Stories, ideas and tips to help women build fabulous businesses and to help you build your best business.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A midwife in every village

How would you feel if you gave birth to a baby that had died because it’s head got stuck in the birth canal?

How would you feel if that baby’s skull had rubbed a hole in your bladder or rectum giving you uncontrollable urinary and faecal incontinence?

How you would feel if you were then abandoned by your family and cast out of your village because the incontinence made you dirty and smelly.......

This happens to 9000 women a year in Ethiopa.

The childbirth injury is called a fistula injury and it can be completely fixed.

I have been looking for a charity to support with my book (it’s not too late to enter a story: email me at and I have decided to support the Fistula Foundation

In 1959 Catherine Hamlin went to Ethiopia with her husband to set up a midwifery school. Seeing the plight of the Ethiopian women they set about changing it and they never came back

Today Catherin Hamlin is 84 and she is still working at achieving her dream of putting a midwife in every village.

It’s an amazing story. Visit the website and see.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

It’s the little things that make an impact

I love Jo Malone and as a natural extension I tend give Jo Malone stuff as gifts.

So yesterday I popped in to buy a candle for a friend and they asked me if I wanted to join their mailing list. I often say no to mailing list requests but I do like their stuff so I dutifully obliged.

Today the postman delivered a lovely handwritten card from the Jo Malone team inviting me in for a complimentary hand and arm massage.

Now I know the massage is just good marketing to get me back through the front door. But because it was handwritten, personal (“I do hope you enjoy your new candle”) and quick (I gave them my address less than 24 hours ago). I’m taking them up on it. Tomorrow.

And it also reminded me how easy it is to overlook the little things which make the biggest impact.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Styling the hairdresser

My hairdresser, George, is great at cutting and colouring hair but he is hopeless at training and managing staff. So hopeless in fact that except for a lone hairwasher-tea-maker-general–sweeper-upper he works alone in his salon.

And he makes more profit than ever.

How has he done that? By skilfully changing his business model.

In the old days George made money in the traditional hairdresser sense by having a team of hairdressers working for him.

Now he makes money by selling niche, luxury, hard-to-find skin care and cosmetics to his customers.

Because George isn’t running around managing staff he can devote himself entirely to his clients which gives him ample opportunity to showcase his products and persuade his clients that they can’t possible live without Tracie Martyn cleanser and Eve Lom lip balm.

The model works for lots of reasons: the products that he sells earn him a very high margin; his clients trust that he will sell them only the best and he has the ultimate captive audience – the client is rather stuck in the chair/under the heater/prone at the basin

When George had staff they were a cost to the business - he couldn’t keep them long enough to be useful.

I think the message here is that if there is part of your business that you are really hopeless at one option might be to look at how you can change your model so that you play to your strengths.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The smile train business model

Put simply your business model is the answer to the question “how does your business work?”

So how does your business work?

Puzzled? This question is so often greeted with bewilderment that I thought I would showcase some business models.

My inspiration for this was a fabulous article on It’s a story about Smile Train, a charity that fixes children’s cleft lips. Initially the charity used the donations it raised to send a team of doctors to treat poor children in countries such as Vietnam and India. Frustrated by the relatively high cost of doing this and the low number of children they could treat, they changed the business model. Instead of sending American doctors to treat the children they used the donations to train local doctors. The result – same amount of dollars, many many more children cured of their cleft lips.

How can you improve your business model to make the money go further?

Would you like to feature in my book?

I am writing a book. Well I’m editing it actually because it’s all written - I am just going through the making-it-better bit.

The book is called The Art of Baking a Business: Recipes for the Kitchen Table Tycoon - and that’s exactly what it is - a collection of recipes and fun stuff for baking a business.

As well as the “how to” recipes the book has lots of tasty tales - stories about successful former Kitchen Table Tycoons.

I am also profiling a selection of Kitchen Table Tycoons who right this minute are starting or running their small business. But rather than just feature women that I know I thought I would run a sort of competition to get the best stories from around the world.

And so I am inviting you to be part of the book.

All you have to do is email me: and let me know 3 things:

What your business does (just in your own down-to-earth words – no pompous crap)
What you find exciting about starting and running your own business
What has gone wrong - this can be funny or serious or something that was serious that now has a funny side

Just send through your quick thoughts - I won’t be publishing your stuff without speaking to you first so there is plenty of opportunity to worry about the niceties of wording it later!

So why would you want to do this? Well I am hoping that by being involved in this book your business will get some fabulous free publicity - and if you are like most of the Kitchen Table Tycoons I know, it will surely come in handy.

What can be seen in Agyness Dean

The other day I was reading an article about the English model and style supremo Agyness Deyn. It is pretty well known that she started life with a much more ordinary name (Laura Hollins) but there is a bit of controversy over whether she was “discovered” working in a fish and chip shop in the bleak North of England or whether, in fact, she skilfully engineered the launch of her astonishingly successful career.

The article I read put it well. While I can’t remember the exact words it went sort of like this. “Isn’t it better to be architect of your career rather than the passive participant?”

Hollywood movies roll out the passive participant story with impressive regularity. The best feel good movies have the nice-girl-just-going-along-doing-her-thing-wins-the-competition theme. Which I think is highly ironic given that no-one with any connection to Hollywood could be accused of passively participating. In fact the opposite is true. They are all gung ho-ly architecting and building their careers.

And so must each and everyone of us.

Nothing compares to U

More on the theme of things that worked 10/15/20 years ago but don't work now.

I saw a picture of Sinead O'Connor in the paper today. About 15 years ago, maybe more, I wished I had her sort of face that could look awesome with short hair -my face was too moonlike to do anything other than long.

Sinead still has the same hair cut but the 15 extra years don't do it justice.

It's hard to update yourself - I no doubt have some wardrobe shockers -but it's easy to update others.

Maybe there is an opportunity for you to update a business idea that's in need of renovation.

Friday, March 21, 2008


For the life of me I can't understand why Tupperware don't sell their stuff on the internet.

50 years ago, 20 years ago, even 10 years ago it was probably fun to go to a Tupperware party and stock up on plastic containers. But surely today most people just want to buy the wretched stuff with one click of a button.

The other day I tried to order some Tupperware:

I phoned the Head Office and asked how I could buy some tupperware without going to, or hosting, a party. The friendly receptionist suggested that I call the Regional Office and added that she spent much of her day fielding calls from potential customers wanting to buy on-line......

The Regional Office said they would contact my local distributor.

My local distributor called me 2 days later and gave me her address so that I could send her my address so that she could then send me a form to complete and send back to her. (Yes I was completely stumped by that too).

I later found out that the distibutor makes just one trip a week to the warehouse to collect orders and then posts them out in the ordinary mail. So had I ordered the tupperware from her it would have taken roughly two to three weeks for me to receive the order whereas it takes two or three days to get a book from Amazon.

In 1950 when Brownie Wise came up with the idea of selling Tupperware at parties it was very forward thinking. Because the Tupperware concept was so new people didn't understand how the Tupperware seal worked - demonstrating it was key to selling it.

58 years later plastic boxes with lids are ubiquitous.

Tupperware does make the best stuff, but what's the point in making the best stuff if you don't make it easy for your customers to buy it?

getting things done

I've just discovered Getting Things Done by David Allen. His website is worth a look. There's great free stuff. Just got to find time to read it....

Shopping trolleys

My fave grocer has just installed those pay-to-borrow shopping trolleys. So what did I do? Used a basket instead and bought less.