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By Fi or Becs, Feb 16 2017 10:00AM

The lovely Nottingham University (where Becs went to uni!) asked her to put together a video about how to get into marketing with an arts degree... so here it is!



Here is the transcript for the video... in case you prefer to read it!


Tip one: Consistently create content


One of the best things you can do whilst you're at university is to show that you can consistently create content. Content could be a blog that you've written for the last two years about how you love walking, it could be an Instagram account, it could be Twitter or Snapchat... it could even be YouTube videos. If you can show that you have original thoughts, you have ideas and you are creative (whether that's with photography, video or writing) that will actually really appeal to an employer because it shows that you can stick at something.


Tip two: Get business experience


If you want to work in marketing you don't actually have to go straight into working in marketing when you graduate, it's more important that you get business experience. My first role was actually in an HR department where I looked after internal recruitment for a B2B telecoms company. A lot of my role was writing job descriptions, writing adverts, looking after the employer brand and working out how that was attracting candidates. There is a real crossover between HR teams and marketing teams when you think about things like internal communications. So... don't just think about marketing, think about how you can get business experience and how you can USE that business experience to get you to your end goal... which is working in marketing (obviously).


Tip three: Use your interests to build a portfolio of work


If you're part of a society at university, think about how you can USE that society to give you examples to go into a portfolio of work. Whether you're part of a sports society or the radio station, think about how you could design their posters to go into your graphic design portfolio. You could run their social media accounts to show how you can build a following or to promote a particular event. Or maybe even think about their photography or how you could put together some videos to give an example on YouTube of what your society does. All of those things show employers that you have practical skills that you would be able to use if you had a role in marketing... and I imagine your society would be quite pleased about it as well!


Tip four: You can still apply to graduate schemes after a couple of years


If you really want to get on to a graduate scheme to do marketing, remember that you don't actually have to apply to schemes the second that you graduate. You can actually apply to them after a couple of years once you have some experience under your belt. That's exactly what I did, I worked for 18 months and then I applied to the graduate scheme at The Co-operative Group. It means that while you're working you're getting business experience, you're learning email etiquette, you're learning about how businesses work and it gives you a better chance of actually getting a graduate scheme that you really want... because you've got experience but also because you have a better idea of what career path you want to do.



Tip five: Show loads of enthusiasm


Show loads and loads of enthusiasm. Whether you're going for a job interview, you're writing a cover letter or you're at an assessment centre, show that you have ideas, show your creativity, show that you're enthusiastic, show that you're inventive - all of those things are brilliant in marketing teams. Have ideas and just try it as you never know what's going to work and you never know what could become the next brilliant campaign.



By Fi or Becs, Feb 2 2017 10:00AM



Chatter from Becs:


When I was a kid I adored visits to Maryport. Growing up in Asby (a tiny hamlet near Lamplugh) I thought my Nan’s house in Maryport was the bees-knees. We could WALK into town to do some shopping, I could rollerblade along the endless pavements and Allonby was only 10 minutes away for ice-cream and paddling in the Solway Firth. To my seven-year-old self, Maryport was a huge place.


Once I got older and I ventured further afield, I realised that Maryport was actually pretty small compared to cities like Manchester. When I found myself in The Apprentice house last year with a chap who actually manufactured his sausages in Maryport I was pretty flabbergasted! The world really is a small place.


Oliver Nohl-Oser, or ‘Sausage Man’ as the press affectionately nicknamed him, grew up near Penrith. His company The Cumbrian Sausage Company has been producing sausages in Maryport since 2009. Bonding over our Cumbrian connection, our preference for sausages served with chips and egg (NOT mash and gravy) and the immensely random coincidence that we both own sausage dogs (!) – Oliver and I became firm friends. When he suggested that I visited him in Maryport to see his sausage manufacturing in progress I was FRANKLY delighted (get it?).


So, last week my thirty-two-year-old self was back in Maryport to learn about Cumberland sausages from Oliver the Sausage Man. I was educated about all things sausage related (did you know that Traditional Cumberland Sausage HAS to be made in Cumbria? It is the UK’s 44th protected food product under EU law!), then we popped to my parent’s house in Seaton for a cuppa and some of Ollie’s delicious sausages for tea (of course). It just goes to show that Maryport actually IS the bees-knees, particularly from a superior sausage point of view – my Nan would have definitely approved.



By Fi or Becs, Jan 22 2017 05:00PM


Chatter from Becs:


At the start of January Alex from Altrincham HQ asked me a question for a blog he was writing. The question was:


“What Is The Best Business Advice You Ever Received?”


When I sat down to write an answer, I started mulling over the various pieces of excellent advice I had recieved over the years. There were a few contenders.


Contender Number 1: "No one will ever complain at you for doing things."

Source: David Hendry, a previous Managing Director of The Co-operative Funeralcare - an absolutely amazing man.


Contender Number 2: "If you want to do something, just do it."

Source: Howard Bouch (aka my Dad). This was engrained into my head from an early age and I apply the sentiment to all aspects of my life.


But the winner was... a particular conversation from around 7 years ago that has always lurked around in my head. Here's what I wrote for Alex's blog:


"The best piece of business advice I have ever received was from a previous boss at The Co-operative Group. Actually… I’m not sure whether it was a piece of advice, or just a conversation that has always stuck in my head.


During a monthly 1-2-1, my boss casually mentioned the ‘ambition worm’ in my belly which drove my relentless enthusiasm, nudged me to keep striving and demanded that I succeeded. I loved this metaphor and I adopted it in my life. My boss was right – I have a worm.


My ambition worm continually eats at me. It makes me ambitious, energetic, excited and passionate. Sometimes living with an ambition worm can be tiring. They never let you rest, they are always goading you to keep trying and they require regular feeding with new ideas and new successes; but I love that worm.


My worm is responsible for many of my wonderful career moments, it insisted that I started my own business and it made me apply to The Apprentice last year. I genuinely hope that my worm never disappears."


You can read the full blog post by Alex on the Altrincham HQ website, there are some great (much more sensible) answers on there too from other business people!


Amusingly (and brilliantly) my ambition worm answer got quite a lot of comments when it was posted on social media! I have a feeling that I might be writing more about ambition worms in the future...



By Fi or Becs, Dec 29 2016 11:00AM



Chatter from Becs:


This year has been a real shocker. I don’t mean a shocker in the sense of being dreadful, atrocious or appalling (although I’m sure many people may actually agree with those sentiments…) I’m simply referring to the huge unexpected events that dominated the news in 2016.


It feels like we’ve had a year of newsworthy BOO moments. From the UK surprisingly opting for Brexit, to the USA trumping our EU departure with their own political shockwave in the shape of The Donald – the unexpected arose, the unlikely actually occurred and some very-important-people were forced to eat their hats. Twice.


The shockers even continued on TV. We had the amusingly delightful Ed Balls wiggling his flat footed way through to Strictly’s week 10, the baffling Honey G being offered a recording contract with Simon Cowell (!) and a genuinely lovely business person Alana winning the Apprentice for once (hooray to nice people finishing first!).


Sadly, 2016 was also a shock year for losing great people. It feels like we woke to sad news far too often with many well-loved personalities passing away including Terry Wogan, David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Paul Daniels. Closer to home, my own accidental apprentice adventure was certainly unexpected!


Last December I assumed that 2016 would be full of: working, being a mum and probably trying to convince my husband to have another baby. Instead… I applied to The Apprentice in January and the last 12 months have been an incredible (at times absurd) rollercoaster. It just goes to show - you really never know what is going to happen.


My Nan used to say ‘que sera, sera- whatever will be, will be'. While all these big newsworthy things are happening around us, focus on your own little life and try to make your own future happen the way you want to. If you’ve had a rubbish 2016, make sure you try to like 2017 a little bit better. As the lovable Paul Daniel’s used to say "You'll like this ... not a lot, but you'll like it".



By Fi or Becs, Dec 16 2016 10:00AM




Chatter from Becs:


Hands up if you love Christmas pudding, hands up if you hate broccoli… hands up if you’re EXCITED FOR CHRISTMAS! This is the endless game that my four year old likes playing at the moment. Needless to say I am required to put my hand up. Frequently.


Like many other households this month, the crazy Christmas excitement is reaching fever-pitch in our home. Sleeps are being counted, advent calendars are pounced upon first thing in the morning (we even have one for the dog!?) and letters have been scribbled to Father Christmas. While the kids are going doolally, the parents are wishing they had never bought that bloody Elf on a Shelf (otherwise known as “you do the sodding Elf tonight”) and planning their childcare plans over the holiday period. If you’re not lucky enough to have helpful grandparents within each reach, juggling work with childcare plus Christmas is the standard festive reality for many families during December.


Three years into running our business my sister and I have wised up to the horror of trying to work through Christmas with our excitable kids around. After going slightly mental in year one, we decided to do a Christmas shut-down in year two and we’re repeating the same plan for a fortnight in year three. It’s honestly the only way that we can all stay sane.


The other day MPs debated whether to force UK shops to close on Boxing Day. I watched the debate online with a starry-eyed glimmer of Christmas hope for all the parents working in retail who might get their own slice of shut-down sanity too. Alas, our Government decided that it wasn’t its place to ban shops from opening on the 26th of December. Shame.


Back to Ollie’s hands up game… hell yes I love Christmas pudding. I disagree about broccoli, (just wait until he spots the Brussels sprout…) and as for Christmas excitement – just imagine the millions of retail workers with their hands up if they didn’t have to work on Boxing Day. We all know what would have happened if this was Miracle on 34th Street.



By Fi or Becs, Dec 1 2016 08:00AM



Chatter from Becs:


Cumbria is an entrepreneurial county: discuss.


My opening sentence sounds like an essay question from a business studies GCSE. Well, I wouldn’t actually know because I didn’t do business studies at school (though I wish I had) but I do think it’s an interesting topic.


Ever since I started my business with my sister, people have asked me ‘why did you do that?’. I’m never entirely sure whether they think I’m crazy for working with a family member, or they don’t understand why I quit a steady nine-to-five job to enter the uncertainty of self-employment, but my answer is always the same – I just thought it was normal.


As a kid growing up in Lamplugh I thought it was standard for parents to run their own businesses. My dad was (and still is) a self-employed accountant who worked at home every evening and my friends’ parents were farmers, butchers, ran B&Bs and owned shops. Ten-year-old me assumed it was commonplace for people to run businesses.


Fast forward 21 years and in Greater Manchester my self-employment is the minority. Most of our neighbours and friends work for big businesses, in schools or for the NHS.


Last week, I was excited to be invited to my old school in Keswick to talk about my career, starting my business and (of course) The Apprentice. I decided to test my theory about Cumbria being particularly entrepreneurial. I asked 150 teenagers if they thought they would work for a big company in an office when they grew up. Fewer than 10 hands were raised.This surprised and impressed me. I had asked the same question a week before at a school in Manchester and over half the room had put their hands up.


The difference? Maybe the Keswick School pupils are lucky enough to grow up in Cumbria and see more family-run or independent businesses instead of big chains and corporations? I might be totally wrong, but I know that growing up in Cumbria hugely influenced my career path. Here’s to Cumbria – maybe all that rain grows good entrepreneurs.



By Fi or Becs, Nov 15 2016 09:00PM


Chatter from Becs:


Last week Alan Sugar fired me on national TV. I guess there aren’t many people in the UK who are able to say that. The whole experience has been incredible, but the truth is - I applied to The Apprentice on a whim.


Last New Year’s Eve, I was chatting to my brother in law (who is a brain surgeon and would probably be amazing on the show) and in our wine induced wisdom we decided that I would be an excellent candidate on the programme… famous last words. So in January, on the day before the applications closed I casually applied. Four months, three auditions, a screen test, a psychological interview and 40,000 candidates later I was offered a place on the show. Flabbergasted is the word.


I got the call from the production team on a Wednesday afternoon whilst looking after my three-year-old son. My phone rang, I promptly bribed Ollie to stay quiet with a DVD and a packet of Quavers (standard parent tactics) and I danced around the room in excitement and genuine amazement. In the auditions I wasn’t the typical Apprentice buffoon. Rather than spouting insane Trump-esque declarations like “one day the whole world will chant my name” I was smiling sweetly and chirping “I would describe my business style as like a bouncing puppy”. Yet somehow the almighty powers at The Apprentice chose me as one of their final 18 candidates. Wow.


I was chucked out in week six - drat. I didn’t have very good luck, my team lost every single week and my own performance was essentially useless. Not too surprising when in real life I don’t like confrontation, I can’t haggle and I make nerdy jokes to put people at ease… <puts her head in her hands>. But I’ve got to say, I loved it all. Including the people on Twitter comparing me to a plastic spoon or as weak as a kitten with polio. I’m certainly the accidental apprentice candidate for 2016, but at least I managed to leave with what’s been hailed as ‘the best taxi interview ever’ – I’ve got my straight-talking Cumbrian roots to blame for that.


By Fi or Becs, Jul 20 2016 08:00AM



Chatter from Becs:


Friday mornings are exciting in my house. Obviously it’s nearly the end of the week (resounding cheer from everyone) but they are also referred to as MUMMY AND OLLIE’S LAZY FRIDAY MORNING. On Friday mornings Ollie and I laze around. We watch a DVD, we read a few books, we take turns playing Angry Birds on the iPad, we partake in some light drawing and we take the dog for a leisurely walk. We laze, we dillydally and we loaf.


Our lazing started last September when I had a revelation over a cup of tea and my laptop. I was working away on my computer (as per normal) and staring out of my window (I often do this when I am thinking) when a mum walked past with a happy toddler. I had one of those mum-pangs-of-jealousy you often feel when you spot a cute child looking happy with their mum whilst you are working (please note: this doesn’t apply to sightings of snotty, screaming or whinging children). I felt a bit guilty, screwed up my forehead, looked away and I was about to go back to work when I stopped and realised – errr what is the fecking point of working for myself if I don’t do more stuff with Ollie while I can?


So I made a plan. I decided to shuffle Ollie’s childcare hours on a Friday from 9am-3pm to 1pm-6pm, thus freeing myself to hang out and walk happily down streets with Ollie. (I must point out that I’m lucky enough to have an amazing child-minder who accommodates my random changes to Ollie’s schedule. I drink wine with her on a regular basis and thank her).


From that week onwards, we’ve had MUMMY AND OLLIE’S LAZY FRIDAY MORNING (written in capitals because Ollie always SHOUTS IT LOUDLY AND HAPPILY). Ollie declared “being lazy with you is awesome mummy” so we don’t do much, but to supplement our lazing I found a kids class (Tumble Tots) so that we don’t stay in our pyjamas all morning (somewhat embarrassing when you answer the door to the Postman at 11.30am).


Sadly, MUMMY AND OLLIE’S LAZY FRIDAY MORNING is coming to an end today because Ollie starts pre-school in September. However, I’m bloody glad that I shuffled my life around to spend some quality lazing time with my kid while he's still little.




By Fi or Becs, Jun 19 2016 08:00AM



Chatter from Fi & Becs:


Working nine to three, what a way to make a living. Dolly Parton sang it: “nine to five, yeah, they got you where they want you. There's a better life, and you think about it, don't you?" You think about it don’t you. Do you?


As a mum running my own business from home, my working hours are often (surprisingly to me as I find them somewhat crap conversation fodder) an interesting topic of discussion with friends, clients and fellow parents. I often get questions like "so when do you actually work then?” or “do you only work when your husband's at home?” (?!), when I explain that I work 9am to 3pm plus two or three hours once Ollie's in bed it tends to raise a few eyebrows.


The usual reaction to my evening working routine is "god, that must be hard, working every night?" but the truth is – it isn’t. I find it strangely satisfying to settle on my sofa with a glass of wine (Ogio Pinot Grigiot) to design a website or write a client’s Mailchimp campaign whilst half listening to Goggle Box.


Admittedly, my first few weeks of evening working were a bit of a culture shock. As I was giving Ollie his bedtime bottle (back when he was ten months old and a little shit who never slept through the night) my mind would race ahead to my lurking to-do list and I would feel a doom laden tummy churning (aka Sunday afternoon dread). However, much to my surprise (and the comfort of wine) those feelings quickly disappeared.


I realised that I could juggle my workload by spending evenings on my laptop and I actually started looking forward to my evening work (weird yet true). Plus (OOO HERE'S A GOOD TIP FOR YOU!) I plan my day so that I keep my easiest (and most enjoyable) work for my late evening time slot - clever hey? Now that I’ve been working in evenings for nearly three years I can honestly say that I enjoy it. Most importantly... it allows me to pick up Ollie every day at 3pm. For me it's a no-brainer, I do a couple of hours of evening work in return for spending a couple of hours playing and generally pottering around with Ollie. Total deal - thanks for the nudge Dolly.



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