A plea from me…

It’s 2015 – “fleek” is the new “on point”, “squad” is the new “crew” and we’re going a bit crazy over “curvy”. *eyeroll* 

Yes, I jumped on the wagon following various plus size Instagram accounts yada yada bla bla bla and honestly, I’m confused. I’m all for empowerment and feeling confident, but since when did being a fat (excuse me, curvy) confident woman mean half dressed? 

I can’t be the only chunk that doesn’t feel an overwhelming sense of empowerment when I see another big girl squeezing into the most unflattering jeans, or God forbid, baring the bulge in a belly top. I’m not going to post examples because this isn’t about shaming anybody – it’s less of a rant and more of a plea. 

5 years ago, I’d probably be more sympathetic. In terms of choice, it would pretty much be dress like a granny or rummage to the back of the rack for the biggest “standard” size and try and make it work. Times have changed. Aside from specialist plus size shops like Yours and Evans, common high street favourites like New Look and H&M have their own plus size ranges and whilst I cringe at some of the pieces, with a bit of self respect and a good eye, you can really make it work. Personally, I’m an ASOS chick but maybe we can look into that another time. 

I implore my fellow fatties to yes, be confident, yes be comfortable but please, be classy!

Peace x

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Productive Mornings

For some strange reason, I’ve been waking up around 5am every morning this week with ideas for new blog posts.

To put this in perspective, I’m definitely in a ‘long term relationship’ with my bed. We’ve got a thing going on. Definitely. I recently discovered my 5 year old son can make his own breakfast and boy oh boy has this worked to my advantage! I don’t set an alarm because I’m cranky if woken out of sleep. Instead, I let myself wake up naturally, which prior to this week, has always been just before or bang on 8am followed promptly by me prodding my son to get up, brush his teeth and make his breakfast. Smooth. This little discovery has earnt me an additional 10 minutes in bed every morning! Not to be knocked! 

So back to this early morning thing. I feel as if I’ve given myself a reason to wake up early in the morning and honestly, I think I like it. In a post further down about my imminent university start, I mentioned that I need to plan and get organised and you know what, my body agrees! I’ll be working full time and going to uni full time in the evening and was getting some advice from a solicitor friend of mine. She told me that by the time I get home from uni after also having a long day at work, my brain will probably need a break and I might find it more beneficial to go home, chill and get up early in the mornings to study with a fresh head. Whilst I absolutely loved the idea in theory, I just couldn’t see myself ‘breaking up’ with my bed. We’ve been through so much! But in all seriousness, this blog has given me a reason to wake up early. It’s kickstarted a new routine for me and I intend to fully embrace it! 

So whatever goals you’ve set yourself, think about what needs to change or improve in your life to make it happen and then more importantly, effect that change! We have all been given a purpose and a design for our life but it’s up to us individually how far we go towards reaching our true potential. Whether it’s changing your morning routine like me, removing certain people from your life or even healing broken relationships, start doing what you need to do to make your ambitions a reality. 

Next on my list: eat breakfast before leaving the house. Pray for me looool. I’m on a journey

X

A new low

A new low!
Tonight, I have reached a new low! I’m casually sat in my living room, catching up on social media and tidying this blog up with the TV on in the background. Now I’m first to admit that my taste in TV is somewhat varied and questionable. To give you an idea, I’ve listed a few below:
Eastenders

Pretty Little Liars (don’t judge!)

Gossip Girl (now finished)

Suits

House of Cards

Teen Mom (Originals and 2)

16 and Pregnant

Hollyoaks

Masterchef
You get the gist. So I’m tapping away and suddenly wonder why I’m hearing SOOOO much swearing and shouting, only to realise I’ve been unknowingly polluting my mind with the horror that is Geordie Shore! The fact this is even ON in my house has dragged me to a new low. I’m really trying to take in whatever insignificant drama is going on but I genuinely can’t get past the scary accent (reminding me that I am in fact almost a northerner. Ha ha! – born in Derby), copious amount of swearing and slack conversation.
Verdict: Geordie Shore, you’re fired!

Starting a business

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked as a business relationship manager in banking for the past 7 years and have looked after businesses from start up right through to large corporates and want to use this blog to pass on atleast some of the knowledge I have acquired.

Today I want to look at start up businesses and 5 key considerations or actions. There are obviously more, but these are a great start.

1. What will the business be
This may seem like an obvious question but you’d be surprised at how many people when questioned, don’t actually know it can’t articulate it.
Are you selling a service or product?
What is/are the service/s or product/s?

Once you have a basic idea, you can move on to the next stage.

2. Plan and prepare
This is quite a meaty chunk and I’d imagine, this is where the majority of your “pre-start” time will be spent. A lot of people straight away think, “Right! This is the part where I write my business plan!” Wrong! Put down the business plan and research.

Research
Whenever I wanted to do anything, they’d say, “Give us all the information and facts so we can make an informed decision.” The same applies here. Before you make any more decisions on what shape the business will take, get some information. Below is by no means an exhaustive list, but use they’re basic “joggers” to help point you in the right direction.

– what legal structure will I be? (I.e Limited, sole trader, Limited Liability Partnership, Charity)
– who else does what I want to do?
– how well do they do it
– why do they/don’t they do it so well
– what can I replicate?
– what would I do differently?
– what will my USP (unique selling point) be?
– who will my customers be? (Demographics)
– what demand is there for what I am selling?
– how will they pay me?
– when will they pay me? (In advance or credit)
– how much will it cost me to source goods?
– do I have enough money?
– will I need to deal internationally?
– will I need to trade in different currencies and what effect might this have on my profits?
– what legislation is applicable to my industry?
– will I need a license to trade?
– what is the market like at the moment for my industry and are any changes coming?
– do I need any qualifications and if so, what and how can I achieve them?
– will I have a physical high street presence or be virtual?
– where?
– how much will it cost
– will I need to take on staff?
– what legislation applies?

As I said, this is just to get you started. Start with a basic question and “funnel” down so you can make your research detailed. Once you have all of this information, writing your business plan will be a lot easier.

Business plan
This is in effect your blueprint for your business. I think a good business plan is specific, sets clear objectives but more importantly, it is a working document. As a start up, you should be reviewing your business plan regularly to check progress and to also see if you are still on the same course. If not, why? Regular reviews will allow you to either alter your business so that you are back in line with your plan, or may even demonstrate that actually, the business plan needs amending to reflect a new direction the business is moving in.
Find a good template as this will help you cover off the necessary considerations.
I quite like http://www.bplans.co.uk but you may find you want a simpler or even more detailed one so have a good look around.
Barclays offers a simpler template on their site

http://www.barclays.co.uk/Startupsupport/Writingasmallbusinessplan/P1242559649359

3. Build you support network
A lot of people wait until they need something before they start looking for advisors. As a new start up, you could save yourself a lot of time and money in the long run by seeking out good advisors early on. You may not necessarily to their help straight away but it’s definitely good practise. A lot of smaller businesses can quite easily look after the bookkeeping and accounting themselves but it’s definitely worth having everything finalised by a professional. Above I mentioned deciding what legal status to take and often an introductory chat with a solicitor can support this decision. There are pros and cons to the different structures but it’s also worth getting some advice from an accountant, as there may be tax advantages to one more than the other due to your nature of business or turnover.
Friends and family can often be a great support, but make sure you gauge the level of support they can and are willing to provide from the absolute get-go. Personally, unless you are setting up a family business, try to keep this to a minimum.

4. Stay organised
Setting up a business can be very time-consuming and stressful but remember to keep a balance, especially if you have a family. Set realistic goals and allocate yourself time to work on them but also give yourself some down time. The last thing you want is to put every living hour into the business and then come to resent it.
Anya Hindmarch says “I have a phrase that was quoted to me which is “as you leave the office at night, fire yourself mentally and come back the next day as you successor”
In order to stay productive, know when to take a break and come back to it. (Especially when writing your business plan!)

5. Keep up to date with industry news and legislation
This is pretty self-explanatory but definitely worth doing. Find out if there are any reputable news feeds you can sign up to and keep up to date with relevant news via newspapers and websites. You may find you watch the news a lot more than before!

Finally, whilst starting a business is not without its challenges, it can be extremely rewarding. With the right mindset and discipline, you can make this work.

Good luck x

The Budget 2015 – Student Maintenance

So with today’s budget announcement, I thought I’d quickly put my own views and thoughts on the matter out there. There were so many points covered but not all are either applicable to me or interest me so I’ll just stick to a few. I’ll probably address one or two over a period of time as there’s lots to talk about.

Within my own circles, opinion is very much split and not surprisingly, this is because some parts affect some more than others. How do I feel about it? Generally, I’m quite unaffected but maybe after jotting my thoughts down this will change. We’ll see.

So to kick off I’ll start with the change to Student Maintenance. From September 2016 Student Maintenance Grants will be scrapped. From the Twitter uproar, I think a lot of people stopped listening at that point but what does this really mean, who will it affect and how?

I think it helps to understand what the grant is in the first instance. According to studentparents.org, it is a non-repayable grant to help cover the cost of living expenses and if you started after 2012, this can be up to £3387. The grant is means tested and so is really for students coming from a lower income household. This is in addition to the maintenance loan that does need to be repaid. Please bear in mind, that for every £1 of grant you get, the loan reduces by 50p meaning that students from lower income households have less of a student debt to pay back than their more well off counterparts.

Today, George Osborne announced that “…from 2016/17 academic year, we will replace maintenance grants with loans for new students, loans that only have to be paid back once they earn over £21,000 a year.” So that’s the what. In a nutshell, the free money the government gave to students from poorer backgrounds is no longer free and will need to be repaid. The good news is that the new loans available will be £8200, which is an increase of £766 compared to 2015/16.

I tweeted Student Finance England this afternoon as I’ll be starting my degree this September but wanted to clarify who these changes will affect. Luckily, they got back to me quite quickly so I can confirm that these changes affect NEW students from 2016/17 so current students will continue to receive the current system of ‘grant and loan’ for the remainder of their course. Whoopty do!

In all honesty, I’m relieved it doesn’t affect me but I really had nothing to worry about. Even if these changes did affect me, it’s so important to remember that all this change means is that the size of loan you have to repay is bigger than if you started in 2015/16 for example. The amount you repay, so far, remains unchanged at 9% of earnings above £21k from the April after graduation. All this means is that it will take longer to pay off the debt as there will be more of it but let’s face it, most people won’t pay back all of their loan anyway as it gets written off after 30 years. The real losers here are the high earners as they will pay a lot more of their loan in the long run.

So what’s my message? Chill! It’s not great news, but if you are starting your course when these changes take effect, repayment is not an issue until you start earning and is a percentage of that income. Go get your education and worry about the rest AFTER!

X

Lets talk interracial dating…

I recently saw a post from a fellow sister talking about her experiences of interracial dating and her fear of being more of a fetish to white men that saw her as an opportunity to almost tick a box. This I definitely understand! Of the white men I’ve encountered that have been interested in me, they often commented on the shape of my rear or how “womanly” I was and I too have been unfortunate enough to be described as “exotic”! Heaven help me! Some might say I’m “nit picking” but why is this ok? I wonder if it would be equally acceptable if it were the other way round?

For me though, interracial dating goes deeper than just skin colour. After being in a relationship for 5 years with my sons dad who’s Nigerian, I realised that it’s a cultural thing aswell. Coming from a Jamaican background, I quickly learnt that whilst there were times our different cultures complimented each other and even mirrored, there were also far too many that conflicted. The whole experience has put me off interracial dating for a long time to be honest but I really do believe that when you meet that person that God has ordained you to be with, regardless of race, colour or culture, it will work. In the interview I listened to, she talked about the importance of finding common ground and that might not necessarily be hobbies or interests but simply morals and values. I’m learning to look past race and see people for who they are individually but I also think it’s naive to think a persons race or cultural background is irrelevant because as I found out, it will become very relevant at some point.

Communication from the very beginning is crucial. It’s all very well having the “Think Like A Man” style questions at the ready but it doesn’t stop there! I don’t believe in casual dating so when I go into a relationship, it’s because I genuinely see something in that person that makes me think, “yes, I could see myself marrying him”. I don’t know about you, but for me, marriage is the goal! Get married and STAY HAPPILY married! I want to see his parents marriage

– are they happy?

– is it a partnership or hierarchy?

– how were you raised?

Let’s be real. There are some amazing men that come out of single parent or dysfunctional homes, but if you get an idea of the environment they’re coming from, it might help you to understand areas that need discussing and clarifying as a couple. If daddy was “the boss” and mummy had to literally ask permission to leave the house, I’d want to know what he understands a relationship to be and what form he sees his marital home to take. Better to find out sooner than later if your boo wants to rule his home like a dictatorship.

I think it’s important whoever you set up home with to stick to 2 rules: Pray and communicate

X

So…I’m off to Law School!

After years of iffing and butting, I’ve finally taken the plunge and will be heading to university to start my law degree. Whoop!

£9k a year is too much money to waste so I need to plan for success! First thing’s first – shopping list!

– iMac 27″ – I need a desktop to write essays and I’m a big Apple junkie…

– MacBook – My poor hand can’t write as fast as it used to so I’ll use this for lecture notes

– Bag/satchel

– Highlighters

– Printer (wireless)

– Plain paper

– Planner

– Pencils

– Bookcase

– Desk – I have a dressing table but this won’t do

– Coffee machine

– Desk lamp

– Bookstand

– Dictaphone

– Shredder

I think that’s the essentials covered off…

I’m really lucky to have a good job and career already and don’t particularly want to put that on hold. I think I’ll be in a really strong position having current commercial work experience so I wanted to find a way to study and keep my job. I’ll be going to Birkbeck University to study for my degree full time but in the evening so it’s really important that I organise my life, hence the shopping list. As soon as my timetable drops, I basically want to extend it to my life timetable so everything from meal plans to activities will be scheduled in. Let’s see if I stick to it…watch this space!