Looking back over 2019 The Highs, The Lows and the Life Lessons Learned

Lets just say 2019 wasn’t one of the best I’ve had. I lost my beloved mum, it doesn’t get much worse really, but strangely, when I looked back over 2019 and really thought about all the things that happened over the year there were some really high points too. For this very reason, I’m so glad that I completed “Unravel Your Year” with Susannah Conway, which was recommended to me by my very wise friend Susan Earlam.

I’ve never been one to look back, always looking forward, trying to remain positive, but looking back can also very often be a positive experience too, so I found. If you think this is something you would benefit from, then I’ve added a link to Susannah’s free download above. There are also lots of goal planning workshops, exercises and downloads online if you feel as though you want this year to be the year for you. A highly recommended one is with Hannah Bullivant.

So the point of this blog is to share my little snippets of Life Advice. Grazia Life Advice is one of my favourite go to Podcasts for nuggets of inspiration from celebrities, writers and creatives. I love that it’s a relatively short podcast and is perfect for when you haven’t got an hour to spend listening to a more in-depth interview. It’s short but full of take aways that would work in your own life. So following a similar format, here are my 10 Life Advice tips and things I’ve learned as I’ve travelled through life and particularly last year.

  1. When you’re going through a bad period in your life and suffering from low self esteem, don’t be afraid to seek help. It doesn’t make you weak, it means you’re strong. There are lots of experts out there that can equip you with the tools you need to move forward. From seeking out self Esteem coaches such as Sas petherick who I worked with during a one day course and later an online Compass course and Lucy Sheridan who is like an instant tonic on her IGTV stories. Both are experts in their field and are very relatable. Some holistic remedies that I’ve found really helpful, are acupuncture and reiki Healing, both known for realigning you and boosting your energy flow. If you are suffering from stress and anxiety then the daily practice of meditation definitely works to make your brain more positive than negative. It’s been scientifically proved, that regular meditation works to increase positive thoughts and I know when I listen to Headspace App on a regular basis, the dark clouds start to shift and I start to feel more energised and positive.
  2. Try new things that you are scared of, they are never as bad as you think they are going to be. You might even surprise yourself and enjoy it? It’s so easy to feel that everyone is judging us and waiting for us to fuck up, but in all honesty most people want you to succeed and they are far too busy, most of the time, thinking about themselves and their own goals. At the end of 2018 I finally accepted my first workshop presentation, after turning down many other offers. I was pretty terrified. Was I going to be teaching people how to suck eggs? was I going to seem unprofessional? would I bring any value to the day? All of these things that most of us think, are usually unfounded. The day was a great success, I got lots of positive feedback and more importantly, I loved it. I have since done another one this year and am hoping that this is now another service I can add to my skill set.

One of the shots from this years ” styling your Christmas Table” part of the workshop run by photographer Jane Burkinshaw with a delicious lunch cooked by Nikki Hill

3. Getting a project off the ground is all about preparation. Don’t rush to get something half baked off the ground, but equally don’t procrastinate too much about the smaller details. Done is better than perfect and ideas evolve over time. Late last year I started a new online antiques business @Theoldpotatostore It still needs branding, a website, professional photography for the website, but over the last year it’s grown more than I could have hoped for and I’ve had a really successful year.

Inside my little building that is Potato Store HQ

4. Network and engage and don’t be afraid to ask for favours. When I first trained as an Interior Designer and was finding my feet working for free for interior designers and architects, I was told by somebody, to never underestimate the power of networking and they were so right. You don’t have to go to networking events anymore, you can do it from the comfort of your own home, through your phone by just engaging and being present on apps like Instagram and Twitter. It’s amazing the relationships that can be made this way. This year I was asked to assist a very well respected and prolific London stylist on a shoot, for a client I had always wanted to work for and that all came about through our regular online conversations on Instagram.

One of the shots I worked on with Sally for Little Greene Paint Company

5. Don’t feel you have to say yes to every opportunity to grow your online presence or your business. Turning down invites, unpaid blog posts or free gifts or experiences, that don’t fit with your own personal style, is the right thing to do. Your followers will instantly recognise anything that’s inauthentic and you could lose more than you would gain by it. If it’s not a product or a subject that you would normally promote, don’t do it. It just devalues you in the long run.

6. Put yourself and your work out there. It’s what creatives call pitching, they all do it and there’s nothing wrong with it. If you don’t have a huge social media following or a website, then it’s going to be very hard for anybody to find you. The arena is overflowing with talent so unless you pitch yourself in that arena, nobody will know about you or your talents. You could be the perfect fit for a particular brand and although you don’t have a large follower number, if your engagement with your followers is strong, that’s got to have more value surely. So share your work on social platforms through posts, stories and IGTV if it doesn’t make you uncomfortable and contact brands you would love to work with if you have a great idea.

7. Be consistent with your projects. If you write a blog, post on Instagram, have an online business, be present as much as you can be. Keep flexing that muscle and it will get stronger. It’s amazing how quickly you can lose an invested audience if you don’t show up for too long.

8. Don’t underestimate the power of a good lipstick and haircut to lift your spirits. As the great Iris Apfel says, colour can raise the dead. It’s always money well spent and both can elevate a very simple outfit from the ordinary to the super stylish. Brittany Bathgate has a great IGTV video on 4 of the best red lipsticks.

9. There’s aways more than one way to skin a cat. If you want to go to a monthly book club but there isn’t one in your area, start one. If you want a get together with your friends, but it’s January and everyone is skint, invite them to yours for a gathering and ask everyone to bring one course to share the cost.If you want to create a more inspirational shoot than you often get the chance to do with your clients, call upon colleagues to create your own. I did this, earlier this year, with a bunch of friends and having a team to help it all come together, made it easy and fun and the outcome was something we were all really proud of, plus we ended up with some lovely new shots for our portfolios. Make life a co-operative and things will be easier to achieve.

One of the shots we art directed and created for 91magazine with Kirsty Saxon, Si Thompson, Kate Astbury Parkinson and Kathryn Taylor

10. Don’t let age be a barrier to anything. My mum always used to say that she knew many old people that were young and many young people that were old and as I travel through my life, I realise that is one of the truest things I’ve learnt. Age shouldn’t be a consideration or an excuse to hold you back from doing anything. If you want to wear something because it makes your heart sing, do it, if you want to dye your hair pink, then do it, if you want to retrain to be a graphic designer or potter or anything but feel that that boat has sailed you’re wrong. Get on that course now! If you want to listen to my story about how I retrained, at 42, to do the career I now do as a designer, then you can listen to me and Lauren O’sullivan chatting on her Podcast “Beyond The Stories” Oh recording a podcast was another first for me by the way and another thing I was terrified of but loved it and want to do it all again! Feel the fear and do it anyway!

Happy 2020 to you all. May you all be fearless and have your most successful year to date!

Why I Decided To Start A Side Hustle Business

Some of you that follow me on Instagram might have noticed that about 8 months ago I started a new online business, selling rustic salvaged and reclaimed homewares and props for photography.

I’ve had lots of questions from followers and friends and family asking if this is now my new career, was I giving up my styling work, was my new business @Theoldpotatostore going to be a bricks and mortar shop and open to the public and why the name, The Old Potato Store?

So as I’ve not written a blog post for 6 months, shame on me I know, and it is something I feel strongly that I want to continue with, after listening to my friend @susanearlem speak about the future of blogging at Altrincham Word Fest, I thought writing about the journey of @Theoldpotatostore would be an interesting blog post to kick start me and answer some of those questions?

So it all started around 6 years ago when my friend Jenny, an upholsterer was looking for premises to move her business to. Somewhere she could work from, uninterrupted away from her home life, and provide a showroom for her clients to meet her, look at her work and discuss their projects.

Jen had an allotment and through talking to the treasurer of The Allotment society, she discovered that they were selling one of their premises which they had owned since the turn of the last Century. Jen came to see me and asked if I was interested in buying it with her, which of course I wasn’t, but to humour her and not drown her spirits, I went to view it and was immediately smitten by it’s charm. The single storey brick building, with original flagstone floor and two separate entrance doors, was perfect for carving up into two separate buildings, and was also a steal and almost too good not to buy. Jen had also been told we could have first dibs on it and it would be ours if we offered the asking price, which of course we did the very next day.

As a busy working stylist, I had no immediate use for my half of the building so for the last 5 years I’ve rented it out, but in October last year my tenant gave me notice and I took the keys back. Now I could have easily got a new tenant, the building is in the heart of a thriving town, down a quiet street and is as I’ve already mentioned, full of character, but over the years I’d often thought about using it for something of my own.

I knew working in the creative industries, as a freelance stylist is often feast or famine. Many job offers come in together and you can of course only accept one and then there might not be anything else for 2 weeks, a bit like waiting for a bus, all or nothing. After reading Emma Gannons book, “The Multi Hyphen Method” Emma confirms that through the internet and our phones we are now able to work from anywhere, any time and because of this it allows us to have multiple streams of income. I realised after reading Emmas book, that I could start a side hustle business very easily, with very little overheads, as I owned the building and I could work on my own terms, as and when I wasn’t working on photo shoots or TV commercials. Starting a new business, no longer needed to be an all in situation!

The name of the business came quite quickly. The allotment society had used the building to store seeds and bulbs and once a week opened it for purchases such as potato plants. The Old Potato Store, was a nostalgic reminder of the previous life of this little old building.

The nature of the business, selling rustic decorative home wares was also an easy decision. Since getting married almost 30 years ago, myself and Mr B have been buying antiques and attending antique markets all over the country and Europe and our home is full of unique and individual items. As a stylist a large part of my work is taken up with shopping and often for interesting and unusual items for shoots. I didn’t want to set up a props hire business as I know this is demanding and requires a lot of admin, something I was glad to leave behind from my previous job as an underwriter. I’d had a small vintage shop years ago, which I wrote about here and used to sell vintage clothes and textiles when my children were little, so I knew a lot of dealers and also knew I had a good eye for a decorative item. I could style a shot and take a decent enough photograph, who can’t these days to be honest, so the idea for a virtual pop up store was born.

It’s been perfect timing in many ways. Since November my elderly mum has become ill and needs more of my time and care and it’s allowed me to step back a little from long hours working all over the country on shoots and taken the pressure off a little, whilst still allowing me to earn money for the family pot. Going to my little building, listening to a podcast with a coffee and styling and photographing my found treasures has been so satisfying and almost like therapy. The calmness of the building with it’s thick brick walls and gentle light has been described by a friend as almost church like and no matter whats going on in my life, it all seems to melt away for an hour or two when i’m in there.

The thrill of seeing everything being snapped up and going to a new home and then seeing the customers posting their purchases on their instagram accounts, styled up by them, always brings a smile to my face.

I’m hoping eventually, as the business grows, to build a website so that I can shopify my posts and hope to one day open The Old Potato Store as a physical shop with enough charm and style to be able to offer it for hire as a workshop space for other creatives. It’s a big dream, but I believe in dreaming big.

If there’s anything similarly rustic that you’d like me to try and source for you, please send me a message and follow my page for constantly changing stock. Thanks for getting on board and supporting me so far x