Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Counting blessings (part 3 - Learning / Experience / Knowledge / Skills)

Continuing with the luck audit, our formal education was only marginally relevant to the formation of Look-in-the-Bag.  I have a background in library and information management, which makes me good at looking things up (always useful) and placing books in order (so far, no call for that skill in LitB).  

Neelam’s degree is in fine arts.  Her appreciation of Carravaggio’s use of light however, has been less useful to LitB than her skills as a designer and illustrator.  Give her a paintbrush, a pencil, a stick of charcoal, or a finger dipped in ink, and she will put it to good creative use.  Her repertoire ranges from the realistic and detailed to the quirky and cartoony.

It was these skills that helped her in advertising.  Having an eye for colour, an eye for style and an eye for design meant that (1) she has too many eyes, and (2) she was the right person when it came to directing product shoots and accessorising the models used to help sell the products.  It also makes her a very good person for planning and designing our ‘Looks’

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Counting blessings (part 2 - Fitness & Health)

Image of two battered cuddly toys sitting on a dirty window sill beneath a broken window

Last month I compiled a list of questions that I think should be explored by anyone about to start a company.  They are a way of working out where people's luck relates to the company they are thinking of starting.  The first questions:
"Are you fit & healthy?  What health issues might affect your business?" encourage people to consider whether (and how) their choices are affected by any health issues.

I once went for a walk on the Cuillin Ridge on Skye.  It was led by a man who was aiming to climb the highest mountain on every continent.  When I met to him, he only had Everest and Vinson to go.  Some time later, I heard that he had broken his ankle near to the top of Everest (and survived).

When I went walking with him he was stick thin and could run double marathons.  He had, he told me, an identical twin brother who took no exercise and was overweight.  How and why they were so different I never learned; but choices create choices.  Only one of the brothers chose to climb mountains. 

Health was a factor in the starting of Look-in-the-Bag only in that (luckily) it didn’t prevent us from making company-related choices.  The next question in the luck audit was far more pertinent.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Counting blessings (pt 1)

Some time ago I blogged about luck and discussed big luck and small luck.  Big luck (such as winning the lottery) is hard to do anything about (beyond buying a lottery ticket).  Small luck though, is easier to manage.

I spent part of last year teaching information skills to students with an interest in business.  Most of what I taught was fairly basic, but what made it interesting was the different ways in which the students approached the challenges of the course.  These can best be summarized as three questions:
  • Where can I find sources of relevant information?
  • What should I select from those sources?
  • How should I use what I select?
One of the frameworks they used to help decide what information to use and how to use it, was a PESTEL analysis.  In a PESTEL analysis, the analyst sifts through information and categorises it according how it relates to the environment in which the business is being established. (It’s a process called environmental scanning).  The categories used are Political, Economic, Social & cultural, Technological, Environmental and Legal.

After setting up Look-in-the-Bag it occurred to me that, in making our choices, we had been influenced by a lot of small luck.  As well as considering the environment therefore, it would have been a useful exercise to consider ‘luck’ factors.

I usually begin an analysis by trying to work out what questions I want it to answer.  If, therefore, one of my former students was attempting a luck audit for a new business, I would get her/him to consider the following:
  • Are you fit & healthy?  What health issues might affect your business?
  • What learning / experience / knowledge / skills do you have that might be useful?
  • What sort of person are you? How might your character affect your choice of product or service?
  • How much time can you dedicate to establishing and developing your business?
  • What property / belongings / resources do you have?
  • Where are you based?  How does your location affect any opportunities you may have?
  • How well aimed are your efforts?  How sensitive is timing?  Are you ahead of your time / too late / or just right?
  • What is your social and family network like?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Flowers and farewells

I like flowers.  It’s not the sort of thing men normally admit to, but it’s true.  Years ago, I confessed the fact to a girl I rather liked.  I was sitting beside her at the time.
She smiled. “That’s nice” she said.  “It shows you’re in touch with your feminine side.”
“I’d rather be in touch with your feminine side”, I said.
Her smile vanished. “Why do you have to spoil it by being so... male?” she said disdainfully, and left.  I was young.  I had a lot to learn about talking to women.

Another time, in another place, with another girl, I was standing beneath a cherry tree on a blustery spring day.  Pink petals swirled around our feet. Cherry blossoms, whisked from the branches, caught in our hair*.  
She smiled.  “Isn’t it lovely?”
I was doing a botany course at the time and was anxious to show off my knowledge.
“You do realize” I said, with a superior air, “that flowers are basically sex organs.”
Her smile vanished. “Why do you have to spoil it by being so... biological?” she said disdainfully, and left.  I was a bit older, but I still had a lot to learn about talking to women.

I eventually learned enough about talking to women to persuade Neelam to marry me. After we got married I made it a regular habit to buy flowers, and I do so most weeks.  But every time she goes to India I stop buying them.  Somehow, they seem too gaudy when she’s not around.  It’s a bit like the shirt you buy when on holiday in a sunny country.  Back in Britain, without the sunshine, it no longer seems bright, it just seems loud.

Neelam flew out to India on Sunday to produce the next Look-in-the-Bag collection.  I won’t be buying flowers for the next few weeks.

*Back in the days when I had hair.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Something tasteful and affordable

A candle in a cut-glass candlestick stands between two shadows of candlesticks
Amongst the gifts I have given Neelam over the years have been DVD’s of David Attenborough documentaries and a fascinating book by Olivia Judson. The book, called “Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation”, describes some of the weird and wonderful practices associated with mating that are found in nature .  At times the book reads like science fiction.  Some creatures (black sea bass for example), change sex when they reach a certain age.  For other organisms, having only two sexes (regardless of the occasional change) may be considered highly conservative behaviour. Some species of slime mold have up to thirteen sexes!

All in all though, these gifts were a BAD MISTAKE.  Neelam has been made aware of the lengths to which some males will go in order to woo their mates, and I do not always compare well.

The most familiar of such lengths involve the clashing of horns, the flaunting of muscles, lots of posturing, and occasional grunting.  A quick glimpse at my physique would show that I come low in the ranks of horny, muscular, posturing specimens (though I can manage the grunting); but fortunately that doesn’t bother Neelam much.

Another set of strategies involves sacrifice of some sort.  Occasionally, the sacrifice is of a body part (including some fairly intimate ones).  I’m relieved to say that Neelam has not shown an interest in such gestures.  However, the giving of gifts is a common form of sacrifice amongst males seeking to impress females, and this is a practice that does appeal to Neelam.  Gifts in Nature range from the presentation of tasty morsels and colourful baubles to the construction of a designer residence.  My gifts tend to come at the low budget end of this range, and with Valentine’s Day looming, I’m on the look-out for something tasteful but affordable. 

Much as I would like to present her with a Look-in-the-Bag, she already has a full collection, so it's not an option open to me; which is a shame because if I don't come up with an equally good alternative, there may be threats involving the sacrifice of at least one body part.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Meeting Yorkshire's Favourite Reprobate

Friends who read the articles about Look-in-the-Bag mentioned elsewhere in this blog pointed out that they did focus rather more on me than on Neelam.  The reason for this is that the articles were about PRIME as well as about Look-in-the-Bag; and Neelam, being a mere stripling of twenty one and a bit*, is not yet eligible for PRIME’s assistance.  I was grateful therefore, when Radio Sheffield’s Jenny Eells interviewed us back in August and gave Neelam the opportunity to take centre stage in the feature.

*A very big bit!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Mother of Necessity

It's always intriguing when something that began as a contingency becomes a driving force.  

In the case of Look-in-the-Bag, that happened because we couldn't afford models.  We would have liked to use photographs of LitB customers, but when we were developing the website we didn't have any, so that wasn't an option. 

Fortunately that's changed in the last year, and some of our customers have allowed us to feature them on our Facebook page.  

However, when setting up the website, we wanted to show our products being worn, so Neelam decided to draw some models and to dress them in Look-in-the-Bag accessories.  The result was a quirky and colourful collection section that makes our website a bit different from most other fashion sites.

People liked the collection section and began to express views on their favourite models.  So that we knew which ones were being referred to, we gave them names.  With names came characters and back stories.

Our models have now begun to take on lives of their own and have just come back from travels*.  Being fictional models though, they were able to go to some rather unusual places.

*Their travel stories will pop up once a week between now and Christmas.