Monday, May 25

The right decision was made!

Well, given that it's only been 24 hours since we officially said we're coming back the feedback and response has been amazing!  I woke up this morning to an email request to speak at a national conference on citizen led change projects which is exactly what we hope the Hippos can do.  We want to bring back the fun, the family and the support that goes with working in the creative industries.  We are passionate about sharing what we know so that others can get involved too and discover their hidden talents.

It is with a sad heart that we had to close the previous chapter, but for whatever reason (and quite sure we could analyse it till the cows come home) but it happened.  We need to take the good bits, learn from the things that didn't quite work and move forward to the next chapter now.  Going over why things didn't work isn't always helpful as it is incredibly easy to create a blame culture which we don't want to do.

As always I have many cunning plans on the go, and this week will hopefully see one of them come to light.  If it does come off in the way we hope then there will be something amazing to share later in the year.  Oh, and when we do finally get a base there is going to be one heck of a party!!

I am so excited to be a Hippo again, it feels like my whole identity has resurfaced - which for some will seem slightly scary as I bounce around the place again so apologies in advance to the sensible among you!

see you all soon, Hippo xx

Saturday, May 23

We're coming back!!

Apologies for the absence, we tried something else and bits worked but other bits didn't.  However, if you don't try something new you can't possibly hope to grow and learn from these experiences so although the end result wasn't what I had hoped for the journey was worth it.  But, the upshot is that I intend bringing the Hippos back in the way they were first intended.

We're going to start small again and make sure we are standing then toddling then walking before we even consider finding our running shoes.  As those of you that know me personally, patience is not my strong point!! The other difference this time is that there are several people that also miss being a Hippo and the values we hold so this time I've got support and help from the outset.  Business is a pretty lonely place on your own but with others prepared to throw jaffa cakes at you and go oiii Ange you're being stupid and then we all giggle and go oh yeah see your point, well that makes it much more bearable.  I have learnt that although I can make the practical, legal and economic decisions quite easily on my own I need the bounce for creative processes and especially when I go 'I have a cunning plan .....' and need someone to bounce off.  That's where two other wonderful ladies come in (and not just to scoff the jaffa cakes, saying that before they run off with the cash & carry card!).

And I miss chuntering on the blog, so apologies to all those that thought great she's stopped annoying us - Hippo's back, and with lots of ideas to make the world a more interesting place.

Can't wait to tell you all the other updates once the journey begins in earnest, see you all soon

Hippo x

Saturday, May 10

more twitter thoughts

I keep getting asked about how to use twitter because, well to put it bluntly I can't see myself without it now (yes, I can hear you hollering nerd from the back thank you!).  So, for those completely new to it, or those that have an account because they felt they should but have never used it because it just looks too complicated this is for you.

First things first, it's not there to confuse you but it can move fast once you follow a lot of people but we will come on to managing that later so don't panic.  Might sound daft, but have a think about why you want to use it in the first place.  Do you just want a social hangout, do you want to follow celebrities, do you want to use it as a marketing tool for your business?  It really doesn't matter which, but it will shape how you use it so worth considering as you go along.

If you are used to playing on facebook and have built up a following twitter can seem a little lonely to begin with as it takes a little longer to build up followers and relationships, but hang in there and have a little patience.

Some basics:
Your account can be open or locked - open accounts mean tweets can be seen by anyone, locked accounts only by your followers.  Depending on why you want to use twitter will determine which way you go, spammers don't tend to reach locked accounts but equally it can restrict people following you

Your name and profile:
Be yourself! Make sure you edit your profile setup and include a picture, even if it's only of your favourite cartoon character because leaving an egg on your profile makes others slightly nervous of talking to you.  Apart from your name which is harder to change later pretty much everything can be edited so don't worry about getting it right straight away.  If you are using it for business make sure you include links to your website, facebook or anywhere that people can find you.

Unlike facebook people are free to follow/unfollow anyone at any time without an invite as are you.  The other aspect of this is if you follow someone they are not obliged to follow you back, and equally you're not obliged to follow them back.  However, as a basic etiquette especially if they say hello to you then it would slightly ungrateful not to follow back.

If you already know someone you trust on twitter ask them for people to follow so that you can get started.  My followers include some true gems who I always recommend to newbies as they will chat and support as you get going and stops you feeling like a wallflower at a busy party!

What to tweet?
This is an odd one if you're not used to twitter!  You sort of want to say something interesting and end up saying 'my cat is bonkers'.  Just imagine what you would do if something exciting/silly or interesting has happened and you want to tell a friend and then think of twitter as a text to lots of friends at once.  But, remember that exactly as you wouldn't send a global text of something embarrasing to your aged Aunt don't do it on twitter (but then again, it might be fun!)

How to tweet:
If you put the @ sign at the front of a tweet then it goes to the person mentioned and unless people follow you and that person your tweet may not be seen by many - this is like having a conversation on a bus with the person sitting next to you but if others are in earshot they hear the conversation.

If however you include their name using the @ sign in the middle of a tweet then anyone that follows you will see it.  This would be like you standing up on the bus and shouting out 'me and Jane are going into town now'.

The rule of thirds:
As a basic rule of thumb mix your tweets into three groups - talking about yourself, talking about others and general silliness.  If you are a small business we want to see the person behind the business and not just hear about your new etsy listings.  Just as in real life the person that never listens or engages quickly loses friends and the sames goes for twitter.  It goes back to the be yourself and remember that it's social media so chat and engage with followers where possible.

These are great but limit them to 2 or 3 in a tweet if using them.  It's like a directory search, you can search for a hashtag even if you don't follow any of the people using them.  Sometimes tv programmes show them such as  #pogdogs which stands for Paul O'Grady's love of dogs programme and if you watch the show or want to comment using the hashtag puts you into that conversation.  Also you can create your own hashtag, I use #happyhippo or #sadhippo because it groups tweets, makes them searchable and for me building a brand is important.  They are also used when there is a group discussion going on with members around the world such as #artisthour and allows everyone to find tweets connected with the discussion.

Twitter is full of them! Mainly because you are limited to 140 characters (or chrs) and shorthand is everywhere.  A basic one is RT means re-tweet which is when someone shares a tweet with their followers or says pls RT which is another way of saying please share this.  Just think back to the early days of texting before predictive text.  There are various directories out there and if in doubt ask what someone meant - I still have to do that now sometimes!

Unwanted followers:
Trolls and spammers are on twitter just like in real life.  A giveaway is that they only have about 15 tweets that are repeated and few followers.  Use your instinct, if you are uncomfortable with what they are saying then don't follow them, and if you believe them to be offensive for whatever reason then use the block and report function.  Don't say 'please unfollow @twitmaster' because that just gives them publicity, just block report and move on to talking to those you do enjoy.

Linking facebook and twitter:
Personally I don't advocate this because if you are used to facebook your tweets will be too long and if you tweet to facebook they can sometimes look slightly rudely short and the hashtags look out of place.  The choice is yours, but just remember that posts appear on both platforms and don't ignore reponses from both.

That should get you going, but above all be friendly! The clue is in the name social media, just as in real life if you have a friend or acquaintance that never listens or responds you slowly don't want to hang out with them it's the same on twitter.  You can always find me as @littlehipposhop if you get stuck.

Have fun and see you in the ether soon, Hippo x

Saturday, October 5

Plotting again!!

Apologies for lack of blogging, been slightly caught up in a few things!  We had our our Artists and Crafters Fair not long ago, 50 stalls of handmade gorgeous work from local makers with customers really impressed that it was a real craft fair and not just a bunch of re-sellers and the standard this year was amazing! One lady I talk to on facebook reckoned they all took evening wear to change into, will have to check on that one.

The other reason for being a tad busy is that we're plotting again - and this time it's on creating a co-operative of artists and makers.  Coming from a community worker background it was always the intention of the Hippos that we were more than just a shop, more than just craft fairs and it looks like it might just come off.  We've held down 18 months of trading, not got much left in the bank but we are in the black and we are growing.  The shop was never intended to make a profit for anyone, it was only ever intended to cover it's costs which it is doing.  So far we've managed to offer over 150 local makers the chance to sell through us and some have done reallly well while others had the chance to experience and learn what it's like to turn yourself self employed through your craft.  So it's all good stuff, and the people and friends that have come along is just lovely.  For me that's what it's really about, creating a family of makers that want to be part of something bigger and not just in it for themselves.  Sure, we all need to eat, we all need to pay the gas bill but none of us can work in isolation or grow without external support.  You might do well for a season but can you sustain that?  Can you take it up a notch and keep growing?  The simple answer is that without others to bounce ideas with you might struggle - some manage it really well, but for the most part that group collaboration and sense of family is something they value as do we. 

So, our next cunning plan! We've been in discussions with a very nice builder who has a rather large property that we could turn into small studio spaces, galleries, teaching workshops, cafe, bar and have the space to really put into action all the plans that have been bubbling away in the background but not got the space to at the minute.  We love where the shop is in Shropshire and aim to stay there for retail but it just doesn't allow us to expand as we keep being asked to.  We know so many artists wanting studio space, or wanting a space to come and learn something new or have offered to teach it.  We know loads of fabulous foodie artisans that could support a co-operative style cafe and we could all munch around the world with their varied backgrounds - the idea of Latvian cakes is always a winner for me (thank you Sandija!), but then you all know I can be bribed with cake :)

Now the harder part, we have to go through the legal process.  We have to come up with 3 years of figures for cashflow projection eek! And the name .... am having a little trouble with the founder members as they keep trying to call it Bloaters which is the collective name for Hippos, hmm not sure that's going to quite work somehow.  I can see that board meetings are not going to be your traditional suits and notepads, more a bun fight of giggling as they try and convince me that Bloaters is the way to go.  However, that said, that's all part of the fun; it's all part of how we want to work in the future and how we hope it will grow.  There's plenty of sensible meetings I'm going to have to go along to and it's nice to be able to say 'Bloaters' and giggle to myself while dozing off to droning about sensible things!