Interview part. 2

A little about me

The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man.’ – George Bernard Shaw

Hello lovely folks out there. Hope this post finds you well. I thought it was probably time for another interview with myself. Mainly for myself to take stock of where I am and how things are going, so here it goes. (Kenan and Kel flashback: Just in case you’d like to relive it. I just did.)

Me: Welcome back!

Metoo: Why thank you, its rather nice to be here, where ever we are pretending here is.

Me: Well, we could say we were anywhere right? So I’ll say we are in a tree house, in a Scandinavian Forest, at dusk.

Metoo: nice.

Me: so how are things? Whats the craic?

Metoo: you know what, mad busy. But great! I feel like I’m on an accelerated learning curve at the moment and everyday just seems to throw another great opportunity to take something from. Which is great, but I have not stopped. Saturday was the first day in about 3 months where I just stayed at home. With no plans. Did nothing. It was bizarre. I felt the need to schedule my free time… I worry myself sometimes. 

Me: you worry me too. You need to learn how to relax and appreciate the down time. Whats been keeping you busy?

Metoo: Well as I previously mentioned, I’m planning on leaving my current job in September, so I have been racing against myself to have a bunch of things to do then. I’ve also been socializing a hell of a lot. Specifically, I’ve been going to a bunch of Esc the City events, for whom I now guest blog and help host events, which has been awesome. I’ve also been looking for work that inspires me. So applied to a cool start up, looked internally where I am, for a role more suited to what I want to do (education based), chatting to all my wonderful friends about my ideas etc. Reading a shit ton. Like I can’t actually read enough right now. I’m writing this post as efficiently as possible so that I can get in a solid hour of bedtime reading.

Me: geeze. do you ever stop?! What are you reading at the mo/have you read in the last few weeks?

Metoo: Well I’m currently reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington which is amazing. Packed full of wisdom about how to redefine success (so far I have taken 3 things from the book. meditate, sleep and walk; maybe basic, but completely underestimated and wonderfully simple to incorporate in to our lives). I just finished Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull the co-creator of Pixar. Seriously, it is now my management ideal bible. If I never read another management book again it will be ok, because this defines the environment I want to work in and cultivate where ever I end up. I also finished Sane New World by Ruby Wax and the Escape Manifesto by the guys who set up Escape the City. Another 2 exceptional reads. I really need to get back into reading some fiction though. So once I’m done with Thrive and then Risk by Dan Gardner :$ I will be taking a little break from non-fiction.

Me: dare I ask whats on your reading list at the mo…?

Metoo: seriously do not. There are about 40 books on there right now and I keep adding to them. I downloaded 5 more books on to my nook over the weekend. I have a habit. I need help. Is there a self help group for obsessive readers? :S But as a little sneaky teaser (mainly because I’m lazy and may never get round to writing blog posts for them all, soz guys.) I will be reading A Moveable Feast by Earnest Hemingway, Margrave of the Marshes by John Peel, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia MarquezThe Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin and On the Shortness of Life by Seneca… after Risk… at some point. Maybe I need to take a year out of life and just read solidly.. is that a thing?

Me: erm… it is a thing. But most people will judge you and think you’re a bat shit cray my friend. Listening to you is exhausting! Does your mind ever stop?

Metoo: No. not really!

Me: hmm. what do you do to relax?

Metoo: well I started yoga this year which has been utterly trans-formative. It opened up the door to meditation and general connecting the mind and body so I really hope to continue/increase my practice A LOT. I am currently appallingly inflexible. Boo. Also I listen to a lot of music. Omg. you musttttt check out some Nils Frahm. Seriously. Stop what you are doing right now and listen to this:

Nils Frahm- Says

Me: okokok! I’m listening…..

Dam. I have no words.

Metoo: I know. I KNOW. He is playing the Barbican in the Autumn and the tickets are sold out. I am gutted. Oh one other weird thing. Or at least everyone I’ve told seems to think its weird. I’m considering/am planning on going on a 10 day silent meditation retreat later this year. Where you meditate for 10 hours a day… you don’t speak to anyone else. You aren’t even allowed to bring writing/reading materials with you.

Me: not going to lie. sounds freaking weird bud, like you’re torturing yourself. Why are you going doing this?

Metoo: well. I want to learn to meditate. Well. Intensively. The more you do it the better, you can’t over meditate. So the discipline of the center will force you to be comfortable with yourself, face the parts of yourself that you usually mask or run away from. I’m curious more than anything…

Me: ohh kayyyyyy. well you let me know how that goes won’t you!

Metoo: of course :)

Me: a couple of final questions my friend. 1. How are you feeling about all the imminent changes about to happen in your life? 2. Is there anything you’re going to miss about this old life?

Metoo: hmm. well 1. How I’m feeling now is approx. 70%- relief/excitement/enthusiasm and 30%- like I’m standing on the edge of cliff about to jump off, not knowing if I’m going to figure out a way to sprout wings before I hit the ground. It’s completely exhilarating and nerve wracking in equal measure, but I feel that I’m slowly getting addicted to that bizarre feeling. So much so that I try to do something that scares me each day and I deliberately do things differently just to see what happens. It’s fun. :) for example I gave away an £80 ticket to Blogstock today for free to a lovely lady who I spotted on Twitter who wanted to go and could no longer afford it. Felt right. What can I say. Sure its a bit mental. But as a wise friend always reminds me; ‘It’s only money, right?’. Right. 2. I am going to sorely miss the people that have pulled me through the last few months. I am surprised each day by their kindness and wisdom and support. I give my firm something, they pick the good eggs. Other than that, honestly, no. The money, security, the kudos just doesn’t excite me. I’m worried about not having it, sure, but its not the end goal I want so it doesn’t motivate me at all. 

Me: I lied, one more question; What are you looking forward to over the next couple of months?

Metoo: Oh wow, so many things, Hanging out with my awesome comic book artist friend from the Backwards Burd guys this weekend to work on a little creative project, Transpride next weekend who another brilliant friend is co-organizing, Boomtown in a couple of weeks, working with the Escape the City team hosting and blogging. The list is endless! I’m lucky and happy and looking forward to blogging more too perhaps. Completely failing at the semi regular posts thing. You’re lucky if you get one a week out of me! I’ll try do better I promise :)

Me: I’ll hold you to that! As always its been grand. Oh god Nils Frahm, I think my life changed the moment I listened to that. It was tangible. WAIT can we have a picture of you? Can we oh can we?!

Metoo: and you think I’m dramatic. Erm. ok Creepy McCreeperson:

Also RIMA

Me: ahhhh. Lovely. even if I do say so myself. Till next time! :)

Follow Me on twitter here: @rimapatel7

How to Start Your Own Business – An Evening with Female Entrepreneurs

Events, London

Female entrepreneurs

‘The Future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams’ – Eleanor Roosevelt

Esc the city launched its first event in the ‘She Series’ last week, which Adele reassured us was not a women’s event, at least not like the ones that we have become accustomed to.
There was a real buzz of energy and excitement in the room as we heard from Emilie Holmes (Good & Proper tea), Harriot Pleydell-Bouverie (Mallow & Marsh), Victoria Eggs (Victoria Eggs), Lizzie Fane (ThirdYearAbroad.com) and the girls from Broad Minded.

Escape the City’s thoughts
Initially against the idea of ‘women in business events’, a dinner with the ladies from broad-minded convinced Adele that there is a need for opportunities for women to get together and inspire and motivate each other. What makes the She Series different to other women’s events? These ideals:
– Passion and talent are gender equalizers
– It’s not a competition. Not against men, not against other women. There is space for everyone to succeed
– Get your map, compass and supplies in order! (map=your network, compass=you core values and supplies=information and allies)
– The aim is not to turn us all into business women, CEOs, stay at home mothers, adventurers or a juggler of all of the above. It’s about finding out what you want and working together to get there.
– There are no rules. Think outside the box.
– These events are here to excite, engage, inspire, motive, unite women, but they are what you make them, so get stuck in and give as much as you take.

Victoria Eggs (Victoria Eggs)

Victoria Eggs designs premium quality home ware and gifts celebrating Britishness, all handmade in the UK. Founded by its namesake in 2011, Victoria Eggs evokes a true sense of British spirit through playful and punchy designs which bring a smile to the face. Fine Art graduate Victoria has been awarded many critically acclaimed accolades, including winning ‘Gift of the Year 2012′. In addition to featuring in publications such as The Sunday Times, Living Etc, Marie Claire and Time OutVictoria Eggs is also stocked in Selfridges, Southbank Centre and West Elm UK. The Aprons have even made their TV debut on ITV’s This Morning!

Some of her key bits of advice:

- Define your Unique Selling Point
What are you really selling? Think bigger than your product/service.
Who are you selling to?
Brand positioning- are you high end or low end?
Margins- ultimately you have to be making some money to continue operating
Manufacturing- gets a great supplier and have back-ups just in case!
Be realistic- if your product is handmade and takes a day to make what happens if you get an order for 100?
First impressions count.
Marketing
o Trade- make their life easy, include a call to action
o Customers- social media is a must, engage with them
o Press- make an impression. Be the purple cow
Keep in touch with key suppliers, customers, contacts
Be persistent!
Have fun and be flexible: be prepared to change some of your initial ideas

Harriot Pleydell-Bouverie (Mallow & Marsh)

Harriot studied Fine Art and photography before leading emerging market research for a headhunting firm. She then founded De Bouverie, a fine jewellery website making independent designers more accessible. As a business, this became the learning ground for almost every mistake in the book, and is what she now refers to as her ‘MBA for Entrepreneurs’. She was then light heartedly challenged to make marshmallows and founded Mallow & Marsh, which has gone from strength to strength and is now carried in selected Sainsbury’s stores. Since the launch Mallow and Marsh has been ranked in this year’s Startups100 and Harriot has been shortlisted for Management Today’s 35 women under 35.

Advice from Harriot

- Be prepared to fail; it really is how you learn. Accept and embrace it.
Don’t over think it. It’s so tempting to spend weeks, months, and years meticulously planning your idea. Don’t.
Stop talking and start doing! ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now’- Chinese proverb
Cut your budget in half. Check out the Lean Start Up by Eric Ries for proof, or come along to the Escape the City Start-up MBA.
Feedback is critical. Be a sponge and adapt.
- Micro test your idea- give your customers what they actually want not what you think they want
– Be the best, be remarkable.

Lizzie Fane (ThirdYearAbroad.com)

Lizzie studied in Italy as part of her degree course and, based on the problems and wonders she experienced, she founded ThirdYearAbroad.com in 2006 to support other students through the process and give them a place to pass on advice. The site is now the UK’s biggest network of students who study or work abroad and new high-growth products are designed for the target audience, such as YearAbroadInsurance.com and a Careers Platform. Lizzie is an Academic Associate of The Higher Education Academy and Communications Director for Speak to the Future: the UK’s Campaign for Languages.

Key bits of advice from Lizzie

- Solve a problem. What bugs you? Don’t complain, fix it!
– If you don’t know how to do something, learn.
Don’t underestimate yourself or overestimate others
– There are so many resources out there to help new entrepreneurs not least your old university’s business/start-up/ entrepreneur societies.
– Also check out Smarta.comaskstarting.com and hang out at Google campus

Emilie Holmes (Good & Proper Tea)

In 2012, Good & Proper Tea founder Emilie Holmes decided to take off her corporate advertising hat and don a trader’s apron, bringing her obsession for tea to the people of London and beyond. Leaving a successful career at Ogilvy & Mather, Emilie had a vision for tea done right. She parlayed her corporate advertising savvy into establishing a new “classic” brand that restores quality and craft to this quintessential component of British culture. She bought herself a stylish 1974 Citroen H van, had it fitted out for the tea trade, and opened her side window to London’s tea lovers. And the people of London are better for it. Emilie makes a mean cuppa.

Key bits of advice from Emilie

- You don’t have to do it right, you just have to do something!
– Be prepared to change
Question every decision, based on your initial goal
– ‘Cash is King’- you’ll hear it repeatedly in the world of start-ups but it’s true.
Get some perspective. Talk it out with someone you trust.
– There is no such thing as ‘I don’t know’ Google is your friend.
Switch of from external negative forces.
– There is no how to manual, each person’s journey is different, that’s the beauty of being an entrepreneur, so get out there and just does it!

A little on Broad-minded

Broad Minded are a group of women who have formed a network to support and encourage each other as individuals and professionals. There three main aims are to:

Inspire: Regular dinners with inspirational speakers and the chance for us all to share ideas and network. We feel there’s a real opportunity here for us to create a voice for women of our age and position.

Educate: The opportunity to sign up for talks or courses on anything from managing your finances to leadership skills to presenting skills.

Motivate: An out-reach program through which we go into schools and universities to offer talks and the opportunity for mentor matching with students.

Click here to for their Facebook page.

Penny Wing & Ollie Codrington – How to Start & Sell a $15 Million Company

Events, London, People

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What man actually needs is not a tension-less state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.’- Viktor Frankl

As always another fascinating Esc event last night (if you didn’t take a detour via the Eton boys entrepreneurs club) led by serial entrepreneur Penny Wing and her recent escapee partner in her new venture, brojure.com; Ollie Codrington. If you are looking for a simple 10 step program explaining ‘how to start up and sell and $15m business’, you may be slightly disappointed. Granted, Penny Wing has built and sold 3 successful group travel businesses from scratch and sold each of them in turn, the most recent having sold for $15m. However, that was through her own personal circumstances that led her to be in a position to take advantage of opportunities when they came knocking, which are difficult to distil down to a formula for others to follow and replicate.

Instead, I personally learnt about more practical insights about the nature of successful entrepreneurs and the wealth of wisdom that both Penny and Ollie had to offer based on their own journeys.

Key thoughts:

  • Do something different. Be creative, be brave, think outside the box.
  • Failure is inevitable. The secret is to fail fast, fail often and fail as many time as it takes to succeed
  • There is no harm in having the intention to aim high
  • Do not underestimate yourself- ‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are usually right’- Henry Ford
  • Micro test your ideas
  • You can’t be good at everything. Surround yourself with people who are good at what you are not
  • Do your research
  • Don’t sell; solve problems

As a brief summary, Penny started out as an engineer with an educational background in math but through pure chance, was sat on a plane next to someone who owned a travel company and who happened to think that Penny’s frequent travel (she had lived in 36 different places before the age of 21) meant she was suited to a job in a travel company. By the end of the flight she’d been convinced to join his company and never look back. She spent 8 years in the industry working for someone else, honing her skills and understanding of the industry and then started her first company in 1988, in her living room, with $30,000 in savings. Three businesses later, each more successful than the last, she is on to her next venture brojure.com with Ollie, who coincidentally, she met on the Start-up MBA course run by Esc.

What struck me as the root of so many of her successes in her many roles was the bold and courageous actions based on Penny’s belief in herself and the willingness to do things differently. From the get go she approached things innovatively, refusing to follow her competitors by creating lengthy proposal documents when pitching for business. Instead, trying something new, she created simple visual one pagers, which appealed far more, stood out from the crowd and secured her loyal multinational customers.

One creative new idea led to another. From a need to be able to create these visual pitch documents wherever and whenever she wanted to, she hired a software developer to create a program for her. She then realised that these ‘brochures’ could be used by a multitude of different businesses; wedding planners, photographers, event planners, yacht brokers even, so decided to set up a software company, brojure.com to sell the program, despite no previous technical background.

You don’t always need to have the exact relevant skills to create something successful. For one, don’t underestimate yourself. Whatever your background, you will most likely have transferable skills that are highly sought after in any new venture. Whether that’s the ability communicate professionally, be organised, manage a team, build great relationships you are more skilled than you think you are!

On this note, an interesting point was raised about the benefits/disadvantages of MBA programs. Adele shared some of her thoughts having spoken to numerous escapees over the years. The choice to complete an MBA is personal and down to the individual, but question your motivation first. Do you want to do an MBA because you don’t know what you want to do yet and in effect is another form of procrastination? Do you have that nagging fear that you don’t have the skills to do what you want to do? Is it worth the time and money if you aren’t sure what specifically you are going to get out of it? Are there alternative ways to get the same information but from a less costly/time consuming resource? I like to think so personally. I feel that I learn in a far more constructive and efficient way by simply speaking to people, reading great books and experimenting in small ways with my ideas. One other thing, I think, is that to be truly entrepreneurial you need to do something different, be creative, be brave and there are so many people doing MBAs, perhaps it’s no longer a differentiator.

If you really don’t have the required skills for your idea, no bother! Surround yourself with people that do. Penny’s strengths are in starting a business, growing them big, growing them fast and then selling them. She has no long term desire to run one company; she prefers to focus of winning big, high value sales contracts. Recognising this she started looking for a partner to run the business. Cue Esc the city and their brilliant start up MBA program. Interestingly both Penny and Ollie may not have been there. Penny was initially discouraged as she seemed on paper to be over-qualified, and Ollie was reluctant to come along as he didn’t have a business idea. Well, Penny convinced Adele and Adele convinced Ollie and as fate would have it they were on the same course and have been working together on brojure.com ever since. If ever there was a case study for there being no rules in life and for doing something different, this would be it.

Ollie- ‘I Can’t remember wanting to be anything but be a lawyer since I was 15, until I was one.’

Ollie was a lawyer as of 4 years ago, but knew someday he wanted to run his own company. The problem was that didn’t have an idea. His quote above stuck with me as often we have an idea of what we want to and hold on to it so tightly. When we eventually get there it may not be what it first promised or what you were actually looking for in the first place. This, to me, highlights the value of micro testing your ideas. If you want to be a lawyer, go speak to a lawyer first or shadow one for a week. Figure out what you’d be doing every hour of everyday and the realities of the job before you commit to a degree or training focused on Law. Similarly with any other venture, if you think you want to be a chef, cook, write recipes, go volunteer in a kitchen, start a food blog. All low risk, low commitment, but will allow you to explore an idea before fully commit to it in an expensive, ‘can’t go back now’ way.

What do Penny and Ollie attribute to their success? One of the things that came through strongly is to focus on your strengths and what excites you. Ultimately you can’t be good at everything nor can you be passionate about every type of task involved in your business. Penny is excited by aiming high, going after the big million $ contracts and is great at it. So why should she also invest time running part of the business and targeting the ‘low hanging fruit’, the small business owner, tasks she has no interest in. She recognises the value in it, but acknowledges it just isn’t what she wanted to focus on so brought on a partner, Ollie, who was excited, and good at doing just that instead.

There is also no harm in aiming high. You have nothing to lose by having the intention to aim big. By leaving yourself open to all possibilities you are more likely to spot opportunities that you may have otherwise shut out. Case and point, brojure.com’s focus is service industries looking to pull together great visual material to show clients/customers. However, Ollie had a friend who had a friend who worked at British Gas, Centrica, and thought there was no harm in an introduction and a chat. As it happens, British Gas regularly pitch for work using presentations (who knew?!), but there is a lack of consistency across the various different pitching teams. Brojure.com may well be just the solution to their problem. The power of speaking to people and a ‘what’s the worst that could happen? attitude’ can’t be underestimated and clearly paid dividends for Penny & Ollie.

Another thing to note is that failure is inevitable. Both Penny and Ollie have failed as has pretty much every entrepreneur I have ever heard from. The lesson here is to fail fast, fail often and fail as many times as it takes to succeed. Also, consider your risk appetite and personal circumstances. Everyone’s different; one person’s shaking hands with a stranger may be another person’s skydive. Just honestly assess occasionally if you feel you are being too risky or too risk adverse.

When asked what they would change looking back on their journey so far, both agreed that they needed to have far more software industry knowledge than they first anticipated. They wished they could have ‘seen the road ahead more clearly’. They recommended spending time with people who know what you want to know and learning from them and getting experience in you desired field or industry in any way you can. Penny remarked that today there is a lot of pressure to grow businesses fast and to make as much money as possible as quick as possible, but maybe there is some value in slowing down and doing a little more research.

As an aside, Ollie brought up a really interesting point around status. As a lawyer he enjoyed being able to walk in to a room and others valuing his opinion and presence. There are a lot of added benefits to do with security, ego, and self-confidence that come from having what is defined as a traditionally successful profession. Even those closest to us find it difficult to accept when you do something less well defined/non-traditional sometimes; Ollie quoting his mum; ‘But what do you do? What are you going to be?’. ‘I’ll be your son?’ He suggested. Sometimes people just won’t get it and that can take a toll on your confidence, particularly if it’s someone you care about. Ultimately though, Ollie realised ‘we all want to be able to look back and have fantastic stories to tell our grandchildren’, to inspire and excite, no matter if we fail or succeed, we’d just like to be able to say we tried and had a great time in the process.

What becomes clearer to me every time I go along to an Esc event or any else new for that matter is that difference between success and failure boils down to people who do and people who don’t. If you never stop learning, experimenting, challenging yourself, finding out what excited you and that you’re passionate about, you will always eventually find things that make you happy and fulfill you.

Hey, look, no-one said it would be easy or without some tough decisions, but it’s dawning on me at least, that it really is as simple as getting out there and doing.

Resources:

Penny and Ollie

http://brojure.com/

https://twitter.com/brojure

https://www.facebook.com/brojure

Start up MBA:

http://startupmba.escapethecity.org/

Books:

The lean startup- Eric Ries (how to start a business in the leanest way possible)

Creativity Inc.- Ed Catmull (how to create a truly creative and collaborative working environment, based on the incredible story of Pixar. I want to work for Pixar!)

4 Hour Work Week- Tim Ferriss- (A must read for all escapees. Whether you want to start a new business, become more productive in your current job, do something different, challenge you assumptions about how you work, there is something in here for everyone)

Me:

Post also featured on Esc the City blog:

http://blog.escapethecity.org/2014/07/01/notes-night-start-sell-15-million-company/

https://twitter.com/rimapatel7

Sane New World- Ruby Wax

Books, People

sane new world

‘When you get to the end of your rope. Tie a knot and hang on.’ – Franklin D. Roosevelt

I promised a separate review on Ruby Wax’s book as it deserves one. I feel, (correct me please if you think I’m wrong), that mental health and well-being  is completely underestimated and neglected in society.

So how the hell do we address the issue? Individual responsibility? Education? Change in attitude? Awareness and media coverage? Change in policy? All of the above perhaps.

This is why I feel that Ruby Wax, her show, her book and public presence is doing something so fundamentally important as it works on these actions simultaneously. It’s candidly written from intense and dark personal experience, so rings painfully true at points and she doesn’t hold back which allows the reader to fully accept the reality for those living with mental health illnesses.

Once on board you are given, the fascinating and eye-opening facts about the brain and how it functions, how mental health issues develop and why it is so difficult to over come. What I found most intriguing is the section about mindfulness based cognitive therapy. The way it helped Ruby herself, how it is always accessible and completely in control of the individual and the potential positive impact it could have for those suffering. Though it may be a constant battle with yourself, its curiously simple and easy to start.

This is essential reading, not least because it is peppered with Ruby’s unmistakably candid humour. It is a great summary for any one suffering with poor mental health, who knows someone with mental health issues or those just curious to understand better.

Also check out her TED Talk and UK tour of Sane New World, links below:

http://www.ted.com/talks/ruby_wax_what_s_so_funny_about_mental_illness

http://www.rubywax.net/tour.html

@Rubywax

Me:

@rimapatel7

Seoul Bakery

London, Restaurants

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‘The best way to get approval is not to need it. This is equally true in art and business. And love. And sex. And just about everything else worth having.’ – Hugh MacLeod

The reason I live in London is places like Seoul Bakery. I never tire of finding new places with a completely unique definition of success and style. Off the beaten track, yet about a minutes walk from Tottenham Court Road, ordinarily I would have walked straight by without a second glance. Luckily I was with someone who knew better.

One might mistake this place for being painfully hip, but it genuinely isn’t trying that hard. Walk in to fairly nonchalant staff, a tiny area with enough space for Maybe 12 people to sit, walls absolutely covered in scribbles, notes, messages from of previous visitors, its obvious that these guys aren’t looking to impress you with its carefully curated decor or attentive care.

Instead everything falls away and allows you to focus on what is truly important, to me at least, when out for a meal; the company, the food and the memories. The food screams authenticity and is by far some of the most delicious Korean food I have ever had. Speedily served and remarkably cheap (2 of us ate for less than £15), perhaps catering to all the local students, it was perfect for a satisfying weekday evening meal and to be honest I felt pretty darn hip.

Check this one out and don’t forget to leave your mark, if you can find space that is!

Seoul Bakery

55 St Giles High St London WC2H 8LH
020 7240 0877
@rimapatel7

Patrick Drake- How to get on TV and start a food business

Events, London, People

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‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’ – Chinese Proverb

This post is perhaps chronologically out of place. Unbeknown to me at the time, this event would be the one that put the last 2 years in to focus and gave me all I needed to take my next step on my escape and never look back. It was the very first Escape event that I’d been to and the only reason I decided to go is because I saw it in an escape newsletter and had a spark of an idea. A dear friend at work always dreamed of opening her own deli and I thought that perhaps this would give her a nudge in the right direction.

As it happened, while I sat there listening avidly to Patrick, talking through his journey it dawned on me that it was the first time I had heard articulated what I secretly thought in my head but was too afraid to say out loud for fear of ridicule or rejection. Also, I’m pretty sure that I had not yet consciously acknowledged these ideas and hearing them repeated back to me finally hammered it home. Life is too short to let fear hold you back. You can’t waste a single week, day even, doing something that doesn’t excite you and the only regret you will ever have is not starting sooner. I’m already feeling that one!

Patrick spoke about his path that led him from being a city lawyer to creating a hugely successful TV show, becoming the head chef of fantastic food delivery service Hello Fresh and, in the process, finding love. It all sounds like a perfect fairy tale, but what stuck with me was, actually, it was anything but. There was a definite trajectory and in hindsight you can connect the dots as to what allowed him to take the opportunities when they eventually came knocking.

As a lawyer, driven by a passion and curiosity for food he worked evenings in restaurants and in his work canteen for free, learning, on the job, the skills he would later need. He took an opportunity to attempt a TV show in LA which didn’t work out quite as planned, but the lessons learned proved to be invaluable. A bold meeting with culinary genius Heston Blumenthal, meant that he was invited to spend the day in the Fat Duck kitchens with the chefs, later learning that he was the first person such a offer had been extended to. Creating youtube videos of himself making dishes and honing his presenting and editing skills would also prove useful. All of this motivated by a love of food and faith that by following what you love eventually a opportunity will present itself and you will be in the right place at the right time to take it up.

This led him to a point where he received an email from a woman who spotted him on youtube and invited him to Italy to work on a TV show. He knew immediately that this was what he had been working towards and dropped everything and flew out the next day and never looked back. That was the show that proved to be incredibly successful worldwide and that woman turned out to be the person he is now with today. Next came the invitation to work with a couple of people on this exciting new start up – Hello Fresh, which is now the market leader in its field. It’s easy to suggest that all of this came about by some sort of luck or good timing, but to say that would be wrong. Having been to a few Esc events and experimenting with my own escape there is a definite patterns in successful stories:

1. The passion – without this you will not be motivated to persevere through the tough times. A truly big idea that excites you, backed by passion and hard work is a powerful combination that is hard to stand in the way of.

2. Faith in what you are doing – at the time, Patrick, and others I have heard from, didn’t know exactly why they were doing everything, except that they were excited by it and wanted to learn, often offering themselves up for free out of curiosity, for the experience. It reminds me of the Steve Jobs quote I have mentioned in a previous post:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.”

Sometimes you just have to trust in the process and trust in yourself that you will be able to achieve whatever you set your mind to.

3. Very little is impossible – you might say that you don’t have enough time or money or skills or confidence, but ultimately none of these need be prohibitive if you are really focused and determined on what you want. ‘Where there’s a will there is a way’ as they say.

4. If you don’t ask you don’t get/what is the worst that could happen? – A general point of taking more risks in life. We are all naturally risk averse, but sometimes the greater risk is in not asking and then having a regret later in life. For me fear of missing out or regret outweighs the fear of taking a risk every time.

5. Just start, start right now! Take whatever small steps you can immediately. Later, tomorrow, if/when I have enough time/money all effectively mean never. Ultimately, you’re only regret will be looking back you may wish you had started earlier. I certainly wish I had started a year maybe 2 years ago on this particular path.

6. Authenticity is key – If you communicate with authenticity and integrity, people will warm to you and want to help you if they can. If you can in some way help them too even better.

I feel like write ups of events like these are going to start getting a little repetitive, as words of wisdom seem to have similar themes!

Patrick also recommended a couple of books, some of which I have read and reviewed in the links below. Of the ones I have read, they have provided even more fuel to the fire and filled me with determination to persevere no matter what. It’s interesting to see where the themes in these books cross over with the the ideas expressed in Patrick and others’ talks:

Think and Grow Rich- Napoleon Hill (a classic for the foundations of success)

http://humanafterall.co/2014/06/11/think-and-grow-rich-napoleon-hill/

4 Hour Work Week – Tim Ferriss (a must read for anyone looking to drastically change how they work and need practical advice)

http://humanafterall.co/2014/06/16/4-hour-work-week-tim-ferriss/

Get Lucky – Thor Muller & Lane Becker

One Thing- Jay Papasan & Gary W. Keller

Others worth a read:

The Chimp Paradox – Steven Peters (great for understanding our brains a little better and getting the most from it)

Creativity Inc – Ed Catmull (a really inspiring story about how Pixar, the animation studio, sought to create a creative, collaborative workplace)

Check out Patrick Drake here:

http://www.hellofresh.co.uk/

http://kylieandpatrick.com/

https://twitter.com/patrickdrake

@patrickdrake

Me:

@rimapatel7

How to travel and write for a living – Caroline Sylger Jones

Events, London, People

retreat

‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path; and that will make all the difference.‘ – Steve Jobs

The beauty of escape the city events is that you never know what you are going to leave with. I brought a journalist friend along to ‘How to travel and write for a living’ because I knew it would benefit us both in some way. Although not a journalist I’m also drawn to travel, well-being and having just started up a new little blog, writing too, so I was sold. As always, I learned so much over the course of a couple of hours and left with so many exciting ideas.

Caroline Sylger Jones has had a fascinating and varied career in travel journalism and kindly offered herself up to questions from eager escapees. Having completed a BA and MA in English Literature, written for numerous international publications including all the broadsheet newspapers and glossy magazines such as Tatler and Condé Nast Traveller, had two books published by Footprint Books (Body & Soul Escapes and Body and Soul Escapes: Britain & Ireland (see www.hutonahill.com/books) and set up her own successful retreat review website Queen of Retreats (see www.queenofretreats.com) – her wealth of knowledge and advice was highly sought after and keenly received.

The session was structured as a Q & A, with some really interesting questions and insightful answers for anyone looking to learn more about journalism and how to escape into a more authentic life.

Key advice for all aspiring writers:

- Be honest with yourself – can you really write? If you can, have faith that talent will out – people always want to be inspired and editors of any kind are always looking for great writers.

- Get the basics right – grammar, spelling, structuring a story – then arm yourself with tangible skills – find an evening/weekend class, take a journalism diploma, etc.

- Get lots of experience – develop your style by writing regularly in your spare time, look for an internship, pitch things to local papers, free magazines, collaborative blogs etc. to develop your portfolio.

- Find a niche – for Caroline this was writing about spas, well-being retreats and healthy holidays. By finding a niche you can stand out from the crowd and people will eventually seek out your knowledge.

- Be authentic – Caroline still has a core belief that retreats can truly help a person get the most out of their life – esp today, when everyone seems so stressed out – which helps her write with integrity. Find something you are passionate about and are good at, deliver it with integrity and people will notice.

- Take time to find the kind of writing you want to do – Caroline likes to write slow, thoughtful reviews or personal experience pieces rather than newsy stories. What would you like to write?

- Remember people are opportunities – You need to go to parties. Talk to people. Make lots of contacts. Most of the commissions Caroline has got are by her being proactive – so build and maintain authentic relationships wherever you can. (Adele from Esc had a great bit of advice here too – rather than seeking out advice or help from others, think about what you can do for them. If you help someone in some way they are far more likely to return the favour).

Summary of responses to specific questions:

Q: Journalism sounds like a tough industry to get into, is this a fair assessment?

A: It is getting harder! There are a diminishing number of magazines and newspapers around for a writer to write for and to get their name known, says Caroline. It’s also harder to get a book publisher, and people still want you to write for free online a lot of the time, and it’s easy to get lost online too – there are far, far too many blogs and online magazines. You need to find ways of making yourself stand out. Be picky. Take your time. Learn your craft. Do something different.

Q: How have you maintained financial security whilst being a freelance journalist?

A: Ultimately this industry is portfolio-based, so you’ll want to have your fingers in lots of (related) pies – so as well as writing about spas, retreats and healthy holidays for papers, magazines and websites, Caroline also works as a spa copywriter (writing press releases and web copy for spas and retreats) and a retreat consultant (helping people set up or improve spas or retreats). Her website www.queenofretreats.com helps ‘sell’ each of these parts of her work as well as offering a fantastic array of in-depth, honest reviews of spas, retreats and healthy holidays to help readers can find something appropriate to their life situation.

Q: How do you get copy writing work?

A: You need to be able to write, spell, check grammar, proof read and create professional copy to order and deliver work on time. Get your first client – ask around and see if anyone you know needs help with their web copy, for example. Build a portfolio. Get good testimonials. Then you can start to ‘sell’ your writing – peopleperhour.com works for some people – but for Caroline, word of mouth is everything.

Q: Should you keep your job?

A: The short answer is yes. Write and learn the skills needed in the evenings/weekends until you have built up the confidence/portfolio to attempt your escape and give it the best chance of success. A part time job is always good in the beginning!

Q: Any hints/tips on submitting/pitching for work?

A: Buy the publication you want to write for, have a good look at it and only pitch something you think is right for those readers. Be professional. Call the organisation to ensure you get the correct person to send your pitch to. Email them and make the pitch pithy but short. In Caroline’s experience, if they’re interested they’ll get back within a week. If you don’t hear, chase them once only, one week later. Then leave it – life’s too short to pursue unless your pitch is sensationally amazing. If it is – call them once. Then leave it. Never take being ignored personally – editors are stressed out a lot of the time.

Q: What can an aspiring travel writer do in the next month?

A: Be honest with yourself about what it is you want to achieve and why. Start a writing course. Write as often as you can. Look out for internships, writing circles and mentors to look over your work. Start building genuine relationships with people who can help you and see if you can help them in some way first.

Q: You run a successful website, www.queenofretreats.com. What are the best ways of growing the readership of a site?

A: Mainly, write for others so you can get inbound links – as well as her regular journalism, Caroline writes spa round ups for everyone from the Guardian to Positive News, and regular columns online for The Huffington Post, Healthista.com and Welldoing.org, all to help spread the word about www.queenofretreats.com. Newsletters can help too.

Q: You’ve been writing about spas, retreats and healthy holidays since the late 1990s. What are your favourite spas?

A: It depends on how she’s feeling and the size of her bank balance at the time, says Caroline. She likes Gaia House in Devon for an affordable meditation retreat. Kamalaya in Thailand for a lush holistic break. A retreat can mean anything you need it to – she’d just spent a weekend in St Mawes in Cornwall staying at a self catering retreat where she had daily treatments with a fantastic local therapist. In the UK she tends to avoid spas in hotels unless they’re exceptional and/or pampering (She likes Limewood in Hampshire and The Scarlet in Cornwall) – she’s not keen on massive destination spas as she thinks they’re trying to do too many things and are too commercial. She prefers smaller places that can treat everyone as an individual.

Q: What makes a great retreat?

A: 1. The people. You need first class, experienced teachers, welcoming hosts and brilliant overall management. Not everyone gets it right. 2. A beautiful setting which meets the needs of your guests and matches the claims made in your marketing. 3. Organisation. Leave no detail unaddressed!

Resources:

Caroline Sylger Jones:

http://queenofretreats.com/

https://twitter.com/QueenofRetreats

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Queen-of-Retreats

Jobs in journalism:

http://www.gorkanajobs.co.uk/

http://www.journalism.co.uk

http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/

http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/

Writing courses:

http://www.citylit.ac.uk/

https://generalassemb.ly/

http://www.faberacademy.co.uk/

http://www.curtisbrowncreative.co.uk/

Other resources for travel & travel blogging:

http://school.escapethecity.org/essays/can-become-paid-travel-writer/ – Great essay by Mark Johanson is an American travel writer and the former travel editor at International Business Times.

http://www.meetup.com/TravelMassive/ – A massive meet up for travellers in London. The next event is 26th June 2014 at Guanabara, I will be there, come and join us!

Note: a little bit of esc the city magic: whilst browsing the esc community boards I spotted the following post:

http://www.escapethecity.org/users/7638

I responded and got speaking to Prash. Prash is setting up a fantastic project, where travel bloggers will have a collaborative platform to share great travel experiences. He will also be attending the meet up mentioned above. In the meantime feel free to get in touch with Prash directly or me, check out the website and fill in his survey. The site will be going live soon and I can’t wait to both write for and read the posts on localoids to help me on my adventure!

http://localoids.com/

@localoids

Some great blogs to inspire:

http://www.nomadicmatt.com/

http://www.travmonkey.com/

http://chrisguillebeau.com/

http://www.giveliveexplore.com/ (Matt from Esc’s site!)

Me:

@rimapatel7

Let me introduce myself

A little about me

“The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept.” – George Carlin

So, I feel its time to get to know me a little better. I am, as many of us claim to be, appalling at writing about myself (see unfinished CV, even though I am leaving my job in September, a story for another time). What is it that we all struggle with? I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but there is a certain pressure when we try to define and summarise ourselves down to a page, or a snappy, witty paragraph in the ‘about me’s of our blogs.

I for one get mental constipation just at the thought of it. I don’t particularly want to put myself into a self-defined box.What if I leave something out or the phrasing makes me out to be something I am not? Surely I am more than a page of self indulgent chatter, I must be more complicated!

Part of the reason I feel, is these sorts of self summaries are always for someone else, a potential employer or potential readers out there in the internet ether, so inherently susceptible to approval or rejection.  Also, what if I don’t actually know myself very well yet, what then? I can feel the anxiety bubble up already, just thinking about it.

So a slightly different approach is in order perhaps. I am going to interview myself for you all. Wait.. before you click away.. I get that it sounds a lot like I will be talking to myself, oh wait it definitely is exactly that. So click away if that’s not your bag. I tell you for why I’m doing it this way. 1. I hope I’m not alone, but often I feel very much like I am 2 people. So why not get one to interview the other? 2. When thinking about what I’d write, it seemed to flow far better than just trying to write a traditional ‘about me’. 3. It leaves it open to conduct further interviews to delve in a bit deeper. 4. I’d like to get to know myself better too! So, why not try it ey. Here goes.

Me: So who are you then?

Metoo: Hello! I’m Rima, 24 years old, soon to be ex-accountant, living in London.

Me: Ok so, pretty standard stuff. Why ex-accountant?

Metoo: Ahh its all a bit cliche to be honest with you, but I pretty much fell into this job, and now I am fully qualified, surprise surprise, It’s dawning on me that being an accountant/auditor is not really my life long ambition. I’ve tried the corporate world and you know what, its not for me. I don’t fit in here I don’t think.

Me: I hear a lot of this kind of chat from people in your position. People don’t seem to be content with the well paid, but high stress lifestyle so much anymore.

Metoo: Yea, agreed. We all wanted the money and the power and respect, and now we have a slice of it, not really sure it’s what we wanted at all!

Me: This blog seems to be a fairly new project (June 2014), what made you start?

Metoo: Well part of being in a job like mine is that you feel quite trapped by the skills you’ve acquired thus far and feel that you can’t do anything remotely different. Also, it seems to sap all creative energy and will from you so you both think you can’t be creative and also don’t feel you have the time or energy to even try. So I thought a blog would help me flex my creative muscles, and prove to myself that if I put my mind to it, I can 100% do it.

Me: Nice. But what is the point of your blog?

Metoo: What do you mean? Why do I write it? Or why do I think people should read it?

Me: both!

Metoo: Well I write it to practice writing, to record my memories and thoughts and feelings at a point in time, to share cool things that I think others may enjoy, to question my own opinions too perhaps. As for readers, I include a lot of reviews of stuff that have particularly enjoyed so hopefully others can get inspired to experience similar things! I’m a sharer! I’d like to also dissect some philosophy here too at some point. So would be cool to interact with folks.

Me: That’s a lot you want to do there bud. Anything you think will be a barrier for you getting this done?

Metoo: Erm… myself! Probably the biggest stumbling block of all. I guess until September time is a little limited. Work is a massive part of life at the mo. Honestly though, its only really me that will get in my way, if for some reason I lose the drive/motivation to keep going. Other than that full steam ahead!

Me: Well my advice would be to just do it. Start and don’t stop. What sort of things are you interested in and may write about?

Metoo: Simple enough advice to give ey! Interested in.. hmm…too many things!! By that I mean that there is a lot that excites me. Including travel, philosophy, yoga, mental health, books, art, film, music, poetry, business, sanskrit, dance, languages, people, food. Most of these I am a complete novice at, so am aiming to get a better understanding of all of them over time. I will post my bucket list up here at some point maybe. Give you a better idea.

Me: What is the dream?

Metoo: Arghh big questions dude! Well this is what I am in the progress of working out. However, I listened to some sound advice recently, to be micro ambitious. So, I think I will set myself varying small and medium sized goals regularly. At the mo, yoga, reading, travel plans, learn Spanish/German are high up the list. Also, finding a source of income for when I am unemployed in Sept!

Me: What are your greatest fears?

Metoo: oh man. really, enough with the personal questions? I guess a couple of things. 1. I am a serious people pleaser! So a fear of being disliked. I like to be liked. I’m not particularly ok with people just disliking me. I’m pretty annoyingly positive and enthusiastic sometimes and worry that people think to themselves.. ‘omg.. seriously just pipe down.. no-one cares’. 2. Being a burden on anyone else. I am fiercely independent so would hate to have to rely on anyone else. 3. Seriously FOMO. I know, I’m sorry, I said it, I had to. Its a frustratingly appropriate acronym and I hate myself for using it. I just do worry that life is so dam short, if I spend a single minute, hour, day not in the pursuit of my many, varying passions that I will miss out on the wonders that our planet has to offer. One reason I must quit the corporate milk round. That about covers the main ones.

Me: I feel that we have learned a fair about about us. A lot still to go, but a break perhaps. 20 year old us would have been astonished at how easily and quickly we just managed to bash out 1218 words.

Metoo: Yea wow. Fair play. A fan of this interview style, as crazy as it makes me seem! Until next time!

RP

@rimapatel7