My Business Story- Warts And All

Before we start, I will warn you that this is a long post. It’s about my journey and struggles as a woman in business, juggling all the tasks that come as part and parcel of being a business owner and how I eventually spent less time working in my business and more time on me and my business. This post was first published in Summer 2016, I have since updated it to where I now am.

Start of my journey

I think I always knew that I wanted to work for myself. From a young age, I loved money and what it could buy me and I loved working. My mum would pay us 20p to do little jobs to help around the house and I was always more than willing to help out. By the time I was 12, I had my first real job on Sunday lunchtime at an aunt’s pub, washing dishes in the kitchen. I loved the satisfaction that I got from earning my own wage. I’m very ambitious and have always wanted more, so it came as no surprise when after my A levels at school, I felt there wasn’t a university course that particularly appealed to me.

My First Business

I left school and got my first job. Having a steady wage was great, I bought a car and life was going well. I worked for around 8 months when my Mum & Dad came home one day and asked if I’d be interested in buying a local business- a sandwich bar. I didn’t need to be asked twice and jumped at the opportunity. My dad- who had been self-employed for much of my childhood, along with my mum ran a little shop around the corner from the sandwich bar at the time and I was hugely excited about having my own business. I jumped in with 2 feet and absolutely loved it. I wasn’t so keen on being a manager though- I only had a few girls help out, but found it difficult, having been in school less than a year previous- to managing staff. The first time I had to let someone go- I was terrified! Talk about stepping outside your comfort zone.

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Growing

I introduced a few new ideas to the sandwich bar. I started a catering business for children’s parties on the side- they were awful to tell you the truth! I also started a morning delivery round, around the local business parks- delivering to all the men at the factories- I often think back at what a bolshie 19-year old I was! I didn’t care and had little fear, I had a fantastic attitude.  After a couple of years running this business, I felt it wasn’t enough and the option came up to sub-lease a second shop in the city centre- which again- I just went for. This was a tough time. Trying to do everything myself, as I hugely struggled with delegation and tried to do it all myself, burning myself out in the process. I’d get to the shop early, make loads of baguettes up, go out and do the first load of deliveries to all the factories, then come back to the first shop (which a staff member would have opened), then down to the 2nd shop, make more baguettes and sandwiches up and walk around to some banks and other shops in the city centre delivering there too. I’d then go back to the first shop and do the lunch rush there, go down to the 2nd shop do lunch rush there, then lock them both up and clean at the end of the day- so I was pretty exhausted when the day came to an end! At the end of the 3-month period, the 2nd shop wasn’t financially viable with the high city rates, so, with a heavy heart, I decided not to take it on permanently.

Time to move on?

After 3 years of running this business, the itchy feet were starting to kick in. Around this same time, I went on holiday for a week and left the running of the shop with the staff. I really looked after my staff- they always had free food, wages early if they needed helping out etc., but the lady that had been with me the longest and who I trusted, really let me down. I arrived home from my holiday and went straight to the shop- I told the lady who was working to go home and I’d cash up. She acted really strange and told me to that she’d do it. I had a gut feeling that something just wasn’t right, but pushed it away. I went home with the takings for the day and things just didn’t add up- that gut feeling was back and deep down I knew that my employee had been stealing from the till. The next day, I left her at the shop and went on my deliveries. When I did a till reading after deliveries- my suspicions were confirmed – that she had been taking cash from the till. I was absolutely devastated. Well actually I was evil angry to start with- after what I had done for her, she had the disrespect to steal from me. It really did break my heart and from that day, I lost my mojo for the business. I decided I wanted more so decided that I’d go back into employment. I sold the sandwich bar-, which made me really proud that I had sold it and made a profit. It was sold for more than I’d paid for it, so after paying my mum & dad back what I owed them, I went and bought a new car- with a big down payment- a convertible Peugeot 206cc- and I loved it!

A guesthouse

Employment lasted a few years, from retail to sales, but as time went on my yearning to work for myself again was there. During my time in sales, I met my now husband and on our first holiday together, we discussed how we’d love to start another business- he too had run various businesses before we got together. At the end of 2 weeks in the Portuguese sun, we had decided on a guesthouse. We figured it was a fantastic lifestyle choice for when we had children (my husband already had 3 children too), so as soon as we got back from holiday the search was on. We spent all spare minutes researching guesthouses in the area and viewing houses and businesses. We viewed a house that wasn’t a guesthouse at the time but put in a cheeky offer and it was accepted! God only knows how we got that deposit together, but we managed to do it and on the day we got the keys we walked into this huge house and thought what the hell have we just done! It needed so much work to get it to a stage of being ready for guests. We had to build and install 3 en-suites for a start! By now, I was also 4 months pregnant, so we were both working, I was pregnant, had a whole house renovation and a business to build from scratch. We had ceilings falling down, nails in water pipes- the lot, but after my husband and dad took 3 months off work to get stuck in, we started to see the progress and the guesthouse was ready. Our very first booking- 3 months after buying the property was a booking for all 3 of our guest rooms for the weekend. It was so scary and nerve-wracking- wanting to get it all right- but we did it! We saw loads of guests come and go in the space of the 5 years we owned it, but with 2 babies arriving during that time- so 5 in total when all the children were with us- it was manic. We lived in one-half of the property and the stress was awful at times, with screaming babies and young kids arguing. The idyllic thoughts we had of running a guesthouse alongside our growing family, was a far cry from idyllic!

We had so many learns along the way and juggling a life, as a business owner with children was just the start. I was so glad to sell after 5 years, but no matter what, we had achieved what we set out to do- which was to be able to bring the children up, whilst bringing in an income, without me having to go back to employment!

Side businesses

Alongside the guesthouse, I set up various online businesses selling SD cards, jewellery, cosmetics, self-tan, and some funky LED clocks I started importing 100’s of from China. Crazy times to say the least! One Christmas I literally sold around 500 of these clocks that I had tracked constantly from China, packed them all myself with the kids and turned up at the post office with bags full every day. I think this is where I really started my love affair with the internet.

Getting online

When we had sold the guesthouse, I had a couple of months to start a new business. I knew I wouldn’t go back into employment and knew I wanted to do something from home, around the kids. So after much thought, I decided that I loved Shabby Chic & Vintage gifts & homeware, that’s what I’d do. I called the business ihearthomes. I literally started posting on Facebook a few times a day with my £500 worth of stock that I’d bought from a wholesaler that I’d found and asking people if they were interested. I’d get people ask for a PayPal invoice and for months that’s how I’d sell. The FB page grew in popularity and I also set up a website myself, and after Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Youtube. The first Christmas in business I came across some hessian sacks that were being sold by a wholesaler called East Of India, I loved them and ordered around 50. They went crazy and sold out within a few days. I knew I was onto something and between eBay, Facebook, but mainly Amazon, I went on to sell a couple of 1000 that Christmas. My home – that was only small had boxes of hessian Christmas sacks in every room and the mess would get everywhere! The business was growing!

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Moving

As it was growing so fast we decided to move to a larger house, where I had a large office and stock room, and later another stock room too. I had stacking shelves all around and a packing bench where I packed and sent all the parcels out. Christmas was crazy- I remember one day when I had staff helping me packing a total of 126 parcels in one day- it was mental and I loved every minute of it. I worked crazy hours, as most entrepreneurs do and worked my socks off trying to make this business be as successful as I could. I tried selling handbags and purses, which at first were really popular. I sold a fair few 100, but that seemed to dry up.  At another stage, I tried selling vintage dresses by Lindy Bop and others. Again another really hard time, so many sales- that was great, but as we are all different shapes and sizes, you’d also get lots of returns-, which was not so great. So after a few months, I knocked those on the head too!

Huge growth

After a year or so at this house, I was massively outgrowing the office and stock room so decided to bite the bullet and lease a small unit. I’d hit the VAT threshold sometime before and had so much stock, that my house was once again being taken over. Talk about a hard move- I had so much stuff crammed into my house and when we moved it all into the unit- it was quickly apparent that it was virtually full straight away too!

I remember coming up with a concept for a subscription box (which at the time were relatively new in the UK) of gifts. I couldn’t see anyone else doing it at the time and thought I have to do this. It was the first of the month in 2 days time and I worked tirelessly to get it launched in 2 days time. It was a huge success and my aim in month 1 was to sell 50 – I sold 66 boxes and I was so chuffed and proud of my achievement. This continued to grow but my real aim was 1000 boxes-, which I never quite reached, unfortunately.

Busy Busy

After a few months at the unit, It was so full, I needed more room desperately, so moved to a unit double the size and a bit more, around the corner. The business, by this time, had grown quite considerably and was taking up a lot of my time. I worked lots of house and literally ate, breathed and slept ihearthomes. At the same time, I  realised that social media was a huge part of my business and went to university for the first time to study a Foundation Degree in Social Media- gaining a merit. Very annoyed that I didn’t get a distinction!

Social media

My social media really was the main source of traffic for my business and I spent a small fortune on FB ads, as they really worked for me and brought me more business and traffic. Alongside FB, I started IG, YouTube videos each month, Pinterest and Twitter.

For, me, as the FB algorithm started changing, IG became a bigger source of traffic and sales and many of my customers found me through there. I really loved social media! I’m still hugely passionate about it and what it can do for your business. At the end of my time with ihearthomes I had over 144k FB ‘likes’, 21.5k IG followers, then a fair number on the others too!

Highs of 2015

My highlights were in 2015, I had moved to the larger unit, I had won a business award- Business Boost award at the Mumpreneur awards, which was amazing and made me feel so proud of my achievements. I also went to China, with my husband on a business trip. We went to Canton Fair, a huge fair that has 1000’s of wholesalers attend for you to see what you’d like to buy. I set up a presence in China and had ‘Chinese offices’ so the company that we paid to work with us, could speak directly to the wholesalers we had met at the fair and get some quotes from them, with the aim of importing directly from China. All very exciting and was a trip of a lifetime.

Business growth

As the business was growing, looking back, I probably wasn’t. Still a huge control freak, I struggled to let anyone in. It was my baby; my business and I wanted to do it all. Deep down, I knew that in order to grow, I needed help but I found it so hard to hand over. I had one lovely girl that had been working for me for some time since I was at the house, who I trusted completely, she was fab and was a joy to have around. She was more than happy to get on and loved her job packing all the parcels to post out to customers.

I had a few other part-time staff members at this time, none of which worked out. Again, I wasn’t a fan of managing staff! But for me, it took a long time to realise that in order to grow I had to have help and start to outsource.

Losing my ‘mojo’

On the surface, the business was going great guns, and I can’t tell you what changed, but something did and I lost my ‘mojo’. The business had had a few quieter months than usual and that affected my mood. I became quite withdrawn and anxious. Looking back, I can see that it was probably me that had some blocks and mindset issues first, then the business was affected. I had some things that really affected me – again as much as I like to think I’m strong, which I am, I’m also very emotional and things really hurt. I had a company that copied my every move. As much as I could try and put it off as a sign of flattery, it really upset me. The company at times literally copied every word of mine on Facebook posts, the website was very similar and low and behold, a few months after I launched my subscription box- happymail, they launched theirs, with some of the items the exact same items as mine. It felt like a blow to the stomach- all my ideas, my hard work and someone could just come along and replicate like for like was soul destroying. I had to seek legal help at one point and he told me he had never seen such a blatant case of copying in all his years as a copyright and intellectual property solicitor. I’m not going to harp on about that, but it did really get me down. I know it was my issue to overcome and to some extent, it drove me onwards and motivated me, but at times when my mindset wasn’t as strong, it felt like a constant battle to overcome.

Selling my ‘baby’

In Spring 2016, I was feeling completely miserable and was no longer enjoying the business. Luckily, I have a supportive husband and after a few heart to hearts, we decided it was time I sold the business. I listed the business and within a couple of weeks I had had over 36 enquiries. I’m naturally a very positive person, but at the time was struggling with my value and self-worth a little and this was a lovely feeling, that this amount of people were interested in the business that I had started from scratch!

The 1st people that viewed loved it – and later told me they were about to offer, however the 2nd person to view loved it too and the next day made an offer, that I accepted. On one proviso, not being the type of person with much patience, I wanted the sale to be completed within a month, in time for the start of the summer holidays so I could have the summer off with my children.

Luckily, the lady that was buying it was lovely and we got on like a house on fire. She came and spent time with me and we completed the sale at the end of July. It was a scary time that I felt hugely out of my comfort zone but also a time that I could look at something that I started as successful. I had started this business from scratch and sold it 4 years later.

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like a success, I felt like a failure in some ways that I had stopped loving the business, and it took many months to get past these blocks in myself.

Starting a new business

Before I sold, I had decided that it would be amazing to continue working within social media as that was and still is where my passion lies. I also have another passion, I love helping people too. I always have done throughout all my jobs and businesses- customer service was also hugely important to me and I loved nothing better than having a happy customer. I had realised late in my business that I couldn’t do it all. I was always trying to juggle work and home life and often felt guilty for my children, guilty that I wasn’t spending enough time with them, guilty if I wasn’t working, it was a constant battle. As most mums will know!

I decided I’d like to be able to help all these other women that were like me. The ones that knew what they needed doing and realised that they needed some help, but who didn’t want full-time staff. I started building a website myself and setting up a business in the background but didn’t realise at the time, that this role existed as a Virtual Assistant. I could offer a helping hand to all these people that like me, that needed some help and I had the skills and the experience from all the businesses I had run and sold to help them. I set up as a VA and then decided that rather than a typical VA, I’d specialise in the online business side of things. I like to help entrepreneurs improve their online presence through social media & associated tasks, which saves them stress and time.

Learns

After ihearthomes had sold, I took most of the summer off to be with my children and really started knuckling down to build this business in October of 2016.

It has been a time of many learns and opportunities and I’m constantly learning every day and more importantly growing myself. I have spent a lot of time on my mindset and myself and I still get really wobbly days now. I realised that selling ihearthomes affected me more than I realised at the time and it took me a long while to move on from it. I didn’t miss it, but I missed having a structure to know what I was doing each day, and I definitely missed the constant income!

Deciding on more of a niche

In January 2017, I realised that my passion lies with working with women specifically. Women who were just like me, trying to juggle all the tasks they have to do to not just keep a business going but to grow a business. Work on the business, not just in the business, as so many entrepreneurs do. Since I have made the decision to work with women, I have started to attract more women through enquiries. I changed my website to suit me and the clients I’d like to attract- it’s much more feminine (as you’ll notice). I also decided that I don’t want to be anything other than me. I want my clients to like me for me and work with me for me- nothing else. I’m not the type of person that gels well with many ‘corporate types’ because I am what I am. I’m positive, full of energy, talk too fast, not particularly well spoken, but I do have the experience of running various businesses and have learned so much along the way. Skills that I am happy to share with other female entrepreneurs in their pursuit to grow their businesses.

Where I’m at

Apologies for the ultra long story and thank you if you have managed to stick with it until the end!

I like to work 1:1 with just a few VIP female clients that can have more of my time, attention and brain! I love brainstorming with clients about ideas they may have to grow their businesses. And I love being on that journey with them, by their side. I’m continuing to grow my new business too and I’ll always be considering adding new ideas. If you are a kick-ass female entrepreneur who knows they need help if they are to grow their business, that also realises that in order to grow, you need your team to understand the juggles and the pressures being a business owner have, get in touch. I’m not looking to work with clients that are playing at this and who want 5 hours of my time, I’m looking for amazing like-minded ladies that know what they want and are ready to go after it, with me helping the process. I can’t guarantee you’ll be completely stress-free, but I can guarantee that you’ll feel less guilty about things, as we’ll be achieving more together, you’ll have more time as I’ll be dealing with so much more for you and you’ll be free to do what you do best. That may be going and finding extra clients for you that may be spending more time with your family or more time for you, all of which are equally important. I want ladies that value their time and know their worth. Being in business is a roller coaster- ups and downs, but isn’t it so much more fun, when someone is sat by your side!

6 Months later (Early 2018)

Since originally writing this story on my blog, I have been featured as a co-author in Mumpreneur On Fire, which became an Amazon No.1 Bestseller within 24hrs.

I have also been featured twice on Thrive Global as a contributor.

I am now offering business mentoring to women starting out in business, or who are ready to take the next step to up their game and learn the skills they need to succeed as well as have the help & support they require.

If you’d like to see how I can help you, take a look at my mentor page

Business Mentor Packages

 

 

Female Entrepreneur Video Series- Jennifer Chamberlin

Jennifer Chamberlin is a Bilingual Virtual Assistant. She lives in France and speaks fluent French and English.

“I launched My Bilingual VA in 2016 after working as a Personal / Executive Assistant in Paris for 15 years. I grew up in England but was always passionate about Europe and learning foreign languages. When I began my first fulltime job in Disneyland Paris in 1999, I knew it was the beginning of a new life in France. Now completely bilingual, I’m equally comfortable in both cultures.”

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You can find Jennifer on her website

and her Facebook page 

 

My Story

Hello ladies.

This week’s blog post wasn’t a planned one. It happened a little by accident.

I am taking part in a visibility challenge this week with a coach that I follow. I’m part of her group that the challenge is taking place in and today’s challenge- day 1, is to write down ‘your story’ then share part of that in the group and on your FB page.

As I started writing my post in her group, I couldn’t stop and it turned into a blog post – so here we go, I thought I’d share here too, so you guys can get to know me a little better. It’s quite a vulnerable post for me and really got me thinking about where I am in my journey.

My Story

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I started my entrepreneurial journey young- my first business was at aged 18. I think I had always known this was the route for me and I loved it. I sold the business after 3 years and went into employment but toyed with coming back to self-employment constantly.

After a holiday, my now husband and I started another business- a guest house. After 5 years, 2 difficult pregnancies and 100’s of guests, the guest house life became too much and we sold up.

At this stage, we knew I would continue to run my own business, but didn’t know what. After much research, I decided that I’d start a Shabby Chic & Vintage Home & Gift online business and my ‘3rd baby’ was born.

This was started from our kitchen worktop, where I did everything by myself and grew the business using social media. The stock was small at first and was stored in my children’s wardrobe. Each day, I’d have 2 1/4 hours whilst the little ones were at pre-school to pack and post any orders that I’d received and work on growing the business.

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I had a phenomenal first Christmas thanks to a product that sold like hot-cakes and not many people were selling at the time and the business was really taking off. We moved to a bigger house- predominantly so I had more room to house the now growing stock and I had a large office and a stock room followed by staff. I moved twice more to a business unit, then another, double the size as the business continued to grow at a fast rate.

I started another side to the business- literally, overnight- a monthly box subscription that took off in month 1 and was going amazingly well. I won a ‘Mumpreneur’ business award and went on a business trip to China to start importing products direct, rather than through UK wholesalers and had an office in China, where they represented me and dealt directly with the manufacturers on my behalf.

So what happened?

So, it looked like the business was going great guns. But I wasn’t. Something had changed in me. To this day, I don’t know exactly what, but I felt like I’d ‘lost my mojo’.
This had been my baby for almost 5 years, that I’d literally ‘ate, breathed and slept’ and all of a sudden I wasn’t in love with it anymore.

This was a difficult thing to accept as I have always had that fear of failure niggling at the back of my head. I kept quiet for a while but could feel the stress building. The business started getting a little bit quieter- and that also made me feel extremely stressed. Looking back, I can see that it was predominantly my mindset that was affecting the business, but at the time I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. It was a downward spiral. I was completely overwhelmed, trying to do it all myself and not spending enough time On my business, but too much in the business. I wasn’t growing.

When I (finally) opened up to my husband – he was amazing. I had so many fears that he wouldn’t understand and would feel that I’d not involved him sooner in the way I was feeling. But he literally told me ‘just walk if it’s making you feel like this, it’s not good for you and we’ll deal with the consequences together’. I think it was knowing that I had that support that fired up something in me that hadn’t shown up for a while (the fighting spirit) and I decided that, hold on, I had a bloody viable business that I could sell- not walk away from! This was turning over multi six-figures and had an amazing following and good profit- I wasn’t walking anywhere!

The next step

So, I listed it on a business for sale site (still among feelings of failure, that nobody would be interested etc) and had around 40 enquiries in total. Those first few days I had 2 people come down and both wanted to make an offer. The first offer came the next day, I accepted and I pushed for a sale within a month!

It was one of the hardest months of my life but we did it. The business was all in my head, I didn’t have processes and systems written down, so all that had to be done, but after the month, I’d moved out of my premises and the new owner had hers. I worked closely with her for months making sure the handover went smoothly and spent the six weeks holidays just being ‘mum’!

Failure?

It took me the best part of a year to realise that actually, I hadn’t failed. I had started and sold a business for a profit.

Being in that position made me think that I couldn’t be the only woman struggling with it all- the kids, the house, the business. I couldn’t be the only women trying to be the best at it all, but not actually believing in herself enough and what skills she could offer. I decided I wanted to help other women who were feeling that overwhelm, the pressure, the doubt, the lack of skills. So, I started another business as a VA.

As the year progressed I started thinking that maybe I could mentor women, but the doubt stopped me from doing too much about that. I love working as a VA and as I became more confident in the skills I could offer (and put my pricing up), I started to really attract my tribe. I changed my website to be a reflection of me- I’m girlie and wanted it to show that. I started being really strict with who I was working with. Female entrepreneurs only. As time went on, I started to naturally attract a few coaches. This is such a positive place to be – full of inspiration and motivation- I spend much of my days being surrounded by amazing, like-minded, kicking-ass women!

This made me realise that I can do this, I have plenty of experience and skills that women could learn from. I know I’m now on the right path, I feel it deeply and am so looking forward to the coming months and years. Continuing to grow as a person and continuing to help many women reach that same satisfied place.

Interested in working with me? Find out more here >>>

katie colella social, katie colella, business mentor, va, virtual assistant, mentoring, my story, entrepreneur

Success?

I know success means different things to different people.

Let’s be clear, I am money driven.

But it’s more than that. This past year I have run a viable business that I love, doing something that makes me happy, helping female entrepreneurs, all whilst taking my kids to school every day, picking them up every day, never missing a school concert or event. I’ve travelled 6 times these past 8 months and managed my work around that. I’ve certainly drank more wine than I should have and eaten amazing food (hence the additional stone I’m carrying ;)).

I’m happy and loving life. And to me that is being successful and I know I have so much more to give. If you’d like to get clarity on your business, learn how to use certain tools and systems to grow your business and feel amazing about yourself, take a look at my package here >>>

katie colella social, katie colella, business mentor, va, virtual assistant, mentoring, my story, entrepreneur

I hope you enjoyed reading a bit more about me. I know I love reading other people’s stories, so hopefully, mine can inspire one or two of you too.

Watch my video here >>

Thank you for reading! Katie x

 

8 Instagram Updates

Hey beautiful ladies.

Have you noticed the latest Instagram updates? Keeping true to form for 2017, they have continued with the regular updates of late.

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I haven’t done an IG updates post for a while. Read the last one here >>>

 

 Here are the latest IG updates:

  1. IG Poll

I love this feature. To access it go to your IG stories and add/take a pic as normal, then go to stickers. If you aren’t sure, this is the square smiley face in the top right hand corner when you have taken or added a photo.

Once you’ve clicked on stickers, you’ll see the option of POLL. Click here and you can add a space for a question and a choice of 2 answers, such as yes and no. Then click done. As your followers answer your question, you’ll receive the answers to your poll. So when you look, you’ll see the current score and who has answered.

2. New IG Stickers

We all know IG stories always have a good selection of stickers- such as location, temperature, day, time etc, but have you seen the new Halloween and Autumn selection? We’ve got pumpkins, eyeballs, devil horns and hands to name a few. The autumn selection include a cup of tea, leaves, acorns, a bobble hat and logs.

3. IG Stories Filters

Love the new Halloween style face filters. We have a blood dripping zombie, beat-up zombie, pitch black with light up face, alien style and foggy. As always my description of these face filters no doubt are completely wrong, but you get my drift!

4. Shared Lives on Instagram Stories

This is a biggy. You now have the ability to add someone to your live video- great for chatting and interviewing others. It gives you a split screen for you and a freind to love stream! I don’t have this feature just yet, but it’s being rolled out.

The ability to access IG Stories on your desktop too is also being rolled out!

Looking for help with Instagram? Take a look here >>>

 

5. Creative Tools for Stories

Insta have launched a new alignment tool so you can line up your elements. When you add stickers, text etc you’ll see some blue lines pop up. They are there to help you centre text and other elements and let you know if any of the elements will be covered when people are watching your stories.

 

6. Improved Comment Controls

IG launched this a few months ago, but have improved the tools when people comment on your posts. For instance if they comment using bad language you have the ability to block them. You can choose which comments to allow.

katie colella social, katie colella, va, virtual assistant, instagram, ig, insta

7. Shopify Integration

This is by far the biggest update and is huge for those using Shopify. It allows Shopify users to basically use Ig as another selling platform. It currently uses Facebook shopping items and pulls them over to IG (easily set up with a few clicks). Then you can tag any items in IG with a product contained in your catalogue. This allows people to click on the picture and purchase immediately. You’ll be able to tell if a picture is ‘shoppable’ by a small white shopping bag icon in the top right hand corner of the screen. Tap to see ‘tap to view products’ then they’ll see the information. Click again to be able to purchase. All from Instagram! That is amazing and a really big deal.

8. Threaded Comments

This feature has been out for a little while now, but I thought I’d include it as it’s pretty cool!

Previously, IG would show all comments in a linear format. Now however, if you reply to somebody, it’ll show directly under their comment, (like FB) allowing an easier and more streamlined conversation to encourage engagement from your followers!

Local to South Wales? Come to our Business Workshop For Beginners! >>>

 

 

 

How To Make Pinterest Board Covers

I’ve recently made some Pinterest Board Covers for a couple of clients of mine and am now in the process of finally getting around to making them for my own Pinterest account too, so thought I’d put a simple ‘how-to’ together for anyone else wondering how to do this for their Pinterest account.

Without Pinterest board covers

Without covers for your Pinterest boards, they can look cluttered and all over the place with no real consistency. I personally have always kept a colour theme in mine so that they were fairly cohesive, but not quite what I wanted. Since creating covers for two of my clients this past month, I thought it was time I did mine too. Here is a screenshot of before adding board covers.

 

Why do we need Pinterest board covers?

Branding! You have your website looking awesome, all your branding in place but what about Pinterest? To create an aesthetic and cohesive brand you need to cover all bases and ensure all your social media channels look inline with your brand and vibe. Making these covers is a quick and easy way to make sure your Pinterest account looks fantastic, professional and streamlined.

My Katie Colella Social board covers now show a pretty feminine vibe in my brand colours.

Pinterest recommend using a square image 800×800 pixels.

I’m using Canva to create my board covers.

Here’s how I did it.

In my Canva account, I selected the square 800x800pixel size template. I looked at the templates available and went with a stripe design.

I choose 3 of my brand colours over the 3 stripes. Then in the centre box, I added the board name in a brand font. I added my website at the bottom so that when someone clicks on the pin, they’ll see my website.

When you select the pin as a board cover, Pinterest will select the centre, so make sure any text is centralised.

Save your image and go to your Pinterest account.

Here’s mine if you fancy following me!

 

Once logged in go to the board that we are adding a cover to and copy the URL of this board. Then in the top right-hand corner select the + button and upload image.

 

Here upload your image and paste the URL for the board that you just copied.

This ensures that when someone clicks on your pin it’ll take them to your Pinterest board.

Select the right board for the cover and then click on the pencil/edit icon.

 

Click on the Change cover button. This will be the most recently added pin and I have noticed that it doesn’t always show when you select it. So even if the pin isn’t showing, it is the latest one there.Add a fab description whilst you are there too! Then click save.

Voila! When you go back to your boards you’ll now see the board cover in all its glory!

Note– you usually have to refresh your account once or twice to see the cover in place.

Looking for help with your Pinterest account?

Pinterest Board Covers

Here is a screenshot of how my account looks with covers in place. What a huge difference and you’d be surprised at how few people actually take the time to add covers, so by doing this simple task that you can get within a few hours, your Pinterest will look amazing and streets ahead of many other people’s accounts. Reflecting you and your business style and attracting more followers and subsequently more repins and web traffic-yay!

 

Have you updated your board covers? I’d love to see how yours look!

In need of more clarity and direction for your business? Feeling overwhelmed and stressed and like you can’t juggle it all? Take a look at my mentoring package here >>>

 

 

 

 

My Top 11 Business Tools That I Use Daily

 

We all have our favourite tools that we use daily in our business, so I thought I’d list my current most used tools for you.

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  1. Canva

I love Canva.. To the extent that I don’t know how I managed before it. This is constantly open on my desktop and I use it, without fail every day.

I use it for myself and for my client work. I create simple but gorgeous graphics for use on my website, on my social media, any presentations I need to put together and any freebies that I need to create. The selection of free or low-cost images is fantastic.

Top Tip- set up the branding options for yourself and any other brands that you manage to make it much easier. All the colours, fonts and logos will then be stored for you.

Watch my Canva video- how to make simple yet stunning graphics >>>

 

  1.  Asana

I put off using management systems for quite a while. For no real reason. Then it was the Trello Vs Asana debate. Now, I use both with various clients and I still don’t have a huge preference over the other. However, I’m currently using Asana more to keep in contact with clients. It’s a great tool when you are working as part of a team on a project, so you can all see what has been done or is yet to be done. I find it helps in mapping out your goals and plans, so you can see them at a glance and break them down into more manageable chunks.

 

  1.  Leadpages

Again, for a long while, I put off using Leadpages as I thought it was unnecessary. However, now I have it, I use it all the time. I’m certainly going to get my money’s worth, so I’m always thinking of new ways to set up landing pages and making them look pretty. I also have access to a few client’s leadpages accounts and enjoy creating amazing landing pages for them. Leadpages is easy to use and offers a great selection of templates to get you started.

 

  1.  WordSwag

I adore wordswag. This is actually an app on my phone, but it’s so handy. If you love Instagram, then this is a fantastic app for you to use. If you are a fan of the odd inspirational quote or text on an image, then this really is perfect for creating a graphic in a matter of minutes. If you are ever at a situation where you don’t have your social media posts scheduled and want to create something quick- this is the one. Great backgrounds, colours and fonts, with an amazing selection of quotes to get you started if you aren’t up to thinking of one yourself.

 

  1.  Dropbox

Dropbox has been around a long time but still one of my favourites. I’ve upgraded to the business version so I have extra storage and ask clients to share all large file with me here. This saves me using space on my desktop. I also use it to store all my stock photos, fonts etc.

Katie colella social, va, virtual assistant, social media, female entrepreneur, business tools

 

  1.  Buffer

I have over the years used Hootsuite, Post Planner and Buffer, but for now Buffer is winning for me. I use this to schedule my own social media and client’s social media, so I don’t have to wing it on the go! I also use Later for client’s IG accounts.

 

  1.  Paypal

I use Paypal for client payments and for receiving payments for all digital guides etc that I sell.

I’ve been using Paypal for years with previous businesses, so it’s a tool that I trust.

I find it easy to add payment buttons or links to websites and landing pages and when I want to withdraw the money, it’s usually in my bank immediately.

 

  1. Mailchimp

MailChimp, for me is a great easy to use email marketing tool. I’m a fan of sales funnels, and this integrates with leadpages making it easy to feed any sign ups into my lists so I can send out automated email sequences, save me having to remember to email any new sign-ups manually.

 

  1.  Wave

Wave is a free accounting software. I’m pretty sure, I don’t use nearly enough of it’s tools, but I couldn’t be without it. I use this to send branded, professional looking invoices to clients, set up automated reminders, send receipts once paid and keep on top of all my incomings and outgoings. If used correctly, this will also make your accounting much easier!

 

  1. WordPress

I built my WordPress site from scratch, so what I know is self – taught. WordPress is a little marmite- people tend to love or hate it. Personally, I find it really easy to use, I love how many plugins are available and how good you can make a site look.

 

  1. Hello sign

I haven’t long actually come across Hello Sign, as it was recommended to me not long ago. But it’s a clever tool- perfect for clients digitally signing your contracts- which I’ll be using from now on!

What’s your favourite business tool that you use daily?

How To Be Productive Whilst working From Home

 This weeks blog post is a guest post from the amazing Alicia Grace

 

As creative entrepreneurs, most of us work from home, which is absolutely brilliant – yay for not having to commute! – but it can also be really dangerous for productivity. One of the biggest hazards is that there are lots of distractions, from Netflix to unexpected visitors.

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So, what are my top tips on being productive while working from home? Read on to find out.

Wake up early

Just because you don’t need to commute to work doesn’t mean that you should wake up 10 minutes before. Studies show that your brain takes a full two hours to wake up. Be sure to wake up at a decent time each morning (a bit earlier than noon please).

 

You don’t have to jump right into work the moment you wake up, unless you really want to. Instead, use the time to prepare a healthy breakfast, get your blood pumping with a workout, or even catch up on the news. Your brain has been asleep for the best part of eight hours, and it needs some time to warm up (and caffeine!).

Create a solid routine

One of the good things about working in an office is that you have quite a set routine. When you start working from home, however, that’s all suddenly thrown up in the air.

 

That’s why you have to take control of your day and set your routine straight. Plan out the times when you want to work, what you’re going to focus on during those periods (email? brainstorming), and what time you’re going to take lunch.

 

Having a routine in place means that you’ll be able to resist temptations to do things you really shouldn’t be doing throughout the workday, so this is a really important step.

Set working hours

When you’re working from home, it’s so easy for your personal life to spill into work, but the opposite is also true. Set working hours for yourself, and check out of work outside of those hours.

 

This is something that I’m working on myself. Especially when you’re working on your own hustle, it can feel like you’re connected to work 24/7, and that’s why it’s even more important to set boundaries.

Remember to shower!

Not having to see people (who actually care if you smell) every week day is no excuse to let your personal hygiene slip. Dressing up for work, whether at home or in an office, is important psychologically because it sends a signal to your brain that you’re serious.

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Create a specific workspace

Make sure that this is separate from your places of relaxation, like your bedroom. Set up a desk somewhere with good lighting where you can concentrate on your work. If you don’t have space in your home, get creative, and think about whether you can get out and go to a public library or coffee shop around the corner. The goal is to have a specific space where work is your main focus, and distractions are kept down to a minimum.

Use a different browser for work

This is a method I devised several years ago. Using a different browser can completely shift your mindset – similar to having a separate workspace. Make sure that you don’t use social media on this browser, and that you don’t have personal bookmarks or links here.

 

I like using Google Chrome, where I can sign in with different accounts, and always have one window logged into my personal account, and another for work.

Plan out what you’re going to do

The thing about working in an office is that you always have someone reminding you about what you have to do, whether it’s sending you an email, or adding something to your calendar. When you’re on your own though, that’s all up to you. Write down your schedule and your tasks the day before so that you always know what you have on your plate.

 

  1. My Productive Life Kit has everything that you need to organise your workday!

Alicia is the founder of Alicia Grace Co, where she designs printable planners that enable women to achieve their goals with productivity, planning, and time management tools. She has a Law degree from the University of Cambridge and enjoys engaging with goal-getters, especially creative entrepreneurs. In her free time, she is either digging into a good book, food hunting, or snuggling with her very fluffy puppy.

Links

Website: http://aliciagraceco.com

 

Instagram: http://instagram.com/aliciagraceco

Facebook: http://facebook.com/aliciagraceco

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/aliciagraceco

How to make simple yet stunning graphics with Canva

This week is a video recording for you for Canva.

I’m sure lots of you are familiar with Canva already but for those who aren’t I’ve recorded a quick tutorial of the basics to get you started.

I must admit, I use Canva most days for myself and clients, so I am a huge fan. I often wondered what I did before Canva existed. You can create simple graphics, quickly and easily using various colours, logos, images and fonts. They offer 1000’s of free images and templates helping you get started.

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If you are looking for amazing quality images to use take a look at Creative Market, they also offer 6 freebies each week on a Monday. These can be images, templates, fonts etc.

I also have a short video showing you how to create a simple logo with transparent background in Canva

If you have any questions, let me know! I hope you find it helpful.

katie colella social, katie colella, social media, canva, creating graphics, making graphics, designing graphics, creating social media graphics

 

Amusement Park Entrepreneurship

This week’s blog post is written by the wonderful Melissa Fragomeni.

Are we crazy for chasing our dreams? I mean, what were we thinking when we started our own business? Who in their right mind would subject themselves to discomfort, bizarre mental games, and a plethora of unknowns more than once per day?

katie colella social, social media, va, virtual assistant, online business manager, entrepreneurship, entrepreneur

 

You are constantly asking yourself, at least multiple times daily, without fail: Is entrepreneurship at all for me? Am I even qualified? All the scary investments and draining bank account horror stories, not to mention the no-end-in-sight view when it comes to decisions that you need to make and haunting criticisms coming from unexpected sources, can make you really think twice about the leap you really want to take.

 

Imagine entrepreneurship as a real-life amusement park. It will be filled with thrilling rides and terrifying ones that leave you feeling nauseous. It can be unpredictable most of the time, no matter how much mental preparation you have done. Or it can be tame and easy for a short amount of time before you are back on your toes, alert and ready for action.

 

I have to be honest with you. There will be rides we sometimes don’t want to take. And that is fine. We will often be pushed out of our comfort zones. But there will be moments when the rides are just not for us. Not because we are afraid, but because we know it is not the right fit for us where we are right now.

 

There will be temptations, those sweet cotton candies and aromatic buttery foods. In the early stages, chasing the shiny objects and doing all the things will burn you out and create heaps of accumulated doubts, fears, and frustration. But, pretty soon, you learn to discern when to say no, and when to get a taste of something. But you never go overboard because you know it will do you more harm than good. You have learned to be smart and know your limits.

katie colella social, social media, va, virtual assistant, online business manager, entrepreneurship, entrepreneur

 

Just like amusement park themes, entrepreneurship has its seasons of flow, of ups and downs, of growth, of focus. Depending on what you desire for each season, your business will reflect that. Sometimes you need growth so there is a season of making more connections than usual and penciled-in podcast opportunities. Other seasons you need to let go and focus on your zone of genius, so in order to do that you seek support through VAs and team members. The year-round rides that never close represent moral and loving support you always need, such as family, friends, business besties, and perhaps, coaches. Hold on tight to those.

 

At the end of the day, it has been a fun ride. But is it worth it all? If you have read this all the way through and felt more excited than nauseous, I’d say are in it for the long haul. Successful business owners have shared the same challenges and come out on top. Sure, it requires a whole lot of faith and some confidence. Even one tiny drop of each is enough, especially because you will eventually learn and grow every step of the way, and you will build up all the good qualities you need to succeed, too. There is no doubt in my mind about that, no matter how silly or unqualified or unprepared you feel. Because truth is, we are all three when we start.

 

So, yes, to answer the most asked question, entrepreneurship is pretty much worth the roller coaster adventure. Our dreams are worth it. So strap yourself in and let the journey unfold.

 

 

Confidence and Empowerment Coach

 

Website: Melissamaria.com (undergoing updates)

FB group: http://bit.ly/WholisticQueenTribe

Instagram: @melissamariacoaching

This is how you can save time and stress in your business

I’ve sat down a few times to write this post but never seem to get past a few lines; it is something I really wanted to share with you all though so I kept at it. Ladies, I know how it feels to be struggling to juggle your business with your personal life and I have found the solution.

In the past, I had tried to do it all but over the past 15 years as an entrepreneur, I have developed strategies that I am ready to share with you today. I realised where exhausted business owners were going wrong, they weren’t spending enough time ON their business and were instead stuck IN it. As a result of applying these strategies myself, my business has been super charged and I’ve become a more balanced person, I feel the happiest I’ve ever been.

If you haven’t got the time to read the entire blog post (I know you ladies are busy), you can get your hands on my free guide today and learn right now how to spend more time ON your business, creating a more balanced and profitable life- click below.

katie colella social, social media, virtual assistant, va

I had always wanted to work for myself. I’m very ambitious and wanted more than an ‘average’ life. It came as no surprise to my family that at 18 I bought a sandwich bar. I was barely an adult and yet I was already a business owner.

Owning your own business is liberating but parts of the journey are tough. I tried to do everything myself, I didn’t want to let go of control and I was afraid to delegate in case other people got it all wrong but I was burning myself out.

I remember wishing that there was a better way and that I had more time. I lost loads of weight, I wasn’t eating properly, I was stressed, unfocused and bitterly unhappy. My business started to suffer and I felt a complete failure.  

A few years later my husband and I decided that we would start a guesthouse. We had an offer accepted and by now, I was also 4 months pregnant. Life went from busy to hopelessly hectic; we were both working, I was pregnant and we had a whole house renovation and a business to build from scratch. The idyllic dream we had of running a guesthouse alongside our growing family, became a nightmare.

This experience may have been hard but looking back it was a gift. I learnt so much along the way and juggling life as a business owner with children was just the beginning. Just like in my last business though, I longed to be able to do more of the things I loved to do in the business but I felt trapped by the mundane.

5 years later, it all became too much and we sold up and I moved into an online eCommerce business. I still had to work crazy hours as I was building my new business from scratch but I was determined to make a success out of it. Business was booming, so much so, I had to move to larger units three times in two years. The lessons I had learnt in previous businesses were paying off but one thing I couldn’t let go of; control!  

I worked loads of hours and literally ate, breathed and slept my business. I struggled to let anyone in. It was my baby; my business and I wanted to do it all. Deep down, I knew that in order to grow, I needed help but I found it so hard to hand over.

I had slipped into the familiar routine of working too much IN my business, rather than ON my business, and trying to do it all myself! I was desperately trying to create to that work/life balance but failing miserably.

In the spring of 2016, I had an incredible epiphany when I realised what I was doing wrong; I had been so focused on doing everything in my business that I had forgotten to enjoy the bits I loved doing.

Being an entrepreneur is a unique experience and one that requires a significant amount of self-motivation. Wealth had always been main my motivator and although growth will always be important to me, I suddenly realised that I wasn’t giving myself or my business the real opportunity to expand because I had been constantly close to burn out. Yes, I may have made progress but without the ability to stay motivated, in the face of exhaustion, I had been setting myself up to fail.

I decided to sell the business. It was a scary when I felt hugely out of my comfort zone but also a huge opportunity for reflection after such a hectic 4 years. Once I got over the shock, I felt proud to consider how I had started this business from scratch and built it up to a multiple 6 figure business.

After 15 years as an entrepreneur I had learnt one very important lesson; taking care of myself was paramount to the success of my business and my well-being. If I could go back to my 18-year-old self I would tell her to take a breath but I can’t do that.

So instead, I am focused finally on doing what I love! I have built the entire of my new business around what gives me joy and if there is an aspect of running the business I don’t like I outsource it. Letting go of complete control has given me incredible freedom and enabled me to focus on what I love. This has allowed my business to actually grow and at an even faster rate than before.

After everything I have learnt I am now passionate about helping other women in business in that same position I used to be. I want to support those suffering from that same overwhelm that I remember so well. I want to help these women work ON their business instead of IN it.

This is where the growth is. This is where the happiness is.

katie colella social, social media, virtual assistant, va

 

A 25 hour day

I know, it’s the dream right?! When you are a fierce female entrepreneur there never seem to be
enough hours in the day, the amount of times in the past I have wished for just one more hour! I used to think that if I had this hour, everything would be OK, I would get everything done and the world would be at peace.
Of course, I was wrong. Time was never the problem.

Einstein said it himself, it is all relative. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have enough time but that I wasn’t using it properly. Understanding this was the first step, then came the hardest part; finding the time or organise my time!
This pattern was going to repeat forever unless I took action and stopped using time as an excuse. The action I took when I set up my new business is outlined in my free guide and it is written with love, with you in mind, so you can put into practice today what took me years to learn.

katie colella social, social media, virtual assistant, va

 

The Secret to Doing It All

When you own your own business, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to do it all. This is especially difficult if you are also trying to take care of your family and your home at the same time. Trying to be all things to all people just leaves you with an unavoidable feeling of failure.
Trying to do it all myself was a mistake that forced me to rock bottom, on my way back up I
discovered the secret to doing it all was actually letting go of the constant need to control and micro-manage everything.
You will have areas of your life and business that you are amazing at and you love and in equal
measure, there will be things you don’t! Take this opportunity to reflect on what makes you feel alive and reminds you that you are contributing to the world, this what you should be focusing on and in my guide I will tell you what to do with the rest!

katie colella social, social media, virtual assistant, va

 

Find Balance Today

Women of the world seem to spend their entire life looking for this elusive ‘balance,’ but what does it actually mean? When my life was unbalanced I felt as if I was being pulled in different directions and never seemed to do fulfil any of my many roles properly. An unbalanced life is exhausting, physically and mentally and inevitably leads to burn out. To live a balanced life means that you feel in control, calm, grounded, inspired and motivated.
I know what it feels like to be unbalanced, I’ve been there and got the t-shirt but when I set up my new business I knew that to find balance in life you had to create it. I couldn’t leave it to chance or to anyone else. It had to be a conscious decision and involved the implementation of specific strategies, applied with consistency. To be in control I had to take control and you too can do this today.

 

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Want to get results in your business too?

As a result of finding my way in my business, I feel happier, more balanced and I’m enjoying time for me and with my family more than ever. I have more time and less stress- finally after all these years on my own business journey.
I want to help other women who are feeling stressed, overwhelmed and close to burnout. If you never have enough hours in your day and try to do it all, take a look at my free guide.

katie colella social, social media, virtual assistant, va