Black girls are… (part one)

So I should start this post by apologising for my long absence. 2016 was a rough year for me, filled with hospital operations, recovery and heartbreak. I’ll fill you in some other time but today’s post is about the events leading up to a book club I attended on 28 January 2017 in central London that started with uncertainty and ended in laughter.

1. Black girls are magic

bgbc

I have been stanning so hard for this book club ever since my friend told me about their first event which I had missed. They posted that they would be having a second book club soon so being the smart cookie that I am (my big forehead houses my big brain) I set up notification alerts on the BGBC twitter handle so as soon as they released the tickets I would be there. I even had my bestie (who does not use twitter) make her account do the same. I was on it like sonic and there was no way I was missing the second event.

Why was I so excited? God, how deep do I   go on this one? Keeping it simple, I’m a massive geek and love reading. I have cancelled on nights out with friends because I wanted to stay home at read (I really hope they’re not reading this!). I tried to start a book club with some girlfriends last year but I had way too much going on. Going deeper I went to predominantly white schools all my life (in secondary school I was one of three black girls in the whole school!) and believed the media when they told me black, or rather I, was unattractive. As I got older, I learnt to love myself so don’t cry for me. Over the last year or so it’s felt like there has been an awakening among young (and older) black women about just how awesome they really are. We’ve long been defying the stereotypes of being unintelligent or uneducated but now we were openly and proudly doing so whilst celebrating our magic. And the idea of the black girl book club to me encompassed that. Black women from all walks of life, who enjoy literature, coming together to talk about their not so secret hobby. I get chills just thinking about it.

So back to the tickets, it’s November time and my Twitter notifications are on, I’m ready. Now would you believe these trifling heifers decided to release the tickets during the working day! Who does that?!? Not the evening, not the weekend, but whilst I was in a meeting at work with my mobile phone on silent! KMT.

Really

Is it worth mentioning that the tickets sold out in 4 minutes? Nope, because I was ready. I would have got my tickets. Hell I did get my tickets. I was harassing the two poor ladies behind the account, Melissa and Natalie, on Twitter every day, haha. Even when they announced that they would be releasing a second round I was messaging them every day like that annoying are we there yet kid in a car. Eventually the second release came and I snapped up tickets for me and two girlfriends. No chances were taken and I had my phone on loud at work this time. I’m not lying when I tell you I was fangirling hard. #noshame

Now the BGBC experience began before the book club meeting. Melissa and Natalie sent personal thank you letters to each ticket holder along with the book, which was Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. I wish I hadn’t been so excited for my book and taken a picture because it was all so purrrty. I read the book when I was 16/17 and didn’t really appreciate the beauty of it. It was powerful, but I was too young to understand the beauty. This time it blew me away. I think in part because whilst listening to Radio 4 a few weeks earlier they were interviewing an author who said that the worst type of fan he had was someone who said they had read his book in a week. He said that that type of person wasn’t appreciating the words on the page, but rather skimming the pages to get the gist and get to the end. He didn’t spend months and years crafting his stories, creating his scenes through metaphores, similes, and bloody adjectives for them to be ignored. It made me think about the way I read as I’ve always been a fast-reader, and how I often miss the details. So at the time of listening I decided that from that moment on I would read books more slowly and take the time to appreciate the labour of love that went into the book. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings was my first chance to do this. And Oh My God.

Ok I’m going off topic, this post is not about the book, but reading the book made me so much more excited to share what I’d discovered in the words with my fellow attendees.  Now I mentioned earlier the first round of tickets sold out in November. So by the time January came round I was like gagging for the book club going to happen!!!! Eventually 28 January came around, and yo, black girls are magic for real… TBC

To pitch or not to pitch?

Last week I was told off by a fellow member of my class of this year’s New Entrepreneurs Foundation (NEF) cohort. My crime. I didn’t tell my story when I introduced my business to the group. In my defence I’ve spoken about Packed Munches several times to the group, but said fellow had a point. For the sake of anonymity let’s call said fellow Mucy.* When I started presenting to the group I said

So as you all know my business is called Packed Munches and it’s an online subscription service that sends boxes of British food to expats

Mucy said that quite frankly, that was a weak introduction, and reminded me that it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve talked about my business, or how many times I’ve talked about it to a particular person, every time I should tell my story. It should be like a pitch. But not a pitch

HUH?

Haha it sounds harder than it actually is but through NEF I’ve learnt two ways to tell your story when you’re pitching your business – courtesy of Adele Barlow (of Escape the City). It makes your ‘pitch’ so much less offensive (you all know what I mean) and makes the conversation that you’re about to embark on just that. A conversation.

The first – A Good Story

FYI I’m really getting into this and at this point wish I had made this into a video post as after the first I would have an exciting duh duh duh sound effect

Rather than pitching your business to people you meet. Tell them a story so that you can create people who want to follow your story.

Now every good story needs a hero, a conflict and a resolution:

  • Who is the hero? You can think of yourself (or rather your business/product) as a hero.
  • Where is the conflict?  What problem are you trying to solve?
  • How does your product or service provide the resolution?

So for Packed Munches the answer would be:

  • Packed Munches
  • Difficulty finding British food abroad
  • Delivers the food to expats.

So my story would be, Packed Munches delivers food to expats who have difficulty finding British food abroad. Hmmm, it’s good but it’s no cigar. Which is where the second method comes in.

THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

Why, How, What

Why, How, What

People don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it.

Simon Sinek explains this best in his TedX talk but I’ve summed it up here for you:

The traditional way that companies sell their product is exactly as I did above. By telling you what the service is, how we do it and why.

Packed Munches (WHAT) delivers food to expats (HOW) who have difficulty finding British food abroad (WHY).

But the great companies, like Apple, they tell you why first, then how, then what. So

Living in a new country can be difficult, new culture, new language, new people. We want to encourage people to shake off the feeling of being homesick and experience the joys of being abroad. (WHY) Every month we help expats to stay connected with home and reminded of the good times (HOW) by delivering a taste of home to their doors. (WHAT)

Granted it’s slightly longer but hell doesn’t it sound better! Cue sound effect:

So I guess the answer to the question to pitch or not to pitch is to pitch without pitching. Tell your story using the Golden Circle.

Mucy also told me her favourite part of our story is our tagline. It’s like a hug in a box from home. So in full here’s my story:

Living in a new country can be difficult: new culture, new language and new people. We want to encourage people to shake off the feeling of being homesick and experience the joys of being abroad. Every month we help expats to stay connected with home and reminded of the good times by delivering a taste of home to their doors. It’s like a hug in a box from home.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to amend my About Us and every piece of promotional material about Packed Munches 😀

Ciao ciao xx


*Mucy is not her real name. In case you hadn’t guessed. But you probably had. #cantakethegirloutoflawbutnotthelawyeroutofthegirl #inappropriatelylonghashtag

The best laid plans

I’ve always been a big believer in Malcolm X’s quote

Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.

malcolmx

Hell we grew up with a huge painting on the wall and my mum raised me on that saying, so at the beginning of each year write a plan for my year. Not new year’s resolutions but a plan for my year. I normally do this on new year’s day but being the obsessive that I am I obviously had planned out my plan before the New Year. Just after Christmas the hospital called me pushing an operation I had to the 31st December. No biggie I thought.

Oh. Fiona.

To cut a long story short I had the operation, which didn’t go to well, and turned into an infection, which spread to my ear, and I’m only now just somewhat recovered. Which is great… except my amazing plan has gone to pots! I’m 13 days into January and what was  meant to be a year that began with a bang has started off with a hiss and fizzle. Urggghhhh.

Amongst my friends I’m known as Murphy from Murphy’s Law (known more colloquially as s*d’s law). Whatever can go wrong will. I called my business partner to fill her in on my 2015 drama and one of the first things she said preemptively said is.

Ok well as soon as you get better you can start your plan. It doesn’t have to start at 1.00am on the 1st January. You can just shift things along a few weeks.

One of the great things about my business partner being my best friend is she knows me too well. The side effect is I’m no longer sad about being ill. I’m ready to get better to get my plan in action. Bring on 2015 – it’s going to be a corker!

Can you learn how to be an entrepreneur?

There are pretty much two camps when it comes to this question. Those that believe you either are born with an entrepreneurial ability, and those that believe you can be taught how to the be next Richard Branson. What if they’re both right? Well I’m going to put this theory to the test by both running a business and learning how to start a business at the same time. What? Madness I hear you say. I know, I know – what can I say, I’m a rebel!

Learning how to run a business:

As I mentioned in my last post I’ve been accepted onto the 2015 cohort of the New Entrepreneurs Foundation (NEF) programme. This is an intensive 12 month programme that teaches the highs and lows of the entrepreneurial journey. Throughout the 12 months I’ll attend workshops and networking nights, complete assignments and develop a company from inception to pitching all whilst working in a sponsor organisation (Free:Formers).

The running my own business part:

I’m currently working part-time at Free:Formers learning amazing digital skills and moving into product development. Working part-time is great as it means I can spend my days off focusing on Packed Munches. There are loads of people that manage to pull off working 9-5 for a company and then working 5-9 on their home businesses. After giving it a go for a few months, I have a new found respect for those people as it is hard. I’m talking H-A-R-D. And don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not one to shy away from hard work but it is also exhausting and this is what beat me in the end.

I was so tired and had the constant feeling of not sleeping that I ended up turning into a cross between a grumpy bear and Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. It was not pretty. Luckily Free:Formers saw what was happening and were happy for me to move into part-time work. I use a lot of the skills I’m learning at Free:Formers to develop my business – it started with coding and has moved on to social media – which means that both the business and my work at Free:Formers is constantly evolving

It’s too early to tell how this is going – all I know is I feel like a new born child. Everything is new and I’m trying to hold on to all the gems of information I’m being exposed to. As usual I’ll keep you updated here but in the meantime I bid you good day sir. 🙂