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Meeting Mark Prisk

| networking | October 14, 2010

Last Friday I was part of a group of women who belong to the WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise) network who met minister for business Mark Prisk in his constituency Bishops Stortford.  It was a fascinating day.

The meeting was held to demonstrate to the minister how effective networks can be in supporting women in business and demonstrate the role WiRE plays in supporting rural businesswomen.  As well as running yours2share, I am also the network leader for WiRE Norwich and I was one of the speakers, together with WiRE members Hanne Grice of Walk the Dog and Rebecca Rayner of Glebe Farm.

Several WiRE members I know well were also there with stands illustrating the range of business products and services in the rural community. They included Penny Lindop of Penny Lindop Designs, Gabriella Buckingham of MooBaaCluck, Claire Martinsen of Breckland Orchard soft drinks, Kate Elliott of Active Marketing and Design, and Jane Pennington of Stone-Me jewellery.

Our short presentations lead the room into a great debate about how to cost effectively help small businesses and businesswomen.  Our view is that organisations like WiRE are an essential component of the Big Society – we are all volunteers except from a very small central team. However collectively the WiRE networks provide considerable support and a path for businesswomen to share knowledge and help each other.

Growth does not equal happiness

| environment, networking, sharing, website business | January 25, 2010

I read with interest this post on the monbiot blog I’ve recently discovered about an interview with Lord Turner in the Guardian.  Lord Turner is the head of the Financial Services Authority and is quoted as saying: “All the evidence shows that beyond the sort of standard of living which Britain has now achieved, extra growth does not automatically translate into human welfare and happiness.”

For the last 50 odd years we all appear to have been enslaved to the view that the only true measure of success is growth.  Growth of individual companies, the stock market, the economy is taken to mean growth in our standard of living and our happiness.  In the last 20 years it has become increasingly obvious that once you get to a certain level, this isn’t so.  One can only consume so much.

On a small scale, I had become aware that something was out of kilter in my own life.  I run a local networking group for women (WIRE – Women in Rural Enterprises).  All the literature and emphasis of the national bodies tend to focus on conditions for growth of small businesses.  But speaking to a great many owners of small businesses, most simply want to achive a certain level and stay there, or maintain the perfect level they have already attained.  Many don’t want to employ staff: they just want to take people on contract when they need them.  Growth beyond a specific point simply means that they no longer have time for their family or the rest of their life, and why would they consider trading this for money they don’t actually need and can’t actually spend, because they no longer have the time.

In yours2share world, the increase in sharing and private syndicates is further evidence that people are shifting from the long held view that ownership is king.  People are starting to consider only buying what they need.  At the same time, many syndicate owners also get to own part of a better asset than they would enjoy if they bought outright.  As sharing becomes more established, people will also realise that the community of like-minded syndicate partners is a further benefit.

I think that once you have reached the standard of living that Britain has now achived, the route to greater human welfare and happiness is about strengthening communities and environmental harmony.  Sharing has a role in this.

Come and meet me

| networking, sharing, website business | September 18, 2009

If you live in East Anglia and would like the opportunity to meet me and find out more about yours2share, I shall be at the WIRE Autumn Fair at World Horse Welfare (formerly known as the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH)) from 10am to 5pm on Saturday 31st October 2009.

As well as running yours2share, I have been a network leader for the WIRE Norfolk group for the last year, which is why I’m involved in this Autumn Fair.

There will be a wide range of products for sale all representing businesses run by women in the Norfolk area.

World Horse Welfare is located at Hall Farm, near Snetterton, just off the A11.  You can walk around the farm where over a 100 horses are kept.  There is a good café and play area.  It’s heaven for any horse-lover!

There are still a few stands available for WiRE members and the stand fee is very reasonable.  Please contact Sue Brewer on 01493 393256 or 07747 861243 for information and to book a stand.

Please vote for me!

| networking, website business | August 24, 2009

This is a shameless plea for a little help!

I’ve been shortlisted for the O2 Grazia awards and the winner will be the one who gets the most votes.

So please vote for me here: http://o2-business.com/business/Vote.aspx You need to click on “East” to see me and then click the button “Vote for this Grazia candidate” for yours2share.

You will need to enter your email so they can (attempt to) stop multiple entries. I was surprised that there was no statement saying that the email address wouldn’t be used for direct mail purposes and emailed the organisers to ask them. They have assured me that it won’t be used for this. I’d probably also tick the box under the repeat email address as well.

Please forward/blog/tweet/facebook or distribute to any friends, family, children, colleagues who know me, or might vote for me any way.

Voting closes at midnight on Tuesday 8th September.

Many thanks!

Thanks you and kind regards

Exploding computers

| home worker, networking, website business | July 16, 2009

It’s not been a good week.  It started so well here in yours2share mansions, with the mention in the Sunday Times and a great new case study (not quite ready yet, but I’ll probably be posting it next week).

However on Tuesday afternoon, in the middle of a Skype call to a poor unsuspecting yours2share member, my laptop died.  A well looked after, 14 month old, Sony Vaio, protected by a surge suppressor, should not instantaneously fry its motherboard, but mine has.  Sony has not emerged from this episode well.  I called their customer support, already irritated by the 35p/min call rates, only to be left in a queue for eight minutes until I gave up.  Usually organisations that charge premium rates are ready and waiting with expert staff to help you, easing the pain of exorbitant phone calls, but not Sony.  The cost of the repair is more than buying a new  (non Sony) laptop with a better spec, so I won’t be repairing it.

Anyway, given that I run an on-line business, I have to be prepared for such eventualities, so I fired up the small laptop I use on the train.  To no avail, it is also terminally ill: and I later find out that the keyboard has a serious fault and has to be replaced, only it won’t be because it would costs far more than the laptop is worth.  Many thanks to Niels Van Minden of VMIT who helped me work out what is wrong.

Fortunately one part of my disaster recovery plan does work.  I backup all my files on-line everyday to ibackup and although I check every month to see they are there, I’ve never used them in anger before.  I’m pleased to report that ibackup works brilliantly.  Thank goodness.

This blog is written on an old laptop which my sister borrowed a year ago but never used.  So Windows, antivirus, and every other program has a year’s worth of updates…  It took all morning to do the simplest admin functions.  I’m looking forward to the weekend.

Now I have to find a new laptop, and one way or another, it’ll be here tomorrow.

Family house sharing

| fractional ownership, home worker, networking, Property, sharing, template contract | June 10, 2009

house-share1

A few weeks ago I met Gemma Thompson, a life coach and owner of a local Suffolk magazine Roundabout at a WiRE business networking meeting in Suffolk.  I explained what yours2share is all about, as one does, and she surprised me by saying that she had bought a house with her parents and sister’s family, in which they all now live.

I had to find out more.

The arrangement came about when Gemma decided to move back to Suffolk with her nine year old daughter.  The house next door to her sister Emma was available to let, and she thought this was the perfect solution.  However her father thought Gemma wanted to move back to live with her parents was concerned that there wasn’t sufficient room.  He suggested that they all buy one property and live together.

Gemma liked the idea, but didn’t expect her sister, together with her husband and 16 year old son, to be interested, but they were.  Emma’s only condition was that she didn’t want to move away from the village of Alderton.  They thought finding a five bedroom house here would be difficult, but the following weekend the perfect house came onto the market. 90 days later in July 2008 all the three families moved in.

Everyone has their own bedroom, but the living room, dining room, kitchen and gardens are all shared.  They eat together about five nights a week, sharing the cooking between them but the arrangements are flexible.  All the food and household expenses are paid from a fund to which they all contribute every month.  They have regular meetings to discuss any issues. If someone wants to buy something for a communal room, say a new picture, everyone has to agree beforehand. Gemma, Emma and their father all work from home so they all need a working area.  They are just about to build a log cabin in the garden creating an office for them all.  Emma Aldous is a graphic designer, artist and photographer and their father works for Holiday Property Bond.

I was curious about how they managed times when one group wanted the house to themselves, maybe for certain visitors.  Gemma explained that they had all agreed to make themselves scarce on these rare occasions.  Whenever her sister’s in-laws come to visit, she and her daughter go out for dinner!

Gemma is clearly delighted with the arrangement and there are some obvious huge advantages:

  • Bigger house and garden
  • Much lower cost of housing, household expenses and food
  • More time with their family
  • More adult and children’s company for the children
  • Built-in babysitting and flexibility for single mum Gemma
  • As her parents get older, it will be easier for Gemma and Emma to manage
  • Advantages for inheritance tax

As I’m well aware, these arrangements can be fantastic as long as the people have thought things through properly at the outset, and have a proper contract in place.

At the beginning Gemma’s family had extensive discussions to work out how to make the arrangement work and this is defined in the trust deed and a financial document covering the monthly payments to cover expenses.  They worked their way through many “what if” scenarios.  One key decision was that no-one could leave the arrangement for the first two years, and after that the other owners allowed to buy out any leaver.  If this couldn’t be done, then the house would be sold.

It sounds like a model fractional ownership arrangement, long may it continue!

yours2share on video

| networking, sharing, website business | May 20, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I went along to a filming day held by StreamExchange and made a short three minute video about yours2share.  Once I’d recovered from the shock of seeing myself talk, I’m was pleased with the results.  The interviewer was Caroline Oldrey, who was until recently a news reporter with ITV Anglia, and she made the whole thing effortlessly professional.

Here’s a link to the video, see what you think!

Remarkable Enterprising Women

| home worker, networking, website business | March 16, 2009

Sophie Garrett - founder yours2share

Sophie Garrett - founder yours2share

Many thanks to Enterprising Women, who have just made me Woman of the Week.  Enterprising Women is a great resource for female business owners in the East of England and it is now spreading out across the country.  As well as a comprehensive directory, the events section is useful.  I’m constantly advising women at WiRE networking  meetings to sign up and get their profile onto the EW website.  It’s free too!

On the networking theme, I saw a link to this blog about word of mouth recommendations a few minutes ago and it made me think.  It’s about the need to be remarkable yours2share gets much of its membership through word of mouth, so thankfully I must be doing something remarkable some of the time.  I’ve just got to try to be remarkable all of the time.

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