March has been such a strange month hasn't it? Sunshine then snow, then rain along with biting winds. It seems that every time I get a summer dress out, the forecast changes and I put my Saltwater sandals back in the box. Let's be optimistic and ignore any reports of the return of the snow in time for Easter! Bring on the blossom please!
Here is a bright and sunny collection of gifts from our talented directory makers to remind you of sunny days, blue skys and flowers in the garden...
Flower pot cake by Lolo's Cake Away.
Braided fabric knot ring by p&d designs. £14 plus postage.
Foldover mini clutch bag by Lynda Shell Textiles.
Organic clouds romper by Zac & Bella. £23 plus postage.
Floral collection from Seascape Curiosities.
Personalised icecream notebook by oh! Susannah. £5 plus postage.
Blue and mustard leather messenger bag by Pocket Pirate. £320.
The garden may be covered in a blanket of snow but green is very much the colour of the weekend with St Patrick's Day celebrations yesterday and the Irish rugby team's spectacular Six Nations win.
So I have put together a green gifts wishlist to showcase the brilliant work of our directory makers.
Grab a cup of tea and have a browse. It's good to be green!
Green Russian Dolls pin cushion by Stitch City, £4.50
Sterling silver and Liberty print friendship bracelet by Lou Gray Jewellery. £15 plus postage.
Follow your dreams ceramic dish by Love & Lovelier. £14 plus postage.
Flora Clutch Olive Green by Seascape Curiosities, £42 plus postage
Hammered 9ct gold ring with gorgeous chrome-green tourmaline by Lydia Niziblian Jewellery, £245 plus postage.
Kids cute A5 drawing pad by oh! Susannah. £5 and shipping.
Green stars harem leggings by Zac and Bella. £15.50 plus postage.
Lime, turquoise and orange braided necklace by p& d designs. £24.95 plus postage.
Pink & green French macarons by Majestic Macarons. Price per quantity.
Since creating Little Otter Events back in 2013, I have met some amazing talented people many of whom have now become friends. One regular face at our events who has been a huge support to me over the years, is the very lovely Melanie Constantinou of baked by Mel.
Mel set up her own small business baking from home and was asked to talk about her journey and share some of her advice as part of an International Women's Day celebration last week, hosted by Her Worship the Mayor of The Vale of Glamorgan Councillor Janice Charles, organised by Julie Brown PA to the Mayor.
I caught up with Mel to find out a bit more about the day and how she got involved...
What did you talk about Mel?
I spoke about starting a small business from home and how/why I had come to that decision. I started baking as a business as a single parent to two small boys living on Machen mountain, outside Caerphilly. After many wanderings and living in various places, here I came, to settle in Wales…though with my family, all in Essex…it was tricky to fit in working hours and I struggled to imagine how I would return to teaching. Keen to improve our circumstances, I realised a home-based business would suit us perfectly. Naturally (very )…I turned to cake!!
I was specifically asked to speak about non-aggressive networking too and I gave out some of my tips. It was an honour to be invited and spend time in the company of so many inspirational women including:
International Women's Day...
Started by the Suffragettes in the early 1900's, the first International Women's Day was celebrated in 1911. International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
This celebration held in Barry was part of the #pressforprogress campaign which is the campaign theme of International Women's Day this year which kicks off on March 8 every year. The IWD campaign theme provides a unified direction to guide and galvanize collective action. The campaign theme does not end on International Women's Day. It's just the start. Throughout the year many groups worldwide adopt the IWD campaign theme for further campaign work, gender-focused initiatives, continuing activity and events.
A huge well done to Mel for speaking in public which is always a nerve racking occasion! To find out more about Mel and her work, please visit her page on the Little Otter Events directory. To find out more about IWD campaign #pressforprogress, visit their website.
Happy Mothers' Day to all the wonderful women out there doing the hardest job in the world. You are all superheros.
Since I became a mother back in 2007, I have been on such a journey. There have been many amazing, wonderful times and my daughters fill my life with so much joy. But there have also been some really difficult and hard times when I have wondered if I am up to the job.
But then the clouds lift, the phase passes (there is always a phase!) and I remember the best piece of advice that I have ever been given by a midwife - to be kind to myself.
I saw someone on Instagram recently talking about how it is ok to be a "good enough parent" - there is so much pressure on women to have it all and do it all, to lead a 'perfect' life, juggling a successful career and a happy home life. And social media can make you feel like a failure and that you are not coping or achieving when everyone else is. But the truth is, there is nothing wrong with being "good enough".
As long as children are loved, fed and cared for, they will not remember the school kits that you forgot to pack, or the welsh cakes you forgot to buy for the school eisteddfod. I drop so many balls each month and my house is always messy (I blame my creative streak) but my kids are so loved and happy that I really need to stop feeling guilty about the things that I don't remember to do.
After all nobody looks back on their life and wishes that their Mum spent more time dusting when they were young! Kids just want your time. And I plan to treasure every moment I have with my two, even when the times get tough. So the duster can stay in the cupboard today, the hoovering can wait and we are off to visit my Mum.
Have a lovely Mothers' Day and be proud to be good enough.
If you came along to our Christmas markets in Rhiwbina and Penarth last year, you would have been lucky enough to see the work of Hayley McGhan of Zac & Bella. Barrybased, Hayley designs and makes a range of beautiful clothing and accessories for children & adults and her hard work was recently recognised by Dragons Den Judge, Theo Paphitis at his Small Business Sunday (#SBS) awards.
I caught up with Hayley to find out more about her award and the ceremony she recently attended in Birmingham....
How did you become a #SBS winner? What did you have to do?
I became an #SBS winner on May 22nd 2017. Every Sunday, Theo rewards small businesses that tweet him @TheoPaphitis and describe their businesses in one tweet including the all-important hashtag #SBS. Only tweets made in the time slot between 5.00 PM and 7.30 PM each Sunday count. I had entered for quite a few weeks & the tweet that won for me was a very simple description of my business with some really eye catching photography of my products.
What does the award mean to you?
I was absolutely blown away to have won the award. At 8pm on the Monday when Theo retweeted my tweet my phone went crazy for 2 hours and then continued into the following week! Theo has over 500,000 followers therefore the exposure to such a huge audience was fantastic. I gained many new followers and still do as a result of the award. The biggest thing for me however was to have my business recognised by such a high profile successful business man. From all the businesses who apply each week, less than 1% are successful so it was huge recognition.
Any top tips to other small businesses hoping to win?
Keep trying! I entered every Sunday for quite a few weeks. Keep your tweet simple & punchy- Theo loves humour so adding a bit of personality also helps! And also some eye catching images will help your tweet stand out. You can also find tips from Theo’s website www.theopaphitis.com.
Where was the award ceremony held? How did you celebrate?
I was given my award during the #SBS event which is held annually at Birmingham ICC. The day was absolutely amazing as it was a huge networking event. I was able to meet other winners who I’d built up a relationship with over Twitter & we even swapped products to advertise for each other. There were guest speakers at the event including AO.coms John Roberts who was so inspiring & the support you felt for small business to be successful was overwhelming. The sponsors of the event including Ryman stationary, iLaw, hp, Robert Dyas and DHL were holding meet the expert sessions - the free advice & knowledge I got was invaluable. The highlight of the event was obviously meeting Theo himself and receiving my award. And for the journey home we had the best goody bag!
What was Theo like?!
Theo was brilliant! He was very down to earth & so inspiring. His talk about small businesses being the backbone of Great Britain left me feeling as though my business is good enough and you don’t have to be a huge international retailer to be successful. Meeting him for an official photograph was great, I took along some Zac & Bella new lines which he had a good look at and he was very sincere in congratulating me - I can’t wait for next years event already!
A huge congratulations to Hayley on her award! To find out more about Hayley and the Zac & Bella range, visit her page on the Little Otter Events directory.
April Liddell. Founder of Little Otter Markets. Lives a crafty life. Loves going for walks with her dog Betsi, listening to music, and eating chelsea buns.