Behind the scenes - What have I been up to recently!

I can't believe it's December?! Where has the year gone... Despite time moving faster than the speed of light, on reflection, I have actually managed to fit a lot in!

Here is a short round up of some of my recent exploits.

1. Small Business Saturday

Last Saturday (5th Dec) I made a very special trip back to my hometown of Kenilworth in order to participate in Small Business Saturday with my business, Vincent's Coffee.

"Small Business Saturday UK is a grassroots, non-commercial campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities. The day itself takes place on the first shopping Saturday in December each year, but the campaign aims to have a lasting impact on small businesses." SBS Website

Despite the weather scuppering plans for a large market, we were able to hold a small pop up in Kenilworth Bookshop, with hot coffee samples on offer to weather beaten customers. I love collaborating with other small businesses and Small Business Saturday is such a great way of bringing independent businesses together and showcasing their unique offerings!

2. Avoiding flood water

The aftermath of Storm Desmond has left much of York city centre underwater, which has made travelling about slightly tricky. The city has generally been quite lucky however, with most of the floodwater occurring in the usual areas, which are generally well prepared for the river bursting its banks (which does happen regularly enough!)

My heart really goes out to those in the worst affected areas, I can not imagine how devastating it is to find your homes/cars/businesses submerged and damaged by rising waters. 

3 & 4. Getting glammed up for the York Press Business Awards

Earlier on last month I had the absolute honour of attending the York Press Business Awards, where I was nominated, alongside two other fabulous women, for Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Whilst I did not walk away with the final award, I was so proud to have made it to the finalist level and be included alongside the best and brightest businesses in the city! The awards happen every year, with the Young Entrepreneur category open to anyone under 30, which means I still have 6 years to win!

The evening was also a wonderful opportunity to crack out one of my very few dresses and really mark the occasion! I even managed to get Des into a dress suit... 

5. Christmas preparations...

It's hard not to let my Scrooge side out at this time of year, as I am deeply suspicious of anything which encourages conspicuous and unbridled consumerism.

Christmas for me is about food, friends and family. Not extreme amounts of presents. 

This year we are keeping things simple, with a small splattering of Christmas decorations, along with a couple of thoughtful gifts.

Despite our minimal approach, I really do appreciate the opportunities of relaxation and indulgence that the holidays bring! Bonus points for the opportunity to get festive face paint!

6. Sending out lots of new look coffee packages across the country

Running a retail focused business naturally means that Christmas is a busy period! Our sales are massively up on last year, which means that lots of lovely coffee packages have been whizzing out or doors and travelling up and down the country.

Up until last month, we were attempting to only use recycled packaging for all online orders. This was a great way of making sure that we adhered to our reduce, reuse, recycle and recover agenda, however it just was becoming unfeasible to source enough donated packaging.

I'm pretty happy with the final solution we came up with, which involves using reinforced recyclable kraft paper. Whilst this is not recycled itself, our hope is that our customers will be able to easily recycle it with their usual household waste.

I also think that it really is an aesthetic step up from what we were using before, which despite being very ethical, was not exactly in keeping with the high standards of presentation found in the rest of our branding!

7. Launching a new product

A couple of months ago, I decided that we needed something really special at Vincent's Coffee for Christmas. Fast forward to November and the launch of our Northern Star blend!

Launching new products can be quite daunting, especially when you're trying out a new price point (I really wanted to use the BEST quality beans we could get, which made it a little bit more expensive than our other offerings.) 

Despite my initial reservations, it seems like the gamble paid off! Northern Star has been our biggest seller ever since it's launch! It's made me realise that people are willing to spend a bit more on something really special, so next year I'm hoping to expand our range of limited edition blends and really focus on quality.

8. Making exciting plans for 2016...

Though 2015 has been extremely productive, 2016 is going to be the year of big change, I can feel it!

II have been hard at work the past few weeks, drawing up a vast array of plans which will see both the business expand and take on new challenges. I'm really excited to see Bright Ethics in particular, develop and grow.

A lot of my work over Christmas and in January will be focused on really ramping up our pilot scheme and producing an array of fantastic resources for our clients, and the business world as a whole.

9. Taking a break

I have learnt the hard way that working 24/7 is NOT productive. You need to take a break, especially when you spend a lot of time in front of a screen.

For most of the time, my working companion is a small furry creature, who acts as an excellent excuse to step away from the computer and participate in a bit of R&R, preferably on the sofa, with copious amounts of Dreamies.

The learning process behind not feeling guilty for taking a break has been somewhat protracted, however I feel that I'm finally getting the hang of it!

10 & 11. Eating. A lot.

Part of the *burden* of co-running a food magazine, York on a Fork, is the need to find, then try, new restaurants and recipes!

Recently we have tried some good and other not so good local restaurants. It's easy to write about something that you enjoy, the real difficulty comes when the food doesn't live up to expectations. Perhaps the food isn't quite up to scratch, the service is poor, or you don't agree with certain policies that the restaurant has, e.g. those surrounding tips.

There is obviously an ethical dilemma when it comes to providing reviews to the general public. Whilst I doubt our magazine has the power to make or break places, a la Jay Rayner, we do influence where some people choose to go.

It's extremely important to the whole team that we operate with integrity and provide an honest review for our readers. Whilst there will always be the bias of opinion present, after all we are humans with our own views, I do think that we produce something which is created with transparency and a commitment to fairness!

12. Feeling more comfortable with myself

After hacking off my hair last year in a rather severe act of self definition, I have been feeling slightly down about the way I look.

Whilst I fully endorse the view that your value does not lie in the sum of your appearance, I do think that it's important to feel comfortable in your own skin! 

I think I have definitely made progress in this area, which has been somewhat helped by a general feeling of optimism and positivity. I think I can finally truly say that I am committed to being my best self, as hokey as that may sound.

I have also been struggling with the experience of being a woman in our society. As someone who is fully committed to feminism and equality, I find it hard to fit into a society which, on the whole, pressures women to project a hyper-sexualised image of themselves.

It got to the point where I felt unable to even wear makeup, as I felt that to even slightly embrace a sexualised female image would be in direct conflict with my firm belief in the equality of the sexes.

After doing a lot of reading and soul searching, I came to realise that wearing lipstick does not make me a bad feminist. Wanting to be and feel beautiful is not anti-feminist. In fact there is not such thing as a "perfect" feminist - to pursue and police such an ideal is just as oppressive as the forces that the movement is trying to subvert and oppose!