21 August 2016

The Half Full Glass Girl

It is such a long time since I updated my blog and I now feel the time is right to explain whereabouts I am now with "My Entrepreneurial Peg" and the path that I am now following.
As an entrepreneur when you start on the journey you think you have some idea of what you are going to do and where you want to be and the word here is think! because there is never a set path or right way to go about something and you find that you have to make changes as you go along, taking advantage of new opportunities as they present themselves and having to drive continually to move forward.

I thought that if I worked hard enough and was committed enough and had enough belief (alongside the obvious planning, funding, administrative, negotiation, communication and other such areas) that because I had created a good quality, pretty and functional product I would be able to sell this product and expand what I had started. Unfortunately sometimes even though you can sell on a smaller scale it does not always progress to sell to larger markets. This is what has happened to my product and there comes a time when you have to realise that putting further effort into that is not going to change the outcome but you should learn from what you have achieved and move forward using this experience to make new experiences and challenges easier and to be successful with.

It is not that I consider I have not been successful as creating something out of your mind and seeing that come to fruition without going into debt and making enough profit to pay for the making of it with all that entails and on selling the batch to have made a profit is in itself a success. My sadness comes from not achieving what I wanted it to become. In lots of ways though the experience leaves me far richer than I expected.

This leads me to where I have decided to direct my abilities for the future. Looking back over the last few years, I have felt at times the most uncomfortable I have ever felt, having to raise my game so as to speak to be confident personally and communicating in new mediums such as event experiences, in pitching interviews, on the radio and on camera, not to mention the incredibly broad tasks that needed to be learned such as using social media correctly, understanding web sites, finances, marketing, selling the list is endless as a single entrepreneur, I would like to just mention here if you feel like having a go with a business or product I would consider doing it with another person or group as I feel two heads are better than one and you would have double the energy and support and I feel greater chance of success.  As I said above at times I have put myself in uncomfortable circumstances but the flip side to this is unless you stretch yourself you do not grow and alongside this I have had the most enjoyment, sense of pride and happiest times that I have ever had in my life.
The wide variety of people and personalities that I came across and touched my life, the real generosity of people willing to help, give their time, experience and happy to just share their time with me was incredible and the places I have had the chance to visit was amazing.

It is with a new sense of self and confidence therefore that I have chosen to move back into employment and it is because of the above that I now bring into my new position this wealth of experience from all of the above. I now work for a Charity organisation, a lovely blend from a personal point of view of working in a job but being able to take a sense of pride in helping a team in providing families with support when it is most needed, and Kease Key Rings? well for now there are still half a batch left just around 3000, I also laugh when I think they may end up on one of those daft TV shows such as Top 100 products that never made it!! I would like to think that 6000 people will end up with a very exclusive limited edition key ring.

I do still sell and enjoy using the selling skills I have learned and my website will still exist until the last of the key rings are sold. I think I may always sell now in one form or another and I hope to put those key rings left to a good cause, using part of the profit to give something back to different charities. As a mum who has re invented herself I feel proud to now be in a position that I feel I would never be in if I had not decided to have a go with Kease, the journey did not bring what I thought it would it brought many many things that I had no idea I would receive.







03 October 2014

Keeping It Real - The Pitch 100 Manchester Bootcamp

Earlier in September 50 of the chosen 100 businesses out of 1000 entries congregated at The Studio in Manchester for an intense day of learning involving different aspects of running a business. These were tutored in the form of workshops covering Finance, Digital Marketing, Pitching and Learning how to pitch to and interact with investors.

Arriving early to a buzz of excitement in the room, well you wouldn't expect anything less in a room full of 50 entrepreneurs, all taking coffee and late breakfast in the trendy space of The Studio in Manchester, I scoured the room looking for a friendly face in the form of another contestant I had been tweeting to over the course of the last month.
Alas I could not see her and so engaged with my nearest other who happened to be a friendly warm Irish couple. I  downed a quick coffee for a caffeine lift.

The Pitch Competition grows year on year and what started as a small venture in Bristol has grown to be a nationwide competition inspiring entrepreneurs of all ages to enter and try to win an amazing array of prizes that gives business support worth thousands of pounds and the chance to receive business mentoring. Whether your business is trading or not and is under under three years old you are eligible to enter.

I thought I had prepared everything I needed however it soon became apparent (in the first workshop that just happened to be Finance my least favourite but absolutely necessary skill) that I was not as spreadsheet savvy as I thought and had completely missed out any Cash Flow forecasts! As an entrepreneur you come up with an idea and you think well I'll go and make it and you become so involved in the design process and your passion to create your idea or service that you can overlook the steps afterwards to turn that into a profitable business reality. Fortunately there are people around like The Pitch that are there to support and offer valuable information that will enable you to get to the holy grail of turning your idea into a profitable business and they do just that.

The day itself was well organised and ran very smoothly but as a contestant it flew by with your head bombarded by the information given in the well thought out structured workshops. Each one challenging you and your previously well rehearsed comfortable ideas quite probably reached based on research, your experience so far, others perceptions and previous entrants that you had searched out on social media.

I found the day very challenging, but also very real. I don't know how else to describe it. For me personally it was real, gritty, and surrounded by your peers making it absolutely inspiring and enlightening to meet and hear other people so passionate, and also successfully negotiating their way from that very first idea to fulfilling their dreams and making their business a reality.  

The array of diverse ideas from products through to services delivered was vast and if this is a snapshot of the UK and people's passion to create new business well I fear not for the future. People as young as 17 and as old as me (which I will not divulge) and older pitched, some in absolute fear and shaking but showing a stoicism and bravery to get their story out.

Listening, sharing,learning and all the time trying to be brave enough to take on board the changes necessary and then to Pitch to a room full of people was as I said challenging but each and every one of the people that pitched was successful in a personal way and I think we all came away having learned a great deal. I often question why I keep putting myself through these things. I mean really? was I thinking rationally at the time or is it just what I said earlier a passion?  but it is part of the journey and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Overall the pitch Competition so far has been a good experience, and for me personally has given me a real sense of direction and structure. I come back to the real perspective again, I came away more focused and have been able to look at the areas that matter most. A new structure to my Digital Marketing and a big thank you to Bridget McKone @Tekmakmarketing.co.uk and Constant Contact.
Also huge thanks to Mike Byrne from AVG for his workshop, I now know how to approach investors when I need to. The other two workshops were each as valuable in their own ways. One on how to pitch by the lovely and energetic Annette Kramer who focused us all and helped me to tell my story. Finally the Finance workshop with ICAEW, which made me personally reassess my direction and how I presented and used financial forecasts as a valuable tool.

 I would whole heartily recommend this to anyone who is new to business and looking for support and a chance to grow and learn even if you don't get through to the final the chance to network and interact and learn from the first stage is tremendous.
Thank you to everyone involved at The Pitch for this opportunity. www.thpitchuk.com


11 September 2014

Kease and the City of Dreaming Spires

Here I am at the end of the week at The Oxford Summer School, looking happy and completely exhausted.

As I arrived at Keble College I looked around in awe, the view that greets you as you enter the quadrant is impressive. You find yourself surrounded by a serene beautiful set of buildings with the Chapel and lawns spread in front of you, making for one of those sharp 'intake of breath' moments and I have to say I felt like pinching myself. For a girl from Wigan, (where there is no Pier!) I felt this was the pinnacle of my journey so far.

The organisation was superb and we were quickly organised into small groups and allocated our room keys, identity badges and all necessary equipment: books ,bags and maps, needed for the week.
We sat nervously a short time later in formal business dress in the Lecture Theatre, surrounded by Retail Professionals of varying ages from a large selection of Retail Companies. We listened to the school officially declared open, and I wondered what the week would hold.
From this point on, every second of every minute of every day was taken up with, listening, learning, practising, interacting and lots of changing of clothes! 

To say that I experienced both the worst and the best week of my life is absolutely true and it is very difficult to put into words how much you can take from this incredible course - I have to make reference to my sponsor here and a huge thank you to The Mall Corporation and their Retail Factor competition that gave me the opportunity to attend here. 

As you would expect, the standard of the course content was very high and you are exposed to real life challenges that you face when running a retail business.  Dealing with all aspects of people; merchandising, money, marketing (the one I particularly enjoyed) and space planning. The specialists that visit the school during the week are inspirational and informative and it was a privilege to have the chance to listen to these people. The course is designed to draw these skills out of you and there was more than one occasion when I felt very challenged, but the strength you draw from inside yourself allows you the chance to develop in a safe environment, and if you do push yourself the rewards that you gain make you feel fantastic by the end of the week!  

There were ups and downs, tears and laughter and very, very tough tasks - such as singing in the Karaoke night, definitely a personal challenge from someone tone deaf! The week rolled by in a wonderful sweep of lectures, and I listened, practised and learned within surroundings that made you feel like you had stumbled into the set of Harry Potter. A personal highlight of my week (and there were so many) was listening to the sermon in the Chapel on Sunday morning, an oasis of calm and a moment to enjoy a beautiful rendition of The Irish Blessing that rounded off a lovely service. 

I could rattle on about merchandising, finance, marketing and all those absolutely necessary skills that we all need to run a successful business and develop and move forward in the future, but this is a personal glimpse of my experience. Before I say bye for now I would like to express a huge thank you to everyone at The Oxford Summer School for a week that has met my personal objectives and enabled me to learn new skills and given me the confidence to continue on my journey of developing, producing and bringing a new product to market.
p.s A great big shout out to Group 17 and our Group Director Tom, and other fab team members, KK (Kathryn), Natalie, Donna, Rocia, Jacob, Evonne and James (aka The HeeBee Geebies!)
Oxford Summer School
This week I was enriched with the tapestry of your lives.
This week I have fought back tears of anxiety with feelings of fear for the new and unknown.
This week I have sought solace in the Chapel.
This week I have sung without the fear of being heard.
This week there has been a shift inside me that has opened a new door.
This week my screen size has increased from a Commodore Pet to a 50” Samsung.
This week I had the courage of a child to play a game long forgotten
“I’ll be the catcher! Turn around and fall”
I turned around and fell and you caught me.
Sue Seddon
Kease Keyring

06 August 2014

Pitching To Win! - The Pitch 2014 Competition

Just this week I found out that I had made the quarter final of The Pitch 2014. This is fantastic news, I did enter the competition last year, however I was naive in my entry and quite frankly it was too soon for me to have all the information or have learned enough information about my product, business and customers and so this year twelve months down the line, and more focused I decided to enter again.

Founded in 2008 it is Britain's biggest small business competition. The first part of the competition short-lists 100 businesses who are then invited to attend a boot camp where they will  receive coaching and mentoring to hone their pitching skills.
Alongside this, every short listed entrant receives a personalised 'Profile Pitch Page', which you can use to attract voters to vote for your business.This is a Digital Marketing Award run within the second stage of the competition and will be decided later on in the year at The Pitch Final.

Here is our link to that page I would love your support!


This will come on the back of my trip to Oxford Summer School in August, the prize I have been awarded
by The Retail Factor Competition. I am so excited to be attending this wonderful course which is a management development course designed specifically for retail. (You can find them on Twitter @OSSretail )

I look forward to blogging all about the experience which has been given to me by The fantastic Mall Corporation who promote and inspire new business in the UK through their yearly competition, and a big thank you to Lorraine Jones the Manager at Blackburn Mall, Sara Jones the National Operations Manager all the people who work there (including all the Vicky's!) for their help and support during and after The Competition and Paula Holden at www.icgonline.co.uk for help with the press release.
Here is the Link for The Mall's Corporation Company Website:
It has been a fantastic first year in my business journey I have learned and continue to learn lots of new skills and have met some great people from all different aspects of business from designers, manufacturers, retailers, managers, entrepreneurs (who have become and will remain friends).It has not been easy and I don't expect that it ever will but overcoming the challenges are part of this journey and I have been fortunate to have realised the opportunities that have arisen and then taken them.

I will leave you then with my head full of ideas to make the most of these opportunities and a quick couple of days away  to Barcelona with my now newly qualified journalist/PR Media degree celebrating son!

05 August 2014

The Retail Factor 2014

I'm delighted to announce that after three weeks of hard work, followed by a month of tense anticipation, I have been given special recognition from the Mall's Retail Factor! As a result I will be going to the Oxford Summer School this month, which is a fabulous opportunity for me and something I will hopefully learn a lot from! Here is the press release by The Mall to explain the competition in more detail:                 

Chorley Mum of two Sue Seddon has gained national recognition in The Mall Blackburn’s National Retail Factor competition. 

Judges took the decision to reward Sue with the Award of Distinction in recognition of her passion, drive and creativity. She has also been awarded a place on the coveted Oxford Summer School in August, which provides professional retail advice.

The overall winner of the national final was Recluse Colony from The Mall Wood Green, which sold handmade up cycled & recycled products including jewellery, accessories, home-wares, footwear and clothing.

The Retail Factor launched in January and hopefuls were asked to pitch their business models in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style presentation.

Four local finalists were chosen by a line up of prestigious judges to trade from a Pop Up Shop in The Mall Blackburn.

Kease Keyrings went head to head with Tutus and Tulle, Irresistible Cupcakes and clothing company Krosl and the two finalists were selected based on profits, creativity, drive and business acumen.

Loraine Jones, General Manager at The Mall Blackburn, said: “We are absolutely delighted that Sue has been awarded a place at the fantastic Oxford Summer School in recognition of all her hard work.

“From the moment the judges met Sue we all agreed she has the professionalism and passion to go far in business and her products were lovely.

“She also showed real entrepreneurial skills by listening to customers and evolving her product range to add accessories to her exclusive keyrings throughout her trading in the Pop Up Shop, which added to her success.”

“I would like to thank all our entrants and finalists for making this year another Retail Factor success story and extend a special thank you to our fabulous judges Nicola Clayton, Head of Commercial and Business Development at Blackburn College, Salma Chaudhry, Principle Business Adviser at Regenerate Pennine Lancashire and Lancashire Telegraph Journalist Bill Jacobs.”

Sue Seddon added: “I could not believe it when I received the call to say I was going to the Oxford Summer School as I hadn’t even considered getting this far in the competition.

“I firmly believe that in order to be successful in business you have to work hard and be professional at all times so it is wonderful to hear that these were just two of the reasons the judges selected me.

“The Oxford Summer School looks amazing and I can’t wait to go. I am so pleased that I entered the Retail Factor competition as it has given my business a real boost.

“I would urge anyone who has a business idea or has recently started a business to enter the competition next year, the help I have received and the recognition I have gained is. phenomenal and I would like to thank everyone at The Mall for believing in my business.”

Kease Keyrings provides a wide range of unique keyrings that can be clipped to belts, bags, running shorts and much more, solving the age-old problem of lost keys.

The Retail Factor is an annual competition aimed at supporting and nurturing retail start-ups and established small retail businesses in the local community.

Here's a little collage to give you a taste of my three weeks at Blackburn Mall

20 March 2014

Winning & Losing

Hi everyone lots of comings and goings here at Daisy Hill Farm, my son and I survived our ski trip (minus snow) but since I have arrived back things have got very busy so I thought I would post a little update before the next month slips by.

I mentioned in my last blog that I felt in more of a position to apply for funding and competitions and so a couple of months ago I entered the Retail Factor Competition. It has been run for a few years now with successess for both "The Mall" and the contestents taking part. It gives new businesses the opportunity to win up to three weeks free trading in a Mall and is a fantastic opportunity for new businesses to get further exposure and to test their products/shops in a real shopping environment.
The Mall is one of the largest shopping outlets in the UK and is managed by the Mall Corporation. Blackburn Mall (the one that I entered) is large,bright and provides shoppers with a great shopping experience both in the variety of shops available and in the quality of the goods and services, with an  engaging atmosphere and interaction with the local community.

They also have partners involved in the competition and this year Ingenious Britain , a business advice hub and supporter of small business and StartUp Loans a government backed scheme to help entreprenuers with loans, mentoring and support are the supporters.

So after receiving the news that I was through the first stage and had to go and present to a panel of judges off I went in trepidation to do my first ever presentation. I was excited and very nervous but I went through everything I wanted to get across and practised to whoever would listen (mostly myself and my poor family and friends!) and was absolutely thrilled to have made it through to the second stage ( I actually did a little dance of pure joy when I got the phone call saying I had made it through!). This year the Mall have chosen four businesses and we are going to trade for free in a pop-up shop for three weeks. So although I dont have to physically make my product like some of the other businesses (thank goodness they must be demented) there is still a lot to think about and prepare ahead of time.

Thinking about how to best present the product is vitally important as we live in such a visual society and customers are so used to seeing slick presentation and high quality visuals, packaging and marketing play a huge part. Anyway I found some wonderful racks in IKEA they were just what I wanted and as I had already decided on the look for up coming trade shows so I have killed two birds with one stone as the saying goes and purchased those. Everything else I have been refining over the last six months but I still needed to pull it all together and if this has done anything it has made me consider a much tighter look without too much hassle. I found on retrospect that I was trying to be all things and so the logo, gift wrapping, business cards and image now seem sleeker and more connected. I have also purchased a few other products to see if they sell well along my keyrings.

I do feel both nervous and excited at the opportunities that this situation could present and hope I can rise to the challenge although it will personally be  hard work as I will be trading in The Mall seven days a week and then going to my work in the evenings and weekends at Tesco straight from there.
However this is an opporunity to good to miss and I will be giving it my best. As an entreprenuer with a new product it is extremely hard to get noticed and I get butterflies thinking about what is actually riding on this. It was thinking about this when I came up with the title Winning & Losing, on one hand I have won this opportunity but may lose the next stage then within the loss there is still gain from the experience itself, the valuable knowldege gained without the fear of debt and the opportunity to meet more customers, other business people and the chance to grow in confidence.

It is the same every Sunday, Theo Pathitis runs a competition on Twitter called #SBS or Small Business Sunday, each week Theo rewards small businesses that tweet him, he chooses six (probaby out of thousands)  and having such a large following it presents a massive boost for the chosen businesses. The lucky winners then become part of quite a sought after club, sharing ideas and promoting their business leading to larger following and more sales.
So every week I enter and I await eagerly on Monday evening to see if I get a retweet (unfortunately I have not had one yet!) you feel the rush of adrenalin that you might win but then the disappointment of the losing but again within the fact that you haven't won you do gain, interaction with everyone else entering, new followers, support from previous winners so do you win or lose?

Business is hard and sometimes you feel that you are only as good as your last sale, competition win or loss but for all the hard work I would not change what I am doing. It has opened doors and presented challenges that I may never have had the chance to even try and so I finish this blog on a quote

Every day is a journey and the journey itself is home.
Matsue Basho

30 January 2014

Selling and Ski-ing

Well we are in to the New Year now and as forecast January from a sales point of view has been difficult but the Christmas sales have maintained an even keel!. I had some luck towards the end of last year with my packaging dilemmas and how best to appeal to retailers. Whilst buying some wonderful macarons in France I noticed how well they were packaged and being sold at 1Euro each thought that the packaging must be cost effective ( they came in a lovely tin with a clear lid). After some research I found a company that sells them here in the UK and then sourced a company in Nottingham which kindly made a temporary mold for an insert to allow me to fit twelve keyings in. This should provide a cheap alternative to the one I was previously offering if I can sell the idea to the retailers after an initial investment it should provide an excellent alternative!

 I feel that this year the emphasis has changed again and after doing a five year business plan I am in a position to apply for some funding and competitions that I wasn't in a position to do so before. I still plan to attend a trade show this year and although I may not be able to afford to go to the Spring or Autumn Fair at Birmingham the Fair at Harrogate in July is a great place to display and attract sales.

One of the most difficult things to do is to find buyers and get them to look at your product or service, I have now started using the internet to find head buyers and then phone the company and then email the person, I have not had any luck so far with this but it is not time consuming and relatively easy to do, whether it brings any results remains to be seen.

I still continue to use all social media outlets available and there is a wealth of information out there. Recently taking part in my first Tweetchat it is absolutly fantastic that you can ask direct questions that are important to any startup business straight from people who have had and dealt with most of the dificulties you face, where else can you get one to one information so personally answered?
Customer service is still very important to me, I like to offer a good, pleasant personal service and definately put myself out to promote and make sure that a great impression is always given.

Oh I have tried something new!, after receiving a book for Christmas called  "The 4 Hour Work Week" (I wish!) it talks of Definition,Elimination,Automation and Liberation anyway I have tried outsourcing some information I needed for my business plan on Elance to a Virtual Assistant in India but I have not received anything as of yet so I feel that maybe you should do a little research before hiring a person or maybe go off recommendation , I'll let you know how this pans out watch this space again!

So some money in the bank, stock in the shed!  (joke) and a clearer pathway ( in my head at least) to follow this year, with my following and interacting increasing on Facebook and Twitter I would hope this year to expand my online and wholesale sales with continued effort and developing whatever new skills necessary.

BTW I did attempt my first YouTube Video it is a bit lacking to say the least but as ever once you try something it never seems as difficult as you thought and makes the second one easier and I would hope better, in fact looking at someone else's website gave me a great idea for producing another video using drawings with a voice over so I plan to think about going about take two
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AhZh-2xhXo&feature=youtu.be  lets face it , it can only be an improvement !!

So with the weather turning icier here I am taking my son who was recently 18 away on a ski-ing trip for his birhtday  hopefully to return fully rested and motivated to go out and and sell sell sell.

Bye For Now Sue