The Business: Then & Now

22 September 2011

Image: LondonMet

As something that is so integral to our family life, I'm surprised I haven't written more posts on our business. Maybe it's because I've been somewhat out-the-loop for a while. For those who don't know, David and I run our own PR business: one that specialises in contemporary furniture, lighting and home accessories as well as design exhibitions. It all kind of happened by accident. We didn't both sit down one day and decide our dream was to set up our own PR agency. No, not at all. We grew it from scratch seven years ago and today we're still working hard at it. It's not an easy ride having your own business; the pressures can be huge, particularly when it has to support your family. But this far down the line, I don't think either of us could see ourselves working for 'a company' again.

For the last two-and-a-half years, I've taken a back seat: a rather over-extended maternity leave. Of course, in some ways I've not left; David brings work home and we've sat up into the early hours on many an occasion working through a press release or on a proposal for a potential new client. When Lily was born and before she went to school, we would effectively job-share. We split the business and the childcare 50:50. But by the time Arthur came along the business had changed some what and our 'flexible' set up wasn't an option. The work we carry out these days is much more involved; it wouldn't be time productive to constantly be 'handing over' to one another. So we decided on David handling the business full-time while I focused on running the home, looking after the kids and everything else that makes up family life. 

Since then our client portfolio has changed quite dramatically. Go back two-and-a-half years and many of our clients then had been with us long-term. Despite David and I running the business 50:50 from the very early days, a few clients had the false preconception that I was slightly higher up than David. Maybe it was the fact I had a PR background (Conran and Urban Outfitters) some years back; maybe it's because I started out on my own for a very short time on a freelance basis under the name PR-Girl.  When we became a limited company we kept the name as it was gaining a good reputation and we didn' want to jeopardise that. It used to really grate on me when a client would request that I attend a meeting rather than David or that I took the phone call. People, friend's even, would joke that David worked for me and that at the end of the day it was 'my business'. David never seemed that troubled by it: he knew that we both played an equal part in the business and that we were both integral to it.

So it was interesting when we announced that I would be stepping back for 'a while'. Clients excepted it. Has me not being around made any difference? No, not a bit. In fact, under his own steam, David has taken on several new clients: real mover's and shaker's in the industry. I doubt I would have had the confidence to take them on. Despite a recession, he has grown our business and achieved astonishing results for many of our clients, enforcing our worth in the industry ten-fold. I'm so proud of him. I think he's actually a better 'business' person than I am. He takes gambles and works like a dog to make sure they pay off. He has the right personality for the job. He is genuine and hard working and people see that and respect him for it.

We now have some handsome clients in our portfolio; Tent London, Origin, Design Event, Home, Pulse, Mini Moderns, Surface View, The Lollipop Shoppe and Michelle Mason to name but a few. He has essentially been doing the job of 2 - 3 people for the last couple of years. Apart from our week holiday and a few days at Christmas he has had no time off. He gets home late most nights these days, usually after I've put the kids to bed. After dinner, it's not unusual for him to turn on the laptop and catch up on some work to make 'tomorrow easier'. From what I see it rarely does. Being on the receiving end I can find it tough at times. His line between work and home is often blurred. I can feel like a single parent Monday to Friday, but it's hard to voice your complaints to someone who is working hard for you and your kids. After all, it's the kind of life one subscribes to when running your own business. I need to get the 9 - 5 thing out of my head: much like company pensions, sick pay and an annual holiday allowance, they are not part of our employment package. Our business is what we make it and it's what we have to do now that we have our family to support.

With Arthur now settling into playschool, I will be returning to the business for three mornings a week. Due to the limited time I can commit to the business for the moment, I will take the desk at the back of the office (so to speak). I will work on any press releases I'm needed for and will look after other projects that will hopefully enable us to grow the business further. I'll be  doing all the stuff David just hasn't had time to do; setting up our company blog, keeping the accounts up-to-date and I'll be working on our new company name and re-brand. Yes, seven years on we do still have the official company name of PR-Girl. It isn't really fitting anymore don't you agree?

Ooh, you ought to sell those ...

20 September 2011

For a while now I've been chewing over the idea of introducing a 'Buttercup Days Boutique' section to this blog. People often tell me that I ought to try selling some of my homemade wares. I love the idea, but I am so short of time and hand making anything is time consuming. Mmm, what to do?

I had this preconceived idea that to sell product I'd need to produce volume, and that was the part I couldn't commit to. So, I've decided to make limited runs of products to sell. Once gone, I may replenish or I might introduce a different product altogether. That is workable and fun I think.

So, to start the ball rolling I am selling my Buttercup Days cake bunting; whilst stocks last. Seriously, I have made ample stock of the bunting, so to find out more just click 'Buttercup Days Boutique' on the right of your screen. Be sure to visit the boutique regularly to see what the current offering is. Remember,  bit of retail therapy is good for the soul.

The Weekend

19 September 2011

With David currently working some crazy hours in the run up to this week's London Design Festival and Tent London, our weekend was a chance to normalize for 48 hours, steeping away from the busy weekday routine.

Saturday morning started with a cake order for a birthday party that was happening that afternoon for  the mother of a friend; the results of which you can see below. Then, in the afternoon, we took Lily to a birthday party. It wasn't your average party with a kids entertainer and pass-the-parcel. No, this was a horse riding party. Along with a dozen of her new school friends we went to Three Grey's Riding School. Lily had never ridden a horse before, but despite being a little nervous at the initial prospect she enjoyed every minute of it. After a half-hour lesson they went on a half-hour ride on the South Downs. What an experience; it's certainly a party to remember. Somehow, I don't think my homemade party hats and bags are gonna cut it next year.

Most of Sunday was spent down the allotment. The sky threaten rain all day, but it stayed dry. There was certainly a nip in the air too. There is, as ever, a lot of work to be done on the plot. Summer crops are fading and spent sunflowers are skew-whiff from the recent wind. I cleared some ground and planted out a couple of rows of kale and some spinach. I left feeling that Autumn was lurking just around the corner.

A Big Day For A Little Girl.

12 September 2011

You may recall a post I did back in March about David's niece getting engaged. I made the engagement cake; naturally. Well, the big day is now less than six weeks away. The excitement is building. Like me, Lily loves a good wedding: all the pretty dresses, flowers and the 'magic of the day' are completely her 'cup of tea'.

Well, for some months now I've had to keep a little secret from her. Her cousin Lucy wanted to have Lily as one of her bridesmaids. Lily knows a lot about bridesmaids: she drank in the royal wedding  fever earlier this year and she owns a much thumbed sparkly book that's all about being a bridesmaid. I think she sees 'the bridesmaid' as the not so distance cousin of 'the princess' or 'the fairy'.

So, yesterday cousin Lucy paid Lily a visit and asked if she would do her the honour of being one of her bridesmaids. Lily was lost for words, which I can tell you is rare. Then, with Lily still trying to process what was happening, Lucy produced the most beautiful bridesmaid dress for Lily to try on.  Needless to say she looked gorgeous in it. 

Unknown to Lily, Lucy had arranged for us to meet up with the two other young bridesmaid's and their mum to shop for the 'finishing touches', so without drawing breath we headed out to the shops. Just a couple of hours later Lily had a pretty cardigan, sparkly hair slides and tights to complete her 'best outfit ever'. Last night she went to bed very happy. 

What a day it had been for a six-year-old who has always wanted to be a bridesmaid. A perfect day.

First Days

7 September 2011

Today was a big day; a day of 'firsts'. Lily started her new school this morning. She's been excited about today for weeks now, so dropping her off at the new school gates this morning wasn't too daunting as she was so keen to embrace her new routine. She meet up with many of her new school friends on occasions over the summer, so her new friendships were already partly formed which will give her a head start from a social aspect. It was such wonderful feeling to walk to school too, something we couldn't really do when she was at her old school due to the distance.

The harder part of today was taking Arthur for his first day at play school. It's the first time he has been left anywhere unfamiliar to him. I had taken him for a settling in morning earlier in the summer and I'm sure he recognised certain things this morning. I stayed with him for around 15 minutes and then decided to leave him. There is no pressure to stay with or leave your child. It's difficult to know what to do for the best. I didn't want to set a pattern of staying with him as he'd get use to it, so  with confidence in the staff I left. He cried, calling for me. I kept walking, without looking back. A horrible but eneviftable moment.

Back home, it felt strange. The house had never been so quite. There was so much for me to be getting on with, but I found my mind flitting to thoughts of wondering what Lily and Arthur are both doing. I kept myself busy at home willing for the midday pick up to come around so I could see Arthur and show him that mummy hadn't left him.

Arthur had cried for about an hour after I had left him. That's a long time and hard to stomach. However, he did eventually settle down and apparently enjoyed playing with the bikes and cars in the garden. When all the mums arrived to collect their children, he started crying again, so I was met with red teary eyes. We had a sticker on his t-shirt stating that he'd been a 'brave boy' on his first morning. I hoping tomorrow may be a little easier. Time will tell.

With Arthur back home, I watched the time eat into the afternoon waiting for the moment I could leave to collect Lily and hear all about her day. Lily had a very good day. She loved all of it. It's funny to look back at their reactions of today. It's almost like a role reversal. Lily was the one who wouldn't say boo to a goose, whilst Arthur is the happy-go-lucky confident one. It just goes to show that they both have other sides.

I know that this anxious time will be short lived and that before long, both Lily and Arthur will be settled into their new routines. I will settle to the adjustments too. There will be no time to dwell as I'll soon be back at work for the hours Arthur is away. At the end of the day it's nothing more than the next chapter in family life.

A Hair Cut

2 September 2011

It has never failed to surprise me how people, many complete strangers, have felt the need to voice their opinions about the length of my son's hair. He's always had it fairly long, but it's hardly warrants the reactions it has received over the last couple of years. Some family phone conversations can go along the lines of 'Hello, how are you? How are the kids? Have you cut Arthur's hair yet?' Old women at bus stops have questioned why on earth I've allowed his hair to get so long informing me that he will get 'a squint' if it isn't cut with immediate effect.

Well, I bring relief to all those people. Yesterday Arthur had his first proper hair cut at the barbers. It's not his first hair cut. I do trim it now and again, otherwise it really would be too long. But Wednesday night after his bath I decided to do another trim. He would not keep still, so I just had to hack and hope. The result was not great; too short at the back and too long at the sides. The time had come to take a trip to the barbers.

So it was that I found myself in the unfamiliar surroundings of a barber's shop. Through gritted teeth I ask the lovely lady to tidy up his hair, but to please keep it longish. He sat on the plank that laid across the barbers chair like a statue. He almost seemed to enjoy the experience. He likes his new hair. I like his new hair. He looks so grown up now. It turns out the experience wasn't as traumatic as I expected (for me). The best thing is I've discovered he has a really soft spot on the back of his neck.

A Good Day Out

1 September 2011

We first visited the Eden Project while holidaying in Cornwall three years ago and we were very impressed. So last week we considered it just plain foolish not to revisit as it was so near to where we were based. Second time around, I expected a certain amount of 'been there, seen that'. But no, it was anything but. I was even more impressed as a returning visitor. Maybe the place has developed somewhat or maybe it's having two kids in tow this time, but it was just the best day out.

Usually I find that purpose built 'tourist attractions' fail to grab me. The Eden Project is so incredibly thought out. It works. For me the gardens (especially the allotment) are so inspiring; I certainly bought a few ideas home with me. I learnt a lot to which isn't a bad thing. The design of the place is well considered for children. There is so much fun laid on for them through which they learn. When navigating around the gardens, children can opt to leave the path and take the willow tunnels - so much more fun! The Biomes are spectacular structures that allow you to explore the Rainforest and the Mediterranean. A hit with Lily armed with her own guide book.

This summer we were there for the 'Festival of Play'. Lily and Arthur had a go at the Circus Skills workshop. Lily is an impressive sight with a hoola-hoop, but Arthur's plate spinning still needs some practice. Then there was the den building project where families were invited to use the poles, frames, fabrics and blankets provided to make a 'proper' den. There were some pretty impressive structures going up with competitive dad's taking the lead. Ours was built in the chaotic panic one enters when the kids are tired and you're trying to reignite their interest. Needless to say we have no photographic evidence as we were too ashamed to capture the result.

The food was another point worth noting. It was really good. We ate in the Eden Bakery. It's a canteen style set up where you help yourself to what takes your fancy. We had mid-morning coffee and pastries and went back for lunch. The choice was generous and healthy; pizza and salad, big bowls of salad, savoury tarts and thick vegetable soups all with tasty bread baked on the premises. We're glad we didn't pack a picnic that day.