Categories
Inspirational Interviews

Interview with Jo Coombs & Robert Papworth from the New Selling Platform Made By Mums

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jo Coombs & Robert Papworth the owners and founders of ‘Made By Mums’ which is a new marketplace for mums, dads and carers. It is a platform that was made by parents for parents. It is set up to help parents sell their creations and support their families while doing so. 

I am a big supporter of small business so was excited to do this interview and find out more about Jo & Robert and how Made By Mums can help small business owners sell their products. 

Made By Mums is filled full of amazing, unique gifts and the mantra for the site is ‘handmade for every occasion’ which it certainly provides.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourselves?

Jo: We’re Jo and Robert, co-founders of Made By Mums, living on the currently-not-so sunny island of Jersey with our two daughters aged 6 and 3. We also have Penny, our little tortoise shell cat, who likes to photobomb when we’re trying to photograph my finished crochet projects! You may have seen her pop up on various posts.

Made By Mums is a handmade platform for mums and carers to sell their creations online, and for everyone else to find perfect and unique gifts for every occasion. I might have said that a few times, can you tell?

Robert: I spent about 2 minutes explaining what we’re doing to someone the other day, and after all that they just said “oh, Etsy for mums?”. So yeah, Etsy for mums…

Jo: But with lower costs!

Robert: Yeah there’s a bit more to it than I think. We’re a selling platform, but we want to do a lot more than that.

What inspired you to start up your selling platform Made By Mums?

Robert: It was a bit of an evolution, really. If you told us this is where we’d be today back when we originally started talking about it, I’m not sure we’d believe you to be honest!

Jo: It was me learning to crochet that started it all (laughs). I was having a few issues with my pregnancy and needed something to help me with my mental health. I wanted to make something for the baby, and learning a new skill was both challenging and rewarding. Just what I needed at the time. Then I discovered that there were so many different techniques, and I kept hooking things and discovering that there are so many gorgeous yarns and patterns…. And well..

Robert: Yes and that seems to justify the ‘yarn room’ we now have upstairs…

Jo: Oh totally! The idea started when I was looking to see if I could sell the items I was creating. I looked at various places but the costs were all too high, and things seemed needlessly complicated, so I just left it at that for a while. But Robert’s a web developer in his day job and mentioned that he could build me a website shop of my own.

So it started as an idea for a shop for me, and ended up being this massive project that’s taken on a life of its own. I love how just simple ideas can bloom like that!

What is your favourite part of your business?

Robert: Tough question! Well when our makers make a sale, on the email they get, it tells them part of the process is to do a happy order dance.

Jo: We *might* have done the odd dance ourselves when a sale comes through (embarrassing!). I love being able to help our makers – they put so much love and work into what they do – it’s just such an honour to help support it all. Especially because we know that the sales they make through us can help raise a little extra money for the day to day, always helpful.

Robert: It never gets old to be fair, it probably never will! We love all the positive comments we get on social media too. People can be so kind and it makes all the work ‘worth it’ when we know how much it’s appreciated. So thanks everybody!

What sort of things can we expect to find on ‘Made By Mums’?

Jo: Oooh, everything really. As long as it’s handmade, or the maker has put their own embellishment or spin on it, we’re happy for them to list it.

Even though we’ve probably got like 200 categories or something by now, every week someone seems to have something that doesn’t fit anywhere. So we’re always tinkering and adding more categories. It keeps us on our toes!

Robert: As well as the categories, we’ve got collections for everything we can think of. Easter gifts, birthdays, weddings… baby showers. There’s an amazing range of items on there, well over 1,500 I think. Whatever it’s for, I’m pretty sure you’ll find it on the website somewhere!

How do you help other small business owners?

Robert: We really wanted to offer fellow parents and carers a fun, friendly and inclusive way to sell their creations, and help support their families.

Jo: Emotionally as much as financially. I found adapting to life with our first little pickle a struggle, like many people do. So us being able to add to the emotional support and network available to new mums is definitely a big part of it.

Robert: Our reach is growing all the time and it’s amazing how much interaction we have now on a daily basis. On our Facebook page and elsewhere. Jo’s great at being able to hold multiple conversations at the same time. Rather her than me, I’d just get confused!

Over 200 makers have signed up since we started back in 2018, it definitely seems to be picking up fast this year as well. We’re pleased so many people are choosing to get involved, we used to like doing a little post on social media when a new person joined, now we have a separate ‘welcome Wednesday’ post to make sure everybody still gets a ‘hi’.

What plans do you have for the future?

Robert: Well there’s a list somewhere with about 10 billion things on it that we’d love to do. But with it being just the two of us, we always have to prioritise. I’ve recently been able to change my work to dedicate one full day a week to it, but it still feels like I have two full time jobs at the moment!

Jo: I’m a stay at home mum and our youngest started nursery this year. So I get a couple of hours to myself to catch up on website admin and chat to our makers on the issues of the day over on Facebook! Maybe do a little bit of hoovering before the monsters come back and mess it all up again.

Robert: We’re really trying to highlight our makers as much as possible, I think we’ll definitely try and do more of this if we can. We’re very proud of our ‘Maker Stories’ series, where each week we feature a different maker, who gives us a little bit of background on the inspirations behind their own small business.

Jo: They’re always such fab reads, it’s amazing how many new mummies seem to turn to crafting or pick it up again from their own childhood. It is very therapeutic! I also plan to catch up on sewing in all the ends on various blankets, and typing up some patterns that are currently scribbled down in my notebooks. We have lots of ideas for Made By Mums, but we’ll do one thing at a time, and do it well. We’re proud of what we’ve done so far and want to continue helping support other parents and carers through such a big life change. Oh, and have another cup of tea. There’s always time for another cuppa!

You can find Made By Mums on the following –

Made By Mums website – https://madebymums.co/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/madebymumsgifts/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/madebymumsgifts/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/madebymumsgifts

Why not take a look at my other posts with more inspirational people –

Interview with Best Selling Author and owner of Memory Zoo Katie Silverthorn

Interview with Cat at Cat Creation

Interview with children’s publisher Justin Davis

Lisa Norman shares her story of the premature birth of her son Neil

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.


Categories
Inspirational Interviews

Interview with award winning comedian Jarred Christmas and all about The Mighty Kids Beatbox Comedy Show

I had the opportunity to interview the brilliantly funny Jarred Christmas who is an award-winning comedian & star of CBBC’s ‘The Joke Machine’ and ‘The dog ate my homework’. 

New Zealand born star Jarred is a sought after headliner famed for his quick-witted spontaneity and improvisation skills, he is a regular at the Edinburgh festival and at comedy clubs around the globe. He was named ‘Best Compere’ at the 2016 Chortle awards scoping this award for the second time.

As well as children’s TV he has also featured on shows such as Never Mind the Buzcocks, Mock the week, Russel Howard’s good news, 8 out of 10 cats and has also taken part in Lets Dance for comic relief and Celebrity mastermind.

Jarrred has now teamed up with champion beatboxer Hobbit and together they have created The Mighty Kids Beatbox Comedy Show that they are performing together at theatres around the UK. 

The Interview

How did you first get into Comedy and at what age did you know you wanted to be a comedian?
I first started doing stand up comedy when I was 18 way back in 1998, but I guess my passion for getting people to laugh at me started when I was about 10 years old, when I started doing Theatre sports. Which is improv comedy like ‘who’s line is it anyway’. Where I grew up in Christchurch, New Zealand they had school competitions that I started doing comedy improvisation through my school years. 

What has been your career highlight so far?
Oh my gosh there has been so many. Just the other day myself and Hobbit did The Mighty Kids Beatbox Comedy Show at the Southbank centre and we sold out 2 shows in one day. That was incredible to perform in such an incredible and iconic building.

I also done stand up at Sydney Opera house, which was amazing and I did a televised gig with Steve Martin.

Those 3 things have been pretty incredible. 

Let’s talk about the Pot noodle Ads, as they look like they were a lot of fun. How did that come about?

Yeah they were heaps of fun. I just auditioned for them, I remember having to go in and perform material about my relationship with food. I had a routine about full English breakfast and I did that and they loved it. I got cast in the advert and amazingly the director was Taika Waititi who has just one an Oscar for the film JoJo Rabbit. I knew him from back in New Zealand as he started out as a comedian. Yeah we had a lot of fun on a lot of those pot noddle ads, I did it for 3 years, It was great. 

Which is your favourite of the Pot noddle ad that you stared in?
Oh I can’t choose they are all so good. I guess the high school musical one was a lot of fun. It was just fun learning dance routines and being paid for it I guess. 

The little black dress the Beyonce one that was a good one, Oh yes how could we forget. 

Do you enjoy playing the mean joke master in BBC’s ‘The Joke Machine’?

That came about because I did Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs panto at the New Wimbledon Theatre with Priscilla Presley and Warwick Davis and the producer of the Joke Machine was in the audience and really liked what I had done and knew that I was a stand up as well so got in contact with me. He asked me if I would be up for doing this creative show we have got and I thought it sounded like a huge amount of fun and it was. 

They filmed the kids telling the jokes then I sat in the studio for 5 days watching kids telling jokes ranging from awful ones to quite sublime and brilliant ones. Every now and then a joke would come up where I thought I have got to remember that one that was brilliant. 

Then other jokes came up where I was like not this joke again.

What advice would you give to people wanting to get into comedy?

Just get out and do it. It is the only way you are going to know if you are any good at it. I think a lot of people say it is something they really want to do but then they get to the end of their lives and they never did it. It is just a matter of finding out where you can perform and getting out and do it If you don’t like it at least you can say you tried. 

So you have kicked off your new tour The Mighty Kids Beatbox Comedy Show. I understand that you started this show off for adults. What made you decide to change it into a kids show?

When I first worked with Hobbit we were hosting a hiphop comedy night in central London. Where I got booked to host the show and he got booked as the house band and we didn’t know each other. We found that we were on stage for the whole time together and we had a laugh backstage so we thought let’s just mess around on stage. We ended up hosting that show together for a year and a half and when it finished we just thought let’s take what we have been doing here and make a late night mess around adult show of beatboxing and comedy and that went great.

We then both realised if we stopped swearing and being rude this could be a great family show. Also it coincided that my kids were a bit older and interested in what I was doing and wanted to go to comedy shows. So part of it was a desire to develop a show that my kids could go along to as well. 

I run ideas past my children and if they just stare at me blankly I know I need to go back to the drawing board. I think now they are so used to me running ideas past them they now go ‘yeah that’s a good one’ instead of laughing. 

Who is a tougher crowd Adults or Children and why? 

Well they are both tough for their own reasons and they are both brilliant for their own reasons too. I mean you are never going to get drunk heckles at a kids show, well I hope not. 

What you do get is absolute randomness and chaos you have no idea what they are going to come out with, no idea what they are going to do and that is hugely enjoyable. You are never going to get a straight answer out of a kid, they are going to throw constant curve balls at you. I love that aspect of kids shows and just the sheer enjoyment they have, adults can be a bit cynical at some times. 

We do still every now and then do an adult version of the show and it tends to break through cynicalism as it is just such a positive and enjoyable show that even the adults embrace the silliness of it. 

What can we expect to see in your new kids show The Mighty Kids beatbox comedy show?

What you can expect is a whole heap of fun, it is hugely interactive for kids and for parents. The beatboxing is insane, Hobbit is just amazingly talented. It is fascinating watching just how the kids are just enthralled by what he is doing. I bring the silliness and buffoonery and host the show and get the kids up and interacting and hobbit wows them with the beatboxing skills. On top of that he is funny as well. 

Is it a show that parents will enjoy as well? 

Parents love the show as well as the kids, because it started as an adult show we are aware of what is funny for the adults. Being a dad myself and going to shows with my kids I hate it when I walk out a bit bored so something that engages me to I am well up for it. It is more of a Ben & Holly than a Peppa Pig.

What have you got coming up next?

We are doing the tour and at the same time we are developing our new show to take up to the Edinburgh festival this year. We have also got a tour of New Zealand in May that we will be doing Auckland and Wellington and other smaller places around New Zealand so it will be a pretty busy six months for The Might Kids Beatbox comedy show. We are in talks to see if we can develop it into a TV show. 

I have got a podcast called Three Foreigners Walk into a Bar which is on Union Jack radio and then I am doing stand up all over the palace. Hobbit is doing beatbox shows all over the world with his group the Beatbox collective. 

To see The Mighty Kids Beatbox Comedy show you can order your tickets via the website www.mightykidsbeatboxcomedy.com

Why not take a look at my other posts with more inspirational people –

Interview with Best Selling Author and owner of Memory Zoo Katie Silverthorn

Interview with Cat at Cat Creation

Interview with children’s publisher Justin Davis

Lisa Norman shares her story of the premature birth of her son Neil

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.


Categories
Inspirational Interviews Mental health & Wellbeing

Body Image/ Body Confidence photo shoot with MIBA (Mum’s in Business Association) Somerset

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I recently took part in the MIBA Somerset body confidence photo shoot which was at the stunning Thorney Lakes campsite in Somerset.

I have to admit when Elsie the Coordinator for MIBA Somerset was looking for people to be part of the event I was not the first to volunteer. In fact I nearly didn’t go as I didn’t think I could do it.

A few years ago I hated having my picture taken and couldn’t even look at myself in a picture even looking in the mirror was hard work. Although I have come a long way since then I wasn’t quite sure I was ready to make the leap to being in a photo shoot especially not in my bikini and knowing that the picture would be all over Facebook for the world to see..

At first the date of the event was on a day I couldn’t make, so I was quite relieved that I had an excuse not to go..

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The date then changed to a date that I had nothing else going on so I could make it and didn’t have a valid excuse. I saw a couple of posts on The MIBA Somerset Facebook group asking people to join the event but I couldn’t bring myself to sign up. It was when I saw the last post the day before the event and there were a lot of comments saying people couldn’t make it. It was then that I thought I had to go as I know how much thought and effort Elsie puts into every event and I know she would have gone all out for this so I decided I would do it.

I am so glad that I did go, I have gained so much out of it. The event really has given me a boost of confidence, I don’t even wear bikinis at the beach so to be able to stand in front of a camera in one is a huge achievement.

Body confidence is such an important topic and as I have all daughters I need to show them that the pictures they see in magazines of women are not real life. It is time we taught the next generation what real women look like without the photo shopping and that they are still beautiful.

At the photo shoot I was joined by so many amazing women and together we spurred each other on and the results are amazing. We have shown that it is possible to have beautiful photos of real women without the airbrushing.

Our photographer OJL Photography was brilliant and along with Elsie’s creativity they have produced great photos to really highlight Body Confidence and show that the women that took part are beautiful just the way they are.

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I have put together a short video of the event, again I was so nervous recording myself talking that I didn’t think I would even have the confidence to post this video but after the photo shoot I feel that it is important to share and move out of my comfort zone.

Why not take a look at my other posts –

Love the skin your in

Why I turned Vegetarian and my journey on cutting out meat

Being a writer with Dyslexia

Art is good for the soul (even if you are not very good at it)

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

Categories
Inspirational Interviews

Interview with Award Winning Glass Engraver Steve Lee

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing the talented Steve Lee, an award winning glass engraver, cancer survivor and my wonderful big brother.

Steve Lee is owner of Emotive Glass where he offers glass engraved pieces, custom engraved designs and he has now set up courses to teach others this amazing art. I know I am biased but his work speaks for itself and truly is stunning, the detail that goes into every piece is just jaw dropping.

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Tells us a bit about you?

Always a tough question! I suppose I’d be best described as a cat loving glass artist. Always learning, always with more art in my head than I can ever hope to achieve in just one lifetime.

I love nature. My wife, Donna, and I moved from Kent to Cornwall to be able to do the ‘hippy thing’ and commune with nature at every possible opportunity. This is reflected in my engraving where I tend to concentrate more on animal portraiture than any other subject.

Can you explain what glass engraving is?

In essence it’s a very simple art form; just scratches and dots on glass. The scratches and dots are built up very faintly and in increasingly bold strokes they form images. The finer the scratches the more detailed the image can become. Light conducting through the glass and interacting with the scratches makes the engraving stand out.

The form of glass engraving I specialise in is called stipple engraving. In this, images are built up using just tiny dots. The dots are made by repeatedly tapping a single solitaire Diamond point against the glass. This method allows for an almost photo realistic end result. With a little practice.

That’s the technical explanation. The more elegant explanation was coined by one of the late, greats of glass engraving Sir Lawrence Whistler. He described glass engraving as “Painting with Light”.

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How did you get into it?

I used to paint on silk. I loved working very fine detail with single hair brushes. The subject matter didn’t matter to me as much as the painting process, the technical challenge.

I’m very lucky in that my mother is a very talented crafts person. She had seen some glass engraving and thought I might enjoy it as it is as much a technical skill as an art form. She suggested I try it and brought me a small hobby drill and some engraving burrs (Diamond dust coated engraving tools). I can’t say that I was overly enthusiastic but as she had gone to the trouble of buying me some kit I thought it best I at least give it a go. So I engraved a rose on the glass front of my painting light box. That was nearly 30 years ago and aside from a few years where I didn’t engrave at all It’s been a constant companion to me ever since.

What do you love the most about running your business Emotive Glass?

The challenge each new piece represents. I always try to take on pieces that I’m not 100% sure I have the skill to pull off. When not engraving for clients I’m engraving practice pieces. Portraits, eyeballs, anything that represents a technical challenge. This way I’m always learning and always striving to become a better engraver.

My ultimate goal is to achieve photorealism. One of the nicest compliments anyone ever paid me was delivered as a dismissal. I was showing some work at a craft exhibition and an elderly gentleman was looking at some pieces. Shortly his wife bustled up to him, quickly glanced at my work and said “Come away dear, they’re only photographs”. I didn’t stop smiling for days.

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Do you have a favourite piece you have engraved, if so what was it and why is it your favourite?

Every piece I engrave is my favourite whilst I’m engraving it. Each piece is a journey from planning to finished article and I love those journeys!

But to single out one piece? I suppose it would have to be an engraving of a Kingfisher. For many long winded and trivial reasons, I had not seriously engraved for a good few years. Perhaps I’d managed 3 pieces in as many years. I eventually decided I was being an idiot and should dive back into the art with gusto. I remember setting up my work space and picking the most complicated piece I could think of to start off with, a kingfisher coming out of the water. Given the water, light, feathers I genuinely thought I couldn’t engrave it, but it came off first time. From that moment on I didn’t stop and actively sought to ‘make a go of it’ rather than just engrave as a hobby.

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You recently went through a tough time health wise after finding out you had cancer, how is your health now and how does this affect your business?

It’s been a very strange few years. Prior to Christmas 2016 I was very fit and active enjoying fencing, walking silly distances and archery. Then I suffered a serious back injury which meant I could no longer fence, or walk very far, or use a bow.

Not quite a year on, I was just coming out from under that cloud and I got whacked with kidney cancer. Which, ironically, I coped with far better than I coped with the back injury. I was very lucky in that it was caught quickly, and the NHS were amazing. It was all over before I had an opportunity to start to worry!

Mercifully, glass engraving only requires you to use your hands and brain so none of my health issues had any impact on my engraving. If anything, having engraving there as a constant helped as it acted as a kind of refuge. A place to go to and just be with no thought other than the glass.

You have just started up courses to teach this amazing art. What can people attend a course except to see?

I adapt each lesson to the person so regardless of experience each student will finish their first day with a completed piece to take home: After running through the tools, equipment and safety aspects we’ll dive straight in with some basic techniques. As soon as the student is comfortable, we’ll move those techniques on and produce a piece either from the student’s own artwork or using one of a library of templates I’ll have available.

You don’t need any pre-existing skills to learn how to engrave glass. You don’t need to be able to draw or paint so don’t worry if you don’t have these skills. By the end of the day I’ll have you engraving like a pro!

What products do you offer through Emotive Glass?

I offer bespoke engraving services specialising in portraiture both animal and human. If you can supply me with a sufficiently detailed photograph, I can produce an engraving. Engravings can be on flat, free standing glass or vases, wine glasses, basically any glass of a decent quality with an engravable area.

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Other than bespoke work, at some point in the future I hope to be selling an engraving tool of my own design. I’ve prototype it and now use it as my primary engraving tool. As soon as development funds become available I’ll move this project on.

If you would like to buy any of Steve Lee’s products or attend one of his courses then take a look at his website http://emotiveglass.com/

You can also follow him on Facebook www.facebook.com/emotiveglass

Why not take a look at my other posts with more inspirational people –

Interview with Best Selling Author and owner of Memory Zoo Katie Silverthorn

Interview with Cat at Cat Creation

Interview with children’s publisher Justin Davis

Lisa Norman shares her story of the premature birth of her son Neil

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

Categories
Inspirational Interviews Product Reviews

Dementia Awareness Week – Cassandra Farren’s heartbreaking story ‘I’ve Lost My Mum’

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It is Dementia Awareness week and with over 850,000 people in the UK with dementia it is a topic that needs to be discussed more. With 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 getting dementia it is likely it could affect you or someone you love one day.

I remember when I was about 11/12 years old and I went to visit my great auntie in a care home. She was at the ripe old age of 90 and she kept telling us that her dad was coming along any minute to pick her up to take her for ice cream. I was baffled surely her dad couldn’t still be alive and if he was I am sure I would have meet him before. What confused me more was my dad went along with it. It wasn’t until we got outside my dad explained that when people have Dementia they revert back to the past believing they are still living in that time. I didn’t know my great auntie that well so I didn’t see the full devastating effects that Dementia has on a person and their family.

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To get more of an insight into the effects of dementia on both patient and family I have been reading Cassandra Farren’s heartbreaking new book ‘I’ve Lost My Mum’. Cassandra shares with us the devastating effects of how dementia affected her mum and how tough it was on her and her family. Her story is heartbreaking, she was so close to her mum that she truly had to dig deep to be able to stay strong while at times her mum didn’t even know who she was.   

We are always told that honesty is the best policy but for Cassandra she had to make the heart wrenching decision to tell her mum what she describes as ‘Love Lies’ to try and help her mum cope better in testing situations. Even though Cassandra knew that these love lies were beneficial for her mum’s welfare they took a lot of strength and courage to go through with.

This book is a very insightful read, it highlights what worked well in the care of her mum and what didn’t so if you have someone you know who is suffering from dementia reading Cassandra’s story will give you lots of great first hand advice.

You will however need to have tissues at the ready to be able to read this book as it is so raw and emotional you will not be able to read it with dry eyes.

You can purchase a copy of Cassandra’s book  I’ve Lost My Mum from Amazon

Why not take a look other inspirational interviews –

Interview with award winning glass engraver Steven Lee

Interview with Cat at Cat Creation

Interview with children’s publisher Justin Davis

Lisa Norman shares her story of the premature birth of her son Neil

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought

Categories
Inspirational Interviews

Interview with best selling Author and owner of Memory Zoo, Katie Silverthorne

I am honoured to be interviewing the inspirational Katie Silverthorne who is a best selling author and also the owner of a thriving business called Memory Zoo.

I have read Katie’s story a few times now from the bestselling book Mumpreneur on Fire 4 and every time I have read it I am blown away by how determined and positive she is in the face of suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. In spite of her health she has built up her business Memory Zoo where she turns old baby clothes or clothes from someone that has passed away in to beautiful handmade keepsakes. Her business has gone from strength to strength and she now employees 3 other seamstresses to help with the demand.

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Tell us a bit about you?

I am originally from London but now live outside Bristol. I am married with one child and a lovely big dog. I love to sew, knit, crochet, write and generally create anything and everything. The whole family is very creative, and we have a lot of fun making terrible messes!

I also love walking – especially in woodlands or up in the hills. I find it soothing, relaxing, stimulating and enlightening all at the same time. It’s complete nourishment for the soul.

What inspired you to start making Memory Bears?

Initially, I made a bear for my daughter when she was 1-years-old. I was folding away all her baby clothes and putting them into a box in the attic. I couldn’t bear to see them disappear forever and never be seen again, so I made a memory bear to remember her baby days.

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What is your favourite part of your business?

My favourite part is training my seamstresses – I am so incredibly proud of them and the work they do. They really are brilliant! I also love creating something for my customers that I know they are going to absolutely love. It’s such a thrill to see so many of the items I have made, so loved. I am particularly fond of the cushions that I make in honour of someone who has passed away – it’s such a privilege to be entrusted with something so special.

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How do you manage your MS around your business and motherhood?

I’ve had MS for 15 years now, but I am continually learning and developing. My needs have changed over the years and so has my approach to dealing with it. To start with, I have realised that alcohol, sugar, late nights and stress play a role in how ‘bad’ my MS becomes at any given time. I am therefore careful about my diet and often say ‘no’ to late nights. This means that I have the energy to do the things that are genuinely important to me – going for fun days out with my daughter, planning and creating new ideas for Memory Zoo, walking with the family.

I also have acupuncture twice a month to help deal with MS-related pain and fatigue. Oh, and never underestimate the importance of planning! Life is a balancing act but so is everyone’s. I just have a susceptible early warning system!

How did you feel when the book you co authored Mumpreneur on Fire 4 became a bestseller?

It was truly fabulous. I had never really talked about my MS before I wrote for MOF4, but now that I’ve started talking about it, I can’t stop! It seems to be so helpful to so many people, and I am so grateful that something that has shaped my life and made it a somewhat rocky journey can be an inspiration to others. That’s a fantastic feeling!

What plans do you have for the future?

So many plans! The first part of this year has been about making sure that the new systems I’ve been putting in place for Memory Zoo work and my seamstresses are trained, happy ans ready to go. I am currently narrating the audiobook version of MOF4 in my home studio which will be due out for release in the next few months. I have more audiobook work following after this as well, which is very exciting. I am also currently writing my full autobiography as 3000 words for the MOF4 chapter wasn’t really enough. There is so much more to say! 

You can take a look at Katie’s beautiful handmade keepsakes at https://www.memoryzoo.co.uk/about-us/

You can also find her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/keepsakeanimals/

Follow the link if you would like to find out more about the best selling book Mumpreneur on Fire 4 and read Katie’s and 24 other amazing women’s stories.

Why not take a look other inspirational interviews –

Interview with award winning glass engraver Steven Lee

Interview with Cat at Cat Creation

Interview with children’s publisher Justin Davis

Lisa Norman shares her story of the premature birth of her son Neil

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought


Categories
Inspirational Interviews

Interview with the Catherine Greer from the wonderful Cats Creation

I am privileged to be interviewing the lovely Catherine Greer from Somerset who runs her own business called Cats Creation, where she makes the most amazing arm and hand knitted items as well as stone art decorations. She also runs classes to teach others how to arm knit and does all of this around her young son.

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Tell us a bit about you?

I always loved making things at school and was often the only girl in the woodwork classes. This didn’t put me off though and I was often much better than the boys.

I wasn’t sure what to do after sixth form so I went to college to study my other love, horses. I spent three years studying equine studies and completed a animal science degree at Plymouth university.

After uni I still wasn’t sure which direction to go in so I ended up driving HGV lorries for a international horse transport company based in Wiltshire. I spent a year on the road, attending races, stud farms and equine events all over the UK and Europe. This took its toll on me so I left. Skipping ahead a few years I decided to apply and join Hampshire Constabulary as a PCSO. I worked here for four years and loved it but I really missed being in the country and wanted my life to slow down a bit. Working shifts meant that if I wasn’t working I was sleeping. I decided with my now husband that I wanted to move back to Somerset and live the ‘good’ life! We bought a house, renovated it and now live in it. We try and produce all our own vegetables in our garden and recently got some chickens. I love taking part in the local flower and vegetable shows with our produce and have sometimes brought home some metal.

I’m very keen to show my son how to grow his own vegetables and would love to see more people growing their own too. You can follow all my adventures on my Facebook page.

What inspired you to get into making hand knitted items and what made you decide to start a business selling them?

I got into arm knitting after trying to use knitting needles once. I got very frustrated with how long it took to make anything so I googled how to knit quickly (or something similar) and up popped a video demonstrating arm knitting. Let’s just say the rest is history! That was 6 years ago!

I’d always been involved in my friends Christmas fair and every year I used to find a product to make for it. One year I took snoods and sold out on the first day. This gave me the fuel to think I could make more and sell them properly.

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If you had to pick one what would you say your favourite item you make is?

Snoods are definitely my favourite items to make. Even though I now make hundreds every year I still get great pleasure in knitting them and seeing people enjoy wearing them. I get very excited when I find a new wool too.  

Don’t get me wrong I love knitting the luxury giant blankets and cushions too but snoods hold a special place  in my heart.

Where do you get the inspiration from for new creations?

Most of the things I’ve ever made, I’ve made them because I either couldn’t find them on the market to buy or I couldn’t afford to buy them, So I’ve often just given them a go. Sometimes my mind gets a bit carried away with ideas but I love experimenting with different materials and products to see what happens.

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Where do you want to see your business in the future?

I’ve only recently gone self employed and taken my business on full time. I would love to be able to continue to work from home to fit in around my son. In the future I would like to see my items and products in more shops across the country. I want to keep the handmade feel to my items so I want to keep sales at a manageable level without sourcing more staff. Hopefully I can achieve this and maintain it.

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How do you manage your business around your son?

Up until recently I’ve only managed to work when my husband is around to look after our son or when my son is asleep in the evenings. He’s never allowed me to work during the day when it’s just the two of us so I gave up trying. I would spend the few hours in the evening knitting as much as I can whilst also promoting my items on social media. He has now started nursery a couple times a week so I’m using these periods to spend quality time in the HQ producing stock and completing orders.

Catherine is offering all readers a 10% discount on her products if you buy via her Facebook page using code simple1.

You can find Catherine’s beautiful handmade products by using the below links –

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Catscreation/

Etsy – CatsCreationSomerset

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Why not take a look other inspirational interviews –

Interview with award winning glass engraver Steven Lee

Interview with Cat at Cat Creation

Interview with children’s publisher Justin Davis

Lisa Norman shares her story of the premature birth of her son Neil

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought

Categories
Inspirational Interviews

Interview with Children’s Publisher Justin Davis of Blue Falcon Publishing

I am excited to share with you all an interview with Justin Davis of Blue Falcon Publishing who some of you may know published my first children’s book ‘Pete the Cheeky Parakeet’.

He is here to share with you an insight into children’s book publishing and how Blue Falcon Publishing can help authors get their children’s stories out into the world.

Justin-Davis

Tell us a bit about you and how you got started in the children’s publishing industry?

“My desire to write is very much rooted in my love of reading and writing a book is something that had been on ‘life’s list’ for many years!

Wanting to pass this love of books onto my children, I started to play with the idea of writing a children’s story. After completing a writing course, and after much coffee drinking and many screwed up pieces of A4, Escape from Nettle Farm (in its first incarnation) was complete! It then went through many painful re-writes and edits to get to the stage where I was ready to say, ‘Finished!’

I wanted to write something that would be fun and exciting for parents to read to children, or for children to read independently.  I was delighted with the feedback – Escape from Nettle Farm was a finalist in the 2017 People’s Book Prize and received the Red Ribbon Award in the 2016 Wishing Shelf Book Awards. It was also reviewed by American magazine Story Monsters Inc – ‘Written well, and paced perfectly to keep young readers engaged.’

I had more books to share with the world, but my publishing experience hadn’t been brilliant. I wanted a publisher who gave a fair deal for the author (lower prices, good royalty rates, advertising post publication, etc.) I couldn’t find one, so I created one!

I published my second book through Blue Falcon – My Bunny, a rhyming picture book that was a finalist in the 2017 Wishing Shelf Awards. The process was so much better, and I decided I wanted to help other authors on their journey. I have since appointed a marketing director and we are currently working with 5 other authors. I have also just released Spy Danger, the second in the series to Escape from Nettle Farm – all since March this year!”

Can you tell us a bit more about Blue Falcon Publishing?

“Blue Falcon Publishing are a small, independent company based in Northamptonshire whose focus is the publishing of children’s fiction books to encourage precious family time reading. We are passionate about bringing together enchanting stories with phenomenal illustrations to inspire imaginations and encourage a love of books that will last a lifetime!”

What is the difference between Blue Falcon Publishing and traditional publishing and what can you offer authors?

“Our vision for the company is to give our authors the best possible experience. We offer contracts on a partnership basis, which means we occupy the space between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Put simply, the main difference between us and a traditional publishers is that as the author, you bear some of the financial risk of publishing your book. The reward for this is a fast, effective and professional service with very generous royalty shares – far higher than you would enjoy with a traditional publishing contract.”

What makes Blue Falcon Publishing stand out from other children’s publishers?

“We are working hard to build an exceptional brand reputation, and we take customer service very seriously. We believe that a satisfied customer is the best business plan of all, so we want our clients to be delighted with their experience. Another aspect of this is the quality of our books. We are selective about what we publish. We are not a self-publisher, and we seek reward and recognition for each title we take to print. To work with you we need to believe in your manuscript as much as you do.”

What are you looking for in the authors that come to you?

“We are looking for talented, self-motivated children’s authors who are ready to invest in their own success and make their dreams of becoming a published author a reality. If you think you have what it takes, you can find lots of information at www.bluefalconpublishing.co.uk or alternatively, email us at submissions@bluefalconpublishing.co.uk.”

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What I have received from my service with Blue Falcon Publishing

The service and knowledge that I received from Blue Falcon Publishing was well worth the fee they charged. They have been amazing from start to finish helping me every step of the way and have always been on hand to ask any questions that I had. They also arranged for the very talented Stephanie Jayne to do the wonderful illustrations for my book ‘Pete the Cheeky Parakeet’.

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Their service hasn’t stopped there either since my book was published in October they still keep me up-to-date on the sales process of my book and what they have been doing behind the scenes to help promote it. They have also been on hand to help me with marketing ideas and to contact local schools and shops on my behalf if needed.

Why not take a look at my other posts on inspirational people –

Interview with award winning glass engraver Steven Lee

Interview with Cat at Cat Creation

Interview with children’s publisher Justin Davis

Lisa Norman shares her story of the premature birth of her son Neil

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought

Categories
Inspirational Interviews

Lisa Norman shares her story on the premature birth of her son Neil!

Lisa Norman shares with us her heart wrenching story about the difficulties and trauma they went through when their son Neil was born prematurely. Lisa is an amazing woman as you will read from her story, she has also set up her own business Presents for Preemies to help others with premature babies.

Guest Blog

My introduction to motherhood was a quite a shock from how I had it all pictured in my head. I pictured a radiant pregnancy glow, my reality was feeling tired and nauseated all the time. I pictured the prefect bump, my reality was that you couldn’t tell I was pregnant until I was about 28 weeks. I pictured a calm water birth, in reality the exact opposite happened!

Early in my pregnancy I was told by the midwife that I had PAAP-A. In short it is a protein deficiency in the placenta that can cause various issues in a pregnancy. I was told not to worry though as they were unlikely and that from 30 weeks I would have extra scans to check my baby was growing as he should.

I was so uncomfortable as my baby boy was sitting really low and he was putting a lot of pressure on my hips and spine. I was attending aqua antenatal classes and pregnancy exercise classes as well as regular acupuncture. I was miserable and was really looking forward to my baby arriving. What I wasn’t expecting was that he would be arriving early and urgently. 

I arrived at the hospital for my first routine scan at exactly 30 weeks pregnant. There was no parking so my husband dropped me off and I went in for my scan on my own. The sonographer soon told me to tell my husband to park in the 10 minute bay and quickly left the room to tell security she had instructed him to park there. 

My husband entered the room, sat down and we were given the news that our baby had a lot of fluid on his tummy that shouldn’t be there and his heart was beating too quickly. The sonographer had already sent the scan up to a team to assess. We were asked to wait while she went to get the results of their decision. It felt like an eternity! 

The sonographer entered the room and said I was going up to theatre now! She was practically

running down the corridor and I was struggling to keep up, she saw this and slowed down. I was in tears and as we got in the lift my husband gave me a huge hug, blocking me from the sonographer who was crying herself.

I was rushed into theatre for an emergency c-section. My husband had been warned while they were prepping me for surgery that they didn’t think our son was not likely to survive delivery. Once he was born we didn’t hear a thing, the room was silent. No baby cry and no staff talking. We were then told that our son was alive and that we could see him for a minute before they took him away. We weren’t allowed to touch him, just look through an incubator window.

In that minute I was so in love and in awe of the tiny little thing trying to look back at me. Then he was gone. We spent the next 73 days on 2 different neonatal units whilst they treated my son, Neil, for Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) and Hydrops. The first 4 weeks we didn’t know from day to day if he was going to survive. The fifth week was the turning point, Neil was now under more specialised doctors who tweaked his medication and miraculously this tweak worked.

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Pictures provided by Lisa Norman 

Neil went from strength to strength and we were eventually told that there was nothing they weren’t doing at the hospital that we couldn’t do ourselves at home. We were finally going to go home! It was strange at first but felt so right. Four days later though disaster struck. Neil was in my husband’s arms and he suddenly went limp. He was completely lifeless and turning blue. 

My husband is a police officer and regularly trained to do CPR. Neither of us thought we would ever be performing this act on our own child though. My husband started with the rescue breaths whilst I rang 999. Initially we didn’t think we were going to get Neil back but just as the ambulance turned onto our street Neil whimpered with a sign of life. We were blue lighted back to hospital where we would spend a further week. This was to be Neil’s first battle with bronchiolitis.

Neil is now 2 and although his heart and lung condition mean many trips to the hospital for both routine appointments and urgent children’s ward access he is getting bigger and stronger every day. I haven’t told my story for sympathy or to scare anyone. I have told my story because all this took its toll. It may not surprise you that I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. Being a mum is amazing and the best thing in the world. It is also quite scary at times. I hear so many mum’s who put themselves at the bottom of the to-do list. I am here to say to those mums please don’t! It’s such a tough job but it’s even tougher if you don’t look after yourself.

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Pictures provided by Lisa Norman and taken by Forever Green Photography

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) was the right route for me and after many sessions I felt a lot better and was able to handle things much better. I went on to set up my own business, Presents For Preemies and most recently I have become an Amazon number 1 best-selling author. I don’t profess to always look after myself the way I should but by putting myself a little higher on my to-do list just for a few days has made me a much better mother and reminded me I can also be Lisa occasionally too!

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Pictures provided by Lisa Norman and taken by Forever Green Photography

Links

www.presentsforpreemies.co.uk

www.facebook.com/PresentsForPreemies

www.instagram.com/presents_for_preemies

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Pictures provided by Lisa Norman and taken by Forever Green Photography

Why not take a look other inspirational interviews –

Interview with award winning glass engraver Steven Lee

Interview with Cat at Cat Creation

Interview with children’s publisher Justin Davis

Cassandra Farren’s heartbreaking story ‘I’ve lost my mum’

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought

Categories
Business and Marketing Inspirational Interviews

What is network marketing! Delve into a world of network marketing!

As parents, so many of us struggle to find a work/life balance that works for us. With the cost of childcare and the stresses and strains of holding down a job whilst running around after our children it is no wonder that so many of us are looking for alternatives to the 9 to 5.

When I first started to hear the term ‘network marketing’ I will be honest with you I thought it was a bit of a scam and I am sure a lot of people still do have these thoughts. However, after delving in a bit deeper into the world of network marketing I can see how wrong I was.

It wasn’t until I joined a lovely group on Facebook called ‘Mums in Business Association’ where I met a large number of network marketers and I began to understand the process and the benefits of running a business this way.

Since then I have found out that the start up cost for network marketing businesses are usually low, different companies vary but they are always in the £100s not £1000s, this means that starting one of these businesses will have minimal risk to you. They also offer flexible working as you can set your own hours (depending on your goals) and work around your children or other commitments. Network marketing businesses usually offer high levels of support and training to guide you to grow and succeed with your business goals.

I am sure that if you look into network marketing you are bound to find someone claiming that you can be earning £1000’s of pounds a month and how “easy” it is. While these claims of people’s earnings are in no doubt true, what they don’t always highlight is that you need to work hard and put in the time and the effort required (like you would if you were self-employed in any other business) to reap the rewards. I know it is claims like these that have put me off in the past, as I am sure it has many other people. We all tend to follow the saying that “if it sounds too good to be true it usually is”.

However, instead of looking at network marketing as a “get rich quick” scheme look at it as an easier and cost effective way into starting your own business where if you work hard you can be very successful and earn limitless income.

For any parents that have decided not to return back to work after having their children and are looking for a business they can run from a smartphone/laptop then a network marketing business may be something to seriously consider. If you are working but looking for more flexibility this is a business that you can start (alongside your current one) and build up until you are at a comfortable point where you can switch over.

Where network marketing stumps a lot of people is that as well as making commission from your product sales you can also make money by building your own team and receiving a small amount of commission based on their product sales. This doesn’t mean that you are taking commission away from your team members (as they will still get their sales commission) you just get a little extra for coaching and supporting them with their business (especially at the start). Many of the network marketing companies also offer additional benefits when you reach certain levels including cash bonuses.

Network marketing is suitable for anyone regardless of their qualifications, education level, age and gender.

However, what you do need in abundance is the drive to be your own boss, to be able to push yourself to achieve, the ability to speak, to network with others and the confidence to be able to promote the products. However, from the network companies I have reviewed they do offer support and guidance to help you work on and achieve what you need to do to fly in your business and they will support you to build your confidence.

There are numerous network marketing companies around. Avon was one of the first to run this type of business model when it was founded back in 1886 but many companies have now followed suit, to name a few you have Arbonne, Scentsy, Scholastic books and Younique. I would advise looking into the company’s products and business model, trying a small number of products first and also locating honest reviews of the company before deciding which one is a fit for you.  

If you want to know more about Network Marketing and how it has helped change people’s lives take a look at the stories below. If you would like any further information on any of these businesses please contact them on their details supplied.

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   Lucy Ponton

  Arbonne Consultant

  07745 724575

  lucyponton@hotmail.com

Hi, I’m Lucy Ponton. I live with my husband Chris and my 19-month-old son William. I have family locally including parents, grandparent and siblings.

I’m a Registered Occupational Therapist by profession and I have a passion for promoting health and wellbeing. My values match with Arbonne as they promote health and wellness both inside and outside of the body.

I have long term health conditions of eczema and IBS and Arbonne’s products have significantly reduced my symptoms. It has allowed me to stop using my prescribed medications which has been very thought-provoking.

I’m an Independent Arbonne Consultant. The products were recommended by a close friend and I trialed the RE9 (anti-ageing) range along with makeup samples. The improved condition of my skin has allowed me to be able to wear CC cream/foundation and also to wash with a shower gel, which smells lovely! I realised that there was a business opportunity behind the products which could allow me to change my life.

I am able to see that my goal of earning a limitless salary whilst working the hours that I want can allow me to be present in my family’s life. I will not need to use childcare and I will be able to watch them grow and develop and be there for them especially during school holidays, sports days, assemblies, sickness etc.

On average work 1-2 hours a day, this is spread out through the day often in pockets of time that I have in between my job and looking after my son.

What advice and support you have received from your network marketing company?

An online platform where I can review and download information about every aspect of the company. Examples are “Meet the product” information sheets, videos, presentations. My colleagues within Arbonne (my upline) have and still coach me to build my confidence and knowledge base.

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Steph Lucas

Usborne Books Consultant

steph.lucas@hotmail.co.uk

I’m Steph, 25, from Somerset. I’m a full time Deputy Nursery Supervisor and as yet have no children of my own.

I am an Independent Usborne Books at Home Organiser and have been for nearly 2 years. I joined after seeing a post on Facebook and thought it seemed like a good idea to try and get myself a bit of extra money. There are no targets with Usborne just incentives and commission.

The hours I work vary week on week but the more I put in the more I get out.

As an organiser a lot of my work is primarily through Facebook and Instagram I have built up a steady customer base through networking on Facebook and through my friends and family. I also go to local events such as school fetes where people can buy from my stock rather than having to wait for an order. Through attending events and parties at peoples homes I have met many new people.

Usborne Books at Home sends out regular emails with help and advice on many different topics and new ideas for pushing my business forward, my end goal is to build my own team and thus earn more money. When you first sign up to be an organiser you are given a mentor-someone who is already an organiser. My mentor is great she has lots of helpful advice and I know I can just drop her a message and she will soon get back to me.

If you would like to know more, or to place an order, or even join my team please do email me or send me a message on Facebook.  

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Natasha Cutter

www.natashacutter.scentsy.co.uk

natasha.gillham@btopenworld.com

Hi I’m Natasha, wife to Andrew and mum to 4 beautiful children, Dougalisha 13, Alice 12, Arthur 10 and Seth 8.

Up until having my eldest daughter I was a manager at a local betting shop, but I decided to leave due to childcare costs taking over half of my wages and because the long hours meant I wouldn’t see my daughter grow up. I left to start my own business on eBay selling craft items and making my own craft items which I did for several years.

Then 3 years ago I caught one of my boys lighting a candle and blowing it out, then ‘re lighting it,  It terrified me that he was attracted to the fire. My boys were also very bouncy and still are, the pure thought of a house fire scared me, so that was the start of my network marketing journey. We’ve since found out that Arthur has adhd which explains a lot.

I started searching for a safe alternative to candles and found this company no one local to me had heard of it. So I joined Scentsy a home fragrance company at the end of November 2015, not the best time of year to start a business but my hubby gave me the money for the join kit and said to give the business a year, if it didn’t go anywhere I hadn’t lost anything as I still had the kit.

That was coming up for 3 years ago now, my business has gone from strength to strength, within my first year I hit director as I built a team and I love that I can spend all my time with my children when they are on school holidays. I love the fact that if one of them is sick I don’t have to ask for time off work, I can work around my family if something happens and I’m not tied to finding childcare or working set hours.  I try to work an hour a day on social media posts and answering messages, then i also do home parties which I do in an evening when my husband can spend time with the kids. Plus the extra money has helped pay for holidays, birthdays and any treats for the family.

I get to attend conferences twice a year if i wish and I’ve managed to earn 2 incentive trips – rome and more recently a 7 day cruise on the symphony of the seas the largest cruise ship in the world. We have a training centre in our back office which is available for you to access whenever you like plus lots of support from other consultants and home office team, there’s always someone on hand to help. I can honestly say that scentsy is so much more than warmers and wax, I’ve met so many new friends from all over the world and grown in confidence and positivity which us now being instilled in my children.

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Why not take a look at my other post with inspirational people –

Interview with award winning glass engraver Steven Lee

Interview with Cat at Cat Creation

Interview with children’s publisher Justin Davis

Lisa Norman shares her story of the premature birth of her son Neil

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought