Paying for success……

So an ‘award’ is simply a recognition of quality goods or services right?

Not necessarily so……

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Last year i won a couple of ‘awards’ for my natural baby skincare range.

I submitted products to a panel for review. It was free to enter, and it was such an amazing accolade – to receive praise/recognition for the products i had created.

Following this, i thought ‘i like this awards thing…..I’m going to see what else i could apply for’. So i started looking at the popular baby ranges of cosmetic products, and looking into the ‘awards’ that they displayed on their labels. ‘Great’ i thought ‘ I’ll contact all of these other organizations’ naively believing that it would be as simple as sending in samples of my products for further review.

So it turns out, that for most of the largely recognized magazines and branding organizations, there’s a fee to submit for ‘review’. And that fee is pretty hefty for a small sole trader like me. We’re talking around £100-150 per product.  That’s a fee just to be reviewed. No guarantee that your product(s) will be in line for any sort of ‘award’. No guarantee that you’ll ‘win’ anything.

And this got me thinking about the ‘ethics’ of it all. And that thinking made me feel quite sad.

Are these ‘awards’ really a recognition of a quality product?

I’m not so sure.

Maybe they’re more a reflection of the size of the business owners bank balance. 

Maybe we shouldn’t be so trusting, and so awed by these apparent ‘awards’ on the labels of our baby shampoo and nappies.

It seems that your little business can be really super duper successful, if you’ve got the cash to pay other folks to ‘big it up’. If i was born into a wealthy family, or had a high earning husband, my little brand could be out there competing with the big wigs of the baby industry. My products could be sitting alongside huge names on the shelves of Boots – if i could ‘afford’ it.

How depressing.

I recently featured in a book, and was followed up by a PR company – who enthusiastically told me that i could (and should) be showcased in some national magazines and newspapers – ‘getting the brand out there’ further. ‘Wonderful’ i thought ‘Lets get started. Oh and by the way, whats the fee for your help?’  £500 per day came the reply. I nearly choked on my herbal tea.

So the question is not – ‘ how good is your product?’ 

but ‘ Give me the cash and I’ll tell the world that your product is great’

I think I’ll opt out of that.

I’ll be submitting to The Green Parent magazine again this year. And hopefully to Juno magazine. Neither of which charge for review, and both of which are wonderful, ethical, natural parenting champions. Just the target audience i look for.

I don’t really fancy Boots anyway……..

 

Stress in pregnancy

In June last year (2012), the Royal College of Midwives published findings that “almost half of eczema in babies is due to stress during pregnancy”.

I experienced a great deal of stress during my first pregnancy – and sure enough, my boy suffered terrible eczema. Whether that was as a result of my ‘state of mind’ during the pregnancy, or whether it was simply unlucky, is impossible to tell.

And so here i am, pregnancy number 2. Armed with those ‘findings’ and wondering how will my next little one be?

And the ‘findings’ really are a double edged sword. Is this another way of making mums feel ‘guilty’? If your child develops eczema, might you think ‘oh i should have relaxed more/attended more yoga classes etc etc when i was pregnant’. In other words, might you think ‘its all my fault’?

Unfortunately, i expect so.

i’d love to have a stress-free, blissful, 9 months. Growing my baby. Rubbing my tummy. Practising yoga. Going for massages. However, in reality, this aint happening……

I’m sorry in advance baby number two. I’m trying my best. Now pass me that Lavender oil……..

Who do you trust…..?

Its very difficult to know who to listen to when you’re caring for your precious baby.  Theres so many people witnessing your tentative steps into parenthood. Most folks are very quick to offer you their advice – wanted or unwanted. Does it help? I’m not sure it does.

And then when you have a baby that has additional health problems………where do you look then? Who’s the expert then? I found most ‘unqualified’ advice about how to look after my son’s skin very unhelpful. It felt like a crticism. ‘How can he bear it?’ ‘Poor thing must be in agony’ ‘Havent you tried x, y, z?’. Yes!!!!!! Of course i bloody have!!!!!!! What do you think i am?!

Anyway, i digress. The point i want to make – is that running this small business is a very similar journey really.

I started without any experience of business. Nought. Zilch. Nada. And i’ve learnt as i’ve gone along. I’ve taught myself. I’ve made mistakes. Much like parenting.

It has been amazing, and challenging, and tiring, and difficult, and (occassionally) stressful – but also wonderfully liberating. The world of ‘business’ doesnt seem quite so exotic now…..quite so alien. I am starting to understand how it works. And i cant say i really ‘like’ it too much – but i LOVE making my natural products, and sharing them with others, and i just cant keep doing that unless i face the business world.

Now there’s a lot of folks that are very quick to offer you their advice (sound familiar?). And its very difficult to consider handing over your ‘baby’ (business) to those people’s care. Those folks havent shed the blood, sweat and tears to get the business to where it is now. They havent grafted week after week, month after month, without pay. They havent wondered where you’ll find the money to pay the next month’s studio rent. They haven’t studied and crafted and created. Its a true labour of love. Nothing less.

And suddenly there are folks so quick to tell you what to do next. What makes you so qualified? Where were you in the beginning when i really did need your help?

Who do you trust with your ‘baby’? Its a minefield……

 

Swimming with baby eczema

My boy LOVES swimming – but in the past this was always limited by his skin. Pool visits made his skin red and sore and itchy. And we always had a very unsettled, scratchy, night at home to follow.

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It all seemed so unjust, since i am such a water-baby myself. And i agonised over whether this would see a life of ‘dry side’ spectating for him – when i longed for him to be an ocean loving, swimming, surfing, sailing, lifesaving water-lover like myself.

We just did what we thought was best. He often asked to go swimming, and so we tried to accomodate that wish as much as we could. I found that applying a good layer of body butter to him before we enterred the water, and then again after we left, seemd to help – it created a ‘barrier’ of sorts, and the water seemed to ‘run off’ his skin rather than saturate it.

Luckily, his eczema is virtually non-existent now, and we are regulars at the local baths.

For those of you still battling with the same issue, theres a great article here:

http://www.scratchsleeves.co.uk/parenting-plus-eczema/great-things-to-teach-eczema-babies-kids/eczema-baby-swimming/

 

 

Stretch marks

So I am nearing 20 weeks pregnant with my second baby, and my mind is turning to the dreaded stretch mark…….

I got away without gaining any in my first pregnancy – but I was religious about greasing myself morning and night. After trying some of the ‘high street’ oils and butters, I finally settled on using just pure coconut oil. And it worked really well. And saved me a fortune.

But the downside was the heaviness of the oil.

Coconut oil is a lovely, highly moisturizing, nourishing oil, but it is also a very fatty oil. As such, it sits on the skin for some time, taking quite a while to absorb fully. Last pregnancy, I spent many an hour at home naked, and glistening, greased up like a chip. Unable to sit down, or dress, or touch anything.

This pregnancy I already have a 3 year old to entertain, a dog to walk and a business to run. I don’t have time to swan about naked, waiting for my oil to soak in.

So I am developing a new tummy oil blend. MY tummy oil blend.

It will certainly have coconut oil in it (I love it), but will be combined with a number of ‘lighter’, ‘shorter’,  more easily absorbed oils – for those busy ladies amongst us.

And besides, I’m pregnant during Autumn and Winter this time…….nudity isn’t quite so appealing….

Mothers need a bit of love

Its my son’s 3rd birthday this week – and i’d say i’ve learnt such a lot since he came into this world.

ImageMy boy at around 1 month old

 

The learning curve has been immense. I’ve learnt how to look after a baby and watch him grow into a child. I’ve learnt how much child-rearing can and does affect your relationships with others. I’ve learnt the true meaning of unconditional selfless love. And ive learnt that i need to work hard to be the best mother and person i can be – that patience, and understanding, and self sacrifice dont neccessarily come easily or naturally.

Its taken me until now to realise that being ‘the best mother and person i can be’ requires me to care for and nurture myself with as much (almost?) concern and passion as i do my son. I need to optimise my own wellbeing, inorder to ensure that of my boy.

And so i am creating and launching a mum and mum-to-be (because by the way, i am expecting number 2!) range of beautiful natural skincare products. Remember, what we put on our skin, also goes in (look up ‘dermal absorption’ for more info on this).

With any luck, this range should be available from early December, and will include:

A facial serum

A skin repairing body oil (to tackle stretch marks and scars)

A massage oil blend

A small range of traditionally handcrafted soaps

A relaxing balm

A foot butter and a hand/nail butter

Hooray for us dedicated, hard working ladies – time to start giving ourselves some of that love and care. I cant wait to share it all with you, and to start spreading the joy.

Read all about it………..

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Lots happening at BBHQ at the moment.

Publicity has been great for the past 6 months or so – and i have had some great coverage in local and regional press. Not too sure quite how it has come about, but i must be sending out some good vibes, or attracting the right energy, or banking in some good karma or something.

And it just seems to keep on coming at the moment.

Last week i had a lovely article in Living North Magazine.

Today I received a draft copy of a book (or at least the relevant part of the book) that i am going to be featuring in later this year – about product design and natural cosmetics. Very very exciting to see it after its first edit.

To feature in the book was quite an acheivement, since over 70 companies expressed an interest in taking part and i was one of only 13 to be shortlisted and included.

What next huh? I can hardly wait to see!!

Going with the flow

I used to think that it was really important to have a plan.

I’m not so sure about that anymore. I think the events of the past 4 or so years, have shown me that planning is often a little bit futile.  I guess its good to have an idea of where you want to go – but i am constantly being surprised by the curve balls that life throws at me, and so am now trying to expect the unexpected. And take things as they come. And be open to changes. And go with the flow……..ImageMy son was ‘gifted’ to me, after a chance meeting with my (now) husband, which followed a dramatic surfing accident, which pretty much changed the course of my (up to then very planned) life. Had i never had that knock to the head…..

The birth of my son re-prioritised my entire existence. All plans were forthwith thrown out of the proverbial window. My new ‘plan’ became – eat, sleep, love and learn how to be a mother. And for me, learning how to become a mother, meant learning how to look after my son. Which also meant learning how to look after his very delicate (and then damaged) skin. Which meant – learning how to create my small business.

If i hadnt had that surfing injury, i’d have never met my husband. And never had my son. And never realised how delicate and precious babys’ skin is. And never learnt my trade. And never set up my wonderful gentle creative small business.

I try to constantly remind myself of the power of ‘synchronicity’ when evolving this business. There are those who tell me i need to ‘plan’, and i need a ‘strategy’, and i should develop a ‘policy’ etc etc. But this isnt a military operation. Not an ‘attack’ on the consumer.  I am moving forward slowly but surely – using feelings as a guide. And being open to the next development (whatever that might be….).

If life has taught me anything so far – its throw those plans out the window. You just dont know whats coming………but never fear…….if the recent past is anything to go by, i’ve got a feeling its gonna be good.

 

 

 

Food for thought

I have been contracted by my local authority to deliver a short series of programmes introducing Adults with Learning Difficulties to the concept of natural skincare and it has been fascinating. We are just entering week 3.

As an Occupational Therapist, i have over 10 years of experience in a variety of ‘disability’ settings – including both children and adults with varying degrees of learning difficulty. I LOVE therapy work – and must admit, really miss my clinical role(s). The current teaching schedule has enabled me to return to these roots, albeit in a slightly different format.

My current students are from a wide spectrum of ability – some very ‘high functioning’ adults, who have part-time jobs and live independently, and others who are both deaf and mute, with additional physical complications. I LOVE that it is possible to emcompass such a variety of needs in one setting – in one little classroom – and all learn about the same subject matter. All sharing experiences.

Admittedly it has taken me these first couple of weeks to get to grips with exactly how to do this. Last week i had a ‘lightbulb’ moment – all inspired by one of my most profoundly affected students.

The lady in question has ‘Pica’ – which is “characterized by an appetite for substances largely non-nutritive” (thanks Wikipedia). When people have ‘Pica’ tendancies, they may feel a need to put objects in their mouths, and chew them. Often these objects are things that most of us would find extremely unpleasant……..

The fantastic thing about my sessions, for this lady in particular, is that everything we are using/working with is completely safe to eat. We are using oils and butters and botanicals – all of which may not taste delicious if eaten, but will certainly not cause any harm.

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I cant believe i hadnt thought about it before.

Surely its an enormous factor when creating cosmetics – especially natural cosmetics for children and babies (as mine are). I know that all of my ingredients must be ‘food grade’ – but i had never before reflected upon why this is so very important.

No need to worry now about baby getting his/her hands (and mouth!) on that bottle of massage oil – apart from the mess it could create on your carpet. Did you know that you can get your daily EFA requirements from the application of Sunflower oil to your skin? You dont even need to ingest it – as your skin ‘eats’ it for you.

However you take it – dermally through your skin, or orally via food – it doesnt really matter. These oils are safe (and extremely good!) for you.

So i am adapting my teaching sessions at present to encompass a truly multi-sensory approach. We are smelling and touching and (especially for one lady in particular) even tasting our ingredients – long before they are combined to create a product. We are exploring the natural, organic items we have at home, in our cupboards and fridges, that are of benefit to the skin – both applied topically and ingested.

We have moved the ‘classroom’ to the kitchen.

I’m clearly learning as much from my students as they are from me.