5 Tips for your Black Friday Promotion

Black Friday – great, isn’t it? Or is it? I think that for many businesses, Black Friday can be bittersweet. It’s a day when you hope to make some serious sales, but it’s also a day that can become rather chaotic, and if you offer serious discounts, you might be making MUCH less money per sale.

But I don’t want to be negative about Black Friday and Cyber Weekend. It can be great for

black friday promotion

businesses who are set up for it, can handle the level of orders, that are comfortable with what they’ll make per item/service. It’s a good way to get rid of slow moving lines and get money in the bank. And it can really help to set you up pre Christmas.

This doesn’t mean that everyone should take part. Here are my five top things to think about for your Black Friday Promotion…

  1. Do you want to do it? If it doesn’t make financial sense, then I’d really urge you to consider whether it’s a good idea. It isn’t for everyone. You want to be pleased when you make a sale not think ‘well, I’m making 3p on that before I pay for the envelope’. So just make sure you’re happy with it.
  2. Make it clear. If you’re running a Black Friday offer, make sure it’s really clear. Not just the discount, but also how to claim, when it expires, etc etc. If you’re not sure if it’s as easy as you’d like, ask a friend to check it and see if they get it!
  3. Promote it. If you decide you’re going for it, then really go for it! Make sure you promote it on your website, your social media, your newsletter… and then promote it again. Not everyone sees everything you would like them to on first posting and you don’t want them to miss it.
  4. Work together. There are a number of blog posts, Facebook groups and online features out there listing some of the best offers. Find these and email the people. If you get featured in some of these places it could really give you Black Friday a boost!
  5. Get your ambassadors and sponsored riders on side. Tell them about your offer and ask them if they’d consider telling their followings about it. Simple but could be really effective.

If you’re feeling a little more motivated about Black Friday, pop over on to my Facebook page and see my video mini series all about how to promote your Black Friday promotion.

when to make a business leapThis was a question I was asked a few weeks ago. The question I was asked was actually connected to tradestands at big events, and knowing when to invest in these – when to make the leap, if you will. However, the advice I gave can be applied to any ‘business leap’. Hence why a blog that started off as a very tradestand focussed blog has now somewhat morphed into something general – how to know when to make a business leap.

What’s a business leap?

In this blog, a business leap is something out of the ordinary, unusual and a comfort zone demolisher. It’s a decision that feels scary and daring. It might not be to anyone looking from the outside in but, to the business’s founder, it does.

Are all business leaps huge?

No – and that’s a very important point. Some business leaps are HUGE and cost a lot of money and time – and there’s a lot on the line if it goes wrong. Moving to an amazing new warehouse to increase the size of your operation is a big leap, for example. But the good news is that there are many, many ways you can test the water first, to make sure that your decision is founded on strong evidence and results. This makes the leap a lot more calculated, which should help to reduce any anxiety surrounding it. Yes, it might still be a big leap and it might still be risky, but you can take the sting out of the tail… let’s work through a few examples.

Starting your own business. To some people this means quitting the day job and going all in. There is nothing wrong with that. But if you’re a little more cautious or want to test an idea first, start the business in your spare time. It’ll mean your weekends and evenings will evaporate… but running your own business can be like that when you’re full time too. This way, you can test the market, see what people want, and not compromise your income. You might find the idea is a roaring success and you need to stop your day job to meet demand. And that’s brilliant. But at least when you hand in your notice you can be excited about the next chapter. Don’t get me wrong – it’s STILL scary, but less so.

Taking a tradestand at big events. For many business owners, this is seen as a beacon for how well you’re doing. But if you want your business to survive, you need to care a LOT less about what other people think. Sod the beacons of greatness, just be great! However, there’s no doubt that some events are great for business – from a sales, a marketing, a social media and a market research point of view. Now, a word of warning… even if you have the money, brand and great product, this does not mean you will get the stands you want at big events. It just doesn’t work like that. The more prestigious ones require you to apply and be considered… but with so many people after a limited number of stands, a lot of people end up disappointed.

However, there is another way.

At many of the big equestrian events there are larger tents, like Rural Crafts, World of the Horse, etc. These are still in very high demand but with smaller spaces and more retailers sharing the space, it can be a very cost effective test. Another idea (if allowed by the event in question) is to work with someone who has an existing stand that your brand complements. I’ve seen this done a few times and it can be good for all concerned – as long as you’re not in breach of the venue’s Ts and Cs.

Calculated risks are good

Calculated risks are good. They help us to feel a lot more confident in what we’re about to undertake. However, there is still that moment when you do have to jump (or leap!). But if you do the groundwork, it’s not a jump into the unknown…


every day is a school dayToday’s Wisdom Wednesday post (well, that’s why it was written but you can read it at any time you fancy!) is all about learning. Hence the ‘Every day is a school day’ title. Because it really, really is.

Every day is a school day

Have you heard this phrase before? There are many like it, but in essence ‘every day is a school day’ means that you learn something new every day. And with the speed that technology is advancing and digital opportunities are opening up, I think this phrase is the most relevant it’s ever been. If you ever hear a true guru/expert speak, or watch how they operate, self development is a huge part of their week. And that can take many forms. It might be working with a coach, attending lectures and seminars or taking part in courses. It might be reading and listening to podcasts. Investing in learning doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Far from it. In the amazing digital world that we live in, we have so much access to good, free knowledge, it can cost zero. But what it can deliver. Well, that can be priceless.

Should you invest in your own learning?

Yes. I could end this paragraph here but that would be a bit of a rubbish one, wouldn’t it? Taking time to learn new things and to try and test them is essential if you want to move your business on. I’m not saying you should throw your life savings at it. In all honestly, you don’t need to. Your investment could be time and zero funds if they’re not available to you. Yes, you do have to look a bit harder and up your ‘crap’ filter settings in your head (I can’t be the only one that has this?!), but you can learn and improve what you do for zero cost. Yes. Zero. There’s a wealth of FREE material out there for whatever business you’re in and whatever skill you’re trying to hone. You will need to put in the legwork and find good sources of information. This can be a bit vexing. Because it’s so easy to get yourself a platform online, it means anyone can. And while there are many (many, many) sources of great information online, there are some people I wouldn’t trust to sit on the toilet the right way around. You need to look out for those. But just keep your spider senses on and listen to what they’re telling you and you should be fine.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t pay to learn either – far from it. As someone who takes part in paid for courses, works with a coach and reads a lot of purchased books, I believe in paying to ‘play’ or at least supplementing your free learning with paid for. I also believe that paid for advice and knowledge (when it is from the right person) is usually better because it’s been pre-filtered, tried and tested… but that’s a whole different blog!

How do you learn?

Well, this depends on you. Some people are visual learners, some learn best through listening to things, it’s completely up to you. You need to find the style that suits you and how you learn. And also, make it fit with your life. A friend of mine embraced podcasts and audiobooks in a big way as the time she spent on the road increased, so she could make the best use of this ‘dead’ time. Personally, I often have a podcast on in the background when I’m working on something a little less creative, and I went through a phase of listening to audiobooks when I walked the dog (something I need to start again!). I also LOVE reading, and proper books at that, so I indulge in a little Amazon based retail therapy more than I would like to admit. And video is a big one too, depending on the skill you’re trying to learn. Have a play around and see what works for you.


Could you be a brand ambassador?A little while ago, I wrote an article for Horse & Hound about this subject, well, could you be an equestrian brand ambassador, more precisely. Brand ambassadors take up a fair amount of my time. By which I mean looking at them, working with them, dealing with enquiries about being one for a brand of mine. The list goes on!

So, could you be a brand ambassador?

The Horse & Hound article is a must read, and I have some great advice from some big brands including Ariat, Hiho Silver and Saracen Horse Feeds. And the insight these brands gave, through working with brand ambassadors every day, is absolutely bang on and brilliant. If you’re a brand looking to work with brand ambassadors, I would urge you to have a read, and if you’re a rider hoping to become a brand ambassador, please read it too.

Equestrian brand ambassador dos (whether you’re looking to be one, or you are one!)

I thought, to help provide a little extra guidance on the issue, a list of dos and don’ts would be in order… and if you feel I have missed any then please do let me know.

  • Have a genuine affinity with the brand you’re an ambassador for. If you’re applying a scattergun approach and emailing everyone, including brands you’ve never used, it’s not a good place to be.
  • Get your own house in order. Make sure you own social media, website, etc is good. If you can’t look after your own brand, why would I trust you with one of mine?
  • It’s not all about you. Think what you can offer not what you want.
  • Give it enough time. If you’re approaching someone and you promise the world, make sure you have time to deliver it.
  • Be honest, authentic and genuine. Always. Being false will annoy your audience and hurt your credibility… which is not what any brand wants to be associated with…
  • Start creating content, featuring the brands you like and own, with no ulterior motive. I always try and tag the brands I’m wearing and using because I (believe it or not) get quite a few messages from people asking me where I got my hat from/what bracelet I’m wearing, etc. From a brand point of view, it fills my heart with joy when people tag a brand I work with because I love seeing kit in action and it also means I have the potential of user generated content I can share. And that makes me very happy.
  • Be creative. When you do go in for the big ask, after you’ve put in a lot of groundwork I hasten to add, don’t just offer the obvious. Think about what you can do that’s different and makes you a better proposition…
  • Be consistent. Show up when you should on your social media and website even when you have zero energy. People who are inconsistent pose a risk as they might not deliver.
  • There’s loads more… but these are a few top ones…

Equestrian brand ambassador don’ts (again, whether you’re looking to be one or you are one!)

As important as the dos in my world!

  • Don’t email every company in the world who makes products you would like to own. Buy the products, use them, make sure you like them and would be happy to be associated with them.
  • Be careful you don’t work for too many brands as you will run out of time to deliver what you need to.
  • Don’t work for brands that directly conflict. Many brands have products that overlap, but think about what they’re known for the best or what their messaging talks about the most and don’t tread on their toes. It does not go down well.
  • Don’t let your ego get out of hand. It’s lovely to have the support of brands, but be aware that arrogance is an ugly quality and won’t win fans with your current supporters or future ones. Trust me on this one.
  • Don’t become a pain. If someone says thanks but no thanks, don’t keep barraging them with messages and emails. By all means keep using their products and tagging them – prove that they should back you in the future, but becoming a pain in neck is not a good strategy.
  • Don’t send a FB message begging for sponsorship. Just don’t. Email. Find the right person, PLEASE DON’T SEND FB MESSAGES.
  • Don’t work with people who don’t fit your values. If you’re anti-fur, don’t work with someone who sells fur, for example. It confuses the message. And will annoy your audience. While you’re working with them as a brand ambassador for their brand, YOU ARE YOUR BRAND. Protect this.
  • Don’t behave badly. I mean in real life and online. Our lives are captured on social media these days and if you’re out at the weekend getting blind drunk and vomiting in an alleyway (sorry… a bit graphic!) and that is plastered all over social media, how does that reflect you as a brand AND the businesses you’re connected to? I know it sounds like I’m being a killjoy, but I mean this from you point of view too. Trust me on this…
  • Don’t feel you’re not worthy because you haven’t ridden at the Olympics. A good, engaged following doesn’t always go hand in hand with ridden prowess. Find your USP and create your content around that. That is what a possible supporter will want to get involved with. It doesn’t always have to be that you’re at the top of your sport.


I’m really thrilled with my article on Horse & Hound, and I’ve genuinely had some really lovely feedback from it, from brands and riders alike. So if you’re looking to become a brand ambassador for an equestrian brand, you have to have a read!

Your press release is breaking my heartIt was Emma Warren, who first told me about Janet Murray. She’d been travelling up to our meeting at Daylesford a few months ago, and she told me she’d been listening to podcasts by Janet Murray. I like podcasts and regularly have a video or podcast rumbling in the background during the day. She recommended a couple in particular, so I duly listened. And they were brilliant. And with nearly 200 to listen to (a time of discovery!) I was pretty much hooked… and continue to be. That’s how I ‘met’ Janet. The author of ‘Your Press Release Is Breaking My Heart’, founder of Soulful PR…and a whole lot more…

So what has ‘Your Press Release Is Breaking My Heart’ got to do with anything?

Well, Janet is known as a PR expert and draws on her journalism experience, working with magazines and newspapers, to help people get coverage. There’s a lot more to it than that, but in summary, that’s what she does. Have a look at her website to find out more. She’s incredibly knowledgeable without being cocky and doesn’t shout about her excellence… you see it through her actions, and I like that. I can’t really tolerate the other kind. So she ticked another box in my world. Janet does a lot of things, the podcasts are a teeny part. She also has groups, courses, offers products and one to one. And she’s written a book called ‘Your Press Release Is Breaking My Heart’. And I bought it.

Why would a press release break anyone’s heart?

I have to say that I do write quite a few press releases, and I think I do them pretty well. They achieve the desired results when I send them to people I have spent years building up relationships with. I have also honed and tweaked the format, length, style and construction of these press releases, through speaking to editors, to make them as user friendly as possible. However, I see a LOT that are, well, pretty awful. They’re long, they’re boring, they don’t focus on the point – actually – some don’t have a point… I could go on. The book confirmed this to me. It actually made me a lot more confident in what I do and why, but that’s an aside. It was easy to read. It was helpful. It was accurate and the techniques Janet suggests work. They really do. Badly written press releases break my heart a bit… and they’re just the ones I see that waft into my inbox. If I was working as an editor or as a journalist at a newspaper where I was barraged with them every day, they would completely break my heart too! The thing that comes to the fore, as Janet explains so well, is that editors and journalists are really busy people. This means the format you present the information in matters A LOT, but there’s more to it than that. And, actually, you might not need a press release at all to get your message out there.

So you’re saying Janet’s book says I don’t need press releases?

Yes and no. It’s a genuinely brilliant read for anyone interested in getting press and column inches for their business, and it’s a really refreshing read for PR and marketing professions as it shows the proper way to deal with the press. As much as PR people and businesses want to get those important column inches, journalists have space to fill. Presenting the information correctly, doing your research, putting the time in can help solve both of these issues. And that’s what the book will help you to realise.

Why do I love ‘Your Press Release Is Breaking My Heart’?

Because it echoes what I have found from speaking to editors and journalists and honing my style over the years. And anything that reinforces what we feel to be true (even if it’s a break from convention!), is always nice. However, Your Press Release Is Breaking My Heart does more than this. It’ll challenge your thinking, encourage new ideas and additional exploration and is bursting with practical tips to help editors and journalists take your press release and stories more seriously. It helps you form real connections that will serve you and them better, to help everyone win. And if you’ve followed this blog for anytime at all, you’ll know I do like win/win situations.


Find out more about Your Press Release Is Breaking My Heart on Amazon.

Why I love... my new blog seriesI’ve been trying to think of a way to share with you the numerous gems I come across in my travels… because I am lucky to find a lot. This might be a book (and I read a lot), or a podcast, or a gorgeous bit of stationary or maybe something even more special in terms of a stunning or clever product that I’ve bought, been given or have helped to promote. I promise that everything in the ‘why I love’ series will be something that I genuinely love. I do get to see a lot of lovely products in my equestrian and country PR and marketing role for a couple of key brands, and even more in my business coach role, but I want to give you my take on some of my top finds in this blog series. It might seem self indulgent and that really isn’t the intention. And I’ll explain my reasoning…

Why I want to share what I find with you

You know those people who find something extraordinary and then hide or keep it to themselves? One of my children is currently going through this phase with small rocks and acorns. You see his face light up when he uncovers a dirt encrusted rock and he’s delighted… and then you see the sneaky little devil go and stash it in the seat of his push along quad thingy or the hole that the parasol fits down on his sandpit. Why? Because he’s not too keen on me, his Dad or his brother touching, looking at or finding out about his ‘precious’. He’s really into rocks. Anyway, I’m pleased to say that the things I get excited about are ever so slightly more useful that rocks or acorns (well, to adult humans anyway), and I like to share. If it’s a resource I have found that has helped me learn something, I want to share it with people I think will benefit. If it’s a lovely ‘thing’, well, I just like to share the knowledge of things I have found, bought and adore with people I think will love them too. And if it’s a client product that’s jaw droppingly gorgeous, well, I really, really want to tell people about that. I know it’s sad cliche and everyone says it, but that thing about raising others up and helping them progress and improve? Yeah. I’m all in on that score. And I also really like it when people tell me about brilliant things that they have found that  they think I might like. Recommendation for someone you know and trust is a big thing for me, so I am extending that to you. Equally, I would LOVE to hear about things you recommend. I am planning to cover one ‘thing’ in each post, and anything connected to that thing that you would recommend would be brilliant.

Will be be all business things?

Nope. There will be a good amount of things I love that are connected to business. I have a vice for business books and have a collection that could rival Amazon, and there are lots of other lovely business-y things I do like from Apps and software to podcasts and other businesses… but I also love well made products with a story, brands with a heart and the brilliant people behind them. I find the detail and design of some products completely amazing and I find it equally gutting when no one knows the story behind why something is as it is. So I have adopted the role for the things I love. To share with you why they’re special and why I love them.

So, that’s it – the reason behind the ‘why I love…’ series. And if you have something you think I’ll love, or know of something you think it right up my street or could be of benefit to my clients, friends, Small & Supercharged VIPers and more, Well, I would love to hear from you.

Stay tuned for the first one next week… I just thought giving you an explanation to the thought process was a good idea. I’ve been struggling with the Monday blog theme for a while now, but I am hoping that this ticks all the boxes. Here’s to ‘why I love’. I hope you love it too.

Robin RoadnightI stumbled across the lovely Robin Roadnight on Instagram and then purchased one of her pieces of art – Horsepower. I love what Robin creates, so much so I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her business and what she does… and she’s this week’s ‘a few minutes with…’ focus…

Tell us about you and your background

I grew up very influenced by my incredibly creative Mum, who also shares my passion for horses. From as early as I can remember, I spent every spare moment at the stables. Financially my own horse was never an option until my early teens, so I would ‘work for rides’ every weekend, and before and after school. Around the age of 13 I found a wonderful little competition yard near home, run by a very supportive and talented family, who enabled me to keep and compete my own horses. Immersing myself in that world fuelled a lifelong passion for eventing and showjumping that has inspired my work.

What made you want to start your business, Robin Roadnight Equestrian Art?

For me I think I have always worked best on my own, where I can give my imagination a completely free rein. I started painting commissioned portraits around the age of 12, and I’ve always known that this was what I wanted to do.

Robin Roadnight Equestrian ArtHow is your business different?

I think my business is very different in a way that equestrians in particular may recognise. Although my passion is centred around horses (well anything equine!) my work is inspired by equestrian sport, and every painting or design is a considered study of that. I remember growing up, you would find ‘horse’ inspired designs, paintings and fabrics everywhere, but so rarely would I see anything that captured how I felt about showjumping, eventing or dressage.

What makes your products special?

I work very hard at it, and I hope that fellow equestrian sport lovers can feel the spirit of their sport is captured in my work.

If you had to sum up Robin Roadnight Equestrian Art in five words, what would they be?

Inspired, Classic, Spirited, ‘Country’ and Uplifting.

Do you have a motto or ethos?

I hugely value my customers, and find it really important to action everything swiftly and keep people fully informed. I think the buying experience is as important as the product itself.

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

To take the plunge and keep at what you feel passionate about. Don’t worry about what others think, you are not alone, if you believe in something enough, there are many others that will believe in it with you, and appreciate your work!

One thing that helps you run your business more effectively

I spend an awful lot of time keeping everything meticulously organised, if I feel that everything (within reason) is completely under control, I find it hugely enjoyable, even if I’m frantically busy! My work space has dozens of perfectly sized shelving units and cupboards, to keep everything visible & organised (thanks to my very handy step father!) and as much as I prefer using my iPad, I still can’t move away from my giant laptop, I have a folder for everything, and although my paintings are done on the easel, they are all scanned for the fabric designs to be worked on in Robin RoadnightPhotoshop and Illustrator, the two key things I could not work without!

Best thing about running a business?

The complete freedom to be as creative as I like. I never have to run my ideas by the boss to get the go ahead!

Worst thing about running a business?

You never really clock off, my poor husband will second this, even on a Sunday evening with a glass of wine and Poldark on tv, I will still be answering emails, taking orders and running back and forth checking stock numbers. Switching off is much easier said than done!

Top business blog you follow

I wouldn’t say a blog specifically, but Instagram is my go-to for inspiration. I could spend hours on there!

One thing we might not know about you

Not uncommon with artists I’m sure, but I’m incredibly introverted, as much as I love meeting wonderful people, I could go on forever in my own company, and will often shun a get together in favour of a good book or a lovely day in the garden!

Top business achievement

I used to think my art didn’t count unless it was hanging in the best gallery, but nothing has felt like more of an achievement than starting from nothing and growing to over 30,000 loyal Facebook followers. I often receive emails and photos from happy customers showing off my work in situ, and there is nothing more humbling or motivating than that.

Where can people follow you or your business online

I can be found on Facebook, and I have recently started Instagram, where I am really loving sharing more lifestyle and inspirational photos, together with my new designs as they’re released. My website is updated almost daily too

Karen McConnellIn this week’s ‘a few minutes with…’ we catch up with Karen McConnell from KA Equestrian. Karen is a complete star and is incredibly forward thinking in the way she approaches her business. And she’s an incredibly talented and thoroughly lovely person too!

Tell us about you and your background I’m Karen and I own and run KA Equestrian, a busy backing, schooling, training and livery yard based in beautiful Perthshire, Scotland. I was born in Surrey as my parents were living there at the time but they’re both Scottish so a few years later we moved back to Scotland and settled in the outskirts of Edinburgh for most of my school days. I was lucky to have ponies growing up and loved all Pony Club activities and generally messing about on the horses. Dressage was definitely not on my radar in those days! When I left school I went to work on a dressage yard, studied for my BHS exams and learned to start horses and school them on and that is where things changed for me. All through University and other ‘real’ jobs, I always had horses for training on the side until the summer of 2009 when I got ill and was signed off work for three weeks with suspected swine flu! After a few days I felt better but had to stay off work just incase. I set up a website and a FB page, pulled the name “KA Equestrian” out of thin air (my maiden name was Anderson hence the A in the KA) and it just took off. No planning whatsoever. There have been HUGE learning curves along the way but eight years on, we’ve grown massively and are thriving.

On a day-to-day basis, in addition to running the yard, managing the property, training horses, coaching riders, competing in the dressage arena, and creating lots of content for our blog and social media channels, I’m a mum of two young children, Cora who’s five and Callan who’s three. I have this nagging ambition to become a Grand Prix dressage rider and now that the kids are a little bigger, I’m actively pursuing that goal. Life can be a bit of juggling act at times but I’m so lucky to be able to do what I do.

What made you want to start a business? I’ve always liked to be in control of my own decisions and anyone who knows me will tell you I’m not great at being told what to do (!) so being my own boss was always inevitable. KA Equestrian was born out of a love of training horses, teaching them new skills and watching them develop.

How is your business different? KA Equestrian has evolved over the years and what made us different in the beginning, a business whose sole focus was starting young horses, has also changed. We have a number of niches – our backing process ‘The Right Start’ is still very much a core part of the business but we’ve also developed a few other niches – retraining ex-racehorses, and coaching young riders. What KA Equestrian has become is a family-friendly yard where everyone is welcomed and respected and help is tailored to their individual needs and dreams. 

What makes the services you offer at KA Equestrian special? The services we offer are special, I think, because we pay attention to the details and KA Equestriangive real consideration to whether our clients are benefiting and if not, we find out how can we change things up to better meet their needs. When it comes to the horses in our care, to ensure we don’t bend to the pressure sometimes applied by owners, I always ask myself “What would I be doing if this was my horse?” and go with that. That way I can know we’re doing the very best job, making the right, not always easiest, decisions and I can sleep better at night!

If you had to sum your business up in five words, what would they be? Quality, Friendly, Training, Coaching (and) Livery

Does KA Equestrian have a motto or ethos? Our tag line is “Home of Happy Horses” and that applies to both our livery and training clients. Happy horses, to me, are well nourished, cared for, respected, loved, protected from harm and abuse and given every opportunity to thrive. It’s important to me that our little bubble here at KA Equestrian is also home of happy owners and riders, but that doesn’t have the same ring! My top priorities at the yard are to maintain and develop an excellent facility and to ensure everyone feels welcome and respected.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring business owner, what would it be? I know the sensible advice is to plan and prepare BUT I like to think big and move fast. Be brave, and if it feels right go for it!

Tell us one thing that helps you manage KA Equestrian more efficiently I simply could not run my business without my phone and I can’t imagine using anything other than an iPhone. I’m on the yard most of the day and without the means to make calls, take pictures and videos, reply to messages and post to social media, the business would grind to a halt (or I certainly would as I’d have to do all that in the evenings once the kids are in bed!)

What’s the best thing about running KA Equestrian? Gosh, there are so many good bits – the freedom to think big and make a bold move, the flexibility to fit in the school run, a hair appointment or a day away, and the fact I get to do what I love every day – there’s never that Monday-morning feeling.

And the worst thing about running a business? Hmmm, I used to take things very personally when things didn’t go the way I’d hoped and it took a lot of work to put that in a good place in my head. I think when you are your business, it’s very hard to not take things personally if a client isn’t happy with what you’ve done or a project you’ve been working on hasn’t worked out – there’s no corporate structure to hide behind. That’s been my biggest challenge to date but I think I can now see the difference between things I have a legitimate reason to be disappointed with myself about and those that are more to do with the circumstances or a particular client.

KA EquestrianTop business blog you follow Well, obviously Rhea’s blog along with all the amazing help and advice she gives me as one of her coaching clients (thank you :-)), but I also love Marie Forleo and Seth Godin – both seriously positive and motivational.

Best business book you’ve read I don’t really engage with text books but I LOVE autobiographies from business people – I want to know not just how they make the decisions they make and the strategies that they use but how they live their lives and how they fit it all in. I really liked Tamara Mellon’s book ‘In My Shoes’ as it was very honest, she wasn’t afraid to appear flawed.

Something we might not know about you I once shared a helicopter with Pierce Brosnan in Monte Carlo – doesn’t get cooler than that right? Well, if I had my pick of Bonds it would have been Daniel Craig!

What’s your top business achievement? Oh gosh, you know I’m really not sure… nothing massive YET! But I’m really proud of the busy yard I have now, I’ve worked hard for it and I know we do really good work, offering real value to our clients both human and equine.

Find Karen McConnell and KA Equestrian at…

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

Tell us about you and your background

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

What made you want to start a business?

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

How is Mackenzie & George different?

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

What makes Mackenzie & George products special?

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

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

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

Do you have a motto or ethos?

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

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

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

One thing that helps you run your business more effectively 

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

Best thing about running a business?

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

Worst thing about running a business?

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

One thing we might not know about you

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

Where can people follow you or Mackenzie & George online

Forelock BooksMichelle Charman in the lady behind the brand Forelock Books. Forelock Books publish a range of books for children, but the beauty is that all members of the family can enjoy the stories – they’re true family books! With some fabulous authors and great stories, Forelock Books is a really great brand to look into. And Michelle is completely lovely too. Here’s a bit more about her.

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

I grew up in Snowdonia during the 70’s/80’s. Everyone had a pony, or a bike. I had a bike for quite some time, until I’d driven my parents mad by ‘trotting’ everywhere and answering questions in ‘neighs and whinnies’. I never really learnt to ride, I was just told to hang on by my granddad, who used to be a jockey.

By the time I was about nine, my best friend and I were spending all our spare time riding over the Welsh mountains and along the beaches, dreaming up new adventures to go on, pretending to be highwaymen, princesses, cowgirls, show-jumpers and other equestrians.

My imagination, confidence and sense of adventure grew with my love of books, I was always being told off at school for ‘daydreaming’, wishing I was out riding.

Michelle CharmanI moved to London in 1990 to study Business Studies and Print Management and eventually got my first job with Hamlyn Books. I worked for various publishers over the next 20yrs including, Octopus, Dorling Kindersley, Penguin Books but by 2013 publishing had changed so much, many of the publishing brands we all know and love had merged together, publishing was big business and great stories were passed over for celebrity authors and fashionable topics.

I’ve always encouraged ways of getting more people reading, but for me, nothing beats a great story, whatever your age.

Realising that there were very few pony stories that would appeal to and inspire today’s young riders, being published in the UK. I decided to set up Forelock Books.

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

Forelock BooksPublishers at Penguin Random House felt that equestrian fiction aimed at young riders was too niche, they wanted to appeal to a much broader market of children and young adults worldwide, whether they rode or not. I felt that there were enough riders and pony enthusiasts to warrant a brand of modern equestrian family fiction; Great stories, by the best authors, for the whole family.

I wanted to create a distinctive brand, I love physical books and still have my favourite hardback books I read as a child, some have inscriptions in them from family and friends who gave them to me as gifts. So many things these days are meant to be short lived, upgraded, thrown away, replaced, I wanted to create things that could be treasured.

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

Creator of Equestrian Dreams: Inspirational, Adventurous, Traditional, Reliable, Quality.

Do you have a motto or ethos?

Creating dreams for others to follow.

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

Go with your gut, if you think too hard, you may never take that first step.

One thing that helps you run your business more effectively

Photoshop. It’s not cheap and I’m no expert, but it’s great for putting together interesting social media posts, memes and creating impactful images.

Best thing about running a business?

Good feedback. Just hearing that someone loved reading a story that I believed in makes all the hard work, expense and disappointment worthwhile.

Worst thing about running a business?

The quiet periods, where no money is coming in and you’re just not finding your market, or worse you’re finding your market, but failing to convince them how good your product is.

Top business blog you follow

Haynet and Sophie Callahan. I’ve only just been introduced to Sophie’s blog via Small & Supercharged and I’m amazed at how much time she spends putting together really useful supportive blogs without expecting something in return from the reader – however, I’m constantly impressed by her images, and I suppose when I need a photographer she will be at the top of my list.

Top business book you’ve read

Upping your Elvis Factor by Chris Barez Brown. I met him when I worked at Penguin and he was the person who convinced me to follow my dream.

One thing we might not know about you

I’d love to move back home to Wales. I’m on an amazing journey, but Snowdonia will always be HOME and it’s where I’ll return.

Top business achievement

Being ‘Highly Commended’ by BETA is something I’m very proud of but I consider every sale as my biggest achievement. Selling a book means that I have found the right story, produced it well, found the right market and convinced the buyer to part with money for the promise it holds and that to me is success.

Forelock Books