I’ve done a little travelling in my time and learnt a bit from my numerous short breaks. Whether the Christmas market delight of Hamburg or Prague, the ancient city of Rome, , the Colosseum or the Acropolis of Athens, Ephesus and Istanbul; relics of a bygone era. These have held new fascination, wonder and an enlivening of distance times but also a reminder of the transience of life. Even within countries, one senses differences. In Hamburg, an open city where I felt unthreatened (surprisingly, given my preconceptions of Germany) to Frankfurt where even at the airport people were rude and disrespectful. In Spain the cruelty of a bull fight, to the architectural quiet, of Toledo the former capital. The reputation of Parisians as rude proved correct, though exceptions to the rule, of a kindly couple that helped me along my way. Malta; Gozo the smaller island, a Mediterranean delight, to Paphos in Cyprus, an over commercialised holiday resort and retirement destination, for the British. All provided new awakening of the senses, learning, marvel and appreciation of the world. At the same time, an escape from the mundane, often, stressful daily living. I pick 3 of my favourites, to share.
Hong Kong - China. The best thing I found about Hong Kong was travelling to the small islands that dot the main island of Hong Kong itself. Lantau, beautiful, rural; Macau, urban and modern. It was the scenery that catches the attention. In the morning mist, a thick fog cover the sea and visibility is low giving an eerie, mystical feel that slightly disorientates the senses. The ship wreck, used as a location for a James Bond film (Man with A Golden Gun), adds a slight disquiet, like seafarers venturing into the unknown, in Homer’s Odysseus. It was magical, never forgotten. As we crossed to Lantau, the mist slowly lifts and you see the island from afar. Shopping can never beat this!
Marrakech – Morocco. The name sounds exotic and it is. There are few choices, for travel to Morocco, Fez and Casablanca among the most notable. I chose Marrakech, simply because of its name; a good as any, for choosing a holiday destination, I say. In the Southern part of Morocco, it did not disappoint. The blazing sun, the colourful cacophony of the souks and endless Squares, the leather works, the spices/ herbs, the traditional displays, wow, its overwhelming. The warmth of people, all made it a pleasure. I enjoyed bargaining at the souks; a must. Bought eucalyptus, saffron from Berber pharmacy. Be careful of being lured of the beaten track to the souks, by random individuals, claiming the souks are closed and they’ll show alternatives, free. Really just a way to draw you to buy something from another section of the market and then demand a tip. Even a simple request for directions can elicit a request for money. I don’t begrudge, staying at a Riad, in the Medina, I understood. Anyway, it is better than theft or pick pocketing.
One of the most spectacular sights I’ve seen, is viewing the Atlas mountains as the sunsets, a journey I made by camel in the Agafay dessert, where I was driven by car. Apparently Prince of Persia was shot there. It doesn’t surprise, that Morocco is frequently a film location.
Hurghada – Egypt. Having visited Cairo, primarily for the Pyramids, Sphinx of Giza and the museum, before making my way to Sakkara and Dashour, to visit even more pyramids and to wonder at the ingenuity of ancient African people…….. yes the ancient Egyptians or Kemites were entirely African. The 2nd time round, I chose Hurghada. This definitely takes the cake!! I thought the view from Agafay, wouldn’t be beaten anytime soon but I was wrong. From the descent into the airport, the first thing you notice is the sky of the colours of the rainbow. Looking down at the landscape, combined with the skyline, gave the impression you were on another planet. Then the Red Sea, 4 colours of aqua marine, deep blue, light blue and almost black (from the reflection of the coral reef). On an excursion to snorkel, swim with dolphins and generally laze, the gentle waves sparkled as the sun bounced off them. What a beautiful planet! Then the coral reef and fish of many colours. I’m not a teenager but let me borrow … the word “amazing”!! Then looking up at the night sky, the moon seeming so close, that a few blocks up, you could touch it. Such a beautiful place and contrast to Cairo. Lots of activities on this trip, to a Bedouin village, the landscape again catches the attention. The Red Sea Mountains, not as impressive as the view of the Atlas Mountains but the surrounding haze made them delightful to the eye. The topography alone did wonders for my state of mind and took me away for what seemed an eternity, from the cold winter of London.
Where would you recommend? I’m planning Petra and 1 day trip to Jerusalem, sadly the Israeli – Palestine issue means of principle, I won’t stay there longer. I love visiting ancient towns and cities, marvelling at the ingenuity of people and being reminded of my own mortality. What will I leave behind, for people to ponder 3,000 years from now? … if we haven’t self- destructed, that is.
©Photo: Agafay Dessert, Morocco.
You may remember my blog The Fun of Learning and Zero Cost series: De-stressing Your Workplace, I shared my experiences of a short floristry course and extolled the virtues of plants and their effects on the psyche. Today it’s quick rundown on what’s happened to a single plant that has had me thinking about life and birth.
Over the summer 0f 2017 I decorated the window ceil with several plants some lasting longer than others, which meant over the course of the season I replaced the plants several times. Among the plants I regularly purchased were orchids, which as I have learnt, is taken from the Greek word for testicle, due to its bulbous root. I must admit I am a late comer to the beauty of this flower, which is not fragranced like the hyacinth or rose and has a long stalk, needing ties to a bamboo or other support, to stay upright. Each lasts about 5 – 8 weeks and though the instructions for care, state they may bloom more than once, found myself throwing all but one of the about 12 I bought.
It was one of two, (I always buy them in pairs, since they’re testicles!) I was about to throw away when I noticed little bump on one, like it was sprouting again. I wasn’t sure but decided to hold on, just in case. True enough a new stem started to grow through autumn and winter then come Spring I noticed two flowers springing out. First, the familiar 'pod' like petals which grew larger then boom, a fully- fledged flower. Sadly one perished before it bloomed but what a surprise. It didn’t make the normal 5 – 8 weeks but what a joy when I noticed two new stem sprouting from the main stalk, with numerous tiny ‘pods’. I held my breath will they make it to maturity!! Well this blog is inspired by the fact they did. I have 10 full glorious orchid flowers (see picture) and can see a couple more new ones, yet again. It was really a good feeling. Life and newness that comes from dying and rebirth.
For the first time I appreciated death, which more a curiosity rather than dread to me. The mystics, the religious say, it’s the beginning of something new elsewhere. Is this orchid an insight of life to come, will I be reborn, what do I have to do to nurture and prepare for a pleasant rebirth elsewhere? The orchid woke me up. As I look outside the window, I notice the perennial tree, the leaves fluttered away, it became bare and then the leaves slowly returning much like my orchid. Summer, with the sun and merriment has taught me a life lesson.
As we approach Christmas & the New Year, I thought a quick rundown of my blogs for the year, with accompanying updates to round off & prepare for 2018 appropriate. To be concise I have chosen my favourites but in no particular order. Happy Christmas.
This blog, leading from my course on Managing Responsibly included themes on sustainability. I took my learning personally, by investigating & informing management of my building, on recycling, electricity waste & conservation. I’m glad to say that after following up; results. Recycling bags are now provided, though nothing has been done about leaving sockets on, without anything plugged in, nor the inefficient heating problem. Nevertheless, some action. Managing Responsibly is not just a work related issue. Read - funmiad.wordpress.com/2017/08/20/managing-responsibly-means-being-responsible/
The Fun of Learning.
In this one I reflected on how learning can be for fun & the courses I took, that were totally unprofessional related. These included floristry & complementary therapy. Since this blog, I have extended my fun learning time, to include further complementary therapy course & subscribed to Mind, Body, Spirit a publication on holistic remedies & as the title suggests, spiritual aspects as well. I really recommend this, it boosts endorphin (for me anyway) which can only be a good thing for work & stress relief. Talking about stress relief, De- stressing Your Workplace, was one I wrote in June sometime. I continue the practice & will share photos of the change I continually make to keep my environment stress – free. Read - funmiad.wordpress.com/2017/08/01/the-fun-of-learning/
White Power: A Case Of Racism in International Development
A couple of work related blogs one on racial discrimination, 1 of a 4 part article, in international development, of all places .!! I promised I would update on any responses from DFID, the government department for UK “aid”. No response, despite going through my local MP. Continue to wait but will follow- up more rigorously next year. Funnily enough, not long after I published this blog, the Prime Minister’s office, published a report highlighting the issue. All the more sad, they aren’t responding. Action I say, not words, soon forgotten. Some of the reactions I’ve got to these articles have been quite a revelation, sadly not positive. The final part will come beginning of next year. Read - funmiad.wordpress.com/2017/10/11/white-power-racism-in-uk-aid-to-africa/
Enterprising Female, Halloween
A short and final blog on my pet project, Enterprising Female, reminding myself & everyone interested, about the concept & principles of behind the events; women’s empowerment. If you reside in London, or happen you be around, join us in the New Year for a taste of this unique way, of mixing business with pleasure. Read- funmiad.wordpress.com/2017/10/30/why-were-doing-business-just-before-halloween/
Share your thoughts of your year in our LinkedIn Group or Facebook page.
Wishing you all a Happy Christmas & Prosperous New Year.
People especially business owners tend to be a cynical lot - nothing goes for nothing. I remember as part of the support I provide through @Enterprising Female, signposting a lady business owner, to where she could get further help with her fledgling business free. Her answer why? Why would they do that, Funmi? I went on to explain about funding. There was even a business owner that poked suspicion, about the entire concept of Enterprising Female and its entirely altruistic agenda, to help women thrive. She said something along the lines you can say its about supporting women businesses but we all really just want to promote our own businesses. Wrong.
Enterprising Female is entirely about women equality, through business promotion & growth. A not - for- profit, social enterprise, from which I earn nothing, just enough of a charge, to cover expenses. Low, low prices, plenty of flexibility & in -built business advice, from my management consulting & business advice, experience spanning 19 years. Our Next event is 27th October at W2 London. If you're a small business owner, join us. Take advantage of our tiny priced stalls & other business growth options, for humongous returns. Be less of a cynic, there are genuine people out there. If it helps, though, I wear another hat to earn my living.
Putting your money where your mouth is is definitely the way I like to approach life. After taking a Managing Responsibly On- line course by Manchester University, applying the new techniques I learnt in the workplace could be considered given. However, I’m pleased to say this course, as well as others in Sustainability, came in handy on a personal level, when I moved into new place last year. I noticed that although the block of at least 50 flats of professional people was well maintained, surprisingly it had no recycling bins. I mentioned it to on – site management but was given a story about the Council taking the recycling bin away, the year previous. At first I took this at face value but noticing the inordinate amounts of recyclable material, we were binning, decided this was something I needed to take up, when after mentioning it further, no action was taken.
I Googled, found the number, telephoned and was told I needed commercial recycle bins, which could only be ordered by the building’s management, due to the nature of the building. I passed the message onto the lady- in -charge, whom bluntly refused to call. Undeterred I left her the phone number & suggested she try & arrange a bin for the building, due to the overwhelming waste. Nothing happened, so determined to do my bit to act responsibly & contribute towards a sustainable future for the next generation, enquired about personal recycling. I was informed I could pick up recycling bags, at the library & drop outside every Wednesday, for picking the following day.
I’m glad to say I’ve done this & my many bottles, cans, cardboard etc is now part of the wider drive to save our planet, from over consumption. I recently made the effort again to galvanize management, into moving on recycling, to no avail. I also pointed out a couple of energy inefficiencies in the building, though I don’t know how seriously they’re taking me. Anyway, the moral of this is, a little goes a long way & don’t be undeterred by the laziness or irresponsibility of other people. No matter how small the contribution it does make a difference.
I enjoy learning new things and over the years, as well as lots of academic, professional & CPD for my career development & advantage, learnt to swim & got into yoga, as an adult. I’ve also tried fun day events like steel band & creative arts, during the summer months. I find it all very stimulating especially when you’re learning, professionally or not, without the pressure to succeed.
I recently took up 2 fun courses, which I have found extremely therapeutic, Indian head massage & sculptural floristry. I must say that like the 3 dimensional art workshop I took in 2015, have enjoyed every moment, of learning for fun. In addition, the art workshop was free, the other courses were of low cost. Other benefits of engaging in this type of pastime, is meeting new people, sharing ideas, releasing untapped creativity (which I actually did not know I had) & new skills to benefit my health & well- being. The Indian head massage techniques, aimed at performing on others, I can also, actually use on myself, at times I’m feeling stressed & in danger of getting a headache. Last year I engaged in guided meditation, breathing exercises & mindfulness, which I now practice regularly. I can say I do find this has helped my emotional & physical well- being tremendously.
The floristry workshop, is a really enjoyable pastime & as someone that loves gardening, potted plants & floral displays, found it’s open a new avenue to enjoy flowers. The key thing I got from it was relaxation. It was also great seeing others in the class (all women!!), their displays, different perspectives & approaches to sculpting flowers. I share some photos below.
I recently blogged on how destressing your workspace can destress you, this course fits in nicely, with that theme. As an entrepreneurial female, I was quick to see the potential of these 2 courses for fundraising. Enterprising Female is a not- for- profit, supporting women & raising funds for women business owners, in developing economies. These new skills can provide income generating activities to support the organization & raffle prices to donate.
So, what lessons have I taken away from these workshops? First its humbling, there is so much to learn, so much positive potential with which to fill our lives, it makes me wonder why Sapiens are so negative, finding fault, causing wars & generally over concerned with the rat race & the pressures it puts on us. Second, I realised there’s a universe inside of me, yet untapped, that I’m just learning about, sadly, as a mature adult. 3rd learning new fun things is very stimulating & opens the mind to new adventures & creativity, that could have benefits for the work environment. Why not give it a go & let me know what you think?
As someone who enjoys the arts & museums, I couldn't resist sharing these hair & wig styles from Africa, over the centuries. Being in the West, one rarely gets the opportunity to view such aspects of social history. I also find the video to be an interesting peek at how femininity / beauty has been defined in the past. By the way, its narrated by a man!!
This is the 3rd and final of the Zero Cost series, advising on doing business on a shoe string. This instalment concentrates on a health- related issue. It’s safe to say most micro businesses will not have a budget for counselling & stress advice in the work environment, yet from
“Herzberg’s Hygiene Factors to Feng Shui the importance of the immediate surrounding, in improving mood, is well articulated”.
For those running micro businesses with numerous daily pressures, particularly for women, with added home responsibilities, it is easy to become oblivious to the symptoms of stress, or not recognise them at all. Worse there’s no boss to blame & is often self – inflicted. Lack of adequate planning, work - life balance, growing the business too fast, are some of the things that can lead to self – inflicted stress. Being aware of the impact and symptoms of stress is the first step in the right direction. Credible free help & guides can be found on the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website -
In November 2015, courtesy of Hajnal Zdravics, Enterprising Female ran a mini workshop, on eating habits & stress, outlining simple techniques to cope with stress or potential stressful situations. For a copy of the accompanying slides, check out this link Also, Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) offer free advisory services on many work related issues including a guide on stress As a micro business, free resources such as these, help ensure good work practice, if you engage employees or sub - contractors. Importantly, they can also be used as a self -help guide, for the business owner.
A Personal Solution.
Now recovering from a long bout of ill health, I realised the role stress played in my situation. As I begin to plan getting into the full swing of things, I took some simple steps to change my workspace. For many self - employed or micro business, in professional services, work can be isolating. Networking certainly helps to break this constraint. When I ran my consultancy from an office, I had the obligatory plant in the corner somewhere but never sought to enhance the office, with full floral arrangement. I enjoy gardening and love flora. This year, as Spring began, seeing the blooms in parks & trees turn green, I realised what quite joy they brought. I knew instantly I needed to replicate this in my work space & it’s worked.
Find what works for you. Could be plants, Mindfulness art, pictures, mood light, for those late- night catch – ups, soft meditative music, or all these things (I do all, for extra boost but use CDs, rather than earplugs, so I hear the phone!). Getting the benefits of stress free environment in large offices, often costs huge sums of money & professional input. For zero cost, stress free environment, try the steps & guides I note, above.
To conclude, my advice for the micro business owners is, de-stress your environment, de-stress your life, your work and health, will be more productive, for it.
I make no recommendations, nor veracity about the websites and information to which I refer.
Today I want to share my thoughts on business ethics. From the financial crises to fracking & global warming, a moral dilemma confronts corporations. In the case of the financial crises, it seems there were failures all round. Individuals, organizations and economics, conspired to a moral dilemma, that led to unethical behaviour, not regulated by law, or compliance. The same is true for micro business.
My Professional Ethics
Belonging to professional associations, imposes some rules of engagement, in my business dealings but still gives raise to potential conflict of interest. For example, in the delivery of some consulting work, I was engaged by an organization, with clear ulterior motives. I could not betray the trust of those on whose behalf I was working (moral dilemma 1) but did not want to be party to an agenda that was not in the best interest of the client (dilemma 2). In the end, I made the decision to navigate the situation, mindful of both commitments, by modifying my behaviour and method of delivery. The point is, ethics is personal to the individual. It is a leaning for, or away from personal morals and making a conscience decision, to comply with ethics of business.
The Ethics of the International Development Industry
The international development sector is an industry, complete with standards of engagement, such as equality and diversity. Sadly, glaringly, it is unable to live up to the standards, it professes. Overt racism is rife, leading to an industry that is almost without exception ‘white,’ despite the industry addressing ethnically sensitive issues. There is still a huge gap between theory and practice.
Having examined the state of my industry, my ability to effect change and raise the standards of practice, I:
1. Started Enterprising Female, which I hope to be able to export abroad
2. Manage responsibly, for example, reach out to existing organizations that can bring value to micro business women, even if they are competitors.
3. Give value for money, with a central theme to support, rather than profit.
4. Gain deeper insight into sustainability and responsibility to embed more fully, into personal practice.
As a micropreneur, are you ethically aware when you do business? Do you make professional decisions based on ethics? Let me have your thoughts.
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Today I’m sharing my experiences, to help cash strapped, social media novices, micropreneurs & socialpreneurs, with a formula that works, at least for me!
Running a social enterprise, or as some call it a community interest company, without any major grants or funding is challenging. The decision to set – up shop, was always without the motivation to earn but rather to help, by bringing many years of international experience, in micro, small & medium enterprise, to those that could ill afford the benefits, of my consulting experience. It meant learning the ropes of social media, from scratch, because of scarce funds, to hire or engage a professional. Social media is the medium of building relationships, with a community of like – minded, or those with similar interest, although diversity, can bring cross- interest engagement. It’s a free podium, to reach out with a megaphone to a prepped, warmed audience, providing immediate access to the reverberation of your audience, as your message echoes & resonates, in a worldwide amphitheatre.
Social Media Tips
1. Make use of the internet to read about how to do social media best. Be careful to check – out blogs & sites of professionals, to learn tips & principles on doing it correctly.
2. Tip 1 leads directly to this tip. Understand, curate what you’ve learned and develop a plan. For example, decide which social media platforms you’re going to use, some or all. In the case of Enterprising Female, I started with the most popular, #Facebook. #Twitter, #YouTube, #Pinterest & #Eventbrite, since Enterprising Female runs regular events.
3. Don’t be intimidated. Setting up a YouTube channel is very straight forward, as is other social media platforms. They are designed to be intuitive and simple to use; there is also a Help/ FAQ search. If you get stuck, hover over icons or click dropdowns, you’ll eventually find what you need. Logging out, without saving often takes you back to the last ‘save’ and of course there’s the delete button.
4. Adding these media to your site, via a link, is pretty obvious but remember vice – versa. In the section for details, be sure to add your web address & other contact details, to your social media.
5. Don’t stick to content that’s just about your business. Ensure diversity of content by sharing relevant, engaging variety of professional, social, current, local, national & international posts. Follow bigger organizations on Twitter & have Page Feeds, on Facebook. Make thoughtful comments on pages you’re following, join groups on Facebook, to do this. As the not – for- profit I run, is women focused, I follow a number of women enterprise & equality organizations; I also take an interest in women & enterprise in general. Sometimes content is informative, funny, business specific, occasionally making a point, or celebratory.
6. Sharing & engagement is key. This is why Tip 2, deciding the presence for your business on these platforms, is important. Setting up multiple social media accounts across different platforms takes time & effort to maintain. Do you have the time & inclination to keep content up to date & relevant across them all? If you do, the more the better, if not; stick to less is more. A good sub tip here is, retweet or share, is good, for when you’re short on original, self – generated, posts.
The professional side of social media, is where you show case your competence, abilities and know- how, it’s the more business overt media.
7. Typically, #LinkedIn, being the most ubiquitous. beBee, about.me, are similar. Wordpress or other blogging platform (+ blogs on your site), #slideshare, should be a high priority for this side of your engagement. The focus should be networking, learning & access to professionally relevant information, to keep up to date with trends in your business sector. Many micropreneurs have limited budget for the cost of conferences and seminars, this is a way of connecting & building your personal - business brand.
8. In addition to large international sites, try relevant sector, or local platforms. Being concerned with women in enterprise, I have presence on #womenonlyconnected; in London, #London Professionals & because I run events #Kweekweek.
9. A newsletter is also a form of social media. Many use this medium, to reach out, it’s important to get the frequency & content right. For this, I use #Mailchimp but there are many others, so use my advice, in Tips 1 &2
10. Bring it all together, SYNC your social media platforms, to each other, where possible, Eventbrite, Wordpress, Mailchimp, is particularly easy. Export your Eventbrite bookings to your newsletter database. Make your website engagement ready. Take the advice of the experts, they say, the content of your website is important. I took this advice & have fun survey on the home page, free resources & business specific Survey Monkey quiz. Your website should be part & parcel of your social media strategy (Tip 2).
Since starting my social media journey, as a sceptical novice, with a presence ‘just for the sake of it’ I think I can finally begin to claim some confidence & success. I have generated a good number of retweets, started high response content on LinkedIn, had #slideshare content go viral, won paying clients through Kweekweek, Womenonlyconnected, London Professionals & Eventbrite (Enterprising Female events, are partially free) & generated lots of enquiries & interest via all the platforms I use. More recently I’ve learned to share my content on Facebook with hashtags, resulting in the most consistently high number of post views, since starting, ad hoc, in 2013. The added benefit of a regular, broad presence, is that your business is easier to search & contributes to SEO.
I dedicate about 15 minutes /day on average checking, across all the platforms, when I can. On days something catches my eye, I comment, Like, retweet, which may take time spent to 30 - 45 minutes. Then once a month/ or every other month, I try to blog, send out newsletters & generally keep in touch. Only now I’m I thinking, Instagram. The frequency of blogs depends on time, industry & purpose. Sometimes I have several topics at hand simultaneously. For time management, I prepare all in Word and post at intervals.
I hope my experience & tips help micropreneurs that are just starting, or established but not fully engaged with social media. It provides access to a worldwide, yet at the same time highly targeted, local audience. Let me have your thoughts & if you’re a professional, please let me have some constructive input.
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