Saturday, November 21, 2009

Which will you wear this Christmas?

As the end of November sneaks up on us, Christmas parties and nights out with the girls are on our minds. If you want some gorgeous shoes - quality, limited edition, amazing value - take a look at what Shoes Galore have on offer.

You can see me at the Cromwell House Hotel in Stevenage (Sun 22nd) or the Three Horseshoes in Norton (Thurs 26th). On 27th & 28th November, plus the 2nd December, I have private parties - so the chances are stocks are going to sell out quickly!

If you see something you like, better get in touch soon, or you will be disappointed.

Friday, October 30, 2009

You'll meet a...

Last night I did something that I haven't done in about 20 years - I had my Tarot cards read. I did it with an open mind, or even something bordering on scepticism.

Let me tell you, it was very very strange.

Every card turned was described to me with a level of detail that leaves me stumped as to an explanation. These weren't vague "tall dark stranger" type statements that you could interpret how you chose. These were physical and character descriptions of very real people and very real situations in my life. I would not have been surprised to have been told their shoe sizes!

The reading didn't try to tell me my future or what I should do but it did give some insight into situations that are unfolding around me. Whether you believe in the cards or not, whether you think it is magic or the power of the unconscious, it was a very interesting experience. And I know that one theory is that the reader uses "cold reading" to create the illusion - but in this particular case I am certain that it was not the case.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Be the gardener in your life

This morning I have worken up with an extraordinary sense of calm, peace and clarity. It is as if through my dreamings I have been blessed with a vision of the true workings of the influences that have surrounded me through the last months of my journey and through that understanding has come joy.

My personal growth over the last months has been on fast forward. If you haven't met me since the start of the year, there's a good chance that you won't recognise me - not just because my physical presence has changed radically, but because my very being is different. I have moved at full speed from being someone crushed, confined, and losing their very being to being full of positive energy, confidence and excitement at what the world has to offer. It is obvious that I haven't made this journey entirely alone, and I have to thank those people who have spent their time to help me to heal my soul.

However, people are flawed. All of them. Some acknowledge their flaws and seek to minimise their effect on others. Some glory in them and use them for their own good. You can be damaged by those last ones if you aren't psychically strong. You can take the negative energy they employ and have it crush your soul. But don't ignore the positives they also bring - because nobody is all good or all bad, and if someone helps you to find ways to grow you should give thanks.

So my clarity today is about not making someone else's behaviour or intentions personal. It is about how your teachers do not have to be perfect, and finding that they are damaged themselves does not invalidate the growth you have made yourself. In fact it can stimulate greater development and insights.

For a long time I have held onto the belief that you can only attain good things when the other person's intentions and actions are from pure motivations. No matter what objective good comes from it, if later you were to find that they were behaving from less noble intentions, then the good gained would evaporate.

Not so. The fact that good can come from negative energy is so exciting and reassuring to me. The universe wants to bestow good things on us, it wants to bring us to our higher selves. Whether you believe in God, Goddess or just yourself - be inspired today by knowing that the lessons you take from even the most corrupt teacher are still lessons you have learned. And if you can recognise the truth of what they are and still hold on to your own peace and contentment, then you have moved beyond them. People enter our lives for the season in which we need them. Acknowledge the good that that relationship gave you, accept your new understanding of the dynamics - and step into the next phase of your glorious life.

Be like a gardener who uses manure to feed the flowers!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Proud to help a great cause

A good friend of mine announced recently that he is taking on an amazing challenge to raise money for Stoke Mandeville Hospital's spinal unit. It is a cause close to his heart, after they successfully treated his son's spinal injury.

Gary will be cycling around 400 miles across Vietnam next year - now that it impressive! Personally, I hate cycling. I always feel scarily exposed to traffic and loathe it. (Did you think it would be the physical exertion part that I hated? Shame on you!)

I am helping to raise money for the cause by donating a percentage of any sales made at specially organised shoe parties. It's not as challenging as the cycle ride, but hopefully we can raise a great deal for Stoke Mandeville. If you would like to donate, get in touch and I'll pass on your details.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Where to find the Shoe Lady in October

Here are the public events where you can see me and my gorgeous shoes in the next month:

Sept 29th - Lister Hospital, Stevenage in the trading space opposite the Post Office
October 1st - Herts County Council offices, Stevenage, in the canteen
October 2nd - For All Occasions Pamper Evening, Judith FieldRecreation Centre, Huntingdon
October 15th - Pamper Evening, Pirton
October 28th - Indulgence night in aid of Herts & Essex Air Ambulance, Bishops Stortford
October 29th - Little Luxuries Pamper Night, Three Horseshoes, Norton, Letchworth

So come along and say hello if you can!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Styling Your Shoes

I have been having fun playing with my new shoes from the Shoes Galore Autumn range. I have to say, I thought I loved our previous collection, but these are even better, and I get so many compliments every time I wear them that it is quite turning my head!

I can't decide which style is my favourite - it depends on my mood - but here's a fun styling tip for the ribbon-tie tap shoes below: Change the ribbon to match your outfit! I did this earlier in the week and people were falling over themselves to ask where I got the shoes from! I am now building a collection of ribbon colours to use.

Friday, September 11, 2009

And there's more!

Another couple of styles on their way to me...

Those second ones are made from zips and look so cool in real life. I can't wait to get my pair!

Don't forget that you can try all of the styles on, with no hardsell, when you hold a shoe party at home. It's a great girly night in, and you can experiment with a new image in comfort.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

They're here!

Take a look! Tell me what you like so I can plan my range!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Today is the day

After so much anticipation, today I will see the new season range from Shoes Galore and be able to choose which styles to include in my range. The few pieces I have seen in photos are just stunning, and I cannot wait to be able to share with you what beauties are available from mid-September.

But for now, you'll all have to be good & patient!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Autumn colour trends

I get to see the Shoes Galore new season range in less than a week, which I am very excited about. I've had a sneak preview of a couple of styles in photos and they are delicious!

So what colours are we talking about to be on trend this season?

Like last year, purple is a key trend. Almost any shade of purple is going to work, from dusky darks to rich royals. Alongside purple, we have rich reds - ruby, cherry and all those colours that evoke decadence and royalty.

But just because those are the real vogue colours, don't feel you are limited to them. The days of having to slavishly follow the fashion magazines are long gone, and you can choose to express your own style too!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Summertime Blues

Yesterday it was 30 degrees in North Hertfordshire. Today it is grey and drizzly. It isn't fair, is it?

Last week I was under canvas in Cornwall, and suffered the same extremes of weather - from swimming in the sea in the scorching sun to searching for indoor activities in the grey gloom. But you know what? We had fun anyway!

So I'm back to work, with a shoe sale party on Friday evening, the Little Luxuries Networking event on Monday and the Letchworth Little Luxuries Pamper Night next Thursday. There's still time for a sale party - it's another 3 weeks til my Autumn stock arrives, so grab a bargain while you can! If you have a late break in the sun booked, this is especially useful. And if you are already eying up the autumn style guides, then book a new season party now to make sure you don't miss out on the biggest range of sizes and colours. They sell out quickly!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Whirlwind week

Like a naughty schoolgirl I have been neglecting my homework! (Although this blog is much more of a pleasure than homework ever was, but anyway, I haven't been keeping you up to date lately. Sorry)

Last week was the first Little Luxuries Network meeting, and Emma & I were energised by the enthusiasm shown by the members joining us. We ran massively overtime because everyone had so much to say. It was like nobody had ever asked them what they wanted or needed, which validates our view that party plan & mobile businesses need business support. They may be micro-businesses, but they add so much to the economy it is criminal to ignore them.

Today I was honoured to have been asked to attend the launch of Bombshell Academy, the most amazing coaching/styling company. Based in Cambridgeshire, and run by two absolutely lovely women, Bombshell Academy helps you to be the you that you want to be.

8 women went on a journey today, and I saw them each develop a glow of confidence. By the end of the day they were radiant, and it was wonderful to have helped to style them by providing shoes to enhance the beautiful gowns they wore. The each deserved to be called a bombshell - dropdead gorgeous in their own unique ways.

Monday, August 3, 2009

New Networking event

If you run a party plan or mobile business, you know how tough it is. Working largely solo, constantly having to generate appointments and parties - it can wear you down.

That's why Little Luxuries are launching a networking group especially in these industries. Getting together, sharing what works, discussing how to do things better, hearing from knowledgeable speakers on subjects that will help boost your business - what's not to like?!

The first meeting is on Friday morning - 7th August - at the Three Horseshoes in Norton, Letchworth (Hertfordshire). It costs just £15 to attend, and that includes a buffet brunch. You can come along twice before you need to commit to joining the network - and that costs just £50 to cover admin costs. Meetings are timed to avoid the school run, and are informal and friendly.

Take a look at the website and get involved!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Spoil Yourself

Let's face it, the weather in North Hertfordshire is pretty grim at the moment. Rain, rain, rain - and when the sun does shine, you can't trust it to stay for longer than a few minutes. So take a few hours to cheer yourself up and spoil yourself for a while. The first Little Luxuries Pamper Night is this Thursday, 30th July in the gorgeous function room at the Three Horseshoes in Norton, Letchworth.

We have manicures, pedicures, aromatherapy massages, spray tanning, waxing and more. Plus there will be stalls selling all manner of goodies, from shoes and handbags to stunning jewelry. We are having some fascinating talks and demonstrations, including the spectacle of me having my haircut on stage! Entry is free, so come and browse. You can book your treatments on the night.

This is a monthly event, and we will be launching in other venues soon. Do join us and experience the Little Luxuries that you deserve.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Natural Born Style Confidence

My 3 year old daughter is inspiring. I don't know if I was ever like her, but she is now my official style icon.

Let's deal with the clothing first. She puts together outfits with decisiveness and conviction, never caring that other people may find her choices somewhat unusual. My favourite was the sparkly party dress, with a Tshirt over the top ("Mummy, I knew you would tell me that I would be too cold") and a swimsuit over all of that. Yes, you read it right - a swimsuit. And she just knew she looked fabulous.

Today I was at a meeting with my partner in Little Luxuries, when my phone rang. It was my husband, and he sounded nervous.

"Um, while I was in the garden the 3 year old brought me a toy saucepan full of hair. Her hair."

I confess that I giggled. "How much hair?" I asked.

"Um..I don't think it is too bad, but you'll need to take a look," he hedged.

On returning home and viewing the results, I found that my daughter's once shoulder-blade tickling locks were now mostly jaw length. Mostly is an important word in that sentence. There were several sections that were still long. I gently enquired about whether she required my services to tidy up her new style.

"No Mummy. I cut the bits I didn't want anymore, and the long bits that are left are the bits I do want."

Perfect! And you know, she rocks that hacked-by-a-3-year-old look! I'm not going to force her to let me neaten it all up, because she planned her look and she loves it. Unconventional it may be, but if we all had her style confidence, wouldn't we be happier in our skins instead of worrying about what other people were thinking?

I frequently meet women who tell me that they love the pink shoes (or purple or green - you get the idea) but that they "just aren't me". Rubbish! Next time you are inhibited by style convention, think of my daughter, with her uneven hair cut and her swimsuit over her dress. I truly hope she never loses that creativity and confidence - and neither should you!

Sunday, July 19, 2009


How do you motivate yourself or others? Is it with direct rewards - bonuses, prizes, gifts? Did your parents pay you for every grade A you got at O Level or GCSE? Did you get a new bike for passing your 11 plus?

Motivation needs to come from within. A job well done, being the best you can be, not having that uncomfortable guilt when you have cheated or got by through luck alone - those are the true motivators that will carry you through adversity and self-employment.

The child who studies hard to earn a £50 payment for an A grade will not understand that. They are not interested in doing the best they can, they are interested in the cash at the end. When they are put in a situation where there is no external carrot urging them on, what will they do? They may well gain the grade A, but in the long term the skills of self-motivation are worth far more.

If you rely on external rewards - either material or through recognition - you will struggle to motivate yourself through the challenges of self employment. The days when every phone call leads to a knock back...the days when you absolutely have to catch up on your book keeping...the days when everyone else is at a barbecue but you have a client proposal to finish...

Nobody else is going to give you a prize or a bonus for going the extra mile. The prize is your flourishing business, your returning clients and your pride in a job done well.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It happens, get on with life

Today I was at 4 Networking Stevenage, helping to run the group as usual. I felt great, there were great people there and I was wearing a gorgeous dress with my cherry red heels. All was well with the world...

Until the zip at the side of the dress - the one that runs from armpit to hip - broke. You know, when the two sides of the zip part company with each other and you can't make them meet up again...

Luckily I was wearing a camisole underneath, so it wasn't completely revealing, but hardly the image I wanted!

In situations like that, what else can you do? Nothing really was on show that shouldn't have been, I was decent and the only problem was my sense of dignity. The options were to leave abruptly, to borrow a jacket from someone else or to just carry on.

I chose to patch it up as best as I could with the single tiny safety pin available and carry on with as much grace as I could. I believe that was right decision and allowed me to continue networking and to demonstrate a confidence that (perhaps) I wasn't feeling! I certainly wasn't going to allow it to interfere with my day.

Still, I expect they'll all remember who I am! And compared to Lily Allen, I was demure!

Actually, I think my gorgeous Shoes Galore shoes draw the attention from the gaping dress anyway. Hee hee.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wow! I want some of those!

I just got a sneaky peek of one of next season's styles, and I am lusting after them already. Our new Managing Director, Vivienne, has a real eye for a stunning piece of footwear - I can't wait to see the rest of the new range!

I should have my Autumn/Winter range in stock by mid September, so book your party now, because then you'll get the biggest range of sizes and colours to choose from. Only 36 of each colour are comissioned, so when they are gone, they are gone! When you own a pair of Shoes Galore shoes, you have a limited edition, high quality piece of design, at a price that the high street could never match.

That's why I love being The Shoe Lady!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

3 days to go...

On Wednesday lunchtime I'll be running my shoe fashion show at the Sopwell House Hotel in St Albans. As well as showcasing some of the beautiful shoes I offer, I'll be explaining why some styles just don't work for some people, giving an insider secret to help where you have differently sized feet, and giving everyone a 10% discount on sales on the day.

Follow that with one of the hotel's gorgeous lunches, and for £18.50, you are definitely getting value for money! You can book here. If you can't make it, but you'd still like some pretty shoes, leave me a message, and I'll be happy to help you!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Because we all need...

Launching on 30th July, Little Luxuries pamper evenings will be a sanctuary of indulgence! From manicures and massages to beautiful jewellery and treats, take a few hours for yourself. Bring some friends and make a night of it! We start at 6pm, so you can come after work and then go out for the evening.

Entry is free, you just pay for your treatments. The first event is in the function room at the Three Horseshoes in Norton, Letchworth, where there is plenty of parking and easy access from the A1. Little Luxuries will take place there on the last Thursday of each month.

If you are a therapist, or have gorgeous things to sell, get in touch at to arrange a stall. We plan to run events across North Hertfordshire, but there'll only be one of each therapy at each event, so don't miss your chance!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

10 reasons to advertise in Fun Under Five

1. Fun Under Five is the only publication across Hertfordshire listing just activities for under 5's. This means that families can be confident that everything in it is available to their child, unlike other publications where the majority of ads are for old children.

2. Fun Under Five has a unique listing format which is designed to give families the maximum amount of information about your activity in a neat format. This means that they don't need to phone you to find out they aren't available on the day your class runs - when they call you they are more than likely going to book.

3. Fun Under Five lists activities geographically. Families are able to look at just the listings in their area, meaning you are more likely to be found.

4. Fun Under Five lists activities by category, such as Dance, Creative etc. Families can easily identify what you do, whether they are searching for a specific activity type, or looking for inspiration.

5. Fun Under Five is not a franchise. I created Fun Under Five, I decide how things look and how things work! Not only is that good for my ego, it means I can discuss with you your specific marketing needs and adapt your listing to suit you. I can create new listing categories as required.

6. Every listing in the printed directory gives you 12 months on our website free. You can update the website as often as you like during the year, keeping your details accurate and up to date.

7. You don't need to create artwork. Fun Under Five's listing format means we take your raw information and put it to work! You save money and time because you aren't paying a designer or trying to put something together yourself.

8. Fun Under Five has a small format, so parents can pin it to a noticeboard or carry it in a handbag. It isn't a "read-once & recycle" publication.

9. Fun Under Five is cost-effective. A single listing costs just £50, with discounts for multiple bookings. For many of my advertisers, the listing is paid for if they get just one new customer - and if that customer stays for more than one term, then you are in profit!

10. Most advertisers stay with me for 4 issues or even more - they wouldn't do that if it didn't work!

The next issue comes out in a couple of weeks - there's just enough time to book a listing! Contact me before Friday and get your summer holiday & autumn term activities fully booked!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An Insider Look at the Queen of Charity Shops

As a charity shop part time employee, I have been watching Mary Portas on BBC2 with great interest. The series finished last week, and the results have been very interesting.

Dastardly Donations
Firstly, the donation problem. Anyone who has worked or volunteered in a charity shop can tell you hair-raising stories of the vile things they have found while sorting donations. I don't even want to go there, but let me just tell you - you always wear gloves. What possesses people to donate their unwashed underwear or their mud covered trainers is beyond me, but it happens day in day out. It isn't even restricted to the anonymous bags donated via door to door collections - people make a special trip to the shop to give their rubbish.

Ebay has had a big impact on donations over the years. It has provided a way for people to make a bit of money out of their cast-offs, and why not? But as discontent about Ebay's fees and policies grows, and as people find it more and more of a faff to list their items, charity shops have seen a small recovery in donations. The challenge is always getting quality stuff.

Mary's idea of D Day - donation days at businesses - is clever, but fails to recognise the staffing challenge faced by most shops. Honestly, most days it is a struggle to do the basics of sorting, steaming, pricing, displaying, selling & cashing up! Volunteers are unlikely to want to take on the project and transport for the collected items is not readily available.

So here's my challenge to you all - next time you sort out a load of things to sell on Ebay, give 10% to your local charity shop. If it is good enough to sell online, it is good enough to make some money for a good cause.

Capital Punishment

The next thing that struck me was Mary's redesign of the shop. Now in her terms, it was done on a shoestring budget of just £15k, and whilst opinion on the result seems to be split, I do think it gave the shop a funky and flexible look. But the reality of charity shop refurbishments? Buy some cheap paint & get some volunteers to do it on a Sunday! Charities are very unlikely to invest money in interior design, especially as they do not own their own premises. The arguments about increased takings are fine, but capital investment is a difficult one to justify.

The Troops
The big thing that struck me about the programme though, were the volunteers. Now, I have worked with volunteers in many contexts, and they are a fantastic breed of people. At out shop we have people who give up several days a week - for no pay, remember - and they make the shop run. Without them, we would be nothing.

However, volunteers have great power. Unlike paid staff, they can withdraw their labour with no notice period - upset them and they are gone! And unlike paid staff, their motivations for being there are as varied as their shoe sizes - some do it purely to support the work of the charity, while others do it for kudos in the community. Many do it for company and for stimulation. To keep them all onside you need to recognise what makes them tick and give them what they are looking for.

By making so many changes so quickly, Mary struggled to keep all the volunteers with her on the journey. It is a cliche to say that volunteers are all elderly ladies, but like most cliches, there is truth in it. Where someone has volunteered for many years, they are bound to feel personally criticised when everything is changed around them. "What was wrong with what I was doing before?" they ask themselves. It is a big challenge.

Don't cheat yourself
Finally, the customers. Some people shop in charity shops because they can't afford new. For them the 50p T shirts and and £5 winter coats are vital. But there truly is a second market - label lovers who want the names and the looks but don't have the bank balances. There is no reason why a designer label T shirt should sell at the same price as a supermarket one. Mary was right - pay a fair price and everybody wins. I believe in karma - cheat a charity shop and you cheat your own soul.

Takings in the charity retail sector have been up about 23% since Mary's programme. Let's just hope that the increase is here to stay.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The gingerbread man - a business parable

Reading to my 3 year old daughter last night, it struck me that the story of the Gingerbread Man has a big lesson to teach business people.

Remember the story? He jumps out of the oven and runs off with everyone chasing him. He's really proud of himself, singing

Run, run as fast as you can,
You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!

He is ahead of all those chasing him, until the fox outwits him and gobbles him up.

Isn't the Gingerbread Man like the clever businessperson who launches an idea and has a roaring success on their hands? Life is great, all the competitors are trying to catch up and it feels like nobody else is as clever or talented as they are.

The Gingerbread Man doesn't foresee that anyone could be cleverer than he is. All he can see is the gap between him and the chasing pack. When the fox flatters him and offers to help him, he cannot even imagine that the fox could be his undoing.

Like a business that has led the market, the Gingerbread Man forgets that if he is clever, so can somebody else can be too. The fox is the new kid on the block - or maybe even an old hand who has bided their time and now is ready to move in. And because the Gingerbread Man is intoxicated with his success, he is entirely blind to the threat. It's as if he can't even imagine the possibility that he won't always be the leader.


The Gingerbread Man is gone. Don't let your business be swallowed by the clever fox. Be proud of your success - but don't let it blind you to the threats that may be around you!

Friday, June 12, 2009

The wow factor

The lovely Kate from Esme Grace sent me some earrings to try out last week. This is them:

When you look at Kate's website, you are struck by 2 things - firstly the gorgeous jewellery that is stylish without being outlandish, and secondly by the incredible prices. These earrings are just £3.50, and frankly, even with delivery of £2.95, the total price is less than you would pay in many high street shops. I'm not sure how she does it!

Anyway, the earrings are gorgeous. You can't easily see in the picture, but they have a little jewel in the centre of each flower, catching the light and making them more than just ordinary. They have a nice long hook so they hang nicely, and the addition of tiny rubber "plugs" on the wires helps prevent idiots like me from losing them!

I wore them for a full day to check whether they would irritate my ear. They didn't! My ears react to even quite expensive costime jewllery, so this is quite a recommendation!

Payment is nice and simple through PayPal (did you know that you can still use it even when you don't have a PayPal account? It's just like paying by credit or debit card) and if items aren't suitable you can return them within 7 days (except for earrings, because of hygiene, but that's fair enough).

I think I'll be making use of Esme Grace quite a bit, and not just for myself! The range would make gorgeous presents, and there are so many pretty things to choose from I think all my female friends will be over the moon.

Monday, June 8, 2009

So far in June...

Just a week into the month and there are 2 clear favourites amongst my customers. I think the heat at the start of the month has influenced buying patterns, as they are the 2 most open and airy styles I have.

The first is very casual and comfortable, but with a twist of Shoes Galore style. The cushioned footbed soothes heatsore feet and the embellishments add some fun and colour, even to the chocolate brown version. At £25 plus postage, they make a more delicate choice than Birkenstocks.

The second is slightly more formal, but still very comfortable. The low heel, wealth of colour options and dainty buttons are making this stand out for women who want pretty without being twee. These are £30 plus postage.

With another 3 weeks to go, I wonder what the final winners will be? If you want to see my full range, just get in touch at

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Colour Clash - think shoes and bags!

Clashing colours are a big trend this summer, but lots of women find the whole idea daunting. After years of carefully co-ordinating your outfits and accessories, how do you find the confidence to break the rules? When you get it wrong, this look can appear as though you are just wearing random items of clothing. Get it right and you'll look bang on trend and very "high end". So ease yourself into it - don't aim for a total clash-up all in one go.

This is where colourful shoes and bags can take you to fashion heaven! You no longer have to think "navy shoes need a navy bag", and discreet is no longer "street"! With Shoes Galore's ranges you can add funky colour without being overwhelmed. When you have more confidence, you can branch out and really live the look!

How about a pair of these? It doesn't matter which colour you go for, they're all bright and breezy. Wear them with skinny jeans, or with a more tailored look, and they'll work a treat. Colour is easy to wear on your feet, as it isn't a big scary block of brightness! Don't forget, you're not trying to match them to your T shirt - just put them on your feet and feel like a fashionista!

Then you need a bag. Big bold bags are still the thing, so once again, pick a colour and you're ready to go! These are stunning, whichever option you choose. I was talking about colourful handbags with women at a shoe party this week, and we all agreed that it is great to be able to find your purse and phone inside them - with a black bag they just tend to be camouflaged!

Try the trend for yourself. It's a fun look that doesn't need to be scary!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Business Entertainment Challenge

When you are looking to plan a business social event, or client entertainment, what comes to mind? My guess is that it depends on whether you are a man or a woman.

The classic event is a golf day. Throughout my corporate life I have seen these events take place with little thought for the messages they send out. Let's look at the facts:

1. Golf remains an elitist activity. To become any good, you have to invest a lot of time and money. If you aren't any good, most of the courses where these events are held won't let you play, so you are excluded from the event.

2. Golf is, historically, a man's game. I'm not denying that many women do play, but they remain in the minority.

If you run a golf day, who are you excluding? Your key client or contact who doesn't play for whatever reason. And how do you make them feel? Like an outsider, like someone who isn't part of the establishment and whose business and personal advancement is at a disadvantage? And how does that promote your business relationship?

The trouble is, what else is there? Many events aimed at women will be pamper or spa days, but this is also stereotyping. There is an urgent need for inclusive events that engage men and women equally, that do not exclude people based on their background or experience.

So, let's generate some ideas!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New styles for June

Just ordered all these yummy shoes - all under £50!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Decisions, decisions...

I am getting ready to order some new styles of shoes and bags, and I find myself bedazzled by the choices before me!

Should I get some gladiators? Still very fashionable, and the Shoes Galore ones are beautiful. Colourful highheel peep-toes? Very sexy. Casual sandals? Bound to be popular, they're so easy to wear and very pretty...

I wish I could take every style available, but I just can't! Watch this space, and I'll let you know what I decide.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What to do in Letchworth Garden City next week

Letchworth Garden City can seem like a sleepy town in North Hertfordshire, but there are plenty of interesting events if you are in the know! Here are a couple for next week:

Tuesday May 19th - Swap Don't Shop Ladies swishing evening at the Three Horseshoes pub in Norton. Swishing is where you get together to swap your unwanted clothes with other women. It's fun, it's eco friendly and it saves you money! Contact for more information.

Thursday 21st May - Battle of the Bands at Letchworth Arts Centre. Free entry, cash bar, lots of local music talent - what more could you want from a Thursday night!

If you have any events in Hertfordshire that you would like to publicise, email me at

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A new thread

I attended a ladies' shopping & pamper night at a school in Hitchin this week. Usually at these events I am very restrained and don't indulge myself - work is work, after all! This time there was a lady doing threading - and at just £3 a treatment, I couldn't resist trying it out.

If you don't already know, threading is a method of hair removal that uses...well, thread! The therapist twists cotton thread to grab hairs and pluck them out. It is used for eyebrow shaping and other facial hair.

I was pretty nervous as I took to the couch. After all, I didn't want to be the wuss who yelped during her treatment! First job was my eyebrows. I confess that other than plucking to prevent the werewolf-brows-meeting-in-the-middle look, I don't shape them. I am quite lucky that they aren't too bushy, but as the years go by I am aware that a little "lift" would open up my eye area.

I was amazed that threading was no more painful than plucking - and because it deals with many hairs at a time it was far less of an ordeal. In less than 5 minutes my brows were as shapely and stylish as I could have wished! Next for the upper lip...

Why I am admitting to the world that I need hair removing from the moustache area, I don't know! Such dedication to my blog!

Anyway, because I have dark hair, the few I have in that area do show up. The therapist warned me that this would be more uncomfortable, and I can testify that she didn't lie! It wasn't as bad as having a tattoo (not that my upper lip is tattoed, you understand) but it did really sting. For about half an hour afterwards I felt like the area was swollen, but it wasn't. The result was amazing - I hadn't realised how dark the area appeared before.

Threading is definitely something I will have done again. People have noticed a subtle difference in my appearance, but can't identify what it is. I look brighter and fresher, like I did 10 years ago after a good night's sleep.

Threading - Shoe Lady Approved!

Monday, May 11, 2009

No more bad hair days!

I have always had a love/hate relationship with my hair. When I love it, I feel on top of the world. Whe I hate it I want to hide under the duvet. The trouble is, to everyone else, there is no visible difference between the two! (It drives my husband nuts). So I was very interested to find this site.

Wear My Hair has a great saying -

Be who you want to be now and wake up yourself again tomorrow!

How fantastic! You mean I can have long blonde hair today and go back to my reddish crop in the morning? You mean I can be an outrageous vamp on my night out and tomorrow the office won't have a clue? I could get into this!

There is a huge range of styles and colours. My favourite is Tilly - I can imagine myself as a flame-haired temptress! Since my own hair never looks any good once it gets past my shoulders, this may be my only chance to try it.

Of course, for some women hairloss is a genuine issue, either through medical treatment or illness. In 1981 when my Mum lost her hair through cancer treatment, wigs were nothing like this! What a confidence boost they would have been for her.

Prices seem very reasonable too - from just £55. I have spent more than that on a salon cut and colour before, and of course this style won't grow out!

Do let me know if you buy one - I'd love to see some pictures too!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

In a lather - 2009 Soap Awards

The 2009 British Soap Awards. I admit, I'm not a soap fan and many of the "stars" could be next to me on the train and I would have no clue who they were. But as always, there are shoe lessons to be learned from a red carpet event, so I have been taking a close look at what was on show.

Top marks for colour creativity go to Samia Smith from Coronation Street. Her brave combining of aegian blue with lilac works because she is restrained with her accessories. She looks sophisticated and fresh, with a twist of individualty. Her lilac peep toes heels are a grown up choice without being boring. I like the twist detail at the front.

I'm a bit worried about Hollyoaks' Ashley Slanina-Davies. She looks like she could disappear at any moment. I know that some women are naturally very slim, and perhaps she is one of them (I have never watched Hollyoaks, this is the first time I have seen Ashley). She has a gorgeous face that her pixie crop is just right for. But I'm not convinced by the strapless dress. Maybe it is the position she has been photographed in, but I am not a fan of bones. The black shoes are very heavy in style and just serve to accentuate her petite frame. This may have been the idea, but I feel they are too much for her to carry off.

Another Hollyoaks person now. Hollie-Jay Bowes steps out of the wild west saloon for a night at the awards, in what can only be described as unflattering shoes. The black, the platform, the ankle strap - maybe on someone else, but I'm afraid they are not working here. Ankle straps can be very elegant, but if your ankles are anything less than delicate you should probably stay clear, unless you are wearing an ankle-skimming skirt or trousers. On Hollie-Jay they make her legs look short and chunky, which is a shame, as I don't think they really are.

Another person with the black shoe blues is Kym Marsh. I can't bring myself to comment on her dress, but here is a perfect lesson for all of you who believe that black shoes go with everything. They go with Kym's hair and her ankle tattoo - is that the kind of co-ordination we want? The style of the shoe definitely accentuates Kym's killer pins, but I can't understand why she chose black. Shades of blue, silver, gold, many options. Lack of confidence in combining colours can kill your outfit!

Kara Tointon from Eastenders went for complete co-ordination, with her dress, bag and shoes all in the same soft gold tone. The fluffy skirt is an interesting idea that is probably only an option on the red carpet (and I do think it gives her far bigger hips than she actually owns!), but the outfit works because the colours really do match. Her shoes seem to be scrunching her toes slightly at the peep toe, but that's just me looking for faults!

Now, it's time for Gladiator School. No, we're not picking up spears and shields, I just want to show you how to wear them - and how not to! They are still a big fashion trend this year and there were a few pairs in evidence at the awards. Let's look at how not to do it:
Saira Choudhrey from Hollyoaks looks every inch the star...until you get to her knees! I'm afraid a dress that finished below her knees would have flattered more, but look at those glads! She has them so tight that you can see the straps digging into her flesh. That is not a good look.

So here's someone who got it right: Zoe Lister, also from Hollyoaks, looks amazing in her fun and flirty yellow dress and glads that fit! Her legs appear to go on for ever, and this a look that mere mortals could carry off too! So Zoe wins the Shoe Lady Style Award for this event!

I've said it before, and it definitely bears repeating - you may not have the cash to splash or a personal stylist, but if you know a few simple tips you can look stylish and pulled together on a very small budget. Avoid some of the mistakes here and try something new - because the Shoe Lady knows you're going to look amazing!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Networking week!

This week I have been to 3 different types of business networking event and met lots of interesting people. I thought a brief overview of the different kinds of events might be useful for those of you thinking you should take the plunge (and you really should!)

The first event was the resurrection of the 1st Tuesday evenings of the local branch of the Federation of Small Businesses. Held at a country pub/hotel in a function room, there were about 30m business people there. The format was informal, with it left up to you to dive in and network over a drink and buffet. If you are new to networking, this could be pretty intimidating - a bit like Fresher's Week at university! Luckily the branch committee are aware of this and made a point of introducing people to others that they had something in common with.

I got talking to two lovely ladies - Melanie and Jane. As we are run businesses that complement each other, I hope we will be meeting again very soon. That's what networking is about, for me. Not sales, sales, sales, but the amazing alliances that can grow from informal conversations.

The second event was 4Networking Stevenage's breakfast. I am not an impartial judge of this one, as I am a member and help to run this group. I joined because of the energy and openness of the network members, as well as the lack of stuffy rules of the organisation as a whole. Whilst there is a meeting structure, it is designed to be flexible and not restrictive. I have found my membership to be inspiring, profitable, sociable and motivating. Not bad, really!

The final networking activity of the week was a coffee meeting of the St Albans branch of Women in Business Network. Unfortunately I only arrived for the last half hour (various small incidents delayed me) so I can't really give a full review. It was an informal session over coffee in a pub/hotel. The group were very friendly and I had a very interesting chat with Kasia. Again, I can see collaborations being good for us both.

If you run or promote a business, then you really should be networking. You'll find support, suppliers, alliances, allies, friendship, fun - and maybe even customers! But don't make find new customers your sole goal, or you'll lose out on everything else.

Monday, May 4, 2009

20% off for Tweeps!

Yesterday I made my first shoe sale via Twitter. To celebrate, I am offering 20% off all shoes to anyone who contacts me via Twitter (@shoes_in_herts). Purchases must be made by midnight Sunday 10th May 2009. Take a look at the shoes on offer at my Flickr stream and then DM me on Twitter to check out the stock situation.

This is a great opportunity to own some beautiful Shoes Galore shoes if you are not lucky enough to live near a consultant. If you do have a consultant near you, then you should definitely arrange a party - they are fantastic fun.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Red carpet style for everyone!

When you have a special occasion, you want to make an great impression, right? And we know that the devil is in the detail - a knockout dress needs the right accessories. You and I may have a budget to stick to, but for celebs on the red carpet, this goes out of the window - many outfits are borrowed. So how did they do at the BAFTAs this year?

Here's Michelle Collins, looking amazing for her age (I'm around that age, I'm allowed to say that!). Her dress shows toned arms, her hair is soft and glossy...I just think the whole thing is too, well, black! She has red earrings and a red bracelet, but the high neck of the dress with the big handbag and heavy shoes is just too much. Red and black can look stunning, but it doesn't have the Wow Factor here. A different highlight colour, carried through to the shoes would have had more personality. Maybe even a less obvious red - more of a garnet colour would have worked.

Next up we have Joanna Page. She looks young and fresh, which certainly matches her image. I wonder though whether she really wants to perpetuate that or whether she would like to market herself for some more grown up roles? The dress is pretty, though not very daring in black. She just about pulls it off against her pale colouring. Joanna's sandals are the epitome of understatement, certainly in photos looking nude. On someone as young and fresh-looking as Joanna this works, but it can be an aging look, so beware!

Gina McKee looks absolutely stunning in this green satin gown, I absolutely love it. Her clutch bag is understated and elegant. She has taken a brave step and chosen deep red sandals, which echo her lip colour. They have a platform sole, making them easier to wear. The only thing that I would change is the shoe size - if you look carefully at the foot bearing her weight, her toe is overhanging the front of the shoe. But this is, I admit, nitpicking!

Next we have model Karolina Kurkova (image - Getty). Well, I suppose if I was a model I would also rock this dress! Stunning, stunning stunning! And look at those silver gladiators! They fit like a dream, they are elegant and accentuate her enviable ankles. Really, I'm not jealous at all.

And here comes Thandie Newton (image - Daniel Deme, EPA) looking cute and sassy in a vintage frock and strappy sandals. Most women would give in to the urge to add a choker, but Thandie (or her stylist) knows that less is more! Even her gold bangle is a subtle tone. She lets that stunning dress and her petite frame do the talking! Her shoes are in perfect proportion to the dress, and complete the vintage look. I really think she has got it right.

The interesting thing about the outfits and shoes on show is that you cannot pick out any one trend. It demonstrates that style is personal rather than something to be dictated to us by the Fashion Gods (whoever they are!). The things I love, you may hate, and vice versa.

Shoes Galore celebrates this difference. If you have a special event coming up - wedding, christening, prom - then you should take a look at our range of occasion shoes. They look high end - but the price tags realistic! Red carpet style for everyone, that's what I preach!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Boost staff morale for free

One of the things I do is to visit offices so that women have the chance to see and try on shoes in the breaktimes. It is a real morale booster, and costs the employer nothing. (If you think your female staff need a lift, drop me a note at

I also deliver shoes to customers on request. Sometimes they regret not buying from me at the event they attended, and call me later to ask if the shoes are still available. Sometimes I order specially for them. Either way, I am happy to deliver the shoes to their hoe or workplace. Try asking for that service at your high street shoe shop!

I recently delivered a pair on request to a lady who had seen my shoes at a corporate event. Today she emailed me:

Hi Lisa,

Just want to let you know that I love the shoes! I have worn them several times and have found them very comfortable and easy to wear. I have also had quite a few compliments paid to me about them. So, just want to say a big thanks - it was worth all the effort you put into bringing them to me.

Let me know when you're in next so I don't miss seeing your next lot.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Best week ever! And proof, if you need it

Last week was officially my best week ever as a Shoe Lady. Lots of lovely shoes found new homes (the Diva sandals I featured a little while ago were especially popular on Friday evening!). Lots of ladies were smiling. I am very pleased to confirm, that what we all knew is true - giving yourself a treat is a good thing!

This article in yesterday's Sunday Times is spot on! I especially liked this quote:

Pine* also warns against getting caught up in the recession frenzy. “People are being frugal, and it’s catching,” she says. “Take a reality check, and if you’ve cleared your credit-card bill or managed to save something this month, then why not have a bottle of champagne with dinner tonight?”

*A university professor researching shopping habits

I think the upturn I have seen in party bookings and sales show that people are reassessing the impact of the economic downturn on their lives, and are frequently finding that it isn't as bad as they had feared. The sun is out, you can't live on value beans forever! Of course, my "nothing over £50" policy helps, before you even browse the racks! (I recognise that there are many people who have been badly affected by the wider economy's troubles, and I know that a £50 pair of shoes will seem excessively frivolous to them. I do not mean to be crass or offensive.)

I don't advocate spending what you can't afford, and I can often hold a pair for you until payday, if it helps you. But you know what? I think don't think things are as grim as we thought! Hooray!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Best sellers for April so far

I can't keep up with demand for these! Classic, comfortable, great with so many outfits...and so many colours! At £35, many women are choosing more than one pair.

The most popular colours are navy and teal, with purple coming in a close third.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Car Repair Heaven

It's been a stressful couple of weeks here at Shoes Galore Letchworth. My lovely Alfa Romeo 156 decided that I didn't need rear lights - fogs, reverse, brakes, indicators. The MOT was due, and my husband couldn't find the fault. It wasn't the bulbs, accessible wiring or fuses. A simple search of the web shows that Alfas have, shall I say, a reputation for insurmountable electrical faults.

We made some calls and most places advised scrapping it. Now this is a 7 year old car that in every other respect drives like a dream. Finally we found a garage locally that agreed to do an hour's diagnosis and see what he thought. I was able to drive there (carefully) because we booked an MOT with him.

I'm guessing he only looked for 5 minutes, as he didn't charge us. He reckoned the fault was a major one, that only Alfa would be able to fix it because of the uniqueness of Alfa wiring and that it would cost a bomb. He suggested just part-exing it.

We left the car with him while we considered our options. A shoe lady needs a car! Convinced it wasn't really a catastrophic fault, our concern was not to commit to spend too much before proving it was a waste of time. Quotes for towing the car the mile and a half home were around the £65 mark (I would have pushed it if someone was paying me that!). I spent an afternoon calling everywhere I could find.

Then I struck garage gold! A place that a) would pick up and deliver the car for free, b) publish a menu of prices detailing what tests they would do and for what price, c) offered to do £25 worth of diagnosis & were confident they would isolate the problem and d) said they would do the repair for a fixed price, not an hourly rate! What a novel business model!

Needless to say, I agreed and within 48 hours I had my car back. Diagnosed, fixed and with an MOT, all for just £150 inc VAT. It was a single fuse & 5 broken wires, hidden inside the boot lid. I think that the other place were blinded by Alfa's bad reputation for electrical problems.

So, to all the people in North Hertfordshire, when you need a reliable, openly priced and courteous garage, I heartily recommend CarServ in Hitchin. Tell them the Shoe Lady sent you!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

An uplifting bargain

This week, Help the Aged shops have brand new "famous chain store" bras for just £3.95! They are on the original hangers (with the branding blacked out, but you can still see who it is) with the price as £16 originally! What a fantastic bargain, and a great way for the charity to raise funds. I thought I would spread the word to my readers.

The shop I was in had sizes 34C up to 40DD, but that may vary (and I can't guarantee that every shop has them, obviously). The bras were underwired, white with pale blue embroidery - very pretty.

So bag a bargain and do your karma some good at the same time!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Just to say I love the shoes!!

Here's an email I received recently from a Shoe Party hostess. I wanted to share it with you all, because I know that it is hard to believe that such beautiful shoes can actually be comfortable to wear - especially at such low prices!

Hi Lisa,

Just a quick email to say thank you very much for Friday night. I wore the purple shoes on Saturday all day at a school thing and my feet did not hurt at all!!!! I can’t wait to try the green ones! And I can’t believe how reasonably priced they were. Anyway, just to say I love the shoes!!

What else can I say?!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Diva style

I've been a busy little shoe lady recently, and have neglected this blog. Consider me suitably chastized.

One of the things I've been doing is looking at more summer shoe options, and on Tuesday I should receive these little beauties:

I think they are so much fun, and the colours are delicious! Wear them with jeans, wear them with white linen trousers, wear them with a funky little summer dress - any way you style them they are going to look amazing! I love the detail that the colour of the shoe is picked up by the plate on the inside, and I am certain that you will feel like a diva in them! At £29, they are amazing value - designed and made in Spain, and only available from Shoes Galore.

Monday, March 30, 2009

It's not my fault...

Apparently, women in the second half of their menstrual cycle are more likely to splurge on things like high heels. It must be true, the BBC have reported it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Poetry Galore!

My name's Lisa Blackler, I'm from Shoes Galore
I'll bring shoes and bags right to your door.
Invite your friends, your work colleagues too,
For an evening of fun, you know what to do!
Try on styles and colours I know that you'll love -
Affordable, beautiful, they'll fit like a glove.
Whatever your taste, I'll have something to please -
From sandals to boots so your tootsies won't freeze.
So don't forget Lisa, for heels high and low,
For the best in footwear, you know where to go!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Charity Shop Knowhow Number 1

Some things you find in charity shops aren't great as they are, but have the potential for greatness. Huge wool jumpers meet this description! Here's how to turn a shapeless ugly thing into the height of cool.

1. First make sure your target item is 100% wool. No acryllic blend here please, it just won't work. You can buy a wool jumper from a charity shop for a few pounds. It doesn't matter if it is a bit out of shape of bobbly. Your jumper may look like this (it may not):

2. Wash your jumper on a hot wash. It's exactly what your mother and the care label tell you not to do, but trust your Shoe Lady on this one! Now your jumper should look like this:

ie. shrunken! It should have "felted" which means the fibres of wool have mashed together so it is denser than before. This is very important, so if you suspect that the knit is still a little loose, hot wash it again. I should say at this point that it isn't possible to predict the final size of your garment, which is the most annoying part of the whole project, because it makes it hard to take orders for them from your envious friends.

3. When the jumper is felted and dry again, take some sharp scissors and cut off the ribbing at the cuffs, neck and waistband. Not sure? Cut along the dotted lines!

4. Next you are going to cut a line down the middle to make it into a cardigan (bolero jacket is probably more accurate, but it sounds so pretentious!). It is important that the line you cut is central and straight. If you cut it wonky, you'll look like a fashion-failure rather than a fashionista. One way to make sure it is straight it to fold your garment in half and mark the line with pins. Anyway, cut along this dotted line now:

5. Now, you can wear it exactly as it is, but a bit of customisation now goes a long way towards that limited edition look. You could handsew sequins on - but that's pretty time consuming, and I'm always eager to get on and wear my creation. A quicker way to pretty it up is to run long stitches of beautiful ribbom around the edges. You can choose a contrast colour or one that tones, depending on the effect you like.

And then Ta Da! You have a one-of-a-kind little jackety thing that everyone will admire and only you will know where it came from! A bit like this one:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

5 top tips to prepare your feet for Spring

Next week the clocks change - you can't ignore it any longer! Here are the Shoe Lady's top 5 tips to get your feet ready for Spring!

1. Moisturise! Don't bother with expensive footcreams, get yourself a big tub of aqueous cream. For just a few pounds you'll get a tub big enough to swim in (well, maybe not that big) and it works like a charm. Because it is so cheap, you don't mind being generous with it. Slather it on morning, noon and night and within a couple of days those cracked and horny looking feet will look so much better.

2. Hair removal. I know. None of us have hairy toes, do we? But in case you know somebody else who does, remind them that now is a good time to deal with it. I have no preference for how it is done, but long curly hairs spoil the look of even the most exquisite sandal.

3. Clip your nails. I have a real horror of toenails that are long like fingernails. Clip them straight across and use an emery board to remove any rough edges. Straight cut nails are less likely to turn into ingrowing nails, you know.

4. Cuticles. Over the winter you may have found that the cuticles on your toesnails have crept up and taken over. With all the moisturisation in tip 1, you should find you can gently ease them back into place. I do not recommend cutting them.

5. Polish. Choose what you will, but I say you can't beat a classic French polish on your toes. It looks neat and clean and will never clash with your colourful shoes!

Now, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tell me which are your favourites!

I found this fantastic video on You Tube (surprisingly I searched for Shoes Galore!). Take a look, and tell me which pair you like best.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Davina's Comic Relief Challenge

I was glued to the first part of Comic Relief on Friday. Partly because of the divine Mr Tennant, but partly in a strange fascination at Davina's shoes. They were incredibly high, so much so that she could barely walk in them. Like a true professional, she managed brilliantly, but they obviously weren't comfortable.

I'm guessing that she has quite small feet. When your feet are tiny, the effect of any high heel is magnified. A 3 inch heel on a size 40 looks very different to a 3 inch heel on a size 35, just because your foot has to be at a steeper angle to get from your toes on the floor to your heel in the air! Davina's were so extreme that as she trotted to the Mastermind chair, she looked like a ballerina en pointe.

So petite-footed ladies should take this into account when shoe shopping. Those skyscraper heels just might not look so good on you. And the slightly lower heel will automactically appear higher on you than on your bigger-footed sisters.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ready and waiting!

This morning we had blue sky and sunshine. The shoots are appearing on all sorts of things in the garden - flowering currant, honeysuckle, amelanchier. I was singing a happy tune and looking forward to skipping through the blossom in my gorgeous new summer shoes.

But outside my window now I see grey skies. You know the colour of nothingness when it is feeling miserable? Yeah, that's the one. It is pretty chilly too, so much so that 2 jumpers and sitting next to a hot radiator isn't preventing my from shivering. Do I think flip flops or peep toes are appropriate footwear today? No way!

But I do think it's a good thing to be ready for when the weather does warm up. (It can't be long now, surely?) There's nothing worse than realising that spring has sprung and you have nothing but winter boots and woolly jumpers to wear!

So get planning, and get ready! If you've lived in jeans or boots all winter, review the leg-hair situation; the same applies to underarms, because when you peel off those layers you need to know what's lurking there! Book a pedicure and get your feet ready for the more revealing foot fashions of spring and summer. No more tights to hide your flakey feet!

Check over last year's sandals and you may find that they are a bit tattier than you remember. Did they get a bit mucky on that end-of-season stroll on the beach? Did you try to hold onto the summer season a little too long and trash them in the mud of autumn? That's why I've already introduced some summer styles to my Shoes Galore range - so you can be ready when the sun does come out. My diary is getting pretty full, so don't hang about!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fun Under Five News

Today I took delivery of the Spring 2009 issue of the printed directory of Fun Under Five. Having changed printers, I am extremely pleased with how it has turned out, and we will be distrubuting it to libraries, toddler groups and other venues across Hertfordshire ove rthe next week. Look out for it!

The new Across Hertfordshire section is growing in popularity as clients that had classes in just one area when we started 3 years ago have grown until they cover a large part of the county. We introduced the section last issue in response to client feedback. As a completely independent publication, we are able to innovate without getting clearance from a parent company, so we can continue to develop Fun Under Five to work hard for our advertisers.

The web listings are being uploaded as I write, and the updated site is already drawing more and more visits. The search engines are ranking us highly for so many searches now, so our hard work is paying off. Our ambition has always been to be the first choice reference point for activities for children under five in Hertfordshire, and thereby support the businesses across the area offering them. I am very proud of what we have achieved from nothing. Our unique format really does work.

If you know someone with young children in the area, let them know about the site if they haven't found it already - you'll be doing them a favour!

Monday, March 9, 2009

More business mistakes

Some experiences this week have made me question the basic abilities of many business managers to get the basics right, so here are some more of my tips.

1. Answer the phone
Why would you not at least have a voicemail message? If you are a small business (as I am), then you can't always get to the phone, but a professional message and a prompt call back can work. Alternatives may be to forward your landline to your mobile, although this means having to remember to do it every time, or using a virtual assistant service to ensure a professional image at all times. I can recommend a couple of companies if you need pointing in the right direction.

2. When you call back, remember this is potentially a sale
Don't ask "Who are you, I had a missed call from you" because it sounds like you are suspicious and not used to customers calling you. Work out your own script, but make sure you sound like you are ready to do business and welcome the call!

3. Websites need information
I know it can be a pain to update things when they change, but you really have to do it. Websites aren't a static advert like a magazine, people want to see more than just a generic description. products, prices, offers - get them on there! I'm looking at lots of printers' sites at the moment to compare costs, and the ones that give no indication of pricing will not be getting a call from me. If you need an easily updatable site, try these people (I know the consultant for this area, and he's very helpful)

4. Information should be accessible
Don't make people register in order to see basic information. Registration is for people who are serious about finding out details or communicating further. If you won't show me what you do without me telling you my Grandmother's eye colour, I'm not interested. The web is so much about broad brush research, why eliminate yourself from a shortlist by making site visitors jump through hoops?

5. Proofread
Please. Especially if you are a media, marketing or publishing company. Otherwise you might as well stay in bed tomorrow.

6. Measure results & think about what they mean
Let's say you decide to reduce the price of your widgets from £1 to 50p. After a week you say "Whooppee! We have sold twice as many widgets as normal!" But you had to process twice as many sales, for the same amount of revenue. Fine if you just wanted to shift excess stock, but if you wanted to increase income - you didn't achieve your goal.

I'm no high-flying guru, but I have worked in enough businesses to see the basic mistakes that get made when people are focussed on other things. That is why it often makes good business sense to outsource the areas in which you are not expert.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What's next?

I spent a great deal of time today trying to select the first tranche of my Spring shoe range. I'm not sure I'll ever find it easy, but thanks must go to the women of Twitter who answered my questions about what they like and don't like*!

So next week I should receive some pretty new foot adornments!

I don't have photos yet, but let's see what I can do with words...

First up, some classic flatties. Styled like ballet pumps, with a subtle gold trim and bow. A denim-type fabric, in gold, red, bronze and green, these will be comfortable but cute.

Next, I have chosen open toed, high wedges in soft metallic tones of silver or gold. Wedges are great for giving you height with stability!

The third addition to the range is a classic flat sequinned flip flop, in black, silver or bronze. This style is a great standby and you can carry it off just as well with jeans as with a floaty skirt.

The final additions this time round are some skyscraper heels in dazzling red, green or pink. With a pointy toe and cutaway side, these are for the days when you feel powerful and strong (or when you want to feel that way - I defy anyone not to feel amazing in these!)

There will be more styles and more sizes coming in the next 3-4 weeks, so keep checking the blog to find out the latest news. Keep giving me your opinions on what you are looking for in the "perfect" shoe.

* I learnt that slingbacks can be hard for many women to keep on their feet, that ballet pumps are popular with most - though not all- women, and that yellow is almost universally loathed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Shall we do lunch?

Today I had a meeting at the Sopwell House Hotel to discuss their ladies' lunches.

If you've never been to the hotel, then you have really have missed something special. Located down a quiet St Albans lane, the hotel is a stunning blend of the traditional and the modern. Once the home of Lord Mountbatten, the interiors of the original parts of the building feature dark wood and stone fireplaces. The addition of glass atria add surprising touches of light and modernity without feeling architecturally out of place.

The hotel is designed with a series of intimate spaces, rather than the open-plan lobby style favoured by many establishments these days. You and your companions can easily find a private area to chat or to hold a meeting, or else you can enjoy the bright, airy coffee lounge if you want to people watch.

The hotel hosts monthly ladies' lunches, each with a guest speaker or demonstration. These range from chocolatiers to floral designers - and soon Shoe Consultants! The price is an amazing £18.50, which includes a 3 course lunch and a glass of wine, which is pretty spectacular value, considering the quality fare you will enjoy here.

Look out for me in July, as I am working with the hotel to put together a fun lunchtime featuring a shoe fashion show, a chance to find out more about using colour to accessorise and some surprises along the way. I am excited and honoured to be part of the programme of events at one of the area's top hotels.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Simple Customer Service Lessons

1. Listen to the customer. Most will tell you what they want from you, leaving you the simple task of just doing it. 9 times out of 10 this will lead to a reasonable level of customer satisfaction all on it's own. Many companies fail at this first hurdle.

2. If you can't do what you have said you will do - communicate with the customer. Most people are reasonable and know that things go wrong. But don't wait for the customer to discover the problem for themselves, or to have to chase you up to see where the promised item is. Are you scared to tell your customer bad news? You could be making things worse.

3. It is always better to underpromise and overdeliver. It is a cliche, but delighting your customer relies on going some way further than the expected. Customers are increasingly demanding, but creative thought can still lead you to exceed their expectations. Doing the bare minimum is no way to beat your competitors.

4. Never criticise your customer. It does not matter if they gave you a duff brief, if they changed their minds or if they wouldn't know quality if it bit them on the nose. Flatter them and they'll love you. If you feel the need to blame them for a mistake or a misunderstanding, ask yourself how you could have avoided the situation. Perhaps you didn't ask them enough questions when they told you what they needed. If you make them feel attacked, they certainly won't feel valued.

These four lessons are so simple, I'm sure that you feel they weren't worth stating again. But do you know what? I frequently have dealings with businesses that forget any number of them. Ask yourself whether you and your staff always remember them. The answer could keep your customers coming back.

Monday, March 2, 2009

So what is a shoe party anyway?

Since Shoes Galore is a fairly new concept to most people, I thought I should tell you something about how it works.

Everyone knows about party plan - you invite your friends, a consultant turns up with some samples and a catalogue and you place orders for future delivery. Well, a Shoe Do is much more fun than that!

You still invite your friends, but when I arrive I have my whole stock of shoes - something like 100 pairs of shoes, plus bags and belts! That's right, a whole load of styles, colours and sizes for you all to actually try on there and then. And if you find something you love (and most people do!) you can buy them and take them home that night. No waiting!

Of course, if I don't have the size you need in the colour you like, you can order from me, and if head office have it in stock you will recieve your gorgeous new shoes in about a week.

It's so much more civilised than going round the shops. The shoes are all there in front of you, you don't have to ask an assistant to go out to the stock room, and if you plan it right you can see what they look like with a range of your own outfits. With a range of styles from flats to heels, casual to evening, there's plenty to keep you amused!

A Shoe Do can be held in almost any venue, from a tiny living room to a corporate restaurant. You can use them as a fundraiser too - sell tickets and I'll give a percentage of all sales to the cause.

The emphasis is always on fun. I don't do selling - you either love a pair or shoes or you don't, and as I have a 28 day no-quibble money-back guarantee, I'd be a fool to talk you into something you didn't really want.

The spring range will begin to be introduced in about 2 weeks. This year I'll be introducing new ranges gradually, so there will always be something new to see. If you live in Hertfordshire or the surrounds I hope to see you soon.