Tag Archives: internet

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

Why learn languages?

This week my friend Teddy Nee from Nee’s language blog talks about the value of learning languages

“Why should you bother learning another language when you already know English?”
Someone might have ever asked this question to you before, and how did you react to it? Or let’s assume nobody had asked this question to you, how would you answer it when you are asked?

I was frequently asked by either my friends or acquaintances why do you learn languages. They know and we all know that I know English because if you can understand this text, it means that I know English. Having been asked that question, I have only one answer, “Not everyone is eager to speak English or can express themselves well in English.”

We should accept the fact that nowadays we can get information from other countries in other languages much easier than, let’s say, 20 years ago. It mainly because of the internet. The internet has really changed our way of life, and it even has created so many jobs that weren’t existed before. I work as an IT engineer, and it is not easy to explain about what I really do to my parents, or even to my grandparents because what I am doing did not exist in their time when they were at my age.

So, this easy access to information has caused globalization to happen where companies can establish partnership with overseas companies, and have the ability to expand their market even to much larger scope, not to mention inter countries, but inter continents.

English pic

English as a universal language
English language which originated from England has apparently became a universal language that two persons from different countries would use to communicate unconsciously because they thought English is supposed to be the language that everyone understands for international communication.

If you often gather information from the internet, you must have realized that most contents are available in English. Therefore, if you know English, you can get much more information that those who don’t know English. That’s the fact! However, I need to remind you that there is still limitation for using English to search for information, especially if the information is more personal that only speakers of the original language could have the privilege for the access.

TeddyGroup

Taking part in an international community
When we discuss about a universal language, a question might occur in mind, that is “What is a truly universal language?” and “How do we define a universal language?”. The United Nations even has 6 official languages — English, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Russian. We might also be intrigued to talk about a constructed language for international communication, Esperanto.

Esperanto speakers around the world have been vigorously promoting Esperanto as the language for international communication. Nowadays, we can see many activities done in Esperanto, such as activities related to education, charity, science research, journalism, commerce, and so on. Although there are quite a lot of people who are still pessimistic and skeptical about Esperanto language being a human communication tool.

We need to have more knowledge about other language in order to get access to much more information, and to be able to get to know more people from other countries, especially those who don’t speak English or our languages. On top of that, language learning is like an investment. Spending a little time and effort to learn a language that you could use for your whole life doesn’t seem to be a big deal.

Books

Choosing a language to learn
When you search for, let’s say, top 10 most favorited languages in the world, top 10 languages with the most speakers, top 10 languages for job seekers, etc. you can get abundant of results. The most important is to know your goal, whether you want to learn the language because there is more job opportunities in your area or you want to learn the language that is completely different from that you have known or you want to learn a language that is similar with that you have known. Deciding the goal is the very first thing you need to do.

If you like challenge, you should choose to learn language from other language family. For example, if you know English, you can pick Hindi, Mandarin or Russian as your target language. If you want to quickly reach higher level of understanding in other language, you should choose to learn language from the same language family. For example, if you know Spanish, you can choose to learn Italian, Portuguese or French.

There is actually a rule of thumb that many language courses don’t teach you. If you want to impress your friends with the amount of languages that you know, learn languages from the same family group because they share so many similarities that you even already can understand a big portion of it without learning. Thus, it is not surprising to know a someone who knows 5-6 languages but those languages are from the same language family.

Depending on your geographical location, some languages might not be useful. Let’s say you will spend some months in Latin America. Your focus should be Spanish rather than Japanese, and perhaps, the second language could be Portuguese. However, any languages will likely be useful if your activities are internet-based since the majority of people around the world have had access to internet nowadays.

So I ask again. Why learn languages? Knowing more languages is always beneficial. Apart from giving you more opportunities to enjoy what speakers of those languages can enjoy, you can also enrich yourself by broaden your viewpoint and increasing your skills. Learning language also trains your brain and it certainly increase your intelligence. No wonder, many articles state the benefits of knowing more languages as if there is no downside of it.

Teddy loves to learn languages.

Teddy loves to learn languages.

Teddy Nee is a passionate language learner and blogger. An IT Engineer by day and a language learner by night. His mission is to raise awareness of the importance of knowing more languages and to educate more people to be global citizens. He believes that learning the language of the others is a milestone to reach world peace. You can correspond with him in Medan Hokkien, Indonesian, English, Chinese Mandarin, Spanish, and Esperanto. Visit his blog at Nee’s language blog.