Equestrian & Rural Business Coaching

In October 2016, I introduced an equestrian, country and rural coaching side to my business. It was something I was getting requests for and it was something that I had an interest in. So it made sense.

Having run my own equestrian and country PR and marketing business for years, I enjoyed helping people. I enjoyed helping equestrian and country businesses. But I was also aware that a) times were changing and PR and marketing were too, b) not everyone had the budget for PR and marketing c) social media was becoming bigger and bigger and d) a lot of the equestrian and rural businesses I worked with could actually promote themselves really well with a little help.

Having been involved in the equestrian and country sector for years and years and years, I felt well placed to offer coaching in this area. And it proved to be really popular. As my specialism has always been in promoting businesses for next to nothing, that was where I majored in my coaching too.

What to wear for a TEDx talk – part 1

What to wear for a TEDx talkSo, today we’re delving into what to wear for a TEDx talk a bit more, in light of my TEDx Malvern talk that’s fast approaching. Today I’m actually going to focus on the top half. I was going to do top, middle and bottom but it felt a bit too ‘The Price Is Right’ so I went for top and bottom. I probably didn’t need to explain that. I might have shown my age a bit. You know, with Michael Barrymore? No – let’s crack on…

What to wear for a TEDx talk – the top half

In this blog, I’m talking tops, blazers, jackets, ponchos, shirts and jewellery.

If you haven’t see my first blog about how to dress for a TEDx talk, then you can follow the link and have a read. It introduces ‘the Glam Squad’ without who I would probably be sat in a corner rocking. They had a really tricky brief.. mainly because I’m a complete nightmare when it comes to clothes, but to recap on a few things before we carry on…

  • The background of the stage will be black
  • The talk will be filmed
  • I’m ‘aware’ of my height and don’t wish to look any taller
  • I am rather conscious of my stomach area (I blame my children) and would like to avoid any attention being drawn to that

On top of this, I think when you’re doing any form of public speaking, meeting people for the first time, presenting a professional, you want to look ‘right’. This doesn’t mean a suit. It doesn’t mean black. It means smart but, more importantly, authentically you.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m wearing something I feel awkward in, the day/event doesn’t feel good. You know when you’re made to go to weddings and social events and you wear things that make you feel odd but you think you have to? Yep, I’m talking about that. And I for one am done with feeling awkward because of what I’m wearing. Of course, the people who have come to see the TEDx talk, well, anyone who has given up their precious time to see any talk, deserves respect. You should make an effort. They have given up their most valuable commodity and while you need to plan and prep what you’re going to say, I also think it’s important to show effort in your appearance. But not at the expense of feeling odd, because you just won’t do your best work. But there’s a happy medium. And that’s what the ‘Glam Squad’ – Karen and Sophie – and I had in mind.

The top

We talked about the top… layer one if you will. There was the stomach issue to contend with, but apart from that it was pretty fair game.

I’ve always loved the Joules Rosamund Top and the shape of the neckline and the way the shirt falls ticked a lot of boxes. Each season they have different prints and there have been some completely gorgeous ones in the past (I mean, I’m cross I didn’t buy them then!), but that’s just life! At the time of writing this, there are three prints available in the Rosamund: Blue Bird Blossom, Cream Dog Walkers and Navy Poppy. They’re all lovely, but the cream one did it for me. I also felt that this option would contrast enough with the jacket options I was looking at but wouldn’t compete. The hemline was also nice as it worked tucked in or hanging outside trousers… some shirts work much better tucked in, but this is really adaptable. So that was on the possible pile.

Next up was a top from Boden. Karen suggested something with my brand colour in, which is maroon. Until I spent most of a weekend looking at maroon tops, I didn’t realise how many different colour maroons there were! They vary hugely from proper red to deep and dark, like red wine. I much prefer the wine end of the spectrum… I’m a bit pale for full on red. Anyway, after a lot of searching, I found two possibles on Boden’s site and they were both on sale. Yay. By the time I pulled my finger out one was available in my size. Egged on my Karen and Sophie it was ordered and appeared two days later. The top in question was Aurora and I picked Black Forest as a colour. They also did/do (depending on when you read this!) a really lovely green that I’m tempted to buy too, but that’s another story! The main body is jersey fabric, it has a simple round collar and semi-sheer sleeves with a spot design. Is it something I would have normally looked at? Nope. But when Karen suggested the colour choice, that was my focus and it made me think outside the box. The colour is absolutely lovely and although a touch more pinky than my maroon, it feels like it’s very much from the same family. It’s very different to the Joules shirt, but really nice.

Last but not least, the third contender was a navy and white striped shirt from Crew Clothing. This was, again, in their sale section, but we all thought that the vertical stripes would be slimming and that navy and white is a classic combination.

What to wear for a TEDx talkThe jacket

We discussed jackets, blazers, coats, capes and ponchos for a while. Now, as I have said before, comfort is important to me… so that was at the forefront of any decision. In order to address the stomach issue, any top jacket/cape/poncho would need to be of a suitable length to finish below my waistline, and this would also help to soften the height issue. Nothing says ‘you’re tall’ than a jacket that looks too short!

We discussed different ideas and agreed that the blazer format was best. This is smart and shows a serious-ness, which you want. Professional but when teamed with other garments, gives a relaxed and friendly feel while still showing respect.

When we agreed on this, I called on my friends at Butler Stewart and they very kindly agreed to loan me two different jackets. Both are cut to the Jemma pattern, which is single breasted with two buttons. I’ve always loved the shape of this jacket, and the length too. Its cut means it looks great buttoned up or unbuttoned, and the shape of the jacket when buttoned means  you can still see the top underneath, which is nice.

Anna said she would send me two different options – both the Jemma Jacket, but two different colours: Pearl Grey and Willow Green. Both colours are really lovely and completely my taste. The grey will clearly work well with stronger colours (like the Boden top and the Crew Clothing shirt), but the Willow Green has orange and pink detail in the tweed, which will also work well with the Boden top and also the cream Joules shirt too. I also liked the fact that Butler Stewart is a ‘friend’ and Anna, the lady behind it, is a member of the Small & Supercharged group. Wearing a tweed also gives a strong nod to my countryside roots, but the way this tweed is would mean it works really well in a more ‘corporate’ setting too. A MASSIVE thank you to Butler Stewart for letting me loan these jackets.

The jewellery

I’ll put you out of your misery – I’ll be wearing Hiho Silver!

As you know, I work with Hiho Silver, own lots of the pieces they make and love the range. Emma, the MD, kindly said I could loan anything I like, so I chatted to the Glam Squad. I asked to borrow the Long Chained Cherry Roller (three and five roller versions), a Bobbly Necklace, and a circle necklace too, which Michelle (the Countess of Contentment) sent with two chains. I do also have my own Double Chained Cherry Roller that I wear all the time too. As for my wrists, I always was an old sterling silver bangle I was given as a gift by my grandmother (no idea of its origin), a Springy Bangle, Cherry Roller and Foxtail. I also have a Foxy Roller that comes out on special occasions. Ring wise, my Snaffle Ring never leaves me, and neither does my wedding and engagement ring. Last up – ears. I always wear diamond studs. They were my other grandmother’s and I wear them all the time. I kept them ‘for best’ for years and then decided that was a rubbish policy.

So, why did I chose the pieces I did?

The Long Chained Cherry Rollers were chosen so we could experiment with jewellery over the top of a shirt. I’ve seen the five roller one look gorgeous over chunky knits as well as shirts and tops, so that was a must. The shorter one makes a great addition too and can be worn on its own or layered with the longer one.

What to wear for a TEDx talkThe Bobbly is a true statement piece. I adore this piece of jewellery. It’s a great weight, is beautifully made, moves is a really lovely way and is thick enough to be seen from afar. I like the detail of the balls and the links and I like the story behind it too.

The ring necklaces were something I asked for at the last minute. As I was sending over my list, I recalled an image I had seen from a recent Fairfax & Favor shoot where the ring necklace was used on a longer chain and I just loved it. I thought it might work with the two shirt options because of the ‘v’ shaped neckline that could be created… well, that was the thought.

Although the Long Chained Cherry Rollers have rose gold plating detail, silver is my colour really. My wedding and engagement rings are white gold, and I’ve just always been drawn to silver. I love the rose gold detailing on the Cherry Rollers and my Foxy Bangle, but I am more comfortable with silver being the key colour. Again, you have to feel comfortable. I’ve never been a huge fan of yellow gold – I don’t think it really goes with my complexion…

All my hand and wrist jewellery is special to me, so that was always going to come with me! I’ll talk you through all of those pieces another time! You can find out more about the story behind the Cherry Roller here though!

And if you’ve got to here – WELL DONE YOU! I would love to hear your thoughts on what to wear for public speaking… what do you feel comfortable in?

 

 

 

Why I love… The Brand Stylist

The Brand Stylist - Brand BrillianceIf you’ve seen my Instagram in particular, you will have noticed that a book is a regular feature in my pictures. And this book is Brand Brilliance. It’s by the very talented Fiona Humberstone, also known at The Brand Stylist. But saying I just loved the book wasn’t enough… because I’m also taking Fiona’s fabulous online course, Design for Go Getters, and loving the whole process.

How did I find The Brand Stylist?

I actually can’t remember with complete certainty(!) but I think that I first found Fiona and The Brand Stylist on Amazon. I mean, that’s where I find a lot of people… either that or through podcasts I listen to. But I’m fairly sure that my first ‘meeting’ with Fiona was on Amazon, when I bought ‘How To Style Your Brand’. I have a HUGE thing about branding and being on brand. Having worked with so many business over the years, ‘on brand’ is a phrase I have used a lot. It’s something that any and every business owner needs to be concerned with and something I continually assess. And I don’t always get it right – far from it – but I am constantly trying. Over the years I have picked up a huge amount from the talented graphic designers I have worked with, but Fiona’s take was a little different. She clearly is bursting with technical knowledge, but she brings as slightly ‘softer’ side to it. Fiona talks about what ‘season’ your business is and the colours and style of these. It’s something that (in my experience at least) has taken a while to kind of marinade and develop in my head. I did enjoy ‘How To Style Your Brand’, but it left me with a lot of questions (I tend to think about things a lot!) that swilled about in my head.

Then Brand Brilliance came along

I was listening to a Me and Orla podcast where Sara Tasker interviewed Fiona. She was LOVELY. Approachable, jolly, insightful and passionate. I listened to the podcast a number of times and felt inspired after each listen. Fiona spoke about her new book, Brand Brilliance, and it sounded incredible. I trundled off to Amazon again and bought it. It’s not a cheap book (it’s around the £20 mark), but it is worth every single penny. I’ve paid £5 for books and felt ripped off, but I felt that Brand Brilliance was exceptional value. Before we even get to the content, the book is a work of art. It’s a lesson in layout and font, style, imagery… and that’s just how the book is, rather than what it contains. The content blew me away. It’s superb and I have recommended it to SO many people. When I meet up with people, I regularly take it along for them to see… and I think that everyone I have shown it to has purchased it! I loved the book and will be re-reading it again very, very soon.

But it didn’t stop there…

See, when you have a positive (I mean, really positive) ‘experience’ with someone, you find out more about them. I related to the book and Fiona’s philosophy and wanted to find out more about her and what made her tick, so I signed up to her newsletter and followed Fiona on social media (she’s usually found under her brand The Brand Stylist) and adored her content. And then she announced a course… Design for Go Getters. The course was run online and, again, not exactly cheap but, because of the book, I was quietly confident I would get exceptional value… and I was right.

What’s Design for Go Getters?

Design for Go Getters is The Brand Stylist’s online course that sheds a lot more light on design, its impact, how it works and what it says (and how to achieve it too!). As I said, I have a huge interest in design and have seen first hand the impact of good design vs. poor design and the impact this has on every area of a business and the perception of a brand. So I was keen to get some ‘proper’ education under my belt, that built on what I had learnt and loved from Brand Brilliance. I’m yet to finish the course (but when I do I intend to revisit, review and expect I’ll get more and more from it each time I look at it!), but I am enjoying every second. Combining mixed media, examples, information and challenges, I am lapping up the experience, the course… and have taken huge inspiration from it in terms of in terms of branding and design… but a whole lot more too.

So, that’s why I love The Brand Stylist. If you have even the slightest interest in branding and design, I would suggest ou follow Fiona on social media and have a good read of her blogs, they’re inspiring too. You don’t have to buy any of the above at all (and I haven’t been asked to write this, just FYI, I just want to share things with you that I love that I think you might like too!), but I wanted to share it with you, just in case.

Find Fiona here, at her online home The Brand Stylist

How to learn on a budget

how to learn on a budgetAs you know, I’m a bit of a learning junkie. I love learning don’t just focus solely on business. As I write this, I’ve just finished a book on psychology, have started a book on photography (yep, really!), then I have a book on public speaking (in preparation for my TEDx talk) and then I have Arianna Huffington’s ‘Thrive’, which I started, but then stopped as it was picked as the Small & Supercharged Book Club’s book. As you can see… it’s a diverse mix! In this blog, I’m going to share some ways to learn on a budget. Why? Because I see huge value in upskilling and believe everyone should seek out knowledge. But I also appreciate that not everyone has the budget for some of the methods, hence I’ll be chatting about how to learn on a budget.

Finding the time to learn

Obviously reading books is one way to learn, and I do a lot of it. I know the next sentence makes me sound rather sad, but I rarely watch TV. Although watching something mindless has its place, I just felt it was a waste of my time to be doing it too often. So I diverted to books. So, after the children are in bed, I will read for a bit, and I love it.

It doesn’t all revolve around books!

Of course, learning doesn’t start and end with books. I don’t like to think about the money I spend on books too much (!) but I have to say I have found a way to buy a lot of them for next to no money (and I mean, I have picked some up for 1p plus postage!) but I’ll cover book buying on another blog and share some of my tips. Don’t get me wrong, I do buy a lot of new books too, but if it’s an older book, there are bargains to be had! If you like to learn by reading, there’s a plethora of free material out there. You can learn a HUGE amount on a budget. Actually, you can learn masses for free. I mean, this blog is one example… and there are plenty of other blogs too, obviously. In addition, many people have freebees created to grow their mailing lists, and a lot of these are really useful. If you’re also interested in other ways to learn, there’s lots out there… and lots for free or low cost too.

So free is best?

There’s nothing wrong with paying for learning materials, coaching, courses, etc. Far from it. In fact, I pay for all of them! I also believe that paid content is actually better, but that’s another discussion. My point with this article is that even if you have no money or are on a really tight budget, you can learn amazing things for free. It’s a real ‘how to’ guide for how to learn on a budget.

What’s the difference between free and paid for content?

There are lots of differences between paid for and free content and, in my experience, you have to ‘work harder’ for free content. By this, I mean you’ll need to kiss a few frogs to find the Prince of content. You’ll find it might take you longer to extract what you need… and it might be spaced out over a few blogs/type of content. You might also find that the content is produced in a less logical fashion. For example, if I was doing, say, a course on how to get into magazines, I would create it in such a way that it guided people through the process, gave examples, templates and helped show the possibilities using a range of media. It would all be in one place and flow. You can find out how to get published in magazines online. You can Google it, you can poke around this website, and there’s lots of information there, but you’ll need to read, filter, curate it and come up with a plan.

There’s plenty of ways to learn on a budget… here are a few free/low cost ways to learn on a budget…

Ways to learn on a budget

  • Blogs – yep, the humble blog. Many thought leaders, entrepreneurs and experts have their own blogs – it’s the most basic form on content marketing and helps their SEO as well as their ‘status’, so many have blogs.
  • Groups – there are many free groups (like my Small & Supercharged group on Facebook) that allow business owners to engage, ask questions and learn from each other. These can be so SO useful and I’ve see amazing things happen inside the S&S group in this way.
  • Newsletters – subscribing to newsletters from people you feel can teach you something (hint, hint – I would love it if you’d sign up to mine – you’ll get PR, marketing and social media tips as well as general news from me and my clients… and I promise not to bombard you!), isn’t a bad idea. My advice here would be to pace yourself! If you sign up to too many in one hit you’ll realise that your inbox is full of stuff you won’t ever have the time to read…
  • Podcasts – if you enjoy learning on the go, podcasts are for you! Actually, I often have one on in the background if I’m doing admin or something that is more of a process rather than creative. I also listen to podcasts when I walk the dog. There are some great ones out there – I work with Sam at Haynet on the Haynet Podcast and really enjoy listening to Sam’s (we do alternate episodes!). For more podcast inspiration, hope over to iTunes and select your genre and see what you can find.
  • Books and audiobooks – yes, these are paid for if you want to own them, but the cost varies hugely.
  • Videos – I LOVE YouTube and find the never ending stream of videos a joy. You can find videos about anything on YouTube, you can subscribe to channels you like and people you enjoy, and YouTube will even tell you when they’ve uploaded if you like. Again – shameless plug, but my YouTube Channel is here if you fancy subscribing!

 

I’m not going to include courses, retreats, coaching, masterminds and live events here because although I believe they are all hugely valuable when used correctly, they are an investment. If we’re looking at value, they can deliver a huge ROI, but as we’re looking purely at the pounds, shillings and pence, it would be wrong to include them here.

How do you like to learn? What’s the best way you learn for free? I’d love to know.

Behind… bespoke cross country colours from Super X Country

bespoke cross country coloursA little while ago, I wrote an article for Horse & Hound all about what cross country colours mean to the people who ride in them. With insight from Paul Tapner, Mary King, David Doel and Nicki Strong, the piece attracted lots of attention and was also fascinating to write. Cross country colours, in my mind at least, cross over into branding. But how on earth do you get ones that reflect what you want?! And how do you stand out from the crowd? The answer lies in bespoke cross country colours.

Enter Super X Country

Becci Harrold runs Super X Country and is also an accomplished event rider in her own right. She started Super X Country in 2010 when she couldn’t find any base layers that suited her taste.

“Before there was a very very slim choice,” said Becci. “There were no online XC colours back then, so it was a case of turning up to a tack shop and seeing what they had. I was horrified when my mum pulled out a heavy, dull, dark rugby shirt! We put it back on the rail and went home to design my own. I was 16 when I did my first event and wore my own colours that I had made from the very start. It was only when I left A levels at 18 I decided to start the business as I had more time and knowledge having done business and textiles!”

Now, Super X Country offers a staggering array of highly customisable designs. At the time of writing this (so, depending on when you read it, the numbers might change!) there are 19 breathable base layer colours to choose from that can be customised with stars, spots and checks in 31 different colours (and, if you select a ‘burst’ pattern, you can have up to three different colours in the design). In addition, there’s a rose gold and a unicorn set. And I haven’t even mentioned the custom hat silks…

Do you find people pick similar colour combinations for their bespoke cross country colours?

“When I post a picture on social media of a set, that usually becomes the favourite for many people for a week or two, and then something different shows up and then that takes over,” said Becci. “It goes in waves! Some people are deadset on their favourite colour but I’m finding now that many people are influenced by a good looking set that I might have put together or another customer”

Becci has some amazing plans for the future and will be appearing at a number of events this season and beyond. In addition, she’s incredibly active on social media – you can follow Super X Country on Instagram, or Facebook, and obviously you can visit the Super X Country website to see the range of amazing designs available, to give you inspiration to create your own bespoke cross country colours.

Behind… Mackenzie & George’s new feather brooch collection

Mackenzie & George Feather BroochI’ve decided to give my Friday blog a little reshuffle. You’ll still see interviews with new businesses and more established ones, but I wanted to broaden it out a little. See, I have the privilege to work with and coach some of the most amazing equestrian and country businesses in the UK and beyond. I find it beyond exciting to have this involvement and seeing a plan comes together fills me with joy. In my job as a business coach, I often can’t shout about things, at least not until they’re out in the world… but when they are, well, it’s a shame not to! It’s celebrating the wins of my amazing clients and also explaining a bit more about what goes on behind these campaigns and achievements. Because as lovely as they look and seem (and they are fabulous), a lot of hard work goes into each and every success. And I want to highlight just how hard these business owners work to achieve the results they do.

Today we have a good one, all about Mackenzie & George’s lovely new feather brooch collection. Not only are these brooches stunning, but there’s a great story behind them too.

A bit about Mackenzie & George… before we get to the feathers…

So, if you don’t know about Mackenzie & George – WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?! Don’t panic, we’re going to get that sorted now. Mackenzie & George is run by husband and wife team Chris and Melanie Clarihew in Shropshire. The company is best known for its stunning range of handmade British leather belts that are designed and made in the Shropshire workshop. The attention to detail is simply incredible, and the fact that all the belts can be personalised too makes them even more special. In addition to belts, Mackenzie & George also sells a range of country accessories including beautiful felt fedoras, clutch bags, key rings and bracelets… and the company has just launched a new feather brooch collection.

Why are the feather brooches so special?

Unlike the belts, Mackenzie & George don’t make the feather brooches, but that doesn’t make them any less special. Because they’re made by a lady called Wendy Goode who Melanie and Chris have known for years.

“We were helping Chris’ parents on their stand at Badminton Horse Trials back in 2011, and they were opposite Wendy, who has been making these gorgeous brooches for over 20 years,” said Melanie. “We got chatting away and it turns out she was living the village along from where Chris’ dad grew up in the Scottish highlands. And this place is TINY, so that was quite a surprise. Anyway, we got on really well and continued to be wowed by her beautiful creations and the care that went into each piece in terms of preparation and her overall approach. Fast forward to Chris and I setting up our own business and going to our first BETA International in 2013, and Wendy was also exhibiting. Again, we got on really well, and she mentioned her current stockist at the shows was going to focus on their showrooms instead. She liked what we did and we all thought our products would work nicely together. We created some hats on variations of designs she had, and the feathers completely transformed the hats giving them a completely timeless look.
“We’re now the exclusive stockists at the shows, as she is very protective over her pieces not just being all over the place, and loves the way we present them and explain her story.”
Why am I telling you all this now? Well, Mackenzie & George has just brought out a new Wendy Goode feather brooch collection.

The new feather brooch collection available from Mackenzie & George

The new collection has a larger range than before but is still amazing quality with each piece being beautifully designed. Wendy is also an incredible, meticulous artist, and nothing leaves her workshop without her exacting approval. Each brooch uses hand arranged feathers mounted in upcycled shotgun and rifle casings or handmade silver and bronze cones. The feathers come from a range of birds including game birds like pheasant, mallard and guinea fowl, as well as peacock, blue jay and more. I was about to write a note next to guinea fowl saying how much I love those brooches, and indeed it’s true, but I haven’t seen one I don’t like (and as I work with Mackenzie & George, I’ve seen a lot of feather brooch pictures!). The great thing is the range available as there’s a huge range of different colour combinations and different sizes. If you’re looking for a subtle feather pin, Mackenzie & George will have the perfect one, and if you want something bigger, to make a bolder statement, I have seen plenty that fit the bill too.

How to wear the feather brooch

The feather brooches are incredibly adaptable and can be worn with fedoras or on jacket lapels. They’re the perfect accessory to complete a true country look, and with such a fab story behind the company selling them and the lady making them, they’re definitely the feather brooches to buy this season.

Find out more about Mackenzie & George’s new feather brooch collection online or see them at shows.

#30DayRuralBusiness Instagram Challenge with Sophie Callahan

Today’s ‘a few minutes with…’ is a bit different to normal… I mean it’s not even called ‘a few minutes with…’! This week, we spend a few minutes with Sophie Callahan, who tells us all about the #30DayRuralBusiness challenge she created for Instagram. It’s a fab initiative and there’s still plenty of time to get involved if you’d like to. So, over to Sophie…
Rhea has asked me to chat to you about the new Instagram challenge, #30DayRuralBusiness, that I am running, which is nicely timed, because it launched just yesterday and the response so far has been incredible.

Sophie CallahanWhy did you create the #30DayRuralBusiness Challenge?

I first came up with the idea of running a thirty day challenge for rural businesses on Instagram, because I could see so many small equine and country entrepreneurs really struggling with the platform.
For me, it’s fairly easy. I’m a photographer, so I have endless content to put out and I’m a blogger, so I always have new articles or videos to promote. But what if you’re a riding instructor, or a therapist, or make collars for dogs? I felt that a lot of people didn’t really know what to post, when to post it or how to engage their audience.
I asked, over on Rhea’s Small & Supercharged group, if it would be something people would be interested in and I had such a huge response to it. It was clear that people were craving direction and assistance when it came to using Instagram for their businesses.
I absolutely love Instagram. I’d go as far as to say that I’m ever so slightly addicted to it and my husband regularly has to remind me to put my phone down and stop scrolling.

Why do you particularly like Instagram?

I love how much it has grown in popularity over the last couple of years and it is definitely now the place to be, if you’re building a brand of any sort. What began as a platform for real-time image sharing has become a hub of creativity, expression and community. Instagram is, for sure, the ‘nicest’ platform to be on, with only very rare reports of hate and negativity, unlike Twitter, which is a magnet for trolls and Facebook, which seems to be everyone’s place of choice for airing their dirty laundry.
Instagram seems to be the place for positivity and cheerleading, which is just so refreshing.

What’s the goal of the #30DayRuralBusiness Challenge?

So, my aim, with the challenge, was to come up with 30 days of easy posts, for people who wanted to get to grips with Instagram, engage their audience and inject a little personality into their online profile.
I tried to keep the #30DayRuralBusiness challenge fairly simple, but in a way that would encourage people to think outside of the box and stop simply posting salesy posts, about the newest colour or size of their product, for example.
My business has been built, not just on beautiful imagery (which luckily for me, comes with the territory) but on stories. My story and the stories of my clients. Each partnership I photograph, I endeavour to tell their story and give their images a personality that my audience can relate to and engage with.

#30DayRuralBusiness Challenge

Equally, the reason my blog has become such an integral part of my business, is because people enjoy reading my own story. Whether it’s about the country clothing brands I’m wearing, the latest candle I’m burning or my favourite place to have brunch. Ultimately, stories are what will capture your audience.
And that is the aim, with the #30DayRuralBusiness Instagram Challenge.
So far, we’ve only just finished Day 1 and are just getting into Day 2, and the results have been phenomenal. Not just in the amount of people who have joined us (and are still just joining in today) but the engagement on people’s initial introductory post has been fabulous to witness.

And the results so far?

There are accounts joining us that ordinarily struggle to get past 20 likes per image, and now they’ve received this influx of comments and encouragement on their first challenge post. There are some brand new accounts, where the Day 1 post was their first ever post on Instagram, who are off to a flying start.
The beauty of the hashtag is that it is connecting these likeminded, enthusiastic rural business owners from all over the world and providing support, community and friendship, simply through social media. Just as I’d hoped it would.
I’m so excited for the rest of the 30 days, with my super little #30DayRuralBusiness gang. I’ll be doing a roundup post of everything I learn, throughout the process, on my blog in March. I just know they’re all going to blow me away and I hope that they all see fabulous results from it.

What’s ‘thought leadership’ and why should you care?

What's thought leadership and why should you care?Have you heard the term ‘thought leadership’? Have you wondered what it means and why you should take thought leadership seriously? It sounds a bit weird, but in essence it’s very very simple, and it’s something that you can use your blog to help you with.

What does thought leadership mean?

When I talk about thought leadership with my clients, I usually then mention blogging… maybe even vlogging, but blogging is the first point I talk about. In whatever profession you’re in, if you’re looking to attract clients, becoming seen as an expert in your field is a very very good strategy. This does, however, rely on you being good at what you do and actually being an expert, but that’s a whole different blog. Even if you’re an expert in your niche only, that’s fine. You don’t need to know everything about everything. You need to be able to inspire, be honest and genuine, and share your thoughts and your style online. Thought leadership allows you to share your thoughts, ideas and expert advice in a way that people will see you as a leader – as an authority. This authority will make people think about you when they have an issue or a question about something that’s well within your field of expertise. And that’s why it matters…

And what if you don’t want to be seen as an expert?

Well, exploring the idea of thought leadership might not be for you. But then you might also need to think about what this is projecting to your potential customer. If you are looking for help and advice in an area, who do you look for? The chances are that you’ll look for someone who is an expert, well known, etc. in that area. It would be a bit weird to work with someone who wasn’t, wouldn’t it?

There are many ways that you can find people to work with. Word of mouth, social media, asking for recommendations, etc. But having a point online, such as your blog, where people can come and read your genuine and honest thoughts and ideas is a great idea. It’s another reason why blogging should form a key part of your marketing strategy.

Does it work?

Yes. I can honestly tell you that I have had people reach out to me because of something that they have read that I have written. However, there’s one way that it really won’t work. I write about stuff that I know about, that I’m confident about, that I have read about and learnt about and that I’ve tried and tested and experienced. I will never stop learning. In many ways the term expert does feel a bit like an itchy jumper for me, but I do know my stuff and I know that the theories I apply and the knowledge I share works, and works well, when applied. But this has been achieved through failures, trying and testing things.

I really enjoy sharing my knowledge. I love helping and supporting people. And I feel humbled and honoured when people email or message me to tell me that something they read on here changed the way they viewed things, allowed them to try new things or helped them learn something… or even explain something they haven’t really understood previously. I like that. I like it a lot.

A few minutes with… Hannah Moule- The Business Barn

The Business Barn

Hannah Moule (left), Rosie Hopkins – Business Manager (right)

This week’s ‘a few minutes with…’ is special for a few reasons. Not only are we speaking to Hannah Moule, founder of The Business Barn, but I am also delighted to announce that I am working with the company as their digital marketing partner. This means that I will be providing them with content in this area to help support the users of the service. And I am very excited to be involved. It was a huge honour to be asked and I’m very excited to see The Business Barn grow and develop. So, without further ado, over to Hannah…

Who are you?

Hannah Moule

What’s your business called?

The Business Barn

When did it start?

We launched the concept of The Business Barn at the 2017 Farm Business Innovation Show. However, we have officially launched the business this January (2018)

If you could sum your business up in one sentence, what would it be?

An online resource providing inspiration and business advice for diversifying farmers and rural business owners.

Tell us a bit more about your business – what makes you different and what was the idea behind it?

The Business Barn is a website dedicated to providing inspiration and business advice for those looking to diversify their farming enterprise or start a rural business. My background is in rural surveying and I was frequently being asked  where to find specific resources and advice. There is lots of information out there, but there was not one central place to find rural specific information; hence the reason for The Business Barn.

What is your favourite part of the website?

The opportunities section, which is designed to be a platform for the industry to share business opportunities to the benefit of the agricultural and rural sectors.

Who designed your logo? 

In the initial stages, a freelance graphic designer

One thing we might not know about you?

I used to be an auctioneer and have a pet farm tortoise

Favourite podcast?

Rock ‘n’ Roll Farming Podcast

Best business book?

The John Nix Pocketbook

Best advice you’ve ever been given? 

‘Do the job well and the rewards will come.’

Favourite quote

“It’s nice to be important but important to be nice.”

Business Brands you love 

Innocent branding

Who do you admire? 

Beatrix Potter for her determination to buy land and farms with the wealth she built herself

Richard Branson for genuine entrepreneurship

Quick fire questions…..

Dogs or cats? Dogs

Blogs or vlogs? Blogs

Favourite blog/vlog? Deliciously Ella

Tea of coffee? Tea

Sweet or savoury?  Savoury

Where can we find you online? 

Facebook The Business Barn

Twitter @businessbarn_uk

The Business BarnWebsite www.thebusinessbarn.co.uk

My best business books from 2017

Business booksYou might have realised that I have a bit of a thing for reading business books. Well, it’s more than reading, it’s learning in general. I really do believe that every day is a school day, and whether that’s the lessons you learn through reading or doing. In my role as an equestrian and country business coach, I am constantly learning and testing things for my clients. And in my role as a country and equestrian PR and marketing consultant, I am applying what I have learnt and putting my money where my mouth is. Because I believe than in order to teach, you need to do… but that’s a whole different blog.

How does reading help?

One way I continue to upskill is through reading. This might be blogs and articles online and in print, but it’s also books. I know that many people have Kindles and iBooks… and I do have both these apps, but I have to say a ‘proper’ book works best for me. I like turning the pages. I like putting the bookmark in or turning corners. I just like real books.

Now, not all business books are created equal, and as I write this I am deciding whether I have got all I need out of a book I am currently reading and whether it’s time to move on. I believe books should educate, of course, but I do also want to feel uplifted and inspired by a book. So, with this in mind here are my top 9 business books from 2017

Top 9 business books from 2017

  1. The Million Dollar Blog – Natasha Courtenay-Smith. I recommend this to anyone who asks me about blogging. Yes, some people have done incredibly well financially from blogging, and while this book definitely does cover this aspect, it’s inspirational and educational for anyone writing a blog. Whether you’re a seasoned blogger looking for a kick up the backside or you’re on the first step of your blogging journey GET THE BOOK. It’s a good one.
  2. She Means Business – Carrie Green. This is a very different animal to any other book on this list, but as I enjoyed it and a lot of people I work with love it, so it had to get a mention. Carrie Green is the founder of the Female Entrepreneur Association and has managed to build a really decent empire and income from helping others via FEA. In this book, she talks about how she got there and build this empire. But it’s more than that. It’s hugely motivating and inspirational. Even if you don’t apply every single thing Carrie talks about in the book, I defy you not to feel like you can take on the world after you’ve read it.
  3. Brand Brilliance – Fiona Humberstone. I do love branding and the process. I blame the fact that when I was marketing manager at a big equestrian company, I worked very closely with the graphic design team and created branding for new collections, POS, packaging, ads, copy and more as part of my job. Making sure what was created was ‘on brand’ was essential and became something I valued in every decision I made. Because branding doesn’t stop at a logo. It’s in a brand’s every fibre. When I see a slightly wrong shade for a brand, it annoys me. When I see an image that is ‘off brand’, I wonder what the thought process was there. When I spot that an incorrect font has been used for something, it bothers me. I could go on, but we’ve all got lives to lead(!). Fiona Humberstone, aka The Brand Stylist, is incredible. She’s gets right under the skin of brands from the start, from the season your brand is through to the finer detail. And more than that, this book is a flipping work of art. It’s probably the most expensive on this list but it’s a thing of beauty.
  4. AskGaryVee – Gary Vaynerchuk. This, along with Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, The Thank You Economy and Crush It are an education in social media, marketing, PR and how the world can work for you. Gary is a slightly outspoke American entrepreneur who I have a bit of a thing for. His brain and the way he processes information is genuinely incredible, and the fact he can then communication this in a way that’s easy to understand is something else. Not only a brand in his own right, Gary’s also behind a range of companies including Vaynermedia, and started his assent to greatness on YouTube, talking about wine. And anyone who knows their drinks that well gets my vote. This book is based around the popular #AskGaryVee show, which you can watch for free, but it’s the filtered version. And I liked that.
  5. Your Press Release Is Breaking My Heart – Janet Murray. Having been involved in country and equestrian PR and marketing for quite a while now, you might think a book about press releases breaking people’s hearts would not feature on my list. But you’d be wrong. I still wholeheartedly believe in the humble press release (when done correctly, for the right reasons and when you’ve put in a lot of leg work… there are many caveats!) but it breaks my heart too when I see them used incorrectly. Why? Because they will not yield results. Sending an editor you have never even exchanged an email with your life story is not going to win you any fans. And paying someone to bother that editor is a double kick in the face. PR and marketing is often thought of as a dark art and I couldn’t disagree more. It’s actually very, very straightforward. And this book helps promote this message.
  6. Lucky Bitch – Denise Duffield Thomas. I have read both of Denise’s books and found them both brilliant. They’re very mindset focused but also, again, very logical with very actionable ideas that you could apply to your life NOW that would make a difference to you and your business. It starts when Denise decided she was going to travel the world for six months and how she actually managed to do this, and be paid to do it, with her husband. It wasn’t luck, it was down to hard work, the most positive of positive mental attitudes and a lot of thought. It’s another one that’s easy (and nice) to read, so I would definitely recommend both of her books.
  7. Eat That Frog – Brian Tracy. If you’re a bit of a procrastinator, find your to do list leaves you unmotivated and you spend too little time on the things that make the biggest difference, I’m going to tell you to Eat That Frog. Well, I’m not actually. I’m going to tell you to buy the book. The advice given is, in many ways, stating the absolute obvious BUT it’s great to understand more about the process and why. And it works. The book cost me under £3 on Amazon (I did have to add P&P), so it was a complete bargain too.
  8. They Ask You Answer- Marcus Sheridan. An ode to the power of content marketing if ever there was one. Marcus managed to transform the fate of his company using the power of content marketing. And I have to say that I personally believe in the power of this more than most. Being able to speak freely, to put your story out there, to help you get on the elusive front page of Google, and answer the questions people are desperate to know the answers to for free is  big deal. And the for free bit – yep – it does take time and energy but you can do it yourself and the cost to have a go is zero. And, what’s more, it’s not a one hit wonder, it’ll keep churning away for you in the background for as long as it’s there. As Marcus explains.
  9. Pig Wrestling – Pete Lindsay. This business book is genius… but read it twice. It explains how to deal with issues (your pig) in a very interesting and logical way, and it explains this through telling a story. Yep. About a pig in a pen. I’d actually forgotten how much I loved this book until I saw it on my Amazon history, and I will be digging it out for a re-read. Turn problem solving on its head with this one.

There are many good business books out there, and a number I have read and enjoyed that didn’t make this blog, but I would love to know which business books you think I’ve missed? What has been your best business book from 2017?

A big thank you- part 2… Equestrian and Country Advent Calendar Giveaway

Caracal EquestrianFollowing on from part 1, this is the second and final part of my Equestrian and Country Advent Calendar ‘thank yous’. I always meant to do this in the period between Christmas and New Year, and while I know I technically made it, a day to spare is not ideal. But still, we’re here. So, now to thank the brands who donated prizes for days 13-24. As I said it part one, I really am very, very grateful to the brands who supported the Equestrian and Country Advent Calendar Giveaway, but I am also incredibly grateful to all of you. The people who liked, shared and commented on the Facebook posts each day… because I am sure you had more than enough on your plate in December! I have LOVED receiving pictures and notes from the winners and seeing the prizes in their new homes. So a big thank you to you too.

Before we crack on with days 13-24, I also wanted to take this opportunity to wish you an incredible 2018. See you on the other side…

The Equestrian and Country Advent Calendar Giveaway – part 2

Day 13 – Hold Fast Mug – Doris & Co. As a very proud brand ambassador for Doris & Co, I have a bit of a thing about the brand. Since the first British creamware mug entered my life, I’ve been hooked. Not only is this beautiful handmade creation made in the UK, it’s hard as nails. You can dishwasher it (is that the right term?), it’s robust, it’s lovely to hold and use… and the designs are fab. All the pieces in the collection have an exclusive design. In the case of ‘Hold Fast’, this has an equestrian theme, but many don’t. Everyone who meets Doris loves her, so when the company said they would like to donate a ‘Hold Fast’ mug to my giveaway, I was pretty Haynetdelighted.

Day 14 – Stock – Caracal Equestrian. Ailsa, the lady behind Caracal Equestrian is a seriously talented designer and seamstress, and I have loved watching her brand grow and expand over the last few months. The company is best known for its beautiful riding shirts (do check them out, seriously!), but it also makes stocks. Like the shirts, the stocks use more unusual fabrics to create something truly stunning. Traditional shapes and design touches meet pretty fabrics and lace and more. The stock is a great example of this, so I was thrilled when Ailsa kindly donated one to the competition. Thank you Ailsa and Caracal.

Day 15 – Heavyweight Bobble Hat – Apt Cavalier. I first met this bobble hat when I was putting together my Christmas gift guides. I was due to send all the gift guide products back to their ‘owners’ after filming. But there was an issue. I loved this one too much and felt I really needed it in my life. The colour was ‘my’ colour, by which I mean the burgundy/plum that has made up my logo for years. And I made the fatal mistake of trying it on and it was so snug. As I walk the dog in all weathers and spend time outside with the horses (and, OK, have pretty crazy hair), it ticked so many boxes. And at just £12.50, it was a bargain. So I treated myself. And I am in no way disappointed. After this, I got in touch with Sarah at Apt Cavalier about the competition and she very kindly said she’d donate one for it… so thank you Sarah!

Day 16 – Stationery Bundle – Sainsbury’s. This was a prize I bought, because I am nothing if not a stationery addict! I do like Sainsbury’s stationery, and the ‘You’ve got this’ embossed in foil on the notebook sold it to me!

Day 17 – Haynet Saddlecloth and Mug – Haynet. I have the privilege of working with Sam at Haynet on her fabulous podcast. I love being involved with this and am very excited about 2018 too. Anyway, I digress. Haynet is a fabulous website, well, a lot more than a website, a community, that offers support for equestrian and country bloggers. Some of these bloggers blog for business and some just for fun. But why they blog matters not, Sam supports them. I was really thrilled when Sam offered a branded saddlecloth and mug for the advent calendar snaffle friendship braceletcompetition. I’m looking forward to seeing them pop up on social media soon, to help spread the Haynet message. Thank you Sam for the donation.

Day 18 – Stable Hands & Muck Off – Hawkins Organic. Hawkins Organic is run by the same people as Annabel Brocks, and you’ll know by now that I am a big fan of Annabel! The Hawkins collection is really lovely, and I was delighted to feature products for dogs, horses and humans in the Christmas Gift Guides. I wanted to share a bit of Hawkins loveliness in the advent calendar and opted for Muck Off (hand wash) and Stable Hands (hand cream) as I felt these had the most universal appeal. Made with green fig, they smell lovely, and they’re beautifully branded too.

Day 19 – The Million Dollar Blog by Natasha Courtenay-Smith. This is another book I bought as I recommend it to SO many people. If you’re thinking of starting a blog or you’re feeling a bit ‘meh’ on the inspiration front, head to Amazon now if not sooner! The Million Dollar Blog is not very expensive, it’s really easy to read and full of useful info, case studies and more.

Day 20 – Bubblegum Pink & Faux Fur Headwarmer – Annabel Brocks. This was another competition prize that people loved… and especially with the chilly weather we were experiencing then, it’s not a surprise! I have the pewter velvet version of this and it is lovely, so I wanted to get one for the giveaway so someone else could enjoy a little head based luxury. The fully reversible headwarmer combines bubblegum pink tweed with luxurious faux fur, is made in Britain and is so snug. I know the winner was very excited to be picked!

Day 21- #AskGaryVee by Gary Vaynerchuk. Another book? Yes, but the last one for this competition, and I wanted to end with a good one. I am very fond of Gary Vee because he’s right on the money on so much. I have every book of his and have pre-ordered his new one too. He doesn’t sugarcoat things and his knowledge and insight is incredible. This book is nothing short of an education and one I really think anyone in business should read.

Day 22- Exclusive Snaffle Friendship Bracelet – Hiho Silver. This little bracelet is SO cute and this new version has two very special new features. The Exclusive Sterling Silver Snaffle Bracelet is not new to Hiho Silver, but this version is. On the original, the toggle that allows for adjustment is a round Hiho engraved toggle, but on this one IT’S A TINY SADDLE. And just when you didn’t think it could get any better, the beads have been replaced by teeny sterling silver stirrups. I love it. And when Hiho donated one to the competition, I did a happy dance. There. I told you.

Day 23- Wimpy Bundle – Diary Of A Wimpy Eventer – Victoria Brant. Victoria has just released her second book, and I originally spoke to Victoria about buying book two for this competition. Well, she wasn’t having that, so she donated book two, a Wimpy Calendar and a Bravery Band instead! Thank you Victoria. The whole bundle is lovely – the calendar was created with her fans, the Bravery Band gives a welcome reminder that all will be OK, and the book. Well, if it’s anything like book one, it’s bound to have the reader crying and laughing! The second book ‘How to stay on top’ is out now (and I am reviewing it too) and book one ‘How to get your leg over’ is genuinely great. Victoria is as open and honest as she is on her Facebook page and manages to help the reader feel inspired and motivated by sharing her story.

Day 24 – Seaside Stroll Candle – Zoella Lifestyle. Is it odd to end on something from Zoella Lifestyle? I’m going to say no. And here’s why. In the equestrian and country industry, there’s an increasing surge towards vlogging, as there should be, because it’s a great tool. I watch quite a few vlogs and Zoella is one I watch. I know I am nowhere near her target demographic, but with over 13million subscribers, anyone looking to harness video to promote themselves needs to pay this lady some respect and have a look at what she does. The candle is testament to the power of video. No Zoella Lifestyle range would exist without the Zoella brand. And the brand would not exist without Youtube and video. Simples.

So that’s it, we’re at the end of the thank yous (if you’ve stuck with me to this point, thank you again!). A big thank you to everyone who’s been part this. See you in the New Year!