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22 posts from August 2006

31 August 2006

Time travel

After spending a couple of hours at the Carnival (about all the Minx could cope with), we drove two hours out of London.

And travelled a million miles and several centuries back in time.

The Minx practices her Carnival moves

29 August 2006

Carnival

This year we foreswore the banging sound systems and took the Minx to see the Carnival parade. And yes, I do need to set up a Flickr account.

25 August 2006

Goldbrick House

PICTURE FROM GOLDBRICK HOUSE BLOG

Entrepreneurial readers may be as fascinated as I was by this blog, written by the team behind Goldbrick House, a new restaurant which has just opened in Bristol. It charts the ups-and-downs of opening a restaurant, from the initial idea to the eventual opening, and all the problems they encountered along the way.

I found it to be scary but inspirational reading, with sums of money at stake in a totally different dimension from those I have to fret about with mirrormirror. I thought I had enough problems keeping web designers etc. in line, but at least I don't have to worry about planning permissions, acoustic reports and anxious investors. But lots of fascinating stuff about choosing the menu, developing the branding and logo and, of course, the interior design. Having seen the mood boards on the blog, I'd love to see the finished rooms, but can't yet find them online. Oh and a friend of mine has just eaten there and was highly complimentary.

I wish now that I'd been blogging during mirrormirror's development phase, though I don't honestly know how I would have found the time. But there is something incredibly satisfying about creating something from scratch (we were even excited when our VAT number came through!) which you don't get so much when watching a business grow slowly from day-to-day. It would be nice now to have a record of that period - all I really have to remind me are emails.

One day, when mirrormirror is rich and famous, I'd love to venture into the boutique hotel/chi-chi restaurant scene, though one clearly needs both the hide of a rhinoceros and the riches of Croesus to succeed. It may be sometime before I am ready to sally forth.

Yummy long weekend coming up, though unfortunately the weather doesn't look terribly promising. We're going to take the Minx to her first Notting Hill Carnival on Sunday afternoon and then are decamping to the Cotswolds for a bit of boutique hotel research here (we live slap bang in the middle of the Carnival, which means we have to escape after a bit as gets difficult to even walk out of our front door).

Just editing to say that Mike Bennett from Goldbrick House contacted me after reading this blog entry to send me a photo of the finished bar. I love seeing how mood boards translate into the finished article.

Courtesy of Mike Bennett from Goldbrick House

23 August 2006

Your life will never be the same again

Watch this! It's too cool and it works, I've just tried it.

Chromata

CLICK TO ENLARGE

I was just looking back through my photos (I'm trying to get some Flickr albums up and running) and thought you might like to see some pictures of the gorgeous Chromata Hotel in Santorini, Greece where I was lucky enough to stay a few years back.

It is without doubt the most stunning place I've ever stayed.

The word 'breathtaking' is often used for views but in this case they really were - at the highest point of the caldera looking out to sea. The design of the hotel was equally spectacular, making the most of the cavelike rooms burrowed deep into the rock, and mixing iconic Greek charm - weathered woods, turquoise walls and white stones - with curly antiques, 'Ghost' chairs, Venetian mirrors and twinkly lights. Our suite featured a cavernous red bedroom, a cool turquoise sitting room and (somewhat gratuitously) its very own plunge pool, though to be honest we mostly lounged on our terrace or by the side of the small but exquisite infinity pool.

Actually I'm now feeling rather wistful after looking at these photos, since they don't take children, so it's going to be ages before I can go back. And it's a grotty autumnal day here in London.

21 August 2006

A rose by any other name

When we were setting up the business we thought long and hard about a business name.

We wanted something which would be easy to remember and spell, which would not limit us in the type of things we could sell and which would conjure up the idea of living a 'fairytale' life. And so mirror mirror was born.

Looking back, we were astonishingly naïve about naming an online business and the importance of being visible to the search engines. I don't pretend to understand all its little foibles and quirks, but in essence Google works by looking first for the search terms and then by ranking the 'importance' of the sites in which they appear. It judges this importance by how current the content is and the number of sites which link to that site and how 'important' those sites are in turn.

So for the first eighteen months of mirror mirror's life, it was impossible to find us if you searched on the terms 'mirror mirror' - instead you would have got pages and pages of articles from the Daily Mirror, books on Amazon, Guardian columns and song lyrics. Every journalist working for every newspaper in the world, seemed to have written an article which contained the words 'mirror, mirror....'

A friend of ours who specialises in all things Google did some consultancy for us and said that with such a generic name we would never get to the top of the search engines. So, in despair, around about Christmas last year, I thought seriously about changing the name of the business. I agonized over a new name, coming up with more and more ridiculous and random combinations, but nothing was perfect enough to warrant the huge step of rebranding the business and losing all the goodwill we'd built up around the name.

And then I started up the blog. And people started linking to the blog and linking to the shop. And then one day I was checking the search engine rankings and found that if you searched on 'mirrormirror' (all one word) the shop finally appeared on the second page of the search results, though if I searched on 'mirror mirror' the shop still didn't appear at all. So I finally had my new name. The shop would now officially be called mirrormirror (the eagle eyed among you may have noticed that I started changing the name on the blog around that time).

Our PR company was informed, all new instances of the name appeared in the new format and the next big project on the To Do list was to change all the instances of the name on the website itself and on all our collateral. Until yesterday when I searched on 'mirror mirror' and the shop appeared on the first page of Google (though 'mirrormirror' still appears higher up the rankings).

So now I'm really muddled. Obviously we need to be consistent, but I just don't know which name to choose. I think there is a chance of getting 'mirrormirror' to be the absolute number one on the search engines, but less of a chance with 'mirror mirror'. But on the other hand 'mirror mirror' seems to be the spelling that people use most often and if I stick with it I won't have to change the website and the collateral.

Confused yet? Which version of the name do you prefer?

Pearl’s a singer

Ooh, I forgot to mention that mirrormirror's quest for world domination continued recently with a cool bit of coverage in July's US Elle - our first bit of coverage abroad.

Our black lace tablecloths (hand-dyed by Pearl) were shown at the end of a huge feature on Pearl Lowe - yummy mummy of four, erstwhile singer with Powder and rock chick extraordinaire. Her long-term partner and the father of her three younger children is Danny Goffey of Supergrass, whilst the father of her, very beautiful, older daughter is Gavin Rossdale of Bush - now Mr Gwen Stefani. In the magazine article Pearl looks trim and beautiful, despite having a baby under a year old.

In between hanging out (I use this term loosely in the light of last year's gossip about Jude and Sadie) with the stars, Pearl designs and makes our Scottish lace tablecloths, beautiful bespoke lace curtain panels for the rich and famous, and has now designed a new line of lace dresses, based on her own collection of vintage dresses.

Having met her once, at her beautiful Georgian townhouse in Camden (she has since moved to a wonderful-looking house in Hampshire), I can confirm that she is extremely pretty and petite, full of energy and has the most beautiful speaking voice. Her house too was absolutely stunning (I've been trying to find pictures online but without success) - mostly white, with fluffy white rugs, venetian mirrors, a huge portrait of Pearl above the fireplace, and accents in the form of her colourful lace window panels everywhere. What struck me most was that, although the house was comfortable and family-filled - with Danny Goffey playing table-tennis with a bunch of kids downstairs and a small boy running about dressed as an unidentifiable animal - it still managed to look bohemian, chic and elegant. One can only aspire.

17 August 2006

Candid Camera

We're not having a good time with technology at the moment, which is somewhat problematic if you're running a business online. Over the last few weeks we've been wrestling with email problems, a pernickety issue with the website, Orange 'upgrading' the broadband over at Siobhan's so that it now no longer works, smashed laptops and temperamental printers.

But tonight I watched the Minx excitedly 'chatting' to her father, who is currently over in Seattle, using our new webcam and realised that sometimes technology really does have its uses.

Thanks for all your recent comments and lovely messages. I AM slowly feeling better and hope to be in a much chattier mood as of tomorrow.

Extensive retouching required

Well, I've been feeling a bit better today. I managed to get out and about this morning despite feeling rather wobbly, and after being overcome by the munchies for the first time since Saturday decided that a Bacon Double Cheeseburger from Burger King was the only solution. And it made me feel like a million dollars. Never underestimate the restorative medicinal powers of junk food.

Unfortunately a glance in the mirror has revealed that I don't look anything like a million dollars, even at today's favourable dollar exchange rate. What I need is for these people to follow me around all day and weave their magic. (Go to Portfolio and then Before/After and then stop wondering why you don't look like a supermodel).

15 August 2006

Blog of the Day

Well, the exciting thing DID happen, although in the end I was actually feeling too utterly wiped out to feel very excited by it at all.

Yesterday my little mirrormirror blog was chosen as Typepad's Blog of the Day and was featured on the Typepad homepage. Which means that loads of people who have a Typepad blog saw it and it resulted in lots of lovely traffic to both the blog and the mirrormirror shop.

I have absolutely no idea how it came about. If one of my lovely readers thought fit to nominate me then thank you so much. I thought it might be some sort of peculiar spam when I first got the email and only thought it might be true when a Typepad t-shirt was delivered throught the mail. But I am feeling rather honoured as they do choose some really interesting blogs to feature.

A big welcome to anyone who's popping by as a result of the Typepad feature - it's lovely to have you and I hope you'll stay around and join in the conversation. It's normally much jollier round here when I'm not dying of dysentery.

But now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to bed with a terrible Jilly Cooper novel and a hot water bottle. Oh, and people who know me in real life are not permitted to laugh at the words 'thoroughly charming'.

14 August 2006

More viral marketing

Grrr! Had all sorts of things I was going to post up this weekend in order to make my blog look pretty and welcoming for tomorrow, but have been laid low by a mystery virus or maybe food poisoning which has involved a ferocious stomach ache, copious vomiting (and not just at the Big Brother snogfest) and a high temperature. Not sure what's been going on recently, but my body is obviously telling me I need to take a bit more care of myself.

The hardest thing has been avoiding touching the Minx too much for fear of passing on the virus. At nineteen months she can't understand at all why I am refusing to cuddle her or take her on my knee to read books together. The looks of confusion in her eyes when I ignore her cries of 'mum-mee, mum-mee, mum-mee' make me feel like the world's worst mother, and the moment when she came up to me, signed 'more' and threw her arms up for a hug - which I had to decline - fair broke my heart.

13 August 2006

Blink and you’ll miss it

There's an interesting debate taking place at the moment on Make It (a fab blog full of lots of resources for craft and other entrepreneurs).

I read the book Blink a few weeks back (what happened to all those regular book reviews you promised? - Ed). I don't think it quite lives up to all the hype - it's basically one idea padded out with lots of examples - but an interesting read nevertheless.

Its basic premise is all about gut instinct - the fact that we make a lot of decisions sub-consciously and very quickly. And that while these decisions are sometimes governed by prejudices or fears that we might not even know we have, often these decisions are more valid than decisions over which we have deliberated for a long time.

The particular example being debated over on Make It is one about a woman selling gourmet jams at craft fairs. Sometimes she puts only six different jams on the stall and sometimes twenty-four jams. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the more choice people had the more they would buy, as they were more likely to find a jam they particularly liked. Instead the opposite was true and she sold much more with only six jams, as people found it much easier to make a snap decision when they weren't overwhelmed by choice.

All of which provides interesting food for thought when buying for mirrormirror. In recent months I have been adding more choices to some of the product lines, such as more colourways or patterns. In some cases this seems to work out and lead to extra sales - additional colourways for interiors products and jewellery for example can work as people have different colouring or decor. We also offer small and large boxes of bathmelts - both of which seem to sell equally well as they come in at different price points. But quite often adding an extra choice seems to have no discernible impact on sales whatsoever. In fact I'm starting to think each product has to be very different from the all others and really earn its place in the collection - otherwise the customer just gets confused.

What do you think? Is is 'easier' to shop from somewhere which has a small strictly edited collection which appeals to your taste or from somewhere such as Amazon which offers an overwhelming choice?

10 August 2006

Jackie

My brother bought me a fabulous book the other day.

Do you ladies remember Jackie magazine? I got it every week when I was growing up and had a huge stash in my wardrobe that I would re-read constantly. Everything I know about boys (practice kissing on the back of your hand), makeup and fashion has been gleaned from its pages.

The Best of Jackie is a compendium of highlights from the magazine - fashion, advice, quizzes, Cathy and Claire's Problem Page (were we really that innocent?) and lots of pictures of Donny Osmond. It's a really great piece of nostalgia and the fashion illustrations (no photography used) are surprisingly groovy.

08 August 2006

Pssst!

Something very exciting might be happening on August 14th.

Commenter of the Week - Funky Finds

Yet another international superstar who comments on the mirrormirror blog. Jessica lives in Texas and has a lovely blog where she details her fabulous finds from the online crafting community.

Very appropriately Jessica looks not unlike Pamela Ewing from Dallas, so I like to imagine her breakfasting by the pool at Southfork before going off for a little light horseriding - with, of course, dewy eyes, trembling lips and lots of soft focus.

She also appears to be very handy with a needle, so no doubt she'll be wearing one of her own creations to receive her award, which should also stand her in good stead for the next Oil Barons Ball.

06 August 2006

Fruitstock

Or the Minx attends her first music festival.

Saturday saw a glorious summer's day in London, so we hooked up with a bunch of friends and headed for Fruitstock in Regent's Park.

Fruitstock is a free festival organised every year by the genius people who make Innocent smoothies. It was incredibly well-organised and friendly, and particularly welcoming of children, with lots of activies including a play area for toddlers and buggy park. So nice to do something which wasn't specifically kiddie-oriented but where children were positively encouraged rather than tolerated.

So we drank Pimms, and danced and listened to Norman Jay and Arrested Development and the Minx got grubbier than one would have thought possible and stayed up well past her bedtime as the sun set over Regent's Park.

If you want to read an inspiring business story, read this about how Innocent started up. Their marketing is incredible - everything from their logo, their packaging, and their vans (dressed up as cows) to their website copy and their TV advertising is different, compelling and fits perfectly with their healthy, funky, trendy hippyish brand.

I have no idea how much it cost them to invite the whole of London to a free party, but from what I saw yesterday an awful lot of brand goodwill was being generated.

Kate

Kate's on the cover of Vogue again AND doing a really sexy editorial spread inside AND doing ads for (at a quick glance) Dior, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Burberry, Stella McCartney, Longchamp, Belstaff and Rimmel. AND she's Vanity Fair's Best Dressed Woman of the Year.

She sashayed past me once many moons ago at the Prince Bonaparte in Notting Hill. She was coming out of the toilets with a friend and giggling and I remember thinking, 'Wow, what a beautiful girl' and only realising a few moments later who she was. I've never seen it in anybody else, but she did have a glow about her which lit up the room and made her seem a hundred times more gorgeous than anybody else.

So yes, I do realise that she is quite mesmerically beautiful. However, am I the only mother out there who wishes she'd had the teensiest bit of a comeuppance after all the drug revelations earlier this year? How on earth can anyone explain to their children that drugs are bad when all they've done for la Moss is send her career into overdrive?

Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but she does seem a bit 'tired' in some of the ad campaigns and there does seem to be more black and white/soft focus being used than before.

04 August 2006

Beautiful

Because I style and photograph all the products for the site, I am always looking for inspirational product photos and these are some of the most stunning I've seen in a long time (from Amy Butler's site via Decor8). I love the way that there is just enough sharpness in each photo for them not to just seem out of focus.

Memo to self, MUST go on photography course or something.

This little piggy

So, what do you think? Is there a market for grown-up piggy banks? As Christmas presents? I think they're absolutely adorable and am seriously thinking about buying some of these for the site but have no idea how they might sell. And they're going to cost a fortune to import. Tell me!

Here Be Dragons

It's back! One of the best shows on TV, the ever-wonderful Dragon's Den.

Since setting up my own business I'm finding the recent slew of business-oriented reality programmes even more compelling and inspirational - it's fun trying to second guess which investors will be successful and what aspects of the business plan the investors will pick holes in.

And there is something rather encouraging about seeing some of the delusional people they manage to unearth and realising that you're not quite the worst business person on the planet.

Though I do always wonder what the Dragons would make of mirrormirror.

03 August 2006

Being sensible

I've got a new laptop.

It's quite small and does everything that I need it to do but I can't get very excited about it because I suppose its looks could be called 'businesslike' at best. That's what happens when you leave technology purchasing to someone who thinks about things like spec, performance and value for money. If it had been left up to me I'd have bought a cute little Sony Vaio and to hell with the expense.

So, I thought I'd try and rectify the situation with a funky laptop bag. Now, if money were no object and I needed to carry a laptop around with me every day, and I had a birthday coming up and there was an 'r' in the month etc. etc. this is the bag I would choose.

Pink Lining Laptop Bag £169 (Image Pink Lining)

Unfortunately since the furthest my laptop moves in the average day is from my desk to my sofa, it seems quite difficult to justify the expense.

I also looked at the rather elegant laptop bags produced by the fabulously-named Lala Laptops. Mostly because I liked the name and they are based in Seattle which meant that the Husband could go and buy me one on his next trip. They are definitely the sort of bag I would buy if I still had a serious job in the City, since they are styled like classic leather handbags in beautifully contemporary colourways. However, I don't have a serious job, so I can't justify that either.

Jordan Laptop Bag $150 (Image Lala Laptops)

I then started looking at more traditional laptop bags and was pleased to find that nowadays they come in colours other than black. There are acidic colours from Rainebrooke and fun faux-croc portfolios from Mobile Edge.

Jolly bags $24.95 from Rainebrooke (Image Rainebrooke)

Faux croc bags $49.99 from Mobile Edge

(Image Mobile Edge)

And this one from Casauri available at the Laptopshop which is what I decided to go for in the end and which arrived this morning.

Casauri bag £23.99 (Image Laptopshop)

It's exactly what I need, is surprisingly well made for the price and I suppose has a certain 'geek chic' about it. But it's not exactly thrilling is it.

Viral marketing

Apologies for lack of recent blogging, but I've been laid low in recent days by a mystery virus, which involved a high temperature, horrible, pounding headache and general feeling-grottyness.

Now that I've recovered the will to live, normal blogging service will be resumed.