Apologies for the inward-looking nature of this post, but it will be my last on this site. I want to tell you my story of self-employment, my learnings along the way and what is happening next. So grab a cuppa and have a read, one last time at this particular campfire:
Almost 15 years ago I gave birth to my first child. I knew that I couldn't keep up with the demands of a full time job in a busy PR company and look after a baby without any family in the country for support. I went freelance for the first year with a business called Think It Do It PR, working with tech clients, a sector I had plenty of experience in. In this first foray into self-employment, I learnt how to manage my own business - doing accounts, paying national insurance (didn't know I had to!), managing my own IT, getting systems set up, buying a domain name and more. It was incredible to me how much hidden support you get when you work for someone else, in contrast to having to do it all when you work for yourself.
When my second son arrived, I decided to make baby food for a living - as you do when you're pureeing carrots. I quickly realised that it was a seriously tough sector. During my research I discovered a baby food and toddler snacks company who I felt could do a better job reaching mums. I contacted the founder and she invited me in to see her. I took my baby with me - something I could never have done in my old job. She hired me on a freelance basis to help with their marketing, PR and comms.
(An aside - that incredible woman who invited me in to chat - Sally Preston - just won the UK Business Woman of the Year award and she is an example of how to keep on trying even when things get tough. I'm exceptionally proud to have played a tiny part at the early stages of her journey).
Because I was doing this for one company in the parenting sector, I decided to set up a PR company focused exclusively on this market. Over the course of five years, I ran Peekaboo Communications, working with many inspiring business owners, almost all of whom were trying to create a business and look after young kids. I had never done consumer PR, had zero press contacts in the UK in that space and had to create an entirely new network. But the support of incredible women made it possible.
During that time I won a national PR award for the work I did for a business that started as a one person operation and which is now a leading company in the travel sector - Tots to Travel (Wendy Shand is another exceptional role model I was lucky enough to learn from along the way.) I was featured in two books on mumpreneurs, I became a mummy blogger myself and learnt my way around the emerging fields of social media and digital PR. It's amazing to think that when I started up Peekaboo, Facebook had only been conceived two years earlier.
In between looking after my boys and running my business, I also took time out to sail from Hull to Rio because I needed to escape the laundry pile and just rediscover me. Self-employment made this possible.
I sold Peekaboo as a going concern after five years. My Peekaboo years taught me so much about creating a roster of clients, building solid press relationships in a new sector, finding freelancers to outsource to and the incredible ways that women support other women.
Wondering what to do next, I made the mistake of buying a franchise. It was a disaster, described as one thing but actually being something quite different. It planted me firmly in the role of selling, something I don't enjoy doing, and the team behind it weren't able to deliver on what they promised. So I walked away from it losing a substantial sum of cash in the process. My learnings: trust your gut and choose the people you decide to team up with carefully.
I moved to York and took on a bit of freelance work for a time under the name of Melissa Talago - writer & marketer. At the same time, I wrote 70,000 words of a novel and set up a new blog Talk about York. The novel turned out to be more of a cathartic experience than something I wanted to pursue and the blog had to be retired eventually. I felt rudderless at this point. I wanted to create a brand I could feel proud of. But I didn't know what that should be or do. I dabbled with ideas for toiletries for boys to a scone making emporium to a cafe that specialised in food for hangovers. Nothing felt right.
So I went to see a life coach who helped me understand my strengths. I knew I could write but I hadn't realised I had narrator skills. She said I was a good storyteller. Shortly after that, I went camping with a friend and while we were sitting around a campfire talking about what I should do next, I realised that the perfect place to tell stories is around a campfire. That's when I had the idea of helping small businesses tell their stories better.
I set up Campfire Communications in September 2014. I didn't really know what I wanted to offer, but I knew I could help small business owners find their stories. Over the last four years, I have changed my offerings and services, from creating an entire online course teaching people how to do PR, to running workshops and retreats, one off bite size services to full blown marketing plans, website development and ongoing marketing campaigns.
It was been an epic learning experience and oftentimes I felt like a big fat failure. I have always tried to honestly share my own experiences of running a business with my followers and subscribers so that they would know that they're not alone if they too felt like a failure. Or simply to give them some motivation to keep on going.
Some things worked, others didn't. But I have absolutely loved helping business owners have that lightbulb moment, when they suddenly see what their business could become. Crafting their messages and bringing their vision and brands to life has been such a huge privilege.
My learnings from this were almost too many to mention - how to network online with global communities, how to build a passive income stream model, how to do social media marketing, how to create newsletters and opt ins that work, how to build a recognisable brand, how to create and run events, how to stand up in front of rooms of people and talk, sodding GDPR..... The list is endless. Mostly, I learnt how relentless it is for small businesses to keep on keeping on.
At the same time, I decided to set up a second business - Glamoraks - an online global community for women who walk. This has grown into a fabulous, supportive group of women who get outdoors and feel happier as a result. I am so proud of this venture. It's not profit making (yet) but it's my way of giving back.
So why is this Campfire going out?
In Autumn this year, my marriage ended unexpectedly. Not only did I now need the security of a steady income from employment (because as all small business owners know, income is seldom consistent when you work for yourself), I needed the support and energy that you get when you work with a team. I want to learn from others and make my world a little bit bigger.
In my gut it just feels like the right time for me to go back into a corporate environment. And I will be doing just that in January 2019. I can't wait to start at a new company and I'll even be going to the office Christmas party next week - my first Christmas party in 15 years!
And so it is time to let this campfire go out. It is a bittersweet moment for me. I have poured so much love and energy into building this brand and community of supporters that it feels like a real wrench just to turn out the lights. But I know it is the right time for me to do this.
Next year is going to be another huge learning curve as I find my feet back in the workplace but I'm excited by it. It's a chance to learn new things, meet new people and make a difference in a completely different way.
I wanted to take the time to write this and to capture the last fifteen years of my life. Because self-employment is an incredible gift and I wanted to acknowledge the gift it has been.
If you are self-employed, you will be tested and challenged. You will learn so much. You will have the weird mix of freedom and intense pressure to self-motivate. You will discover who you are as a person and the contribution you can make to this world.
I want to thank every single client and contact I have made throughout the last 15 years for being part of my virtual team. Thank you for all your support. It has been a crazy, fun and inspirational adventure.
For anyone out there who is feeling low about their business and wondering if they're making any difference, never underestimate how many people you are silently helping and influencing without even realising it. I've regularly wondered if I am simply yelling in the wind when my marketing efforts feel as though they've gone unnoticed. But take a look at the messages below. These are just a fraction of the messages I have received since letting my mailing list know that I am shutting down. I've left off all the deeply personal messages too, some of which have moved me to tears. I'll bet your clients and community would send the same to you too. So keep on keeping on. You are doing great things.
To the writers of those messages, I have been overwhelmed by your messages of support. They have lifted me up and I now feel ready to take on my role because I will hear your voices cheering me on. Thank you so much.
'I woke up this morning with such a heavy heart, at the idea of not having you there behind me…. Writing this last brief is being more emotional than I thought it would be. Just wanted to say that you arrived at the perfect time in my life – you gave me the strength to become a VERB (start doing) you turned my visions in a reality. THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH Melissa! I’ll miss you tremendously.'
'You have added to so many lives and businesses and I am sure you are about to add something very special to the lives of those that you will be working with in the new year.'
'I have quietly followed campfire communications progress and shared with many, your outstanding service delivery. Thank you for what you brought to both mine and John’s businesses'
'I came on your PR in a day course about 4 years ago with the company I was running at the time, Pixie and Jack, and have followed you ever since. Just wanted to say I have found your emails/posts inspiring and useful in equal measure particularly when I was setting up on my own. I have always loved your honest writing style that tells it how it is. Thank you. All the very best in your new ventures – I’m sure you will be brilliant.'
'I wanted to say another big thank you for helping me last year get clarity about how all the elements of my business fitted together and key messages for my marketing - it really made a big difference.'
'I wanted to say how sorry I was to get your email last week and to hear that you are closing your business. We've never actually met but I have followed you with interest. I am also a marketing consultant and I always thought you were exceptional at what you did and that your brand was so inspiring. If someone asked me for an example of a really good marketing consultancy and support service, I would have named you. So please know that you have inspired people who you've never even met or who haven't worked with you and I am sure that you will go on to do great things with your future career.'
'I just wanted to thank you for sharing your wisdom and knowledge. I've only been on your list for a short time, but you have made an impact on me. I wish you well with your new job. As you say, new challenges can be a good thing, even if they seem scary at first. That old cliché springs to mind: The darkest times come just before dawn. Sending you good vibes and everything you wish for yourself in the coming weeks and months, and thank you again for all the value you've shared online.'
'You will be so very much missed by us all. I am ever so sorry to hear you're going back to the corporate world - but equally understand you, as I have often considered the possibility myself. I will be thinking of you Melissa and wish you the very best in your new venture - no doubt you'll be absolutely magnificent in your new job. They're very lucky to have you. :)))'
'Thank you on behalf of me and all the other people that have been inspired by your emails, I don’t normally do emails but wanted to say you have helped me at some times when I needed a kick.'
'You will rise - like the phoenix out of the ashes of your campfire - I have no doubt as you seem such a talented, strong and capable woman.'
'You've done a fantastic job helping small businesses, my expectations were surpassed when you helped me and although I haven't implemented everything yet I do have long lasting blueprint.'
'I haven't been very involved with Campfire Communications, but I found the talk you gave in Harrogate a while back very inspiring. I tend to hear the same advice from lots of different people, but it was from you that I heard about how to look on twitter to find out who wants stories that might give PR for your business.'
'What a shame you're closing Campfire, it seems you've created a lovely brand with a real heart. But new horizons and all that, I'm sure you'll knock it out of the park at the big corporate!'
'Although I've never worked with you directly I've happily passed your details onto people I know having read your content and only ever heard positive things about your training.'
'I'm so, so, sorry to hear your personal news. I'm also devastated that the world of copywriting and York self-employment is losing you. Your presence at Copywriters Coffee was always so energising and empowering. When I first came to York, you were definitely the person I wanted to "grow up to be"!'
'Really sad to hear you will be closing you are fantastic at what you do and have really helped me in my business with my messages when I have been feeling lost.'
'Thank you for all the wisdom and inspiration you have generously shared with folks like me who haven't worked with you 1-1, I really do appreciate it.'
'I’ve never worked with you, but it’s been a pleasure to meet you at a few networking events, and your emails were amongst the very few that I subscribed to as they were genuinely useful.'
'We never actually worked together in the end but I do admire your energy and ideas - but completely understand that you'll not have much in the tanks for self motivation and I think you have made a really good decision. Good for you - it takes guts to do that.'
'Melissa THANK YOU for all you have done. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with you.'
'Thank you for sharing your energy, your wisdom and your expertise. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you and I’m sure you’ll be amazing in your new career.'
'It was a privilege to work with you.'
'Loved your first campfire retreat - learnt so much! Good luck ....altho' I am confident you will smash it.'
'Well done on everything you achieved with campfire and thank you for helping us all. You’ll be great at whatever you do, good luck with your next chapter x'
'I’ve always admired you and all you do very much, I’ve no doubt you’ll make a success of things going forward x'
In 2016, I worked with Valerie Queyrel, a counsellor and hypnotherapist, to refine her messaging, create a tagline and a new brand identity. She was delighted and got to work marketing her business.
However, two years later her business had changed. She no longer worked with as many men, felt further removed from the corporate world she had left behind, and she wanted to drop some of her services. The previous two years had shown her what services people wanted and what she most enjoyed doing. Her business was growing and she wanted to be more choosy about who to work with.
It was time for a website and brand refresh.
She asked me to help her refine her messages to reflect these changes. The back end of her website wasn't working well for her either. For example, people booking onto her 6-week weight loss programmes couldn't access the materials online and Valerie had to manually email every person. She wanted her site to look and feel more professional, while really appealing to her ideal clients.
I took Valerie through the Campfire Clarity process to get super clear on who her ideal clients were and what journey they will go on when they work with her. Using this as the base for her new web copy, I set about refining her website structure so that it was easier for people to navigate to what they needed.
Next I wrote the web copy for the multiple website pages, refining the structure so that it was obvious what action the visitor should take next. I also wrote the client emails that would become automated going forward instead of Valerie having to manually cut and paste information and helped her source a website developer who could build the site, creating the back end functionality and online members area.
However, when the new copy was put into the website (see the image above), it wasn't enough of a change to reflect what Valerie was all about. The old look had a more masculine, corporate feel. Valerie in contrast is French, supportive and nurturing. Her logo and colours needed to change to something softer and more ....well, Valerie.
I created mock ups of what each page of the site should look like to ensure the words and images all came together. Every page was mocked up with suggested colours and flow for the website developer to follow.
You can see screen shots of it below or click here to see the real thing.
This is what Valerie had to say (loosely transcribed from a lovely 6 minute video message she sent me - you can watch the video below if you prefer):
"Melissa’s mind has the ability to map out in a very short time, the essence of your business. What I couldn’t see clearly, she was able to summarise in the space of a one hour session.
She also has a talent for words. She is able to articulate what I was offering to perfectly match my audience. The cherry on the cake is that she also has an artistic flair. The combination of these three – the map out, the wording and the artistic flair - gives you the perfect combination to bring your vision to life. Sometimes we don’t even know ourselves what that vision is. But somehow her mind can see it, explore it and exploit it. For me, my website is my shop window so I had to make it as perfect as possible.
If you look at my first website that I worked with Melissa on – it was created when I was just leaving the corporate world. I still had a very structured way of working and I had initially been told when I trained, that there was no money in counselling. So in my first website, I was targeting male and female audience, trying to get as many clients as I could.
As the years went by I became more confident and the business became more and more successful. This allowed me to be choosy with my clientele. I have a very nurturing side but my first website didn’t show it. I didn’t even realise that I wanted my nurturing side to show. After just a few minutes of consultation with Melissa, this is what was needed to happen. Melissa suggested more pastel colours like duck egg blue. Just look at the website – it’s warm, friendly, approachable, clear and very concise. It’s a pleasure to look at.
This has been the perfect approach for me. Melissa has definitely been an important factor in the way my practice is doing. She has been a turning point in my daughter and my life. As a single mum, I had to make it work. I invested and surrounded myself with people who could help me do so. It allowed me to focus on my clients and business and what I’m good at.
I did not just use Melissa for the website. As a business owner, it can be a little bit lonely. I used Melissa for one hour here and there. It could have been fixing my Christmas post, it could be my newsletters, she has helped me with so many things I can’t even recall now. Whenever I needed to bounce back ideas or feel unsure, I turn to her.
I love my new website. It feels professional and it looks cracking good."
If you could do with my help - whether it's a full CampfireClarity package or just bits and pieces of support to take things off your plate, get in touch.
We've all been there. You try to get new clients or bigger clients or recurring clients or just any clients! You burn yourself out trying to market yourself, attend networking events, manage multiple social media platforms, figure out SEO or email marketing. And yet you are still stuck.
You start to feel in your gut that perhaps it's not your marketing that's the problem but what you're offering. You begin to question it. Change it. Add in new things. Take things out. Before you know it, your offering and your marketing messages are just as confused as you are feeling. Nothing is clear. Not to you. Not to your customers.
And so you get even fewer clients. You make less money. And most importantly of all, it starts to impact how you feel about your business. Your self-confidence takes a dive and you second guess everything you do. Frankly, you feel your passion for what you do start to die. Those job ads start to look appealing.
Talking to someone else about your business can be all the help you need. They can present back to you what you are saying, question you or pull out the truth of what you are really all about. The answers are invariably inside you, you just can't see them. This is what I do.
I'm somewhere in between a coach, business and marketing consultant. But I don't just tell you what you need to do and leave you to it. I take it a step further and put it all into words for you so that you can start sharing it rather than have to figure out how to say it. And I advise on what to do next.
I know how needed this is, because I didn't have anyone to help me with this and I wasted four years trying to figure it out on my own. Please don't stay stuck. Don't give up. Whether it's me or someone else, find someone to talk to about your business. Not a family member or friend who will give you platitudes and tell you you're doing a great job. Someone who will put themselves into the shoes of your customer and help you see your business anew through their eyes.
All you need it a little bit of clarity to find yourself flying again. Go find it.
Find out about my CampfireClarity package or book at spot on my CampfireClarity Workshop.
Tell me in the comments where you lack clarity or how your business is stuck.
This week it was 20 years since Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets book was published. Most people have read the Harry Potter series, but just in case you haven't, here's a quick summary (and bear with me because I promise there is a business point to this blog post):
A young boy who happens to be a wizard is faced with a big problem. The evil villain who killed his parents wants to kill him. What he wants is to find out the truth of who he really is.
But he has a few problems:
Luckily he has Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts school to guide him. Dumbledore has the authority to do this – he’s one of the all time great wizards. At the same time, he is fond of Harry and can really empathise with what the kid is going through.
He sets him a plan. Collect 7 Horcruxes (bits of Voldemort’s soul stashed in magical objects) and to destroy them. Sadly, he doesn’t give Harry all of the plan, forcing him to have to figure it out for himself. But he does leave him some pointers.
By the end of it (and without wanting to spoil the story for you), Harry can either fail and the world is plunged into doom, or Harry can succeed and save the world from evil while at the same time realising the truth about himself that he has been searching for.
It's a story that has made J.K Rowling a household name and a very wealthy woman. But the storytelling process used in this book - and most others - is the exact same process you can use for your business. Here's how it works:
Hero wants something. There’s a villain. He has several external, internal and philosophical problems. A guide comes along to give him a plan. He takes action. And the conclusion ends in success or failure. Ultimately the character is transformed.
So how does this relate to your marketing messages or brand story?
Harry is the hero. Your client is the hero.
Dumbledore is the guide. You are the guide.
Voldemort is the villain. Whatever your client’s problem is, that’s the villain.
Most companies make the story about themselves, not about their customer. If the Harry Potter books were told from the same perspective most businesses tell their stories, it would look like this:
A famous, very talented wizard is available to teach young wizards how to rid the world of evil villains. Dumbledore can rattle out a million spells and has a very fine wizard hat, cape and wand. He even has a pet phoenix. He has reams of testimonials from the Wizarding Council saying just what a stellar wizard he is. He recently helped a young wizard called Harry by teaching him how to track down and destroy an evil wizard. You should send him an owl if you’d like his evil villain slaying services.
If you were a boy wizard in need of this service, you might be compelled to get in touch with Dumbledore and enquire about his services. But isn't the story much more interesting when you put the character at the heart of the it?
Relook at your website. Is it written from a Dumbledore or a Harry perspective? If it's all about you and what makes you brilliant, you're making yourself the hero. You're being too Dumbledore. You need to be more Harry.
Customers want to be the hero. They are the one with a problem. They are on a journey to transform themselves and to do that they need a guide. That's you. Position yourself as such. Show them how you can help them but keep the story focus on them.
I'd love to claim this method as my own. But it actually comes from Donald Miller, whose book Storybrand, I read. I now help my clients tell their stories this way. I help them create a simple story that puts their customer at the heart of it, with clear messages about how they can help them, while taking your own back story, vision, misson, values and brand archetype into account.
It's not an easy thing to do. You really have to put yourself in the shoes of your clients. At the same time you have to cut out the noise that can make messages hazy and you need to keep checking that you're not making yourself the hero again. It's tough getting this right and may take several rewrites to perfect. But then again, most good stories do.
If you could do with this kind of help, get in touch or take a look at my CampfireClarity™ package. Let's make magic together.
You are ready to throw in the towel on marketing. You've tried just about everything but nothing seems to work. You aren't attracting your ideal clients, you aren't making money and you aren't growing as a business.
Or perhaps you have a brilliantly successful business, but now you want to pivot or add in something new and it's muddying the waters a bit. All of a sudden you feel a bit confused about what you want people to know about your business. You are starting to second guess whether this change was a good plan after all.
Confusion is the villain that stands between you and your customers.
The way to attract more customers is to create crystal clear messages that make potential clients take action. So how can you tell if your current messages are confusing both you and your customers?
Here are some signs that you don't have clear marketing messages:
If you found yourself nodding along to many of these, it might be time to get some clarity. It can be incredibly difficult to get to the heart of what your customers REALLY want and how you are best placed to help them get that. I know from first hand experience how hard it is trying to do this for yourself. We are too close to our own businesses. No-one will challenge our thinking or suggest and alternate point of view.
I work with business owners to create clear messages that transform their marketing and grow their business. Do you have any idea how many years it took me to get to that sentence?
Why? Because I did it on my own. You don't have to. My CampfireClarity™ package will help you get this sorted out in 48 hours. If you look at it and think, well that would be great but I can't afford it, read this and see what a lack of clarity could be costing you.
Any time you are ready to book your Clarity Session with me, just click here and we'll get this party started.
Some people start up a business and they know exactly what they are offering, to whom and what problem they are solving. They've spotted a gap in the market, a real need. They typically do well and grow fast. But these people are the exception rather than the rule.
Most people start up their own business because they want to work for themselves, leave the 9 to 5 behind and follow their passion. They look at their skills and try to shoehorn them onto a market. They change their offering as they try to figure out what people will buy or not buy and then spend a good chunk of their time and money trying to find those ideal customers.
When things don't go according to plan, they think there is something wrong with their marketing tactics - like perhaps they should spend more on Facebook advertising, or they should create a more aggressive sales funnel, or they need to be on Instagram and Pinterest and Twitter and do direct marketing and a billion other possible things.
But it still doesn't work. And the reason? They do not have clarity. They aren't 100% sure how they are specifically helping their ideal clients. Their messages are confusing. They can be doing great 'marketing', but when people get to their website, they have no idea what they should do next, so they leave.
Confusion is the villain standing between you and your clients.
How do I know this?
Because I have just described myself. It is quite something to admit that you have battled to find clarity when you're in the business of helping other people find clarity. But the thing is, it is exceptionally difficult to figure this out on your own. And even with help, you may still have to tweak and refine things as you find your sweet spot.
I recently went through a process to really, really clarify what I do (the same process I now do with clients). I rebuilt my website three times in two months. I chucked out most of my previous copy. I created entirely new services. I know that I will still need to clarify further as I get feedback from people. That's normal.
But I know now that I am 100% in the market of helping people clarify their message. I am a Message Clarifier. I create clear messages so that businesses can market themselves better and grow faster.
Many people are confused by what that is. They think: I need fresh web copy. OR I need a better social media strategy. OR I need a new brand identity. Those are the end results of the clarity process. If you jump straight to those bits without doing the message clarity up front, your chances of failure are a whole lot higher.
So what does a lack of clarity potentially cost you?
If any of these sound familiar, please take a look at my CampfireClarity™ package. In 48 hours you can go from confused to clear. You can reignite your passion, rebuild your confidence, feel better physically and mentally, grow and earn what you're worth. What would that be worth to you?
A year ago I worked with Catherine Bowyer, an Australian lifestyle strategist and coach, to help her get clarity on where to take her business. During our clarity session, she realised that she wanted to shift away from corporate coaching towards personal coaching. She then used my Copy & Canvas package to give her website a make-over and to tell her brand story. You can read this blog to see the process we went through. I caught up with her to find out how things were going a year on from our work together. This is what she said:
How has business unfolded?
After our initial sessions of working together, I was able to gain clarity about the core messaging of my business and how all the pieces fit together – coaching programs, workshops, retreats and products. Having this clarity has really helped me to move forward with my business. I went from confusion and overwhelm to clarity and getting on and promoting my business.
The focus in my business has always been about helping people to be the best versions of themselves and living their best lives, however you helped me to narrow down what I really do. I’m really about helping people to be happy. This was a very important point for me as it is the underlying message of everything I do in my business.
You asked me a question of ‘What’s my thing’; what’s the ‘thing’ that represents me'. I pondered over this for a while because I wasn’t really sure, but after a bit of probing from you, I was able to crystallise that my ‘thing’ is being at the beach and being in the sun. This formed the basis for imagery for my website and marketing material and still does – I always look for fun, beachy images where appropriate.
Another big thing that came out of working with you was the name for my monthly women’s meet ups. As I hadn’t started the groups when we were working together, I was confused about how to market them. I knew what I wanted them to be but not sure how to create the right messaging around them.
You came up with the name ‘Happiness Hive’ which is absolutely perfect. I have been running these groups once a month for 12 months in June. This group is all about inspiration, motivation, education and having fun. I get 20-30 women attending each month and they lovingly refer to themselves as ‘Happy Hivers’ or just ‘Hivers’. I love this. We discuss a different topic each month and have different guest speakers. There is a core group of women attending with newbies each month. We have created an awesome place that has a really ‘buzzing’ vibe! It really is even better than I originally imagined.
The Happiness Hive isn’t a money-making venture for me (it actually ends up costing me money), however it is an awesome platform to promote myself and what I do. I have gained new coaching clients as a result of running HH. This really is a passion project for me and is leading to opportunities for my business. I have set up a Happiness Hive Facebook group where I mirror the monthly topics and interact with the group. A bit of a tricky thing is that the meet-ups are in Canberra, however people in the HH fb group are from all around Australia and the world. I try to make sure I cater for these differences, so people don’t feel left out if they can’t attend the meet up.
I have Trademarked ‘Happiness Hive’ so no one else in Australia can use that term – I own it!
Did the new brand identity help grow your business?
To a certain degree. One of the main things has been the Happiness Hive, which helps me market my services and which has brought in new coaching clients.
I am also setting up a ‘Happiness 4 Humanity’ program – personal transformation programs that I will be running in a little village in Cambodia in 2020, with participants from anywhere in the world. The programs will be multi-faceted: participants attending the programs will make profound and lasting changes in themselves and their lives and we will also contribute to the lives of women living in impoverished communities.
Another thing I plan on doing this year is setting up ‘Your One Life, Happiness Foundation’ where a percentage of all sales from my business will be donated. The Foundation will then give back to women in the way of providing scholarships, resources, and support to help them on their path to happiness and being the best version of themselves.
And hopefully this year I will also set up ‘The Happiness Hive Membership Lounge’ – this will be a premier membership program designed to support women experience happiness and success in every area of their lives.
These initiatives were there before I worked with you last year, however you helped me get the clarity about what to call them and how they fit together. As you can see ‘Happiness’ is the key theme that runs through my business initiatives. And now that I have clarity, it frees up my mind to get on and do stuff, instead of feeling overwhelmed how it is all going to fit together.
Did it change the way you felt about your business?
Yes! Having ‘Happiness’ as the core of everything I do in my business, has helped me to emulate this core message in everything I do – in my business and in my personal life. To be completely honest, it feels perfect. My business felt great before, but now it feels really great!
Having clarity about my core messaging has also helped me to think about my personal brand and do I match the ‘happiness’ vibe. I think I do!
How did people respond to your new look and the new services you were offering - particularly the meet ups that you wanted to hold?
People love it. I am focussing on working with women and that’s what my brand says. I chose to go with a bit of a retro, relaxed, friendly, upbeat theme for my website and marketing material. I get comments because people are recognising the brand. I think the imagery is fun, playful and friendly, which is what me and my business are about.
Women love, love, love the Happiness Hive. I’m getting 20-30 women there each month and I’m in two minds about whether to try and grow it or leave it at this size. I think I might try and get about 40 women there. If it get’s too big, it starts becoming something that I’m not sure I want it to be. There are lots of other opportunities to cater for larger group sizes.
What other new things have you implemented in your business since?
I have finalised my DIY program. I had the content developed before we started working together, however after the key messaging of ‘Happiness’, I called the program ‘Find Your Happy’. I also had a freebie resource which I referred to as the Life Wheel – I’ve changed the name to ‘Happiness Checker’.
I’ve run a free online program called Happiness Seven: 7 days to a happy, new you (the fastest and easiest way to being happy and loving life!). I’ve also run ‘Happy New You: Making 2018 your best year yet!
As part of my Happiness Hive fb group, I run regular fb live sessions which are based on the topic of the month.
What plans or ambitions do you have for it moving forward?
To expand the reach of my business including Happiness Hive and look for opportunities of collaborating with other women locally and online.
As my reach with Happiness Hive is reasonably strong, I am going to start introducing workshops and seminars that build on our monthly topics. I will continue to use HH as a platform for marketing my other products and services.
I’ll be introducing the membership lounge, Happiness Foundation and Happiness 4 Humanity programs over the next 12-24 months.
Any final thoughts?
Thanks again for helping me gain clarity in my business. It really set the foundation of what I’m about and has allowed me to move forward instead of feeling stuck and overwhelmed. Your work helped tie everything together and has freed me up to enhance what I do. I’ve definitely got the confidence now to promote my business, which I was a bit nervous about before we started working together. Thank you.
I just want to congratulate Catherine on doing so many brilliant things with her business. How inspiring to see someone take an idea and grow it into something that makes other women - and herself - happy. Love it!
If you could benefit from Catherine's services, do check out her links or join her Happiness Hive on Facebook.
Catherine's Facebook page
Catherine's Happiness Hive Group on Facebook
I'm taking this moment to reflect on what has been a big week and to celebrate virtually. And in the process, hopefully inspire you with the message that you can do anything if you simply start.
When you work in a big organisation and you roll out a major initiative, there are celebratory beers in the boardroom or at the least, a round of backslapping to say: we did it. When you work on your own, you don't have that. You can work your socks off and do something huge and you turn to high five someone and find yourself left hanging. So I'm going to share my week here to give myself a virtual high five.
Back in January 2017, I set up a Facebook group for women who like walking - Glamoraks. I had no idea what I wanted it to be, but I knew that walking made me happy, and perhaps I could help make other women happy through walking. I spent the last year doing a lot to turn that fledgling idea into a potential business. You can read about that here.
This week I took a major step. I moved my Facebook group into a new home - a community network exclusive to us. Doing this was a terrifying move. I had no idea whether people would move. I had spent a year growing my Facebook group to over a thousand members and now I was going to throw a hand grenade into the mix and say: We're off!
The other bit that was terrifying was how fast this happened once I just got started. In January 2018 I spoke to some app developers about creating an app for Glamoraks. I wanted to find a way to help women find other women to go walking, hiking and adventuring with.
After getting some eye-watering estimates, I started googling: how to create an app without being a coder. I found someone who wanted to charge 4 figures who would teach you how to do this. I didn't have four figures in spare cash lying around. But that person mentioned the name of a network in passing. I googled that network - Mighty Networks - and began to investigate it. On 1 February I created the Glamoraks network on Mighty Networks. At the same time, I gave a brief to a graphic designer to create a logo and branding so that it looked more professional. On 12 February I had an intro call with one of the Mighty Networks team to find out how I should be using it.
I created the rough framework of my network and invited 10 people from the Facebook group to try it. I then tried to figure out how to use the network myself. We all learned together.
That same week I attended a weekend-long business planning course to try get clarity on what this group could be. I left still not entirely clear as it was such an unusual business model but I put a potential launch date for my new network for the beginning of June.
I started to see how people were using the network, what worked and what didn't. I invited more people in to try it out. On 27 February I discovered an absolutely jaw-droppingly amazing course from Tara Gentile who runs a Mighty Network who explained how to create a community. I devoured all 32 modules of the course in less than a week, creating my plan as I worked through each module. Having done the course, I had my aha moment. I could see how I could take a free Facebook group and turn it into a paid membership group if I just used the right strategy. (Here's hoping it's the right one....the proof will be in the pudding in a few months time).
In between all of this, I took on new and serviced existing Campfire clients, including some pretty big web copy writing projects. And my husband has been abroad for most of this period, which meant the parenting and household duties were exclusively mine.
The week commencing 12 March, I realised that I could make this launch happen much faster if I just knuckled down and created all the onboarding materials. So that's what I did. In two days I had written every policy document and created a heap of How To guides for the group. I rebuilt my website, complete with new branding, and updated all of my social media content to reflect the new branding.
I set a date for the go live launch - Tuesday 20 March. I sent out an email to my newsletter subscribers and posted in the Facebook group. Then I had to try figure out how to create a Facebook live that let me share my screen (Belive.tv in case you're wondering) - I literally did this the day the event was due to happen. I created the content I needed to share, practiced and then did it.
I ran my live Facebook event explaining why we were moving off Facebook, where we were moving to and gave them a tour of the new network. I told them they had until 13 April to move and they would get free lifetime access. Thereafter the payment plans would kick in. My reason for this: I wanted to thank my original members for sticking with me as the group changed and grew. But I also need a critical mass of people to make the network effective. Equally I need to make money from it to cover costs and frankly, to pay myself for the time I've invested in creating this. So by making it free to start with, I would get the numbers in, which means once the paywall starts, people would see that there is an active group rather than tumbleweeds - and would be more willing to pay to join.
I shared the link on several relevant Facebook groups and used other social media to drive awareness.
In 48 hours the group has grown from the 140 initial users who had been dabbling with it, to 515 at last count (it's gone up by 3 in the time I've written this post). Given it took me a year to grow the Facebook group to 1000 and it's taken just 48 hours to get to half that, I am really happy. And the comments from the people in the group make me happier still. And the fact that they are coming from all over the world is even better.
I know that this is the easy bit. There is so much more work to do to retain them, engage them, to manage to grow that number and more importantly, manage to grow it once there is a monthly fee. I need to create branded merchandise and connect with outdoor brands to get sponsorship, advertising and discounts. I need to set up an entire calendar of member events and run member interviews. I need to create my marketing plan. And I still need to finalise my legal policies. It is a gargantuan amount of work and frankly it's terrifying. The little voice of fear keeps popping up to say: who are you to do this? It's going to fail. You went too fast. You weren't ready.
But if you wait until you are ready, you will never, ever start. Like ever. You need to learn as you go. It is the best way to learn. Evolve it and change it and adapt it if necessary, but just start.
If I think about the fact that it's been just over a year since I set up the free Facebook group with nothing more than an idea. And it's been not quite two months since I discovered this new platform, the fact that it is live and has over 500 members in it who are chatting and communicating.... well that looks like success to me. My inner critic wants to rain on my parade and without any team members to say: 'Hell yeah, we did it!' it can be easy to listen to it. But I'm not going to.
I am taking this moment, right here, right now, to say: Hell yeah, you did it!
What comes hereafter is a challenge for another day.
Thanks for listening and being my virtual high five. And if you are currently sitting with an idea but aren't sure how to make it happen. Just start. The rest will follow.
If you would like to see the fruits of my endeavours, go to www.glamoraks.com and if you are a women who likes walking, please join. I would love it if you could share the link with anyone you know so that I can rapidly grow the group before the 13 April deadline.
This is a post dedicated to women.
This is for you: Never underestimate all you do and all that you are. You are so much more powerful than you realise. Without you the world would genuinely be a less lovely place.
I support #MeToo and #TimesUp and #PressforProgress. But I'd like to add: #IamIncredible. Go on - say it out loud. Because you are.
Happy women's day 2018.
At 65 years of age, Colonel Sanders received his first social security cheque of $99. He was broke, owned a small house and a beat up car. He made a decision that things had to change. His friends used to like his chicken recipe very much. The fact that this was the only novel idea he had, he decided to act upon it.
He left Kentucky and started his travels to different US states to sell his idea. He would tell restaurant owners that he had a chicken recipe which people liked and he was ready to give it to them for free, in return for a small percentage on the items sold. He got rejections after rejections, but did not give up. In fact, he got over 1000 rejections.
He got 1009 NO’s before he got his first Yes. With that one success Colonel Hartland Sanders changed the eating habits of the whole world with Kentucky Fried Chicken, popularly known as KFC.
(This story comes care of yourstory.com)
It is National Storytelling Week. So my question to you is: what is your business story? By business story, I mean the reason your business exists, how you got started or why you got started. It's the storyline that underpins your brand and your mission.
Everyone has a reason why they started up their business. Some admittedly are more exciting than others. But even if you don't have a very exciting business back story, there are things you can do to transform it into something more memorable.
Before we get into how to come up with a good business story, let's look at why you even need one:
So how do you come up with a good business story? Answer these questions:
Why did you start your business?
Think beyond simply needing to make a living.
What was your background?
Imagine being at a dinner party and someone asks about your life.
Have you had to overcome something significant, experienced a tragedy or hit a major milestone?
Everyone loves a story about people who've hit rock bottom and had to climb there way back up. But you don't have to have hit rock bottom, you may just have had something happen that affected your status quo that led to you starting a business.
For example, an previous client of mine got the idea for her baby and toddler friendly travel company after her 2 year old fell into an unenclosed pool while they were on holiday.
Have you had a light bulb moment or chance opportunity?
Some of our best ideas happen when we're busy making other plans. For example, when I was weaning my baby, I decided to make baby food for a living. While researching the market, I came across a baby food company I'd not heard of. I got hold of them and suggested they could do a better job marketing to mums. They hired me. I went on to set up a PR business helping companies in the parenting sector. That became my business story.
Have you got a terrific customer story you can tell?
Perhaps your business started up because you had a client that you helped and off the back of that awesome work, you set up an entire business. Like I did, with the baby food company.
There are plenty of ways you can tell your story if you think creatively. But what if you just don't have a story?
Sometimes we start up businesses for two very simple reasons: it's what we can do and we need to earn a living. You don't have a brainwave. You don't overcome some tragedy. You don't have to overcome any insurmountable obstacles. In fact, let's make up a story based on the truth behind many small businesses:
Penny - in her 30s - had a nice, normal childhood growing up in the midlands. She had no major family issues and no health scares. She went to college and got a book keeping diploma. She began working at a local business in her home town. In her spare time, she cycled and enjoyed a glass of wine and a chat with her friends. She's just a friendly, bubbly person who is happy to help others. She met a nice bloke, got married and had kids. They're all fine too. Her husband earned a good salary as a manager at a local IT company. They realised that someone needed to be at home with the kids while they were little, and as her husband earned more, Penny decided to stay at home. She volunteered at the pre-school by acting as treasurer and did a little bit of book keeping work now and then for extra cash. She still cycled when she got the chance.
Once her kids go to school, she decides to set herself up as a freelance book keeper so that she can still be there for the kids when they get home but she can actually start to earn some money. She has a think about who might need her services and decides to target the small to mid-size businesses near her. Now she's stuck. She doesn't have a big vision. She doesn't really want to set fire to the world and create a bookkeeping empire. She doesn't have a burning desire to transform the bookkeeping world. She just wants a steady stream of paying customers. How does she market herself? How can she create compelling marketing based on her story? She has nothing to say that makes a good story. Right?
Here's what Penny might do:
How to craft the story
Once you have the nub of your story figured out, it's a case of sitting down and writing it.
No matter who you are, you can craft a story and a brand that reflects the true you and will attract your ideal clients. If you want help telling your story, get in touch. I offer a clarity and / or copywriting packages that will help you get to the heart of your story.
I'd love to hear your story. Share it in the comments below or over on the Campfire Club on Facebook.