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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Cha Haxell

Welcome to Saturday Business chat.Today we’re talking to Cha Haxell of Large Cup Lingerie. I think all women have probably suffered when buying bras at some time or another, but the larger sizes in particular can be very problematic, with all sorts of attitudes being experienced in high street shops (I saw a discussion about this on Facebook just the other day), so Cha is filling a very important gap in the market indeed!

Cha is another person who started off working part time while building her business, and I really can’t recommend this path enough as a hard, but much more reassuring and safe feeling, way of launching a business. It’s interesting that coming from a family where people run their own businesses has given Cha the background she needed to understand what to do and how to do it, and that does seem to be a real advantage and confidence booster. On the other hand, I and many of my other interviewees have come from a more traditional employment-related background, so it takes all sorts!

What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

My business is called Large Cup Lingerie and I set it up in April 2010.  As the name would suggest, we’re an online retailer of lingerie and bra sized swimwear for the fuller busted lady.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I actually set up my business almost by accident.  I was having a clear out of items I’d purchased and never worn that still had their tags on, and was going to give them to my friends.  They said that they would actually be willing to pay more for them than I had as they were “unusual” sizes and quite hard to get hold of.  That gave me the idea that I could turn it into a business venture and the rest, as they say, is history!  I had originally intended to enter post-graduate study, but the business has taken over now.  I don’t mind though, because I love the control and flexibility that running my own business gives me.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

I had a really negative experience in a well known department store when bra shopping for myself and this made me realise there was a lot of room for improvement within the industry.  I was told that if I wanted a 30 back size bra I should try the children’s department!  The impact that a comment like that can have on someone’s confidence is so detrimental;  I wanted to make sure the other women with smaller back sizes had someone to purchase their bras from and wouldn’t have to suffer the embarrassment that I had.  Luckily now, there is much better bra knowledge available, thank goodness!

Had you run your own business before?

No, I hadn’t.  Although I had done lots of freelance work, so I knew that I could motivate myself and manage my time effectively.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

Whilst I was still setting the business up I worked part time, but as soon as the website launched that was a full-time commitment.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

I don’t think there is anything I wish I knew before I started.  My father runs his own business, so I grew up knowing that it would take long hours and a lot of commitment.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

That all the hard work is most definitely worth it.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

I wish I’d have been more insistent about the design and functionality of my website as I had to completely redevelop it after a year.

What are you glad you did?

I’m really glad that I got involved with social media.  I’ve met some great contacts and friends through Twitter and Facebook and the lingerie blogging community is absolutely phenomenal.

What’s your top business tip?

Network as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to ask your friends if they can recommend products and services to you.  From web designers to service providers it’s really great if you can get a recommendation as it takes some of the risk out of blindly searching.  Plus, if they are close friends you might even get a discount!

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

It has grown tremendously since we started and we’re still expanding.  We’ve added lots more brands and we’ve got some more lined up too.  It’s all very exciting.

Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?

In a year’s time we’ll have an even more diverse range of swimwear and lingerie brands!  We offer free international delivery, so hopefully we’ll have more regular international customers too.

Websites seem to often be problematic, and so many people talk about the value of networking – if you haven’t tried it, give it a go. I do like the idea of this lingerie blogging community, not something I’ve encountered in my daily life, but it just shows that there’s likely to be an online community for everyone. It’s lovely to see people so positive and enjoying their work and Large Cup Lingerie is a great niche idea – I look forward to hearing about those bras going all over the world this time next year!

Read Cha’s 2013 interview here!

Large Cup Lingerie’s website is at www.largecuplingerie.com  and you can contact Cha by email or via the Contact Us form on the website.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.

 
 

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Between or among?

I’ve encountered this one a few times recently, so it’s time to differentiate between between and among. Or among between, betwixt, among and amongst. Did you see what I did there?

It’s all a question of numbers: in general terms, between is used when you’re talking about two things, and among is used when you’re talking about three or more thing, whether that’s points, places, people or choices.

So, between means into or across the space separating two points or locations or objects – “He regularly caught the train between Glasgow and Edinburgh”, “He squeezed in between Sally and Jan so he could be in the photograph”, or two things that need to be differentiated or otherwise chosen: “I couldn’t choose between the doughnut and the cream cake, so I had both”.

And among means surrounded by, in the middle of – “I was trapped among the cows in the field” – or indicates a differentiation, choice or division involving three or more parties or objects – “You must choose your holiday destination among Bulgaria, Hawaii and Outer Mongolia”

Between can be used for more than two objects, people, etc. when you are indicating a connection between several entities/parties (“There are links between Spanish, Italian and French”) although this one is a matter of stylistic choice, and I prefer among for more than two, and when a group does something – “We came up with his fine between us: although he got caught, we all raced the shopping trolley down the main road”, although I might be inclined towards among here, too, if I was being particularly picky.

These choices, where it’s not clear which has to be used, is why we editors have style sheets, by the way, so that when we make a choice the first time, we make sure we make the same choice next time.

Bonus information:

I’ve been asked about betwixt and between a few times. Betwixt is just the archaic form of between. Betwixt and between means “neither one thing nor the other”

And amongst, like whilst and while, is a mainly British English alternative form of among, but can seem a little over-formal.

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.

 

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My short cuts: adding shortcuts to the quick access toolbar

Do you use commands in Word that are usually buried inside a menu inside a menu inside a menu? I’m going to show you how to add these onto your Quick Access Toolbar, so you can get at them using a shortcut in just one click. And scroll to the bottom for a very quick way to do this …

The example I’m going to use is AutoCorrect Options. I have posted about how to find and work with AutoCorrect, but it is buried within some nested menus, which means you have to click and click and click whenever you want to add a new entry, wasting time to do something in order to save time. Now, I can access the menu I want with just one click!

So, first of all we need to go up to the Quick Access Toolbar, right at the top of your screen in Word 2007 and Word 2010 (in Word 2003, right click on the main toolbar and customise it). Note the down arrow to the right of your standard buttons, and click it:

You will notice an option to choose More Commands – this is how you add more buttons to the Quick Access Toolbar. Click on that, and you’ll get a screen which allows you to customize the Quick Access Toolbar:

Note at this point that you can access this menu via Word Options – Customize, too, if you want to.

We can now see a whole load of Popular Buttons you can add on to the Quick Access Toolbar – so you can pop them on there to get at them whenever you want to. These are a few buttons that appear at the top level when you click on any of the tabs on your main ribbon.

We’re going deeper, though, into buttons and commands which don’t appear on the top level of your tab menus. So click on the arrow next to Popular Commands and you’ll get a list of options:

You can choose All Commands, which will give you every command and button (with a hover-over tip to which menu they belong to so you can choose, for example, Spell Check from the Review tab rather than the Blog version, which won’t do much for you in a standard Word document. In this case, to add our deeply buried button, we want to choose Commands not on the Ribbon.

Now you have a list of every command and button that exists in Word. How handy that AutoCorrect begins with an A! Look for your button and highlight it, then click on Add >> to add it to the list on the right – which is the list of buttons that appear on your Quick Access Toolbar. At this point you can even choose when these buttons will appear, but I always leave it on All documents. When you’ve pressed Add, there it is, on the list:

Click on OK and it will magically appear on your Quick Access Toolbar:

Want to check it’s true? Click on the little icon, and there’s our familiar AutoCorrect menu.

What a time saver! I’ve added all my very commonly used buttons from different menus onto my Quick Access Toolbar, from Bold to Spellcheck and all sorts of other things in between …

Adding items quickly to the QAT

Edit to add: If you have the button you want to add to the QAT in front of you, simply right click on that button and you will get the option to add it to the quick access toolbar!

Magic! And it works however deeply buried the button is in your lists of commands – for example, you can choose something that appears in a menu within a menu:

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents. Find all the short cuts here

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word

 

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Small business chat update – Carl Nixon

Excel ExpertI’m excited about presenting my first Small Business / Freelancer Chat update today. In case you’ve never seen this before, I have been featuring a fellow small business or freelancer on this blog every week for a year now, with each person answering a set list of questions. The last question is “Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time”, and the very last, unseen, question is “Do you mind me getting in touch in a year’s time for an update?” So now I’ve started getting in touch with my June 2011 interviewees for their updates – and first to feature is Carl Nixon from Excel Expert.

Carl’s original chat is here, and I asked where he wanted to be in a year’s time, he replied “Hopefully employing people so I can take on more work”. Let’s see what’s happened in the intervening year …

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

In a word no, due to the passing of my mother and prolonged lung infection for me, I had to put my plans back by about 6 months.

The plan to hire people was based around hiring students from the local university, but that hit a massive brick wall. Most programmers work best when they can keep their own hours and work when they choose to work (both Google and Microsoft allow their programmers attend work anytime they like and many can be found working through the night), so I wanted to hire programmers who would work from home. Talking to the students, this suited them down to the ground, as it allowed them great flexibility. However, the health and safety bods at the university insist that they should work from an office and during normal office working hours. This means I would need to lease an office and take on all those costs as well. This has meant that the plan is shelved for now – however there is a plan B which is gaining more and more momentum at the moment.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I think the above outlines what has changed.

What has stayed the same? We are still offering the same bespoke services to the highest level we can, which is bearing fruit in the form of lots of repeat business.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

Don’t be afraid to get rid of troublesome clients: they will eat your time and there is no way you can get that back. We had one client who represented 25% of our turnover last year, however they were terrible payers and I had to spend hours and hours having to jump through hoops just to get paid. When I told them I wasn’t supplying them anymore they offered to pay me 100% up front for all work and to pay a premium. I mistakenly accepted this offer and started working for them again. As soon as I did they started trying to creep in specifications to include more and more work, and have been doing so ever since. Things came to a head recently when they tried to demand that I made myself available to work for them at 11pm on a Friday night having only given 3 hours’ notice. It was at this point that we went our separate ways for the final time.

If I had stuck to my guns the first time around we could have all walked away with no eggs on faces. Now the separation is getting messy

Any more hints and tips for people?

See above

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time.

I’m moving the business from providing bespoke services to providing off the shelf solutions such as accounts packages. This will mean a totally different business model, but we have already struck partnership deals to bring in outside expertise.

So a real year of ups and downs for Carl, and while he’s not exactly in the place he imagined this time last year, things are looking positive (he’s also had a website and logo redesign). I look forward to seeing what happens to these new plans over the next year!

Here’s what Carl was up to in 2013!

Carl’s website is here and you can call him on 029 2125 1450.

Here’s more information about the Freelancer / Small Business Chat feature and there’s an index to all the featured people too!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Palate, pallet or palette?

I see these three, especially pallet and palette, mixed up all the time – of course double letters, e at the end of a word and e or a are all classic ways to confuse spellings, so it’s hardly surprising that people get into a pickle with these.

Your palate is the roof of your mouth, and, by extension, can also be used to describe someone’s ability to appreciate different flavours and distinguish between them (wine tasters, for example, should have a good palate).

A palette is that board, usually round with a thumb hole in, that artists use to mix their paints, or the range of colours that an artist uses.

And a pallet is a portable flat platform used to store and stack other things – it’s often made of wood but you also find them in plastic. It’s also a kind of flat knife used to shape clay or plaster. And (whisper) it can be used to describe an artist’s palette, but let’s not confuse matters by doing that, OK?

“The artist cleared his throat, stepped up onto the pile of pallets that had stored his bread, grasped his palette and mixed some colours, and let the taste of the wine swill around his palate.”

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.

 

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Are you guilty of presenteeism?

This is not my current desk

Having inadvertently given my friends and family the impression I work all day and every day, I started to think about whether the cult of “Presenteeism” is as strong in the self-employed community as it is among employees. Surely it shouldn’t be … and if it is, what can we do about it?

What is presenteeism?

We’ve all heard of absenteeism, or the practice of regularly removing oneself from the working environment for no good reason. Presenteeism is the opposite. It’s in the Oxford Concise Dictionary, and here’s how they define it:

The practice of being present at work for longer than required, especially as a manifestation of insecurity about one’s job,

This manifests itself in that classic competition over who can stay latest in the office (or, more importantly, who can be seen to be staying latest in the office. Or being in earliest. Or both. We’ve all sent an email to the boss when we’ve got in particularly early, haven’t we?

Now, that’s all well and good when you have a boss to impress. But what if you work on your own?  And I’m admitting doing this myself, here – although inadvertently. It’s easy to send that Tweet or Facebook status at the end of a long day …

Phew – done 10 hours at the desk today – big project!!!!

but is it so easy to say

Good day, did a couple of hours of work, all caught up so I lay around reading for a few hours

Well, is it?

Why do we have to engage in presenteeism?

I’d be interested to work out why we do this. Are we so busy trying to combat that insidious view of freelancers as people who sit around in their pyjamas watching daytime telly? Surely our friends and family know we don’t do that by now?

If you work in an office, you will tend to have set start and finish times, a proper lunch break, and weekends off (or a set working pattern) and holidays. How many freelancers take the full holiday entitlement they would be given as an employee? I know I probably don’t.

So when it’s quiet, we’re up to date and we skip off merrily to the cafe, or the gym, or just lounge in the garden for an hour or so, is that really a crime?

And isn’t it better for our friends and family to know we’re happy. whole, balanced and relaxed than working every hour there is on a hideous treadmill of work? Didn’t at least some of us go freelance  to avoid that hideous treadmill of work?

Celebrate balance, not overwork

I’m not suggesting we stop working when we need to be working. Everyone has to pull one of those 11 hour shifts sometimes. But let’s all be honest about how we live, celebrate the downtime as well as the busy times, and acknowledge that, yes, we do do this in order to have balance and flexibility in our lives, and we do have work patterns which are different, but balanced over the grand scheme of things.

I’m going to talk about this in public – I dare you to too!

Inspiration for this post came from one I published on my other blog about what I do all day. I have tried, since publishing that, to note when I have some time off …

 
14 Comments

Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Business, Ethics

 

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Horde or hoard?

Of course this one comes under the “these words sound the same! Which on earth do I use?” category, as so many Troublesome Pairs do. What do you do if you’ve only heard the words spoken but want to write one of them (well, you look here or in a dictionary, but you know what I mean …).

So, here’s the difference:

A horde is a noun meaning a large group of people. It’s often used in a pejorative or slightly threatening sense (ravening hordes) but also in a positive, if slightly anachronistic way: “Hordes of people came to my tennis party!”

A hoard is a noun meaning a store of money or possessions. It’s usually used for something impressive and/or unusual, rather than just “some stuff”, for example a dragon will have a hoard of gold and jewels, and we had the Staffordshire Hoard archaeological find of golden and bejewelled items a few years ago. There’s a verb to go with this one: to hoard – to collect such things together, usually seen in a negative way to describe misers or people who can’t bear to throw anything away.

Interestingly, they do come from different routes: horde comes from the Turkish for (royal) camp, via Polish, whereas hoard comes from Germanic origins.

I used both words in one sentence in a post on my other blog today, as a little hint as to which troublesome pair I was going to post today – I wonder if any of my hordes of readers noticed …

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.

 

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