BethanyJoFisher

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The diamond behind the silver

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2014 at 3:42 pm

She’s the girl behind the brand that turns old silverware into fabulous on-trend jewellery – but she wouldn’t have come up with the idea if it wasn’t for her struggling start.

The innovative jewellery business, Dad Daughter Designs, has become increasingly popular on Etsy.co.uk and has been promoted on YouTube for its unique designs made from antique cutlery. I found out it hasn’t always been easy however, when I meet the girl behind the success story who had to make the best out of very little.

Dressed in a pair of worn jeans and a thrifted top, from first glance you can tell that Leanne Nicholson is a small town girl from Georgia in the USA. She is also the daughter who helped set up the brand with her father, Herman Nicholson. Her family never had a lot of money, but she happily always made the best of what she did have.

 

What prompted her to set up her business? Leanne says, “A year after I had graduated from college, I really struggled to find a job and had little hope that I would do well for myself.” Leanne had studied art and design but there were little jobs available to her in Georgia where she would be able to make any money from art. With sadness in her voice, Leanne says, “My dad built houses for a living, but that had slowed down a lot too, and so we were both in desperate need of money.”

 

What sparked such a creative idea as antique cutlery? Perking up at the memory, Leanne explains that she had first thought of the idea when she had gone to a craft show and saw a man making bracelets out of silverware handles. Leanne says, “I really wanted one, but they were $65!” and while laughing, said that she is too cheap to spend that kind of money on one bracelet! Leanne decided to buy two spoons from a local thrift shop she often buys clothes at and asked her dad to make her one with a personal edge. She had her initials inscribed onto the spoon-bracelet, which she thought made it even more one-of-a-kind. While Smiling, and looking down at her wrist, she said that when she first started wearing it, all her friends and family wanted her and her dad to make them one. Happily, Leanne says “And the business just snowballed from there!”

 

Dad Daughter Designs jewellery is sold online on Etsy.com, a site similar to EBay where anyone can sell handmade items, ranging from jewellery to iPhone cases. The business has over a hundred followers on Etsy, where the community favourite and comment on many of her designs. With prices starting at £10 for the fork-prong rings and £15 for knife handle key rings and vintage spoon pendants, the business is affordable as well as inventive.

 

The excitement beams out of her while she shows me her favourite pieces. With a smile on her face, Leanne said “I love taking vintage brooches and soldering them onto spoon heads to make a statement piece.” She also has a ton of fun just going on searches for more vintage silverware, and says “It is always a treasure hunt!” Working with any member of family can be a tough ride at times, but it does have its perks. Leanne said that although she can get annoyed with her dad changing her designs, she laughs and says “The best part of working with my dad is not having to worry about getting fired!”

Leanne says, “I am mostly spending my time polishing the silverware up at the house, and my dad will be down in the workshop cutting and filing the pieces.” However I can tell that she is born to be creative, as she uses any spare time she has by uploading videos onto YouTube. Leanne has a close and niche online community where she gets hundreds of views on her videos displaying her jewellery as well as other creative hobbies such as singing songs from The Rocky Horror Show and showcasing vintage fashion hauls she had collected from vintage shops around her hometown.

 

After talking to Leanne, I realised that with enough determination, and a little bit of polishing, we can all find the diamond that’s within us.

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It runs in the family

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2014 at 3:32 pm

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Running any business is hard work, but how would you feel answering to your boss who is actually your mum? Would working from home with your sisters drive you mad? Family businesses are on the rise, and Bethany Fisher finds out why.

It’s hard enough on a wet Monday morning to get up early to commute to work to find your boss forever moaning. But just imagine if that was your mum. When I think of working with my family, I think of arguments and stress – not a foundation you want to run a business from. However I was pleasantly surprised when I talked to two different family-led businesses about why they worked so well.

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Matilda Kirkwood, who is part of a team of three sisters, has driven their fashion couture business to success – fight-free! Forget the Kardashians, this new trendy trio behind the latest fashion enterprise K’outure, are a business team that ooze sisterly sophistication. With their quirky collections inspired by musical theatre and their Scottish heritage, this innovative design squad are organised and have their minds set for success. It is quite astonishing to see a business in such harmony, considering they come from a family of seven sisters!

 

 

Matilda, 26,Jemima, 24 and Harriet,27 are the three Kirkwood sisters behind K’outure, which they set up just over a year ago after studying costume design at Edinburgh College of Art. With a price tag ranging from £300-£900 for a piece from their collections, it’s obvious that they must be doing something right!

 

As there are three sisters contributing to the design work, you would assume it would be difficult to all agree on ideas. Matilda shrugs off the assumption by saying “As designers we follow a similar process, but our inspiration and work that each of us produces are very different.” Matilda said that they love this about their company, as the diversity and scope of work is increased with three different designers working under one label.

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I know that if I worked with my family, we would all try and palm off the worst jobs on everyone else but Matilda said “If there is a job I dislike, it is without doubt adored by either Harriet or Jemima”, which makes them at their best when they are working as a team.

 

When running a business, it is sometimes difficult to get on with all your colleagues, and if they’re your sisters, being too familiar with each other could increase the stress. Matilda said, “As we are the eldest of seven siblings, we know that getting on is much easier than not, and when you work with people you care about – the urge to succeed is increased twofold.”

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On days that they are incredibly busy or stressed, Matilda said “We rely heavily on lots of cups of tea” and added that tea and hard work are the backbone of K’outure.

 

When working with colleagues you generally need to be more tactful when opposing ideas or criticising work you dislike. Matilda said,  “As sisters, we are our own harshest critics.” Matilda added, “Where in other working relationships criticism can be sugar coated, we have no qualms about being direct, to the point of brutal sometimes, with issues that we disagree on.”

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This can cause problems and sometimes they can find themselves getting too personal in arguments. Matilda said, “When family is involved it can’t fail to be personal, which can occasionally lead to some rather heated debates.” Although this can make disagreements more difficult to deal with, Matilda argues that as usual in any family argument, it is forgotten within minutes!

 

Like any business partners, they all have bad habits they all have to deal with. Matilda said “I am very messy and forever putting things down and forgetting where they are!” Matilda added that Harriet is always disrupting the workflow to make at least fifteen cups of tea a day. Matilda said, “Our youngest sister, Jemima, gets very upset when working in a messy studio.”

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The sisters also have very good qualities about them that make them bond so well as business partners. Matilda said she’s best with dealing with proposals and anything that requires writing, and Harriet is a brilliant leader, pacifier and mediator – all necessary qualities in an older sister!  Matilda also said “Jemima is good at being very organised and generally keeping us two in line.”

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It seems that working with your family can result in a very strong team, especially if you know each other’s weaknesses and strengths. I spoke toAyşegül Çetinkaya, who set up her business, Irregular Expressions, with her mum, which creates knitted and crocheted accessories. Ayşegül tells me why having a clear understanding of their roles, is key to running their business successfully.

 

The business is innovative on its own, despite the fact that a mum and her daughter run it together! Ayşegül said that her mother, Sebahat Çetinkaya, is a sixty-four year old retired teacher, and works ten to twelve hours every day crocheting and knitting and creating new pieces. The long lengths of time they spend together working on the pieces could cause arguments in the business, but Ayşegül knows how important it is to her mum, so she helps her as much as she can. Ayşegül added, “As I am fluent in English, I handle our online store and customer e-mails.”

 

 

The mother-daughter duo has learnt that because they care so much about each other, they tend to put all their efforts into their business. Ayşegül said “I think that anyone who is about to start a business with family members are better to start with a clear understanding of their responsibilities, as it can avoid tension because it is very easy to argue with a family member.”

 

 

 

From what I have heard, even though it can be difficult to get on with your family if you are working with them every day, it is obvious it also has a lot of benefits – and no one else quite knows how to make your cup of tea the way your family do.

 

Time travelling back to Shanklin

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2012 at 11:07 am

When the possibility of theme parks, spa breaks and multi-store shopping are around, being asked to spend the day in the Isle of Wight doesn’t exactly match up. Even the name sounds dull. Mainly made up of retired couples and pensioners, it’s not exactly Thorpe Park, nor is it as modern as Westfield’s. However it does host two amazing festivals each year, and it did give us Mark King, arguably the world’s greatest bass player. I ended up agreeing to go with my family, with hope that I could be pleasantly surprised.

When arriving in Shanklin, the south east corner of the island, there was an imminent feeling as if we had stepped back in time. A Morris Miner buzzed past us as I was trying to fix my blackberry from wavering in and out of signal. I had instantly started counting the hours we had left until we caught the evening ferry home.

We decided to start off the day with an interesting game of crazy golf on the Shanklin beach front, costing about £3 for the five of us to play. The Isle of Wight obviously had not heard about VAT rises yet, not that we complained. It was lovely to hear the waves crashing against the sand while we played amongst the locals and some other visiting families, even if the golfing ground wasn’t level and the golf balls kept running back to their starting points.

When we handed back our golf clubs to the owner, he kindly directed us to where we would find the amusements and ice cream shops further along the beach. While enjoying some traditional rum and raisin cones we sat on the yellow sandy beach and watched the yachts and ferries in the distance. We felt like we were on the film set of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when we noticed some young children running out of stripy beach huts to be entertained by a Punch and Judy show. With the sound of the small road train hooting on its way past the beach in the background, you can recognise that it really is the year of being proud to be British!

Before heading out to lunch, we walked along the top of the cliffs of Shanklin beach, where the view is breath-taking on a clear day. On one side you can make out the beautiful White Cliffs of Culver and Bembridge Downs, and on the other you can see Portsmouth. I can see why people visit just for the coastal walks!

We then drove to the even quieter town of Godshill where we stopped off at the Willow Tree Tea Gardens, situated next door to a vintage toy memorabilia museum advertising at £1.50 per entry. Sat in the gardens of the tea room, we enjoyed some lovely (very English) cream teas and scones, that don’t skimp on the jam! If you want to visit an idyllic tea room with beautiful award winning gardens, then the Willow Tree is definitely worth paying a visit. Just be sure to book if you are going in the summer months, as I was told by the waitress that it is a favourite place of both the locals and visitors from the mainland.

After a fabulous lunch in Godshill, we then went back to Shanklin to explore the Old Village in the south side of town. The picturesque cobbled streets and restaurants are hidden around grade two listed thatched cottages and tourist shops. If you are to check out the old town, then the Old Rock Shop is a must! They have every traditional British sweet you could think of, which are displayed in large glass bottles on shelves, where the shop keeper will shovel out and weigh your rhubarb and custard’s for you. The shops selling china dolls and Victorian dolls house furniture gave us the sense we were in the wrong era as we walked through the dainty village.

As the evening got nearer and darker we were told by friendly locals that it was the best time to visit the Shanklin Chine – a gorge in the Cliffside, carved out by a fabulous waterfall and gushing stream. I would recommend going in the evening as the beautiful walk is illuminated with fairy lights and lanterns. It would also make a lovely spot for a romantic late night walk, especially with the benches that look over the stunning view we saw in the morning.

We then headed back to the old town to indulge for dinner at The Crab Inn – a local favourite. Although the atmosphere was rustling, loud and busy, everyone was friendly and the staff were more than helpful.  Picnic benches could also be seen outside the dim-lit restaurant with clear views of the cobbled street and the famous sweet shop. The food wasn’t as artistic or adventurous as a dish you would be served in London, but the restaurant was satisfying and a perfect end to a busy day.

To be honest the Isle of Wight surprised me, and any previous misconceptions from friends suggesting it was the blame for their ‘awful childhood holidays’, were completely forgotten. I found there was plenty to do and I also enjoyed not being glued to my blackberry for the most part of the day. On the other hand, I don’t know if I could manage a week – there is only so much sugar rock and crazy golf I could take. However if you are looking for a nice quiet day out to relax and enjoy the traditional things in life, I would definitely recommend visiting the island. Seeing as the red squirrels never left, I would believe they equally agree.

“I’ll have what she’s having”

In Uncategorized on November 21, 2012 at 9:39 pm

From being completely confused about wine to not knowing the difference between a Margarita and a Martini – when out drinking, we generally just settle with what we know. So how can we stop resorting to ‘another vodka and coke’? Bethany Fisher (soberly) reports.

You’ve been queuing up for what seems about forever until you hear the famous words ‘What can I get you?’ Does a sudden blank come to mind followed by ordering the same drink you have religiously bought since you turned 18? Don’t worry, you’re in the majority! However a life isn’t a life at all if you’re having after work drinks in a swanky bar, and still ordering what you did at college.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a simple rum and coke, but it’s always great to have variety. After all, you wouldn’t just own one pair of shoes would you?

Therefore I decided to do some drinking in a bar – for your benefit (obviously)!  After testing out a selection of different drinks I would then master up a simple out of five rating for the taste, strength, price and overall look of each drink. After a fish and chip tea, my stomach was well-lined for the evening ahead.

My favourite drink of all time is a simple gin and tonic, but for you ladies I decided to do some experimenting. Mark Gill, cofounder of the London Cocktail Society said that if I liked gin, then I would most probably like a Negroni, Aviation, or a Tom Collins. Considering one is made up of three strong liqueurs and the other sounds like an old man, I decided to order a classic Negroni.  At £8 it is expensive for a drink, but quite fair for a cocktail. The zingy orange taste mixed with sweet vermouth and gin was to my surprise, delicious, and a perfect drink to start off with (even if it did look like oil).

For this gin-inspired cocktail I would give it

Taste – 4
Strength – 3
Price – 4
Look – 1

Next I wanted to try one of women’s favourite spirits – vodka, but mixed with something other than coke or lemonade. Mark said that white spirits and fruit juice work best together, as well as with carbonated drinks. After seeing what fruit juices they had on offer, I finally ordered a single vodka and cranberry juice for £4. Although vodka isn’t my favourite spirit, I was delighted they went really well together, as well as getting one of my five a day!

For this (slightly) healthy drink I would give it

Taste – 4
Strength – 4
Price – 5
Look – 3

I was then stuck on what to choose next. Mark informed me that if you are ever clueless about choosing drinks, then you should just ask the advice of the bartender. After all, they are the experts. Mark also said that the most popular drinks are classic cocktails. So after asking the bartender’s advice, I settled with a very glamorous strawberry martini. Priced at £6 it was quite reasonable and looked fabulous in its tall glass with strawberry decorations on top. It was sweet and fruity and reminded me of summer holidays with the girls. I ended up ordering two after completely forgetting where I was – or what important work I was supposed to be doing.

For this strawberry sensation I would give it

Taste – 5
Strength – 3
Price – 4
Look – 4

I asked Mark what his favourite drink was, and he said it was an Old Fashioned because it is so simple and easy. When the bartender asked if I wanted it shaken or stirred I panicked and picked the latter. The dash of bitter and whiskey mixed with sugar, cherries, orange and lemon was extremely strong, but different – in a good way.  That was until I got to the bottom, and sipped pure whiskey. I should have gotten it shaken. On a good note – I can’t wait to order my whiskey-cocktail when I’m out with my lad mates next. They will think I’m a drinking genius!

For this bitter beauty I would give it

Taste – 4
Strength – 5
Price – 4
Look – 4

Although the London Cocktail Society’s motto is “One martini is all right, two is too many, three is not enough”, Mr Gill recommends that you should drink in moderation if you are on a diet. Not like my evening then!

Although most of the drinks I found were not ridiculously priced, for those of you burdened with student debt, my advice would be to order spirits with soda and lime as it always keeps the cost down.  However, while vodka soda and lime was lovely, gin and soda should be avoided like the plague!

There are also a few terms that helped save me during the evening when choosing my drinks. When the bartender asks if you would like it ‘on the rocks’, it simply means having your drink poured over ice.  A chaser is a drink taken immediately after another drink, and something ‘straight up’ is a drink that is chilled in a cocktail shaker and strained. Oh and some personal advice – always ask for it to be shaken, not stirred.

 

If you are looking for further inspiration, check out the favourite drinks from the glamorous, rich and famous: 

  • Jennifer Aniston likes to let her hair down with a Margarita
  • The Queen happens to enjoy a Gordon’s Gin and Tonic (with three slices of lemon)
  • Johnny Depp relaxes with a Bourbon Sour
  • Kylie Minogue likes a Lychee Martini
  • Marilyn Monroe adored a classic Champagne (…with aspirin)
  • Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell are often seen sipping Champagne Cocktails
  • Paris Hilton parties with Tequila
  • Julia Roberts enjoys a Scorpino (vodka and lemon sorbet!)
  • Renee Zelweiger likes a Cosmic Messenger
  • Will Ferrell kicks back with a Corona
  • Christina Ricci choses Chardonnay
  • Kate Hudson likes to choose between Tequila or wine
  • Barrack Obama enjoys a very American Bud Light
  • Madonna drinks Pomegranate Martini’s
  • Eva Mendes loves a Screwdriver (Vodka and orange)
  • Vince Vaughan likes Vodka and Red Bull
  • Anne Hathaway often orders a Skinnygirl Margarita (Tequila, lime and Cointreau)
  • Dita Von Teese is lucky enough to have a cocktail created for her – The Cointreau Teese
  • Mary Kate Olsen likes to chill out with a white wine spritzer
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