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I’m gonna wash that brand right out of my hair…

My shampoo bottle fell off the shower shelf a while ago and the top broke, so it was no longer water-proof.  The bottle is badly designed and it’s top heavy, and it’s happened many times before, but it hasn’t put me off buying the same brand until now and I wondered – why did I keep buying it? Because I was afraid that if I didn’t my hair would change to a duller colour. How did this happen? My hairdresser recommended it because I had expressed this fear to her.

The last incident was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I’m no longer brand loyal to this product having swapped shampoos many times since and noticed no difference to the condition of my hair.  The brand upset me on a couple of other counts too. Firstly, the palm oil used in the product is farmed at the cost of wildlife habitat – irreplaceable ancient rainforest destroyed and secondly, I was in the habit of purchasing branded single use plastic travel size bottles instead of refilling unbranded multiuse bottles.

There are two large sales and marketing factors at work here 1. Fear of loss and 2. Word of mouth.  This multi-national cosmetics brand can afford a large marketing budget to make sure lots of customers with similar worries about their hair are exposed to their messages through advertising and product endorsement by the hairdressing professionals we trust. This isn’t really fair on customers like me, on the planet or on smaller more ethical brands who are trying to compete. It may be an unfair world but helping small businesses with limited budgets to succeed in this competitive environment is one of the reasons I enjoy what I do.

 

Unknowingly following local traditions…

I’d like to say that we researched the area for our new home in Portugal thoroughly, but it wouldn’t be true. I’d like to say that we based the design of our new garden path on local Xisto (Schist) traditions but it was purely accidental.  What is and always has been part of our plan is to use the resources at our fingertips rather than buying in imported materials.

xisto pathOur acre of olive trees surrounded by vines requires a reasonable amount of work using skills which are new to us, so our aim is to create a small garden near the house that requires little maintenance.

We have created a path using geotextile and laid broken stone from the building work on top. The design is a circuit around a large flower bed outside the back of the house. We discovered recently that we are at one end of a Xisto region, which stretches along a deep fissure in a mountain range caved out by the river Zezere.  The houses in this region, including ours, are made from a kind of slate rock in shades of ochre, rust and clunch with touches of teal and grey.  Most of them were rendered with concrete back in the 50’s as a means of weatherproofing them, but some have been renovated to reveal their beautiful stone construction. One of the main reasons for tourism in the region is to explore the countryside and walk the network of ancient Xisto paths which usually follow a circular route.

We didn’t plan the path, we simply constructed it on the routes we had been walking from the olive grove to the courtyard, to the side entrance, around old fruit trees and in one or other of our patio doors.

Read more about our gardening exploits in central Portugal here…

WisBiz: networking in Wisbech

Like many small businesses, we have given different networking groups a go.  And, to be honest, we’ve not really found one which works for us.  Some tend to be highly structured, which doesn’t fit our more digitally nomadic lifestyle;  some have lots of established companies doing similar things to us, so it’s too crowded a marketplace.

We’ve recently come across one which does work for us – it’s local to Wisbech, relaxed, yet gets things done.  Find out more about WisBiz here.

At the July meeting, we were asked to present on how to make social media work for a small business.   Here are the slides. 

We hope to see you at a meeting in the near future!

The cobbler’s children are always the worst-shod

It’s a well-known phenomenon and there are other versions of the saying as well as many other contemporary examples.

What is the reason for it?

After a day’s work people just don’t want to spend their spare time doing more of the same and there is possibly a reluctance to use their skills without earning money. There may also be a socioeconomic reason – people may not have the time or make enough money to pay for the kind of service they charge others for.

Most of these reasons point to the fact that their business plan is a poor one.  If the job must be done outside work hours, then no consideration has been made for the fact that presenting their skills at home is an opportunity for marketing – and marketing should be part of a business plan. People are increasingly aware of the value of multi-modal marketing practices including promoting one’s capabilities via family and friends especially with the rise of social media as marketing medium.

How do you do in this respect?

Why #LoveWestNorfolk may be running to catch up with themselves

love west norfolk logoDon’t you love West Norfolk?  A new campaign, launched earlier this year, aims to “create a regional, national and international marketing strategy which promotes our beautiful borough and encourages growth, investment and tourism”.  Created by the main public sector bodies in the area, the aims are most laudable.

 

Shame, then, that two of our other west Norfolk players may not be helping.  Norfolk Green buses will be no more.  Once winners of countless awards including being the only small independent operator to win the UK Bus Operator of the Year, it was sold out to national bus giant Stagecoach who have now decided to close their Lynn depot and withdraw their bus services from west Norfolk and surrounding villages.

 

This year’s Grand East Anglian Run, this next weekend, used to be organised locally until the Borough Council – yes, part of #LoveWestNorfolk – decided to farm out management of the event to Leeds-based Run for All.  Not only are the management costs for the event now taken out of the area, a quick glance at the @GEARKL twitter account shows them actively promoting #run to #discover the “UK’s favourite city break destination!”  Instead of one of our glorious Norfolk coastal locations, apparently it’s Leeds that @GEARKL are promoting as a tourist destination.

 

There aren’t that many hills around here but it looks like #LoveWestNorfolk might be running uphill against the wind.

The story of our Olive Garden in Central Portugal

Literally on the day of the Brexit vote, we signed the papers to buy our small house in central Portugal.  As with our house in the UK, it was the garden which swung our decision – about an acre of grass, olive trees and vines, sloping down and in a sorry state of neglect.  This is our Olive Garden story…

In June 2017, our builder had almost finished our house renovation near Pedrogao Grande, Central Portugal, and we were looking forward to planning our garden around 25 existing olive trees.  But by the time we arrived 3 weeks later, a deadly and voracious fire storm had devastated much of the nearby forest, killed more than 60 people and burned quite a bit of our garden including several of the olive trees.  The landscape looked like a continuous sepia photograph that stretched across 73 thousand acres.

The picture shows top left, looking towards the house and the lush green olive garden as it first looked in January 2017; top right a side view of the scorched garden from an old cork oak after the fire in July 2017; bottom left looking out at the garden from the house after we cleared away the weeds, remnants of our builder’s fire, rubble and rubbish in November 2017; and lastly daffodils, the first flowers we planted, coming up in March this year with abundant fresh green growth after 3 weeks of torrential rains.

Read the full story here.

Japanese Knotweed Found in Wisbech

Japanese KnotweedWe spotted a rather worrying report from the EDP about 5 sites in Wisbech and Whittlesey where there is Japanese Knotweed growing. No doubt you’ve heard of it and know it’s an invasive plant that can undermine brickwork and concrete causing serious problems.

The good news is that is doesn’t spread by seed and the bad news is that even a tiny piece of root left in the ground can grow into a plant. And the worrying news is that this photo in the paper doesn’t really help to identify it. Non Native Species Secretariat has a really good list of fact sheets to help do that here: http://www.nonnativespecies.org/index.cfm?sectionid=47