Enthusiasm For What You Do

Hello Again, Dave here,

Today I am going to “change tack” slightly with my post. I’m going to re-publish an article that another one of my photographer friends wrote. Her name is Alex Davies of Alexandra Jane Photography.

An Example of Alex's Work
An Example of Alex’s Work

I’ve only known Alex for a couple of years, but boy has she made an impact on me – a very positive impact. Alex has been through some hard times which included having to up sticks and move away from her home, family and business. She moved to an area where she knew nobody and had to start again.

Boundless Enthusiasm

But…start again she did and within a very short time she had another successful photographic business on her hands. People couldn’t understand how she did it. The answer though, is very simple. She loves photography and she is a people person. She had bundles of enthusiasm for both subjects. And it was that boundless enthusiasm that allowed her to start again from base bottom and build her second hugely successful business.

So, the reason I wanted to reproduce this article is because her enthusiasm shines through in her writing. What should you learn from this? Enthusiasm, postive attitude, call it what you will, it will carry you a very long way and helpyou achieve goals others can only dream about.

So, here’s Alex talking about doing wedding photography in the Cotswolds and Chilterns – enjoy!

When it comes to your big day, it is all about creating those memories that you will look back on for years to come, and what better way to do that than in a beautifully curated and crafted wedding album.

Fanatical Photographer

As a passionate and almost fanatical photographer (This is so true – Dave), capturing the wedding days of brides and grooms-to-be, and their party of family and friends, has been a love of mine for as long as I can remember. But how do I ensure that I create and document the picture-perfect moments that are unique to your special day?

Here I reveal the secrets behind my success with the wedding shooting tips that turn those special moments that you share throughout the day into a permanent shrine to your relationship…

Planning Makes Perfect

It’s not the day itself where prepping for perfect pictures begins, planning begins up to 12 months before the wedding day. The initial contact and subsequent consultations with the bride and groom are vital for defining exactly what they want and need from their big day and from their wedding pictures.

As well as discussing the logistics of the day, including times, locations and party members, liaising with both the bride and groom regarding their priorities, the desired style of the images and any particular moments that they want to capture is all part of the programme. This information is confirmed on numerous occasions on the run up to the big day.

I love taking pictures in both the Cotswolds and the Chilterns. Of course, these days, I know the area and the venues really well. But when I first came to the area, I had to make sure I knew the layout of the venues, so it was important to do a reccy the week before the wedding itself.  Nowadays I know both the Cotswoldsand Chilterns so well, I don’t need to unless it is a special situation. Come what may, I feel totally blessed that my work takes me to such beauty on a regular basis.

Extra Equipment For Speed And Insurance

Every wedding photographer will have their own must-haves, and having a second body or lens to hand is a golden rule for many. When disaster does strike you need to ensure that you have a plan b, and believe me, equipment (even the very best makes and models) can falter. Having a second camera body and lens to hand also helps you explore a greater range of angles at speed, after all a little fiddling with the lens and camera settings here and there may mean you miss vital moments.

Embrace Absolutely Everything – Even The Weather

As well as the honour of being able to capture one of the most special days in a couple’s life, joy has to be taken from shooting weddings in different venues, seasons and weather conditions. The Chilterns and the Cotswolds have a host of stunning venues and whilst they each provide their own beauty, the weather isn’t always so accommodating. Embrace every changing season, overcast day and misbehaving groomsman to capture unique moments with plenty of love and personality.

This is the joy of my life – I just love it!

Thanks Alex, I just loved reading that.

You can find Alex’s Cotswolds Page by clicking HERE of you can find Alex on Facebook

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7 Essentials For The Professional Photographer

Hello Again Dave here,

Michelle_Wiggett_PicToday I want to take a slightly different direction with my post. I’m talking to Michelle Wiggett of Michelle Wiggett Photography a professional photographer from St Albans in Hertfordshire U.K.

As it’s a little different today, here she is, welcome Michelle.

Thanks Dave, I realy appreciate the offer of having some “space” on this amazing site. I got to know Dave about 3 years ago and the reason I am here is that Dave helped me with some aspects of my marketing, particularly my online marketing. So, I appreciate his help and this opportunity.

My Investment

What Dave wanted me to do was talk about the investment a small business owner makes in their own business. So, I thought about this. I’ve always loved photography and my first invtesment was a 6 month semi-residential course to learn how to take my hobby to the professional level. Not only was I taught the most advanced photographic techniques, but I also learned how to do the business side of professional photography.

Outside of that, my investement is all in equipment, so taking a slightly different tack, this is what’s in my bag of photographic tricks!

As a photographer, there are a number of things that you must think about when creating every image – composition, eye path, lighting, colour, editing – but one basic fact remains, you have to use the best equipment you can afford. Whilst it’s not all about the equipment, having a broad collection of professional essentials always helps, so what’s in my bag at the moment?

So, here are the seven photography essentials that I take with me to every shoot and event, come rain or shine!

Two Nikon D800 Bodies

(£1,000 each)

NikonD800Nikon is a well-known brand in the professional and amateur photography world, and what it offers both parties is superior image quality with every click. With 36.3 megapixels, the Nikon D800 doesn’t miss a single detail, and is the ideal body for shooting wedding, commercial and landscape photography. It’s particularly good for child photography if they’re moving about a lot!

But why carry two camera bodies I hear you ask? It’s important to always be prepared, after all who knows what could happen. Generally I have each camera set with different views to ensure I can capture images accurately as well as have a backup camera in tow.

50mm Nikkor Lens

(£200)

The 50mm Nikkor lens offers a range of picture angles when fixed to a selection of camera bodies. Its design differs from previous Nikkor lens meaning I can harness high performance as well as produce the creative natural-looking blurs that many photographers and clients alike love.

24-70mm Nikkor Lens

(£975)

Offering a wider zoom range, the 24-70mm Nikkor lens provides a lens for many occasions. Despite its range, the Nikkor lens is lightweight and uses a Silent Wave Motor for superfast autofocus.

70-200mm Nikkor Lens

(£950)

Again this lens uses a Silent Wave Motor to make autofocus smooth and quiet. It also has three focus modes to make shooting from a distant quick and easy.

105mm Nikkor Lens

(£630)

It’s always important to carry a selection of lenses and the 105mm Nikkor lens is designed for close-up and macro photography to make it extra versatile.

Two Nikon SB910 Speed Lights

(£315 each)

Nikon_Speed_LightLighting is critical to the final picture quality and having two speed lights handy is a great way to ensure unparalleled performance in a range of lighting conditions. This particular model uses intelligent through-the-lens metering to operate wirelessly and on camera.
Holdfast Money Maker camera strap

My kit wouldn’t be complete without my leather camera strap. The Holdfast Money Maker strap ensures multiple cameras can be secured, meaning all that’s left to do is take aim!
Michelle does wedding photography in St Albans and the surrounding area of Hertfordshire and in to London. She is also on Facebook where you can find her at the following link. Do go and give her a like, say dave sent you :)

Michelle Wiggett on Facebook

 

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Do What You Love!

Hi Dave here,

I am a great believer that if you do something you love, you’ll do it better. In fact, when you are doing something you really like to do, you can often be found in “the zone”, just loving every second and being totally obvlious of time and your surroundings. Now, what if you could do something you absolutely loved for work?

Can You Love Your Work?

I’ve often heard it said in positive mental attitude circles, if you do truly enjoy what you do, the money will follow. Now, personally I’ve never witnessed it that way around. I have come to love what I’ve been doing and consequently earned a lot of money. I can certainly understand that. I can also totally pace with the idea that you will work better, harder and more effectively if you are enjoying your work.

So, after having said all of that…I am in absolute awe of people who manage to achieve this. I reckon this is as near to heaven on earth as you can get if you are in the situation of needing to earn to live. In wrote about my background in the “About Us” section of the site. And, during my time as a recruiter I often heard figures banded around about the percentage of the workforce that actually do enjoy their jobs. This figured ranged anywhere from 6-7% down to a miserable 1%, depending on where the research was based.

Those figures make horrible reading.

Group of pets together in front of white background

Pet Sitting As A Business

However, on a far more positive note, today I am looking at a business borne out of a love for animals. Well, more specifically pets. Through one of my business contacts (I Guy I knew from school quite amazingly), I was introduced to Peter and Julie Maxted who run Pets, Homes and Gardens. PHG (as they are known) is a pet sitting business that franchises out their operation.

Peter and Julie run an area around Horsham (in the U.K) and having honed the business down to the “n’th” degree, they looked at how they wanted to expand. It was my friend from school, David, who is a business process expert that cameup with the idea 0f turning the business into a franchised model.

Systems Make For Success

So, he helped “systemise” the business and the PHG pet care franchise opportunity was born.

Peter takes up the story, “we were just not business people”, he recalls. “We met David totally by chance and got talkingand I guess he was really the driving force initially. Indeed to prove it was going to work, his wife, Mel, became our first franchisee”.

By now, of course, I was intrigued by the story. They used Mel’s franchise (which was geographically “next door” to their own) to iron out the “rough spots” and to install all the proper systems. Then they had to look at the pricing model.

Getting The Pricing Right

Over to David, “Being brutal about it”, he smiles, “we knew people who would be interested in running a pet sitting/day care business wouldn’t have a whole load of money to put up front. So, we had to be very clever about how we set the fee structure”.

What they came up with is quite unique in the pet sitting franchise world. There are a few model, some in the pet sitting arena, some in dog walking and some in day care. There were twocommon factors.

Firstly, they all charged a high up front fee, running into many thousands of pounds. And, secondly, the on-going support was not wonderful.

So, they all agreed the initial fee would be small (£495) and to ensure they provided suprb support to their franchisees, they would only charge subsequent fees once profits were achieved. The fees then being charged on profits each month. Add to that each month, each franchisee gets £50 worth of online advertising paid for all included, and all of a sudden you have one very attractive offering.

A Good Year!

Indeed, the number of PHG franchises has doubled in 2014. That has to be the acid test of an excellent offering.

Final word from Peter, “we are so proud of what we have achieved”, he beams at me “we have given a lot of frustrated people a way to earn a damn goodliving doing something they truly love and that is an amazing feeling. We have become firm friends with nearly all of our franchisees and it really is like one big happy family”.

For my money, this is one of my favourite business stories. Peter, Julie and David are good people, salt of the earth, and they love helping others. But the trick is they all enjoy it and because of that every franchisee is a success in his or her own right and PHG is now making a rather nice profit to boot. What better business model is there to work to? I certainly can’t think of one.

You can find their website at PetsHomesAndGardens.co.uk get along and have a look.

Here’s Mel talking about her franchise.

 

 

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A Different Angle

Hi Dave here,

In keeping with the whole ethos of S-Dev, today I’m going to take a look at a business that took an existing idea and added their own unique twist. That twist, whilst not being unique in other areas of the world is certainly unque in the U.K where the business is based. So, I guess the lesson here is have a look at how the business you are in is conducted in other countries. Look for ideas to bring to your home market. This one is quite a simple idea, but in this case it has been turned in to a multi-million pound business.

Hassle Free Boilers

boiler hireThe business is hassle free boilers based out of Gloucestershire in England. They started life as Ecovision in 2006 providing heat pump and biomass boilers across the U.K. They branched out in 2009 founding Hassle Free Boilers under the guidance of CEO Peter Randall. Hassle Free Boilers are in the home boiler and heating business providing combi boilers, heat only boilers and system boilers to homes throughout the United Kingdom.

In the U.K the heating and boiler indutry is dominated by the ex nationalised behemoth British Gas. They not only provide gas, but also boiler installation and servicing. They have diversified in recent years to add other home services as well. The market was deregulated in the 1980’s under the Thatcher government and other large corporations have been muscling in on gas supply and service contracts.

There is also a thriving secondary market where small independent heating engineers offer local services on a “one-off” or emergency basis for people who tend to have older boilers that are not covered by a service contract.

Boiler Industry in the U.K

Let’s first look at how the wider market works. In the U.K, the likes of British Gas and Scottish Power will provide you with a boiler service contract, and they also offer boiler installation. So, in essence a pretty vanilla service offering. You need a new boiler, you contact your supplier, they send a survey team round, assess your property and make a proposal for a new boiler installation and subsequent service contract.

The new boiler can cost anywhere up to £3,500 and installation between £1,000 – £2,500. So, it’s a big outlay. Your service contract is generally around £15/month.

The Twist!

So, what is the twist that Hassle Free Boilers offer?

I talked in the introduction about looking to how these things work in different countries, so before launching the company, Ecovision scoured the world looking for a different perspective on this business model. They landed in Canada and saw something different. The researched in detail and decided it was something that was different enough to the existing U.K model to offer them a truly unique selling point, a differentiator.

You see, in Canada, most supply companies offer an all encompassing contract that covers everything in one (reasonably low) monthly payment. So, there are no up-front charges for the boiler or installation, these costs are absorbed into the monthly service contract price.

Up Front Outlay Avoided

So, effectively, that huge outlay up front is negated, it’s almost like getting a free boiler!

Yes, of course the monthly charge is higher, but as a customer you are not out of pocket to the tune of £5,000 up front, and the real kicker is that Hassle Free Boilers provide your gas at prices 40% below most of the mainstream suppliers.

So, why is the monthly cost so low (circa £36 the Canadian average is £31-£44)?

824Pro24kw2Well, clearly as they are buying a huge number of boilers (they have a sole supply deal with Vaillant), that reduces the cost of the boiler itself. The gas price is low again becuase of the bulk buying power.

The last word from Peter Randall, “yes, we have a great system set up that provides outstanding economies of scale, but, we pass most of these cost savings on to our customers. This makes a hassle free boiler one of the cheapest ways to heat your home and water. Add to this cost advantage our superb supply agreement with the gas wholesalers, and we deliver an unbeatable advantage to the consumer”.

Indeed, it’s true, the cost advantages are clear for all to see using this business model. And, it is no surprise that business is booming at Hassle Free Boilers, check out their website and see if you qualify for their service. http://HassleFreeBoilers.com

Here’s a bit more information about Hassle Free Boilers

For information on other unique business ideas, click here

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Business From Adversity

Hi, Dave here,

If you read the About S-Dev page on the site, you will know one of “my things”, is that I like buisnesses that are either unusual, against all odds or borne out of adversity. Today, I am going to talk about a business that probably just about qualifies for all three categories.

To be honest it’s one of those things that you don’t think about, or indeed would probably never know about until it happens to you. And, it’s also one of those things that, when you do hear something about it, you think “oh, that will never happen to me”.

Facts and Figures

prem babyI am talking about premature babies. Now, before I got involved in this business I had no idea that circa 15 million babies are born prematurely each year. I was actually staggered when I read that figure, but the fact is 1 in 10 babies are pre term to some degree. That means there is a huge market for premature baby clothes, but more of that in a minute.

It is reported that the numbers are on the increase too. The probably causes are thought to be mothers leaving it later to have children and the increase in the use of fertility drugs which tends to lead to multiple births more often. There is a much higher tendancy to pre-term birth when multiples are involved apparently.

So, back to the “that will never happen to me” part!

This was Ngaire Cockerill three and a half years ago. It was her first baby and everything seemed to be going along fine. All the pre-natal checks and scans were looking good, she felt good, and planning for a normal term birth were well under way. The nursery was almost ready and a whole host of clothes and accessroies had been purchased, now all they had to do was wait.

Rushed Into Hospital

Then all of a sudden, without any warning the wait was over, cut short by 8 weeks and Ngaire was rushed into hospital. Clarke duly arrived, in a bit of a rush and two months early.

Personally I cannot imagine the shock of that situation, but in talking to Ngaire it was clearly a very emotional time for her and her husband. She still looks visibly upset when she talks about it.

But, once the shock has subsided, she was left with having to deal with the situation.

A Stressful Situation

“The SCBU staff were amazing”, she recalls, “and they did everything they possibly could to help us. But, there was Clarke, in an incubator with PICC lines everywhere and we couldn;t even have proper cuddles. It was hugely stressful”.

Thankfully Clarke was never in danger, but, it was the difficulty in finidng very small baby clothes that drove Ngaire to start Dinki Dreams – her premature baby clothing website.

“It was just one more thing we had to deal with”, she remembers. “If it wasn’t bad enough anyway, I sent hubby off to get stuff from home and he came back with clothes, but of course they were for 7-8lb babies, Clarke was under 4lb! So, I went shopping and found I couldn’t get more than one or two babygro’s at any one store. Then I tried online and hit the same problem. There was just nowhere with a good supply”.

And, in that instant the idea hit her. She needed to put together a range of specialist pre-term and small baby clothing to at least take one of the pains away from suddenly becoming the parents of a premature baby.

Help From Dad

The Dinki Dreams Range
The Dinki Dreams Range

“Dad is an experienced business man, he’d run his own show all of his life. So I talked to him about the idea and he loved it. With his help I put a plan together and within two months I had a French designer and a quality manufacturer in the U.K on board. Three months later I had the first samples through and a website being built. I was on a mission.” she laughed.

Fast-forward to late 2014 and Dinki Dreams at the Premature Baby Boutique is now the premier online store for this type of baby clothing. It is thriving business and one that is going from strength to stregnth. I for one am delighted about that and every time I see Ngaire I just see that absolute burn in her eyes. That desire to provide quality products, at good prices and to save people time and trouble.

Gaps in the Market

You see, it was her desire that came out of that adverse situation that has been on of the major contributing factors to the success of Dinki Dreams. She saw a situation that was tough for people and she did something to address that out of her own adversity. I just love stories like this and it also demonstrates that there are still huge gaps in many markets.

Gaps that are there to be exploited if you have the right view of the situation and the drive and enthusiasm to “make something happen”.

You can find the website here:- http://www.prematurebabyboutique.co.uk Please do go and have a look.

This video shows some of the complications involved when you have a premature baby to clothe! I hopeyou find it useful.

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