TEAM ZOELLA SEPTEMBER 30, 2020

10 Scary Reads to Sink Your Fangs Into This Halloween

From spine-chilling Stephen King classics to freaky fiction guaranteed to have you sleeping with the light on, here’s a round-up of the boo-kish delights to gorge on this Halloween.

Seeking a deliciously dark, macabre tale featuring characters and plots you’d rather hide from than sit in your bedroom with? Glad to be acquainted.

Those with a nervous disposition should probs sit this one out.

From spine-chilling Stephen King classics to freaky fiction guaranteed to have you sleeping with the light on, here’s a round-up of the boo-kish delights to gorge on this Halloween. Those with a nervous disposition should probs sit this one out. Go cuddle some kittens for a while.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Let’s ease you in gently! Despite the title, this is not your average run of the mill scary monster novel. This is a moving classic that’ll have you mopping up your tears with the nearest fake spiderweb or black cat you can find. Who knew a tree could make you so emotional.

Misery by Stephen King

Nobody does the stick-your-book-in-the-freezer fiction quite like Stephen King. Misery is about a famous novelist who crashes his car in a snowstorm and is rescued by none other than his mentally-unstable number one fan.

Paul Sheldon has plans to make the transition from writing historical romances featuring heroine Misery Chastain to publishing literary fiction. Annie Wilkes, Sheldon’s self-proclaimed number one fan, rescues the author from the scene of a car accident. The former nurse takes care of him in her remote house, but becomes irate when she discovers that the author has killed Misery off in his latest book. Annie keeps Sheldon prisoner while forcing him to write a book that brings Misery back to life. If you’re after a book that will be best placed locked in a cupboard with a padlock, this is a good shout.

Wonderland by Juno Dawson

Our Zoella Book Club read for October! A modern reworking of a classic tale, this is one literary rabbit hole you’ll be all too glad to stumble down. When Alice’s troubled best friend Bunny goes missing, she becomes obsessed with finding her. She begins retracing her steps and looking for clues in her pigeonhole when she discovers an invitation to Wonderland: the elite party to end all parties. Could this lead her to Bunny? Or is this really a case of finding herself?

The Deaths of December by Susi Holliday

The Deaths of December is the ultimate anti-Christmas gift, all wrapped up with a bloody bow to boot. When an advent calendar arrives at the police station, DC Becky Greene makes a gruelling discovery behind each door. As the country relaxes into festive cheer, Greene and DS Eddie Carmine must race against time to catch the killer. Because there are four doors left, and four murders will fill them… It’s an absolute cracker.

Orphan X by Gregg Hurtwitz

Action, suspense, plot, this book has it all going on. The first in a five-book thriller series by Gregg Hurtwitz, Orphan X is the story of Evan Smoak, who joined a top-secret operation known as the ‘Orphan Program’ when he was 12. Raised and trained as an Orphan, he was sent to bad places to do things the government denied ever happened. Then, he broke with the program, using everything he learned to disappear. But someone is on his trail. If the blurb’s anything to go by, you’re in for a nail-biting read.

The Magpie Society: One for Sorrow by Zoe Sugg & Amy McCulloch

A gripping high-school thriller like no other, The Magpie Society: One for Sorrow is a book you’ll want to devour in one fell swoop.

Illumen Hall is an elite boarding school of tradition and achievement. But tragedy strikes when the body of a student is found dead on the beach – and on her back is a tattoo of a magpie. For new student Audrey, it is just another strange and unsettling thing about her new surroundings, along with the secrets the school seems to hide and its weird obsession with magpies. For her roommate Ivy, the death of her friend Lola is just one thing she desperately wants to get past – and having a new student asking questions and cluttering up her personal space is not helping a bit.
But the two girls are forced into an unlikely alliance when a mysterious podcast airs, with one sinister headline: I KNOW WHO KILLED LOLA. AND ONE OF YOU IS NEXT.

Say Her Name by Juno Dawson

Chanting a ghost’s name five times in front of a candlelit mirror at a spooky boarding school… Never going to end well, guys. Asking for trouble, that! When Bobbie, her best friend Naya and cute local boy Caine agree to summon the legendary ghost, Bloody Mary, for a Halloween dare, it looks like nothing eerie happens, until Bobbie finds a message on her bathroom mirror that says: five days. Read it at your own risk, preferably five days before Halloween for peak paranoia.

Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

A dark YA novel with one utterly compelling unreliable narrator. Seventeen-year-old Hannah Gold has always been treated like a grown up. As the only child of two New York professionals, she’s been traveling the world and functioning as a miniature adult since the day she was born. But that was then. Now, Hannah has been checked into a remote treatment facility, stripped of all autonomy and confined to a single room.
Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. What happened to her roommate that summer was an accident. As soon as the doctor and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can get back to her life of promise and start her final year at school. Until then, she’s determined to win over the staff and earn some privileges so she doesn’t lose her mind to boredom.

But then she’s assigned a new roommate. At first, Lucy is the perfect project to keep Hannah’s focus off all she is missing at home. But Lucy may be the one person who can make Hannah confront the secrets she’s avoiding – and the dangerous games that landed her in confinement in the first place.

It’ll have you second-guessing yourself right the way through.

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

A missing girl, a desperate family, a detective at breaking point – this one’s got all the ticking-clock appeal you could ever want in your Halloween reading. If you liked The Fall, you’ll be all over this crime fiction treat. It’s the stuff of nightmares, in a good way.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Now a major Netflix series, Shirley Jackson’s best-known novel is as creepy and unsettling as they come. There’s nothing like a slow-burning psychological horror to scare the bejesus out of you.

What haunting reads will you be sinking your teeth into this Halloween?

TEAM ZOELLA SEPTEMBER 29, 2020

13 Questions With The Bag Life Of Beck

We caught up with The Bag Life of Beck to talk about her online presence, how she helps so many others with their body hangups and more.

First off, how are you and how have you been coping in 2020? 

I’m really good thank you!! 2020 has been a strange one hasn’t it but I’m used to isolation from being so poorly so it’s not a huge surprise for me and I’ve adapted quite well to the new world at the moment. 

Tell us about yourself and your presence online! 

So I’m 29 years old and I’m a mum to an incredible little boy. I would describe myself as an introvert however, some would think otherwise because of my Instagram!! I’m a huge animal lover and if I could I’d own my own rescue sanctuary. I’m a very positive person and I like to emit my posi energy via my Instagram. I’m also a very normal human being so again I just try and stay real, raw and relatable. [Follow Becks on Instagram here.]

Why do you think it’s so important to normalise all bodies? 

Growing up I saw the same desire able bodies I also saw magazines pick them apart for having cellulite or rolls or for them having a bad hair day. It added so much pressure to my teenage self and what I thought I had to look like to be accepted. So as you can imagine being 20 and being told I needed an ileostomy was terrifying because who’s going to accept me now I’m broken!? It was a very tough and lonely time for me and I just don’t want anyone else to feel the way I did. So I share my story and share how my body looks in hope to change what society deems as normal. Because let’s face it ‘normal’ is different for all of us so therefore we should all be accepted just the way we are. 

You’ve been an Ostomate since 2011, can you tell us more about what that means? 

So I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2009 which is a form of Inflammatory Bowel disease. This is when we get ulcers and long-lasting inflammation in our colon and rectum. Symptoms can be bleeding, bloating and pain. It got to a point where I was going to the toilet 25+ times a day and losing so much blood and weight that a surgeon decided to remove my colon. Which means that I’d need to have a stoma, so my small intestine pokes out of my tummy and I now poo into a bag called. This is called and Ileostomy however you can have a Colostomy as well. So we call ourselves Ostomates. 

If you could any advice to someone about to become an ostomate what would it be? 

It’ll be ok, we are very resilient and being Chronically is teaches us strength that we never knew we ever had. You’ve overcome so much already and withstood the storm, you can take this on as well. Having an Ostomy doesn’t make you any less of a human nor does it reduce your worth. Life for me started again when I had my bag fitted and I’ve never looked back. 

What are some of the best things about being online? 

The community. The community is wonderful and connecting with other amazing and incredible people too. Learning other’s stories and learning from them too. Seeing a whole new world open up in regards to self-love and body acceptance has been really blissful. Especially since I’ve been advocated for years now it’s wonderful to see the world become more open to different. 

What are your top tips for switching off and relaxing?

I love to have a bath with a Gin, candles and an audiobook. It helps me switch off from the real world and just have some me time! As I don’t get it often with the mini human!! 

Who are some of your favourite follows online? 

Some of my favourite follows are @danaemercer, @ceejherrington, @meganroselane, @nicknacklou, @georgieeswallow

What are you currently working on? 

In terms of myself, I need to take my own advice more. I’m always helping others and giving amazing advice, however, when it comes to me I’m terrible. So I’m learning to listen to myself more. 

What does your perfect weekend look like? 

A weekend away with a hot tub!! My family and just the sound of the sea or the countryside. Somewhere away from the madness of the world.

What do you always carry with you? 

I always carry a little perfume with me, my favourite smell is Armani because it’s you. It’s so fresh and I love freshening up with it. 

What would your last ever meal be? 

Nachos. Honestly, I absolutely adore them and all the cheese you can fit on it. Especially the orange runny cheese. Just delicious. 

What is one positive piece of advice you could give to our audience?

Happiness is the new rich. Inner peace is the new success. Health is the new wealth. Kindness is the new cool 💙

Follow Becks on Instagram here.

TEAM ZOELLA SEPTEMBER 28, 2020

Epic Garlic Parmesan & Pumpkin Stuffed Pasta Shells

This epic parmesan & pumpkin pasta recipe is a dish you'll want to keep coming back to all through fall.

There’s a comfort that comes with preparing a comforting meal for a hungry household

The simple pleasure of a shared meal seems to get even better in the Autumn months. As the days blink by and the vignette of the evening sky appears at the window at 4pm, there’s a comfort that comes with preparing a comforting meal for a hungry household; where the hours pass effortlessly between forkfuls of pasta and sweet ordinary conversations about work and weariness. Families being families, couples mirroring eating habits, pausing to celebrate the casual art form of dinner time togetherness – capturing a flavour, a memory, a familiar tradition for future you to recall and feast on with a joyful heart.

The same can be said for preparing a meal for yourself and only yourself. Taking time out of the virtual world to throw a recipe together and indulge in the ritual of eating is the ultimate form of self-care. Enjoy it.

Stuffed with creamy ricotta and pumpkin and smothered in creamy garlic & parmesan sauce

This epic parmesan & pumpkin pasta recipe is a dish you’ll want to keep coming back to all through fall. Stuffed with creamy ricotta and pumpkin and smothered in creamy garlic & parmesan sauce, it’ll have everyone hovering in the kitchen, impatiently waiting for the clatter of serving plates and cutlery to sound.

Best served warm, on a rainy Autumn day with crunchy bread for dipping.

SERVES 6
PREP: 40 MINS COOK: 25 MINS
MEDIUM
  • Preheat oven to 180° celcius
  • Lightly coat your baking dish with butter.
  • In a pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until al dente (slightly undercooked)
  • Drain and pop it on a baking sheet to cool
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta, cream cheese, pumpkin puree, parmesan, egg, sage leaves and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • For the creamy garlic sauce; melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic, and stir for 2 minutes.
  • Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute.
  • Gradually whisk in milk and double cream, until incorporated,
  • Stir parmesan until slightly thickened, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Spread 1/2 your cream sauce in the prepared baking dish.
  • Stuff your pasta shells with the pumpkin mix and place into your baking dish. We used a piping bag, but you could use a zip lock bag or spoon it in
  • When you’ve filled the dish with your pasta shells top them with the remaining creamy sauce.
  • We topped our with a bit of cheddar, you could also add breadcrumbs for an extra crunch!
  • Place into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
TEAM ZOELLA SEPTEMBER 27, 2020

Weekly Wants: Our Top Picks From Bobbi Brown

This week we've teamed up with Bobbi Brown to select our top picks and tell you how we got on.

Bobbi Brown Cosmetics creates makeup and skincare to help people look and feel more like themselves with more confidence! They strive to enable people to enhance their natural beauty with straightforward, easy-to-use cosmetics in timeless hues, all formulated to create a smooth, natural, and healthy appearance.

This week we’ve teamed up with Bobbi Brown to select our top picks and tell you how we got on. From products we might have used for years to brand new bits we’ve been dying to try, find out how we got on with this eclectic mix of skincare and makeup…

This post was made in collaboration with Bobbi Brown and contains gifted product.

Shop The Post

*This post contains ad-affiliate links

TEAM ZOELLA SEPTEMBER 26, 2020

The Magpie Society: An Interview with the Authors

The countdown to The Magpie Society: One For Sorrow publication day is officially on, with the first in the new YA gothic thriller series set to land on the shelves this October, 29.

The countdown to The Magpie Society: One For Sorrow publication day is officially on, with the first in the new YA gothic thriller series set to land on the shelves this October, 29.

One for Sorrow will be told via the alternating first person perspectives of the lead characters Audrey – written by Amy McCulloch – and Ivy – written by Zoe Sugg – with the narrative being jointly plotted by both authors.

In the start of a brand-new YA series for the authors, we meet the new girl from America – Audrey – and Ivy; her new roommate at Illumen Hall boarding school. Ivy is less than happy about having to share with the new girl, and the roommates get off to a tense start. But when a body of a girl is discovered at the school with a tattoo of a magpie on her back, Audrey and Ivy are drawn into the mystery behind this strange murder. As an unlikely friendship develops, the girls soon realise that there’s something very dangerous happening at their school.

Ahead of the big publication day, we asked Amy & Zoe about their joint literary venture, from what it’s like having a writing partner in crime / wing woman, to what we can expect from this deliciously dark and brooding story.

Here’s everything you need to know about your latest YA obsession!

What was the main inspiration behind The Magpie Society: One For Sorrow?

Zoe: Amy & I had worked together back in 2013-2016 as she was my editor for the Girl Online novels. We always talked about our love of PLL, true crime, tv dramas and horror and the idea of creating something similar ourselves became something we talked about regularly. We particularly loved the idea of a boarding school, superstitions, secrets and mystery.

Once we had that, the idea of a secret society named after magpies sprung to lifeAmy McCull

Amy: We’d had some really long chats about the kind of books and shows we love to read and watch, and from that, we knew we really wanted to ground our new book series in really particularly British traditions, omens and superstitions. One of those is how we ‘salute’ magpies – something a lot of us do, but we don’t necessarily give a second thought as to where the tradition comes from! Once we had that, the idea of a secret society named after magpies sprung to life, and the rest of the book unfolded from there…

Describe the book in 3 emojis…

🦅 🏫 🎙 (If the bird could be a magpie that would be perfect!)

How did you come up with the name for the book?

Zoe: As a large part of the book is based around the Magpie Society and the superstitions surrounding magpies, we felt that the creepy nursery rhyme “One for sorrow, two for joy” felt completely apt. Not only is the rhyme eery, but having sorrow in the title also made complete sense with the overall plot of the book.

Amy: Yes, definitely a simple one! Once we’d settled on the rhyme, it made so much sense to title our first book after the first line in the poem.

How long did it take to write the book?

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Zoe: We started plotting the book loosely back in 2017/2018 and then really focused on characters and storyline through 2019 before knuckling down and starting the writing at the start of 2020

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Amy: Probably six months of intense writing, and then some very fast editing! But because we had plotted the book so well beforehand, the writing came so much more easily…

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What comes first the plot or the characters?

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Zoe: It’s a bit of both. Amy and I knew the storyline and where we wanted the book and the series to go, and then characters became a lot more clear once we knew this. However, when you get a real sense of a character you can also adjust certain elements of the storyline to work well with them as you write too.

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Amy: As Zoe said, a bit of both! For this book, we knew that we wanted to write from the points of view of two different characters, to reflect both of our writing voices and bring a unique structure to the novel. So developing Ivy and Audrey was a massive focus for us in the beginning.

Can you tell us a little bit about your co-writing process – how did that work, and how does your writing process/writing habits differ as individual authors?

After lockdown happened, we used WhatsApp, voice notes and face times to chat about different bits we were writing and go back and forth with one another. Zoe Sugg

Zoe: Co-writing is so much fun. Having that person to bounce ideas back and forth with, to build scenes and characters with and combine ideas makes it such an enjoyable experience. If I was ever stuck for a word or was having a bit of a writer’s block, having Amy a text or phone call away always helped. We have written alternate chapters as a character each and so before lockdown, we were able to bullet-point what we wanted to happen in each chapter and work on those with each other in real life. After lockdown happened, we used WhatsApp, voice notes and face times to chat about different bits we were writing and go back and forth with one another. We’re both pretty similar when it comes to our writing processes however I’ve learnt over the years that my sentences can get very long and I can get very waffly! I prefer writing dialogue and feel like this is one of my stronger points, whereas I think Amy is particularly fabulous at scene-setting and description. So together we made for an epic team!

Amy: Zoe is spot on. We’re pretty complementary as writers, and we both have different skills. Zoe has a fantastic, natural ear for dialogue, and I love to build atmosphere. We plotted the whole thing together, but wrote our individual chapters separately (and then there are a few interim chapters – the podcasts – that we wrote together). This is the first book I’ve written with a co-author and I’ve loved doing it! Writing can be quite isolating and having someone to bulldoze through writer’s block with has been so much fun, and I think the book is so much stronger for it.

The book tackles some dark topics, was the modern gothic genre always something you both wanted to tap into?

Zoe: Yes! We love watching and reading a good twisty storyline. Something with depth, mystery and a lot of drama, so we always wanted the book to have a bit of all that mixed in.

Amy: Absolutely – also when you have all long, twisted history of England to play with, and a big creepy, meandering school built by the sea, with the waves crashing and the cliff edge crumbling… the gothic atmosphere just builds itself! Magpies too have such a fascinating history and mythology. It was brilliant to get to play with that.

How do you come up with your ideas? Is it something that happens all in one go before you write or as you go along?

Zoe: We had talked back and forth about things we definitely wanted to include in the novel but we also scheduled in lots of brainstorming meetings where we scribbled down a lot more detail. When it came to starting to write the bulk of the book, we already knew a lot about what we wanted to include. We definitely changed bits, added bits and removed bits as we went though. In fact, we made some quite big changes in our last round of edits!

Amy: I’m always on the hunt for great ideas, and in the long gestation period for these books, I was often sending links to shows or articles or images to Zoe saying, what do you think about this? Would this work for the story? We spent time on Pinterest and definitely had some strange internet searches. It’s amazing how much the plot can change direction throughout the writing and editing process, but we discussed all the ideas between us.  

How does the writing process differ when you’re writing a series of connected fiction as opposed to a stand-alone book?

Zoe: Amy and I have planned out a much larger storyline across multiple potential books. Because of this, we have to make sure each book plants clues and Easter eggs along the way which has been new for me but I’ve enjoyed it so much. It’s also meant that this has taken us much longer!

We wanted to make the first book a satisfying read, though with a tantalising cliff hanger to keep readers intrigued for the next bookAmy McCuloch

Amy: Yes, this was something that was so important to Zoe and me, and is one of the reasons why it took so long to go from idea to finished first book! We’ve had to work in various layers of plot – we wanted to make the first book a satisfying read (though with a tantalising cliff hanger to keep readers intrigued for the next book), and then we have key plot elements that will connect up in a final book. We both agreed that we love it when it’s clear that the writers of a long book series or tv show know the ‘end game’ from the beginning, so we wanted to make sure we attempted that too. That being said, each book has to work in its own right, and the characters often have minds of their own! So even our plot for the second book has had to adapt and change based on the events of the first, but always for the better.

Which character do you connect to the most?

Zoe: Ivy is obviously a character I have really enjoyed writing, and although we aren’t alike, I do feel a sense of connection with her and I’d love to know her in real life.

Amy: Audrey is “my” point of view character, and I loved writing her! But both main characters are a blend of Zoe and I, highlighting different aspects of our personalities. I also really connect to Clover – I love her feistiness and she was great fun to write.

What’s been the highlight of writing this book?

Zoe: Getting to work with Amy! Honestly, it’s so nice co-writing because if you feel yourself having a little wobble, feeling a little insecure or unsure about something, having your co-writer to be able to message with woes and for a bit of inspiration completely changes the experience!

Amy: Aw, thank you Zoe! Working with you has been an absolute pleasure too. I loved the whole writing process, but I think the highlight for me has been actually finishing the first book! Seeing our vision come to life and turn from a huge jumbled mass of ideas into the novel it is today has been amazing. Zoe and I both so clearly knew what we wanted this book to be, but sometimes when you’re in the middle of the writing process, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees. Now that the first book is done, with the most gorgeous cover and package from the team at Penguin, I can genuinely step back and see how much work has gone into it all and how proud I am of the finished product… and how excited I am to get started on the next book!

What inspires you to keep writing on the days when the writing magic just isn’t happening?

I am my most productive and creative in those very first hours of waking upZoe Sugg

Zoe: Don’t force it and to do it during the hours of the day you feel most “Awake”. For me, that’s first thing in the morning! Once those afternoon hours creep in I know I need to put my laptop away as I can feel my brain start to slow down. I am my most productive and creative in those very first hours of waking up so I try and get as much done then as possible. If you force it you can also start to put a lot of pressure on yourself and you might not necessarily be getting your best work down on the page!

Amy: My top tip is don’t necessarily feel like you have to write a book “in order”. If you’re feeling blocked but there’s a scene coming up that you’re really excited to write, go ahead and jump to that! Sometimes if you’re excited about something, that really comes across on the page… and if it’s proving difficult to write, maybe that’s not the right scene (or you’re not in the right mindset to do it justice). Give yourself permission to jump around, and just get those words down. As long as you’re managing a little bit each day, before long you’ll have a finished book! 

I also very much subscribe to what’s called the “pomodoro” method, which is to write in focused blocks of 25 minute intervals. In those 25 minutes, you don’t check social media or the internet, you don’t go to the bathroom or make a cup of tea, you just focus on the writing (even if you stare at a blank page for 25 minutes – daydreaming is writing too!). If I do two or three of those a day, I find that I’m much more productive than sitting for hours at my desk – where time normally ends up disappearing in the black hole of procrastination…

Does where you sit down to write matter, and how did you get into the mindset of each of your characters or the mood for certain scenes?

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Zoe: I have a few places I like to write, and none of them are in my office or at my work desk. I like sitting in my kitchen window at the barstool, on the sofa or the floor using the coffee table as a desk or even sat up in bed. I think wherever you feel most content, comfortable and inspired! I also can’t write in silence, so I have to have a bit of background noise! I wouldn’t say I get into the mindset, but I certainly try and channel the copious amounts of BBC Dramas I’ve watched over the years when I’m writing certain characters or storylines.

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Amy: I’ve definitely trained myself to be able to write anywhere – at my desk, on the sofa, on a train, in a coffee shop… wherever I have a pen and a notebook, I can write! Since I ended up doing the bulk of the writing in lockdown, I definitely got comfortable writing on my sofa – but I loved to have a little ritual of making myself a cup of coffee, lighting a candle, turning on my writing playlist and then setting down to work. I like to write to instrumental film scores and classical music – it puts me in a good writing headspace, even if it doesn’t quite match the atmosphere of the book.

What do you hope readers will take away from reading The Magpie Society: One For Sorrow?

Zoe: Something that they feel they can get lost in, a page-turner, connections with the characters and the urge to want to read more!
Can you share something about the book that’s not n the blurb… tease us!
There’s a scene in particular that unites both our female lead characters that I LOVE and it may involve a touch of nudity with a healthy dollop of girl power.

Amy: Agreed! I hope readers are gripped, intrigued, and left wanting just that little bit more. I also wonder if, like me, readers will be left wishing they could visit Illumen Hall. No spoilers, but I would definitely like to get lost in the building…

Can you share something about the book that’s not in the blurb… tease us!

Zoe: There’s a scene in particular that unites both our female lead characters that I LOVE and it may involve a touch of nudity with a healthy dollop of girl power. 

Amy: Ooh yes, that’s a good one! I love it that the school itself almost becomes its own character in the book, and we find Ivy and Audrey uncovering its secrets, which are almost as dark as their own…

What are some of your top tips for aspiring novelists?

Zoe: Go at your own pace, don’t constantly compare your writing style with everyone else’s, submerge yourself in the research before writing and have fun!

My number one tip for aspiring novelists is to make sure you actually finish your book!Amy McCulloch

Amy: It’s a bit of a cliché but my number one tip for aspiring novelists is to make sure you actually finish your book! It’s so easy to get hung up on those opening pages, or get bogged down in a saggy middle, and so pushing through to the end is (in my opinion) the hardest bit. Try to quiet the voice in your head telling you that it’s no good, or that you won’t get published, or that it’s too similar to something already out there. Finishing a book is a huge accomplishment in itself, and once you’re done, you can always go back over it and make it better! But it’s impossible to edit a blank page…

What do you think is the recipe for a good book?

Zoe: For me, it’s scene-setting and descriptions, great characters and friendships, edge of your seat page-turner, drama and grit and nice big shocking twist!

Amy: Yes! I love it when a book has a setting you want to visit, characters you want to know in real life, and a mystery so intriguing, you have to keep turning the pages to know what happened.

The setting adds much to the texture of the story. Can you tell us about why you chose to set the story there?

Zoe: We loved the idea of having something along the Kent coast with the chalky hills and a pebbly beach. We also really wanted it to be set in a boarding school as we love the grandeur and eerie feel to them, especially the really old ones.

Amy: Yes! I love it when a book has a setting you want to visit, characters you want to know in real life, and a mystery so intriguing, you have to keep turning the pages to know what happened.

Best bit about having a writing partner…

Zoe: Getting to work on something with a friend and having that person to bounce ideas around with!

Amy: The fact that I get as much joy out of reading Zoe’s chapters as I do out of writing my own, and seeing the story weave together! After that, it’s getting to build this incredible world and characters with a great friend. It’s been great fun, and we’re already getting started on book two! 

Get your hands on signed pre-orders here:

Waterstones | WH Smiths | Easons | Amazon [non-signed]

TEAM ZOELLA SEPTEMBER 25, 2020

Autumnal Beauty, Makeup, Hair & Nail Trends: This Season’s Shades, Dos & Manis

If you’re eager to try a few new lewks this season, here’s a run-through of the best of beauty, from hair and makeup through to nails, as spotted on the runways and the Instagram reels.

As we begrudgingly switch out our Summer wardrobe (we love you vacuum bags), kiss goodbye to our pathetic but v. aesthetically pleasing straw hats and burrow into the comfiest knitwear we own, we might find ourselves jonesing for reinvention, a hair restyle of some sort, an autumnal makeup palette or a new set of nails to set our gourd-loving souls aflame. Or, ya know, a puppy.

If you’re eager to try a few new lewks this season, here’s a run-through of the best of beauty, from hair and makeup through to nails, as spotted on the runways and the Instagram reels.

Wondering when to try out the Kendall Jenner bun, the cowhide mani, a 70’s swinging fringe, or bold blue liner, now’s your chance! Brb, just calling my hairdresser.

Brb, just calling my hairdresser.

What autumn beauty trend will you be trying?

TEAM ZOELLA SEPTEMBER 24, 2020

The Crème De La Crème Of Chunky Autumn Boots

These boots were made for stomping, and that's just what we'll do! Sandal weather may already feel like a distant memory but all is not lost- the trusty, chunky ankle boot can do no wrong in our eyes and offers endless styling potential.

These boots were made for stomping, and that’s just what we’ll do! Sandal weather may already feel like a distant memory but all is not lost- the trusty, chunky ankle boot can do no wrong in our eyes and offers endless styling potential. Whether you fancy some extra height, a snug fit to keep your ankles toasty or simply love the clompy, authoritative feeling these power stance boots have to offer, their versatility makes them perfect for all autumn, winter and spring seasons to come.

Their versatility makes them perfect for all autumn, winter and spring seasons to come!

Unless you’ve been hibernating away from social media of late, you may have noticed the hype for a certain spenny, designer (cough Prada cough) boot taking the Instagram world by storm. If the thought of dropping 2 months rent on a pair of shoes makes you feel queasy, look no further than this edit of high street to mid-range booties to satisfy that staple winter boot craving.

*This post contains ad-affiliate links

TEAM ZOELLA SEPTEMBER 23, 2020

Meet the Entrepreneurs Who Launched Businesses in Lockdown

With more time on our hands to reflect on what we want from life and our careers, these quick-thinking entrepreneurs made the best of a bad situation, turning their side hustles and part-time passions into fully-fledged businesses.

We all know coronavirus has had a devastating impact on the economy and business on a global scale, with many small and micro business owners facing massive adaptations or even closures.

It presented a unique opportunity for emerging businesses

On a brighter note, however, it also presented a unique opportunity for emerging businesses to find their feet and put that old adage ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ to the test.

With more time on our hands to reflect on what we want from life and our careers, these quick-thinking entrepreneurs made the best of a bad situation, turning their side hustles and part-time passions into fully-fledged businesses.

From date night and pick ‘n’ mix boxes to tie-dye delights we got chatting to these small business owners to find out how they managed not only to survive financially in the middle of a pandemic but to thrive.

Whether you’re looking for some expert advice on how to develop your business ideas or build a brand from scratch, these are the budding business brains you’ll want to pick.

Box42

The current pandemic has seen a flurry of innovation, with small businesses filling gaps left by bigger businesses, what inspired you to launch your business in lockdown?

At the start of lockdown, my boyfriend and I realised we were missing our regular date night routineBox42

At the start of lockdown, my boyfriend and I realised we were missing our regular date night routine, where every week we would go out for a meal/drink, or a see show or do some activity together. It was our way of guaranteeing fun quality time together. But being stuck indoors, we were really struggling to come up with interesting date night ideas. Everything we found online sounded uninspired: cook together, work out together, watch a movie together, etc. This got us thinking, what if we could create an entire date night experience, stuff it in a box, and ship it to people?! And so Box42 was born! We’ve launched a date night subscription box that makes date nights at home fun, easy and meaningful.

What resources did you find useful?

Social media has been amazing for getting the word out – Twitter, Facebook and of course Instagram! We remember having 0 followers to begin with, and wondering how people get their first follower. But now almost everyone who has found us – including the journalists who have written about us – has found us because of social media. Other than that we haven’t used any specific resources and have just relied on good old Googling to figure out how to build a website, do SEO, find suppliers, etc.

How long did it take to go from idea to real-life business?

We had the idea for Box42 in early May, then spent the next two months setting up the company, gaining followers, designing our product and engaging with influencers and journalists. We got our first sale in early July. It was slow to start with but now we’re getting more orders every day than we can fulfil! So for us, it was a 4-month journey from an idea to a successful business.

What’s your top tip for turning a side hustle/hobby into a full-time job?

Our top tip is to be resilient! We spent one month between our website being ready and our first sale. There were many points in our journey when it would have been easy (and tempting) to give up and consider our investment a sunk cost. We would recommend anyone starting out gives their business the time it takes to grow sustainably. Stay motivated and don’t stop pushing ahead!

Talk us through a typical day running your business, what does it entail?

Every day running Box42 is completely different as there’s always a new fire to fight – too many or too few orders, supplier delays, incorrect items, website issues, financial decisions, etc. On an average day we start working on Box42 around 8am every morning.

The evening is then spent brainstorming our next themeBox42

8am-12pm is spent on our laptops ordering new supplies, posting on social media and responding to emails. 1-4pm is spent packing boxes so that we have enough to ship out that day. At 4pm we head to the post office to send our boxes out. The evening is then spent brainstorming our next theme and working on the design of those products. We finally finish around 11pm and head to bed. Over the day we’re also replying to any customer emails as they come through. 

We try to take a short break for lunch and dinner so that we can cook and eat healthy, and also try to get some exercise in the morning. And when we have social commitments we try to prioritise these to maintain some semblance of a work-life balance. Despite trying to plan things in advance, many days get thrown off by an unforeseen problem which puts us back behind schedule!


How do you build a brand from scratch? Do you have any step by step advice?

Building a brand from scratch is never easy. Our main advice is to be as personal as possible. This is obviously hard when you’re a big brand with many hundreds of customers, but when you’re starting out small, it’s a great way to build really strong relationships which will help you grow in the long term. For us this is the main reason we’ve not yet had a single customer unsubscribe from Box42 so far.

We recommend reaching our personally (i.e. not the same generic copy & pasted messages) to everyone your business relates to – influencers, journalists, customers, suppliers, etc. Everyone loves supporting small businesses so don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice.

What’s been your biggest learning so far?

The biggest thing we’ve learnt is how difficult it is to rank on the first page of Google.Box42

The biggest thing we’ve learnt is how difficult it is to rank on the first page of Google. When we set up the business, we assumed that since we were called “Box42” and we had registered an account on Google Search, we would show up when someone searched for “Box42”. Learning about domain authority and backlinks and SEO was not part of our plan until we realised its importance. We invested probably a month’s effort into speeding up our website, creating online content, learning about SEO and strategising about how to gain backlinks, all in an effort to show up when someone searched us on Google. 

Now we are usually the first result for Box42 and on the first page for most relevant search terms, but the rabbit hole that is SEO was a huge shock for us at the time. We have massive respect for every business that has gotten to the first page of Google – especially anyone who’s done it in under a year!

Best business advice for anyone looking to take the plunge?

Our advice is to make sure you have a good idea, and then give it everything you have! Every time you walk down a street or drive down a road, chances are you’ll pass tens of businesses that once started with one person and an idea. Many businesses do fail – that’s not a secret – so it’s important to get some validation about your idea early on.

Speak to bloggers, customers and other authorities in your industry who can provide some insight into your idea. If you think your idea can stand on it’s own two feet, go for it, don’t give up and you’ll make it work! The sense of accomplishment for building something by yourself and becoming your own boss is something everyone should experience at least once.

Starting from zero is no easy task and we have the highest level of respect for every entrepreneur out there who is putting their heart and soul into a startup. But for anyone on the fence, we’ll take inspiration from Nike to give you our advice: “Just Do It”

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

The early stages of a business are tough and we probably aren’t at the point where we can maintain an ideal work-life balance. Our advice would be to draw boundaries and be really clear on priorities – don’t overpromise and be realistic about what you expect from yourself. We make it a point to set aside time to see family & friends, for exercise, to eat healthily and maintain good habits. You can’t run a business if you’re ill.

Do you ever get imposter syndrome in your line of work? If so, how do you manage a confidence crisis?

What’s important is to celebrate the successes as they come, and not spend too long worrying about what the future brings.Box 42

Almost every couple of days we inevitably question whether we were just very lucky, or whether everything is going to fall apart in another week. It’s not so much imposter syndrome as a sense of disbelief in what we’ve created with Box42. What’s important is to celebrate the successes as they come, and not spend too long worrying about what the future brings. It’s only reality that many small businesses do not last past their first year so confidence crises are inevitable, but we try to stay optimistic and always reflect on how much we’ve grown. 

It’s easy to feel insecure and overwhelmed looking at other businesses that might be getting more exposure or success, but we try to focus on comparing only against ourselves and where we were a month or two ago. It’s our way of maintaining perspective and keeping our expectations realistic, while also maintain our motivation and optimistic spirit!

Blaqbase App

The current pandemic has seen a flurry of innovation, with small businesses filling gaps left by bigger businesses, what inspired you to launch your business in lockdown?

Blaqbase is a curated shopping app with premium and high-quality products by black women.Blaqbase App

I started working on my app idea in June 2019 and spent a lot of 2019 gaining the skills that I needed to launch the Blaqbase app. Blaqbase is a curated shopping app with premium and high-quality products by black women. I started this because I couldn’t find the products I wanted in local department stores or the high street eg makeup and hair care for black women. In the process of looking for what I needed online, I discovered that brands by black women weren’t easy to discover and they were the least funded group in business.

When lockdown came I was put on furlough which meant I had more time on my hands to refine my idea. The Black Lives Matter protests that happened in June and subsequent initiatives like Black Out Tuesday were sadly catalysts that shined a light on what I had been working on and led to me launching the shopping version of my app. The need to support black-owned businesses was pushed to the forefront.

What resources did you find useful?

The tech programme that I went on called TechUpWomen was instrumental to my progress and acquiring the skills I needed. In terms of getting the word out the most useful resource that led to growth for my app was Twitter where people shared the app and gave their feedback as well as Instagram where influencers from other ethnic backgrounds spread the word about Blaqbase. 

How long did it take to go from idea to real-life business?

I had the idea in June 2019 and had a working version in September 2019. In June 2020 I launched the shopping app version which enabled the app to start getting revenue. The development of the app is ongoing.

What’s your top tip for turning a side hustle/hobby into a full-time job?

You have to factor in your life circumstances to the plan of how long it will take for this to happen. You may have family commitments like I have or limited resources meaning you have to devote time instead of money. In doing this you will hopefully stop comparing yourself to other people’s success stories by understanding the different variables at play. 

Talk us through a typical day running your business, what does it entail?

Part of the joy of running this for me is the flexibility of changing my days so there is no monotony. There is no typical day. I wear a lot of hats which means I’m always on a learning curve for the most part. My days include research, outreach, building relationships, pitching, strategy, creative planning, filling gaps by learning news skills and more.

How do you build a brand from scratch? Do you have any step by step advice?

There are a lot of moving pieces to brand building- start with what comes naturally, learn what you don’t know and hire experts for what you are not good at. Blaqbase App

I believe there is a lot of well-intended structured advice out there but what makes the difference is authenticity and being able to communicate the reason why this is your passion and the values that underpin what you are doing. You then need to find the right way to share this with people that will be interested in what you are offering. There are a lot of moving pieces to brand building- start with what comes naturally, learn what you don’t know and hire experts for what you are not good at. It’s important to remember Rome wasn’t built in a day and you shouldn’t try to build your brand in the same way that a billion-dollar company does it because the company has access to significantly more resources.

What’s been your biggest learning so far?

You don’t have to know everything and everything you try won’t always work out how you thought it would but keep going because it will attract people that believe in what you are doing.

Best business advice for anyone looking to take the plunge?

Get on with it, just do it. There will never be a perfect moment. If it doesn’t work, try something else- there is nothing to lose only lessons to learn.

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

I love watching trash TV every now and again. I listen to my body and my mind and adapt this to my style of working which is intense bursts of creativity and productivity and living in the moment. 

Do you ever get imposter syndrome in your line of work? If so, how do you manage a confidence crisis?

All the time but I understand that it’s because I’m doing something that I don’t have a blueprint for. I just keep going because I am driven by helping others and seeing what I can achieve when I focus on seeing results.

Three Sisters Farm

The current pandemic has been a flurry of innovation, with small business filling gaps left by bigger businesses. What inspired you to launch your business?

Jessica moved 200 miles back to our hometown of Essex, more uncertainty followed when Philippa was made redundant in AprilThree Sisters Farm

The pandemic created a lot of uncertainty for everybody and being close to family was the number one priority for us. As a result, Jessica moved 200 miles back to our hometown of Essex, more uncertainty followed when Philippa was made redundant in April, after a 15-year career in the city.

Lockdown was a pivotal moment for us as we strived for certainty within an uncertain world. Our original idea was to own a farm with the ideology of becoming self-sufficient and live a sustainable lifestyle. However, after watching multiple farming TV shows, Jessica realised the farming life wasn’t for her! After a bit of brainstorming, we saw a real gap in the market for a sustainable alternative to floral designs and homeware. We also could see a big shift in consumer behaviour with an increase in supporting small businesses and shopping local, this gave us the confidence to enter the market.

What resources did you find useful?

A Phone. As cliché as it sounds, you really can run a business from your phone.

Instagram. This platform is hugely powerful. You have free access to a wealth of information, facts, mentors, insights and audiences all from your sofa. We both follow a lot of entrepreneurial women on Instagram, who really fed our appetite for self-belief and a desire to succeed.

Google. Philippa is the type of person to google EVERYTHING. We spent a long time asking google questions, researching competitors and suppliers, and looking into trends and online publications.

Amazon. Love it or hate it, it enabled us to become professional photographers overnight by spending £100 on photography equipment.

People. Every single person you meet can add value to your life in one way or another, ask questions, join clubs and make friends with everyone along the way. People buy people.

How long did it take to go from idea to real-life business? 

We worked day and night to get the business up and running within a matter of weeks.Three Sisters Farm

Philippa never does anything by halves. As soon as we had the idea, Jessica devised the name and the logo was designed that evening. The idea has evolved somewhat since creation; however, we quickly materialised our ideas into a reality. We both took an online floristry course and became web designers overnight. We worked day and night to get the business up and running within a matter of weeks.

What’s your top tip for turning your side hustle/hobby into a full-time job?

Plan, plan and plan some more oh and don’t forget the amount of work involved. It really is blood, sweat and tears. Jessica is still working full time, so we must work smart but also still have a steady income. We have made sacrifices along the way and lockdown helped as it meant we didn’t go on holiday or even meet with friends. But ask yourself these questions; What do you want to achieve and how can you get there? Are there any areas that you can expand on without external help? How can you maximise on your current situation?   

Talk us through a typical day running your business, what does it entail?

There is no such thing as a typical day, which can be mentally challenging. We spend a lot of time planning our objectives for the week ahead, fully aware that it can change hour by hour. We are both part of the 5am club, allowing us enough time for what is most important to us, family, healthy minds and the business.

Today we have discussed our new pampas grass stock, which we are super excited about as the new season is starting. We have negotiated with our commercial landlord regarding the lease we have just signed. We have responded to customer enquiries, walked Kevin our pug dog and taken Henry (Philippa’s son) to his weekly Tennis lessons. This evening will consist of interacting with our customer base on Instagram, making bouquets and packing orders.

What’s been your biggest learning so far?

Working for yourself really highlights your strengths and weaknesses. You can lean on a company for so long but when it is just you, you really must be honest with yourself.

Making mistakes is inevitable but essential. Philippa has given Jessica a lot of reassurance that the mistakes we have made along the way are paramount to our future successes. You cannot have the good without the bad is a great saying.

How to build a brand from scratch?

To create a brand, ask yourself two simple questions: Why buy? Why buy from us?

Visualising the dream will bring the brand to life.Three Sisters Farm

The ‘why buy from us’ question allows you to explore the values of your brand. We brainstormed what it meant to us. It means family, so every customer is part of our family. It means a personal touch, that is why we send our customer’s handwritten cards to say thanks. We also wanted to give back to charities and communities so have decided to donate some of our profits and will continue to work with those that need help. Visualising the dream will bring the brand to life.

All parts of the business need to come together for the brand to be successful. For example; sourcing our sustainable packaging and ensuring our suppliers match our values is paramount to us.

Best business advice for anyone looking to take the plunge?

The pandemic made us realise, life is too short. Life is for living and what is the worst that could happen?

As women, we are generally programmed to think of every possible risk or reason not to take the plunge, rather than believing in yourself and making it happen. Why doesn’t the risk of losing an opportunity outweigh the fear of going for it? We keep reminding ourselves to feel the fear and do it anyway.

How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Philippa: Being a single mum and working in the city for such a long time meant I had to create a work-life balance early on. Ensuring I have ‘quiet me time’ in the mornings is so important to my mental health. When planning a busy week ahead, self-care and family time are factored in. Now I work for myself I have more time for hobbies and it is so important to know my limits and when to stop or say no.

Jessica: Keeping it simple and bringing it back to nature is what gives me a great work/life balance. Walking every day, listening to podcasts and guided meditation keeps me grounded. Eating a fresh and healthy diet is super important for my mental health, bad food equals bad mood!  

Don’t get us wrong, it is so hard to keep that balance. There have been many late nights fuelled by sugar however, these only take you so far and in order to keep going, you need to put yourself first and give your mind and body what it deserves.

Do you ever get imposter syndrome in your line of work? If so, how do you manage a confidence crisis? 

Philippa:

I am no stranger to imposter syndrome after working in a high profile male-dominated industry for such a long time. What I have learnt is that everyone and I mean everyone, has self-doubt and that this is normal.

To tackle this, I continually work on myself by reading self-help books, counselling, coaching and surrounding myself with influential women. Self-compassion is the most powerful tool you can have.  

Jessica:

Separate feeling from fact – What you feel isn’t always a representation of the truth.Three Sisters Farm

As the youngest member in the family and with a 10 year age gap between Philippa and I, I am used to feeling like an imposter. Working alongside Philippa is perfect for me as I am being pushed outside my comfort zone. She treats me as an equal 100% of the time and is always boosting my confidence. This shows that age is nothing but a number and that I have the skills and ability to be an equal partner in our business.

Some sound advice that has helped us both is ‘separate feeling from fact’. What you feel isn’t always a representation of the truth.

Treat Boxx

The current pandemic has seen a flurry of innovation, with small businesses filling gaps left by bigger businesses, what inspired you to launch your business in lockdown?

With everyone unable to go shopping as normal and the online shopping industry booming – Treat Boxx the Online Pick n Mix Shop was born!Treat Boxx

Prior to the Pandemic, I was working as a Bridal Makeup Artist & Lash Technician whilst also working part-time on a Beauty Counter, so I had a steady income all year round. But once the Lockdown took hold I got put on Furlough, lost a whole year’s worth of weddings and had to shut my Beauty studio. Randomly I decided to send my sister some Treats as she lives 3+ hours away, it was just a box filled with different chocolates but she loved it. I started to think this could work as a Business, with everyone unable to go shopping as normal and the online shopping industry booming – Treat Boxx the Online Pick n Mix Shop was born. I had a lot of time to think in Lockdown about what I wanted to do with my career and if I was truly happy, now I’m aiming to get Treat Boxx to Full Time as I enjoy it that much.

What resources did you find useful?

I listen to a lot of podcasts on Business and watch Youtube Videos – my biggest inspiration is Ben Francis who owns Gymshark! It’s a completely different business but he started from a spare room and grew this incredible brand which is very inspiring. I’ve also been looking into online courses for anything I don’t fully understand such as marketing. 

How long did it take to go from idea to real-life business?

About 1 month, luckily I studied Graphic Design at university so once I had the idea I started planning it all out and designing my brand. Which also saved me a lot of money as I can do everything myself. I then launched a very basic website, quickly learnt which functions worked well/what didn’t and then upgraded to a far more user-friendly website a few weeks later which I again designed myself. This was combined with sourcing packaging, planning logistics, figuring out stock and how my brand actually fits together. I went through a number of different ideas, branding and packaging options and even name changes until I was happy with everything!

What’s your top tip for turning a side hustle/hobby into a full-time job?

This is something I’m still working on but I’d say resilience and confidence is very important! Nothing comes easy and you can’t always be looking at the quick option – there are always going to be struggles but you’ve got to keep trying because eventually, it will pay off.

Talk us through a typical day running your business, what does it entail?

Each week I take time to look ahead and plan for upcoming key dates that could tie into advertising or product campaigns. Treat Boxx

First thing I always do is check for any orders that have come in so I know what I need to put together throughout the day, I’ll often head to the Royal Mail Post Office to drop all my parcels in the morning. Then throughout the day I update my social media and take photographs for advertisements as I’m fulfilling orders. Each week I take time to look ahead and plan for upcoming key dates that could tie into advertising or product campaigns. Currently, Halloween is my big focus, but soon I’ll be moving onto the Christmas products I’ll be stocking.

There is also a lot of admin and logistics that takes time, so making sure I’m tracking everything and I’m up-to-date on everything I need to take care of. 

How do you build a brand from scratch? Do you have any step by step advice?

First, you need a solid idea, I went between 2 slightly different business ideas for a week or so before I finally decided on Treat Boxx. Then you can start designing the brand or getting someone to design it for you. You need to think about your initial investment this will play a big role in creating your solid idea, you need to make sure you can cover every aspect from the design, to stock etc… don’t run before you can walk and take on so much that you’re out of your depth. 

What’s been your biggest learning so far?

It’s very easy to grow a client base in a small town but an online shop which can sell all over the UK and World Wide is a different ball game.Treat Boxx

Marketing – running an online shop is very different from Beauty. It’s very easy to grow a client base in a small town but an online shop which can sell all over the UK and World Wide is a different ball game. Marketing is something I’m constantly having to learn, understanding analytics and social media. Also how to use the relationship side of building a brand to engage future customers and hopefully ensure people return! It’s something I’m still learning and plan to develop more but it’s also really exciting to see the business grow and where it can hopefully end up!

Best business advice for anyone looking to take the plunge?

Follow your gut as cliché as it sounds. I knew in Lockdown I needed to make a big change, and whilst the entire situation was pretty awful had it not happened, I wouldn’t have changed career paths. I think a lot of people have felt this way as we all finally got to stop and really look at our lives. Obviously, weigh up the risks, I was in a position where I had zero work so I didn’t really have anything to lose. It could be the biggest mistake you make, but it could also be the most amazing and for me that definitely wins. 

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

I knew I could eventually get this to Full Time, hopefully, employ people to help me further down the road and just create a far better balance overall.Treat Boxx

Luckily at the minute, I have a lot of free time, however, before Lockdown I was working 3 jobs, all weekends especially through summer when it’s Bridal season so I didn’t really have a healthy balance. This was my main decision-maker when it came to starting an entirely new Business I knew I could eventually get this to Full Time, hopefully, employ people to help me further down the road and just create a far better balance overall. With Bridal & Lashes didn’t give me the flexibility I was really after in the long term. 

Do you ever get imposter syndrome in your line of work? If so, how do you manage a confidence crisis?

Yes all the time, people always say to me “you seem so calm, nothing worries you” whereas 90% of the time I’m feeling the opposite, I think I’m just very good at hiding it. With Treat Boxx as I’m working by myself, I’ve not really come across this so far, but I’m sure as it grows there will be times I feel out of my depth but I think that’s the exciting thing about running your own Business.

Tingle

The current pandemic has seen a flurry of innovation, with small businesses filling gaps left by bigger businesses, what inspired you to launch your business in lockdown? 

I wanted to allow other women to discover these amazing brands and innovative products and to be able to enjoy them for an affordable price. Tingle

I’m really into my beauty and skincare, so when my products started to run low during the lockdown – I really started to panic as I couldn’t go to the shops and online stores were focusing on essential items so I started to discover products and brands that I wouldn’t generally buy which lead me to create Tingle. I wanted to allow other women to discover these amazing brands and innovative products and to be able to enjoy them for an affordable price. With people around the country being unable to leave their house – what better way to provide them with their monthly beauty fix, than having a box full of products arrive on your doorstep!

What resources did you find useful?

I read an awful lot of books around business and startups- these really helped me to learn about starting a business in a lot more depth. 

How long did it take to go from idea to real-life business?

It definitely took a few months, and there was quite a delay due to the pandemic, however, due to the demand – I had to turn everything around in shorter space of time than I would have liked to – which lead to a few mistakes here and there – but one’s that I’ve definitely learnt from.

What’s your top tip for turning a side hustle/hobby into a full-time job?

Passion is key, it’s so important to ensure that you’re really invested in whatever it is that you’re doing otherwise you risk either getting bored or giving up. 

Talk us through a typical day running your business, what does it entail?

I wake up at around 6.30am, check and send emails in bed, 7am – shower and get ready for the day then take our dog Ace for a walk in the forest. 9am-11am I start processing any orders that have come in through the night, this is a whole pick and pack process. 11am-1pm I’m back on my laptop responding to emails and any customer service queries. 1pm-1.30pm I give myself 30 mins for lunch and read the latest news online. 1.30-3pm I’m back on emails and more often than not I’m on a zoom call, either with suppliers or potential suppliers. 3pm-5pm This when I tend to work on social, so focusing on building engagement, scheduling posts, responding to comments, creating stories etc. 5pm-6pm – I’m back to processing any orders that have come in throughout the day and responding to customer service queries and any emails. I think it’s important to always be in touch with the customer, whether it’s answering a question or simply providing an update. 

Once it gets to 6-6.30 I try to close my laptop for at least a few hours so I can cook and spend the evening not overthinking or worrying – however, I do always have my phone by my side as to keep up with any social updates and also so that I don’t miss any important emails.

How do you build a brand from scratch? Do you have any step by step advice? 

My main advice would be to be clear on your offering and what problem you are solving with your product or service from the outset.

What’s been your biggest learning so far? 

Expense and time! I learnt very quickly that building a brand is not only expensive but extremely time-consuming, its something I’m gradually learning to manage. It can be scary as after all you’re taking a risk and putting your all into creating your dream.

Best business advice for anyone looking to take the plunge? 

First of all don’t be afraid to do it, as well as ensuring that you’re in a position to do so financially. 

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance? 

I’ve really had to prioritise but I’ve had to create boundaries, so I generally work from 8am-6pm and then ensure that my evenings are spent with my fiancé and the dog. However, I must admit that there are some nights where I am up all night working – I do just try to ensure it doesn’t happen too often.

Do you ever get imposter syndrome in your line of work? If so, how do you manage a confidence crisis? 

I literally have to psyche myself up and force myself to OWN my accomplishments.Tingle

I get it all of the time, I literally have to psyche myself up and force myself to OWN my accomplishments. I also sometimes try to visualise success which is something that always keeps me going because I have a goal and I want to reach it so I can’t let anything get it my way. Luckily I’ve got a really supportive Fiance who gives me that extra push whenever that dreaded self-doubt starts to creep in.

Down Rainbow Lane

The current pandemic has seen a flurry of innovation, with small businesses filling gaps left by bigger businesses, what inspired you to launch your business in lockdown?

My business actually started from me making tie-dye bandanas for all of my friends.Down Rainbow Lane

I’ve always been an advocate for small independent businesses and have always loved the personal touch you get from them. If I’m going to be completely honest my business actually started from me making tie-dye bandanas for all of my friends, I then went on to post them with other little gifts and a cute card to cheer everyone up while we were in complete lockdown. It was from that I ended up making some for myself, wearing them and then having people enquire about where they could get theirs, so I started making and selling them to some of my Instagram followers and so on. During all this, I got made redundant from my job which inspired me to push this even more – and it seemed like EVERYBODY wanted one, from there Down Rainbow Lane was born. I was never expecting this to happen but I couldn’t be any more grateful and proud that it did.

What resources did you find useful?

I’ve worked in fashion since I was 16, for big companies and then also for smaller independent companies and I feel I have learnt so much along the way from all different aspects. From the business side to the customer service to how you should be packaging your orders. Taking inspiration from other small accounts/businesses held a massive role in this and already have an amazing Instagram community around me. 

How long did it take to go from idea to real-life business?

So for the first few months, I was working through my own personal Instagram via stories as I never expected it to grow this big but as you can imagine the messages amongst personal messages was getting too hot to handle. The amount of amazing content I was receiving off my customers were just too good not to share and that’s why I then went on to create a separate Instagram solely for the brand and it kept growing from there. 

What’s your top tip for turning a side hustle/hobby into a full-time job?

Believe in yourself and love what you do. I genuinely don’t think if I didn’t enjoy creating the items, loving the items myself and every message that came through then this wouldn’t have worked the way it did.

Talk us through a typical day running your business, what does it entail?

Engaging with other small businesses and customers, planning the feed, getting inspiration for new colours coming through for A/WDown Rainbow Lane

So I usually take two to three days a week to topping up stock. As all my products are tie-dye/bleach effect it takes a few days to set, be washed and then dried. The other day’s I’m quite lucky as apart from packaging up orders which I tend to do as soon as they come through I can work from my phone remotely. This includes engaging with other small businesses and customers, planning the feed, getting inspiration for new colours coming through for A/W and trying to grow my account to a wider audience. 

How do you build a brand from scratch? Do you have any step by step advice?

I would definitely start by saying don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get everything right first time as that can hold you back. Let the brand grow as you grow and learn. Find your product (and something you love) and how you want to market it. Create socials for it and get it out there. Ask your friends and family to support you and keep it authentic to you. 

What’s been your biggest learning so far?

I’ve already learnt so much along the way by trial and error of my own. My main learning has definitely been to understand that things may drop down before they go cop and that’s completely normal.

Best business advice for anyone looking to take the plunge?

Don’t expect to or get yourself down for it not being exactly how you vision it to be straight away. Believe in yourself. Set your (realistic) goals that are still going to ensure you work hard.

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

It’s amazing how many people shop in the middle of the night!Down Rainbow Lane

As I am now working from home doing this rather than getting up and going to a head office its definitely been important that I still structure my day with my morning alarm, eating and going to sleep. I am very lucky that I can be anywhere and still able to reply to messages / connect with people at any time of the day. It’s amazing how many people shop in the middle of the night!

Do you ever get imposter syndrome in your line of work? If so, how do you manage a confidence crisis?

For me, I find it more where am I going to take this next, what does the future hold, how can build on this and find my next big item. It’s a part of the business I’m always going to have to deal with but its what I love, being creative, inspired and finding new things. 

Bee’s Blankets

The current pandemic has seen a flurry of innovation, with small businesses filling gaps left by bigger businesses, what inspired you to launch your business in lockdown?

My best friend kept on at me to create an Instagram profile for my knitted homeware and when I did, it opened a new world of possibilitiesBee’s Blankets

I was lucky enough not to be furloughed during lockdown but day to day business did dwindle so I wanted to fill my evenings and lunch breaks with something which made me happy and took my mind off of the current situation. My grandmother has always been a knitter and taught me to knit as a child so I decided to pick that up again – originally, I started knitting things for myself and my family but soon my friends wanted to order things too and word spread quicker than I could keep up! My best friend kept on at me to create an Instagram profile for my knitted homeware and when I did, it opened a new world of possibilities and that’s how Bee’s Blankets was born. 

What resources did you find useful?

My specialism is Digital Marketing so I am aware of how to market products via social media but doing it for yourself is a completely different ball game. I started by doing some hashtag research to make sure I found the most relevant hashtags for my products and then began liking and following accounts that I believed might be interested in my knitted homeware. Once I’d gotten to point where I felt I had made enough profit to fund a paid campaign, I utilised Instagram’s paid ads service which really increased my reach, followers and likes. I didn’t pay much for it but it certainly helped! I then decided to reach out to a small influencer with an offer to send her one of my cushions, if she would be happy to post a picture or two of it – she agreed and so my first influencer campaign went live. This was a game-changer and I gained a lot of followers and likes very quickly, other influencers also began sharing my page as a favour to their friends which was amazing! I also utilised Facebook marketplace in my local area which turned into my biggest source of orders so don’t knock the things that are right in front of you!

How long did it take to go from idea to real-life business?

I started my journey on August 4th when I created the Bee’s Blankets Instagram account and by the middle of September, it is a fully-fledged lockdown business. 

 

What’s your top tip for turning a side hustle/hobby into a full-time job?

Work hard, believe in yourself and do what makes you happy. Track everything, every single penny you spend, every piece of stock you have, every order you get and make sure you keep that up – getting ahead of things makes turning your side hustle into a profitable business much easier!

Talk us through a typical day running your business, what does it entail?

In the evenings I make sure to take photos of orders/stock and upload them to Instagram so that my content is up to date too!Bee’s Blankets

I wake up and look at any orders that have come in overnight, I check those orders against stock and decide if I need to order more wool to create them. If I don’t have the stock available, I will order the wool that morning and get on with creating the orders that I do have stock for. I will spend at least 5 hours knitting on and off so that I can get as many orders ready for postage as possible. Once they’re created, I tick them off on my spreadsheet and package them up ready for postage. Once they’re ready, off to the post office we go. In the evenings I make sure to take photos of orders/stock and upload them to Instagram so that my content is up to date too! That’s important! and then we do it all again the next day. 

How do you build a brand from scratch? Do you have any step by step advice?

Start with social media. Guage interest in your product or service and decide if you’ll be able to take it further. 

Don’t rush yourself into paying for an expensive website or lots of stock if you aren’t sure you’ll be able to make that money back straight away, really think about your financial decisions. 

Begin by offering your product or service in local buying and selling groups of Facebook, try Gumtree, eBay or Depop. 

Once you have begun to make a little profit, reinvest it if you’re able. Bee’s Blankets

Once you have begun to make a little profit, reinvest it if you’re able. Start looking into online advertising services via Facebook and Instagram, they might seem scary but they aren’t difficult to use and they won’t cost you the earth if you don’t want them to. 

Make sure you analyse your results from these campaigns before setting up another one. Look at the followers you gained, are they the type of people you want to be following you? Look at the reach, could you invest a little more next time? Look at the likes, did they go up or do you think you could use another image or maybe try a video in your next ad? 

If you have the ability to do so, try reaching out to some smaller influences and ask if they’d be happy to promote your product/service. Make sure you check their engagement rates though, look at their followers and then look at the number of likes and comments they’re getting on each post. If they’re getting a reasonable amount of likes for the number of followers they have and lots of comments, then they’re likely to be legit, if they have thousands of followers and only 30 likes per post, steer clear. 

Be true to yourself throughout this process and remember that this is your baby, don’t be too hard on yourself and do it because you love doing it. You’ll have to make some mistakes before you can flourish but treat them all as learning opportunities. Your brand will come naturally but it might take a few goes before you get it spot on! 

What’s been your biggest learning so far?

I’ve had two biggest learnings so far.

Number 1 is to make sure you are being paid your worth. I know it’s easy to be tempted into offering cheaper products and forfeiting your profit in order to increase your customer base but it doesn’t work out in the long run. Make sure you’re accounting for all of your outgoings, stock cost, postage and packaging, ads, influencers etc and most importantly your time. You’re trying to make a living, remember that! 

Number 2 is that your product isn’t going to be for everyone and that’s okay. Set up a refund policy and disclaimers so that you’re covered in the event that something goes wrong (which it will) and you’re asked for a returns slip. And stick to it!

Best business advice for anyone looking to take the plunge?

Just do it! Start slow and build yourself up. Stick to your day job and turn your hobby into a business on the side before you go all out and take the plunge into full-time small business ownership. Having a 9-5 can help you financially and give you a safety net if you have a bad month but most of all, just enjoy the process! You’re already miles ahead of anyone who hasn’t even found their hobby or side hustle yet, go for it! 

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

This is so important! It’s really easy to get sucked into the idea that you need to work all hours under the sun to maintain a successful business but this isn’t the case. Try to remember that if you were working for a large company, you’d be working a set number of hours, you’d be given holidays and lunch breaks. Do the same with your small business. 

If you’re working alongside a day job too then try and stick to a few hours an evening or one day on the weekend. Maybe take a day’s holiday to catch up on orders or emails. You can still be a boss and take breaks! 

Do you ever get imposter syndrome in your line of work? If so, how do you manage a confidence crisis?

All. The. Time! If you’re not feeling very confident about a certain aspect of your business or you feel like this shouldn’t be happening to you, try to remind yourself that it’s just your inner critic speaking and that they need to be quiet for a moment. ‘Trust the process’ as they say. 

Others will love your products for what they are and if they don’t, then they won’t buy them and that’s okay too. Bee’s Blankets

If you’re concerned about a product or you don’t think that something is quite right, take a step back, analyse why you’re feeling that way and then see if you can fix it. If you can’t see a fix, maybe there isn’t one and you need to remember that others will love your products for what they are and if they don’t, then they won’t buy them and that’s okay too. 

You’re running a small business, you’re allowed to be judgemental but try not to stay in that place for too long! 

Know a small business that started this year? Drop them in the comments!

TEAM ZOELLA SEPTEMBER 22, 2020

13 Questions With Alexa Shoen

We caught up with Alexa Shoen, internet career coach and author of #ENTRYLEVELBOSS, to learn more about what it takes to find a job during a pandemic...

First off, how are you and how have you been coping in 2020?

Oof. I have been… fine? All things considered? Maybe? I’ve had several bad weeks, but there have also been unexpected pockets of good. I got really lucky with my lockdown in that I met basically everyone in my building and we now do straight-out-of-the-movies things for each other, like bake fresh chocolate chip cookies and “pop by” for a glass of wine.

My work has become more important than ever–because my life is all about coaching young jobseekers through the process of finding their first or second proper job, and there are a whole lotta jobseekers right about now. We’ve helped thousands of young people in the US and UK figure out their next career move since COVID hit. That makes me proud and gives me purpose on the tough days.

Tell us about yourself! How do you balance your multi-hyphenated career as a Singer, Author and CEO of an education company

I’m Alexa: author of a bestselling career guide called #ENTRYLEVELBOSS: A 9-Step Guide For Finding A Job You Like (And Actually Getting Hired To Do It) that came out globally during lockdown. I’m sometimes referred to as the internet’s favorite career coach… like Joe Wicks, but for CVs. I run a career education company (also called #ENTRYLEVELBOSS) and we work with young people who need support finding their way in the professional world.

Also, yes, a jazz vocalist! My new album, Lies I Used To Tell Myself About Love, came out in late 2019.

As for how I “balance” it? Last year, I released a full studio album, wrote the entire manuscript for #ENTRYLEVELBOSS, hired a team for my company, and took some big business risks. I played gigs in Mexico, took meetings in San Francisco, wrote the book in Berlin and New York… It was one of those years when you see an opening and you just sprint for it.

The year before: I still had a full-time job and was hustling before work to write my proposal and make sure all our jobseekers were succeeding.

Whenever you hear that someone is doing it all, please know they’re not doing it all in one week. They’re tinkering over time. Things that seem to be happening “all at once,” aren’t.

How did you get the idea and inspiration for Entry Level Boss?

I graduated with my BA in English Literature in America (I’m Californian). Then, I came to England (shout out to Leeds) and did my MA in Jazz Vocal Performance. And then I tried to go out into the world and… fell flat on my face, couldn’t find a job to save my life, and had no idea what to do next.

It wasn’t that I was entitled, I was just clueless. I’d done everything I’d been told to do – get educated! participate in clubs! etc! – and then there was no clear step as to what to do next.

I slowly learned, the hard way, what it takes to get the good interviews and land the cool jobs. I paid attention to all the things I wished would’ve been spelled out for me. And then, I wrote it all down.

What are some of the key takeaways from Entry Level Boss?

In #ENTRYLEVELBOSS, I teach you all the stuff you need to know about how modern employment actually works–a lot of which directly contradicts the outdated, pre-internet career advice you’ve been given. Then, I walk you through a proven 9-step method for getting the kind of job you want, faster, by sending in fewer applications.

The keyest of key takeaways: multiple studies show that 80% of jobs are landed through personal connections. That means that scrolling through LinkedIn and writing yet another cover letter for yet another job you don’t want whilst crying is… a wildly inefficient use of your time. You don’t have to do it like that.

What was it like to write a book and get it published?

Honestly? I genuinely hated writing a book. The actual writing part, I mean. I like immediate gratification, being in front of crowds, working in teams. I knew that it would be worth it, but I found it super lonely and draining to work on such a solitary task for so many months.

I’m a much better author of a published book! #ENTRYLEVELBOSS was always meant to inspire action. This, to me, is the magical part: watching my work come alive in the world and getting the messages from readers who are writing to tell me about their job offers.

What is your process like for preparing a talk when you’re public speaking?

I’ve always been dangerously good at winging it on stage–blame it on a lifetime of singing. But the best advice I ever got for public speaking was this: what is the ONE thing you want the audience to remember when you’re done? Reverse-engineer your entire talk to make sure that ONE point hits home. That’s your only job.

What are you currently working on?

I’m still doing a lot of press for the book (it’s coming out in India this month!). My team and I are also spending a ton of our time working with universities and careers advisors who are excited about getting #ENTRYLEVELBOSS employability into the classroom for students before they graduate.

Who are some of your top follows online?

@theferocity on Twitter – Saeed Jones is a shining light, needed more than ever | @gabifresh on IG – the OG plus-size icon that we all need in our lives | @thelesliejordan on IG – the true breakout star of quarantine video IMHO | @blackownedeverything on IG – for finding your new fave Black-owned brand

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

The day I found out that St. Martin’s Press bought my book proposal was a huge deal for me. I started a newsletter when I was 25, and then 3.5 years went by, and then I got two book deals within a week (US and UK). That feeling was insane.

What do you always carry with you?

A pen. I feel like I can’t really ask to borrow a pen anymore, because… pandemic.

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?

This question is making me think nostalgically about one of the best meals of my life: Ka’ana Kitchen at the Andaz Hotel on Maui. Just order whatever they tell you to order.

What does your perfect weekend look like?

Somewhere beautiful, with no phones and no itinerary, surrounded by people I love. Oh! And I’ll probably make breakfast burritos for everybody at some point.

If you could give one piece of advice to our audience, what would it be? 

Don’t take career advice from people whose careers you don’t want.

TEAM ZOELLA SEPTEMBER 21, 2020

Recipe: Fluffy Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes

Grab a hot cup of coffee and start your day right with this seasonally appropriate stack of thick, fluffy American style pancakes.

Just here to serve you that sweet Autumn thirst trap, you can thank us later.

Grab a hot cup of coffee and start your day right with this seasonally appropriate stack of thick, fluffy American style pancakes.

It’s the perfect easy beige breakfast or brunch for a chilly morning in the fall.

Packed with pumpkin goodness and warming spices and drizzled in maple syrup, chocolate chips & pecans, it’s the perfect easy beige breakfast or brunch for a chilly morning in the fall.

We can’t guarantee leftovers, so think fast and tuck in!

SERVES 6
PREP: 20 MINS COOK: 20 MINS
EASY

For the Pancakes

  • In two seperate bowls, mix together the wet ingredients – half the milk, egg and the pumpkin
  • In the other bowl combine your dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and a pinch of salt.
  • Stir your dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture adding the rest of the milk as you go, add more milk until you reach the consistency you desire.
  • Heat your pan with a light coating of oil over medium heat. The trick is to cook your pancakes low and slow.
  • Ladle the batter onto your pan using about 2 tablespoons of the mixture.
  • When the pancake starts to show bubbles forming flip it over, cook until nicely browned. You can always cut your first one in half to gauge if it’s cooked all the way through.
  • If you’re making a lot of pancakes place them on a baking tray in the oven on a low setting to keep them warm.

For the toppings

  • Obviously what you place on pancakes is completely up to you, we went with toppings that would enhance the spices fall flavours
  • To make a cream cheese frosting we combined whipped cream, cream cheese, and a teaspoon of cinnamon. You could also add sugar or vanilla if you’ve got a sweeter tooth

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