This is why a life less ordinary matters isn’t it?

 

So you know how I am always spectacularly late to the loveliest of parties because I live in a bubble and very rarely pop my head out? Well yes: I am still that way. Still oblivious to the wonderful until it comes along and joy slaps me around the chops.

So it was with Bella Grace. Oh my goodness Bella Grace: a magazine that I do believe only my very own soul could have devised. Only it seems there is a world full of sister souls out there I have been very terrible at instructing the universe to introduce me too…

 

bella grace 2

Bella Grace is a special, 160-page publication devoted to discovering magic in the ordinary. It’s not just a magazine, it’s a movement. For anyone who is tired of trying to fit ill-considered standards of what beauty is supposed to look like or reaching for unattainable ideals – Bella Grace gives you permission to just go ahead and toss them. Embrace imperfection. Celebrate your messy life. Shine a spotlight on small, everyday moments – they are special, and they are yours. If you are looking for the most creative, inspirational women’s magazine available today, we hope you will join us in celebrating life’s beautiful journey.

Bella Grace comes from Stampington & Company and like all magazines from their gorgeous stable, it is not only a feast for the eyes but is also filled with authentic, creative words that really do speak to those of us with messy hearts.

 

 

I want to write for them. Heck I want to move in with them. To live inside the pages of a magazine that says it just mighty fine and doodle dandy to be yourself. To seek joy in teeny tiny graces. To live a Brocante life: a life less ordinary. A raw, true life that acknowledges the little stuff that honestly matters.

And so this weekend I am going to download the first issue to my Kindle and as I set off to Oxford for the weekend so that we can as a family set about creating our new business and enjoy each others much missed company, I will accompany these pleasures with words that remind me who I am and more… why I am.

I will be back on Monday and I wish you the loveliest of weekends in the meantime.x

Network marketing is a conundrum isn’t it? A cloak and dagger business renowned for selling overpriced nonsense to excitable housewives while not really being about said products at all, but ultimately about selling a lifestyle based on persuading others to sell a lifestyle to their own others. And on and on it goes…

There now. I have summed it up for all of us. And in that one paragraph lies the very reason why I stopped working with Doterra, despite the fact that I truly believe that they create some of the finest essential oils on the market.

For starters. I just couldn’t cope with the very first rule of marketing those oils: that here on the internets we do not talk about Doterra. We do not link to them in blog posts praising their rather incredible peppermint oil. Or say that their lavender oil is quite the purest we have ever experienced. We can’t say that.

We have to say pssssstttt…come here. I know this great lavender oil but you have got to give me your email address so that I can tell you what it is and why it is so great and you mustn’t tell anyone else unless you tell them in secret too or else the FDA will come out all guns blazing and close the entire company down and in fact only those who are already making megabucks with Doterra will be permitted to talk about it because the rest of us cannot be trusted not to make spurious claims. Email address please??

Oooh I feel better getting that off my chest. For yes though I must confess to being uncomfortable with a company the FDA are apparently “uncomfortable” about, I truly LOVE Doterra regardless. In fact I cannot imagine never using their On Guard products again simply because during an entire Winter usually hounded by coughs and colds, not one person in my family has had to endure anything more than the merest of sniffles, so enveloped are we in a kind of fierce aromatic bubble.

I love Doterra but I cannot be a part of marketing their products because I cannot authentically market them to you without looking like I am trying to deal drugs, or persuade you to give up your career in favor of joining my cult. I want to be able to say this lavender oil is the best on the market, here’s the link, please buy it if you think it will serve you and I am happy to tell you more about these products I truly believe in if you are interested.

I want to be able to accompany posts about Doterra with images of their products, but that is not permitted. Here on Brocantehome I could not post an image of anything Doterra related. Can’t even pop up a snap of a Doterra product in my own home. And it makes me uncomfortable.

You see that is ALL I wanted to do when I first joined Doterra. Have a range of products that supported the lifestyle I describe here at BrocanteHome. Products that would both provide a small income towards my efforts to keep the site online and ultimately products I could authentically recommend without feeling like a sleazy saleswoman trying to get you to part with all your worldy goods. While the promises made within the network marketing industry as a whole might be inviting, achieving high sales all to often requires the selling of your soul to persuade others to play by the same rules, and that is fine until you happen across rules you do not believe in and cannot authentically sell on.

I have never been about relentless sales here on BrocanteHome. I  want you to understand that I only recommend those things that have truly made a difference in my life. The things I really love and use everyday. I want to show you those things, and not have to insist that you buy that information with an email address.

This then is ultimately about trust. When I say I LOVE something I want you to trust me enough to know that I really do LOVE it. I want my recommendations to feel like an ordinary part of the conversation here on the site and I want those recommendations to feel like those made by your best friend, so you can take them or leave them safe in the knowledge that I recommend them from the place of authority that is having personal experience of those products without trying to force them down your throat. Because a best friend wouldn’t do that and she definitely wouldn’t declare Frankincense oil to be a cure for breast cancer or a million other ills – which is above all else what Doterra fear most: their representatives making ludicrous claims about their products online.

But here in lies the rub. Those of us online may not be making such grandiose and frankly occasionally preposterous claims about the powers of essential oils, but offline in the course of emails and Skype conversations those very same claims Doterra so fear and the FDA are looking to eliminate exist and are frequently repeated among the chattering marketing classes. The tumor in the jar drawn out from the breast by the power of Frankincense alone may be the stuff that urban legends are made of but it is a claim I have heard more than once and one I want no part of.

Doterra understandably cannot legislate against conversation so they have brought down the heavy guns on small bloggers (though not upon those who are the Diamond Leaders in the industry with blogs of their own): making it possible to make whatever claims one wants once an email address has been acquired, or indeed to make similar claims on social networks because media like that is transient and apparently without influence, but not possible to market those same products on anything with the permanence of a blog post. For me that makes working with Doterra impossible because I do not want to have to manipulate my readers but would rather now say, by all means buy Doterra products because they truly are worth the investment, but I can no longer ask you to buy them here because marketing like this simply doesn’t sit well with me. Doterra wellness advocates are all over Pinterest and I know you will be able to find an alternative advocate.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I wanted you to understand why I have stopped marketing Doterra here on BrocanteHome and indeed why I am choosing instead to work with Modere to support BrocanteHome financially.

Like Doterra, Modere is a network marketing company. But it is one with a crucial difference: there is no obligation to become a “wholesale” member. I will never ask you to commit to spending upwards of £100.00 a month to be able to recommend those products to anyone else and you can spend as little or as much as you like and I will not pop up reminding you to place an order on a monthly basis!

I have chosen Modere because their Laundry powder is the best I have ever used and as we integrate more of the Modere range in to our daily lives and experience the benefits of #LiveClean in every aspect of our homemaking and well- being I become more certain that this is the company I am happy to hang my Brocante hat on because I know for sure that I am recommending products that really are beneficial to the Brocante way of life.

Finally I want to say thank-you to all those of you who were part of my Doterra journey and of course to those of you already enjoying the benefits of Living Clean with Modere. Without your loyalty and trust in me and the products I recommend here, Brocantehome would not be financially viable and I am so grateful to your ongoing trust in me personally. It is an uncomfortable truth that blogs are businesses and that as the years go by they are becoming harder and harder to monetise sufficiently. Thus offering Modere products to you my lovely readers is both part of committing to this lovely lifestyle I have created and ensuring the future of a blog I know we all adore.

Tomorrow I will explain in more detail about why I believe so very strongly in Modere and it’s business model and I hope you will join me again then.

Have a lovely day Housekeepers.x 

Did you ever experience what you know to be a turning point in your life? A pivotal moment when the future felt different and hope burst in your veins and did a little happy dance in your chest?

So it is in my world. As you know so very much has changed here in the past twelve months with Mum’s sudden death the catalyst for the kind of change none of us could have predicted, or perhaps even dreamed of before it. I have moved house. Re-invented Brocantehome (with a heap of hard work and many, many tears of sheer frustration!). Met Ste. Created a lovely business with him. Taken Finn out of the school I thought would shape him. Become a Step-Mum to Stevie.

IMG_5041

 

Dad has closed down his business and upped sticks to move in with my sister in Oxford and that lovely sister is currently re-assessing her high-flying, exhausting career. Needing change. Starting a hat business. (Follow her fledgling Twitter account here). Everything, absolutely everything is different. And for a while it felt disparate. I felt isolated. Up here in the North, while they are down there in the sunny south.

vintage mirror

 

And then this weekend they arrived with AN IDEA. We could they said, bring Brocantehome alive. Give it physical form. Gather our own collections of vintage loveliness and sell it in one of the gorgeous vintage shops to be found in and around Oxford like The Old Pill Factory or The Old Flight House. There is talk of a Vintage Fair on the grounds of the breathtaking cricket club Helen’s husband runs. Dad would, in a throwback to the ten years we spent running a furniture business together, restore furniture he would gather on trips over to France to see friends. Helen would seek suppliers for a range of the velvet cushions we have both long dreamed of making in navy, ochre, cranberry and olive green velvet with pale gold fringing and greying lace trim.  Then I would put the name of my company to theirs and a business would be born.

IMG_1656

 

And so we went shopping. Beautiful things were bought. Sample cushions created. Enquiries made. For in this family when we decide to do a thing, we do it, bringing to the party a range of disparate skills and experience that together represent beautiful possibility. It is of course early days. There is much muchiness to be discussed, designed, arranged. But suddenly this Brocante bird of mine has wings. And I do believe we can make her fly.

teacups

Stay tuned won’t you? As we piece together our first collection I will of course share it here first with those of you who knew BrocanteHome when it was but the merest flutter of my own frippery and fancy…

Tools and Routines For Bloggers Who Keep House

I think you all know that I am something of a Lady Geek. In fact let it be known that this is the name I wish to go by from now on. I am geeky and proud.

Which is why the mechanics of blogging have fascinated me as much as the way it enables me to both write and create this lovely community. In fact (whisper it) sometimes I love the mechanics of blogging MORE than I love the writing part simply because picking a new plugin or adding a fancy banner takes less out of me emotionally than truth-telling ever will!

And so allow me to introduce The BrocanteHome Kitchen Table: a new section on the blog designed to both help you create a blog of your own and indulge my rather out of control love of the tools, apps and deliciously useful add-ons we can all use to make life as bloggers less ordinary, easier…

 

There are four parts to the Kitchen Table…

  1. The Kitchen Table Directory:  a list of over three hundred (and counting!) tools and apps for all your blogging needs divided in to 42 categories, with everything from Etsy tools to stock images and blog monetisation included (the blog income reports are fascinating!)…
  2. The Kitchen Table Facebook Group: a place where we can meet daily, share our blogs and blogging tips, discover useful tools and discuss how we can incorporate blogging as a means of marking memories, into a life already full with family, homemaking and careers. 
  3. The “Recipe Book”: A weekly newsletter with all the tips and tools I have discovered that week, sharing them with you so we can all learn together and grow blogs that sparkle with personality. Sign up at the bottom of this page…
  4. And finally interviews with bloggers just like us: women trying to do it all and do it with the same dedication to creating a really beautiful, meaningful way of life as they have always had. Wanna be featured? Fill in the Contact Page here and I will be in touch…

Best of all? It’s FREE! So do get involved if you have a blog won’t you? It would be so lovely to have you at my Kitchen Table…

 

So What Does This Mean For BrocanteHome?

Is BrocanteHome changing? Yes and absolutely, NO! Creating a sanctuary for our authentic selves will always, always be my raison d’etre but the blogging landscape and indeed my audience has changed and as a part of my site I simply want to reflect those changes. To acknowledge that more and more of us are pulling up chairs to our own kitchen tables and trying to create blogs businesses that encapsulate our creativity. I want to acknowledge that having a creative life we share with all those with the same interests is a big part of many of the lives of the women who read BrocanteHome and I want to share the routines, rituals and tools that have helped me keep a roof over my head in the ten years after I became a Single Mum. To empower you to do the same…

The Kitchen Table is in fact just one of a number of new ideas I have for Brocantehome now that I have crawled out from under my shell and I am finally ready to embrace my authenticity again, without hiding behind this virtual wall. I want to open up the conversation with webinars and podcasts… to get to know you all. To chat with you in my Facebook groups, and to really hear what it is you are struggling with and how I can help.

So moving forward I want you to look forward to the rejuvenation of the Housekeepers Circle. The new Brocante Living Room that will be arriving in the next few weeks. More about why I am choosing to #Live Clean. A new post schedule, a book club my lovely Mimi will be overseeing and later in the year new books.

There will be things disappearing altogether because they no longer serve me, or bring anything to the site. Other things re-invented for a better BrocanteHome.  So yep there are going to changes but I rather suspect you are going to like them and hopefully the old frustrations of working with a very muddled me will vanish now that I have the support of a team behind me…

This then is Lady Geek signing off: do go have a nice day and I will look forward to chatting to you soon… 


Swear words

It is not very often that one gets to see swear words and beautiful pattern combined successfully, but I do think that in this instance, Ruby Ridge has managed it magnificently, mostly I think because I so very much appreciate the sentiment right now and need to get on with doing that very thing…

Today on the Vintage Housekeeper’s Forum I read that my new assistant was wearing a new hat, and in my befuddlement I actually thought she was about to reveal herself showing off a darling velvet cloche, or a daring tweed trilby, when actually she was of course just sharing her new role here on BrocanteHome with our lovely Vintage Housekeepers.

But it got me thinking: perhaps we could all use a little more symbolism in our lives. 

Maybe Mimi needs a new hat in celebration of her new role and I need a poster like the one above to remind me to get my bottom moving and make sh** happen! I am the sort of person you see that needs reminding to do just that, or else I am prone to leaning back, nibbling pineapple creams (not recommended if you were wondering) and watching in horror, while sh** happens to me. Which is clearly not what we want at all.

So yes. I am in search of symbols, (or outright bossy get it it sorted dictates!) and a browse around Ruby Ridge Studios, brought to my attention a whole host of gently persuasive reminders I need in my life now…

ruby ridge studios2

First up this mug. Because all of a sudden I am a boss, and though I have bossed before I do believe I have quite forgotten how!

ruby ridge studios3

Then this printable graphic… Oh Darlings, lets be adventurers. For Ste and I have resolved to throw all caution to the wind and live life a little fiercer than either of us previously have and this charming little image might just be the catalyst we need to get and be adventurers. Or else we will buy bikes and he can do his best to teach me how to ride!

ruby ridge studios 4

And finally, Be Brave. For life has taught me recently, that next to kindness, bravery is the trait that can see us through all manner of trauma and calamity and I want to remind myself daily, that being brave can help me walk through a storm and come out the other side with dignity and strength.

Symbols? Pah! I’m all about words aren’t I?

But I am going to insist on Mimi getting herself a new hat.


Entrepreneurial Housekeeper

This is the second of three guest posts from Ilinca at Nugget. Read the first post here

A brief guideline about how to start a business in your own home by doing what you love the most: creating homemade & handmade treasure

Can a housekeeper become a business-keeper without losing her vintage charm?

When we say “business” out loud, the very first image that comes in our head may be: a classy man wearing a perfect suit, with intimidating self-confidence…

Fortunately, the reality says that this is just another old fashioned cliche. The “men’s world” is no longer relevant nowadays. Women are no longer accessories for strong men. They have already proved that they are strong personalities and they know that their imagination and ingenuity can be turned into profitable businesses, without losing their vintage charm! 

So take a seat in a comfortable chair and allow me to describe your story as a future Entrepreneurial Vintage Housekeeper.

And, because it’s all about the story, I’ll try to tell the old-fashioned way… 

Once upon a time…

You  used to stay in your own home, putting all your love and imagination in to a creating a range of home-made treasure. Handmade goods that brought surprise and joy to the people that you gave these as small presents. Your work, your creativity and the hours you’ve spent have been paid back every time with priceless gratitude and compliments for all your hard work.

Sometimes you looked for inspiration on the internet. You  researched the ideas you were planning to bring to life at the kitchen table, and soon realized that plenty of handmade goods like yours sold well as long they were placed in the right spot on-line and described by the right words.

At that moment you dared to ask yourself:

“What if I create my own on-line shop for my handmade goods?”.

And you were on the road to making your dreams come true.

turn-you-hobby-into-a-profitable-business-the-handmade-entrepreneur-by-dani-marie-20-1024

Chapter 1: The Exposition of your new brand

All your beautiful handmade goods have familiar names. Earrings, pillow, jewelry box, bracelet, curtain… Everybody knows what to call them.

But your handmade goods were born and raised in the same family. Under one big umbrella. And now it’s time to give this “umbrella” a name. A good one. A name that will beautifully reflect your style, your moods, your dreams and your story. The tricky part is that this name has also to be unique & catchy in order to sell well.

It may take you several hours or even days until you reach a satisfactory result. But, trust me: it is worth every minute spent. This will be, after all, your name in the internet world, for always…

As Dani Marie says it in her book  – The Handmade Entrepreneur:

“Your shop’s name is the foundation for everything”

I’ll go further with some great advice for finding a good name for your shop coming from  Dani Marie:

 

  • “Try to find a name that really embodies your shop’s vibe.”

 

  • “If it’s possible, try to describe what you make as well”. For example, if you sell hats choose a name like “MegansMadHats”. A name like this will help your customers understand from the start what your business is all about. Another great benefit will be that this will help you later “rank your shop’s page on Google, Etsy or other platform”.
  • “Before you settle on a name, check the various social media websites to make sure that the name is available. Save your time for a complex research like this by using the Knowem tool. This will check over 500 sources to see if anyone else is using the name.

Great name + beautiful handmade goods – means that you are one step ahead from building a brand. And the branding part is not optional. It is a MUST.

As Dani Marie says: “You have to sell yourself along with the products and that includes forming a memorable brand identity.

It may be difficult for you to create a great design according with your name. Don’t waste time on trying this on your own. Great visual identity sells well and the investment for a great design probably won’t be as big as you imagine.

So, use a professional to do some graphics for you. With less than $30 you can “get a logo as well as graphics designed specifically for each of the popular social media sites”.

sellers story

Chapter 2: Select your platform for your on-line shop

It’s time to select the platform for your on-line shop. The natural question that comes into your mind is: “Where should I set up my shop?”.

Good question. Multiple answers. I’ve selected some useful platforms names from The Handmade Entrepreneur:

  • Etsy “is the most popular choice for crafters” and  “still gets the most amount of buyer traffic”. “To list items on Etsy you pay a small fee per item that you list (currently $ 0,20 ) and then Etsy withholds  3,5% of your earnings to cover the transaction fee.”

 

  • Inselly is owned by Instagram and they don’t charge you to list your products. Inselly may not generate as much buyer traffic as Etsy, but do have plenty of advantages over it, starting with the previous one first presented. If you choose to list your items here, keep in mind that you will have to use PayPal as your transaction service.
  • Handmadeartist.com “is exclusively for handmade products and no wholesale items from overseas are allowed”. They also do not charge a fee to post your items but you will have to pay a monthly membership fee to use their service.

 

It may seem like tricky choice but it isn’t. There is no bad answer. In fact, the truth is that websites come and go. In the end, “If you build a good foundation for your business, then it will not matter where you set up shop.”

etsy mention

Chapter 3: Advertising your handmade goods

Starting a business like this is a great adventure. It is like you’ve bought a ticket to an unknown destination. For a while the pilot leads the plane over the clouds and suddenly it is announced that you need to take control of it. You’ve never been a pilot before – that’s for sure. And now it’s up to you whether the flight is smooth, or the plane falls out the sky.

You see knowing how to advertise your business is like keeping your plane flying over dark clouds.

  • Free advertising. Everybody wants free advertising. Not many know how to really do it. I’ll give you some tips pulled from the same book I’ve mentioned all the time – The Handmade Entrepreneur:
  • Listing sites: “No matter where you sell, some websites listing allow you to post your products and your shop link for free.”
      • Use Pinterest as a free tool to promote your business and your products “When people tell me that marketing is just too overwhelming for them, I send them to Pinterest.”
  • Join Facebook Groups “To promote products you want to look for groups with interests related to your shop”
  • Paid advertising. There are plenty of ways to advertise your business online. The tricky part is that you have to select only the best ones. Nobody knows your business better than you. So, I won’t make any definite rules but I dare give you some suggestions:
  • Facebook Ads: I won’t tell you step by step how to do it. But in Dani Marie’s book I found 4 important rules that you have to obey if you want to get the most out of Facebook ads:
  • “Choose four nice images that all look good together.”
  • “For the text, try to intrigue people without being too wordy.”
  • “Optimize your ad according to your audience.”
  • “Target the kind of people who would most likely be interested in your product.”
  • Forum ads: Take a look at this tip: look for smaller forum groups filled with people interested on your products. Ask the admin how much the banner ads cost. Usually forums like this are less expensive and have more impact.
  • Local ads: Reasonable prices for posting ad banners and a target closer to your home. Can you ask for more? Local magazines and newspapers with websites may be a real treasure for your business.
  • Listing sites: Some listing sites offer the opportunity to advertise your products and your shop for free. The same sites have also the option of paid listing. The paid option comes with the main offer of placing you on the first page or special advertising space. In my previous article I’ve already mentioned two of these kind of sites. Extended info may be found, of course, in Dani Marie’s book.

 

hand

 

Chapter 4: The happy dénouement of a Vintage Housekeepers’ Business

The story goes on. You are now addicted to this entrepreneurial challenge! But you do wonder to what degree building this business will impact upon your daily schedule?

You really don’t need to. Time is now ticking in a very special way. You treasure every moment now because each one is dedicated to creating the life you want. And so you do not want to neglect, forget or abandon anything that you’ve learnt so far.

Don’t not worry about it.  I will be back soon with 20 magic days carefully scheduled for a great start as a vintage housekeeper in the entrepreneurial world, and everything I have taught you so far will be included in my timetable.

Until then, you may want to read the book summary and get the free eBook with 100 nuggets from The Handmade Entrepreneur,  and you can do so here.

Ilinca is Content director at nugget.

nugget is a highly visual app that helps you discover, remember and share the best content of books that make you better.


Sam Mckhenie

Sam Mckhenie

…..has the knack of making the kind of pretty loveliness that has spawned a thousand copycats quite unable to capture the kind of je ne sais quoi only real artists possess…

The Magpie and the Wardrobe

Now at the risk of admitting to reading The Mail on Sunday and plummeting swiftly down in your estimations, today I am coming out loud and proud and declaring myself a long-time admirer of You magazine, precisely because it so very prominently continues to feature women like Sam who have combined a blissful aesthetic with excellence in business and in the process delight us all with sneak peaks in to their home…

magpie and the wardrobe 2

And oh what a home! As purveyor of  Magpie and the Wardrobe, Sam having wonderfully eccentric, twinkly taste was an absolute given and her love of  all that is worn and old shines through in every gorgeous pic in You magazine today…

the magpie and the wardrobe 3

I mean look! Velvet and dogs! Tapestries and portraits. I love. So very much. It looks to be exactly the kind of home where standing on ceremony is expressly not allowed and getting snuggled up with blankets and fringed cushions almost insisted upon. In short the kind of home us Brocanteers would not be able to resist truly living in.

magpie and the wardrobe 4

I mean parma violet walls and twigs strung from the ceilng for heavens sake? Go swoon for yourself over at You.

the magpie and the wardrobe book

Oooh and P.S: there’s a book too!! Amazon.Co.uk/Amazon.Com