Midweek E-Meet Up: Meet Creator of Tilly Things, Chloe!

Her Own Glow, a positive space for storytelling.

Tonight’s guest is Chloe Lebow, creator of Tillythings. Chloe and I discuss life as a freelancer, her collaborations and the importance of self care – no matter how busy your schedule may be!

Meet Chloe…

Chloe Lebow Tilly Things Her Own Glow Her Empowerment Room

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a 25-year old fashion illustrator based in London. I did an art foundation University of The Arts London and then went on to do a BA hons in fashion at NTU. After I finished it, I had a good understanding of the basics of graphic design. After graduating, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I decided to brush up on my graphic design skills and ended up starting my own creative journey.

What inspired you to set-up Tillythings?

Tillythings actually started out as a pet brand, but I didn’t continue that for long and found my own style by creating fashion designs using animal heads. Like art, fashion is a big part of me and early on, I had a random commission off a blogger I admired which helped me decide to actively start pursuing this as a business. Eventually, I developed my own signature style that I could be proud of.

More and more people have started freelancing – an ongoing trend that’s expected to rise. Have you had an enjoyable experience being your own boss? What challenges have you faced?

Definitely! I have another job, so I had to learn to be organised and manage my time efficiently. I also have had to learn to be adaptable and stay calm and professional, and I try to push myself on every commission.

What advice would you give to those looking to freelance?

Work hard, but remember there is more to life than work! Keep creating, learn from other people and don’t be afraid to experiment – all while focusing on your own strengths. I would say anything is possible if you know your craft. I think it’s just about figuring out what works for you. But don’t forget to get enough sleep and go for walks too!

Art is therapeutic; it’s a form of expression. To what extent has art and creativity played in your life?

I cannot imagine my life without drawing! My grandad was an author and illustrator, and my mum was a textile designer so most Sunday afternoons, as a child ,were spent at galleries and workshops. I have always been inspired by fashion and portrait photography and when I was younger, I used to draw over the figures of my mum’s magazine covers. I have an ever expanding collection of journals and sketchbooks which has always been something I turn to in order de- stress, all of my books throughout school were packed with little sketches to my teaches dismay!

You’ve collaborated with celebrities, bloggers and organisations! What’s been your biggest pinch-me moment in your career so far?

I am a hug Entourage fan and I had Adrian Grenier and Jeremy Piven post my drawings -which was sick! I was obsessed with Bratz growing up so it felt surreal to be recognised by them! More recently though, I was featured in Stylist and You magazine for my collaboration with Radley bags and The South Place Hotel. That was pretty cool.

That’s amazing – you have so much going on. How do you unwind after a busy day at work?

When I’m not as busy, I try to find time to draw only for my pleasure and not commissions. I also write and do lots of reading.

How do you practice self-care?

I know I can’t function without sleep, which is deeply intertwined with creativity so I always try to make sure I prioritise my zzz’s. I also have the Headspace app, which is great for busy schedules. Creative work can be solitary, so it’s important to take care of yourself and make time for friends and family. I think doing something else besides art is healthy for my mind.

Who do you admire?

All the masters, from Dior to Oscar de la Renta. I am also heavily influenced by artists like Klimt, Rembrandt and Warhol. Shows like SATC, authors, photographers, history, films, my friends; lots of things. I have to say though my creativity is heavily inspired by the likes of NWA, especially Dre. In my teens I used to place ‘fuck you’ really loud in my bedroom to piss my mum off.

If you could have a power hour with any woman in the world, who would it be?

Ok, so Annie Leibovitz, JK Rowling or Cher. Random I know, but I can’t choose one. They’re all goals in different ways.

List your top 5 Instagram accounts:

I have so many from all different categories, but off the top of my head I’d say:
@sarashakeel
@lirika.matoshi
@camilacoelho
@therow
@shesfarrout

What’s next for you?

I am currently in the process of working with publishers to get my first children’s book published, which I have written and illustrated. I am also in the early stages of creating some 90s inspired graphics for potential apparel – which is super exciting!

And finally, what’s your mantra?

It’s a bad day, but not a bad life.

Connect with Chloe:
http://www.tillythings.co.uk
@tillythings

 

XO

Sunday Spotlight: Meet Stephanie Matthews!

There’s power in celebrating and embracing your own story. It’s your glow.

Happy Sunday ladies! How are we all? Meet Stephanie Matthews, dance teacher and author of children’s book Frank the Sawfish. 

Stephanie Matthews

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am wife to Mark and Mammy to George (6) and Faelene (2). Our home life is probably more hectic than most, as we home educate George who is just about to go into year 2. We have always home educated as a first choice because of our unusual jobs. I am a dance teacher and run my own dance school, The Polka School of Dance in Bowburn. My husband is a professional musician and he drums in a band called The Revolutionaires. Both of our jobs require us to work after school hours, which would mean we’d have very limited family time together. So, home educating works for us and we are very proactive in giving George a good education. Outside of that, we spend much of our spare time running the children backwards and forwards to various classes and activities – much like other parents! If we get a minute to ourselves, we enjoy going to the theatre.

What inspired you to write?

Quite simply, George. I have a very practical reason for writing. I am sure most other writers have put much time and thought into considering writing as a career. For me, it filled a purpose. We were on holiday in a log cabin, on the outskirts of Hull, and had visited the Deep Aquarium for the day. The Deep is home to only two sawfish in the UK and they truly captivated George. They are magnificent creatures, a real spectacle and I promised George I would buy him a book on the sawfish from the gift shop when we went home. On leaving, we searched the gift shop for a sawfish book but couldn’t find one. So that night, before bedtime, I made one up for George. When I had finished I said to my husband, I think I might be onto something. So, I sat in the hot tub and penned the first draft of Frank.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

To be honest, I feel a bit fraudulent calling myself an author. I don’t feel qualified enough to give advice, it isn’t my style. But what I will say is, don’t spend too much time thinking and planning and worrying about all the what ifs. So many people sit around wishing and dreaming. Just get out there and do it. Don’t wait around. The time it takes to plan all the maybes probably equates to the time it would take to complete the process. Be proactive and if problems crop up along the way, you will have more scope to deal with them.

How did you overcome any self-doubt?

I didn’t really have ant negative thoughts or feelings about the book during the writing process. I am generally quite a positive person, but I had no reason to worry as the story was for my son. If he enjoyed it and was happy with it, that’s all that mattered. As time went on, I started sampling sections to children in my dance school and it was received with enthusiasm. I was excited about it all the way through and that’s the best way to be.

Why self-publish?

For me, I was always going to self publish, purely because of time. George loves sawfish now. Who is to say that he would still be crazy about them in a years’ time? We all know how fast children change. I met a wonderful illustrator, Frances Coles, online who was equally as passionate about my story as I was. She had just completed the self publishing route with another author, so I was able to ride off the back of that and use her knowledge to guide me. Frances was completely fantastic. Not only did she bring everything about Frank and his world to life, but she was a great advisor. I wanted the book to be eco-friendly and she had experience with a printing company that were able to use biodegradable laminate. So, we used Potts Prints in Northumberland and I am really very happy with the overall look of the book. I took it into Waterstones last week and the manager said to me ‘Can I just say this book is absolutely wonderful from the story and illustrations to the finish!’ That was enough for me. I was made up!

Top 3 writing tips?

I don’t really have any. Other than just do it and don’t be too hard on yourself. The first drafts of Frank were just random sentences and scribbles and stick men, or should I say stick fish? But, I did find talking through ideas with my husband particularly useful. And of course, I had George. I suppose it’s always useful to hear what someone from your target market thinks. George didn’t mince his words mind. He was very critical!

Who is your favourite author?

As a family, we love The Fletchers. Faelene loves ‘There’s a monster in your book’ by Tom Fletcher. George enjoys ‘The Dinosaur that pooped a planet’ by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Pointer. I enjoy the books by Giovanna and Carrie Hope Fletcher, and Mark and I both enjoyed ‘Eve of Man’ by Tom and Giovanna Fletcher.

What is your favourite book?

Back Home by Michelle Magorian. It always has been and always will be. I read it for comfort. It’s followed closely by The Silent Shore by Ruth Elwin Harris.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I don’t think I have ever been given any lasting advice. To be honest, I think people look and see me plodding on with my business and kids quite nicely and they don’t offer up anything. But, I think cherishing the simple things and trying to be positive is good advice. Someone once told me, if you look for the bad you will most certainly find it. Maybe that was good advice after all…

Any more books on the horizon?

For sure! I have loved the whole process. It was quite quick really, taking us 16 weeks from start to finish, and I am desperate to do it all again with another character. Of course I need people to buy Frank first, so I am able to fund my next project!

How did you find your first signing?

Oh, it was wonderful! We had it in a multi sensory suite to give the children a feeling of being under the sea. We were able to change all the lighting and had water tubes and relaxing music. I was worried that people wouldn’t come though! But, I was really well supported by my dancing family and the book was really well received. Frances came too, which made it really special. It’s a wonderful feeling to see something you have created in the hands of a child.

What’s your mantra?

I don’t think we have a mantra. But Mark and I both like a section from a poem and I think it suits us really well. “Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the road less travelled by. And that has made all the difference.”

Order your copy of Frank the Sawfish here: http://www.frankthesawfish.co.uk/

 

 

Midweek E-Meet Up: Meet Photographer, Emily!

Her Own Glow, a positive space for storytelling.

 

It’s Wednesday – we have passed the halfway mark ladies! Tonight I’d like you to meet Emily Heath, a freelance photographer from North East England.

So, get the kettle on, get cosy and let’s have a bit of E-girl talk!

Emily Heath

Tell us about yourself.

I never know how to answer this question! I’m Emily, age 19 (20 next month), and from Durham. I’m currently studying Law at the University of Kent. I am also a freelance photographer alongside my degree, and have worked with agencies (and increasingly, magazines) across the country.

How did you get into photography?

I can’t quite remember how old I was maybe 12, or 13? My dad had just bought a bridge camera to take on holiday with us, and didn’t really know where to start with it, so I had a go. I’ve always been really arty, so I took to it quite quickly – taking photos of trees, my dog, stuff like that. When I was 15, my parents got me my first DSLR. I started using it for my art GCSE, doing photoshoots with my friends, again, taking photos of my dog! I got my first job at an electronics shop 3 weeks after I turned 16, and saved up to get my first full-frame. I really started to make progress last year, doing test shoots for local agencies, getting the experience. I think my style and rhythm became more apparent this year, though.

Your work has been showcased in Vogue and online on Tmrw Magazine, and you were also awarded Best Photographer at the SPA Awards 2019. How do you celebrate your success?

If I’m honest, I don’t – but I don’t really see that as a negative. I learnt that from my A level art tutor (Mrs. Hitchcock – legend) – in brief, she taught us all via tough love. I think you could probably get Van Gogh to paint in front of her and she would only nod then keep walking! It was that approach that taught me that just because I have made progress in my career, it doesn’t mean I’m done, or should settle with the result. I always tend to think “next time I’ll do X”, or “it’s good but it’s not quite Y”. I think half the time my boyfriend and family celebrate more than I do! That doesn’t mean I’m not proud of what I’ve done, however. If I’m honest, I think the first time I celebrated was when I won Best Photographer; winning the award boosted my confidence in my ability massively – I had a daiquiri-induced happy-cry to my boyfriend, Dan, after I collected the award – it meant a lot to get that kind of validation and confirmation that my work was actually alright! But no, celebrating isn’t really a part of my game plan. I’m a bit of a workaholic like that.

What advice would you give to those looking to pursue photography as a career?

I think the best advice I can give is cliche, but keep doing you. When I first started taking photos years ago, I got a lot of stick in school for setting up my Instagram and Facebook pages, but now I get the same people messaging saying they love my work and asking what I’ve been up to recently.

However, I would say be open to change. Listen to constructive criticism. But emphasis on CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. Not everyone is an artist, but everyone is a critic.

These days, I would say do not accept less than you’re worth. Being a creative, you get asked to work for free a LOT of the time. You just have to trust your gut. If it says that a certain “opportunity” would mean you’re staying stationary in your career, rather than moving forward, listen to that voice. It’s usually right. Push your worth.

Which photographers inspire you?

Dean Martindale, Rosie Matheson, Louie Banks. Absolutely unreal work.

You recently started a campaign/ blog called Emilys Endo, based on your own personal experience with Endometriosis. Can you tell us more?

For me, Endometriosis has been haunting me for a long time, but last Monday I had my first laparoscopic surgery which diagnosed and exercised some of my Endo. Becoming more open about my health issues has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and when I received the diagnosis I knew I had to raise awareness.

Endometriosis is a chronic disease that affects roughly 1 in 10 women. There is no cause and no cure, which sucks. The NHS has listed it as one of the top 20 most painful conditions a human can have – it can, will be, and has been completely debilitating for me.

My own experience with Endo symptoms (since I started my periods when I was 10/11), as well as my experience with doctors and specialists, led me to starting my instablog. The whole process has been painful in more ways than just physical. I found it difficult to relate to any existing accounts of women with Endo, as most women are diagnosed between 25-35 when they’re trying to have a baby – as a 19 year old in Uni, focussing on their career and being “young”, this is not an immediate concern for me. I wanted to create a dialogue for young women like myself, so we don’t feel as alone in the process as I did and do.

I base a lot of the content on my own experiences, as the page acts a little like therapy for me. If you’re interested, you can follow it on Instagram – @emilysendo.

What’s a day in the life of Emily like?

It’s not very exciting at the moment! It can definitely vary. At the minute, I’m trying to listen to myself more and learn how to rest (I’m anxious so this is a bit of a task sometimes). However I still find myself checking my emails and planning my next Insta post, budgets, future projects, etc. I’ll be back at Uni in a few weeks, so my days will be very nose to the grind stone again.

If you could change anything in the world, what would it be?

The respect for creatives – I would just knock everyone’s heads together until they accepted creative careers like photography as something worth taking seriously!! On an unrelated note, I would increase education on women’s health issues too, such as endometriosis, and how seriously it can affect people. Increase mental health funding. Solve world poverty. Bits and bobs.

What’s been your favourite campaign to work on so far?

A recent editorial I did for Pink Trolley Magazine’s latest print issue. It was amazing to work with some of my closest friends, who are all incredibly talented. Another favourite is a campaign I’m currently working on for a London magazine, but I’m not sure if I’m allowed to talk about it yet!

You’re your own boss. How has your experience been working for yourself?

It’s a lot sometimes, but I don’t like being told what to do, so it’s ideal for me haha. I find it difficult balancing my time and stopping when I’m need to stop, but I don’t think I would change it for the world. I hope one day I can do it full time – I’m feeling quite positive about that, fingers crossed.

How do you practice self-care?

Badly, though this year I’m getting better at it. I’ve had a lot of physical and mental health blips this year, so I think my main practice of self care is to listen to my body, and my mind, and learn when I need to give myself a rest. Ask for help when I need it, and let myself have time to myself.

Who do you admire.

My parents, my mum especially. They’ve taught me a lot about work ethic, and that I can be and do whatever I want to do if I put my mind to it. My mum runs her own business, and my dad is in business, all whilst doing long distance after 25 years of marriage!! It’s nice to have people in my life who have nailed the balance of a relationship, chasing their careers, and putting up with my brother and I. My dad is a big family man, and I think I got being a workaholic from him – but he would do anything for us, and we’re very thankful for that. My mum is an angel, and does a lot for everyone in my family, she’s definitely my rock.

What are your top 3 photoshoot essentials?

Ooo that’s tricky – probably comfy clothes, a small suitcase to take your kit in and your fave playlist to calm you down before the shoot.

List your top 5 Instagram accounts:

@depopdrama (hilarious!)
@deanmartindale
@rosie_matheson
@louiebanksshoots
@dankartdirectormemes (also hilarious for fellow creatives)

What’s your personal mission statement?

I think I’m still trying to figure out that myself! I have an idea in my head, but I don’t want to jinx anything by writing it down. I just keep giving everything my best shot, and see where that takes me (I’m a lot less relaxed about it than I sound, but it’s the thought that counts!)

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Ambitious, arty, sleepy.

What 2 items would you take with you on a desert island?

Camera and some film. Although realistically, probably 2 flare guns…

What’s next for you?

I have one big shoot left to do for the magazine I mentioned, and then I’m winding down to get back into the zone for 2nd year. Hopefully I’ll get a few more freelancing jobs this year – I have a few irons in the fire, but you can never be too sure. All I know is I need to finish this degree!!

Connect with Emily:
emilyheathphotos.com
@emilysendo
@emheath.photo

Sunday Spotlight: Meet Women’s Life Coach, Kat Horrocks!

There’s power in celebrating and embracing your own story. It’s your glow.

Happy Sunday everyone! I hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend. Now, hands up – who’s weekend blues have started to creep in? Okay, I see you; I thought so. Well, I’m pretty sure tonight’s interview will inspire you to embrace the brand new week tomorrow holds, and kickstart your Monday the right way.

This Sunday Spotlight’s guest is no other than women’s life coach and host of the Put Yourself First podcast, Kat Horrocks. Allow me to introduce you…

Kat Horrocks.jpgImage by Georgie Glass. 

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m I’m Kat, Women’s Life Coach and Host of the Put Yourself First Podcast. My work is dedicated to inspiring women to put themselves first and achieve their goals. My 1:1 coaching and weekly content provides practical and emotional support to help them do that! And my weekly podcast guests share their empowering stories and expert insight, so whatever your goal is, you have the tools and support you need to achieve it!

Your podcast Put Yourself First, is designed to help women find their passion and purpose. Has there been one thing that really stood out and resonated with you when interviewing a guest?

Every single successful woman I’ve interviewed on the podcast has followed her gut instinct. She’s had an instinctive feeling that she needs to try this thing out, do something different, stand up for what she believes, go left when everyone is going right. She listened to that little voice and she did it, despite any hurdles she faced as a result.

How do you choose your content?

I’m always listening and taking note of DMs, emails, conversations with my community. If the same themes come up again and again, they’re the topics I focus on the most. So largely it’s based on what people need help with the most, with some of my personal growth and story thrown in there. If something’s on my mind a lot, I love to share what’s working for me as well.

How did you get into life coaching?

I was blogging about my experiences with personal development, self-care and business for years as a hobby. My first business, bridal makeup, wasn’t as fulfilling to me as it once was when I hit the 2-3 year mark. The thing I enjoyed the most was the 1:1 connection and conversation that happened between me and my clients, not the makeup itself. So I hired a business coach to help me figure out what I actually wanted to do with my life. After months of digging deep into my strengths, weaknesses and life goals, I decided life coaching was the best thing for me. I’ve always been a keen listener, I love to pick up on people’s energy/body language/etc. and I’m the friend that everyone goes to for advice. It’s part of who I am and I love it!

What advice would you give to a woman looking to set-up her own life coaching business?

Always record your sessions and listen back to them. Make notes, not only on your clients but on yourself! Without beating yourself up, critique your coaching style and notice areas you could improve. Notice where you’ve made too quick a judgement or notice which questions get your client the best outcome, for example. The only way you will improve is by doing, so get lots of test clients initially (for a small fee or free) and practice, practice, practice!

What do you enjoy about your job?

I never stop stop growing and I never stop learning. Having that sense of variety in my work really keeps me on my toes and makes me excited to get to my laptop every morning. I love to be challenged and every aspect of my work continually challenges me to get out my comfort zone and be vulnerable!

How did overcome fear in the pursuit of your dream life? 

To be quite honest, I’ve not! Fear is a natural part of achieving your goals. With every year that goes by, I’m always looking ahead to what the next level of my life is gonna look like. That always involves fear, doubt, impostor syndrome and that pit in your stomach. The growth involved in moving forward despite that fear and doing the damn thing anyway is a daily practice.

What does a day in the life of Kat look like?
Every day is different, but every day starts with my morning routine. Which consists of tea in bed, reading, meditation and journaling.

I live and die by my calendar and try to be structured with my working hours! So my day either focuses on:
Creative – messy bun, no makeup at my desk. A creative day dedicated to writing, editing podcasts, marketing, admin, etc.
or coaching – A focused day where I need to be high energy and looking/feeling on point. Either coaching clients, recording podcasts or being out and about meeting people.
Your work inspires women. Who inspires you?
Thank you! Honestly, my clients do. When you’re working closely with another woman, talking about intimate parts of her life and her biggest hopes and dreams, you see her journey first hand: doing the work, putting herself first, getting out there in the world, facing setbacks, getting up and carrying on. It lights me up. To see a woman going after her dream life and showing up for her goals every week, makes me wanna do the same for mine! I don’t think my clients realise how much their journey inspires mine.
The power of self-care should never be underestimated. How do you unwind after a long day at work?
Amen! Getting my phone out of sight and out of mind. It’s the only way I can truly switch off and feel rested. Then it’s catching up with Adam, cooking dinner together and watching our fave shows! We’re loving Power and Peaky Blinders at the moment. 🙂

Are there any empowering (online) magazines and / or blogs you regularly read? 
Marie Forleo and Gary Vaynerchuk are two business resources I always check in with.
Entrepreneurship is presented as glamorous and luxurious, but it often comes with a lot of setbacks. What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced during your entrepreneurial journey?
Having to be really selfish with my time. I’m a total people pleaser, but when you have a ridiculously big vision for your work and life, you have to make short term sacrifices. A big part of that is learning to say no, being strict with my time and where I spend it and setting healthy boundaries that enable me to prioritise.
Your network is your net worth. Do you ever attend networking events – coaching or otherwise? 
Yes! I do love getting out there and meeting other female entrepreneurs. The key is finding one that works for you and feels like the right fit. I make sure I’ve got at least one event a month in the calendar. My friend Gaby runs the Women’s Society near where I live in Bury and that’s been my go-to for the past few months. It’s just a room full of hard-working, creative women who get it. I also LOVE She Can She Did Midweek Mingles and they run all over the UK.
If you could share one piece of advice with any woman, what would it be?
Put yourself first. Always. When you put yourself first, everything flows. You’re a better partner, parent, friend, boss/employee/businesswoman, human! Trust me.
List your top 5 Instagram accounts: 
I LOVE Instagram and I’m always discovering new accounts, but these are some that I check in with daily.

@iammelwells
@lucysheridan
@thinklikeabossco
@theskinnyconfidential
@abranchofholly
If you weren’t a life coach, what other job would you be doing?

My hobby is tidying, cleaning and organising. When I’m not working on a Sunday, I’m cleaning the house top to bottom and that’s fun for me haha. I’d always work for myself, so my plan B business is going into the houses of busy, working women and just giving them a hand. Meal prep them healthy lunches, run their errands, book their appointments, clean their toilet. I’d love it haha!! A Life Personal Assistant.
Describe yourself in 3 words:
Intuitive, empathetic and a girl’s girl!
If you could have one power hour with any woman, who would you choose?
Oprah. Enough said.
What’s next for you?
We’ve just bought our first house, which has made 2019 slightly crazy and unpredictable, so I’m looking forward to getting really deep into a routine over the next 6 months. Getting my head down and just hustling! My focus is always my 1:1 clients and continuing to work with amazing women, alongside the podcast which is a passion project I spend a lot of time and love on and hope to keep growing. 🙂
Connect with Kat:
Instagram: @kat_horrocks
http://www.kathorrocks.com

 

Midweek E-Meet Up: Meet Author and Technology Advocate, Fiona!

Her Own Glow, a positive space for storytelling.

 

Yes, it’s that time of the week again ladies – happy hump day! Meet Fiona Thomas, author of Depression in a Digital Age and freelance writer for the likes of Happiful Magazine and Heads Together.

Ready to mingle? Let’s get started…

Fiona Likes To Blog Her Own Glow Interview.jpg

Tell us a it about yourself.

I’m a Glasgow girl living in Birmingham and was diagnosed with depression in 2012.  was unable to work for almost a year, and turned to blogging in that time as a hobby. However, though it started off as a way to pass time, I quickly became obsessed with the online world and building a community. Now a proud advocate for technology as a communication tool for those of us who suffer the crippling symptoms of mental illness, I have used the internet to help hone my identity and start a new freelance career. I’m an author and freelance writer with work published on Metro, Healthline, Heads Together, Mind, iNews and Happiful magazine.

You’ve been featured in great publications! How can readers craft a compelling pitch?

I get asked this all the time! So much so that I’ve written a lengthy article on my blog and I’m thinking about creating an online course on the topic.

But, here are a few tips: Your pitch needs to be relevant (to the publication and also current affairs), it needs to have a specific angle and it needs to be short and enticing.

You talk openly about anxiety and depression. What do you hope people takeaway from your book, Depression in a Digital Age?

That you’re in control of the people who you surround yourself with, and that when you start to recover from mental illness, you’re in control of your future too. I never thought I could be happy again and I’m ridiculously happy, even though I live with depression and anxiety.

And what advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Write fearlessly, and try to get your tone of voice on point.

You’re an advocate for technology as a communication tool. Tell us about the online communities you created.

Instagram is my home. I know that if I even hint at having a bad day people will DM me telling me to keep my chin up. It’s so lovely. I go and see my local duck pond most days and now I have people tagging me in duck pictures, which pretty much sums up how supportive and loving people can be on Instagram

What inspired you to set-up your blog?

It’s just a way to be creative when I was working in a job with zero creativity. It had no real purpose other than to write and enjoy the process. But, over time I felt compelled to open up about my mental health.

List your top 3 blogging tips:

Be consistent.
Develop your own unique voice.
Meet up with other bloggers in real life.

Who do you admire?

Female authors like Laura Jane Williams, Emma Gannon and Sara Tasker all inspire me to be ambitious. They all have multi-faceted careers which centre around being passionate, but also the need to work in a way that suits their own lifestyles. I love that.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Be kind to yourself.

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Ambitious, quiet and friendly.

List your top 5 Instagram accounts:

I Can Cards
Mary Badass Meadows
Independent Girls Collective
Sinead Latham
Bryony Gordon

What’s next on the horizon for you?

I’m writing my second book, which will come out next summer. It’s all about how to ditch the 9-5 and be your own boss – something that has improved my life and my mental health so much!

What’s your personal mission statement?

Oh god, I don’t know! Just to share my story and connect with like-minded people. And see lots of ducks.

Connect with Fiona:
Website: fionalikestoblog.com
Instagram: @fionalikestoblog
Twitter: @fionalikes

Midweek E-Meet Up: Meet Mentor and Trainer for Women, Amanda!

Her Own Glow, a positive space for storytelling.

Happy Wednesday ladies! Meet Amanda Blesing, a trainer, mentor, speaker and author! As the creator of The Ambition Revolution Program, she currently speaks with, and consults to, busy and ambitious professionals. What really switches her on is seeing these individuals step up, speak out and take charge of their roles, careers, aspirations and their communities.

Let the mingling commence…

Amanda Blesing.png

What is your purpose?

What I’m obsessed with is seeing women win the raises, promotions and recognition they truly deserve. I’m a little bit like a leadership coach but just for women with big goals and dreams. Many of my clients tell me that they woke up one day and realised that they’d spent most of their career making others look good, but hadn’t prioritised themselves. So, what I do is teach them a fresh approach to building their brand to help them halve their effort, yet double their impact. After all, women are already really busy. We don’t need more to do! We just need to be able to focus on the bigger things that matter most so we can make a bigger difference far more easily.

What does a day in the life of Amanda Blesing look like?

Busy! But strategic and incredibly rewarding. In fact, some would say I have a life by design.
6:00am – Morning rituals of gratitude meditations, reading and exercise – because it’s hard to help others when you feel under the weather or with low mojo. This is my deal-breaker. It’s a rare day I don’t do all three.
8:30am – Social media sweep to get the conversations and inspiration started for the day.
9:00am – One on one coaching calls with clients and possible clients, who inspire me as much as I inspire them.
3:00pm – Thinking and writing: I do much of my best thinking and writing in the afternoon after 3pm.
OR
Speaking at a conference or Women in Leadership networking event.
6:00pm – No screen time. I’ve learned the hard way that I sleep much better when I’m strict with screen time. This means I have more energy to work with clients in the long run! So, I then spend time at yoga or an evening beach walk with my husband Russ. We often walk to St Kilda Beach in Victoria for dinner (about 45mins each way).

I travel interstate once or twice a month for clients or speaking. I love the independence and freedom of travel, and the way it breaks routine which in itself helps me see things differently and to spark new ideas.

Twice a year I run Women in Leadership Retreat in delightful destinations. 2019 included a Winter Retreat with log fires and wine tasting along with the leadership program, along with another in late 2019 in Palm Cove Queensland, which is a highly desirable tropical destination. My rationale? If I have to work hard, I’d rather far it be doing things I absolutely love, with people I enjoy hanging out with and on my own terms. What’s not to like?

What inspired you to create your brand?

As a former association or peak body executive, my career had been very much focused around providing opportunities for professionals to showcase their talents via speaking, writing, Awards and Board or committee work.  One of the things that puzzled me was that I would call for papers for our conference speaker panels, and 10 men would put up their hand, and only one woman. I’d call for Award nominations and women would be busy nominating their junior staff, and then be too worn out (possibly code for “I don’t really think I’m good enough” or imposter syndrome) to have the energy to nominate themselves. When I checked in with the men who had nominated, frequently someone else had written their nomination, they had asked the communications or marketing team for help.  These types of scenarios played out time and time again and I could see a real trend. The men were far more comfortable taking advantage of the opportunities to showcase their talents industry wide, and the women far less confident, so they didn’t.   As I was about to resign my role I had my “aha” moment, that this was work that would truly inspire me. To help women see themselves differently in order that they could be seen.  Hence my brand!

Your dreams don’t work unless you do. How do you stay focused?

I’m very focused on my purpose and mission.  Purpose is one of the key pillars of self-promotion. Not only does it women in particular to depress the Modesty Norm enabling us to self-promote more effectively, but it also helps us to get out of the comfort zone and tackle challenges with far more ease.  My mission is to help women to play a much bigger game – change the world if you will – and do so with big ideas, big vision and big, audacious bucket loads of confidence.

This really lights my fire, and it’s always good to remember that you can’t help people if they don’t know about you!  I love receiving emails from clients. In June of 2019, I was working to help her to win her bosses job. Her boss had resigned unexpectedly, and she needed to build a business case to the head office to show them that not only was she interested, but she would be a slam dunk in the role. We role played, we created her pitch and business case and her plan of attack. I’m delighted to announce that she not only won her bosses job, but it came with a whopping $90K increase in salary. Suffice  to say she absolutely loves me, and this is one of the reasons I love what I do.

Three quick tricks for focus?  I find if I lift heavy weights in the morning, my focus and drive is great for a few hours after. I’m guessing it’s a bit of a testosterone boost. Another trick? I have cold showers (well I finish the shower cold). This is just like a shot of coffee and surprisingly doable even in the cold weather. My third?  I use the Pomodoro technique – 25 mins on and 5 mins off.  I’m totally amazed at how well this works.  Not only am I  able to get more work done, but I find the quality is better too.

What’s been your biggest achievement to date?

I live vicariously through my clients to some extent. You read before about my client winning her bosses job with a juicy new salary, but this is normal for me. In the last 12 months many of my clients have won national awards, had articles picked up by industry and or international publications, win juicy new roles with big salary increases, learn to negotiate for the first time, double their salary, speak on conference panels and take board positions.  My business keeps reinventing and evolving as my client needs grows and this in itself is a huge achievement.

In terms of things I didn’t really know I’d be able to achieve, I’ve just finished writing my 2ndbook (From Invisible to Invincible: a self promotion handbook for executive women).   I wrote my first book (Step Up, Speak Out, Take Charge: a woman’s guide for getting ahead in your career) in 2016 and vowed I’d never do it again because it was that challenging and I had a huge dose of imposter syndrome after I went to print. But, I’m pleased to say my 2nd book is now with the publisher now and due out late August. Once again, I can’t help more women realise their dreams, if I hide my own light under a bushel.  It has been a mammoth effort and I am very proud.

Who are your main sources of inspiration?

I couldn’t tackle this infopreneur journey on my own. I surround myself with experts and role models via Thought Leader Business School in Australia. This means I always have someone to ask, someone to admire or aspire to, and inspiration on a really wide range of topics from a wide range of authors or thinkers.

I also have three female leaders who are my role models at the moment:

  • Jacinda Arden, NZ Prime Minister – She is challenging the stereotype for great leadership at every level and rewriting the rule book for what leadership really looks like. Compassionate, feminine, inclusive and caring. The world will not be the same again because of her.
  • Christine Lagarde, Chair of the International Monetary Fund – Not only is she leading globally in a stereotypically man’s world, but she is not afraid to challenge the status quo, to call out bad practice when she sees it. I admire her very much.
  • Indra Nooyi – Now on the board of Amazon, but best known for her role as CEO of Pepsico. Her story about not fitting the stereotype but leading anyway is very inspiring. Besides, she is also really short, and I love the idea that short women can lead successfully too (yes I’m short!)

“We cannot see” is a great catch cry. But has it become a self-fulfilling prophecy? I love stories about women who lead despite not fitting the stereotype, despite challenge of masculine dominated industries or disciplines, despite not being perceived as a typical leader.  This reminds me that we just need a vision, a sense of purpose, along with drive, a good plan and a healthy dose of confidence, and we can all achieve pretty much whatever we set out to achieve.

What advice would you give to women starting out on their own?

Research tells us that when women start out in their own business or consultancy, they really only aim to replace their salary.  We aim much lower than men. But, that should really just be your starting point.  My suggestion would be to pick a number you’d like to earn, then double it and add 20%! That’s your new financial goal. And you’ll tackle your business differently from the get go as a result of this new goal. When you have your own business it’s tough going. We often pay ourselves last, under pay ourselves and don’t invest in our own financial future as we should. This can leave us under resourced, feeling like it’s hard yakka all the time and wondering if it’s all worthwhile. So, aim higher so you don’t short change yourself by accident, and enable yourself to live the life you truly deserve.

Tell us more about The Ambition Revolution program.

Some people think that women aren’t as ambitious as men. And I call bullsh*t on that. It simply isn’t true. It’s just that we measure ambition differently.  While men tend to correlate success and ambition with financial gain (“I get a promotion, it comes with a pay rise, therefore I am successful”) women see it differently. For women, while we value the money, we also want to know that our opinion is valued and that we’re actually making a difference. I call this the feminine ambition trifecta. If we don’t feel like we’re being heard, or making a difference we’re far more likely to “lean out” or to pick up our bat and ball and go elsewhere despite the money.  Ambition is not a pejorative term or an insult. It’s okay for women to own the word ambition and it not be perceived as negative. Finding the balance between never giving up and always letting go, between the comfort zone and where the magic happens – this is the dance!  So I help women to find the balance between their drive and their doubt, between their dreams and their fears, between their ambitions and the negative stereotypes that abound about ambitious women, so they can achieve their big goals far more easily.

You’re a mentor, a speaker and a coach. How do you find balance in your demanding and dynamic roles?

Several years ago my sister became ill.It was at a time where I was considering where to live, so I relocated cities to be near her. Over time she became even more ill, and I was the only family member living in the same city so became her primary emotional support. What I learned the hard way was that if I didn’t look after myself, I could not be there physically or emotionally for her.

This is a lesson that applies across every area of our life.  At some stage, we all need to learn to put boundaries around borrowing from the personal to pay for the professional.

How do I do this? I have a focus towards self-care with regular exercise for the body, yoga and meditation for the mind, discipline around healthy eating habits and practices are my go to and truly help me find the balance so that I can be there for my clients, yet still feed my own soul and inspiration for the long term.

Women bring a lot to the table! How do you build confidence and self-confidence?

Research tells us that women tend to tackle work in a compliant, conscientious and considerate manner. But in a world that confuses confidence with competence, we got the wrong memo! The trick to getting ahead is to remember that people who appear confident are the people we believe to be great at their work, until they prove differently, and even then we are more likely to give a confident person the benefit of the doubt.  I’m a big believer that women need a healthy dose of “delusional self-belief” to counter balance lower self-confidence. And how do we get that? We picture ourselves on our best day, when we’re feeling amazing with what we’ve achieved and our confidence is at an all-time high. We then need to ask ourselves, “how would my most amazing confident and high achieving version of myself tackle this project?” And do it that way.  Imagine what they world would be like if we all did this?

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

“You are your own worst enemy. You need to get out of your own way.” Girl, this is hard to hear.  What does this mean? You might be great at your job, but it will be your own beliefs, biases and baggage that will create blind spots, friction points and keep you from being even better. Not someone else. Yourself.  Put systems in place to help you get out of your own way more easily.

Self-love is the lifeblood of health and happiness. Describe yourself in 3 words.

Laughter. Love. Drive.

What’s your mantra?

I am safe, I am worthy, I am strong and I am enough.

Connect with Amanda:
@amanda.blesing
https://www.amandablesing.com/

Sunday Spotlight: Meet Creator of Keep It Bright, Zara!

There’s power in celebrating and embracing your own story. It’s your glow.

Happy Sunday ladies! I hope you’re having a lovely day with your loved ones, and taking some much-needed time to refuel and reflect before the start of a brand new week.

I have a special guest who’s excited to share her story with you all today. So, is the kettle boiled? Biccies at the ready? Fabulous! Let’s get started. Girls, meet the creator of Keep It Bright, Zara Khalique!

Zara+Khalique+3 Keep it bright

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Zara Khalique, I’m 28 and from Manchester. I’m the creator of all things Keep It Bright: the positive lifestyle brand that I started 12 years ago from the comfort of my bedroom. I write books, design and create clothing and home-wear that carry some of my favourite reminders.

What are your main sources of inspiration?

For my work, I’m inspired by my own journey; my struggles, the things I want to change in the world – injustices.

Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande and Miranda Kerr follow you! Your message and brightness is reaching the masses…

And I’m so glad because EVERYONE, no matter how successful or wealthy, needs positive thoughts, and to create a healthy mindset for themselves to live happily.

What’s been your biggest accomplishment in your career to date?

I guess the biggest would be Ariana and Miley choosing to wear my clothes so much, and also just helping thousands of people make their relationships with themselves better. Nothing beats that for me.

What inspired you to set-up KIB?

I started KIB because positive thinking changed and saved my life. When I saw first-hand how powerful thoughts are, I had to share that with others and try help them too!

You recently started hosting The KIB Club across different cities. Tell us more – what do you hope people takeaway from the event?

I’ve been loving hosting the KIB Clubs, as I wanted to give back to my followers by giving them a chance to meet me in person and ask for any advice they wanted in any areas of their life, one-on-one; to help them decide what it is they want and how they can take the steps towards those things in my mini workshops, and also to give them a chance to meet some local like-minded people – as all my followers are so lovely!

What’s your personal mission statement?

My mission is to uplift, inspire and empower. I want to help everyone to treat themselves  better and become their own best friend, which will ultimately bring them inner peace and in turn aid them to treat others better and create more peace in the world.

What top tip would you give to budding lifestyle bloggers?

I think the tip I’d give to anyone is to just keep it real, speak from your own experiences. People want authenticity!

Are there any tips you’d give to aspiring podcasters?

To just start! When I recorded my first podcast, I’d never even listened to one! You don’t have to be perfect to start. There is no ‘perfect’!

Positive mind. Positive vibes. Positive life. How do you maintain a positive mindset, even on your worst days?

On my worst days, I do my best to just look after myself and just give myself whatever I can to help me get through the day as well as I can. I also remind myself that every challenge and struggle holds within it an opportunity for change or growth, or a bless in disguise.

Who’s your role model?

To be honest, I don’t really have one! I have people who have inspired me with some of their actions along the journey, like my mum, for raising us by herself in very difficult situations. But, I’ve definitely had to be my own hero and save myself and others for the most part of my adult years. I’m proud of myself for that.

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Determined, strong and fiery.

What’s your go-to mantra?

It depends on the situation, but ‘trust the timing of your life’ is my fave!

List your top 5 Instagram accounts –

Apart from my own (@keepitbright), these are some good go-tos:

@thetruthword
@_theotherbox
@spiritualthoughts
@alex_elle
@positivelypresent

Connect with Zara:
@keepitbright
@zarakhalique
@brightsidepodcast
@zarakhaliquehome
keepitbright.co.uk