew them! I really do love products with stories and feel that this is one area smaller businesses can win on over larger businesses. But I digress. The Pluma is lovely, and there are other designs coming out too that are definitely worth adding to your wish list/autumn accessories collection. And have you seen the new socks? A real treat for feet.

The birthday celebrations…

So, now you have a bit of background about the company, let’s examine the birthday party… although this party is more like 10 days of celebration as the prizes donated from Hyde & Hare, Hiho Silver, Mackenzie & George and Doris & Co will be announced over a few days, to spread the joy. It’s easy to enter to win any of the lovely prizes – visit the Evemy & Evemy blog here to find out more.
And let me just take this opportunity to wish Evemy & Evemy a very, very happy birthday. I can’t wait to see the company continue to grow and develop.

Rudds WelliesHave you heard about Rudds Wellies? This brand was been developed by Rachel Rudd to fill a gap in the market. Sounds mad – I mean, wellies have been around for years and years. But Rudds are different. They have a range of features and attributes that Rachel developed as a response to the feedback she gathered from her market research… and she did a LOT of market research before she started work on the product. Anyway, that’s enough from me… over to Rachel…

Tell us about you and your background

Yorkshire born Lass, schooled in Northumberland, degreed in Manchester, nurturing the family and welly empire in Devon.  As you can imagine my accent is screwed.

What made you want to start a business?

I studied Business Management at GCSE, then at University and managed other peoples businesses successfully for years, however I never had an idea compelling enough to make the jump.  That was until I bought a pair of expensive rubbish wellington boots that made me think I could do better.

How is your business different?

Too many businesses create a product and then try and find customers to sell it to.  We identified our customers – frequent welly wearers, and then research and develop products to suit them.  You would not believe how many calves and feet I have measured.

What makes your products special?

They are truly designed by the customer – after months of research, the priority was to create a non-split welly that would resist urine and manure. I never had any intention of designing a wellington boot outsole that was safe to ride in until I had so many customer telling me that’s what they also needed.

Rudds WelliesIf you had to sum up Rudds Wellies in five words, what would they be?

Lifestyle-led Wellies crafted to work (hope I get away with that)

Do you have a motto or ethos?

Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming  —  Persistance is key, although I do have a memory like Dory too.

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

Do your research – online, surveys, on the street.  It costs nothing but will stop you making costly mistakes.

One thing that helps you run Rudds Wellies more effectively 

My husband – I couldn’t do it without the support of my husband. Hes gives me confidence when I wobble.  Although Survey Monkey is a close 2nd ☺  It was a vital free tool when I started out.

Best thing about running a business?

You are the master of your own destiny. I work harder than ever but my work life balance is in my control. I can spend long days at shows but I love seeing customers faces when they try on the boots and realise how comfortable they are. Then I have weeks where I work at home and I can do the school run every day.

Worst thing about running a business?

The obvious cashflow saga. Especially if you have a product based business. You outlay on bespoke product months before you sell so it’s a constant juggling act.

Top business blog you follow

Jeff Walker – Product Launch Formula, I didn’t know anything about the importance of  collating your own email lists until I watched his videos. Don’t just rely on social followers, look what happened to MySpace

Top business book you’ve read

Martha’s Rules: 10 Essentials for Achieving Success as You Start, Grow or Manage a Business.  The key one that stuck with me was to always deliver a quality product.

One thing we might not know about you

I got into the final 30 of The Apprentice a few years ago, not with the welly idea, and thankfully not onto the screen.  It definitely opened my eyes to the crazy world of entertainment.

Top business achievement

Launching Rudds Wellies at HOYS last year will always be special

Where can people follow you or your business online

https://www.ruddswellies.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/RuddsWellies/

https://twitter.com/RuddsWellies

https://www.instagram.com/ruddswellies/

 

Marc BrownFresh from being named as a finalist in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, I caught up with Marc Brown, the brains behind Sporting Hares. Marc isn’t new to this blog as we’ve chatted about packaging before, but as an admirer of the brand and what it’s achieved in a very short space of time, I wanted to have a chat with Marc and find out more about his business and what makes it extra special.

Tell us about you and your background

I’m from a farming background having spent all of my life in Mid-Wales. In 2011 I graduated from University in Marketing and, within weeks, started up Sporting Hares which, for the past six years, has dominated everything I do with the exception of the odd break for tennis, golf and shooting.

What made you want to start Sporting Hares?

The sheer unlimited scope that you can work with. There is no glass-ceiling on your ambitions and everything is an option.

How is Sporting Hares different?

We have a unique, personal ethos at Sporting Hares. We all focus on the highest quality results in our work which passes through in to our products, marketing and branding. We run from a working farm and live the lifestyle we instil in our brand, making it all the more authentic.

What makes your products special?

Sporting Hares BeauchampEvery product we bring to the market has gone through a long process of ‘is it unique?’, ‘can it improve the life of the consumer?’, ‘does it carry our Brand DNA naturally?’. Even the tiniest of touches have gone through a stringent process before being confirmed on all of our products because we love what we do and we want our market to love their new Sporting Hares piece.

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

Exciting British Countryside Lifestyle Brand

Do you have a motto or ethos?

Our ethos is to maintain the highest craftsmanship in our products and match it with the highest customer service. We are our own customers, so we know the difference going the extra mile to meet the needs of the market can make.

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

You have to love the product/service you are providing. Business is so much easier when your own products/service excite you.

One thing that helps you run Sporting Hares more effectively

I simply could not be without my Laptop or Phone. They allow me to do any job (with the exception of order packing) anywhere in the World.

Best thing about running a business?

No glass ceiling. The world’s your Oyster.

Worst thing about running a business?

Trying to shut off. My friends all finish at 5 and have no responsibilities until 9 the next morning. I’m constantly doing/reading/writing something work-related.

Top business blog you follow

In all honesty Rhea, your blog!

Top business book you’ve read

Alan Sugar’s biography. Inspired me to apply for The Apprentice in 2014 – got through the auditions too.

Sporting Hares GiletOne thing we might not know about you

I am a through-and-through swot. I loved my academia years. After averaging the highest grades in my University, I was rewarded with Afternoon Tea with HRH The Prince of Wales.

Top business achievement

Being crowned Fashion Entrepreneur of 2015 by the Entrepreneur Wales Awards. Just this morning (11th September ’17) I learned Sporting Hares has been named a finalist in the prestigious Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2017.

Where can people follow you or your Sporting Hares online

Our website is www.sportinghares.com. We are also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as #sportinghares

Hiho Silver Country Shows JournalWhy eleven reasons? I’m not entirely sure… but here goes. To be honest, there are more than eleven reasons to love the latest issue of the Hiho Silver Country Shows Journal, but these are my top eleven. The best thing is if you read it yourself. I would love to know your favourite bit…

What is the Hiho Silver Country Shows Journal?

Hiho Silver produces the Country Shows Journal. This online publication is produced at specific times of the year, for Hiho customers and fans to enjoy for free. There’s always a competition, some brilliant brand and product features, there’s usually some gin… and there’s always beautiful jewellery. The latest issue of the Hiho Silver Country Shows Journal is no different, but is also bursting with fashion, style, an inside out horse (it’s OK, no animals were hurt!) and a lot more. So… my eleven reasons to love it…

  • Harriet Edwards’ fashion feature. In her role as Hiho brand ambassador, Harriet styled the lovely Imogen Murray for the trot up at Burghley. Dressed in Musto, Dubarry, Joules, Mackenzie & George and Hiho, Imogen looked absolutely stunning… Harriet did an exceptional job. In this issue of the journal, Harriet also shows us some other potential trot up looks that made her shortlist. There wasn’t a look I didn’t like. Honestly.
  • The competition. Who doesn’t love a great competition? And this issue’s is, as usual, a complete corker. In this issue, Hiho has teamed up with Hyde & Hare and Teddy Edward to offer one lucky winner one heck of a prize haul. A new Foxley Bag from young British brand Hyde & Hare, who specialises in cowhide products, a £150 gift voucher to spend at Teddy Edward, and a Cherry Roller Bundle from Hiho. STUNNING.
  • The Cherry Roller options. I ADORE my Hiho Silver Cherry Roller and have upgraded and changed it as new beads have become available… and in this issue Hiho created an image to show all the options – from CZ roller beads in a range of colours to the World Horse Welfare Charity Bead, the Fairfax & Favor Bead, all the way through to the new solid gold and diamond 4 Star Bead, which launched at Burghley. Oh my. It’s a stunner.
  • Doris’s Burghley Picks. I adore the shopping villages at horse trials and this issue, Doris picked some lovely products that you could find around the tradestand village… but can also enjoy online and buy from the comfort of your chair.
  • Who doesn’t love a cocktail? And what about a gin one? Exactly. In this issue, the lovely people at Silver Fox Gin share a couple of delicious cocktails to enjoy, and there’s a brilliant story behind the brand too, and how it came to Hiho Silver Country Shows Journalbe.
  • Teddy Edward. Have you heard about this lovely British brand? I have heard so much about this brand, and it’s great to read a bit more about in the in the Country Shows Journal too.
  • Horse Inside Out. Before I started PR and marketing, I actually used to work at an event yard and then later as an instructor. As I went up through the BHS levels, I spent a LOT of time learning where the muscles and bones were… and attempting to compare a picture to a horse in motion was a bit tricky… but not with Horse Inside Out. With the ‘important bits’ painted on the outside of the horse, it’s a great way to understand how everything works together… and Gillian explains how it all works in the latest issue.
  • A Badminton recap. I love Badminton Horse Trials and I was so, so chuffed with how Hiho’s first sponsored best dressed at that trot up went. Sophie Callahan, one of Hiho’s brand ambassadors, commentated during the full trot up on Radio Badminton… and then wrote an article for the Badminton website, and here she relives it for us. It’s fab.
  • Sweet story. Rachel Bragg from Sweet Images Photography is a long term Hiho fan, so Hiho caught up with her and had a chat about her job, her favourite Hiho pieces and more. It’s a really great read.
  • Hyde & Hare is a new brand that produces a range of high quality cowhide bags that are real one offs. They are made from genuine cowhide that is completely natural and unique, and hasn’t been printed like many available. I love the feature about Piers Dickinson, the man behind the brand, and enjoyed finding out what Leonardo DiCaprio had to do with it… and there is something!
  • An Event Rider Masters update. It’s been such an amazing series for far and I can’t wait to see the finale at Blenheim…

So, there you go – eleven reasons to love the Hiho Silver Country Shows Journal… but I am sure you’ll find loads more. Have a read of it here, and don’t forget to enter the competition. It’s a really good one.

Annabel Brocks Quilted black Gilet With Natural Collar fIf you follow me on social media, you may have seen the short videos I have been putting out this week with my must-sees at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. In case you missed it, here are some of my top picks… in alphabetical order…

Annabel Brocks– whether you’re looking for luxurious clothes for autumn/winter or fabulous products for some winter sun, Annabel Brocks (in the Lifestyle Pavilion) is a must see. I adore the faux fur head warmers and am kind of looking forward to the winter and when I can wear them again! In addition you’ll find capes made using tweeds, faux suede gilets, kaftans, ponchos and even sun hats! Definitely add them to your list!

Butler Stewart – for tailored tweed, make sure you check out Butler Stewart. For ladies and gents there are off the peg garments as well as Made to Order and the new Made to Measure collection (the latter being launched at Burghley). And if you saw Oliver Townend at the trot on Wednesday, you will have already seen some Butler Stewart in action…

Dogs & Co – Melanie and the team are LOVELY, but more than this, the products are exceptional. I regularly rave about the UniWalker (it’s been a favourite too, but I call it by its old name, the Figure Of Eight), but the rolled leather collars and the brightly colours microfibre ones have also really caught my eye…

Fairfax & Favor – yeah – I love them. I have my eyes on a pair of Explorers as my next purchase but give the Reginas, Drivers and Windsor bag my hearty seal of approval. At the start of Burghley, Fairfax & Favor launched the new Electra velvet Chelsea Boots… and don’t forget the Amiras. The over the knee beauties.

Hiho Silver – for all your equestrian and country jewellery needs, obviously! At the start of Burghley, Hiho launched a new 4 Star solid gold bead with diamonds that fits on the foxtail and Cherry Roller Bangle. The company has also released a special Burghley charm and some other stunning sterling silver, solid gold and gold vermeil pieces. So go and see them.

Lula Bo – I found out about Lula Bo through the lovely Emily and Inkpot & Press… and then drooled over the products. At Burghley, in addition to all of Lula Bo’s other carefully selected products, Clare Shaw’s scarves will be on sale. And they are lovely.

Mackenzie & George – THE place to go for your belt and fedora needs! Mackenzie & George’s Chester Belt was my favourite in a recent vlog, and after seeing Imogen Murray in a felt fedora and feather pin from M&G at the trot up on Wednesday, I want one more than ever now! In addition, Mackenzie & George offers a personalisation service, so you can have your belt or clutch bag personalised with foil or just a simple debossed finish. LOVELY!

Noble Outfitters – a brand I’ve long admired – will be unveiling the new autumn/winter collection. With rich autumnal shades to complement any skin tone, technical prowess for busy people and clever touches too, Noble Outfitters is somewhere I would spend a bit of time!

Rudds Wellies – yep – we all need them – and Rudds Wellies are lovely. They’re made with a special rubber to give them a 12 month no split guarantee, have a super comfy lining, stirrup friendly soles and lots of other features too. You can find them in Rural Craft, which is also where you’ll find Mackenzie & George.

Teddy Edward – since I spoke to Stephen, founder of the brand, for my ‘a few minutes with‘ feature, I have become a teeny bit obsessed with the company’s range of British made products. Combining classic designs that are easy and flattering (amen!) to wear with Great British manufacture, I’m ever so slightly obsessed.

 

If you’re going to Burghley, there’s a chance to win some GORGEOUS Hiho Silver jewellery by taking a selfie, posting it on your Instagram and tagging with #HihoStyleSpotter, created with the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, Hiho Silver AND judged by Hiho Silver ambassador Sophie Callahan. Actually, she’s written a a blog all about it here!

Annabelle BrittleThis week’s ‘a few minutes with…’ is all about Annabelle Brittle, part of the team behind My Horse Box, the equestrian subscription box. Here, Annabelle shares a bit more about the business with us. It’s a great read.

Tell us about you and your background.
Hi! I’m Annabelle, and I run My Horse Box with my partner Jonathan. We met at Lancaster University in 2013, where I was studying English Literature and he was studying Nuclear Engineering… they say opposites attract, don’t they? I’m a horse rider, avid reader and tea drinker! Jonathan generally prefers horsepower to horses, but I’ve managed to get him on one a couple of times, and I think he’s catching the bug.

What made you want to start a business?
I used to work in the beauty and fashion industry, and I ran my own beauty blog, so I subscribed to many subscription boxes for hair and makeup. When I started horse riding last year I suddenly wondered if there was a monthly box for equestrians and their ponies, but after a quick Google search I couldn’t find what I had in mind. So I made the mistake of telling Jonathan this – within 24 hours we’d purchased the www.myhorsebox.com domain and started contacting brands. He’s nothing if not proactive!

How is your business different?
In the equestrian market, the whole concept of subscription boxes is relatively unknown, so that’s one big difference right off the bat – we’re bringing something very new to the market. We also embrace all kinds of social media, utilising everything from Instagram Stories to Facebook Live sessions, in an attempt to engage with as varied audience an as possible.

What makes your products special?
My HorseboxI think the fact that our subscribers don’t know what’s going to be in each box until they open it makes them special – people say it’s like Christmas every month. We also have a strong luxury focus, and we like to highlight small businesses, so all the products we feature are either from premium brands or new, bespoke companies. It’s really heartening when we hear feedback from our customers telling us that they’ve discovered a new favourite brand or product thanks to our boxes.

If you had to sum up My Horse Box in five words, what would they be?
Shiny Boxes Full Of Goodies!

Do you have a motto or ethos?
Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down! Can I say that?? We’ve had a lot of challenges thrown at us since launching, the most frustrating of which being copycat companies coming out of the woodwork, who have copied our box contents, stolen writing off our website to use on their own, and tried to poach subscribers. But we just keep our heads down and keep on trucking, and we have a truly wonderful group of subscribers and friends who help keep us going.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring business owner, what would it be?
Go for it – and sort out your social media as soon as possible. We had around 5,000 social media followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram before we even made our first boxes, so when we launched we had a ready-made audience who were sharing and engaging with our content. It really helped give us that first boost when we launched.
My Horse BoxOne thing that helps you run My Horse Box more effectively
Our business mentor (also called Jonathan) from Virgin Start Up. If we ever find ourselves stuck for ideas regarding marketing, logistics, or anything else, he comes in with a fresh pair of eyes and gives us excellent feedback and food for thought.

Best thing about running a business?
Being my own boss. I have the freedom to conduct business calls in my PJs, I can finalise project details from the comfort of my sofa, and I’ve even been known to reply to emails whilst on horseback, hacking through a forest!

Worst thing about running a business?
Also being my own boss. It’s often tempting to take a lie-in on a Monday, and it’s all too easy to be distracted by the TV/fridge/garden… but I just have a stern word with myself and get back to business!

Top business blog you follow
We really like Tim Ferris’ blog. He wrote ‘The 4 Hour Workweek’ and his blog is full of useful tips about how to maximise your productivity whilst leaving you with plenty of time to actually enjoy your life. He totally rejects the ‘9-5’, hard-slog style of work that many of us are used to, and offers a very fresh perspective on how to achieve a better balance.

Top business book you’ve read
‘Oversubscribed’ by Daniel Priestley, because it really changed the way we looked at marketing our business. It essentially guides you to consider how you could make the demand for your product higher than your capacity to supply, ergo making yourself ‘oversubscribed’. If people perceive an air of exclusivity and ‘club-ness’ about your brand (think Apple, Chanel, Aston Martin), they will form an orderly queue. It works!

One thing we might not know about you
My Horse Box isn’t the first business we’ve run. During my first year of uni, Jonathan and I used to make and sell yoga hair ties out of our student flat (you know, the ones made of soft, flat elastic ribbon that people went crazy for circa 2014). We did it for 6 months and made ourselves about £400, so you could say that sowed the entrepreneurial seed for My Horse Box!

Top business achievement
When showjumper Anna Power wore our branded saddle pad whilst competing at Olympia last year. I felt my heart nearly explode with pride when I saw the pictures.

Where can people follow you or your business online 

Our website it at www.myhorsebox.com

Facebook: @myhorseboxuk
Twitter: @myhorseboxuk
Instagram: @myhorseboxuk

Why making the right decision isn't always easyMaking the right decision isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s hard. It keeps you up at night. It makes you question what you’re made of. It makes you question lots of your character traits too. So if it’s doing all of these things, if it makes you feel horribly uneasy in your skin, then how do you know it’s right? What if these feelings are actually your gut instinct screaming no? It could be. But I think I might have found a way to help. It still feels horrible, but it allows you to see what the right path is. Having the balls to follow that path, to make that right decision, isn’t quite so easy.

Why do we need to make these kinds of decisions?

I don’t know your situation, but let me tell you about mine. This is a frank and open blog – much like any blog I write, but I know that when I make the decision to publish it (and it will be the right decision because it might help just ONE of you), I’ll feel sick. So stick with me here…

Sometimes we have to make decisions that mix things up. From the outside looking in, it doesn’t necessarily look like we’re making huge decisions, but they feel like seismic shifts and leave us feeling a bit wobbly.

As you’ll know, if you follow my blog or any of my social media platforms, not all that long ago, my business and the work I do made a slight detour. After running a very successful PR, marketing and social media business for longer than I care to admit, and doing a stint in house as marketing manager for one of the largest equestrian product manufacturers in the world, I started to dabble in another kind of service. It was closely related to the work I did and used a lot of the same skills and knowledge, but it focused on helping business owners to help themselves. Now, this doesn’t mean that the people I started coaching. consulting with or mentoring (more about those terms some other day!) HAD to do everything themselves, but for some people it meant that they had the confidence to do all of the above. It meant that they could look at what they wanted to achieve with their businesses and brainstorm with someone who had been there, done it (a number of times) and got a number of free t-shirts too! It allowed people to make any budget work harder. In fact, it meant that people with no budget could learn the skills they needed to put their business on the right course.

It sort of started by accident if truth be told. It felt like a good idea, I knew I could help and I love working with smaller businesses, so it ticked a few boxes. But when the results started to come in from the handful of coaching clients I was working with, more work in this area followed. I was delighted. Having people reach out to me, ask for my help, and being able to work with them, to empower them and create that all important strategy and plan. To be that brainstorming buddy. To be that coach and cheerleader. I loved it. The more work I did, the more work I got. It was brilliant, But being just one person and unable to clone myself was a sticking point as there really are only so many hours in the day. I’m not afraid of hard work. Far from it. It’s currently 22.51 on a Sunday night and I am writing this. I can (and do) work incredibly hard. And I love it. My brain whirls and I see things in an almost Sherlock Holmes ‘mind palace’ kind of way when things connect. I’ll regularly email myself with ideas at stupid o’clock or be inspired by something I see out and about. But I digress. I was already at a normal human’s full capacity when I started working with coaching clients. And now that side of the business was growing and it felt good. It felt right. But something was going to have to give…

But making the right decision is not always easy

In this case, it’s been an incredibly hard decision to make. I ADORE my clients. Some of my PR clients I have worked with for years and years and years. Literally. I have been involved with so much of their business and they have become friends as well as clients. I have been gradually reducing my PR clients when the time was right to focus in on just a handful because, in addition to many of my other beliefs, I also whole heartedly believe that one needs to be a practitioner (as Gary Vee would say!) as well as someone who coaches and consults. Having full PR clients allows me to do this, but in order to serve them correctly I can only have a limited number. And a number that was becoming more and more limited. Add to this the other elements of my life – a house to run, two small children, a slight mentally deficient trailhound, a husband, a father, and, you know, having some kind of life and the need for sleep and continuing professional development, and you can see the issues looming. Well, not so much looming in the distance, more like a flipping wall of issues and noise and stress.

I’ve been wrestling with what to do. What decision to make.

…I’ve known deep down what I WANTED to do. What the right decision was for me. But it felt selfish. It felt disloyal. I felt like a traitor (and that was the actual I word when I was speaking to my coach). These are not qualities I value in a human, let alone myself. I am fiercely loyal. It’s kind of one of my things. But I have a number of other attributes I value too. I HAVE to do my very best and can’t handle being anything that I perceive as below par. I don’t really ‘do’ dropping balls. I would genuinely rather give up sleep than let someone down. Mad, hey? I knew what I needed to do. Of course. Anyone reading this will know the answer. It’s simple. On the surface it’s obvious. If a coaching client came to me with this exact issue I would ask them some questions (the very same questions I have asked myself) and the answers would steer them to the solution. It was staring me in the face. But there was the emotional element that hadn’t been considered in the equation. My feeling about it all. How bad what I needed to do made me feel. But the truth there was only the one solution. It was the RIGHT decision to make. But it still felt horrible. It wasn’t easy.

So if I could offer you one tip about making the right decision

…it would be this. Try and imagine that you are talking to you, but you don’t have the emotional ‘stuff’ that goes on in your mind. Imagine you’re speaking to your best friend and they are in possession of ALL of the facts, but none of the emotion. What do you think they would say? Yep. It’s probably what you don’t want to hear, but it’s probably the right decision. But no one said it would be easy. Did they?

But onto brighter things…

Now I’ve made the decision, have acted on it and have a clear plan, I couldn’t be more excited about what the future has in store, for me, my coaching clients, my VIP members, my Small & Supercharged members and my PR clients. We’re all destined for big things. Let’s plan. Let’s make decisions (even the uneasy ones) for the sake of progress, happiness (and sanity) and if you ever need someone to give you a helpful nudge or someone to share your unease with, I’m really just an email away.

Felix Favor ParkerIf you’ve seen this blog before (and if not, welcome!), you will know I have a bit of a thing for Fairfax & Favor. And their packaging. And their branding. I’ve enjoyed watching the rise of this dynamic, young company and the pieces that I own sit and smile at me when they aren’t in use. More than this though, the people behind the brand, Felix and Marcus, are really lovely, genuine people too, so I’m delighted to be able to share this ‘a few minutes with…’ blog about Felix Favor Parker.

Tell us a bit about you and your background

Marcus and I both grew up in Norfolk and have been great friends for a very long time

What made you want to start a business?

We decided we wanted to start a business when we were 16, In Norfolk there is a tennis tournament at Hunstanton that is a social event for 15-17 year olds. There was nothing for the younger children so we wanted to buy a bouncy castle and charge the parents. That was when we founded the name Fairfax and Favor. Luckily we couldn’t afford to buy a bouncy castle and eventually started making shoes instead.

How is Fairfax & Favor different?

Our business is different as we have always focused on more than just buying a product. We are selling a lifestyle, a community. Whether it’s popping in for a drink on the stand to the handwritten notes that come with each order. We like to get to know our customers.

What makes your products special?

Our products are special because they are timeless classics with the Fairfax and Favor attention to detail. As well as this all our shoes are designed for comfort with memory foam padding.

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

Classic, stylish, elegant young, fun and quintessentially British

Do you have a motto or ethos?

When we started we made many mistakes, I remember one year I drove to Blair Horse Trials and realised I’d forgotten the card machines. However our motto has always been “live and learn”

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

Keep cost low, live as cheaply as possible and invest every pound back into the business, and you will grow organically.

One thing that helps you run your business more effectively

We value Shopify, our website platform, hugely. It’s a great software system, easy to use and tracks everything accurately.

Best thing about running a business?

Complete freedom to have a go at anything, some work and some don’t, but it’s nice to be able to try

Worst thing about running a business?

Being responsible for other people’s salaries, the risks you take later have to be weighed up as you are playing with livelihood if it all goes wrong

Fairfax & FavorTop business blog you follow

Richard Branson Virgin blog

Top business book you’ve read

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook – Gary Vaynerchuk,  The Tripping Point and Felix Dennis – How To Get Rich

One thing we might not know about you

I failed University

Top business achievement

Being involved in Drapers 30 under 30

Where can we find Fairfax & Favor online?

Web – http://www.fairfaxandfavor.com

Instagram – http://www.instagram.com/fairfaxfavor #fairfaxandfavor

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/fairfaxandfavor/