Apart from marrying Tom, the other highlight of 2015 for me was the Seven Skeins Club, and the feedback we’ve since had from many members suggest that they really enjoyed it too. Through the club, I was able to launch our newly-developed yarn (a completely new venture for me), create a new book, and have an awful lot of fun in the process. I was really happy with the success of the Seven Skeins Club, and particularly with the convivial and supportive atmosphere it generated. This atmosphere was sustained, among knitters in 36 different countries, entirely by social media.
I keep my eye on Business Women Scotland, have attended a few of their events, and am generally a big fan of what BWS do, encouraging women’s enterprise and creativity in a wide range of contexts all over the country. A few months ago, I saw that they were seeking nominations for an award for the best use of social media, so, under the aegis of the Seven Skeins Club, I decided to (ahem) nominate myself. The shortlist was announced in September, and I was very happy indeed to see I’d made it! I was also really impressed with the many innovative uses of social media among the other shortlisted businesses, which included a customer vote on favourite cups used in vending machines, and a crowdfunding campaign to acquire plying and twisting equipment for for a producer of Harris tweed yarns.
Last night Mel and I attended the incredibly stylish and highly inspirational award ceremony in Glasgow as the guests of my friends at the FSB. I love running my own small business, but it can be a rather atomised affair, and what I like most about these events is the opportunity to find out about companies that are quite different from mine, and what their owners are doing. The category winners were terrifically impressive and very varied, ranging from from an intriguing energy efficient alternative to double glazing from a company in Perth to the Edinburgh developer of scheduling software which enables seamless appointment bookings across timezones. Then I found out I’d won my category, and was completely blown away!
Last night I was asked if I’d ever used a business mentor. Officially I haven’t – in the sense that I’ve never appointed, or spoken to anyone with that title – but it occurred to me just how many excellent women have fulfilled that role for me in different ways. I have been blessed, for example, by working with accountants – Caroline Bond and Susan Gee – who are so much more than the term “accountant” could ever sugggest. At key moments in the development of my business, Caroline and Susan’s advice has been invaluable, from the time they quietly encouraged me me to acquire a franking machine (when they found out I was hoiking hundreds of parcels around the streets of Edinburgh in a shopping trolley) to helping me prepare very carefully and well in advance for the introduction of VAT MOSS (though I was their only client at that time to be affected by the new rules on digital sales). Then there are the women I work with every day. Anyone who has met or dealt with Mel is sure to be aware how completely indispensable she is. While I wildly articulate a series of unfeasible design ideas, Mel writes them all down on the back of a napkin, and calmly tells me she suspects I won’t be able to produce them all. Jen, Nic, and Felix have all encouraged me to turn corners and take new directions, and my mum (who runs her own small business) provided an inspiring example which suggested it might be possible for me to do so too.
Finally, there are all of you excellent women (and you are mostly women) without whom I would not have a context, a rich source of daily inspiration, or have won any sort of award.
Photos courtesy of excellent man Tom, from today’s walk at Bracklinn Falls.