Tag Archives: cultural diversity

Inspirational mum Meghan Fenn

This month’s inspirational mum in business is Meghan Fenn, the author of Bringing Up Brits, and co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs. I’m really excited to interview another multilingual mum in business, so here it is.

Q: What’s your career background?

I started out as an ESOL teacher and taught in Prague for two years and then in Tokyo for two and a half years. I taught both children and adults and had an amazing time learning new languages and cultures and meeting lots of different people from all walks of life. I studied English and Art at University and the original plan after graduation was to teach abroad for one year, then go back to the States, get my Masters degree and get a job. Within the first few days of leaving the States and starting a brand new life in a very different country, I met my future (now) husband, a British man from England. That changed my whole life. I ended up marrying said British man in South Carolina, USA, then moving back to England to continue my expat life.

Q: How did your career change after having children?

I did end up getting my Masters, but in England instead, and in Design Studies. After graduation I got a job as a senior Internet designer and worked there until I was made redundant while pregnant with my second child. Of course that also changed everything! I was 5 months pregnant so couldn’t even consider going for interviews, so I decided to start up my own web design company. I thought I’d freelance until after the baby, and then get a job part time as I’d have two babies under the age of two. Again, plans changed because my business really took off and within the first year, I had established a client base, a great reputation and had a constant stream of regular work coming in. I also loved working from home which gave me the flexibility to look after my young children and not have to pay out for full-time expensive childcare. Working from home around my family really suited me.

Q: Where did the idea for your business come from?

There are two parts to my answer because I’ve since started up a new company. So the idea for my first business came directly from what I was doing as an employed designer. I simply started project managing my own web and graphic design work and clients. I advertised in the Yellow Pages and spread the word through client referrals and my website. There wasn’t any social media back then so I had to rely on advertising and getting the word out there through happy clients. I managed to grow organically and keep a steady business going around the demands of a busy young family. Fast forward 10 years, a move from the Midlands to Sussex, and one additional child and I was ready to take my business to the next level. I had been working closely with a marketing and PR professional who I’d met at an awards event and throughout the 6 years of working with her, felt she could help me achieve my business goals. So, I asked her to join my company. She politely declined but suggested we start something new together 50/50. So that was how our company Shake It Up Creative Ltd was born. We do design, marketing, PR, websites, social media and search engine optimisation. We’re essentially a full service design and marketing company.

Q: How did you move from idea to actual business?

Originally, when I was starting out, I asked the nursery proprietor where my baby went, if she would like a website designed in exchange for free child care places. That was my very first job as a freelance web and graphic designer. Paid jobs came very quickly after that. I think once I decided to go for it on my own, I just picked up the phone, registered with HMRC, designed my logo and letterheads and invested my time and energy to make it a success.

Q: What’s your USP?

My USP has always been that I can do the graphic design AND the web Techie work too. That still is part of our USP. We can do it all or as little as you like and we’re flexible. So for example, we can do logo and branding right the way through to website and marketing and PR campaigns. Or, we can simply create a logo or stand-alone graphic design, copywriting or one off PR.

Q: How do you spread the word about what you do?

Through our website, on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+) and at regular networking events.

Q: What’s been your most successful marketing/PR strategy?

Networking definitely. But also our #ShakeItHUB free design and marketing help sessions. We offer these to our local business community. They are open to all and people come to us with questions about their website, about a marketing campaign, for help with social media or anything design and marketing related. We give hands-on help with no obligation to ‘buy’ or take anything further. They are very popular and it helps to spread the word about our company and what we can do. It also shows people that we are experts and we know what we’re talking about and that we’re willing to help businesses.

Q: What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

In the early days, it was balancing family life with a home-based office. You have to become very disciplined and use time wisely, work smart so when it’s family time, you can concentrate on that and not work. Now, it’s winning pitches in a very saturated market place. Worthing and Brighton have a huge number of marketing companies so there is a large amount of competition for us.

Q: Why is work so important to you?

I’m a creative person, I have a strong work ethic and I like to be productive. So work suits me. I also want to be a good role model for my children. I have a teenage boy, a teenage girl and a seven year old boy. They know I work, they know I run my own company. They like that and understand why I do it and how that benefits our whole family. Financially as well, we need to be a two parent income family in order to maintain the lifestyle that we want to have and give our children the best start in life as possible.

Q: Who inspired you?

Because I came here to live with no family or friends nearby (or even in the same country), I had to find inspiration from within. That is one reason I wrote my book Bringing Up Brits Expat Parents Raising Cross-cultural Kids in Britain. I wanted to share my story and inspire others and show them that they are not alone, that there are other parents out there doing the same thing and it’s hard. So hard! But if we find others who are going through a similar experience, we can find comfort and encouragement. Now, I’m inspired by my children and how amazing they are and how supportive they are of each other and of us (myself and my husband).

Q: How do you balance your business with your family?

I work full time around the children. So that means I work during school hours. I usually also work a few hours in the morning before they get up and some, not all, evenings. It’s tough running your own company because you’re always ‘on’ especially working from a home office. But it means I can be here for the children when they get home from school, I can do the after school clubs and activities and attend day time school functions. My children are at the age now where I can work (from home) when they are around. I have a room that is my office so I don’t have the chaos of working from the kitchen table. If they need me, they come get me. My eldest is very good with my youngest so during the summer holidays, for example, he can fix lunch for everyone and take my youngest out to the playground. I can also usually take days off here and there when I want to.

Q: What are your top three pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

1. Network in person – this will help you to gain new clients, spread the word about your business and also, very importantly, find people who can help you get set up (such as a trusted accountant or business development expert). Be open to collaboration, service exchanges and coffee meetings to get to know potential clients and business associates.
2. Try to launch with a USP. That will set you apart in a very highly competitive market.
3. Make your own logo, branding and website stand out. People will want to see your expertise and you can show this through your own designs for your own company before you have a significant portfolio to showcase.

If you want to get in touch with Meghan
Meghan is co-director and chief designer, Shake It Up Creative www.ShakeItUpCreative.com
Author of Bringing Up Brits, co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs
www.bringingupbrits.co.uk
www.expatsinbiz.com

If you want to buy your own copy of her books check out the links below

Around the world on a Black Horse

This week was my birthday. If you follow our blog you’ll know we love to experience other languages and cultures whenever we can. We found out a local pub The Black Horse was holding a polish meal, it was on my birthday so the perfect excuse for a night out with my hubby. So the babysitter was booked, and we headed out in our glad rags.

German and Polish food are very similar,  so we were excited about what we’d have to eat and we were not disappointed!

It was the first “Around the world on a Black Horse.” A chance to celebrate the different cultures around the UK, I love the idea! We have such a rich cultural and food heritage in this country and the more we can understand each others culture the better we can get on together.

This was the starter.

starter

What you cannot see in the picture was lots of warm, fresh sourdough toasted Chleb. Delicious. The pickled mushrooms were new to me as was the smoked cheese. The platter was in interesting mix of smoked,salty, sour and sweet and the vegetable salad really balanced the other flavours. There was also lots of Vodka on offer as with any Polish celebration!

 

The main dish was two pork schnitzel, mashed potato and picked red cabbage and carrots.

schnizel

 

 

The meat on both our plates was as much as I’d usually use for a family of five, obviously lots of meat on the menu in Poland.

There was some traditional Polish music being played, it sounded good but I didn’t understand a word!

 

pudding

 

The desert was delicious, as you can see mine had a birthday candle in it :0. It was a sort of pastry croisont with chocolate sauce inside served with raspberries and cream.

 

When the guitarist heard it was my birthday I was treated to my first ever hearing of Sto lat the Polish birthday song wishing a hundred years of life.

You tube

It was a brilliant evening with lots of delicious food and a chance to experience some polish culture. The next around the world on a black horse event is an Indian evening and I’m really looking forward to it! Book in with The Black Horse .

 

 

Interview with James from Soundimals and a hamster!

James HamsterAt our Lingotastic family language classes anything that involves animals and making animal noises is a hit, so when I came across the fun Soundimals illustrations by James Chapman I had to find out more…
We last interviewed James in January 2015, you can read that here


Since we last spoke I know you’ve finished your PHD. How are you finding life after University?

Life after university is good! I always imagined I’d double my productivity as I used to work all day at university then come home and work all evening on illustration, but now my days are all illustration I’m pretty worn out by about 6, ha. It’s good to have some relaxation time though, I never really had the whole work/life balance sorted out before but now it’s all quite nice.

Emily: We’ve just got a pet hamster. Have you done any pictures of hamsters?

Congratulations on the hamster! Hamsters are a lot of fun, my brother had one when we were young, had to keep it well away from the cat! I think I have drawn maybe one hamster? I’ll have a look and see if I can find it somewhere, it was wearing a tiara I think!

Jasmin: Have you got any pets in your house?

As for my pets, there are some fish that I live with! Three of them and they blub away while I’m working. I’d love a dog and some cats, but I don’t think I’m allowed them in my building just at the moment. One day though, one day I’ll have a hundred cats.

Have you had any interesting commissions lately?

Over the summer I’ve had a few wedding commissions to draw up, which is always really nice. I actually was commissioned to make a comic book that was used in a proposal between two friends of mine! It told the story of them both and the last page said “Will you marry me” and it was very very adorable. Wedding stuff is always very fun.
Aside from that I’m working with a Manchester charity for an art show in a few months. Exciting and daunting in equal measure, it’s still in the works but hopefully it’ll be a fun fun event.

What are your hopes for the future of Soundimals?

With Soundimals, I’d love to keep spreading the word mostly! It’s a fun book but with a strong message of diversity and being open to other cultures and I’d like to share that with as many people as possible. It’s had a really good response already online and the books are selling really well, so I suppose maybe the next step is to find a publisher/distributor and try and get them in shops all oooover the place.
In the mean time, I’ve been working on a few new books, including a big one about proverbs from all around the world. I’ve posted a fair few around instagram and my site, they’re mostly wise phrases and expressions that are commonplace in their native country but sound so different to other cultures. “A bad workman blames his tools” sounds quite normal to me, but in Polish the phrase is “a bad ballerina blames the hem of their skirt” – a much more exciting version! I’m just trying to get that book together now, so hopefully they’ll be some news on that in the new year. Keep up with what I’m up to on tumblr

The book Soundimals and How to Sneeze in Japanese can be found in my shop along with a new new new book called When Frogs Grow Hair. It’s all about the different phrases people say when they think something is impossible – like when pigs fly in English. In Spanish, they say “when frogs grow hair” and in German it’s on “St. Never’s Day” which sounds especially sassy, like a line from Mean Girls. Anyway, that’s the new one! I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone.

PS I found it! It was a sketch someone requested in the front of their book!

Thanks James, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. The hamster is soooooo cute!

Immigration, Emigration and the European Day of Languages

Sprachen verbindenHappy European Day of Languages! We’re lucky to have another blog from Maik Barrett. Over to you Maik…

The 26th September is a significant day. Not only is it my brother’s birthday, but ever since 2001’s “European Year of Languages”, this was the day set with the objective to encourage language learning across Europe. Of course multilingualism and cultural diversity is a fact of life for a lot of people already, considering that according to the Evening Standard there are 300 languages spoken in London alone. As has often been observed, you can easily walk down Oxford Street and not catch sight of a single native English speaker. And with so many multinational companies headquartered in and around London, people from across Europe, and sometimes even further afield, come to work in the UK. Add to that the increase in immigration, whether it is those fleeing war, or those coming to find work, and you end up with what is probably the most ethnically and linguistically diverse part of the whole of Europe. Which adds to the irony of the European Day of Languages sharing its hashtag #EDL with the English Defence League!

Of course I myself am I migrant, having come to the UK to work after marrying the lovely Sarah Barrett, whose Yorkshire dialect took a bit of getting used to, even after being multilingual already. Most Eastern Europeans living in the UK are multilingual as well, for example our Bulgarian friends who also speak Russian and English. (Check out our blog on “Language learning is a great way to make friends ‎”)

It works the other way too. Particularly in recent weeks, a lot has been said and written about increases in immigration, but not so much about emigration, i.e. the over 300,000 Brits who chose to leave old Blighty for (presumably) warmer climes in Spain, France and other countries. One would hope they speak the local language!

Not that all this migration is new. Our family went to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich a few weekends ago, and Britain’s seafaring past is certainly, among other things, a story of migration. In fact the museum currently has a special exhibition, open until 15th November, in collaboration with The Migration Museum Project, which is well worth seeing, and highly interactive. The Migration Museum Project’s aim is to reflect the important role that migrants have played in the making of Britain. It tells the story of migration to and from Britain in an engaging and non-political way. Most people have a migration story somewhere in their family history.

So on this European Day of Languages, let’s celebrate the cultural and linguistic diversity brought by migration. If you live somewhere as diverse as London, I would challenge you to count today how many different languages and nationalities you recognise around you, and let us know in the comments or on Twitter @lingotasticuk #Europeandayoflanguages .