Sunday, 21 December 2014

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


January’s on the way which means most people are planning their resolutions for the moment when the Christmas festivities end and a clean sheet presents itself in the form of a new year.

As well as getting fit, losing weight and ditching the alcohol, learning a foreign language is in the top ten most common resolutions.
Vici Language Academy in Newbury sees a 20% increase in enquiries in January with the most common languages being French, Spanish then German.

German is a particular favourite of business people and bilingual employees can earn up to 20% more than their monolingual counterparts, making language learning a good choice of New Year’s resolution.

Nathalie Danon-Kerr, founder and director of the VICI Language Academy shares her top tips for learning a language.

1. Find out what kind of learner you are:
Everyone learns differently. Some people learn better when they see something written down, others like to hear something several times; some language learners like to learn the grammar rules by heart. Nathalie recommends using a variety of strategies including books, listening to recordings, rehearsing dialogues and learning vocabulary to practise the different skills of listening, writing, speaking and reading. It is proven that you are 67% more likely to remember something if you have gone through the process of writing it down.

2. Work at your own pace
Nathalie recommends studying in half hour segments, but not trying to do too much at once. She recommends regular lessons, supplemented by practice. She also says that you should vary the task according to your mood; for example, if you are tired, try a less demanding task such as repeating activities. If your concentration is waning, try reading a foreign language magazine article about a subject that interests you.
3. Never give up
Remember that it is possible to communicate with just a few words; don’t get disheartened if you feel you are not making progress as eve when you get things wrong, you are still learning.
4. Improvise
Sometimes you need a word that you don’t yet know. Nathalie assures learners that every language learner has been in this position and if you can communicate by facial expressions, hand movements or props, you will build up confidence and will maintain the conversation. She extends this technique to tenses as well; if you don’t know the past tense of the verb, then use the present tense, plus the word “yesterday” so that people will understand the gist of what you are trying to say.
5. Guess!
You aren’t expected to understand everything first time round so use clues such as tone of voice, words that sound similar to English (eg vacances in French sounds like vacation in English).
6. Keep speaking
Nathalie recommends recording yourself speaking, particularly when doing pronunciation practice. When you listen back, evaluate your performance and don’t worry about mistakes. Keep practising!
7. Vocabulary
Take just two words at a time and learn them. Put them into sentences in your mind and come back to them later.

8. Get the right tools
A bilingual dictionary is useful to help translate new words and expressions. Choose a dictionary that gives plenty of information on usage through illustrative examples to help guide you through the contexts it can be used it. Advanced learners may like to have a foreign language thesaurus to help them build vocabulary. It’s also helpful to build your own dictionary using an index book.

9. Get used to hearing everyday language at normal speed
Watching foreign language films and TV is a good way of getting used to sounds and intonations. Nathalie recommends watching the news or a programme that reflects your own interests so that you learn the language quickly and effectively.

Nathalie adds: “Learning a language is an on-going process so it’s vital to make it as enjoyable as possible. Remember that a fluent language speaker is a beginner who never gave up!”
Language programmes in French, Spanish, German, Italian, English as a second language, Turkish, Arabic, Portuguese, Polish, Japanese, Russian and Mandarin are available, with Dutch becoming available for the first time from January 2015.


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Thanks to the Ardrossan Herald!

Nothing like a nice investment story where local jobs are created. Thanks to the Ardrossan Herald for using this...

Abbotsford Nursing Home in Ardrossan has recently benefited from a six-figure upgrade to increase occupancy and to enlarge and upgrade existing rooms.

The two-phase project was part-funded by RBS and included the construction of an extension which increased the number of beds from 35 to 39, plus a reconfigured layout of the main house, meaning many rooms have been enlarged and now have new en-suite bathrooms.

New facilities were also added, including a fifth lounge and day rooms for activities, a new hair salon and treatment room for more effective storage of supplies and treatment of patients.

Additionally, ten new jobs have been created at the home, increasing the headcount to 74.

The home is owned by husband-and-wife team Nigel and Lynn Wanless with business partner Brian Collins. When they wanted to upgrade the home to ensure it matched the standards offered by nearby Burnlea Care Home in Largs, which they also own, they approached Stuart Frame at RBS for assistance with funding.

Together they attracted a development loan of £500,000 from RBS as part of the bank’s participation in the government’s Funding for Lending Scheme. With the addition of their own savings, the loan enabled the team to carry out the work, which took 14 months to complete. Turnover is expected to increase by about £120,000.

Nigel said: “We wanted our investment to make the accommodation more responsive to the needs and expectations of current and future residents which is why overall the work has only added four extra rooms. For what we spent, we haven’t added a huge number of rooms, but have improved the look and feel of the home and have made the facilities a better layout, whilst retaining a homely, domestic feel.

“We couldn’t have done it without the support of residents and their families and we’re delighted that disruption has been kept to a minimum. The feedback since completion has been excellent; everyone is settled and enjoying the extra space on offer. All the different facilities are working well together.

“Abbotsford Nursing Home is known for the level of commitment and quality of care given to its residents and this recent work will help us to maintain our market position as a care home of choice within North Ayrshire.

“We chose RBS as we have been with them since 1986 and their customer service is outstanding. Since we met Stuart, he has been in close contact and regularly visits us onsite.”

Stuart Frame from RBS added: “Abbotsford is renowned for the commitment and care offered by its staff and we were delighted to have been able to support their vision for a bigger and better home. Nigel has been involved with Abbotsford since the 1990s and is a proven business operator that we knew we wanted to support.”

Renault Retail re-launches its website at

Renault Retail has re-launched its website at after working with design agency ADZ Media to deliver a more intuitive and customer-focused site.
Based on customer feedback, the new site has been designed to be more accessible and responsive, particularly to users on mobile phones and other devices.

The new layout gives the customer a much easier path to follow, with intuitive navigation, enhanced features and usability.

Elina Karppinen, group marketing manager for Renault Retail Group said that as 45.55% of the site’s visitors currently use a mobile or a tablet, there was a huge focus on making the site responsive.

She said: “We have talked to our customers and listened to their views very carefully. Their feedback has informed the redesign of the website – not just the content, but the look and feel of it, as well as the attention to detail.”

Many of the site’s original features have been retained, giving the user the opportunity to search by area through new and used Renault vehicles, as well as other makes. Users can also search through Motability offers and there’s a dedicated section for business customers guiding them through everything from financing and advising on the best car or van for their requirements, to keeping the fleet maintained and on the road.

Renault Retail Group is a national network of 19 dealerships and sells 1 in every 4 Renault in the UK. The group is 100%-owned by Renault and offers the full range of Renault cars, vans and associated products. Renault Retail Group has sold more than 350,000 vehicles in the UK since it was started in 1996.


Thursday, 11 December 2014


Just found an old release showcasing joint working and collaboration with other organisations - will be discussing this in the PR workshops in January......

Liverpool steel fabricators Wren Industrial and Marine Fabrication has secured the future of three staff members with the significant investment in a new piece of equipment thanks to the Stepclever Legacy project run by Invest Sefton through Sefton Council, NatWest and its dedicated asset finance division Lombard.

Wren Industrial and Marine Fabrication was set up by David and Helen Wren in 1990 when they saw a need for a metal fabrication business that could supply products to marine and land-based firms. The company has now grown to serve a client list including Stena and Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and supply products ranging from ship doors to walkways, stairways, storage tanks and subsea ballast frames.

Since then, they have grown to turnover £1.2m and now employ 16 staff. However, having found times tough during the economic downturn of the last four years, they needed to invest in a new profile cutting machine as their current piece of equipment incurred increasing amounts of downtime.

They decided to apply for £22,000 from Sefton Council’s Stepclever Legacy grant fund that helps local small businesses, based in the wards of Anfield, Everton, Kirkdale, County, Derby & Linacre to get funding to secure existing employment and create jobs.

The new machine has a much larger cutting capacity and its implementation has enabled the company to diversify into producing a wider range of products and sub components. It’s hoped that it will add a further 12% to the company’s turnover and means two additional machine operatives can employed in the next three months to use the machine to its best potential.


Athena Network speakers in January

West Berkshire businesswomen are invited to get their 2015 off to the right start with the Athena Network with a varied menu of business topics on the agenda for January.
Sue Jackson, a qualified accountant and tax adviser from Working Numbers will talk to the Hungerford group about her recent conquest of Ben Nevis and how it helped with goal setting. The meeting takes place at Audley Inglewood on Friday, 9th January.

The Newbury North group meets on Wednesday, 14th January at the Chequers Hotel where the Athena Network regional director Debbie Miles will discuss not only how to create a business plan but how to make it fun. There will also be a discussion on how to be remembered after a networking event.
The Thatcham group meets at the Regency Park Hotel on Tuesday, 20th January, when Jo Cooke of Tapioca Tidy and Hoarding Disorders UK will be offering tips on how to declutter workspaces and prepare for 2015.

Meanwhile, the Newbury South group meets on Wednesday, 21st January at La Tasca, where Clare Sheffield from S & T Design will be talking about branding and ensuring a strong business image.

Debbie Miles, regional director of the West Berkshire Athena Network said: “As well as interesting business topics, there is also strategy training, a wonderful lunch and the chance to gain support from local business owners who are passionate about what they do.”
All meetings take place from 12pm to 2pm. For more information, contact Debbie Miles via

Thursday, 4 December 2014

"The future of texting" opinion piece

Just got this piece from Mobile Magazine based on the opinion piece we wrote here:

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


Thanks so much to the KM Group for using this piece on an expanding Strood company. I've included the original release below as it was such a lovely story about a 50-year-old company that was started by a 20-year-old and has grown to be a multi-million pound giant in the construction industry.

A specialist paving supplier, approaching its 50th year in business, is about to enter a new chapter after securing over £3million in investment to open a new factory in Strood and a retail outlet in Lincoln.

Castacrete was originally started by Terry Smallman on a small site near Maidstone, Kent when he was just 20, after his father had a six-week wait for their patio paving slabs. Today, the Castacrete Group employs 100 staff across its manufacturing plants and 10 retail sites, supplying decorative paving products to builders’ merchants, DIY chains and garden centres throughout the UK.

Realising that demand for block and “rumbled” paving was rising during the recession, outstripping the speed at which their supplier could react, Smallman decided to invest in specialist machinery and manufacture block paving products on a larger scale themselves.

They approached Grahame Wells, Relationship Director at RBS’ Commercial and Private banking division who assisted in obtaining a loan of £600,000 to help fund the construction of a bespoke building to house the new machinery. An additional loan of £2.5m was provided by the bank’s asset finance specialist Lombard.

The new Strood factory means the creation of five new jobs and a predicted 30% increase in turnover.

“My school teachers always said I should run my own business,” said Terry, who now owns outlets in Leicester, Coventry, Halesowen, Bristol, High Wycombe, Strood, Maidstone, Ashford, and the latest one in Somerset. “It appears they were right”.

“I left school when I was 14 and went on a retail management course. When dad had to wait six weeks for his paving slabs for our patio, he joked that this is what I should do and so I went into paving,” he added.

The secret to success is to be competitive, said Terry, whose son Christopher helps run the Ashford site. He said: “Our retail sales are growing and people are shopping around to find us. A large part of Castacrete’s success is due to our loyal and hardworking staff and the very good management team we have in place”.

Terry described the five-year relationship with Grahame Wells at RBS as “invaluable” and that it had enabled him to diversify and grow the business.

Grahame added: “Having known Terry for five years I understand his business, its history and integrity. With our experience we have been able to help take this independent family business on to the next exciting chapter in its long history.”


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

VICI language academy graduation

Thanks Jane at the NWN!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Thanks Falkirk Herald!

Callendar Pharmacy story here:

(PS their headline was far better than the one I came up with...)

Thursday, 13 November 2014

People, especially Athena ladies....

I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the Athena Network Newbury north meeting yesterday. It's always a pleasure to network with positive women in lovely surroundings over lunch and coffee, and people were very nice about my presentation which was everything I know about PR in 10 minutes.

We started with a brainstorm.

To be quite honest with you, I can't even read this myself; definitely need to do 100 lines: "I must improve my handwriting".

These were the words that came back at me when I asked people which news stories they found interesting and why:

family business/local employer





good news









These are all great, but at the heart of everything is PEOPLE. Make sure PEOPLE are at the heart of your press releases too.


Monday, 10 November 2014


Vici Language Academy held a graduation event this weekend at the Chequers Hotel in Newbury for about 70 children and adults who have recently completed language programmes in French and Spanish.

The day comprised workshops, taster sessions and oral exams and each participant was presented with a certificate by academy director Nathalie Danon-Kerr.

Presentations were also made to students who had made the most progress, showed the most enthusiasm and for the best behaved children.

Ms Danon-Kerr added: “We’d like to thank everyone who attended the graduation as it shows a real commitment to their language learning. More than 70 people attended and it was lovely to see French and Spanish students of all levels together in an informal setting.”

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Seven reasons how your child could benefit from being bilingual

“The simple fact is children will flourish in so many aspects of their lives and the sooner they begin their bilingual journey the easier it is and the faster and greater the results will be,” said VICI Language Academy owner and language expert Nathalie Danon-Kerr.

“Many of our schools are truly excellent at teaching other languages and only fall down when you realise children are taught to pass an exam rather than love the language, understand the culture and yearn to use their bilingual skills,” added Nathalie.

1 – ‘Children who can speak more than one language are more intelligent than their monolingual peers’

The challenge of learning another language means the brain works in a different way allowing the child to improve their intellectual capacity and develop a greater analytical mind.

2 – ‘Bilingual children have better memories’

Learning a second or third language and having to remember lots of new words and language rules means the brain works harder and becomes fitter creating enhanced working memory allowing kids to perform better in exams.

3 – ‘Being bilingual can delay the onset of dementia’

Recent studies confirm that for adults speaking one language the mean age for the onset of dementia is 71.4 but for bilingual adults it is 75.5.

4 ‘Learning languages makes you more confident’

We see the difference learning a language can make to self-esteem and it boosts the confidence of those who learn with us.

5 ‘Bilingual children are more sensitive and culturally aware’

Bilingual children are more sensitive to others thanks to the way they are exposed to other cultures, foods and different ways of life from a young age.

6 ‘Being bilingual offers your child a competitive advantage in the job market’

An estimated £48 billion is being lost each year in the UK because we can’t speak languages required to do business. Speaking English no longer holds a competitive advantage. Wouldn’t it offer a huge advantage over
the competition if you could hold a meeting in another language or could speak to suppliers? Here at Vici, we’re constantly being asked to help source job candidates who can speak other languages; German in particular.

7 ‘Bilingual children earn higher salaries’

Learning a second or third language will differentiate you from other candidates who place a higher value on your additional skills.
Fourteen-year-old Jess Kerry is considering perhaps studying for an Oxbridge degree in French, having started learning the language since she was two and a half.
“Jess has just taken her options and had to negotiate the right to study two languages at GCSE,” says Mum Lesley who also studies French at the Academy.
“With the cost of higher education Jess was talking about using her languages to study abroad rather than here in the UK. VICI staff have shown her that it is quite possible to study abroad.”
“Last week she was lucky enough to go to Oxford University as part of an aspiration focus through school and now she is determined to study hard aiming to get the grades she needs. Like most teenagers she doesn’t know what she wants to do yet but sees languages as part of her future. Jess is now, proudly, a VICI classroom assistant, something she aspired to for a long time!”
Vici offers group and individual programmes for children and can offer a VIP pass enabling potential students to try lessons for a month free of charge. For more information visit

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Newbury Childhood illness booklet launched

Newbury and District Clinical Commissioning Group and West Berkshire Council’s Public Health Service are launching a comprehensive guide to common childhood illnesses aimed at parents and carers of children aged between birth and five years old.

The free booklet contains helpful information on general welfare and well-being, common illnesses and how to keep children safe and healthy. It also provides advice on when to consult the GP or health visitor and information on common illnesses such as chickenpox, colds, sore throats and ear infections.

Dr Abid Irfan, Northcroft GP and chairman of the Newbury and District CCG said: “The new guide is a fantastic resource for both parents and carers of children aged five and under to advise on how to manage everyday illnesses like conjunctivitis, coughs and colds to knowing how to recognise and act on the more serious conditions like meningitis.

“The website is very clear and the booklet is available in a downloadable form to use by children’s centres, health visitors and other healthcare professionals.”
West Berkshire Executive Councillor for Health and Wellbeing, Marcus Franks, said: “We’re very pleased to support this booklet. Health needs vary for different age groups so it’s good to have a succinct, easy to read reference specifically aimed at those caring for very young children. I’m sure it will be broadly welcomed.”

The free booklet is available from GP surgeries, children’s centres and is also online at with translations into Polish, Urdu and Punjabi.


From left: Dr Abid Irfan, chair of the Newbury and District CCG; Fatima Ndanusa, Senior Programme Officer for Public Health and Wellbeing, West Berkshire Council and Marcus Franks, West Berkshire Executive Councillor for Health and Wellbeing.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

What's the future of texting? The GM of business text provider TextAnywhere looks to the future....

With the development of new apps and the increasing use of smartphones, you might think that business text providers TextAnywhere would be widening their range of services beyond SMS.

Not so, says the firm’s general manager Adrian Harris, who has positioned the firm to capitalise on the huge potential that text messaging still offers businesses and organisations such as the NHS and businesses.

TextAnywhere Ltd is a UK company, set up in 2003, with a mission to deliver high quality, trusted text message business solutions via UK-only Carriers. During its ten year celebrations last year, it was acquired by SRCL and is now part of the ERS Medical Group. SRCL are the European arm of Stericycle Inc - giants in the American healthcare industry.

TextAnywhere offers volume text-messaging services to the corporate and public sector communities including the NHS and a variety of commercial and business names.

The UK’s appetite for texting is not waning, and 2011 was the first year that saw the number of text messages sent overtake the number of phone calls made. An Informa industry report predicts that the number of texts in 2016 will reach 9.4 trillion messages – up from 6.4 trillion in 2012.

That of course means massive potential for businesses too and that’s where TextAnywhere believes there is yet more. SMS is the most popular form of communication in the UK and the average phone user looks at their phone 150 times a day.

TextAnywhere has developed its own niche and is widely known for the quality of its customer service. Unusually, the team of just 24 staff serve businesses ranging from giants (such as Weight Watchers) to smaller business users, who use the platform to send messages to their customer communities, marketing managing appointments/maintenance and repairs, collections deliveries and much more.

Since the acquisition last year, TextAnywhere has seen a 35% year-on-year growth in turnover while its team of staff and management has broadly remained the same. It was then that Adrian, who had previously worked as a Business Development Director took full responsibility as General Manager. With 30 years of experience in IT sales and management, he is well-placed to predict the future of SMS and the business.

Adrian said: “The year since acquisition has been great for us. Though our parent is huge and we report to them, we have remained independent to manage our business. TextAnywhere is based on an extremely sound technical platform and our ethos is that of good service and sustainable steady growth within the corporate sector as well as expanding into the healthcare market. We make considered decisions, focus on delivery and we are resilient.”

Adrian added: “Our team are happy and doing the day-to-day job while maintaining a vision of what the future should look like and a respect for the past. Over the past year, our approach to business has taken a more proactive stance - historically we haven’t been particularly proactive from a sales perspective as we’ve focused more on the infrastructure, customer support and service.

“This year, we’ve made the decision to be more proactive with regards to our current customers whilst continuing to chase new opportunities. What we’ve done is to become more sales focused. We now spend more time visiting our customers and talking through what we offer to ensure it meets their requirements. What’s interesting is that by visiting our clients, we often get to see other departments within the business and are able to develop those areas on the strength of our relationships. We’ve never really evangelized these relationships before.

He added: “It’s been a hugely successful year with almost the same resources; the same marketing, development and sales. Despite being acquired, we’re still an independent business although there’s more of a focus on healthcare.”

The NHS Friends and Family test (which measures NHS services based on whether patients would recommend hospital wards, A&E departments and maternity services to their friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment) uses TextAnywhere’s TextSurvey product and Adrian believes the key to this is that many people, still use old devices, making SMS messaging a better platform for seeking feedback than IP technology. SMS will service older devices as well as new smartphones and is a bridge across the mobile community.

Additionally, with the integration of health and social care that is currently being seen, text messaging provides an essential link for people who are being treated in their homes. Many people with long-term conditions such as diabetes and pulmonary diseases can send their daily readings and data to their clinicians without the need for taking up surgery time, and also have the opportunity to receive reminders for their medication renewals or clinic appointment times

Adrian added: “Using text messages for such sectors is still an expanding market and market analysis suggests it will be for at least five more years. As well as healthcare, we’ve also had huge success with our ‘TextSurvey’ product in the commercial environment. Looking at the market closely, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the world has gone survey mad and our product has been extremely well-received with a second version recently having been released.”

Adrian added: “We run the operation very sensibly and we don't put huge expectations of growth upon ourselves, our decisions are considered and our ethos is open forum throughout the business. Investment is always from banked money and not loans or debt. We are competitive but we are not the cheapest, our high standards rely upon the usage of in-country carriers and very high delivery success.”

“We also differ in that we are extremely eco conscious. Although our head office is based in Leeds, TextAnywhere staff are all home-based. We are also an accredited carbon neutral organisation, and we offset our carbon emissions by investing in global projects in areas such as renewable energy, resource conservation, waste reduction, and forestry projects. Through our Foundation, TextAnywhere and ERS Medical staff choose two charities each year that share 1% of our net profit. This year it’s Sam Beare Hospice and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. Plus we donate 1% of our products and services, and 1% of our team's time to not-for-profit organisations.”

With 27.9m mobile users opted in to receive business communications, with this figure rising to 35.3m in 2015, TextAnywhere is looking to the future and is ready to deliver its message.


Emma Moscow - How to get ahead with a hat

Just found another cutting based on the Emma Moscow press release we issued in the summer! The first went into Out and About - this one in luxury magazine Compellier.

Tonic Health Boutique’s 10 tips to improve your chances of conception the natural way #nationalinfertilityweek

With National Infertility Week taking place from 27th Oct to 2nd November, this release that I wrote with Tonic Health Boutique seems timely and could be useful for anyone trying to conceive.

"Tonic Health Boutique’s 10 tips to improve your chances of conception the natural way"

A quarter of couples have problems conceiving, 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and on average it takes three years for women to get pregnant.
These stark statistics sound rather depressing but there are simple steps you and your partner can take to increase your chances of having a baby.
Our increasingly hectic lifestyles, poor diet, lack of exercise, long hours and stressful jobs are taking their toll on our ability to conceive. Alcohol and caffeine consumption and our exposure to toxins in our modern environment are also hampering our ability to fall pregnant.
But help is at hand. Anneliese Setchell, fertility specialist and nutritionist says even changing your lifestyle a little can really improve fertility rates. After all, healthy parents are more likely to bring a healthy baby into the world. Even just doing something relaxing each day can boost your fertility.”

Anneliese’s top ten recommendations:

1. Stop taking the contraceptive pill about three to six months before you start trying to conceive. Also, have more sex! Ideally you should have sex every two to three days as if a man abstains for three days or more, a high proportion of the sperm will be dead or abnormal.

2. Maintain blood sugar level to keep hormones in order. This means ensuring that you eat a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates. This ideally includes 50g of protein a day from items such as quinoa, lean poultry, organic meat, fish, eggs, lentils, pulses, organic dairy, nuts and seeds, and sprouts. Fats should come from sources such as nuts, avocado and oily fish while your diet should be based on a wide variety of complex carbohydrates. Anneliese also recommends drinking a pint of warm water first thing in the morning.

3. Avoid toxins in the home or at work. As well as occupational hazards, such as for nail bar workers, chemicals lurk around the home in the form of processed foods, cleaning products and cosmetics. Anneliese recommends avoiding deodorants and tin foil, food packaged in plastic, using greaseproof paper instead of film and using natural cleaning products. She also suggests using mobile phones and microwaves less as these give out electromagnetic signals. Occupational hazards to avoid if possible, include heat for firemen or bakers, low sperm count for drivers and high pesticide exposure for farmers, as well as solvents for hairdressers and decorators.

4. Ensure you’re as relaxed and stress-free as possible as this has a huge impact on fertility, hormones and libido. Aim to have eight hours’ sleep a night.

5. Give up smoking! According to research, smoking is responsible for impotence in 120,000 men across the UK. The good news is that once you’ve given up smoking, within a year, your chances of conception are the same as that of a non-smoker.

6. Likewise, women should drink no more than five units of alcohol a week (seven for men) but ideally it should be cut out altogether, particularly around ovulation.

7. Schedule exercise of at least 30 minutes a day. As well as improving blood flow, hormonal output and nutrition, it also helps the health of your ovaries.

8. Anneliese recommends getting to your ideal weight and cleansing the body of toxins if appropriate.

9. It’s worth taking supplements even before pregnancy such as folic acid, probiotics and antioxidants to support health of ovaries and sperm. She also recommends multivitamins to include B2, B6 and B12.

10. Are there any underlying infections that could hamper your ability to conceive?

She adds: “No one has all the answers, but the logic of creating a healthy body that can sustain a healthy pregnancy goes a long way. If you both eat well and nourish your eggs and sperm, you dramatically improve your chances of conceiving. Good luck!”




Many thanks for the Reading Post for using this story and for Jennifer for coming forward to warn people about their eyesight. Her story is a wake-up call about the prevalence of diabetes.


“Take 30 minutes every year to turn up for your annual retinal scan and it could save your sight” is the message from Reading’s Diabetes UK chairwoman to people with diabetes.

Jennifer Ackroyd, aged 68, from Woodley, is issuing the plea as she undergoes surgery to save the sight in her right eye. With dwindling sight in her left eye too, she is keen to ensure that people understand that diabetes is the leading cause of blindness.

She said: “If I can help save one person’s sight, it’s worth it.”

Diabetic retinopathy is a sight-threatening long-term complication of diabetes. Raised glucose levels can have an impact on the small blood vessels in the retina and this can threaten sight. If these are picked up early enough by the screening programme, then treatment can be effective, but diabetic retinopathy may not affect the sight until the changes are quite advanced.

Originally from Cheshire, the retired consumer development executive at Yell has had diabetes since she was 42. She has an unusual type of diabetes which was brought on owing to the shock of her father’s sudden death.

“At first, it was a total nightmare,” she said. “I remember that the first thing my mother brought me in hospital was a bag of sherbet lemons that the nurse said I wouldn’t be able to eat. I then had to have insulin at 7am and 7pm and then had to learn a kind of portion control.

“Then, a few days after my 50th birthday, I had a severe stroke which put me in hospital. However, during that time, I met a nurse called Jo Head who changed my life. She was the first specialist diabetic nurse I met, and she taught me how to control my diabetes, taught me how to use a glucometer [a machine that helps measure the correct dose of insulin] properly and put me in touch with a specialist diabetic doctor.”

However, Jennifer, who was widowed earlier this year, is still passionate about the work of Diabetes UK and regularly lobbies Westminster. The Reading group meets five times a year, supporting people who have recently been diagnosed, and people who have had the condition for years.

She added: “It’s the fastest-growing medical condition in the UK and something must be done about it. It’s the modern-day lifestyle that has led to the explosion in diabetes. Most people eat fast food and are feeding their children the same; pizzas, burgers, takeaways.

“When you’re diagnosed with diabetes, there’s a lot to take in so the message about taking care of your eyes and feet can get lost. It’s vitally important to have your retinal screening. I missed some appointments and had I kept earlier appointments, I might have saved my sight.

“There’s a mobile clinic that comes to your surgery and they put drops in your eyes. The specialist machine takes picture and notes the changes. It only takes about 30 minutes and it’s not uncomfortable. If it saves people’s sight, then we should do it.

“It’s heart-breaking for people who know me to watch me lose my sight and I know there are things I could have done to have prevented it. The recently-formed Diabetes Sans Frontières project definitely helped. Prior to that, I didn’t realise there was so much help available or that there were so many people are involved in my care.”

Stephanie Holland, Programme Manager for the Berkshire Diabetic Eye Screening Programme added: “Diabetic retinopathy is a serious complication but if it’s diagnosed and treated early enough then severe loss of vision can be prevented in 90 per cent of cases. We run a screening programme and encourage everyone with diabetes over the age of 12 years to have a retinal examination using digital photography once a year. To book your appointment call 0118 936 8610.”


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Tales from Ben Nevis for business

Climbing Ben Nevis, despite being an asthma sufferer, has surprising lessons that can also be used in business and will be one of the topics for discussion at the Athena Network this month.

West Berkshire accountant Sue Jackson recently climbed Ben Nevis and will be using this as the basis of her talk called “Even Asthmatics can climb mountains: Five insights into planning and achieving your goals” at the Athena Thatcham meeting on Tuesday, 18th November at the Regency Park Hotel.

Other talks lined up for local businesswomen include a talk on how to get press coverage (by me!) which takes place at the Newbury North meeting at the Donnington Valley Hotel on Wednesday, 12th November; a speaker from Enterprise First talking about the Government Growth Voucher scheme which offers shared investment in helping you grow your business, at the Hungerford meeting at Audley Inglewood on Friday, 14th November, and advice on the ‘pensions revolution’ from Caroline Matthews, Independent Financial Advisor from CSM Financial Solutions at the Newbury South meeting on Wednesday, November 19th at the Chequers Hotel, Newbury.

All meetings take place from 12pm to 2pm and must be booked via regional director Debbie Miles on

The Athena Network also runs a monthly drop-in networking meeting for all local businesswomen. Called “Cappuccino Connections”, the next meeting takes place on Friday 24th October from 10am to 12pm at Strada in the Market Place, Newbury. This month’s meeting includes a talk from Jane Points Points South Travel who will be discussing 'The Importance of Customer Service' illustrating her talk with tales from India and Sri Lanka. Cappuccino Connections meetings are free for Athena members and just £5 for non-members.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Chichester fruit firm

No matter how many press releases you write, you never get bored of that feeling of seeing something you've written appear in print. What's even better is when a paper uses a release without changing it like this one here about a lovely couple expanding their fruit business.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

From Generation to Generation in Waitrose Weekend

Thrilled that the From Generation to Generation release is in the current Waitrose Weekend magazine!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

"The 14-day declutter"

Might take a bit longer than 14 days to sort my house, but thrilled to see a piece that we submitted to Yours magazine on behalf of Jo Cooke from Tapioca Tidy and community interest company Hoarding Disorders UK. Well worth a read! On sale from 15th to 30th September.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Does spelling matter?

I'm delighted to see this blog from marketing genius Seth Godin having just had a similar discussion with a colleague following my rant about Dunelm Mill and their inability to spell "drawers" - of which they sell quite a few.

"As long as you know what the person is trying to say, what difference does it make?" she said.

My argument was that if it doesn't matter, then why not get it right? Because IT DOES matter. I say this because I frequently choose the supplier that knows the difference between "you're" and "your" or "it's" and "its". My thinking is that if they can't get that right, then can they be trusted with the other simple stuff?

And sometimes, the smallest change can alter the meaning of what you're trying to say. We once stopped at a restaurant en route to a party because when we asked the host if there was dinner, said: "No food served." He actually meant "No. Food served". The complete opposite.

Having been on the end of thousands of press releases, if there is a mistake in the first paragraph, I won't read on. There just isn't time to correct people's spelling when you're on deadline in a busy newsroom.

Apparently, 99% of press releases get binned. So one of the simplest things you can do to avoid being binned is to check your grammar and spelling. Always, always ask someone to check it over before you hit send.

Remember: "an apostrophe is the difference between a company that knows its sh*t and a company that knows it's sh*t."

*edited as I'd originally spelt "Dunelm" incorrectly! Oh the shame!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Tis the season to be jolly!

Believe it or not, magazines are putting their Christmas issues together at the moment (some editorial newsrooms will even have a Christmas tree up and will be playing festive music!). Could your product be featured in a Christmas gift round-up?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


What the Great British Bake Off can teach us about marketing is one of the topics up for discussion by West Berkshire businesswomen at their September meetings.

The Newbury north group meets at the Donnington Valley Hotel on Wednesday, 10 September where Sarah Bromham of Radiance Therapy will speak on the subject "Stress management techniques from a therapist's perspective, for use in everyday life and business.”

At the Hungerford meeting on Friday, 12th September at Audley Inglewood, Caroline Matthews of CSM Financial Solutions will be discussing recent changes to pension rules and regulations.

At the Thatcham meeting on Tuesday, 16th September at the Regency Park Hotel, a representative of Enterprise First will explain the government-funded Growth Vouchers scheme which offers up to £2,000 to businesses for strategic business advice.

At the Newbury South meeting on Wednesday, 17th September at the Chequers Hotel in Newbury, Rachel Cox from Amica Marketing will speak to members on the topic “Is a Marketing Plan a piece of cake?”

Debbie Miles, regional director of The Athena Network in West Berkshire, said: “After a summer break, we’re ready to get down to business with an exciting line-up of speakers with topics that will interest and inform our entrepreneurs. We’d always like to see new faces and if you’d like to come and try our supportive brand of networking, then please get in contact.”

All meetings include lunch and networking and take place from 12pm to 2pm. For more details, email Debbie Miles on


Friday, 22 August 2014

Recruitment news

"Aim higher" = hire!

Monday, 11 August 2014


With up to a third of the population at risk of developing diabetes, a former primary school teacher has teamed up with health and education specialists to develop a fun card game which helps teach kids and parents to eat more healthily.

Foodeeze was developed by Russ Adlem from Caversham, in association with NHS specialists, a dyslexia expert and a speech and language therapist when he noticed that the more restless children in his class tended to eat chocolate and sugary drinks.
The characters and fun facts encourage children to learn about healthy food in an exciting and socially interactive way. The game challenges children’s problem-solving abilities and improves their food vocabulary and interest in different foods from around the world.

The game comprises a pack of cards featuring different foods such as Barney Banana, Carlos Cornflakes and Chantal Cheese, and includes nutritional values and fun facts.

Russ said: “After noticing that some children weren’t making these healthy food choices for themselves, I realised that they needed to understand why healthy foods are better than unhealthy ones and to make their own decisions. It occurred to me that this could be done with the help of a fun and interactive game to encourage children to talk about food, experience new foods and make their own healthy eating choices. Foodeeze was born!”

In 2013 Russ joined forces with Focus Games Ltd to refine Foodeeze and make it more widely available. Together, they’ve developed two different versions of Foodeeze suited to key stages 1 and 2 (KS1 and KS2). Priced at just £4.99, it’s being snapped up by parents to play at home with their children too.

In 2013, Russ approached Dale Campbell, a European Trademark Attorney from Trademark Tribe who trademarked the brand to ensure that the name was his to use. Now the company has officially launched, his first goal is to get the card game used by schools and councils.

He added: “Dale was fantastic and helped me understand where Foodeeze stood in the market and how it could easily fall into someone else's hands if it wasn't protected correctly. She also explained the difference between the 'R' and 'TM' symbols and it seemed like a 'no brainer' registering Foodeeze. Dale's fees were extremely reasonable so I opted for a mark on the logo and a mark on the word itself. Dale and TradeMark Tribe have been highly efficient, helpful, reasonable and have given great advice in helping to protect the Foodeeze identity and brand.”

Dale said: “As Russ was launching a new brand we wanted to make sure that the name and logo was free to use and so we undertook clearance searches for him to make sure that no one else had already registered the name as a trademark.

“Once the searches confirmed that the name was available we applied for trademark protection. This ensures that Foodeeze will maintain ownership of their brand which is vital to protect a brand that consumers grow to know and trust.

“Sometimes a business launches and grows and may not even know until too late that they are unwittingly infringing a previously registered trademark. Untold damage can be done if someone else passes off as your brand and pulls your customers away especially when they do not offer the same quality service. Based on our advice, Russ chose to register both the word Foodeeze and the logo so that both his name and visual identity are protected. “

Thursday, 7 August 2014


East Anglian motorists have a wealth of Renault cars and vans to choose from for the forthcoming 64-plate at Mitchells Lowestoft.
The good news is that Renault’s summer season of hot deals continues until the end of September, meaning that local motorists can enjoy fantastic value on Clio, Zoe, Captur, Mégane and Scenic.

The Clio is available from as little as just £139 a month on Renault Selections and subject to terms and conditions, there’s a deposit contribution of £1,500 on the popular Expression+ with standard air conditioning and 16 inch alloy wheels.
The electric ZOE supermini comes with a Plugged In Grant of £4,198 and a deposit contribution of £2,750 (subject to terms and conditions) when purchased on Renault Selections.

Meanwhile, the all adventurous crossover Captur, as seen in the striking multi million pound TV advert, is available from as little as £159 on Renault Selections and comes with a deposit contribution of £1,000, subject to terms and conditions. The Captur comes with air conditioning and 16 inch alloy wheels as standard.

Perennial family favourites Mégane and Scénic are available at 0% hire purchase over 48 months with no customer deposit on Renault’s range of popular family cars, starting from £13,478.

As well as great deals on Renault cars, there are also special deals on four Renault summer season accessory packs. Starting from £195 fitted including VAT, the ‘Freedom’ pack (roof bars and two roof bar mounted bike racks) costs £195; ‘Sunshine’ (roof bars and 380 litre roof box) costs £295; ‘Explore’ (quick release tow bar, electrics and dual bike rack) costs £495; and ‘Style’ (front and rear skid plates, tailgate protector) costs £295, meaning your summer needs are taken care off.

The offers also include the French brand’s award-winning after sales care package called 4+, worth at least £1,000, offering a four year/100,000 miles warranty and roadside assistance together with four years/48,000 miles free servicing with Renault Selections personal contract purchase.

Also available with the 64-plate is the New Twingo offering everyday versatility and a choice of four vibrant colours; light blue, white, yellow and red. The front end features the brand’s new trademark styling, including a prominent Renault logo set to a black background.

Meanwhile, for the area’s businesses, there are not one, but two new freshly updated commercial vehicles ready to drive away with the new 64 plate.

Firstly, All-New Trafic combines the strengths of its predecessor and is even bigger, more comfortable and practical than ever. Designed to serve as a mobile office, its cabin features a raft of bespoke equipment, including smartphone and tablet cradles, laptop computer storage, and a removable A4-size clipboard to simplify the lives of business customers.

Its bigger brother, the Master, has been renewed and its engine range now features Twin Turbo technology and its travelling comfort and safety credentials have been boosted, too, with the fitment of latest-generation ESC – incorporating Extended Grip, Hill Start Assist and Trailer Sway Control.

In addition to all these new features, the latest version of the model comes with a redesigned, dynamic and modern front end incorporating Renault’s latest brand identity.

Matthew Huke-Jenner, owner and managing director at Mitchells Renault and Dacia in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth, said: “Whether you’re looking for a brand new Renault van or a car with the latest 64 plate, come and have a chat with us to see which Renault is the best fit for you and your way of life.”

Friday, 1 August 2014

Mark Thomas - review of CUCKOOED (Work in Progress) show at New Greenham Arts - 18th July

They say the best way of getting over someone is to make a comedy show about it.

Mark Thomas’ work-in-progress show Cuckooed tells the story of his friendship with Martin – a kindred spirit that he’d met at the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) – a pressure group that Thomas describes as comprising “Quakers and Guardian readers”.

Back in 2003, The Sunday Times ran a series of front page exposés on a "spy network" run by a woman called Evelyn Le Chêne on behalf of BAE Systems.

The story claimed that Le Chêne had the names and addresses of 148,000 peace campaigners, environmentalists and activists obtained through spies posing as activists.

Someone within CAAT was sending them daily updates; could it have been Martin?

While CAAT produced evidence to back up their claims, Thomas and two other friends stood by him before eventually agreeing that the facts were irrefutable.

With clever interactive interviews with other activists on video screens, giving the impression of a live broadcast, Thomas tells the story of their friendship and detailing the betrayal.

It this all sounds dark and miserable, remember this true story is in the hands of Mark Thomas who has previously turned the subjects of his dying dad’s last encounter with opera, the conflict in Israel and the arms trade into comedy gold.

Thomas is an inventive activist and the first half was a recap of his 100 Minor Acts of Dissent tour which included a whistle-stop rundown of some of his successes; playing with toy Barbie cars outside the Saudi embassy, trying to get banned from Tesco, fighting Camden Council with a People’s Kazoo orchestra and a massive game of “What’s the time Mr Wolf” in protest at a council’s plans to charge people to participate in sport in its parks.

In a great piece of audience participation and a possible comedy first, Thomas explained how easy it is to set up your own arms firm (he’d actually done it); then at jaw-dropping speed, enumerating the successes he’d had with closing down arms firms.

As a work in progress, the story of CAAT was not only hilarious, but great theatre and as ever, Thomas is able to hold an audience in the palm of his hand, enticing laughter and gasps of disbelief in equal measure. Let’s hope that when he comes back with the full show that he has some answers to his questions.


(First appeared in Newbury Weekly News on Thursday 24th July).

From Generation to Generation in Candis

Lovely piece in Candis magazine (one of the best-selling magazines in the country!) about Prof Norma Raynes from Intergen. Very inspirational.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Canterbury Gymnastics rolls forward into new era

I'm sure the original headline on my press release had a gymnastic pun in it? :-)

Friday, 18 July 2014

West Berkshire’s renowned Boxford Masques event returns to Welford Park this summer in the form of “Joe Soap’s Masquerade” by award-winning author Geraldine McCaughrean.

West Berkshire’s renowned Boxford Masques event returns to Welford Park this summer in the form of “Joe Soap’s Masquerade” specially written by award-winning author Geraldine McCaughrean.

Directed by Ade Morris with music written by Flying Picket Paul Kissaun, the summertime play will be performed outside in the grounds of Welford Park from July 30 to August 3 by kind permission of the Puxley family.

The play is set towards the end of the First World War and is performed by a cast of locals aged from seven to 70 plus! Performed with live music, the action takes place in 1918 in the “Big House” and the neighbourhood is hoping for peace. The protagonist Charlotte Peake has her heart set on a circus to celebrate the end of the war – there’s even a tent in the barn, but where’s the talent going to come from to fill it?

Maybe by taking a leaf from Lord George Sanger, famed Newbury circus owner and gold-plated fibber… Enter the anarchic Joe and friends, deserters from the army, with their bitter-sweet Masquerade.

“It will be strange to see Great War uniforms walking around these grounds again,” said Deborah Puxley who, for a second time, is throwing wide the gates of her home to the Masques. “A century ago so many individual tragedies and little triumphs must have been acted out here, in this idyllic spot, while the War raged on overseas.”

Geraldine McCaughrean added: “Fittingly, Welford Park itself was used as a First World War hospital and the idyllic setting between the Queen Anne house and the River Lambourn is the most gorgeous backdrop for a play.”

From 1916 onwards Welford Park was used as a convalescent home for injured troops. Photographs from the time show men recuperating in the grand rooms and gardens, ‘wound patches’ sewn to their uniforms like ‘red badges of courage’. 600 troopers were treated there, 30 resident at any one time. In summer there were outdoor sports, in winter occupational therapy. In October 1919 it closed with a final concert given by the residents.

The Boxford Masques were established in 1908 by the real Charlotte Peake and were revived by late Boxfordian historian John Vigor, and Ade Morris with the Watermill Theatre, in 2000. This year’s production, now independent of the Watermill, is the second at Welford Park.

Originally, masques were lavish musical spectacles staged for kings, queens and courtiers but Charlotte Peake began writing her own ‘masques’ for performance by family and staff, and for the enjoyment of her arty circle of friends.

Her stage was a natural amphitheatre at the top of Hoar Hill, overlooking most of the county. In ten years they became a village tradition.

With songs specially composed by Paul KIssaun , dancing choreographed by Newbury Contempory Dance's Deborah Camp, lovely costumes, a huge cast of local men, women and children, and fully professional production values, a Boxford Masque is always a sight worth seeing.

“Bring a picnic and a bottle of wine or enjoy an onsite barbeque and a drink from the bar. Enjoy the ravishing gardens, the sun setting during Act 2, the flare path lighting your way home…
"Masques were invented to entertain royalty. The Boxford Masques are made for you,” added Geraldine.

Tickets are available from the Watermill Box Office on 01635 46044 or and cost £9 in advance (£10 on the gate for Wednesday, Thursday nights and Saturday matinee at 2.30pm).

£12 in advance/£14 on the gate for Friday and Saturday nights.

£3 off the price of all seats (elderly, 12-16 year olds, disabled and unwaged). Free for children aged 11 and under.

A bar and a barbecue are available at each performance.

Grateful thanks are due to the Watermill for box office and costume assistance as well as Greenham Common Trust for match funding the project through their scheme.

For more information about Boxford Masques please visit


Notes to editors:

Review tickets are available on request. Geraldine McCaughrean, Ade Morris, and other members of the committee are available for interviews.

You’re welcome to send a reporter, photographer and cameraman to dress rehearsals on Tuesday or Wednesday, 29/30th July,or earlier to catch final preparations at Welford.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014


A Newbury-based personal stylist and dress agency is re-launching this week with a new name, Frankie and Ruby.

The business, originally called Victoria’s Wardrobe, was set up by Victoria Lochhead to help busy people know their style “rules” and to get the most out of their clothes shopping time.

Victoria is also passionate about dressing people sustainably; sourcing her clothes from charity shops, recycling centres and vintage fairs. Earlier this year, she also set up a UK-wide campaign called “Say no to new” to encourage people to think about avoiding ‘fast fashion’ and instead persuading them to think about buying vintage and second-hand clothes.

Named after her two daughters, the new agency received its official launch with a garden party on Saturday, where an exclusive personal shopping service was also unveiled.

Following an approach from a company in the UK also called Victoria’s Wardrobe, Victoria was told that the brand name had recently been trademarked. Instead of closing shop, she took the opportunity to rebrand and diversify her offering. She has now taken on a colleague Jo Marshall and the pair offer colour analysis, styling consultations, wardrobe decluttering, personal shopping and styling.

They also advise on “the rules” to help people know their shapes, colours and even suitable fabrics so customers need never buy anything unflattering again.

Victoria said: “Two months ago, I had to change my business name as someone else had been clever enough to trademark it. Given the time, effort and energy I’d put into the brand, I thought it was devastating. However, at the same time, I was approached by Jo who wanted me to train her to be a personal stylist and run a dress agency.

“I realised that the name change had actually come at a perfect time - she couldn't have easily run a business called Victoria’s Wardrobe but she could run a Frankie and Ruby!

“Having to change my name has led me to have a good look at my business - I love training, I love working with others - and opened up the possibility of having more branches of Frankie and Ruby.
What I thought would be a failure has turned into a great success.”

Victoria set up her consultancy after returning to work in the hospitality sector after the birth of her second daughter. Feeling she had nothing to wear and under confident in her new shape, she visited an image consultant whose help proved to be life-changing; Victoria was immediately enthused to ensure other women are equally empowered.

Victoria received advice on the re-brand from Newbury-based European trademark attorney Dale Campbell from Trademark Tribe.

Dale said: “I had every sympathy for Victoria as building up a brand and gaining a reputation takes time, energy and expense.

“To have another firm with deeper pockets come along and take your good idea is a nightmare for a small business. No matter how small you think your business is, I recommend registering your trademark so that the brand is not available for anyone else to use.
“Businesses who have been in existence for many years think that this is not a problem as they have not had an issue using their name. Victoria’s experience is a good reminder that it only takes someone else to register your brand as a trademark for you to potentially lose the name. Now she has protected the name with a trademark, she can grow her business with confidence knowing she owns the rights to the brand. We wish her every success with the latest chapter in the firm’s history.
“The best case scenario is for you to own the trademark and when a search is undertaken it will be clear to the bigger companies that the name is already in existence and their marketing gurus can then come up with a new brand name.”

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


A Basingstoke marketing specialist has launched a digital analytics firm to help companies understand exactly how potential sales leads arrive at their websites so they can develop informed and targeted strategic marketing plans.

Chartered Marketer Debbie Bouffler launched Think Forensics this month to help businesses improve their lead generation. With a passion for marketing and a knowledge of the latest technologies, she is uniquely placed to help companies move their leads through the buying process.

Previously Debbie worked in the marketing department at automotive software giant ADP and has 15 years of experience in marketing. She is an active member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and has been a committee member of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight branch for more than three years and has even been acknowledged by the CIM for her ‘outstanding contribution.’

She said: “I created Think Forensics to help businesses identify their sources of lead generation and to ensure they understood how to improve them. According to a recent survey, direct traffic, search engines and web referrals were the three most popular online channels for lead generation, together accounting for 93% of leads.

“With a better understanding and further insight into your business, making informed decisions become easier. I have the capability to present all these figures in a clear and simple way, consistently reporting on campaign results, the impact of communications and even website performance.

“Every penny spent on marketing should produce a return - why keep spending if you can’t see any more leads! I believe you need to make the most of your existing assets first, websites and collateral already have costs associated to them, data takes time to enrich and even longer to maintain. All these assets are vital to promote your business - so make them work harder, push them to the limit, if they break - then you can replace them.

“Businesses strive to generate ‘quality’ leads, and I can help them maximise these, leaving you to convert them into sales for your company. Think Forensics was created to assist businesses with their marketing activities, in a different, yet effective way. Think Forensics obtains useful and meaningful data gathered from websites. With regular analysis and within a short amount of time, a story is slowly revealed.”

By exposing the real facts and figures, marketing activities are identified, monitored and measured. Debbie explains, “It’s all just really about uncovering the truth behind the metrics. By gaining an all-embracing view of marketing activities, there is the ability to take advantage of what is working well and immediately change what is not.”

Debbie was given help in launching her business by Newbury-based motivational coaching firm Bigger Brighter Bolder. Bigger Brighter Bolder runs Success Groups that give budding entrepreneurs a chance to meet, uncover their potential, find their purpose and launch their business from a solid foundation. Thirty-eight members meet twice a month to benefit from personal development tools and learn techniques to develop the ‘Mindset for Success.’

Debbie added: “George Swift and Tracey Miller from BBB helped me develop the right mindset for running my own business. While I knew I had the passion and drive to run a successful marketing firm, without them, it would have taken me longer to have built enough confidence in myself to launch Think Forensics.”

Tracey Miller from Bigger Brighter Bolder added: “Debbie has the knowledge and expertise to develop a successful business proposition. We are very proud to be a part of her journey to success.”


Tuesday, 24 June 2014


Could your business benefit from a £2,000 grant to invest in advice on business strategy? That’s just one of the topics at this month’s West Berkshire Athena Network meetings.

The Newbury North meeting takes place on Wednesday, 9th July at the Chequers Hotel where The Athena Network regional director Debbie Miles will present the ‘Business Fitness scorecard’ which enables business owners to measure how strong their firm is. She’ll then facilitate a discussion on quick ways to improve performance.

During the session’s “Network Strategy Training”, attendees will consider their own skill sets and consider what they’d write about if they were to publish a book.

The Hungerford group takes place at Audley Inglewood on Friday, 11th July where Jo Cooke of Tapioca Tidy and Hoarding Disorders UK will be discussing how decluttering can help your business. In the networking strategy training, members will discuss “how leaving your comfort zone can help your success in business”.

The Thatcham meeting takes place at the Regency Park Hotel on Tuesday 15th July, Debbie will present the business fitness scorecard again while Jackie Sandford of Flare Telecom will be talking about Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and how they relate to networking.

On Wednesday 16th July, the Newbury South group meets at Donnington Grove where the guest speaker will be Enterprise First, introducing the Government-funded scheme 'Growth Vouchers'. The scheme offers a grant of up to £2,000 to businesses trading more than a year for strategic business advice.

At this meeting, in the Network Strategy Training in “Talking Testimonials” attendees will learn how to give and receive effective recommendations.

All meetings take place from 12pm to 2pm for West Berkshire businesswomen. For more information, please email

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


The two Mitchells dealerships in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth have just taken their 200th Dacia order in just over a year since the “shockingly affordable” brand arrived in the UK.

Mitchells Dacia set itself the target of selling 50 Dacia models in its first year. When first launched, customers could choose from the Dacia Sandero supermini from just £5,995, or the Dacia Duster SUV from just £8,995 at launch.

Both attracted widespread positive reviews from the motoring press and motorists alike, who were impressed by their quality and affordability.

Since then, the Sandero Stepway supermini crossover and the Logan MCV (Maximum Capacity Vehicle - a five-seater estate) have been added to the range which has proved a hit with UK buyers who love its no-frills nature, high quality, styling and genuine all-terrain capability – all at an affordable price.

Matthew Huke-Jenner, managing director and owner of Mitchells, said: “We’re thrilled to mark the first anniversary of Dacia in the UK by handing over our 200th vehicle – a Stepway Laureate dCi. Local motorists really do expect value for money and we’ve been overwhelmed with demand for the Dacia line-up as it delivers on build quality, technology and safety.”

For more information, visit Mitchells on Long Road, Lowestoft ( 01502 500950 ) or Suffolk Road, Great Yarmouth ( 0844 249 5793 ) or click onto


Friday, 6 June 2014

Lis Allen in Prima magazine!

We've been trying to get coverage for a great topic with a name that not all magazines are able to print so very, very excited to see Lis Allen from the Vagina Dialogues appearing in Prima magazine!

George Swift on BBC Berkshire radio

Who heard George Swift on BBC Berkshire talking to Tony Blackburn yesterday! One hour and six minutes in on why entrepreneurs are happier than employees

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Friday, 30 May 2014


Woody Bear, the famous mascot of Pleasurewood Hills, will be on the road in the Lowestoft area this summer chauffeured in a brand new Renault Captur on loan from Mitchells Renault.

Pleasurewood Hills’ much loved mascot Woody Bear has just turned 30 years old and he will be visiting many local events all through the summer. He will be travelling in style too as Mitchells Renault of Lowestoft has provided a Renault Captur on loan to chauffeur him around to many different venues.

Andy Duffield, sales manager at Mitchells Renault, said: “The Renault Captur is the perfect car for Woody’s busy schedule this summer. It’s a crossover with all the space of a 4x4 and a very comfortable ride; it also has excellent fuel economy and low emissions. We are sure that Woody will love it”.

The popular theme park Pleasurewood Hills was opened in 1983 as a family adventure park with a miniature railway. Today it occupies 59 acres and has a huge range of rides and attractions including three roller coasters; a fourth one called Marble Madness will be opened later this year. Thrill rides include Hobs Pit, which is billed as ‘'one of the UK's scariest attractions” and opened in 2013. There are also two great shows at the park featuring Sealions and Parrots, and throughout July & August the Acapulco High Dive show will be performing.

Woody Bear has been a firm favourite with children for the last 30 years. His many visits to hospitals, carnivals, schools, parties and summer fetes have elevated him to celebrity status. He has even met the Queen when she visited Lowestoft in 1986.
Andy Duffield continued: “We are pleased to be a part of Woody’s summer programme which will bring pleasure to children in many different venues”.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Athena Network West Berks in the news

Thanks NWN!

Businesswomen at the West Berkshire Athena Network helped celebrate the fifth anniversary of the region’s first group this week.
Debbie Miles, regional director of the Athena Network, set up the Newbury north group in May 2009. Since then, the group has seen 60 meetings, more than 1,000 ‘monthly minutes’, thousands of referrals and recommendations and created thousands of pounds’ worth of business.
Vikki Champion of Vie Photography, one of the members who has been in the group since its inception, said: “I went to the very first Athena Newbury meeting and Debbie welcomed us so warmly - it felt so right so I joined there and then and haven’t looked back since.
“The best thing about Athena is the support and friendship of other business women, and sharing knowledge and experience. Expanding my own connections and finding new opportunities in my own business has been the wonderful spin-off from that.
“I love the format of informal networking over a wonderful lunch, once a month without pressure or targets, and the “giver’s gain” attitude really works. I can’t recommend Athena highly enough to aspiring businesswomen.”
Debbie said: “Thanks to everyone who has come along to any of our networking meetings over the past five years. It’s been wonderful to witness so many interesting individuals collaborating and finding support, advice, referrals and friendship with other businesswomen. We’re now looking forward to the next five years and as ever, welcome any local businesswoman who’d like to see for themselves.”
For more information, contact Debbie Miles at



Tourists flocking to The Buttermilk Shop in Port Isaac, one of the filming locations for the hit ITV series Doc Martin have helped to raise £1,000 for the Cornwall Air Ambulance.

The Buttermilk Confectionery Company sells its award-winning fudge from the Port Isaac shop which doubles as Mrs Tishell’s Pharmacy in the show; the only landmark in the village that fans can actually enter.

Mike Meakins, who works at the shop, along with his son-in-law Ben Broadhurst of Concorde Copiers, has been re-producing copies of a feature about Doc Martin inside Australian magazine TV Week and selling them to tourists for £2 a copy.

From left to right: Susie Smith, fundraising manager for the Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust, with Sarah Taylor and Mike Meakins from the Buttermilk Shop at Port Isaac.

This is the second year that funds have been raised in this way; last year, the Air Ambulance and the RNLI shared £2,000 and a further £1,000 was handed over to the Cornwall Air Ambulance this week.

Mr Meakins said: “We get a lot of visitors from all over the world coming in to buy fudge and have their picture taken in the shop. The article is a useful starting point for exploring the village and people are delighted to be able to contribute to two such worthy local causes.

Tracy McDonnell, co-owner of The Buttermilk Shop and the Buttermilk Confectionery Company, added: “Well done to Mike and the team in the shop once again for raising this great sum for the Air Ambulance. Like everyone in the county, we are hugely grateful for the wonderful work that the Cornwall Air Ambulance does.”

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Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Business development on the agenda for West Berkshire Athena Members

Topics for this month’s Athena Network meetings include how to avoid failing in business, how to make an impact while networking and how to meaure and improve your business fitness.

The Newbury North group, held on Wednesday, June 11th at Donnington Valley Hotel, will host Rachel Slater from Griffins who will discuss “ten things you should know in order to avoid failing in business”

Debbie Miles, the regional director for the West Berkshire Athena Network will be speaking at the Hungerford group on Friday, 13th June at Audley Inglewood and also Tuesday, 19th June at Regency Park Hotel Thatcham about the ‘Business Fitness scorecard’ which enables business owners to measure how strong their firm is. She’ll then suggest quick ways to improve its ‘fitness.’

Claire and Debbie will also offer advice on how to be successful networkers at this month’s events.

Jacqueline Sandford of Flare Telecom will be talking about 'sales for non-sales people' explaining the importance of a confident approach, identifying the needs of the customer, and the need to follow up, at the Newbury south meeting on Wednesday, 20th June at La Tasca, Newbury.

Debbie Miles said: “Here at Athena, we’re very proud of the positivity and support that our members offer each other. As well as the serious business at our meetings, we also enjoy a laugh. We’d love to see any new faces along who would like to experience ‘The Athena Way’. We also hold monthly meetings called Cappuccino Connections at Strada once a month which is free for members and just £5 for non-members.”

All other meetings take place from 12pm to 2pm for West Berkshire businesswomen. For more information, please email


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Happy birthday Athena ladies!

Businesswomen at the West Berkshire Athena Network helped celebrate the fifth anniversary of the region’s first group this week.
Debbie Miles, regional director of the Athena Network, set up the Newbury north group in May 2009. Since then, the group has seen 60 meetings, more than 1,000 ‘monthly minutes’, thousands of referrals and recommendations and created thousands of pounds’ worth of business.
Vikki Champion of Vie Photography, one of the members who has been in the group since its inception, said: “I went to the very first Athena Newbury meeting and Debbie welcomed us so warmly - it felt so right so I joined there and then and haven’t looked back since.
“The best thing about Athena is the support and friendship of other business women, and sharing knowledge and experience. Expanding my own connections and finding new opportunities in my own business has been the wonderful spin-off from that.
“I love the format of informal networking over a wonderful lunch, once a month without pressure or targets, and the “giver’s gain” attitude really works. I can’t recommend Athena highly enough to aspiring businesswomen.”
Debbie said: “Thanks to everyone who has come along to any of our networking meetings over the past five years. It’s been wonderful to witness so many interesting individuals collaborating and finding support, advice, referrals and friendship with other businesswomen. We’re now looking forward to the next five years and as ever, welcome any local businesswoman who’d like to see for themselves.”
For more information, contact Debbie Miles at


100-year-old volunteer - From generation to Generation

Great story in today's Guardian. More on From generation to Generation here

Monday, 12 May 2014

Hoarding Disorders UK

Thanks Newbury and Thatcham Chronicle!

Thursday, 8 May 2014


Two stalwarts at Mitchells Renault in Long Road have been presented with specially-commissioned motoring-related gifts after each completing 25 years of service at the dealership.

Andy Duffield, the dealership’s sales manager and John Whiting, a Renault Technical Expert (RTE) both started in the late 1980s when the new vehicle line-up included the Renault 5, the Renault 9, the Renault 11 and the Renault 25.

After leaving school and a catering career, Andy started as a trainee valet. He would occasionally step in as a sales executive to cover holidays meaning that sometimes he would clean the very car he’d just sold.

They were both recently honoured at a special staff presentation with a gift of cufflinks in the style of a tax disc with their start dates engraved onto them.

l-r Andy Duffield, Matthew Huke-Jenner and John Whiting

Matthew Huke-Jenner, owner and dealer principal said: “Andy and John are well-known in the area and have played an immeasurable part in the success of Mitchells. It’s been a pleasure to work with them both, particularly as it’s increasingly rare these days to find staff who will remain with one company for so long. We’re very grateful for their hard work and look forward to many more happy years.”

The seven essentials of entrepreneurial success

Benham Hill-based mindset mentoring firm Bigger Brighter Bolder is holding a workshop for businesspeople to ensure they have the mindset for success.
The session is entitled “Seven essentials of entrepreneurial success” and takes place on Wednesdays 4th June, 18th June and 2nd July all at 9.30am to 12pm and will be run by George Swift, coach and director of Bigger Brighter Bolder.
He said: “However long you’ve been running your business, the fact remains that your mindset has more impact on your business than any other factor. Maintaining and developing the success mindset is a simple formula but not easy to apply consistently. That’s where we help.”
Places cost £25 each and must be booked in advance via


Saturday, 26 April 2014

Open Studios - Emma Moscow Millinery

There's a varied display of artists showcasing their work at this year's Open Studios event, West Berkshire and North Hampshire from 3rd to 26th May.

Among them is milliner Emma Moscow who trained with Rose Cory, the late Queen Mother's milliner. Emma is opening her studio in Boxford on Sunday 4th, Monday, 5th, Saturday 10th, Sunday 11th, Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th May - all from 11am to 5pm.

For more details see


Looking to turn heads on Ladies Day at Ascot? Searching for that extra special something to finish off a stunning wedding outfit? Choosing the right hat can really put your head in a spin.

Having learned the art of hat-making from the Queen Mother’s milliner Rose Cory, Emma Moscow has the experience to help you choose the right hat for any occasion and put you ahead of the game.

Emma’s inspiration for her hat designs come from the personalities of her clients as well as the beautiful West Berkshire countryside in which she enjoys walking her dogs.

Creating a bespoke hat is no different from crafting an artwork, and so fittingly, the Boxford-based businesswoman is opening her studio to visitors as part of this year’s West Berkshire and North Hampshire Open Studios event.

From school, Emma studied fashion at Berkshire College of Art and Design. However, her career took a very different turn when she ran her own homeopathy business for 17 years. Realising the time was right for a change and a more creative career, she revisited her passion for fashion and decided to specialise in hats. She studied with Rose Cory and subsequently launched her own business three years ago.

Most of her custom comes from word-of-mouth referrals who turn to her for bespoke couture hats and headpieces for special occasions. She also finds the time to provide the headgear for the Boxford Masques.

Each hat is unique and handcrafted using traditional techniques from different materials such as parasisal straw, sinamay, fur and wool felt and fabric.

She said: “I invite customers to my workshop so they can have a look at the hats on display, and I get to know them so I can create something that will really suit them. I want them to commission something they’ll really love as there’s no better feeling than seeing a customer being happy and confident in their hat.”

You might think anything goes hat-wise during the race season but there are some rules to remember. Some racecourses stipulate that the headwear must cover a circumference of 4inch of the wearer’s head. Others state that “the customisation of top hats is forbidden”.

“If you are looking for ‘that’ hat on Ladies Day you need to make a statement. Choose something eye-catching, but you must keep it stylish,” says Emma. “A hat says a lot about your personality as well as a great way to finish off an outfit,” she adds.

Here are Emma’s top tips for choosing the right hat:
• Always try to take your outfit with you and leave yourself plenty of time to try the hats on.

• There are no hard and fast rules about what shapes will suit a certain person. There are many factors that affect how a shape looks such as shape and size of face, hairstyle, height and length of neck, so be open minded and try lots of shapes. They often look quite different on the head from on the stand.

• Consider the occasion. For example, if you are meeting and greeting people and going to be photographed a lot then it is probably best to avoid a large down turned brim, or if it is likely to be windy, avoid a hat that is too tall.

• Generally the taller you are, the wider the brim you can wear successfully but it is probably wise not to go much wider than your shoulder width, or it will start to look unbalanced. Smaller people are often better with small brims or hats/headdresses worn on the side of the head.

• If you want your hat to be the same colour as your outfit then make sure it is a good match. Otherwise go for a complementary or accent colour.

• A good fit is very important. If a hat is much too big or small it will look wrong and be uncomfortable. Made-to-measure is ideal for this. It is also important that it is secure, you don’t want to be having to grab your hat every time you move or there is a breeze.

• Pay attention to how you wear the hat. It is common for people to push their hats too far back. Generally they look much better tilted forward. Wearing them at an angle, usually down over the right eyebrow looks very flattering on most people.

For more information visit


Photo captions:
1. Parasisal straw with organdie flowers - £280
2. Pinok Pok with Organza flowers - £295
3. Private commission to a mother of a bride. Made of Sinamay and silk – £295.
4. This hat is made from Crin and feathers and was a private commission. Something similar would cost around £300.
5. Silk velvet and feathers - £280