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MilkChic Needs You!!! Please Vote!

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breastfeeding advocate
(C) MilkChic. All rights reserved.

I’ve done something very scary… I’ve applied for some extra funding for MilkChic. I’m asking for £500 to make the MilkChic website function better, both for busy mummies who need fashionable nursing clothes but only have a newborn’s naptime to find them… and for me, so I can actually keep MilkChic as a going concern.

vote for milkchic at fund 101

Much as I’ve learned a lot about how websites work, and my coding has come along a treat… it’s time to get some expert help. My time must be better spent doing the things I’m good at – sourcing great fashion and supporting breastfeeding mums, than sweating over websites and going cross-eyed over data feeds for mediocre results.

But I need your help. I need to get 500 votes for my funding pitch at Enterprise Nation to win the funds I need to make MilkChic a better and more sustainable resource:

  • A more functional website that loads quicker
  • More listings from a wider range of retailers
  • Better filters and search facilities
  • Better content, more often and regular updates
  • More time for your personal shopping requests
  • More great offers and sale buys

Please take the time to vote and I promise to make the site better for all of us.

PS. If you run a small business, and need help to grow, or if you’ve got a great idea for a start-up but need some extra support why not take the plunge and apply too? Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that…!

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Fresh starts and new beginnings

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snödroppar ~ snowdrops
Photo: Per Ola Wiberg

Firstly, an apology for going AWOL over Christmas and New Year… just when everybody needed party dresses and sale bargains. I am a bad blogger and I am sorry 🙁

Over Christmas I took redundancy from my “real job”. We also moved house. Not optimum timing really, especially when I decided to combine the two with a bit of a meltdown.

Unemployment has been a long time coming – I have been trying to get back to work fully since I developed a back problem in pregnancy and recovery has just taken too long. I’ve improved a lot from where I was, but I am now waiting for more diagnostic tests, and at least one more operation. My daughter is now 2.5, I’ve already waited nearly 6 months for these latest diagnostics, and it will be another long wait for the op so the path to recovery is likely to stretch on. In the meantime, my chance of finding fulfilling work flexible enough to allow that recovery with a new company who doesn’t know my abilities seems minimal.

It’s taking a lot of getting used to. I’m unemployed for the first time in my life, and am trying to come to terms with the fact that I may not be able to return to work as a retail buyer – the career that I love. I think that if I was giving that up to be a stay at home mum, or for part time work that gave me a better work-life balance, I’d be handling it better. But at the moment the future is uncertain and I’m scared.

The people in the benefits office don’t really help your confidence – on finally ringing up to ask about job seekers allowances and NI stamps, I was told that realistically I’d be better off applying for ESA (sick pay for the unemployed) until I’ve had my operation. Last time I went to the job centre, there was a guy drinking Special Brew while he waited for his appointment. If they think he’s employable and I’m not, things are not looking good!

We need my income. Or a significant part of it. So if I can’t find regular work, I need to find other ways of earning my crust. I will clip coupons and do focus groups and surveys. I will use my “transferrable skills” doing freelance admin and CV writing (ironically, I am very good at writing CVs for mums and those who have been out of the workforce…), take on craft projects and rebuild my Etsy account…. most of all, if it is to continue, I am going to have to bite the bullet and make MilkChic actually fund itself.

MilkChic has always been profit-making in theory, but it was set up as a maternity leave project which I could do in fits and starts as I felt up to it. On paper, the tiny profit it makes through advertising and commission has never justified the time, but it has given me a sense of purpose and identity when I’ve been low, and made me part of a community of mums and business women whose humour and support make me proud to be female. It is something very close to my heart and I am scared of making changes.

But change is a good thing and if I take this opportunity to ring the changes, and am able to justify the hours I spend on it, then MilkChic will be sustainable long term as a resource for breastfeeding mums. Who knows? I might eventually offer myself a fulfilling, flexible job that pays just enough to support my family…!

I don’t want to alienate the people who have always been so supportive of MilkChic by going all corporate and money-grabbing. So I’m trying to keep things as transparent as possible about the changes by blogging about “behind-the-scenes MilkChic” at Busting Out Mummy.

Happy New Year! This one’s going to be a good one!
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Things I Should be Doing Thursday

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It’s been a busy week here in the MilkChic household. My best friend, who is 27 weeks pregnant, had a very scary bleed and lots of things took a back seat as their insignificance became glaringly obvious. Thankfully, it looks as though everything is OK so I will be gratefully focusing on trivial tasks this week.

As so much has been going on the to do list is short today:

  • Add lovely things to the MilkChic shop
  • Add lovely sleeved things to Armed & Glamorous
  • Finally get MilkChic USA launched (it’s there, but there’s not nearly enough on it yet…)

I’m feeling pretty positive as I’ve managed to cross a couple of big things off the list at last – Mr MilkChic got his kilt… although it was a close call. And I also got the MilkChic leaflets printed.

I’m hopeful that I might be focused enough to get today’s list done, so if you find me tweeting too much, please shout at me.

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Small Business Sunday to Manic Monday!

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Every week on a Sunday evening, Theo Paphitis supports small businesses with Small Business Sunday. You send him a tweet (@theopaphitis55) with the tag #sbs between 5pm and 7.30pm and he retweets his favourite six to all of his 102,000 followers.
I have been entering every week since I heard about it and have made contacts and gained followers each time, as well as finding lots of great businesses. Last night, after a busy week where MilkChic’s sister site, Armed & Glamorous (sleeved fashion) got press coverage in a “proper magazine”, I went to bed very early and didn’t check the retweets.

I couldn’t believe it when I saw how busy my Twitter account had been and this is why:
Thanks to Shellybobbinsâ„¢ for the pic!

I am very excited this morning and determined to make the most of the opportunity. MilkChic is built in evenings and naptimes and I would love to be able to give up the day job and do it justice. Please contact me here, on Facebook, or through Twitter if you have any requests or suggestions for the website.
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Social networking – what goes where?

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I have… 1 website (2 domains – the automatic sitebuilder one and my own), 1 database (to organise my fashion finds), 2 blogs (1 real one, embedded in the website, and 1 placeholder blog, so trolls can’t use my name), 1 facebook page and 1 twitter account

You would think, with all this, that I would be able to figure out how to list a few pieces of vintage clothing on the Oxfam website, but it’s harder than you might think. Vintage clothing can be great for nursing mums as, it’s affordable, individual, and comes in a wide range of styles that work for breastfeeding but, as each piece is a one-off, by the time I’ve added it to MilkChic, it could have gone.

My web marketing guru, Gareth at BVP Digital Solutions, told me to just post them on my Twitter feed. Having experimented posting a few bargains and vintage finds and seen the instant response, it’s a perfect solution – quick for me, no updating or deleting, and more exciting clothes = more people looking at MilkChic.

This revelation has got me thinking. Constantly duplicating the same information in numerous different places is not always time spent well and doesn’t really add value for the people who actually visit my website and interact with it in several places.

So I’m going to try and do things differently:
MilkChic website – Breastfeeding clothing, offers and useful links.
MilkChic blog – Special offers, trend reports, news & in-depth comment
Facebook – updates on the site, big special offers, relevant news & comment
TwitterLast chance to buy sale clothing, vintage or one-off finds and general chat about issues that affect breastfeeding mums and parents in general.

There will be duplication, but not nearly as much as before and I might actually get the chance to write that in depth comment for the blog… or (more likely) post some pretty pics of the latest trends!

Note: MilkChic receives no money from shamelessly plugging BVP Digital Solutions in this post. BVP is run by a friend of mine and comes highly recommended.

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