Anecdote is a year old now, so perhaps it’s time to sit back and take stock.
Everyone told me that starting your own business wasn’t easy, and they weren’t wrong. On hearing the news of my departure from the world of employment, one of my oldest and closest friends said: “Well, be prepared to be a salesman for the next year or two, and not a writer.”
I, of course, pooh-poohed him. And, equally predictably, I was completely wrong to do so. I never expected work just to fall into our laps but, equally, I didn’t expect it to be as hard to find paying work as it has been.
One thing I didn’t appreciate the importance of is networking. For the first few months, we talked to people, of course, but we didn’t get to networking events and business clubs. Partly, this is because of my natural lack of confidence. Networking is something I actually find pretty hard. Putting myself out there and blowing my own trumpet has never been something I’m entirely comfortable with. (I know there are lots of people out there who will find that difficult to believe.)
But I have to say that, once I’d taken the plunge, I realised just how vital it is. Perhaps more importantly, I actually found out how much fun it is. Over the past few months I’ve met some wonderful people around Market Harborough and Leicestershire, all of whom have been more than happy to help a newbie finding his feet in the world of business.
In particular, through meetings with Working Breakfast and Connect Market Harborough, I’ve come across a host of fabulous people. They’ve been on hand to give me lots of advice, to lend a sympathetic ear when necessary and to point me in the direction of people who will actually pay for my services.
Some of them have even decided to get me to do some work for themselves. Not least the wonderful Barbara Armstrong of Pthree Business, who has been a great help. The marvellous Dave Hall of DH Small Business Help has also been fantastic. Dave’s pushed my business to everyone he knows and has always been there with a word of advice and support when needed.
I’ve also spent a very happy year at Harborough Innovation Centre. Originally, I’d intended to work from home, but my business partner David Sawford suggested I get a space in the shared office at the centre, and I’m extremely glad he did. Getting the contract to write the centre’s monthly newsletter was even better, as it gave me the opportunity to get out there and meet the other businesses in the centre. I’ll be eternally grateful to HIC manager Liza Menzies for giving me that chance. And everyone else in the centre team – Caroline, Keri and Beki – have been brilliant.
My biggest thanks go to David, of course, whose idea it was to set up Anecdote. It’s been hard work for little financial reward so far! But, of course, it’s been real fun and it’s great to be working for ourselves.
We think all that work is starting to pay off. The clients are beginning to come in, though there’s always room for more. We strongly believe in what we do: providing great words that really show how our clients can make their customers’ lives better. So if you know anyone who needs web copy, newsletters, video scripts – anything with words – why not point them in the direction of Anecdote UK?
The annual show – held this year at Westland nurseries in Offenham, just outside Evesham – showcased some outstanding artisan food producers. We were also treated to some fascinating demonstrations by some of the UK’s most exciting chefs, hosted by the inimitable Nigel Barden.
It’s a relatively small show, held this year in one of Westland’s greenhouses. But that was all part of the charm. We found the show the perfect size. It was easy to get around and see everyone exhibiting in one day, with enough time to have a chat and get to know the people behind the producers.
And what superb producers they were, too. On walking through the entrance, we were assailed by the delicious smell of beef, wafting from the Henson stand. We couldn’t resist a taste, obviously, and were treated to some amazing, melt-in the-mouth meat. I could’ve stayed there all day, were it not for all the other great tastes on offer.
Our next stop as we made our way along to the main stage was Barber’s, to sample some outstanding cheddar. I’m not a big fan of really mature cheeses – or cheddar itself, to be honest – but even I was won over by their hard-hitting vintage reserve cheddar. I also have to mention the rather interesting courgette flower I sampled courtesy of the guys at Farrington’s Oils, cooked in their Mellow Yellow rapeseed oil. That was a completely new experience for me.
We finally made it to the main stage in time for the day’s second presentation, Not Missing the Meat. Chefs Eddie Shepherd of Walled Gardens, Andrew Dargue from Vanilla Black and Chris Greenacre served up some great plant-based dishes, guaranteed to captivate even the most ardent meat-eater. I found Eddie’s set-up particularly interesting. Walled Gardens is an ‘underground’ restaurant in Whalley Range, Manchester, which offers a 10-course vegetarian tasting menu for just eight diners a night. I was blown away by the dishes the chefs were preparing – almost enough to make me consider going veggie. For a few seconds, at least.
The highlight for me, though, was Gareth Ward’s and Tom Beeston’s ‘Going native’ demonstration. Gareth, of Michelin-starred restaurant-with-rooms Ynyshir in Wales, and his colleague Nathan, appeared to have pretty much a full lamb with them, which they went on to serve up in the most outstanding ways. All through the demo, their passion for what they do really shone through.
The day got even more educational. We snagged ourself a place on one of the Westland tours – ours took us ‘Behind the seed’ to show us how Westland produce their top-quality micro-leaves. I also spent more than an hour in the company of the Spice Nerds from herb and spice supplier Santa Maria. The team there are on a mission to get more people, and especially chefs, thinking about where their herbs and spices come from. It was a fun and instructive session – I certainly know far more about pepper than I ever thought I’d need to – made even more memorable by the discovery we’d been locked the van at the end.
We escaped, though, just in time to catch a refreshing, gluten-free beer supplied by Green’s. The company does a great range in gluten-free, all brewed in Belgium. Among the beers on the stand they had a clean, crisp lager and their absolutely fabulous grand India pale all, which packs a real hoppy punch.
There was plenty more to enjoy of course – far more than I’ve time to note down. It was a great day that showcased some of the finest artisan food the UK has to offer. But, most importantly, it was a chance to meet some wonderful people. We can’t wait for next year.
It’s not every day you get to see a Citroen 2CV dropped off by helicopter, but this was no ordinary 2CV.
Beneath her beautiful rainbow-effect wrap, courtesy of 3M Wraps, Dolly hides a fabulous culinary secret. She’s the world’s smallest food truck. Amazingly, this tiny car can be converted in a matter of a couple of minutes into a mobile kitchen, celebrating two of France’s most influential exports – the stylish 2CV and fabulous, innovative cuisine.
Dolly was unveiled in front of a suitably impressed collection of visitors, who were also kept fed and watered by a range of fine produce suppliers, including Simply Good Food TV friends The English Drinks Company and Womersley Foods.
Andrew got his crazy idea of turning this French icon into a diminutive mobile kitchen while getting his brakes fixed in January. “There was a green 2CV sat there – Dolly – and I thought it would be fun to turn her into a food truck,” he told us.
“I asked the owner of the garage if I could just borrow her for three months without buying her, while we pitched the idea. Amazingly, of the five initial pitches, four came back saying ‘Yes, we’ll do it’, including 3M, which was the big one that hooked everybody else in.”
Surprisingly, Andrew wasn’t a long-time fan of the 2CV, nor a connoisseur of mobile cooking. “I know nothing about cars, nothing about food trucks,” he said. “We went into this completely blind, and now we’ve got to make it work!”
And it looks like Dolly is already making friends. Since her reveal, Dolly has visited the London Motor Show, she’ll soon be visiting Motor Show East in Newmarket, and you’ll be able to sample her offerings at a number of events and festivals throughout the summer. “We’ve between 10 and 12 bookings – everything from sporting to sailing,” said Andrew. “Even at this early stage she’s captured people’s imagination.”
The subject of unique selling points (USPs) came up at a networking event I went to recently. Specifically, what is a USP and what’s it for? Everyone agreed that having a USP was vital to a company.
But it’s not enough just to have a USP – you’ve got to tell people clearly what it is.
Making what you do stand out is crucial if you want your customers to choose your products or services on something other than price alone. And with markets getting more and more crowded, that’s more important than ever.
Lots of companies still don’t seem to have got that message. I took a quick tour around a few websites when I got back from the meeting and came across a number that gave no compelling reasons why a buyer would choose that company over a rival. (Don’t worry – I’m not going to name names!)
This is folly. Your website is your shop window. But you can’t just tell people what you sell and what it costs. Everyone else in your space is doing the same thing. Your website should also tell visitors what it is that you do differently and how you add value – what it is that makes you the people to go to.
It’s surprising how many people don’t seem to get this.
If you need help making your USP clear on your website, or any other of your marketing tools, contact us at email@example.com.
Thought we’d just pop a quick blog up to say Anecdote UK paid its first visit to the Commercial Vehicles Show at the NEC yesterday, and came away mightily impressed. And it was lovely bumping into some old friends from various brands.
The sheer scale of the show blew us away. Obviously, there are some very large pieces of kit that need to be squeezed in, so you need a huge venue, but the number and scale of the exhibitors was certainly beyond our expectations.
There were some fabulous stands to look at. Entering Hall 5, our attention was grabbed immediately by the Ford stand. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles were on top form (the eCrafter looks sure to be a game-changer and we loved the Camper van drinks) and there was plenty happening on the Nissan stand. We were also rather taken with the SsangYong Musso.
But for sheer drop-dead gorgeousness, the Isuzu D-Max Arctic Stealth wins hands-down. Apparently, there are just 10 of these, so our chances of our getting our hands on one are nil. Still, we can dream.
It was also great to check out some of the supplier and service companies on show. In particular, it was good to meet System Edström and check out their innovative range of van racking systems.
Anecdote UK is on a mission to help local businesses in the Market Harborough area.
The copywriting agency is offering you 60 minutes of its time, free of charge, to take a look at any of your written communications you’d like.
Using their exclusive Point of Contact Appraisal sheet, Anecdote will assess your communications, then make a recommendation. If you’d like to carry out that work, they’ll do it at a healthy discount on their usual rates.
Director Joff Brown (above right) said: “We think we can really make a difference for local businesses. Whether it’s website copy, e-newsletters, blog posts, brochures or press releases, we can help you extend your reach.”
Harborough Innovation Centre Manager Liza Menzies said: “Since Anecdote started writing our newsletter, we’ve seen a big improvement in engagement. Stories are now posted on our website, Harborough District Council is using them in various channels and also distributing our newsletter elsewhere – it’s definitely increased our exposure.”
If you’d like to take Anecdote up on the offer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07917 606305.
We got to chatting the other day about telling our story and that got us onto thinking about chance and change, how the one inevitably causes the other, and how the circles we move in often intersect in ways we hadn’t considered.
Now, this is nothing new, of course. We can all point to those forks in the road of life that have taken us down an unexpected route, but this is really where Anecdote’s story begins.
I (Joff) was unwell last year, and this led me to take a look at what was important to me. I then decided I needed a change but I wasn’t sure where I was going. I’d decided I wanted to go freelance, but I had no real idea how to go about it. Cue my wife, Hayley, mentioning my thoughts in passing to David, whom she had come to know through their mutual involvement in the Scouts.
It just so happened that David had been thinking about how some of the companies his company Pretium had worked with could do with improving their written communications. So Hayley sat us down together – we’d never really chatted much before – and we soon found that we saw things in pretty much the same way. What’s more, our skills complemented each other in a way that we felt would make for a great business. Another meeting and Anecdote was born.
The point is that we never know how the circles we move in offer us plenty of opportunities that we don’t always appreciate. One chance remark can set off a spark in someone else that leads to good things – but we never know when that moment can happen, so we need to keep our eyes and ears open. Moving in greater circles can even improve your luck, according to Professor Richard Wiseman in his book The Luck Factor.
Communication is the key to this of course. The more you communicate, the more circles you can break into – which is where Anecdote can help.
It’s early days in the life of Anecdote UK but Christmas is always a good time to reflect, so we’re going to do just that.
Six months ago, we decided it was time to start doing our thing without the aid of a safety net. Three months of setting up followed before we began trading in October.
Since then, we’ve made steady progress, picking up our first clients while laying the groundwork for what we hope will be a sustainable business.
It’s been a consciously controlled start. We don’t want to try to run before we can walk. We’re aiming to build a body of clients that we can really get to know, so the work we deliver will not only read brilliantly, but will reflect their personalities and values.
That’s what we’re about. Not just putting words out there but telling our clients’ stories, so their audiences get to know them better – who they are, where they’re from and how they do business.
So that’s where we’re looking to go next year: building our business to help our clients get more from their communications.
Meanwhile, we wish everyone out there a very merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year, and we hope to get to know more of you in 2018.
After a few weeks setting up the business, Anecdote UK emerged wide-eyed and innocent to the world this week, with our first official engagement – a trip to Food Matters Live at ExCel London.
Our friends at the California Prune Board were kind enough to invite us along for the day. And we’re glad they did, because FML really is a fascinating show. It’s a chance for manufacturers, ingredient providers, nutrition professionals, chefs and more to get together to talk about the latest issues in the industry.
As well as a great chance to make contacts in the industry, it was a fabulous opportunity to taste-test the latest recipes and ingredients. Particularly impressive – or memorable, at least – were the various alternative proteins on offer, especially the piri-piri crickets and garlic mealworm. This certainly seems to be a growing area in the industry and typified the importance placed on environmental considerations at the show.
We also enjoyed California Prunes chef ambassador Peter Sidwell’s cooking demo, took in a seminar on the economics of obesity and found out how umami enhances flavour, among other highlights too numerous to mention.
We’re looking to get out and about much more over the next few months, so keep an eye out for more blogs soon. And if you’d like to find out more about us, visit our website.