It’s now autumn and in a couple of weeks the clocks go back – if only we could make the year go back!
Taking stock in a time of global pandemic:
We’ve had more sunshine from spring through summer than I can recall in a long time
I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with my garden and grown some delicious vegetables
Support for local sports such as non-league football will benefit the whole community.
I enjoyed every mouthful of eat out to help out
I savoured every moment of my brief trip to the seaside
Getting through this is more than finding a vaccine and retrieving familiar ground of life as we knew it before the pandemic. Surely it is by the care and help we give to others and the world we share? We all have a “Captain Tom” within us and want everything to be alright in the end. So be your own PR share your experiences and your aspirations – helps us all to move forward.
I’m using the same approach to my work and I’m grateful that it continues even if I’ve had to adapt and change. Fortunately I’m on more familiar ground here than with my vegetable plot!
Should I have blogging more over the last two months of lockdown? Too right! But the truth of the matter is I’ve been almost busier than ever living a life in the virtual world.
True for the first two weeks of #lockdown, when the world went into shock, it felt as if we’d all become demented Lady Macbeth’s – “What, will these hands ne’er be clean?” Of course it was not guilt over murder or any such foul deeds but to save mankind from the wretched Coronavirus 19.
“Wash your hands!” Such a simple message for a threat almost too big for us to take in and yet combined with imposed isolation it has been working. Though we know it’s not over.
I’d say that the “keep it simple” rule is a good one to use for your business message.
One brilliant example has been the work I’ve been doing for Alexia Genta launching Geraldine London on May 1 – an online business borne out of Lockdown. It specialises in unique and limited-edition headbands, upcycling beautiful materials from her core business Alexia Alterations, which has been forced to go on hold.
Customers are loving these beautiful hair accessories – a real lifesaver for many women struggling with #lockdownhair. However, what the likes leading UK news agency PA Media has been impressed with is that 20% of the sales is being donated to Women’s Aid to help their work for women victims of domestic abuse which has risen during lockdown.
If there is one lesson to take away from the changes imposed on us by COVID-19 is all our actions impact on the people and the world around us – and to protect ourselves, business like everything else must play its part. Business just for profit is not acceptable and not sustainable.
2020 brings the blessing of an extra day this month but,
really, I could do with an extra 30, which is why I’m writing my February blog
The reason – CREST20 (Corporate Responsibility for the Environment and a Sustainable Tomorrow 2020) Sustainable Business Awards, the exciting proposal I introduced to the @Woking_NewsMail around April last year. It not only captured the newspaper’s imagination and excitement, but has been widely received with enthusiasm. Most importantly, seeing the value of the venture, we have received the wholehearted support and collaboration from the University of Surrey’s Centre for Environment and #Sustainability, one of the UK’s internationally-acclaimed centre of academic excellence on sustainable development.
So, often withNews & Mail MD Terry Tidbury, the focus of the month has been gathering sponsorship and support.
On 4 February it took us to a fascinating symposium on sustainable business, organised by @SurreyHillsAONB with our awards partners @CES_Surrey . As a trademarked member of this group of rural businesses I touched base with a number of familiar faces and gave us the chance to share news on the awards.
In a whistle-stop round of meetings, the month brought sponsors: #SurreyCountyCouncil as Headline Sponsor, #ChambersRecycling as Sustainable Hero Sponsor, #PlanetWoking for Transforming Food and #WilliamLaceyGroup as sponsor for Sustainability Impact Award.
Despite the impact of two gale storms over two consecutive weekends that saw the UK shattered and flooded, the effects in the #Surrey area were minimal. Carol Miller Media still hosted a table in support of @wokingfc in its match against Stockport. Guests included BNI Woking colleagues (see picture left) Anne Woodward #ClarityHomesSolutions (centre) and Andy Beckett of #ABGM.
The month rounded off in the foothills of Box Hill for Surrey Hills annual awards presentation. The Gold Award was presented to Ian Jones of @LLLHillHouse for its dedication towards improving environmental sustainability, collaboration with other Surrey Hills businesses and supporting the area by improving the rural economy. Heart-warming to know that I had introduced Ian and his farm to @BBCSurrey back in September on the @NickyPatrick1 show.
2020 started like a rollercoaster ride and I have yet to take a break – which in part accounts for this late post.
Work of course has been full-on but it’s been all those extras that given it a wow-factor, culminating on January 25 with Carol Miller Media as Match Sponsor for the Woking Football Club‘s match against Yeovil Town in the Vanarama National League .It gave me the heavy responsibility of choosing Man of the Match: I know – I couldn’t believe it either! But OMG what a match! Woking, playing the Yeovil Town in the Vanarama National League, were in the best form they’d been in for ages. The 1 – 0 victory was thanks to a beaut of a goal from Shaun Donnellan but MotM had to go to Moussa Diarra, who was key in Woking’s superb defensive performance.
Being a member of the Business Development Committee for Woking Chamber of Commerce – another way of giving back to the community where my business is based in Woking, Surrey, it was great to see our first Woking Women In Business Conference take place on 23 January. Having the idea in motion, and worked on it for the last few months, it was exciting to see the response by local business women hosted by Barlow Robbins and a real keenness to keep the initiative going.
Another treat this month was meeting journalist Sue Llewellyn who ran an instagram course for business members of Surrey Hills Enterprises. Sue was brilliant, she didn’t waste time on the change-your-life blah-blah. The day at beautiful Great Tangley Manor was packed full of great advice lightened with a few funny anecdotes delivered in the way that only a good hack can!
By the end of the first week in December I knew that I would be the Christmas Pudding by the time the 25th arrived thanks to the seasonal round of festive dinners and social gatherings. That said, sharing food and drink with people is one of my favourite experiences.
So I was delighted to be invited to @Woking_NewsMail Christmas dinner at #CoteBrasserie in #Woking. Rounding off another year as its PR and Communications Consultant in addition to providing some editorial support. Helping this independent family-owned newspaper to see its sales rise by 20% over the last three years makes it one of my most rewarding clients and with exciting plans for #2020 – the best is yet to come!
This week started with one of my favourite events of the year – Christmas lunch at @stationerscomms in its beautiful guild hall. As a #Stationer and a #Freeman of the City of London, I relish being a member of an organisation that is over 600 years old and the connection to people across centuries of print, publishing and news. What’s more the food and wine was as always delicious! Great company around me too thanks to @Woking_NewsMail #TerryTidbury, @RobertWorcester, former editor of The Times #CharlieWilson and of course our Clerk #WilliamAlden.
The following evening brought a totally different gathering for some festive cheer with members of @SurreyHillsAONB. Though I’ve known members of Surrey Hills Enterprises team for some time now, I felt very privileged when this year I was invited to become a member and allowed the honour of carrying the Surrey Hills Trademark. I’m passionate about supporting sustainable farming and the role it has to play in our economy and lives – good PR for its stakeholders seems a no-brainer and fortunately I have found like minded thinkers among members such as #TimMetson of Coverwood Farm which recently launched @filletandbean.
Back from a long weekend in the New Forest, I was pleased at
the turnout for the first Woking Chamber of Commerce Woking Women in Work
events that I helped instigate.
Mindi McLean had agreed to be our guest speaker at the
breakfast meeting at The Talbot in Ripley and I can only imagine that our
guests were truly amazed at what a treat her insights were for them. Formerly a
successful broadcast journalist Mindi is the kind of woman who is full of
energy and inspiration and it’s no surprise that now that this American has
made her home in the pretty village of Ripley in the UK’s Surrey Hills she has
become a highly successful entrepreneur in property and hospitality.
So many good stories – why would you want to
confine the event to just women?! So we didn’t!
Trade food fairs can be hard work and they always involve
miles of walking as you investigate one after the next food or drink offering
at closely placed stands along numerous aisles. That said the Bellavita Expo at
the Camden Design Centre is one of the more relaxing events. More intimate, its
exhibitors bring a Mediteranean perspective. Somehow it sits very happily at
odds with the reserved interest of the English visitors to this event. Sharing
the experience with my longstanding client and fellow foodie Terry Tidbury, we
were able to indulge in some of our favourite treats and discover new ones.
I have to admit that donkey chocolate was not a great taste experience but we are still wondering who has the courage to milk the donkeys?
So much clatter about political and economic uncertainty – it’s
become almost like white noise. Businesses like mine are just trying to get
through it all and a week off in #Morocco at the start of #October was so good,
but it’s meant playing catch-up since I got back.
I jumped in at the deep end for @WokingMeansBiz on 16
October. Organised by @WokingChamber, I’m closely involved as a member of its #BusinessDevelopment
Committee and in addition my clients @Woking_NewsMail, is one of its media
The long day started with a @WokingCouncil breakfast briefing – rammed to capacity with local business community. For this I took up my reporter’s pad again to do a write-up for the paper on the keynote presentation by CEO #RayMorgan. This was followed by a full day on the newspaper’s expo stand. Great to be connecting with old and new businesses in the area but being in the hall the whole day that makes you a little stir crazy. It was so good to get a good dose of fresh air with @ScorpionTrainingBootCamp in the evening – painful though it was at times!
A vibrant rural economy
My passion for the #FieldToFork, or cup and glass continues from my years as Editor of @waitrose internal publication covering farming and all aspects relating to #supermarket stakeholders. So there was lots to chat about on Tuesday 22 October with new colleagues in @SurreyHillsEnt when I had a chance to showcase my business at a members’ evening @denbiesvineyard.
Listen and learn
There’s never a day that I don’t learn more – thank heavens!
So, on October 24th I was not disappointed when I turned up for a lunch briefing hosted by @roxhillmedia at the funky @WeWork location on Poultry St, #London. Thursday’s guest #RoxStar was #HelenDavies @TheSTHome #Editor who was really generous with her insight into the work and structure by #Home and #BricksAndMortar. A truly lovely down-to-earth person.
Sunday 1 September I was one of 15 from @ScorpionTrainingBootCamp
led by trainer @IanHarrison wading through over 100 obstacles of green mud in
@nustchallenge in the #SurreyHills countryside. That evening – battered bruised
and still a bit muddy despite a shower – I headed over to the studio at @BBCSurrey
to join Ian Jones @LLLHillHouse.
I had secured an interview for Ian with journalist/presenter @NickyPatrick1.
Together with his teenage son Dylan he gave a great insight on #FieldToFork and
the pork specialities he produces at his Dorking farm. It was a great showcase
for the #community in @SurreyHillsEnt.
2 September 2019
A day at @SpecialityFair @Olympia_London gave me a chance to meet new
food and drink producers and learn about new products reaching UK retailers. #Vegan-#Vegetarian
was the big story with options such as plant and nut based alternatives to
cream from Belgian #Pretexte, which was also one of the #freefrom solutions on
offer. @ShadiaAl_Hili was there with her vibrant family team for @cuzenabrand.
A joy to meet and their #Madamous dips, a Moroccan fava bean alternative to
houmous, were delicious – loved Fiery Chilli Fava Bean Dip!
Among other taste highlights was @Sisserourum rum and coconut
liqueur and amazing handpainted chocolate creations from sisters Yugna and
Deepa @thepaintedpeacockcompany, who I’ve come across before and who deserve a
lot more recognition. As a #chocoholic I also loved the fabulous ideas for
Christmas from @ChocolatChapon and who could resist a stocking filler such as
the cannabis flavour dark chocolate from #Mulaté – still I suggest a work in
progress on flavour but a great novelty and brilliant artwork.
14 September 2019
I thought I’d potter over to Denbies Wine Estate outside Dorking
to see what was on offer at the Surrey Hills Food Festival. It was a far cry
from the world offering at Olympia but disappointing in the limited number of
local producer stands.
That said a demo by @BeaverbrookH chef #TaijiMaruyama preparing #sushi and #sashimi was amazing with
plenty of valuable insights – that said the big take-home were the #edibleants
he used as a garnish which it turns out is more expensive than caviar!
16 September 2019
It was great to finally sit down for a chat with Danielle Bekker
of the #GoodLivingBrewCompany having bumped into her several events, including the
monthly market @RipleyFarmersM and just recently at @SpecialityFair.
Really hope she gets lots of support for her 0.5% option during @GoSoberUK as she’s offering to give a 10%
contribution to @macmillancancer throughout
the month. Both @BinaryBotanical the almost no alcohol and 4% beers are worth
trying – they’re described as a #beer for #winelovers or #prosecco beer – and
it’s all the above and more!
I can hardly believe that this incredibly talented woman lives in
the same village as me in #Woking. A veteran of the brewing industry she has
created a light refreshing beer that’s great with food, low in calories, is a
good alcohol strength for beer at 4% Vol, which of course is a lot less than
wine. Incredibly her 0.5% alternative is also very tasty! Though she only
launched 18 months ago she’s already available through @Ocado and
@HarveyNichols. Watch out for the feature I’m writing on her for our local
The first Saturday was a fabulous English summer’s day and perfect for BBQs but it made me appreciate how far I’ve come since setting my own business.
It can be a lonely experience starting up your own brand and even if you are prepared for the likelihood of ups and downs, it’s probably the ‘water cooler’ times with colleagues that you miss the most.
I’ve been fortunate that to have been able to work as a team with many of my clients but it’s my experience as a member of the @BNIWoking chapter that has given me the collegial experience: the downtime chats, the helpful advice and sometimes just the reassurance of shared experience in our weekly networking, 1-2-1s, training and social events.
As the Events and Social Coordinator I was delighted to bring the team together with their families and or partners at my place for a summer BBQ. A chance to have enjoy some silly competitiveness as well as reward winners of the summer games we had been running over the past few months just added to the fun and knowing we’re there for each other. Not so lonely after all!
Having been to my first football match EVER(!) in April this year, I guess you could say that I’m a #latestarter.
Certainly when @Wokingfc Manager Alan ‘Dowse’ Dowson suggested I go along to a match when we met through my clients @Woking_NewsMail, who sponsor the Woking FC, I thought it unlikely but if I did it would be out of courtesy. I say that because it’s been just over a year since Dowse has been managing #TheCards and he has completely transformed their fortunes. However, it’s probably the way he has given his support to the local community, personally and with his team, that has won respect in the local region.
So I find myself once more at the #LaithwaiteStadium, rooting for Woking. I’ve become totally hooked. I still have no idea what’s happening on the pitch some of the time but I am so into football! Today’s match at home against Solihull Moors was a 2-0 win and it was incredible. I can even see how the quality of the team has improved since my first visit. #COYC!
August is my birthday month which means lots of delicious meals that are made all the more appetising because I’ve shared them with the people I love.
As a #foodie, I’m a firmly believe that the best ingredient in food is good company and this month I indulged!
That said, a visit to @BeaverbrookHotel was a wonderful gift from my lovely daughter @pippa.millerjennings and son-in-law John. We had a perfect #summerlunch at #theGardenHouseRestaurant and the #incrediblecustomerservice was #considerate, #relaxed and #attentative.
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