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99 posts categorized "Business as usual"

02 December 2006


 Somewhere along the way, I appear to have created a mail order company.

Helen is doing the most UNBELIEVABLE job. 

And still seems comparatively sane.

29 November 2006

Donna Wilson


Calorie free!


I've got lots of ideas bubbling around my head for when we've got through the Christmas rush, and one of the first big projects for next year will, I think, be introducing a new collection of kids' stuff. 

I'd love to include these wonderful knitted creatures by Donna Wilson (found via Lola is Beauty.  Which are gorgeous and cuddly but not too cutesy-cutesy.



I'm also rather taken by her knitted foodstuffs, but not entirely sure what you would do with them after the initial excitement of having calorie-free doughnuts has worn off.

20 November 2006

Our name on toast

Do you remember The Million Dollar Homepage?  Where student Alex Tew created an Internet phenomenon and made himself a millionaire by selling a $1million-worth of pixels on a web page?

There have of course been a slew of similar sites and the latest is  The major differences as far as I can see is that this one is for charity and that the adverts (which click through to your website) are made of toast.  Which of course meant we had to sign up.

I have no idea whether this is going to be an Internet phenomenon but we've had a pleasing number of hits so far to the mirrormirror shop and you have to agree that they've made us a particularly scrummy-looking slice of toast.

19 November 2006

A couple of things

We've just launched two more new products on the site, both of which will cheer up your kitchen.

First up some gorgeous new heavy cotton teatowels from Atelier LZC .  It looks like they're trying to reinvent the simple naturalistic aesthetic for which they're famous


Famous Atelier LZC teatowels

into something more ornate and stylised.

New teatowels from Atelier LZC

I love the new look but it will be interesting to see how they sell in comparison with the other designs (which we're still carrying) which have always done very well for us.

Of course, you could always treat yourselves to all four designs.

We've also got some new fridge magnets which are decorated with old vintage scarves and have a great early-70s retro vibe about them.

They're only £6 for two, but you will of course need to buy yourself an orange Smeg fridge to hang them on.

18 November 2006

Christmas gets Closer

More good coverage in Closer magazine this week and all hell is breaking loose (comparatively speaking) in mirrormirror-land. 


Lots of yummy orders and Helen is doing a fabulous job in the dispatch department but the problem is that we're already running out of stuff and it's only the middle of November.

All the shenanigans with my appendix and moving to Seattle has meant that I've been rather behind in my ordering, so new stock is still coming in and we just haven't been able to launch as many new products as I would have liked. 

What with one thing and the other I've never felt able to focus properly on the company in the two years since mirrormirror has been up-and-running, mostly because I've pretty much been a fulltime mum to a baby over that period. In some ways it amazes me that it's done as well as it has with so little attention, which has been frustrating as well, as I'm sure it could be really fab if I wasn't always firefighting and could actually execute some of my big ideas.

But now I'm so looking forward to next year.  I've finally got a GREAT team in place which should free me up to be a bit more strategic in my thinking over the next few months.  Funnily enough I'm finding the time difference is working to my advantage.  I can answer urgent emails and make phone calls first thing in the morning when the UK is awake and then do more thoughtful work in the evenings when the UK is asleep and I know I won't get interrupted every five minutes.

In the meantime though I just hope we can get through Christmas without someone having a nervous breakdown.

09 November 2006


Had some good coverage just before we left for Seattle last week.

The bathtime selection box (now back in stock!) was featured in November's Happy magazine and then, by great good fortune, that very page was repeated as part of an ad for Happy in this week's issue of OK!

Which meant I had a great excuse to buy low-brow celeb rags and update myself on the minutiae of Jordan's love life.


28 October 2006

New stuff

What with my recent illness, staffing problems and moving issues, I haven't been able to order in as much new stuff as I'd like for Christmas (one day I'm going to be able to dedicate as much time as I'd like to mirrormirror). 

However I've just photographed and uploaded a few new bits and pieces, which make me very happy indeed.

They include super soft lambswool hottie covers handknitted by Ruth Cross (who contacted me after I blogged about her in May); gorgeous hand dyed silk cushions backed with tweed, from textile designer Jyoti Sigouin (please don't buy these - I love them too much); the Californian piggy banks; some new beakers from Karin; some stacking salt and pepper pots to match our eggcups; some leather jewellery rolls in gorgeous colours and a beautiful box of aromatherapy bathtime treats (soaps, bathmelts and shower scrubs).

Still got one or two new bits and bobs to photograph and am off on the hunt for some new jewellery next week, so hopefully the site will look a bit fresher next time you take a look.

17 October 2006

I 'heart' my blog


Less than two weeks ago I was on the point of exploding with stress.  My sister-in-law had unexpectedly decided not to continue with the mirrormirror fulfilment and all plans for our departure were in disarray. 

We were even seriously considering sending the Husband out to Seattle on his own while I stayed in London with the Minx until I managed to get everything sorted out and had someone else lined up.

And then I posted a little 'advert' on the blog.  I don't know what I expected to happen, if anything. It seemed to be the longest of longshots that someone reading might be able to help but since I was fairly desperate I decided to give it a go.

And then offers of help started popping into my inbox.  I had no idea how many truly lovely people read this blog. Within a few days it became obvious that I would be able to solve my problem, it was just a question of talking to all the various 'applicants' to see who fitted the bill best. 

Today I am thrilled to announce that I've found the perfect person.  I'm going to post a little introduction to her in another post as there's someone else I want to introduce to you, but suffice it to say she also has a blog and makes a very, very fine cupcake indeed (which is, of course, the most important criterion).

Astonishingly enough I was emailed by someone else who lives within a hundred yards of Ms Cupcake and is very keen to be involved, although she didn't want to take the whole job on as she many other commitments. What are the chances of that happening?  So now, not only do I have a person lined up, but she also has back up and I have a long list of people who might be able to take the job on if for some reason it doesn't work out.  I really, really love my blog.

07 October 2006


It never rains but it pours.

After postponing our departure for Seattle by two weeks, so that I could recover properly from my appendicitis, my sister-in-law announced a few days ago that she no longer wants to carry out the fulfilment for mirrormirror while we're in Seattle.

So now we've got two weeks (two weeks!) to find someone else. 

Is it you?  Or someone you know?

The ideal person will be thorough and organised, enjoy working with beautiful things, have enough spare space for a packing table and some storage space for stock (surprisingly little as most of our products are quite small), have a couple of hours spare a day and probably live in London or the Home Counties (the UK at the very least!)

It would be a perfect for someone who is freelancing or building up their own business and who would like to have a solid and predictable wodge of cash coming in each month, or else a mother at home with a young family.  By its very nature, the job is extremely flexible and would fit round all sorts of other activities.

I think I might have some people lined up from January onwards, so my most pressing need is for someone to cover the two months up until Christmas - though obviously someone who wanted to do it long term would be even better.  And if they wanted to get involved in other aspects of the mirrormirror business then that would be the icing on the cake.

Please email me if you think you might be able to help, and I can send you a more detailed job spec.

The Chinese characters above supposedly reflect the old adage that the Chinese pictogram for 'crisis'  is a combination of the characters for 'danger' and 'opportunity'. However, knowing my luck at the moment the characters above are probably saying something like 'fuckity fuckity fuck'!

25 August 2006

Goldbrick House


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

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.

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?

06 August 2006


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.

04 August 2006

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.

20 July 2006

Not all traffic is created equal

Much excitement in mirrormirror land over the last couple of days, as the worldwide exposure gained by Petite Anglaise (check out her press page now), and thus for mirrormirror's clumsy blogad, has resulted in traffic to the mirrormirror site going through the roof.

Visitor-wise yesterday was our best day ever, yes, even better than the 14th December last year, when we were mentioned by the Times as one of the best places to shop online, and it's looking like today will be equally as good.

The interesting thing though is that, to date, the Petite Anglaise-related traffic has not generated a single additional order. Yep, that's right - nothing, zip, zilch, nada. Probably because many of these visitors will be from overseas and/or incandescent with indignation and hence not in the mood to buy fancy embroidered cushions from an online store in the UK.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, as I'm sure this sort of exposure can only be good for the business and it will be interesting to see whether it bears fruit in future months.

However, it has been useful to observe how little impact on the bottom line traffic which does not derive from our target demographic is having . The message both for bloggers trying to monetize their blogs and people advertising on blogs is that while traffic is important, you should focus squarely on the number of conversions in order to get a real picture of how well that ad is doing.

And yes, it does help that I'm married to someone in the web analytics industry who can provide me with the software tools to measure such things.

19 July 2006

Petite Anglaise

I first started reading Petite Anglaise at the beginning of the year. I can't remember now how I came across her but I was captivated from the minute I started reading.

I could identify with her blog on so many levels. An English ex-pat living in Paris, she is currently living the life of a single girl, having left a long-term relationship in her early thirties - as I did. I too was a 'petite anglaise' many moons ago when I spent a year in Perpignan as part of my university course. She even has a little girl who sounds not unlike a slightly more grown-up version of the Minx.

The other thing that attracted me was the elegance, wit and intelligence of her prose (something I could never hope to emulate) and the way she cleverly uses allusions, cliffhangers and cryptic asides to build up the suspense. It's as good as a novel and I read her entire blog in one weekend.

We emailed each other a couple of times and she invited me to place an ad on her site. Said ad has since delivered a small but consistent stream of traffic and a few orders - until today when this happened.

Petite was fired by her English employers, who thought that her blog was bringing their firm into disrepute - despite the fact that the blog was anonymous and the firm unrecognisable and scarcely mentioned. Petite is now taking the case to a French industrial tribunal in a test case which will have important ramifications for the relationship between bloggers and their employers (how grateful am I that I don't have one of those). Her case has been taken up by the Daily Telegraph and she has been interviewed on Radio 5 Live. The story has now appeared in newspapers and on news websites around the world (editing to say that as of this morning there are stories in the Daily Mail, Independent and Times- check out Petite's press page) and the blogosphere (how I hate that term) is aflame. It's fascinating to watch a story go global like this, in a way that would never have happened even five years ago. (It's also amusing to note that her employers, previously anonymous, were named in the Telegraph interview and are now being engulfed by a tidal wave of bad publicity).

I just hope things work out for Petite and that she'll come out of this with the book or film deal (and the compensation) which she so richly deserves.

mirrormirror is currently running two blog ads. As well as the one on Petite Anglaise, we have an ad on Guido Fawkes' Blog of Parliament. Mr Fawkes, too, has been all over the papers recently as the blogger on the case of John Prescott and Lord Levy. The message is clear. If you want unimaginable fame and notoriety as a blogger then sell adspace to 'mirrormirror'. Do you dare?

12 July 2006

So, what do Ideal Home, Guy Fawkes and John Prescott have in common?

Poor Siobhan had a bit of a baptism of fire while we were away.

I thought things would be quite quiet in mirrormirror land since it was the summer, but we had a great piece of coverage in Ideal Home, which featured both the Atelier LZC Butterfly mirror and the Lace Mirror, so it all went a bit nutty, particularly when she managed to break her laptop screen in spectacular fashion. But we sorted everything out over the weekend and July is turning into a pretty good month for us already, which is very unexpectedly pleasant.

Speaking of great coverage, mirrormirror's slightly saucy ad on Guido Fawkes' political blog was mentioned yesterday in the MediaGuardian diary.

Tuesday July 11

The blog with more bling

Never let it be said that Guido Fawkes, the "attack blog" that is making life difficult for John Prescott, doesn't know when it is on to a good thing. An advert on its homepage asks readers, "Caught with your pants down? Need jewellery fast?" Who can it possibly be referring to? "Mirrormirror is the online store for all the women in your life." That's ALL the women in your life. Further down, a banner ad reminds advertisers: "Nick Robinson reads Guido's blog. An advert here will reach more opinion formers than an advert in Private Eye." Who said bloggers weren't commercially minded?

Traffic from the ad to the mirrormirror site has ballooned recently as Guido has been revealing more interesting John Prescott gossip, so let's hope there are loads more revelations to come. Cheers Mr P!

(Editing to say that the arrest of Lord Levy - also trailed on Guido's blog - will do nicely for starters).

17 June 2006


Apologies for lack of recent bloggery.

I had so much lined up to tell you as well.

I've been frantically busy with other stuff, because this time tomorrow I'm going to be here for a couple of weeks. I've never been to Sardinia before, so I absolutely can't wait. But of course it's two in the morning and I'm still packing.

The other reason for my busy-ness is that mirrormirror has now taken on a member of staff! The lovely Siobhan (my brother's intended) is going to look after the day-to-day running of the business while we're in Seattle, so we thought this would be a good time to transfer all the stock and stuff over to her neck of the woods so that she can start developing her wrapping and customer service skills. So you must all place lots of lovely orders for her to practice on.

I can't tell you how thrilled I am. mirrormirror now feels like a real company again. I first started the business together with a business partner and it was great to be able to bounce ideas off someone and just get someone else's opinions and advice. My original business partner left after six months for personal reasons, so the last year has been rather lonely and difficult, trying to push the business forward on my own. Now, with someone else to sort out all the day to day stuff, I will be able to focus much more on buying lovely new products and marketing, so I'm hoping this marks the start of big things for mirrormirror. Altogether very exciting indeed.

I don't think you'll be hearing much from me over the next couple of weeks, but I might try and send a couple of photos from the beach via my mobile phone just to make you all jealous. Oh, and then when we get back we're going straight to Cornwall for a week, so you may well never hear from me again.

13 June 2006

Read all about it

An interview with yours truly has just appeared in UK-focused online magazine Not sure where the retro fits in as the features all seem pretty hip and directional to me, but the magazine itself is well worth a browse. And they asked for a picture of me in my new shoes which I was only too happy to oblige with.

11 June 2006

Targeting men

We love men here at mirrormirror. Apart from the obvious, they are generally extremely good customers who buy lots of jewellery and write very nice gift messages.

The only problem is finding where they congregate. We always get lots of male customers whenever we are featured in the broadsheet newspapers but that doesn't happen all that often, so I'm trying to think of ways to advertise directly to men (preferably rich).

So far we've advertised quite often on Popbitch, with good results, and have just taken out an ad on a political blog written by someone called Guido Fawkes (maybe not his real name?). Guido claims to have a readership made up of opinion formers and political commentators, though I suspect the bulk of his readership is made up of bored investment bankers and lawyers. Nevertheless I am confidently expecting John Prescott to place a bulk order for all of his mistresses very soon.

If there are any male readers of this blog, can you recommend any other blogs or websites with a predominantly male readership which might be good places for 'mirrormirror' to advertise?

(Speaking of male readers, my brother texted me earlier on this evening to say that he had indeed completed the Paris-Roubaix cycle ride in a time of 12 and a half hours. Am beside myself with admiration given that it's been so hot today I couldn't even be bothered to walk to the park).

09 June 2006

Phew what a scorcher!

The WeatherPixie

The sun is shining, the weather is set to be fabulous this weekend and everyone's feeling very tra-la-la. (Though spare a thought for my poor brother on the way from Paris to Roubaix).

My new Weather Pixie says it's hot (just trying to work out how to add her to my side bar) and I've just found out that mirrormirror is hot as well. Happy days!

06 June 2006

New image

New homepage

I've been doing some work! At long last we've got round to freshening up the photos on the mirror mirror homepage.

Our original plan was to overhaul the homepage every season, with new product photos, a different seasonal background pattern and an on trend colour palette. I would like to do this eventually, but at the moment just don't have the time or money to make it happen.

In the meantime I'm pleased with how this has come out - it seems both more contemporary and summery. What do you think? (Honestly).

Old homepage

02 June 2006

In Press

Forgot to mention that we had two excellent bits of press coverage in April. The Creation Mathias Bath Confetti were featured in the FT's How to Spend It section and the Darling It's Perfect Earrings in Marie Claire.

Which would help to explain why April was an absolutely stellar month for us, while May has been about as mediocre as a Big Brother contestant.

26 May 2006

In prints

Click to read

An article I wrote on interiors trends for summer has appeared in Exeter Living, one of those freebie property magazines which come through the letterbox and make you wish you had several million quid to blow on a large Georgian country property.

It's not quite House and Garden but I'm sure they'll be on the phone any moment asking for insightful quotes.

(Thanks to Lissie of this blog and Managing Editor of the magazine for the opportunity to contribute.)

24 May 2006


Ruth Cross chair

I went to the Pulse trade show this afternoon at Earl's Court.

I went to my first trade show, together with my then business partner, just over two years ago. I felt like a complete charlatan then, as at that stage we didn't even have a company, our little shop was just a dream and I had no idea even what questions we should ask. I remember thinking that no supplier in their right mind would give us the time of day, let alone agree to associate their brand with ours. Instead people were super-friendly and helpful and many came on board before they ever saw the finished website.

It was such a different experience today. Now when I go to trade shows many of our suppliers are there, so I get to have a good gossip with them all. When I'm talking to potential new suppliers I have a much better idea of what I'm looking for, what jives with the mirror mirror brand and what will sell well online. I am unfazed by talk of minimum orders and pro-forma invoices and can talk with authority about future trends. In short I appear to have become a shopkeeper. And very nice it feels too.

Current trends include masses of lime green and turquoise for late summer; graphic swirly patterns; vintage fabrics and black and white. And it looks like there's going to be lots of rich burgundy, purple and grey around for winter.

I also got to see in person the gorgeous knitted chair by Ruth Cross which has recently featured on both Cally's blog and Decor8.

22 May 2006


Thanks to all who voted in the poll. I thought it was interesting that 40% (it sounds better than 4) of you actually run your own businesses and 50% (er, 5) would love to do so if you could. I've been thinking of talking more about issues to do with running your own business on the blog, particularly as there seem to be so few women blogging about business and even fewer blogging about business in the UK.

If you know of any good resources/blogs for women in business then please let me know and I'll try to incorporate them somewhere on the site.

17 May 2006

Is anyone out there?

Polling20station784847 Have just discovered this nifty little polling tool via Sharma Designs (by the way, check out the gorgeous jewellery - I'm hoping to get some on the site soon).

Will be amazed if this works.

Sugar and Martha

Interesting, though rather superficial, article here discussing women in business, whether Martha is nice and whether Ruth would have won the Apprentice if she'd been a bit more girly (found via BrocanteHome).

The article ends up concluding that so many women are now setting up their own businesses a la Martha because they don't fit into the stereotype of what corporate senior management (still mostly men) expects from women.

In my case I think that was true to an extent, but mostly I only got so far in corporate-land because I'm just not a big corporation type of person, and wouldn't have been if I were a man either. What I find really interesting is the sheer number of women who are giving up traditional corporate careers. At the moment I'm hanging out with a whole bunch of absolutely delightful women (found via a post-natal NCT class) who have babies the same age as the Minx and who all, with very few exceptions, are in the process of rethinking their careers. These women all had what sound like glamorous and high-powered jobs but were either unable to fathom how they could combine said jobs with motherhood, or else have had to acknowledge that they were actually quite unhappy in their jobs and didn't really want to go back.

So many women have told me that they too would love to start up their own business. I think it still represents for many that Holy Grail of flexibility and freedom from male-dominated office politics - though I'm not sure how many would still want to if they saw how little I'm earning at the moment and how often I'm up packing up orders after midnight.

Ugh. Not sure what point I'm making here. Best read the article for yourselves and let me know what you think.

Have been feeling rather grotty the last day or so. A hacking cough that seems to have taken up permanent residence in my extremely sore throat coupled with a really nauseous, churning stomach - have no idea how the two can be related. So apologies for recent lack of inspired bloggery.

14 May 2006

House of Eliott

A great catastrophe has happened in my life. I have just finished devouring series II of the quite magnificent House of Eliott and have realised that series III is not yet available on DVD. Am even more distraught than I am about West Ham.

Even the synopsis sounds wonderful. "Take two beautiful, talented sisters. Oblige them to fight their way out of financial near-ruin, building up a successful business on the way. Introduce a collection of dashing suitors, shady operators and feckless relatives. Then dress the heroines in some fabulous frocks and set all this against the background of London in the Roaring Twenties.'

It's ridiculous how inspirational I found the trials and tribulations of this completely fictional business - particularly as I have not yet been embezzled by my bank, had an affair with the husband of one of my most influential clients or been headhunted by a rival Parisian fashion house. The character of Beatrice played by Stella Gonet is especially wonderful - driven, passionate and intelligent and so unlike most of the dozy women you find on TV nowadays.

And the clothes and the interiors are just to die for. I thought I was alone in my madness, but am amused to see that they are having a very enthusiastic debate about it all over on

11 May 2006

The Apprentice II

Oh well. The magnificent Ruth Badger, saleswoman extraordinaire, was never going to become the Apprentice. Even Sir Alan was intimidated by her, her self-confidence and her splendid range of disapproving facial expressions. Which is a pity, because not only could she sell ice cream to Eskimoes, she came across as funny and warm and seemed to inspire huge loyalty in her team.

Not sure what Sir Alan saw in Michelle - beyond the fact that she is young, blonde and attractive (er, maybe I do understand), has apparently overcome a troubled upbringing and Sir Alan had an 'intuition' about her. It certainly wasn't because she had been the best performer over the previous twelve weeks of tasks. That's the slightly disappointing thing about the Apprentice. In the end Sir Alan is not looking for the best businessperson, but the most suitable Amstrad employee - which is another thing entirely. It was as if we'd just invested a lot of time and effort watching a murder mystery, only for Poirot to come in at the end and say 'I have a leetle intuition that xxx is the murderer'.

It was awe-inspiring watching Ruth in selling mode - she clearly loved it and could sell anything to anybody, flats, second-hand cars, homewares. Her technique was to know everything there was to know about the product, infect people with enthusiasm for it and then never to be afraid to cut a deal. Never once did she appear to be giving people the hard sell, yet had an amazing record of success.

It was inspirational and educational watching her. Which is not something that can be said for any of the other numpties on the show.

27 April 2006

Bag lady

I think it's about time we talked a bit more about starting and running your own business, particularly as a female entrepreneur.

I found this article (on Paper Bride - a cool blog by a woman in NYC who runs her own bridal stationery business) about handbag designer Lauren Merkin's quest to get Oscars red carpet exposure for her handbags really interesting - mostly the fact that she spent over $30,000 trying to get a sleb to carry one of her bags and the fact that she thought it was all worthwhile (though she would say that wouldn't she?) Though admittedly it has got her exposure on the mirror mirror blog, which will, I'm sure, send handbag sales soaring. (By the way, could the slebs have been put off by the definition of the word 'merkin'? I'm not sure I'd want to be carrying a Merkin bag.)

mirror mirror has been invited to contribute things for goodie bags on a few occasions but we've always turned them down so far - mostly because it costs a fortune to give that amount of stuff away, and also because it's unlikely that any celebrity is going to be photographed parading down the red carpet with a scented candle on her head (though that would surely get the paparazzi going).

The article reveals that the whole Oscars circus is even more of a racket than I had assumed and makes one wonder even more how celebrities (mentioning no names Charlize) can still get it SO wrong.

19 April 2006


Apologies for not doing a whole lot of blogging recently. I'd organised a quiet and sociable Easter break, but the coverage on the right - from the The Times' Saturday magazine no less - featuring the Hannah Tofalos eggcups, meant that in the end mirror mirror had quite a busy weekend. Not complaining of course, but I do wish journalists would respect my social arrangements a bit more.

The thing that pleased me most was that a photo taken by me has now appeared in a national newspaper magazine. You guys would laugh to see the conditions under which most of my photos are taken. I get the best light in a corner of our bedroom for about an hour every morning. When that photo was taken the Minx's cot was still in the bedroom and is jammed over to one side just behind the eggcups. The Minx herself finds photography fascinating and was doubtless either holding onto my legs or knocking over the tripod as I pushed the shutter.

Still, it's pretty amazing what one can do by taking loads of photos with a reasonably good digital camera on the off-chance that one or two might turn out all right after extensive Picasa-ing. I certainly wouldn't be able to run mirror mirror as I do if digital photography hadn't been invented, which is quite a sobering thought.

Anyway, over the next few days we are going to discuss the V&A's Modernism exhibition, the Bluebell railway, my Easter Eggs (yet more scope for punning egg titles, hoorah!), my weight-loss regime (quite possibly compromised by aforementioned Easter Eggs), this month's Vogue, and possibly some design-y things as well. Bet you can't wait.

07 April 2006

He's in Fashion

Occasionally (er, several times a day) I like to take a wander through my web stats (both for the website and the blog) to check how traffic is doing and see where it's coming from.

Yesterday I was getting traffic from what appears to be a Japanese/Chinese design blog (difficult to tell as the characters just show up as little square boxes in my browser) which appears to have mirror mirror listed as a supplier of Atelier LZC products.

Anyway, I was browsing through the pictures when these gorgeous illustrations stopped me in my tracks. They are the work of fashion illustrator Eduard Erlikh and I just can't get over how stunning they are.

There's something about the rawness of sketches - both fashion and architectural - that just gets to me and sketches with so much movement and vigour in dayglo colours really take the cake.


31 March 2006


Dear Reader,

I have been keeping something from you. Remember that we went on a crazy family trip to Seattle and California at the beginning of February? Well, there was method in our madness. The Husband was actually flying out for a job interview with MSN at Microsoft HQ in Redmond.

And they offered him a job. And they made him an offer it would be incredibly foolish to refuse. So yes, later this year we are moving to Seattle for a few years.

It was an extremely difficult decision for me. I just feel like I've settled into a great routine after the upheaval of having a baby last year, and in the last few months it seems that mirror mirror has really started to take off (we've had an awesome Mother's Day and March in general) after working so hard at it for over two years, right the way through pregnancy and the early months of motherhood.

But the role is a career-defining one for the Husband and the money will transform our family finances which have been looking a bit precarious since we've been investing so much in the business. So we don't really have a choice - I can't stand in his way on this.

I have, however, made two conditions. One, that we come back in time for the Minx to start full-time education in the UK. This opportunity has come at a perfect time, in that I think the Minx will be fairly portable until she is five or so. After that I really don't want to put her through the upheaval of moving school AND country, though obviously I might change my mind when the time comes and we're having too much fun. And of course there's going to be all the trauma of BEATING her American accent out of her.

My second condition is that at all costs I want to keep mirror mirror going. I actually think it's going to be excellent news for the business. We will be in a position to hire someone to take on the day-to-day running of the business out of the UK, which will leave me with more time to find new suppliers (can't wait to start buying from all those fabulous designers I keep reading about on the US design blogs) and expand our marketing.

The other good bit of good news is that by the time my husband has worked out his notice and he's got his working visa sorted out it looks like it's going to be October before we go out there, so, for any customers and suppliers who might be reading, it will be business as usual for the time being, and I get to enjoy one last summer in Notting Hill.

Because the truth is, dear reader, that I don't really want to go.

30 March 2006

Grendma Chic (sic)

He he! Does anyone out there speak Russian? Can you translate this page? Are they being rude? What is a grendma? Getting lots of traffic off this today, so I presume they're being complimentary.


Not to worry, I've found a online Russian translation site and this is apparently what the first paragraph says:

It can to you already lusciously, but me, at present, only and ???????. House. With ??????????. Slightly. With pink glaze. And native, as old cowards. Well all right, not cowards. But you have understood me.

Even later...

I've now found a website that will translate the whole page. Impeccably. (Am secretly very thrilled to have Russian fans - world domination can't be far off.)

Later still...

This is all getting a bit silly. We're now (courtesy of our Karin Eriksson beaker) apparently in the Russian Interior Design Handbook. Check out today's wonderful translation.

29 March 2006


Finally got a copy of the Mother's Day coverage in Metro. I hadn't realised that two of our products were covered - the stacking egg cups and the aromatherapy bath melts. It seems that this time the celebrity inspiration behind the choice of products was Nigella Lawson, this time under the title 'Mother Hen'.

I'm finding it interesting to see which celebrities the magazines are associating with our products. I know it's basically a load of nonsense, but I would file both Nigella and Thandie Newton under 'intelligent and classy' which I think are pretty good brand values for mirror mirror to be associated with.

And at least they're both infinitely better than Jordan.

22 March 2006

Cracking PR

Mad day today.

A friend popped round for coffee this morning with her 3-month old baby boy (the Minx was beside herself as he has an extraordinary quantity of strokeable hair - I think she thought he was a kitten).

As we were chatting away about matters diverse, I realised that order after order for our Hannah Tofalos eggcups was popping into my inbox. Finally my brother called me to say that - unbeknownst to me or our PR company* - the eggcups had been featured in Metro - the freebie newspaper given out at Tube stations with a huge readership of London commuters.

The bad news is that we were quite low on stock so they sold out rather quickly - I'm sure I could have sold them ten times over. The good news is that as a direct result of that feature we took the biggest single order we've ever taken. So all-in-all a VERY satisfying mirror mirror day. But must fly now as it is 11.30 pm and I still have eggcups to pack.

*I haven't yet been able to get hold of the feature - the PR company is working on it - so instead here is a quite delightful picture of smooth blue eggs which I found in the Comments box on a Decor8 post.

21 March 2006


A nice bit of coverage today in Reveal. Our Japanese print toilet bag and rose-topped aromatherapy bathmelts were shown on a page of Mother's Day gift ideas, apparently 'inspired' by Thandie Newton. I couldn't quite work out how exactly Ms Newton had inspired these products, except that her aqua gown is the same colour as the trim on the washbag. But Thandie Newton is just the sort of celebrity I'd like to have associated with mirror mirror so I'm not complaining.

Was amused to note that the stringy-haired, stringy-armed, one-eyed alien had - by virtue of wearing a pale pink dress and some diamond jewellery - 'inspired' a collection of oh-so-pretty rose pink, silver and glass objects which you could never in a million years imagine Madonna ever having in her house.

17 March 2006

The X Factor


Two very thought-provoking articles. One on curated shopping (found via Rare Device) and one wondering what makes certain designers successful on the intelligent new design blog Designer's Library. The curated shopping article is talking about the rise of the indie shop - shops which carry a carefully edited collection of pieces which reflect a certain lifestyle aesthetic. The blog post on designer brands asks how some designers have successfully created a personality or culture around their business which can be translated across a wide range of products.

I suppose what both articles are talking about is branding.

I know that at mirror mirror I am trying to create a brand rather than just a collection of products. People might come to mirror mirror the first time because they've seen a particular product in the Press or something, but the only reason they'll keep coming back again and again and recommend us to their friends is because they like the personality of the brand and think they'll find more products they like in future.

Which makes it rather scary for me, the shop 'curator'. I have a clear vision of the personality which I want the mirror mirror brand to project and to an extent that brand reflects my own personality. There's a little bit of me in everything we do - the product selection, packaging, customer service, blog-writing, website etc. etc. - which means I lay a little bit of me on the line everytime someone interacts with the company. What I don't know as yet is whether that brand personality resonates strongly enough with enough people, ie. has that brand 'X Factor', which will underpin a truly successful company.

In fact, dear reader, what sort of personality does the mirror mirror brand convey to you ? I'm really interested to find out.

13 March 2006

Atelier LZC

A few new products from Atelier LZC added to the site this weekend - two stunning oval screen-printed mirrors and some cute little cut-steel hanging butterflies and flowers. Just festoon (isn't that a nice word?) them around the house for a bit of Springtime jollity.

I absolutely love Atelier LZC's stuff. They have an incredible colour-sense - using unusual colour combinations which always work together perfectly - and their designs are spare, modern and pretty, whilst never ever veering towards the sugary or twee. We've been stocking their things since mirror mirror started up 18 months ago and they've been going from strength to strength - appearing with great regularity in the design press and with more and more people looking for them on the search engines.

As well as the mirrors and hanging objects, we also stock teatowels and a wonderful cut-steel hanging Tree of Life which have always been amongst our most popular products.

I wanted to do a little piece on the company itself, but Holly at decor8 beat me to it and has written a fantastic article on them, including an interview and pictures of their glorious workspace.

09 March 2006

Make Mother’s Day

In between all the gadding about we've just managed to add some new bits and pieces to the site - kitsch but gorgeous Swarovski crystal mobile phone charms; a new fragrance of Mathias candles and bath confetti ; a lovely white beaded lariat necklace (perfect for this season's white mania), a small butterfly bowl by Mizuyo Yamashita, a new tea towel design from Atelier LZC and the crystal Peacock bracelet by Darling It's Perfect.

We've also set up a page of Mother's Day gift ideas (so now there's no excuse to get her a boring old bunch of daffs) including three new themed gift sets - Yummy Mummy (for the mummy who loves to cook), Mamma Mia (for the mummy who loves to garden) and Groovy Mama (for the mummy who loves to shop).

Hope these help you all spoil your mothers rotten. (Now that I am one, I have finally realised that mothers are indeed HEROINES).

16 February 2006


BreakevenAm feeling a bit despondent at the moment as orders have tailed off dramatically after Valentines Day and and the Independent-fuelled flurry earlier in the month.

The problem is that mirror mirror is currently in the wonderful world of 'breakeven' ie. we only just about make enough each month to cover our costs, which is all faintly depressing (particularly when Christmas, when we do much more than breakeven, is so far away). Sometimes this business feels like pushing a huge boulder downhill.  It seemed to gain momentum over Christmas but it's got bogged down a bit now and I need to push at it a bit more again.

I know in my heart of hearts that online retail is a volume business, that I just need to keep going and hopefully the volume of orders will continue to build gradually so that we flip easily into profit each month.  However we're not quite there yet and every time we get a dip in orders I worry that it's all going pear-shaped and I will be left with thousands of pounds worth of unsold stock. (The Husband says I overdramatise things somewhat).

I didn't make the above graph, but am finding it strangely reassuring as it's telling me that this is the classic pattern for a small business.  I read somewhere that the start-up period was basically a competition to get the business to a stage where it can cover its basic costs before you run out of money to invest. Once you've got to that stage you know you've won and can then focus on growing the business.  Scarily though most small businesses never get there.

15 February 2006

Rebecca De Winter

029_1 "THIS season I have been inspired by a strong spirited, mysterious and yet utterly glamorous woman with more than a touch of Du Maurier's Rebecca De Winter," Amanda Wakeley wrote in her show notes. "She lives dangerously, drives too fast, flirts expertly and dresses immaculately."

I want her to shop at mirror mirror ...

(This image from Wakeley's new collection shows what I'm going to wear when I become a foot taller and ginormous post-breastfeeding boobs shrink into beestings.)

13 February 2006

Express delivery

06476_86_1Some rather unexpected coverage today in the Sunday Express 'S' Magazine.

Last November we took a stand at the House & Garden Spirit of Christmas fair and were rather sadly excited when Linda Barker (a very well-known celebrity interior designer here in the UK) came and bought loads of stuff.

Well, here she is in today's magazine showing off our extremely delicious Creation Mathias bath confetti which we import from France.

Am I being ungrateful to wish that she had a slightly more upmarket 'brand'?*

*I have to say that she did seem extremely nice when we met her.  I just wish she didn't also endorse Curry's and DFS

09 February 2006

Purple Cow

PurplecowJust back from our madcap trip to the West Coast of the US.  More successful than I ever dreamed possible - thanks to all the planning we did  and the fact that the Minx somehow metamorphosed into a little angel along the way.  Though it was a bit tragic to see how excited she was this morning to be back with all her familiar toys, particularly her beloved piano.  She was even beside herself with glee when we put her in her high chair. 

Anyway, the trip to Seattle may have interesting ramifications, so I will blog about it at a later date when the ramifications have become clearer.

Our trip to California to see my elderly aunt was also hugely thought-provoking on many levels, so I will blog about that at a later date when my provoked thoughts get themselves into some sort of order and I don't have so many Valentines Day orders to pack.  (Dear Reader, how can you bear the suspense?)

In the meantime I'd like to mention a little book I read on the plane - Purple Cow by Seth Godin.  To be honest, the book was somewhat insubstantial, as his basic premise can be summed up in about a paragraph (he clearly is a marketing genius to be able to parlay that into a best-selling book). 

In a nutshell, he states a truly successful business can't just be very good at what it does - there are far too many other very good companies out there -  but has to be REMARKABLE in some way.  Which of course got me thinking about mirror mirror and how we can make it stand out from the crowd, especially all our competitors who are so much bigger and uglier than we are.

I think the key areas where we can differentiate ourselves are a) stunning products; b) the gift service in general and in particular the care and attention we pay to our packaging and c) providing an outstanding level of customer service. 

Of course, I'd like to think we're a Purple Cow company already , but I'd love to get any ideas you might have on things we could do better and things we could do add to the service to make it truly incredible.  Please share your thoughts of what you'd really like to see from an online shop. (The best ideas will win a yet-to-be-determined prize...)

31 January 2006

It's a wrap!

Img_5775_2Anyone who has had the privilege over the last month of receiving a gorgeous gift from mirror mirror (a small, but thankfully growing, elite) may have noticed that our products now come wrapped even more stunningly than before.

We made a decision early on to wrap beautifully everything that we send out - whether it's a gift or not. We wanted people who order from mirror mirror to be really thrilled when they open their box and it's a way that we can differentiate ourselves a little bit from our competition.

I have cursed this decision on many occasions when I've been up to the wee small hours packaging up parcels, but we know from our customer feedback that it's something our customers really appreciate. 

The other slight problem is that I have always been absolutely dreadful at wrapping parcels and however hard I tried the packages often looked like they'd been wrapped by someone with flippers rather than hands.   

All that has now changed thanks to the wonderful Jane Means - the giftwrap guru.  Just after Christmas my friend Emmeline (garden designer extraordinaire) and I treated ourselves to a personal giftwrapping course from Jane.  We had a really fun day and picked up loads of tips and tricks.  Some of them were very obvious to all but me - have sharp scissors, cut your paper properly to size, don't use that slithery silvery paper that doesn't crease, use double-sided sticky tape for a neater finish, tidy up as you go along etc. etc  but others, such as the cellophane technique and the pleating for cylinders technique have been worth their weight in gold, particularly as mirror mirror has so many awkward-shaped objects to wrap.

Anyway, I was so delighted with how my parcels looked over the weekend, that I thought I'd take a photo to show you...

28 January 2006

Miss Independent

Independent280106Thrilled to bits today with some fab coverage in The Independent which has meant that we've had one of our best days ever and certainly the best  ever Saturday (which is usually  quite a slow day for us). 

The only downside is that we've already nearly sold out of my lovely eggcups since I only got a few in to see how they would sell and they're proving incredibly popular.  I am officially an idiot.

23 January 2006

Sage candles and Loose Women

Sagecandles1Had the best possible start to the week with the Daily Mail  featuring one of our gorgeous pistachio green Sage candles in its LIFEstyle pages. The not so good news was that the hosting company server crashed for part of the afternoon meaning that the website was down. Grrr....

I would so much love to move to another hosting company, but that would mean upgrading to the latest version of our shopping cart software  - which would be a hugely complex (and therefore costly) technical exercise given the amount of customisation we have done. But we will have to bite the bullet and do it sometime this year as outages are immensely frustrating and I do hate to let down customers.  Still, we did end the day with lots of yummy site traffic and some nice orders, and hopefully there'll be a continued positive effect over the next few weeks - Daily Mail coverage tends to be pretty good for us.

One thing that came from the article was an invitation from the iTV daytime programme Loose Women to donate some candles as gifts for its celebrity guests. It's the sort of PR which I'd love to do if there was more cash in the kitty - you never know what might come from something like that, but I'm not sure it makes financial sense this time round.

Sometimes I do think it must be nice to be a celebrity, to be inundated with gorgeous gifts just for doing one's (not terribly onerous) job - maybe I should get some hair extensions and freakish plastic surgery and apply for this year's Big Brother?