#makelikeaboss: The Village Haberdashery and A L’aise event – My Take-A-Ways

Today, I visited The Village Haberdashery in North West London, to a) not buy any fabric (didn’t work!) and b) listen to a talk by a remarkable business owner, Suzie Dicker.

For the 2nd of the Make like a boss series, Suzie Dicker of A L’aise (which happens to be French for ‘at ease’ or ‘comfort’), explained to a keen audience how she started her amazing business with practically nothing. Yet within 18 months, her stationery and small leather goods company can easily sit amongst such brand names as Smythson, Orla Kiely and Cath Kidston.

My 3 take-a-ways from the talk were:

  1. Don’t try and do everything yourself – if you’re not good with numbers, get an accountant. Outsourcing isn’t a dirty word, or something to be ashamed of, rather it should be embraced, as it will allow you to focus on the areas of the business you excel at.
  2. Good product photography is key.  Suzie attended 2 trade shows in her first year of business, which created a buzz for her products. She made the point however, if those potential customers then refer back to a website which doesn’t match the high quality of the products, it doesn’t create the best impression.
  3. You can start a business with no money.  This is a huge one for me, as I’m in the process of building my own business on a limited budget. Have a business plan – if you need help writing a business plan, ask an accountant or business advisor. Make sure you have the paperwork to back up your dreams before you head towards your bank manager. Start off with a professional business plan and make it impossible for the bank manager to say no.

Actually, there was another personal take-a-way  I finally managed to source the fabric for my top to match my Henley Skirt. It has only taken me the best part of a year, and yes I did promise not to buy any more fabric. But then again, if recent events have taught us anything, seizing the day seems rather apt.

The next in the make like a boss series features Tilly Walnes from Tilly and the Buttons. Visit the Village Haberdashery website for more details, check out the facebook page here.

Thanks to Suzie for an inspiring talk and  all at Village Haberdashery for hosting such a fantastic event.

Are Business Cards Old Hat?

Hello folks,

At the end of last year, aka the year we won’t mention, I finally took the plunge after weeks of procrastination, indecision and worry, to purchase some business cards. It took me another 3 weeks to research a suitable company, create what I thought was a good design, and get them made.  I erred on the side of caution, and economics, and had 100 cards made.

Arriving early February, I promptly stuffed my new business card holder with as many cards as possible and placed them in my bag.  I have been to several events since and so far have given out a grand total of … 4.

Why only 4?  Because of a little invention called the mobile phone. Naturally, the contemporary blogger, reaches for their mobile devices to swap contact details. It’s quick, simple and socially acceptable as being a modern way to do such things, whilst not looking like a 90s Wall Street Banker.

So I started to think, maybe I should ditch the whole business card thing. Attending the #YouCanSitWithUsLdn event last Sunday changed my mind.

Armed with a handful of business cards, I headed to the Camden Collective building on Hampstead Road, determined to off-load as many of my cards as possible.

I didn’t hand out any cards. Not 1.

Instead, I swapped contact details using my mobile, having taken advantage of the free wifi connection. My phone now full of new contacts, but my business card holder was also still bursting at the seams.

At the end of the event, I popped into the local supermarket in search of flowers for a photo shoot and milk, as you do. I left empty handed as the flowers looked a bit sad and thanks to Valentine’s Day, were over priced. All the 4 pint bottles had sold out, so that was a no-go too.

As I left, I spotted 2 fellow event attendees and waved hello.  We didn’t have a chance before to swap details, so we attempted to do so there and then. Of course away from the wifi service our mobiles were still adjusting. Then, I remembered my business cards.

I suppose this is a reminder that we should never be completely reliant on our tech devices, because lets face it, how many times have the batteries died, or the network service started playing up?  Then there’s the awkward scramble for the pen languishing at the bottom of our bag, and looking for a scrappy bit of paper … yikes.

I simply (and admittedly uncharacteristically added to my coolness points) pulled out my card holder and handed out a couple of cards.  Quick, simple, no awkwardness, no fuss.

At the moment as you may know, my website is currently going through a transition phrase. So I didn’t want to do an ‘American Psycho‘, and order gold embossed cards with a fancy script font. I suppose the movie also helped put me off the idea of using business cards, as I’ve unintentionally linked them as being one step away from chainsaws, and who wants to be associated with that? If you haven’t watched the movie American Psycho, I warn you now, don’t watch at night or alone. Or with people who know how to use chainsaws.

But, neither did I want to leave it until my website is perfect, because that will take a while and it’s not worth the risk on losing out on positive opportunities.

Plus, it makes me feel, and I hope look, organised and prepared.  Even if my website is under a little scaffolding, it’s still open for business. If I can get this small detail right, just think what I can achieve when it comes to bigger projects?  Heck, I organised my first photography exhibition last year, I can do anything!

What do you think about business cards? Do you use them? Please comment below.

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