Talking to networking buddies, I said that I needed to “get to grips with Facebook” - How would I do this? I have thought about this since and I have retained the status that I dislike Facebook as much as I love Twitter.

I then gave some thought as to which social media platform would be more suitable for my business www.so-occasion.co.uk. Which is best for promoting my business? Which brings in the most work? What should I use? What social media platforms are best for connecting? Like a security blanket, which am I most comfortable with? What scrapes and leads should I avoid? What are these lists all about?

Well, after a few weeks of pondering, talking to other social media contacts, and business advisers, I have been told that there is no need to be on every social media channel going, I just need to pick the ones that are suitable for me. I find that Twitter is more business orientated and “of the moment” and suits my purposes more than any other channel. I also like to dip into LinkedIn which is useful for professional purposes.

However, I realise that a lot of small businesses may only have their Facebook page and not an actual website as this seems to be the norm these days. So their Facebook page needs to be up to the minute, pertinent, and have all the information that is required to be found quickly and without any navigational problems.

What I do not like about Facebook is that you have to ask fellow businesses to “like” your page. I hate this. It smacks of a friend in the school yard. “Will you like me? Will you be my friend?” We do like to keep up with those we know, and I believe that this is okay as far as friends are concerned. I have friends on Facebook from my primary and secondary school days and from my early working life as well as more recent. It is good to keep up with them. I have also found Facebook to be useful to keep on top of events in my local area, if that is of interest; and for networking and group purposes.

Other possible negatives concerning Facebook is that it lays your “soul bare”, if you would let it. It shows what you are interested in, whether you like cats, dogs , wildlife, or even gardening. To me, this is something that I may not wish others to know about me. I like to leave a little bit of mystery surrounding my life and I do not tend to put many photos on the site, if I can help it. I am not a firm advocate of preening myself and showering my personal life into the public domain. But I realise that if I am to succeed in my business, I do need to talk a little bit about myself. But, for now, I shall keep this to Twitter and promote my business that way.

A fine day for a hike up a steep, breath blasting hill, that leads to Cwmdonkin Drive. No 5 was nearly at the crest, overlooking the Cwmdonkin Park that had Dylan Thomas spouting out, loud and shrill, over the red chimney pots of his 1920s’ Swansea home town.

I arrived at the gate, peeked over, re-arranged my wind-swept hair with one hand, whilst patting my chest with the other, and blowing out wind chimes that set my breathing back to a normal rhythm.

I took my time reading the info just inside the gate, as my interest had already been sparked. I had discovered Dylan in my teens but had written some text about him in my later years whilst attempting my BA degree in Trinity College, Carmarthen.

I knocked the door and quietly walked into the hallway. I heard voices. There were a couple already in the front parlour listening to the tales that I would a few minutes later, be imbibing. Geoff, the house guide, ushered me in and gave again the story to my stealing ears. I hoped to digest hunks as I explored but there were little crumbs left for my own writing. It was all for Dylan, who was born, and later scurried around in this house. His early life was hunkered about this place where he garnered the husks of his later published work. I was mesmerised by the visions he would have seen from any window he cared to look out of and from the whisperings around him; and so he created his scribbles, hidden in pages and turned over from prying eyes.

To sit in the front parlour where straight-backed aunts and uncles of Dylan’s had sat and where Dylan himself must have hovered, on the edge, behind half shut doors. In those days, parlours were for gatherings of family, perhaps when a wedding or a funeral was to be attended. I tried to imagine the Christmas of Dylan’s Story and that parlour where many tears were shed.

I ploughed upstairs to the room where Dylan was born in 1914, a large bay windowed comfortable place. From here, I wandered around the other accommodation from the cherry carpeted landing. The room that held my attention the longest, was, of course, his bedroom. What a mess! Just like, as I imagined, lots of boys’ rooms still are. Bits of paper and sweet wrappers everywhere. Crumpled notes, and the spent matches and empty cigarette packs that would show that he was no different to other boys of his generation, experimenting with that illicit habit (hidden no doubt as a boy, but on display as he became a man). The room was much as he would have left it, during his adult years with the fag-ended Players discarded into a corner. In this room he wrote his sea shaker poems and the tales of the horse-back hills in the villages of his relatives. These seeds of verse from his twenties would have been watered and eventually germinated into the writings of his later life.

The room was just as if he had stepped out; almost as if he would he be back any minute. I gathered up the information with my modest eyes, as if Dylan himself had spread it out, for me only.

All through the house, Dylan’s sense was there for me to see, in all its glory. There were the pots and the pans of the domestic, the dark knobbly keys of the Underwood typewriter, the shiny black piano where his sister practised her scales, and the wooden desk where, sitting beside her, their father would have marked the ink-blotched exercise books, one by one.

I concluded my visit by standing still and imagining the sounds and smells of Dylan’s 1920s’ Swansea and dreamed of exciting phrases that I could create, if only I had his imagination, but I left them “among the cigarette ends and the glasses.”

I was recently thrilled and privileged to be asked to host #WiREHour on the social media channel Twitter. This was an exciting first for me and I bounced with joy! Sarah of @smacdesignsUK and of @CarmarthenWiRE who usually hosts asked me if I would take over as she was unavailable that evening. A #Hour is a time allocated to connect with other businesses and @WiREUK take this as their cue to operate #WiREHour every Tuesday evening between 6 and 7 p.m. It is for ladies under the Women in Rural Enterprise umbrella to join in some business chat! What could be more fun? Some interesting conversations ensued and some good connections were made. As I have a passion for creating tweets under the character limit of 140, this was a wonderful opportunity.

Have you a passion for anything? Words and phrases, and how they link together, fascinate me and I adore creating wonderful, expressive jaunty tweets especially for small businesses.

I run my business So-Occasion from a beautiful, but shabby-chic cottage in #Dinefwr (note the #hashtag there!) and my idea of joy is creating interesting and quirky tweets suited to any business that would request my help. I gather the information required for the tweets by discussing this with the business concerned, and by looking at their website, their Facebook and Twitter pages. I sit at my desk overlooking a quiet and secluded courtyard thinking up different ways of saying the often mundane. By creating unusual phrases, these can add a dynamic slant to the business. I can also write longer pieces if this is something that is required. The tweets are created for the business but there is the opportunity to change them around or repeat them. The phrases can also be cut and pasted into any other social media strand, provided that they fit the criteria. I like to step away from less interesting words and be really expressive with adjectives that bounce off the screen! I also have a special joy for dreaming up new #hashtags.

I may be a small organisation but my heart is there for other small businesses that I may network with, or meet on my journey through #WomanInBiz #WiRE and other networking strands. My strapline is "Promotions with #zing; words with #panache."

I think my business is rare in the way that I create tweets, straplines or snippets. I love how words click together like an individually created necklace. Each word has to connect with the next!

If I hear a newbie in social media utter the words "I don't get Twitter,” my eyes light up and I really want to help. I am poetic and hope that I am an inspiration to anyone who may stumble across my words. I want to be able to make an impact on how micro businesses promote themselves and if I have helped them in any way to get their message across in a quirky and stream-lined way, then I have a happy heart. I have a lively and joyful spirit that will not be quenched.

I have an interest in monologues especially thinking about Alan Bennett's creative work. I particularly like the one voice phenomena and the fact that the speaker tells stories which keep the listener focussed and entranced. I also like the fact that monologues often have a wry or bizarre twist to the story. The bulk of the story has to captivate the listener and create an avid anticipation of what is to come. Hopefully, the theme will enhance their experience.

I like so much what Bennett says - “Your whole life is on the other side of the glass. And there is nobody watching.” (Alan Bennett). But, of course, we are all watching, avidly, wondering what is going on in other people’s lives. Isn’t that the handle of a writer? Being nosy and watching other’s antics!

It is useful to see where the characters are headed and where their stories end up. Some plots are simple but some are more complex and will confound the listener.

If there is some element of dialect in the monologue, or if the speaker is talking about another person’s conversation, this adds to the dimension. Therefore, the dialect is a useful device to relay other people’s conversations. To introduce some rhythm into the voice and variation in the tone of the speaker adds to the pleasure for the listener.

An interest in the late Victoria Wood’s work has appealed to me and I admire the fact that her voice was a strong feminine tone and spoke directly to the women in the audience.

A monologue enables the listener to keep abreast of the story as there is less movement on stage and any background noises will not distract from the monologue itself as could happen in a dialogue.

I have always been interested in monologues and I hope that you are, too.

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Imagine the world was something I could resonate with; here I sat in the Coffee Corner of the Friends’ Café in the Hay Festival imagining the thoughts of those around me. Diverse images mulling around in the minds of the gentle folk sipping their particular coffee brew. My literature and creative mind was thrilled to be observing the thinkers and the book devotees whiling away a half hour or so. There were people milling everywhere here including a presenter whom I recognised. I left him to his group perhaps discussing old and ancient objects. The eyes darting everywhere; this was one person only half listening to his friends. There was a seam of good looks about him, his face determined and as sharp as the curios he may have handled in his time.

Two young ladies sitting nearby were speaking Welsh one to another, keeping alive the language of the principality despite being close to the border of England. My daughter, a journalist; shuffling her papers and finding her notes. Is she writing a story?

What are people thinking about when they are here? A white haired elderly guy, his short, but bouncy, locks brushed neatly over his ears and with shiny white eyebrows atop his tanned face, is reading the Telegraph. It is Saturday, and so a lot of people are engrossed in reading the paper of the day, the paper of the place. Of course, it is the Daily Telegraph, what else! They have sponsored the event since 2011. He is obviously a seasoned Festival goer, as he has the Friends’ lanyard adorning his cream summer jacket. He pushes his jacket aside as he makes room for his paper. I cannot help but admire him and with his purple shirt, he is on trend for this event. I am unable to describe the lady he has with him as she has her back to me. She nods now and then, as he looks up to give her some vital news.

I am blessed by the simple things as I am sitting at this silver topped table, adorned with a flowery jug imprinted with snowdrops. In the jug, is a display of flowers of Sweet William and Gypsophila spreading their heavenly tiny petals across the table.

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A young group are chatting amongst themselves; not one is reading a newspaper. Instead, they are tuned into their iPhones or laughing at something that only they can understand. Lots of auburn plaits and fudge-coloured pony tails in this chattering gang.

An Italian football fan with his sun-drenched face is wearing a blue t-shirt that is evidently his country’s colour. He, too, is deep into the Daily Telegraph perhaps studying the teams for the up and coming EURO 2016 Football Tournament! On the edge, a lonesome guy, rucksack backed, looks around obviously scanning for someone. But no, he doesn’t see the friend and turns around. No coffee for him yet.

I spot more Friends with their tickets enclosed Kangaroo style in their laminated pouches. The newspaper is being read avidly amongst this group, passing supplements along to their friends, “Have you seen this?”

A man, grey braised, trips over the lip of the entrance, smiles and whispers to his companion. A young man stares into the distance while the energetic waiters and waitresses bustle about, collecting the fallout of the coffee liaisons. I am scratching to ask which interesting folk they have already bumped into today, but I question not!

Palm fronds reach high over dipped heads and up to the glamorous sparkled curtain that is ribboning above the coffee beakers. There is indeed a calm and inspiring atmosphere blossoming, definitely here, as well as all over the festival site.

Chatting away on his glossy, green mobile is a guy in his mid fifties. He is wearing a striped green and black shirt to match his phone. His glasses are moving around as he crinkles his face with the conversation. He is so animated that he is oblivious to what is happening, even when his coffee cools before him.

It may be a coffee meeting place, but the champagne flows here too. There is a giant bottle cooling, and the orange sloping bucket tempts the viewer to come forward. But perhaps it is too early for this tipple?

There are ladies walking by, sharp blouses peeping from under their tailored jackets. They walk in, two by two, smiling and heading straight for the baristas. I notice a navy jacket above an expensive navy chintzy shirt with creamy hearts. Her friend has a neat short jacket too, but more of a curtain fabric, sprigged with herbs, leaves and ferns trailing off into a beige background. Her hair, being bobbed, seems to match the curtained look.

Some middle aged ladies, lattes in hand, approach the table next to me, and sit down. Out comes their A4 notebooks and they begin to discuss something very important. Could they be journalists, I mused? Again, very stylishly dressed; one with a navy and white striped top with a blood red side-buttoned skirt. Her companion sports a navy cotton summer dress with black sandals.

A tall girl, in her 20s, weaves through the tables, wearing black converse shoes, red a-flared short skirt and a black long sleeved t shirt. Her brown, shiny hair sails to her waist. With her sunnies on her head, she picks up her phone to text a friend.

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My latte has been drunk, I have made my notes, and I am packing up and moving onto the next stage of my day. My listening ear will be tuned into Bryony Gordon who is a writer for the Telegraph, and she proves to be wildly enthusiastic in her presentation of her latest book “Mad Girl” and passionate about her subject. I have enjoyed my time Imagining the World in Hay.

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On a recent visit to the Wonderwool Wales Festival in Builth Wells, I was intrigued with the journey that wool takes from the sheep to the finished article, whether it was knitted, crocheted or weaved. The myriad of shades of wool and fibres, was a pleasure to behold wherever I turned in the vast halls of exhibits. I have always admired the gentleness of sheep and the way that they graze peacefully in their surroundings. This contented mood is, I believe, reflected in the woollen industry and it is easy to see why it is so therapeutic to work within.

My first “port” of call when I arrived was to Hall 3 where the azure ocean filled “Above and Below the Waves” installation had been orchestrated by Alison Murray from Devon. I loved the vibrancy of the turquoise ocean oozing with sea scuttles and boats. As I walked through, on dry land, the brilliant shades danced over the waves and the undersea rocks to change them into completely different shades. All the items on display had been knitted, crocheted, weaved or felted with love and patience by 2000 generous people to raise funds for the worthy charity RNLI.

Sarah Enoch has a heart for the Felting Workshops that she runs under her banner of www.calonwlanfelt.co.uk in my home town of Llandeilo. It was interesting to speak to Sarah as she has a vast knowledge of the felting process. She spends her time working for her workshops and she said that preparation is key. She loves dyeing wool and started five years ago. Before that, she worked for the RSPB and in conservation and this may have fuelled her passion for the lovely piece of work that she had displayed – the Dinefwr Oak.

I then spent time on the Cambrian Mountains Wool Stand.  See www.cambrianwool.co.uk. I loved how the colours of the wool sourced from the Cambrian Mountain area were created to reflect the area’s industrial heritage. I spoke to Jude Howards who told me that they are keen to promote wool from this area as it is excellent quality. I loved the different shades and I picked up a sample of some of the colours represented. Shades of “Slate” and “Gegin” and Hafan” certainly reflected the industrial sense but “Welsh Red” created for me a homely atmosphere; visions of a comforting blanket that one might associate with a Mamgu’s parlour!

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I could not leave the show without a visit to a button stand. The one I visited was www.textilegarden.com. There were so many interesting buttons. Should I choose the flowery purple ones or the earthy green ones?  Despite my love of colour, I opted for a large silver heart button and two small silver daisy buttons. I had no intention of sewing these onto a garment but would thread them onto a silver chain.

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Spinning wheels were everywhere with foot tapping exercises going on. I wondered whether it would send me to sleep if I used one, or would it have been good exercise? One or two spinners confirmed that it was relaxing. I think my patience would have run out long before I had a ball of wool to show for my efforts! However, I stood for a while mesmerised by the actions of the bright wool accumulating onto the spindle.

To complete my visit, I attended the Sheep Walk where brave models paraded vivid and cheerful items that were available to purchase. I left the event giving a friendly pat to a beautiful curly Wensleydale sheep and whispered “thank you for the yarn – it was a good one!”

A visit to the Wonderwool Wales Festival in Builth Wells was a thrill for me as I have always loved sheep. I was brought up around sheep and I love the softness of their wool. They are gentle creatures and I love the way that they graze peacefully.

Waiting in the queue to “spin” into the event, I met up with some ladies who are passionate about wool. This was the 11th show but for me and others, it was a first. IMG_6318Carol, from Llanberis, was a member of the Gwynedd Spinners, Dyers and Weavers and had travelled with Cerys from Anglesey. Cerys said that she was going to be looking at fibres and some modern spinning wheels. She would also be connecting with guest speakers for the meetings that she organised.

Standing next to Carol and Cerys, with a sparkle in her eye about wool, was Lesley who had travelled from Walsall. She wanted to buy a bobbin for her wheel (a spinner then!) and a shuttle for her loom. So what else would they do? Have a good look around was the answer; they all agreed that the event had got bigger over the years but they stressed how important it was for them.

Another lady from Walsall, was Pat. She loved everything from knitting and spinning to beadwork and weaving. She also loved Dachshunds evident from the very stylish buttons she was wearing on her coat. Today she was going to look at broomstick crocheting.

Jayne had a passion for knitting, crochet and needle felt. She described this as “stabbing wool” but the image it conveyed to me was painful. I had no wish to kill off any wool marauders so I would not be learning about this craft any time soon. Her eyes lit up as she explained that needle felt was using fibres to make anything; almost soft sculpture. Jayne was hoping to buy something colourful but she was not sure.

Mel from Lyme Regis had travelled up the day before and was staying in a B&B in Erwood. This was her first time and she was happy to look around and would probably purchase some knitting wool. Her daily tasks were weaving in the day and knitting in the evening. Sounds like a good plan to me. Mel also had crochet-athons with her friends. She was keen on neutral shades – biscuit and fawn colours and would look for some Alpaca which was soft.

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Soon I was talking to Meriel Fuller, a writer. She combined her love of writing, which she tended to do in the mornings, with her passion for creating items from wool – working on these in the afternoons. Very good time management! She was looking forward to woolly surprises.

Later, whilst sipping a well earned coffee, I spoke to Marie, another visitor from Anglesey. This was her first visit to the wool show and she was very passionate about fibres and yarns especially knitting and tapestry. She had bought some pastel knitting wools and thought that she might go back and purchase a pansy pin cushion that she had her eye on! She said “I have been knitting since I was 7!” She added, “It is therapeutic!”

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The gentle grazing of the sheep in meadows and hillsides up and down the country had united all these women with their love of wool. It was a pleasure to have a “yarn” with them.

Recently I travelled to Kidwelly in the south of the beautiful county of Carmarthenshire. I had been booked onto a Digital Marketing Planning workshop with the inspirational Michelle, the founder of Ferrycake Marketing and PR. My fellow attendee was Jennifer Foster of Energy Dynamics who also runs her business in Carmarthenshire.

Michelle brewed us some freshly roasted coffee and I glanced around at my surroundings. I noticed that the newly decorated office had the personality of its owner about it. It was a long room with one wall painted that vibrant tangerine orange that is instantly recognisable as the marketing brand of Ferrycake. The office had brightly coloured chairs which added to the mood of the room.

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Once we had sipped our coffee, we were handed A4 sheets with numerous headings - Current situation, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics, Actions and Control, which we then stuck to the wall. Michelle did not wish us to sit down but encouraged us to get up and walk about and think about our current position in regards to our digital marketing. We had our Facebook and Twitter and, together with our websites, this was surely a start! We then added our “thoughts” and “objectives” to Post-it notes to adhere to the sheets on the wall.  I wondered if I should have prepared more. Michelle explained to us that we should build our “tribe” – the connections that were important to our business. No, we were not in the Arizona desert but in rural Carmarthenshire.

Michelle was enthusiastic about social media, how it should be lively and that it was important to engage with our connections. A teaser question was useful as it pushed our prospective clients to our website and social media. She also advised that it would be prudent to get hold of logos from any businesses that we had worked with to “link” onto our social media and website (with their assent, of course). She dissuaded us from giving advice through our social media but just feed information through to encourage visitors to connect with us. Creating online videos could also prove to be useful to us.

We continued with our “Actions” with the aim of moving our Digital Marketing further.

Too soon, the morning had nearly ended, and we summed up how we could control our social media. It was time to create a report and analyse our work.  Who were these followers and who actually followed them?  It was important to have the right balance of the “f” people! This then led to the beginning of our Digital Marketing Plan. We had got through it and, for me; it proved to be an ideal “digital media mix”.

Perhaps, like me, you are commencing the social media circuit! You may need training! If so, contact Michelle at Ferrycake Marketing and PR - she brews a lovely coffee and if you fancy a “ferrycake” just ask!

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Contact: @ferrycake (Twitter) /ferrycakeconsultancy (Facebook) or email hello@ferrycake.co.uk.

 

The Fire Wheel of Confidence

It was with a spring in my step that I went along to the Carmarthenshire WiRE monthly meeting on Monday 18th April at Ore Knot in Bridge Street, Carmarthen. The venue (a first for WiRE) had been tastefully and beautifully decorated in popping citrus shades.

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Sarah MacDonald introduced the speaker, Belinda Ray, who encouraged us to gather around in a semi-circle. Firstly Belinda drew our attention to her colourful clothes, including bright socks, and she emphasised the importance of wearing something that was comfortable. Belinda showed us how our confidence can go up and down and how we can be wobbling on the inside, but displaying buoyancy on the outside. This was something that we could all relate to. She then enthused about her very creative “Fire Wheel of Confidence.”  She showed us how each flame represented something special to empower and enrich us.

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You will see in the picture that there were many flames but I will focus upon the following - authenticity, relationships and passion. It is so important to be authentic and honest, firstly to ourselves and to how we promote our business and by so doing, this fans a flame of reliability. Relationships – now this is a flame that we need to control as it could burn itself out. However, we need to nurture and create lasting friendships. As for that passion flame, we all need this for our business and keeping this well lit will ensure that we make great strides towards our goals; that confidence will fire within our souls!

Belinda demonstrated how to generate confidence which we can do in a number of ways. One example was “the power pose” (imagine it) and listening to “pump up music” which one or two of us did admit to doing. We do, however, all have our own ways. I was remembering a programme I had listened to on Radio 4 when a lady who had been a nurse during the Second World War explained that the nurses would apply bright red lipstick just as all the war casualties were coming in from the trenches. The sheer act of applying the lipstick invigorated their “get to it” mood.

We were then shown a cushion in a Mandala design with shades of blues and greens and were encouraged to throw it at each other, along with a positive statement like “I am strong!” Much laughter ensued as it was thrown with such passion and the statement that ignited us. This emphasised that having a good laugh can unlock that energy. The cushion tossing proved to be a lively exercise which helped with the cohesion of the group.

Belinda spread onto the floor inspiring and relevant quotations and she urged us to pick one that resonated with us and read it out powerfully. The one I read out was “When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things.” (Joe Namath). Actually, reading out such a statement empowered us there and then. Here is one that I have since thought of “What does not destroy me, makes me strong.” (Friedrich Neitzche).

If anyone had commenced the evening feeling despondent, I am sure that by the end they would have been bouncing with those vibrant flames of confidence!

Angie Davies 

Finalist artwork 300 dpi jpeg (1)Imagine my joy and surprise when I discovered recently that I had been nominated as a finalist in the #CarmsMeansBiz awards and that I was invited to attend a gitzy event at the Corran Resort and Spa in Laugharne on Friday 18 March. I was thrilled to have been nominated and I look forward to the event with glee!

No matter what the outcome on the night, I am pleased to be able to display on my website the information - see here http://carmarthenshiremeansbusiness.wales/  There is also an event on the 21 April at Delme Thomas Building at Parc Y Scarlets in Llanelli, where you can showcase your business and your skills and perhaps add to your customer base. In any event, it is all great experience. Why not take up the opportunity and reserve your stand to be part of an innovative and inspirational event?

I am sure to be at the event on the 21 April and I look forward to meeting you there. Remember if you need assistance in encouraging those visitors over the threshold of your business stand, then So-Occasion can certainly help.