Stress-free Festive Cocktails

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As the festive season is almost upon us, the plans start to mount up and even the most organised of us can feel overwhelmed! Here at the nest, we thought we would offer a helping hand and share some tips and treats to keep you and your guests refreshed and sparkling.
We have compiled a list of the drinks we have found to be most successful at any party (some tried and tested by ourselves as well . . . it’s a tough job but someone has to do it!) and best of all, all available for under £7.
Our first recommendation would be vodka, it is so popular and can be mixed with almost anything to create a delightful drinking experience. It’s a neutral flavour so add any flavour you fancy to create a truly delicious treat. It all blends well and each taste is unique.
Peach schnapps – such a delightfully fruit-filled taste, just add lemonade or be adventurous and add it to the vodka above with a hint of orange juice and grenadine, the great thing about cocktails are the names are as interchangeable as the ingredients so why not pick your own names, pop it into a nice pitcher, punchbowl or Cockpot™ in the new year and serve your fabulous cocktail to your guests.
Vermouth – such a lovely light and defined flavour, add to vodka or lemonade and why not combine the two, pour over ice and voila!
Irish cream – such a treat for the taste buds, Irish cream can be served alone over ice, add vodka and a dash of coffee liqueur for an espresso martini or for the men why not add a thimble of whisky.
Rum – make it fruity! Rum is great mixed with fruit juice or blend some frozen fruit and create a delicious daiquiri. There are so many different types of run, white, navy, spiced, all have an exceptional taste, try with Cola and lime – yum!
All of the above are widely available and very versatile, it is easy to find a flavour for everyone and at a cocktail party everybody feels that little bit more glamorous and your evening is stress-free.
If you want to add a bit of razzle dazzle to your evening why not get some sparkling wine, grape makes a lovely addition to a cocktail as it is not over powering but complementary, share a drop with any of your creations for a little extra sparkle.

Having said all this, don’t forget that the host is the most crucial part to any occasion so use these tips to ensure you truly are the host or hostess with the most. You want to enjoy your evening as much as your guests and people love to be pampered or feel that just a little bit of extra care and attention has been paid. Mingle, involve your guests in your evening and invite them to put the flavours they feel are the best together and each have a try. Try to remember make sure all of your measurements are sensible, enjoy a laugh and a let us know how you get on!

From all at the Skylarks team, we wish you a happy festive season!

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5 secret entrepreneurial skills you didn’t know you needed!

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There’s a lot of very good blogs around that list some of the key skills that entrepreneurs need; determination, willingness to take risks, the ability to try their hand at all areas of business. These are traits that are widely acknowledged as being an essential part of an entrepreneurs success, but what about those skills that get less spotlight? Here’s a list of the one’s we think are equally important

Patience- This is a skill that we are very surprised isn’t talked about more! Starting and running a business is very exhilarating, and there will be times when there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. However starting a business is very much a marathon task, and there will be times when you have made your sales calls, commissioned product, updated your website and you simply have to be patient and wait for your efforts to bear fruit. This is much harder than it sounds; this is the time when even the most passionate entrepreneurs can start to doubt their success. We encountered this when we were waiting to be accepted on to the European High Growth Program; we couldn’t go too much further forward until we had our place confirmed- which took 7 weeks! A long time to be waiting, and a challenge to stay motivated and positive. This brings us nicely to our next under discussed skill…..

Self Awareness – this is crucial to making sure you can go the distance in business! You need to find the line between healthy self awareness and disabling self consciousness. Self awareness means that you will be resilient enough to cope with the anxiety that is an inevitable part of waiting. Just remember, doubt kills more dreams than failure ever does! Stay in touch with your emotional state, and don’t be afraid to take feedback from your team. They are the one’s who are most likely to notice any changes in you, and flag them up. Constructive feedback uses the next skill of….

Good manners – It costs nothing to be polite, but it has such an impact on how you and your brand is perceived. Remember to say thank you and to acknowledge those who have helped you. This goes for your online presence as well; make sure your social media strategy supports good manners! By showing…

Commitment to the details, your customers will intuitively trust you more. Details are the difference between amateurs and professionals; no one wants to buy from someone who has sloppily written website content or an ill thought out customer service policy. This shouldn’t be news to anyone but it is still surprising how many businesses chase the vision without tying their shoelaces! Having said this, 

Allow yourself to be surprised! – being surprised means you are learning something new! This is an absolutely crucial skill for any entrepreneur. Too often, the pressure to act like everything is within our control means that we miss opportunities to learn. Make surprise a strategic advantage within your organisation by going outside your comfort zone on a regular basis; we constantly seek reviews and feedback from people and are always somewhat surprised!

What other unsung skills do you think entrepreneurs need? Let us know!

5 tips for blog writing

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We have been writing blogs for a while now and along the way we have picked up some top tips, here are a few that we have picked up on for your reference, business blog or personal.

1. Relevance
There is very little point in writing a blog that is not related to your business; we are a startup business on our way to becoming the next big cocktail brand so it would be very little use writing a blog centered on baking. So we write blogs based on the aspects of being a startup- the blog we wrote about our first attendance at the business show, our product- the cockpot name, what we are using to market our brand- our blog about how we use social media and to share news about what we are doing- when we were accepted on to the high growth program.
People want to know about you and who you are so consider your brand statement, what does your brand represent or if you are not a business, how do you want to represent yourself? We feel our brand is professional, fun, classy and friendly, so we try to ensure that we portray this with everything we do and certainly when blogging. Do you have any key words, ours is Flocker and we refer to ourselves as Skylarks and our HQ as Skylarks nest, so this analogy is continued throughout our work, it keeps it fun and enables our flockers to connect with us.

2. Structure
Once you have chosen your topic be sure to stay with it, this may sound like a job common sense should cover but unfortunately it is not. I myself have read blogs where people have started off on one topic and lose their trail of thought and before you know it you’re reading a blog about the neighbour’s cat. These remain unpublished and do not invite an audience to come back. When you choose a topic make sure that you have plenty to say, there is every likelihood that you won’t use it all as you’re writing a blog not a novel, but you are better to have more to say and have to stop than to have nothing to say and become stuck.
Give yourself points to follow, make a list if it helps; I tend to draft a blog before typing up the final piece in order to make sure that I have all of the information and that it is structured to make sense. Plan a start and a finish and ensure you keep the two connected.
Also do not be afraid to ask somebody you trust for feedback, I would recommend asking somebody with some basic knowledge, maybe somebody who blogs as well or who loves to read your blogs, two pairs of eyes are better than one, that way you will be given valuable, honest feedback and they may spot something you haven’t. As there are two of us at the Skylarks nest we ask each other for feedback and our end goal is the same so there is no chance of us being nice for the sake of it.

3. Content
Keep your content fresh and exciting. Make sure that you have a genuine interest in what you are talking about, writing forces you to be very open and show your feelings so make sure they are genuine. Think about what you would like to read about? Is there a topic within your expertise that you would have appreciated a blog about when you were starting out and do you now have the skills to answer it informatively? If so do so and on that merit, try to identify with your audience and ask what they would like to read, much like we have done with this blog.
It’s very easy to fall into a routine of talking constantly about yourself or what you’re doing, but it is important to give the reader something to think about, ask questions and be thoughtful, if you can try to engage your reader’s emotions by talking about situations that they may identify with then do. It will help to build a bond with your readers and therefore urge them to come back.
We write two types of blog, a doing blog and a thinking blog, our aim is to post one of each a week. An example of a doing blog would be ‘Our flockers flew’ about us supporting our amazing flockers while they ran the Dublin marathon, an example of a thinking blog would be ‘what your cat can teach you about running a business’, a comparison of why cats are similar to customers, in theory people will be able to relate this scenario to something similar in their own lives, it may provoke an eye roll when remembering an awkward customer or if you have a cat yourself, how it is absolutely true that they do not care what you are doing they are simply happy to have things their own way; thus provoking your reader to recall a moment or feeling, enforcing a sense a reassurance.
People prefer to write differently, there is no set way of doing it, however you feel most comfortable is best. Some write blogs based on experiences or encounters and some write based on facts and data, a great tip that I recently discovered while asking some advice was that blogs with numbers in the title generate more interest, so bear this in mind, not every blog has to be this way unless this is your preferred style but variety is the spice of life after all.

4. Post regularly
When starting up we conducted a lot of research into getting our name out there and the best practices to achieve this, as a start-up of our type we have to move quickly and continuously and found that blogs are a major cog in business promotion. Writing blogs is an excellent way to boost traffic to your websites and build relationships with potential customers. The recommended rate to post at is twice a week if not more, but in order to make sure your content doesn’t get boring don’t post too often because although a lot happens in the business you will run out of things to write about, it is so much more rewarding for you to post one amazing blog once a month and have people waiting for the next one to come than to be posting several times a week with bad content, post as regularly as is acceptable to you but keep to a schedule, it creates goals for you to work to and motivates you to meet your targets.
Share the link to your blog over all social media platforms, it must be widely accessible to your entire target market, don’t be shy just post, post, post!
5. Enjoy!
Blogging is not supposed to be a tedious task, it is your chance to write about what you want and to share with people similar to you. If you enjoy yourself you will automatically produce better quality blogs.

Join the Flock!

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We often get asked what Flockers are as we use the term almost every time we post.
We hashtag #Flockers on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and our followers reciprocate by using it when speaking to us. Flockers are everybody that support us, from liking us on Facebook, to tweeting us on Twitter, to lending your skills to the Cockpot production; birds flock together and, as skylarks, so do we. We feel everybody that comes with us on our journey becomes a part of searching for skylarks and as a collective we make a wonderful team. So we call our supporters Flockers because it is a personal address to you and a small way of saying thank you, rather than a generic message to nobody in particular. You are all to thank for our success, so we want to share that with you.
So come on, join our flock, become a Flocker. Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, just search our name and we’ll be there or #Flockers when you tweet so that we can find you. We very much look forward to meeting you.

Bstartup Show, here we come!

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We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz! Only joking, we’re off to somewhere MUCH more exciting that – we’re off to debut our faces at the bstartup show at London’s Olympia exhibition (www.bstartup.com). There was much excitement in the Skylarks’ nest today as we booked our tickets, hotel and started registering for all sorts of workshops and seminars.
Key highlights we’re looking forward to are the Angels’ Den, speed networking and hearing from an absolute smorgasbord of inspirational speakers!
We have our business cards at the ready for some serious networking, and will be perfecting our elevator speeches over the next few weeks. We’re very excited to meet other entrepreneurs who are just setting out and learning from those ahead of us. We’re planning a video diary of the event to celebrate the occasion and to launch our YouTube channel – so keep checking back!

If you’re planning on visiting the event and would like to connect, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

How to launch and run a successful social media presence for your business

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Social media has changed the landscape of marketing business drastically; it offers the potential to communicate with your customer base in real time – something so valuable that it was only a pipe dream 20 years ago. In this blog post, we’ll talk you through some of the things we’ve learnt as we’ve launched our social media – and we’ll also share with you some shortcuts that will add momentum to your launch. We have managed to build a great foundation within only 3 weeks, we are over 700 followers on twitter and over 120 likes on facebook. For a team that was completely inexperienced in using social media for business, this is a start we’re proud of!

So, how did we do this?

When using social media to market and promote your business the best way is the simplest and hardest way; using the personal touch. Many people hide behind their company page, but ‘people buy from people’ is as true on social media as it is in face to face meetings. Be friendly, keep it fresh and engage your followers.

We blog, we comment, we tweet and retweet, we follow and like and most importantly we reciprocate. People respond best to kindness and interest. This means each like gets a like back and each follow is returned. The networking hours on Twitter really help with this, some of the hashtags we have found most useful are
#wineoclock, an hour in which to tweet about your business and what you do, 6-7pm every night
#FBlikehour, an hour devoted to getting people to view and like your facebook page, 8-9pm on Tuesdays
#PinHitshour, this is where you post the link to your pinterest boards and ask people to follow, 8-9pm on Thursday,
These are all hosted by @Awardingwomen, who are amazing tweeps who have welcomed us and helped us out massively!
Other networking hours are
#directorschairhour, another hour devoted to promotion, 8-9pm on Wednesdays hosted by @directorstweet,
@UKlikeladder hosts half an hour of facebook likes, comment on their picture with your link, scroll to view and like as many as you can,
All day Friday there is #FollowFriday which is the whole of twitter helping each other out.

The rules for these hours are simple, reciprocate all likes and follows and make sure you’re using the correct hastags. There are many more and they are for everybody, no favouritism.
These networking hours are not at all hard to find either, they simply popped up on our news feed and we joined in. There is always an element of worry that you might look silly, but each hour has its own purpose and if you need help, just ask.
Always lead with who you are and what you’re doing, i.e. @Skylarksnest ‘ We are on a mission to bring you the best and most original Cockpot ™ designs #flockers’ <— that is one of our hashtags. For twitter newbies, a hashtag is your own personal tag and it is the best way for people to link all of your accounts. Another of ours is #callitaweek which we use on a Friday to encourage people to tell us how their week has been/their weekend plans. We also use #nestnatter, this applies to all tweets and is a general term we use when we are chatting, to anyone about anything. The hashtags relate directly to us and if typed into the search box at the top you can find all the tweets containing the hashtag. Simples! We use them on pinterest to label our pins, so when they are re-pinned people can see where they originally came from and can find us that way.

We were talking to one of our flockers via twitter on Friday and she asked what her hashtag could be. We suggested she would like to ask her followers for their ideas. The main reason to use social media is to meet your followers – asking for their input into decisions is a great way to build a relationship and it shows your customers you value their opinion.
You cannot be shy, the whole point of social media is to be sociable, it seems many people are scared to get involved, if we're totally honest we have tweeted some networking hours without having a clue what to say. @Awardingwomen do a lot of networking hours and when we got our hashtags confused, they simply tweeted us to correct us and we were right back on track again!
Building relationships is such a good thing to do and easy – be bothered about who you are talking to, ask them what they’re doing! Pass compliments, if someone says something that touches you or makes you think, tell them, treat it the same as you would in a real-life situation! You wouldn’t have a meeting with someone and say the same thing over and over or just talk about yourself constantly or if somebody asked a question you wouldn’t all just ignore them would you? So why do it on social media?
Twitter is the best to use for this because all of your followers can see your tweets and therefore can join in with the conversation. So far we've have found that asking a general question to all followers doesn’t get a huge response so tag people directly. If you received a message from someone directly, as opposed to the whole group, even if you weren’t sure what to say, you would be more likely to respond wouldn’t you?
We have been telling people about Cockpot™ for a few weeks now and have been overwhelmed by the positive response but we want to make sure that we are not getting boring – it’s all very well telling you that we are bringing Cockpots™ to you but where are they? Well, you have joined us at the beginning of our mission, we have designs and ideas, paper work and vision. As you will know from our blog earlier this week, we have been busy birdies and are working hard seeing coaches on the high growth programme and are getting in touch with manufacturers, suppliers etc. and things are coming along nicely. However, it’s all very well us knowing and doing this but if we don’t tell you how can you be involved? The key to social media success is keeping information fresh and relevant. This is imperative to keep people interested, if you are interesting people won’t want to follow or like you, they’ll be bored.
To help us with this, we have been sharing things like e-cards, to entertain our flockers without overdoing the self promotion. We also have a ‘flockers cocktail recipe exchange’ board on Pinterest, we are making cocktail teapots so a cocktail board makes perfect sense and it give our followers the change to tell us what their favourite cocktails are! Also gives us inspiration for our weekends!
Even if you aren’t based in a consumer goods business why not havea board where people can share their favourite pictures? E-cards? Food? Social media allows you to represent all the elements of your brand, make sure you are taking full advantage of this!

We have so much fun chatting to our flockers, every time a tweet gets retweeted or replied to or we get a re-pin or like, our little feathers start fluttering in excitement. Social media offers us the opportunity to get to know our flockers, and we genuinely enjoy sharing our journey with you. You inspire and motivate us! <

We have news!

 

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Flockers, we have some news! We’re proud to announce that we have been accepted on to the European High Growth Business Program. As you can imagine, we’re all really really really really excited here at the nest!
This is an incredible opportunity for us to benefit from coaching and teaching from some of the top UK business minds. On the program, we have support such as training workshops on UK HR, Intellectual Property and Raising Finance. We are also lucky enough to benefit from 1 to 1 coaching with an assigned business coach, to work on specific business needs. In our case, we are benefiting from an extra pair of eyes on our finances, and developing our sales and marketing strategy.
Here at Skylarks, we are massive fans of coaching as a discipline. It presents massive opportunities for personal and professional development, and can be an equally rewarding experience for the coach and coachee.
Coaching is at it’s most effective when the coachee is open to feedback and willing to learn; values we are embedding in Skylarks culture by all of the team having Personal Development Plans. All the same, when we sat down with our business coach for the first time, we were pushed and challenged on a lot of decisions we had made in the months prior. This was a very worthwhile if slightly uncomfortable experience – worthwhile as it made us justify our values and business logic, and also brought to our attention any blind spots. Uncomfortable because it’s very hard to stay responsive and not become defensive! 
A good coach will challenge you; they aren’t there to be your best friend, they are there to push you to act in the best interests of the business. On a recent workshop, the tutor described a limited company as a newborn baby; a separate entity with rights of its own, but still completely reliant on you to protect and grow it! Building on this analogy, a good business coach is like a really good midwife – encouraging but realistic, and not afraid to tell you when you’re getting hysterical! 

So please, raise a glass with us to the next stage in Skylarks’ flight! 

Our Flockers flew!

What an experience the Dublin marathon was; I am in absolute awe of the two flockers we supported out there. Turning two very sad losses into something extremely productive, helpful and kind, cancer research has benefited immensely from the selfless behaviour of Pip and Mandy.

The night before the race the two participants were in their apartments ready to rest by 6pm and of course us supporters were very considerate and stayed out sampling some of Dublin’s evening activities. We graced a comedy club with our presence where I (of course) got picked on by a comedian, but managed to promote Cockpot™. While I was there, every opportunity is a promotion opportunity!
Afterwards we all snuck into our rooms and got rested for the busy day ahead of us.
Up at 7:30 to get ourselves a nice hearty breakfast, dressed and ready to support by 8:30. When we arrived at the marathon route I was immediately struck by pride and inspiration for people I didn’t even know. The wheelchair users had started their marathon and I could feel myself welling up at the pure selflessness of people. Each person that ran past us was running for charity, great people, the support of the small but loud crowd was lovely at this point as well, clapping and ‘woohoo ing’ all that pass, then a blind man with his supporting runner practically sprinted past us as we walked on through to find the start line – I was truly awestruck.
As we continued on, the start line seemed to be quite far away and we wanted to make sure that we had plenty of time to wave off our runners. There was a 26 strong group of us dotted around the track, we would be at the start, some at the first mile, more at the fourth mile and so on. Once we finally reached the start we were in time and the excitement just kept growing, we waited patiently and off they went, pacing themselves together while waving their flags; we each had a Cornish flag so that we could find each other in the crowds, which later became the best idea as it helped us all to find everyone when we all met up at the end. Once we had waved them off we regrouped and went on to the eleventh mile – we were in a city that we didn’t know so 40 mins later we made it!
We got there and cheered on the runners, people had their names on their tops so we would pick out the ones we could see and cheer them on personally, whether it helped or not we don’t know but we certainly got a few smiles! Along came Pip and Mandy, powering through and looking very good on it, considering at this point they had run for 11 miles they had hardly broken a sweat. As they had run past our navigator grabbed the map and devised a way for us to get to the nineteenth mile, the best way to make sure we did it was to taxi it there!
We reached our position and awaited the news that they had passed the sixteenth and seventeenth mile, they were doing incredibly well, reaching between 10 and 9.5 minute miles! I should at this point mention that to make us even more visible, we went to a souvenir shop and bought the tallest and loudest hats we could fine, a few were leprechauns and a few were Guinness, it did help – one runner even stopped to have their photo taken with us!

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Along came our runners, at this point we started an ‘oggy, oggy ‘ chant so that they knew where we were, that twinned with flags and hats, nobody could miss us! I honestly don’t think they even looked tired, they must have been so high on adrenaline that at nineteen miles, to us, they looked fabulous. Now the race was on, to meet them again we had to get to twenty two miles in less than 30 minutes, this was not do easy, but much easier for us than for the runners! When we arrived there, we feared we had missed them. It turned out that Mandy had sped up and was doing 9.5 minute miles but we did manage to see Pip. This left us rather panicked as the last thing we wanted was for Mandy to pass the finish line with nobody to greet her so the race was on, we all grabbed taxis and split up again, they were running an incredible marathon and the least we could do was make sure that they were supported, greeted at the end and congratulated!
We succeeded, Pip’s boyfriend (our wonderful navigator) and Mandy’s niece made it to the finish line to welcome them through, and the rest of us were dotted between the twenty third mile and the walk out of the marathon after the very well deserved medal awarding.
They had done it! The whole group descended into proud congratulations!! We all roared as they came through the barriers having completed their 26.2 mile marathon for their loved ones, everybody was hugged and pictures were taken, it was an incredible moment for all involved. The next most pressing issue was to get them to the nearest pub with seats for Pip and Mandy and get them a large, cool pint of Guinness!

An emotional time was had by all, the months of training, the pain, the laughs, the tears, the moments of worry, the support shown by all, it had all been massively worth it and we were so very glad to have been a small part of it! I am totally and completely awestruck and inspired by two fantastic women, so much so that I would run my own marathon, although I am sure that I don’t have the strength shown by these two magnificent ladies. Well done Mandy and Pip!! Thank you for letting us come and support you!