5 Easy Ice Breakers to Use at Events


If you’re in business, it’s a great idea to get out and about to meet fellow business owners. It gets you away from your desk/studio/laptop and you learn from others. Admittedly, when I started out back in 2004, it was no fun for me until I learned the following tips.

It’s so much easier now with social media so as I once wrote, use the internet to get off the internet! Here are the tips that work for me:

  1. Walk into a room smiling. Smile at everyone; the staff, the people you pass coming in just in case you see them later and everyone that's already at the event. A smile is the most inviting sign and people will gravitate towards you.
  2. Use social media to find out who you (vaguely) know that will be at the event and agree to look out for each other. Mentioning what you are wearing will help!
  3. Ask the host to introduce you to someone.
  4. Ask the first person you speak to introduce you to someone else.
  5. When you do speak to someone, a great conversation opener is ‘who can I can introduce you to?’ This doesn't just mean people in the room. You can connect them to your contact then and there via social media or drop them an email after the event. Another connection made!

If you have any other ice breakers, do share them below or vial @RickieWrites!

Tips to maximise your time when working full time

Office clockAre you holding down a full time job while building your business? Try these tips to get you to that goal faster!

Make every second count

Maximise the minutes at the coffee machine, at the bus top and while waiting for your sandwich. This is the perfect time to respond to emails (on your phone), tick-off a research job on your to-do list or engage with your following on social media.

Keep your notes electronic

Learn to use Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, Hootsuite or any other tool so that you have your files with you at all times.

Set aside time

For reading blogs, newsletters, long emails or anything else that is important but not urgent. How about an hour one evening a week or first thing Sunday morning with a big cup of something hot?!

Set up social media posts

Sometimes it is essential to schedule posts on social media but do respond to replies as soon as you can so your followers feel valued. You can even set up posts for the whole week!

Grow you inner circle

Make good friends with good people and keep them very close. Offer them help and they'll help you when you need it. Swap services, share knowledge and watch your problems float away and your business grow to full time status!

I'd love your feedback and your tips too!

Introducing Dorothy's Vintage

[gallery type="slideshow" ids="4480,4481,4482"] I love to highlight business stories from home-based businesses.

So it was great to hear from Emma Morley, who has just launched a business with her mother Jayne. They’re both fans of vintage (or shabby chic) china and having amassed a fine collection, decided to turn their interest into a business.

Inspired by Jayne's own vintage wedding in 2013, Dorothy’s Vintage specialises in the hire of ‘beautiful vintage china as well as providing afternoon tea services for all type of events’. Mum and daughter can't wait to share their ‘wonderful collection with the world!'

What’s different is that these two vintage fans invite potential customers to their 60s garden summerhouse, named Sheila, to get a feel for the service. Here they experience the afternoon tea while discussing what they want for their event and their budget. Customers go away knowing Dorothy's Vintage have built them ‘a truly bespoke service' for their special event.

While Emma takes care of the social media and marketing, her mum cannot help but find amazing china to add to the collection!

To find out more about Dorothy’s Vintage, named after Emma’s grandmother, take a look at the website or follow @dorothysvintage.  Contact on dorothysvintage@gmail.com.

Peer-to-peer lending at Rebuilding Society

thR6QIBLREI got a chance to try out Rebuilding Society, the lending platform that’s not so much crowd funding but more about investments. The companies seeking funding are looking for a loan for expansion, except they have been vetted and from what I see, are generally much larger than what we see on crowd funding sites.

I’ve never invested on those so it took me a while to figure out how to invest but a few helpful back and forth emails soon put me right. For some reason, I expected they’d be more companies listed but there are only a handful of carefully selected organisations listed at a time.

I invested my £50 on a promising company looking to expand. They had a very clear vision and because they are involved in ‘cloud computing’ and moving away from the ‘traditional mode of supplying hardware, software and installation services’, I believe their potential is huge. I'm happy to pay a teeny part in their expansion.

Advatek are based in the North West but do business in Wales and the Midlands, where I live. Another reason for investing is that they only ‘deal with proven IT brands, such as Cisco, Microsoft’ etc. and that this £50K loan will pay for developing ‘a suite of services to offer to the market’. In all their P&L looked pretty good and the loan also meant them hiring an additional employee. They quickly raised the £50K - in fact I really they raised it early and felt lucky to be accepted as an investor!

In my business, I help start, grow and promote mainly micro businesses. Even £10,000 to them would quite frankly mean the difference between trying to start their business while holding onto a salary paying job to being able to work on their business full-time and make it pay.

I get regular updates from Rebuilding Society (what a great name!) and I've already had loan repayments of £2.87 and earned 83p interest. Imagine if my investment was 10-fold or even 50-fold?!

Rebuilding Society are currently sitting on nearly £2.5m lent with an average of 15.78% earned. Not a bad return on investment at all while helping companies grow.

Find out how you can apply for a loan or make and investment here and follow them @rebuildings.

With thanks to Fuel My Blog and Rebuilding Society for crediting me with £50 to try out this great platform.

Five Ways to Get Retweeted

Keep the tweet short Remember when people RT the message includes your Twitter name. Under 100 characters is fantastic as people can RT from any platform without having to edit to fit.

Also, when people read it quickly they can make a faster decision on whether to retweet.

Say something topical

A tweet that includes words such as ‘breaking news’ or ‘NEW’ draws attention.

Or tweet about something very topical (or trending).

Include a link

Adding a link gives the tweet value as people can click for more information. Remember to shrink all your links to keep your tweet short!

Tweet at the right time

When is the right time?

That will depend on what your business is and when your following is watching. Safe to say, in most cases, tweeting late at night is unlikely to reach a lot of people.  There are services available that will tell you when your followers are most active.


Run a competition that includes the line, RT this to enter!

What gets you most engagement on Twitter? Do add your comments below or tweet @BusinessFaves.

What’s your definition of success?

Is greed still good or are there more important aspirations? Do we still regard the old stereotype of having an abundance of money/cars/homes means success? Or does happiness equal success?

Is the freedom to choose the life you want to live the ultimate luxury? Be that a family life, living in the country or a life of adventure - or all three!

Yes, financial stability is important however, here is what makes me love life, every minute of it:

The Fun/Fun balance

Being able to do whatever I want to do every day is my definition of happiness, which ultimately equal success. Waking up and looking forward to the day, whichever the day is, fired up with ideas (too many in my case!) is what inspires me to get up and going. My aim is to love what I do 90% of the time – the other 10% is dealing with finances or fixing technical errors, never fun for me but obviously a joy if that’s what you love to do!


Being able to travel

Travel is my main motivation, outside the need to eat, be warm etc! Over the years I’ve changed my business it works around my life and love of travel rather than having the other way around. In recent years, I’ve put my lifestyle first and everything else around that. It’s amazing how much more successful I feel now!

Surrounded by fabulous people

Collaborating with and mixing only with people I want to is vital to my success and well-being.  I strive to choose my clients, my colleagues and partners and surround myself with enthusiastic, happy and positive people.

Fresh coffee. Good cake

Do I need to explain that one?!

People often comment on how lucky I am to do what I love, live where I want, travel and be who I want to be. I’ll share what I say to them – luck has nothing to do with it! We make our own luck and can change anything about our lives, anytime. If we want to badly enough.

What’s your definition of success? Have you already achieved success without knowing it?

Please comment below of tweet me on @BusinessFaves or @RickieWrites

Book: Dot Complicated by Randi Zuckerberg

How to Make it Through Life Online in One PieceThe surname reveals that Randi did indeed work with her brother during the start-up stages of Facebook. It's not my favourite social platform so I'm surprised to find myself riveted during the first few chapters that chart it's beginnings.

 "We're going to connect everybody"

Randi talks about the 'incredible belief' that her brother Mark and the team he'd assembled had even then and how they would 'live and breath' the mission. The fast track her career took by working at a tiny start-up as opposed to the years it would have taken in the corporate world was not lost on Randi. The majority of the book is about how living in the digital age affects our family, social lives, relationships, bringing up children as well as business. You may know children that touch the TV screen waiting for something to happen, so familiar they are with touch screen technology. Baring in mind the information is from two American surveys in 2012, here are some of the amazing facts from the book:

  • 25% of women would give up sex for a year to keep their tablet.
  • 15% of all respondents would give up their cars to keep their tablets.
  • 70% would give up alcohol for a week rather than part with their phone.
  • Nearly 15% said they'd give up sex entirely than go a weekend withouth their iPhones.

We learn in the next decade another three billion people will go mobile, mainly on their phone. The percentage of people who have all their online time on mobiles goes up every time I hear about another study on the matter. Have you optimised your website so they read just as well on the small screen?

I've been paperless for some years, except I still occasionally have to endure paper receipts, which I promptly photograph and upload onto my expense system, and then discard! It won't be long before we no longer see boxes of receipts or bank statements. We are already monitoring our health via apps and paying bills on our phone.

'The great thing is we're always connected. The bad thing is we're always connected.'  

'A notification is like getting a hit.' I can indentify with that. I think of a blue or red flashing light on my phone as an opportunity or a learning. It's positive either way.  Learn more about Dot Complicated here.

Any thoughts or observations about living online? Do comment below, it will be great to hear from you!



5 Tips To Get Your CV Noticed

As a former recruiter and hirer, I know that I spent no more than 20-30 seconds on a CV before I either rejected it or kept it in the ‘read’ folder. This is what made me keep hold of it: Call me

Ensure all your contact details are on, most vitally email address and mobile phone number. Address is not as important if space is tight but town/city and county is. Make it easy for us to contact you or we’ll just move on to the next person.

Mind the gap

Ensure the potential employer knows precisely what you have been doing for the last six years at least. If you have been unemployed for more than a month or two, say so, or better still say something like ‘undertook online Microsoft training while actively seeking employment’ or ‘volunteered to gain additional experience while seeking employment.’

Use bullets

It makes the CV easier and quicker to read which increases your chance of being put on the interview pile.

Be a Star

Under each job, add bullet pointed list of achievements. Find at least 2 for each role and up to about five looks good. Think hard about what you achieved in that role, especially anything that can be quantified by saving the organisation time or money. Even if you were the ‘social secretary’ that organised events that gave your colleagues the feel-good factor at work.

Stick to two

Really, just do that.

Good luck!


Book a Get AHead in your career session

Rickie spent over 10 years hiring staff in organisations and five years in recruitment before setting up her own business in 2004. Contact via @BusinessFaves, or @RickieWrites or email.

Five Ways to Be Effective

Call time! Give yourself a deadline for each task and once the timer goes off, switch over to the next job.

  • Plan your day, or whatever time you have, for the important tasks

  • Give each task a time slot

  • Include time slots for social media, emails, finances, telephone conversations and other essentials depending on the requirements of your business. I tend to check in with emails every 2-3 hours.

Needless to say, turn off phones/email/social media notifications during this productive period.  This will give you absolute focus and you’ll have lots ticked off your to-do list. Promise!

To give you an example, here’s one of my laptop based mornings:5 ways to get productive

Urgent tasks will always get done so try this method for important projects, all those items on your to do list that you know will help grow your business in the long-term that get pushed to the bottom. Bring them to the top and watch your business grow!

If you finish early, try to move right on to the next one without distraction. Place any unfinished tasks into the next ‘productive period’.

Mix it up

Blend what you love with the vitals.

We love what we do but there are always joyless tasks to do. For me it’s anything to do with finances!

So how about mixing up the tasks? After you’ve completed a less enjoyable task, follow with something you relish. It will sure make you complete that first task faster too!

Work out what’s best for you; some people like to get all the tough assignments  completed on one day, others like to just handle one a day and spread them out, but do alternate them with those you love.

Share the load

I’m a big fan of beg, borrow or barter. Is there a fellow business owner you can team up with and swap tasks? Perhaps one person loves excel spreadsheets (where are they?!) and another prefers the joy of designing posters or the creative work on websites?

The result is two happy people who have the fun of doing the tasks they love and helping another business grow! A beautiful friendship is formed!

Reward yourself

Whether it’s a coffee after a tough morning on WordPress or a new tablet to celebrate a major new client – presents are good!

More often it’s the simple pleasures of a good biscuit with your coffee or a hot lunch. Whatever keeps you going, have that as your own personal enticement to get those tasks completed.

Free marketing

Social media is in the main, free to use so it’s obvious we are all going to use this as part of our marketing strategy. Planning the times you set up your messages and engage with your potential customers is key.

The big tip here is to use a social media platform such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. These allow you to schedule messages and have multiple accounts on one platform so you can see and manage at a glance.

Of course, as I always advise, use scheduled messages with caution as people like to see that you are available to engage with after you’ve published an update.

Do you already use any of these? Do share your thoughts by adding your comments below!

By Rickie, who has been working with small businesses since 2004. Contact via @RickieWrites or @CraftySkills1

Coworking etiquette

Coworking is an excuse to work with other people for those who normally fly solo. As a aerial co-worker, here are my guidelines for perfect harmony.

  • Background noise is a plus of co-working, the energy is contagious, but if it’s quiet and you’re taking a long phone call, it’s a good idea to step away from the group for a while so as to not disrupt conversation or their work flow.
  • Similarly, if you need some uninterrupted time to focus, a subtle way of letting people know is putting some noise-reducing headphones in your ears, even if you’re not listening to anything. Just indicate when you back in the fold.
  • If you’re say you going to attend, turn up as people will be expecting you.
  • Make a point of saying hello to everyone, find out what their needs are and see if you can help or introduce them to anyone. If someone's helped you out, the simplest way of saying thanks (and making friends) is to offer to buy them a coffee!
  • Keep the place tidy and just take up the space you need and everyone will get along famously!

 By Rickie, founder of Birmingham Jelly who can be contacted via @RickieWrites

The Workable Alternative to NY Resolutions

As you may know, I'm a big fan of change when we need it, rather than waiting for new year's resolutions. One of the joys of being in control of your business is being able to change any time, be that your behaviour or something practical such as the way you operate or the product you sell. It really is great that we can change anytime and improve our well-being, happiness and our business just by making the decision.

  • If something is making you unhappy, change it as soon as you can!

Is there a supplier that's continuing to let you down? Or a client that is asking for more than is fair? Perhaps it's time for a gentle farewell leaving you time to find better suppliers and clients.

  • Getting too many emails?

Learn to love email again and start by unsubscribing to newsletters you never read.

  • Invest in your learning

Make time to learn new skills and increase your knowledge leading to new and better ideas. Is an hour a day too much? How about setting aside 15 minutes to read a book or newsletters. Or a Saturday morning dedicated to learning how to really use a new app or reading informative blog posts?

  • Say no

Time is precious! How about spending more of it on what you want to do?

So this year, try making changes whenever you feel like it. Or instigate one change on the first of each month.

I look foward to hearing how making small changes impacts your business this year!

Rickie has been in business for nine years and works on a one2one basis with micro businesses who want to improve their business skills.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Out of Office Messages

What does your 'out of office' message say about you? We’re back soon!

This one says everything we need to know:

  • Reason for out-of-office
  • Duration that you’re away
  • If you’ll check emails at all ie once a day
  • When you are back and ready to respond

The permanent out of office

Can be good if you really cannot answer on a daily basis but really, is it good practise to avoid responding within 24 hours? If you must use, how about adding alternative contact details instead?

Out of Office on long after return

If your email system doesn’t allow you to set start and end dates for your out–of-office to be on, how about putting a reminder in your calendar to turn it off on the day you return? We know you’re back!

Lack of action point

  • What should we do if we can’t get hold of you?
  • Is there an alternative contact or any information?
  • Does your alternative contact know their name has been given?


  • We’re too busy to answer your email.

Great, so you don’t want my business then?

What’s your idea of a great out-of-office message? Do share it below or tweet us on @CraftySkills1

The importance of the ‘out of office’

I can just recall the days before smart phones, when we had to use ‘out of office’ even for the odd days away so people knew not to expect an (almost) immediate response. Nowadays, people have access to their emails 24/7, so why bother?

Here are some reasons!

Time out

We all need time out no matter how much we love what we do. The out-of-office takes the pressure of responding in a timely fashion.


Your business won’t collapse without you being at the helm. Will it? It may do you the world of good to have some time when your brain is clear to think and plan. Perhaps you can do this for occasional days throughout the year?!


If you have staff or outsource your tasks, this is a good time to see how well they operate without you. 

Minimise Emails

Letting your emails build up is a fantastic exercise in handling them more productively in the future. Learn to love email again by unsubscribing, answering tightly and avoiding unnecessary email conversations. Next holiday, you’ll receive less!


It gives you an option to let your contact know what action they should take while you are away. Perhaps you have an alternative contact to give them or link to FAQs on your website? The return date should definitely be noted here.


It tells people you can afford to take a holiday, and that’s got to be a good thing as far as your business is concerned. Clients appreciate you coming back refreshed and ready to support their needs.

Need to Know

People like knowing when you’re not around. It feels more personal plus they can adjust their plans accordingly. A lot of the time, I get lovely messages from people wishing me a good time and that the reply can wait!

Responding to email while out-of-office

It’s your judgement whether you answer your emails while on holiday, despite having out-of-office on. I tend to glance over them each day, if only to delete what I don’t need, forward what can be dealt with by others or write quick responses. Mostly, I love picking up good news as soon as possible!

I also like to come back to a neat, concise inbox of just those emails I need to work on so I can be productive on my first day back rather than spending it going through hundreds of emails. However, I try really hard to avoid responding to clients as I don’t want to set a precedence that I’m always available when I’m sometimes unreachable! I use the same rule at weekends too. Draft the emails may be, but wait to send them at an appropriate hour.

Depending on your business style, how about a fun out-of-office response that will surely put a smile on the receiver’s face? Maybe avoid gloating about being on the beach but ‘offering seasons greetings’ and looking forward to catching up upon your return is warm and friendly.

Next week: The good, the bad the ugly of out-of-office email messages.

Do you have a witty out-of-office you use? Do share it with us below!

Or tweet us on @CraftySkills1