It has been a while since I have posted a personal blog post. In September I gave you my top 10 tips that help me in my work space – in case you missed it here’s a link Home….. great place to work from.
The seasons are whizzing by, as if they were on fast forward. We are suddenly faced with cold snaps, frost and sudden downpours of rain. The house is cosy and warm and very snug and the temptation to stay put in front of the fire with glowing candles flickering in their holders is very great.
With the season changes comes Christmas, ever creeping up on us. For some it is frustrating to see Christmas goodies on sale even before Halloween has come and gone. Someone, much to my surprise, asked me that question the other day.
“Are you ready for Christmas?”
It came as such a surprise. Why would I be? We have five weeks to get ready. No. I am not. Are you? I do have a loose plan for my Christmas Cookery Classes and have taken a few orders for Christmas Hampers but that is about it.
So what I have I been up to? Well, I am more used to the idea of being a business owner.
The first thing – I have changed the name to Suzie’s Kitchen. Do you like the new logo?
The change came about as a result of a telephone call from Environmental Health. They were trying to arrange an appointment to come and see my kitchens and have a chat about how everything has been going. The lovely guy called David could not pronounce the business name so I decided to change it. In a way this was a bit of a revelation. When I quietly slipped out of my office on that last day at work I did not have any idea what the future held for me. My intention was not to leave my job or to leave teaching. I just went home. Teaching was something I loved doing with all my heart. But a difficult, no, awful conversation with senior management proved to be the nail in the coffin. The culture and the climate was making me CRAZY and when faced with someone who was clearly of the opinion that they were in charge and could do my job better than me despite not having taught a lesson in years (if ever) my head said STOP!
Five reasons I gave up teaching (in no particular order) and became part of the ‘Teaching Crisis’
- Heavy workload
- Challenging student behaviour
- Constant changes and mixed messages
- Unreasonable demands and expectations
- Monitoring, scrutinising, observations, grading
All I wanted was to be trusted, respected and to have the right to exercise my own professional judgement.
So, I digress from the revelation. To begin with I was sad, the sting was too bad. The wounds were raw, the exhaustion was extreme, I did not know if I was on the brink of a breakdown or if I was having one. I missed the students – despite behaviour being a challenge I still missed them and a lot of them were fantastic and not in the least challenging. they were great. So I started doing what I was good at. I hid behind a name – I didn’t want people to know it was me.
That fear of failure that dogs me became a fear that I had failed and everyone would know. But when David the environmental health office could not say the name I thought,
“This is ridiculous” and Suzie’s Kitchen became Suzie’s Kitchen.
By the way. I got ‘Five Stars’
I’m actually feeling pretty smug. I did it! I quit. I started again. And fabbo it is too! A bit of a learning curve but that’s half the fun.
It has been a bit like this
- I had an idea
- Wow! It worked
- It wasn’t so great. What was I thinking?
- I met a few people and tried again
- Holy moly. I became a business GODDESS.
- Nope – my ideas needed refining.
- I thought about giving up.
- Something great happened without me even trying
- I made plans to use my experiences.
Some things I have been doing
I have attended a few events. Before these I have made plans, baked, iced and cooked like a mad woman. I’ve had different degrees of success with these and some very big disappointments. Seasoned traders tell me that this is the way it goes, some good, some not so good.I tried taking some crafts to one as well in the hope that people who didn’t want food would buy a trinket or something instead. To be honest I’ve not had any particularly good events but it has been good to get out and see people and talk about my enterprise. I will choose wisely from now on though – there’s no need to attend very many.
This has been great. I have a band of little regulars and new students every time I publish a new schedule. It is my teaching fix that is for sure – on top of teaching life skills and creativity it is fun and hugely enjoyable to introduce children to new foods as well as familiar ones. (Let’s face it most children are a little fussy and don’t really want to cook with terribly exotic ingredients). It peeves me a little to see advertisements for other establishments that say they are well established and offer the “opportunity for youngsters to learn to cook properly – not just decorate cupcakes or make very simple things.” My focus however is on tasting, cooking and exploring and sometimes that includes simple as well as exciting ingredients.
Cookery is one of life’s essential skills. It develops children’s motor skills, confidence and academic abilities. I have lost count of the times I have been told a child is extremely shy and finds it difficult to mix with others. A half hour or so in Suzie’s Kitchen and we have happy chatter, laughter, joining in with appropriate technical and practical cooking and baking skills. One of the best memories is of the children making popcorn in a saucepan at snack time and watching the kernels pop and fill the empty space in the pan. We watched and let the level of the corn rise and rise until it lifted the lid and a few stray ‘popcorns’ shot around the kitchen. You don’t get that if you microwave popcorn. It was fab!
To move forward I want to take things slowly but surely and build a reputation. The aim is to stay small for now with a maximum of 4 students and I would really love to include adult classes. I plan for adult classes but at the moment I guess I am not hitting the mark. I am trying out different methods of advertising but it is a bit like doing events….these things take time!
Pop up Restaurant
Every month I cook a huge Cottage Pie and a Vegetarian alternative for a group of pensioners. They love it and I love doing it. I have perfected my recipes to suit their tastes and this is now a regular thing. Off the back of that came regular dinner orders and orders for Birthday and Christmas Cakes. I’ve also had a really successful pop-up restaurant for a large group. The brief was a Kenya Style Buffet. Having been born and brought up in Kenya this was a lovely thing to be asked to do. I found a fantastic blog called All Kenyan Recipes and used several of Mary’s recipes. It was a hit! A week later I repeated the menu for a small group of ladies who loved it.
This is going to be a regular thing now!
I have looked at the events I attend as a form of networking. Getting myself seen and known about even with poor sales is a good thing. I am the face of my business and I enjoy meeting people and chatting to them. The first networking event I went to was in Swindon. I went along to a business breakfast (I was terrified so it was good to be able to eat) and listened to a great talk about blogging and social media by Angela Atkinson. We now follow one another’s blog and now again meet up in the twittersphere! Take a look at her blog here Born Again Swindonian – it’s great!
I joined a Facebook group called Woodborough Entrepreneurs, it is a sort of digital corporate coffee corner but you can go along and meet people in real life too. Once a month there is a meeting for local small businesses, freelancers and entrepreneurs working in the Pewsey Vale and surrounding area in Wiltshire (UK). I can hardly believe I have been so busy I only made one meeting so far! But the best thing by far is that I entered a competition run by one of the members, Gail and I won! The prize was the chance to have six business performance coaching outdoor sessions to help ‘break through the frustration of stagnant business growth by teaching simple, incredibly effective techniques …honed and developed that can take any business owner from amateur to pro in record time.’ What an honour and a privilege! I’ve had a few sessions so far and I must say the benefits are beginning to show already!
Please do look Gail up – follow the link here! Gail M Gibson
Why blogging? I had a class blog when I taught infants. It was a great way to keep everyone informed about all the busy goings on in the class room. The most popular posts were (of course) examples of children’s work or children themselves. I never dreamed I’d have the time to start a blog of my own in a different life. But I am a writer at heart and I love food so a food blog seemed a good idea. I can’t say I blog about lifestyle but I love a good story if I can find one. But for my business why blog?
Well, first of all I wanted to tell my story. I wanted a quiet online presence so I began not knowing if or how people would find it let alone read it. I quickly learnt how to link to social media, google plus and twitter and became a bit obsessive about the stats. Still am, if I am to be honest but I do get a kick out of seeing how many folks have read my posts and where in the world they are. On top of this people started to tell me they loved it.
The purpose of a blog is to attract people to your site and hopefully to convert this traffic into leads and business. ( Not to self- I need to add a call to action to every blog post to generate more business). But not only that – it helps to establish some authority. Its a great way to show case what I do. If you haven’t seen it I have a recipe roll on the top tabs where you can find all my recipes. I only blog things I make so it is not simply some typed up recipes and my photos are all genuinely mine. My project at the moment centres around making a different loaf of bread every week for 52 weeks. So far I am up to week 22. This has been great fun! I’ve explored easy breads, intriguing breads, simple and complex breads and I’ve posted the recipes and photos too. Come on folks! Have a go and tell me how you’ve got on!
So that’s me. What a busy time I have been having. No longer to I wake to that scary feeling of not knowing where the money is going to come from. It is an exciting time and I will let you into a secret (your prize for reading the post). I am all of a flutter! Tomorrow I have a Skype interview with a researcher from a TV production company for a programme coming to BBC2 in the New Year. Watch this space……………………