26 February 2012

Fairtrade Fortnight 2012

Let's Take a Step Together!

I'm gearing up for tomorrow! I have my t-shirt, I have the brochures, I have the stickers, I have the products, I've got the ingredients for cake, yeah, I have my cake and I'm going to eat it and I'm going to make sure that you get some too! And it's all Fairtrade!

Monday the 27th of February, is the start of Fairtrade Fortnight and it runs up to Sunday the 11th of March.

The aim of Fairtrade Fortnight this year is to get 1.5 million steps for Fairtrade registered as actions. so, this Fairtrade Fortnight is to inspire you if you've taken a step before, or if you've never taken a step before! There are so many different steps that we as individuals or businesses can take, they might be small steps but each of them added together can make one big step, to help farmers and they communities in developing countries to receive fairer payments, fairer wages and fairer conditions.

Our Fairtrade Story
When we opened our coffee shop 3 years ago and we made a pledge to ourselves to use only Fairtrade coffee, not to offer a choice but to commit 100% to Fairtrade coffee, despite the tough economic times, we knew that it was the only way that we could feel good running our business. As individuals, our business is an extension of ourselves and what I wouldn't feel comfortable doing in my personal life, I will not do in my business life either. So, yes, we chose Fairtrade coffee, we went on to choose after just a couple of months Fairtrade tea and chocolate and we just kept expanding the amount of Fairtrade that we did, until after just 6 months we bought our own oven specifically so that we could commit to using Fairtrade ingredients in our cakes.

How did this passion for Fairtrade begin? Well, I read about it in a pamphlet from the Fairtrade Foundation, just a month before we opened our coffee shop. I had not heard of Fairtrade before that time. That's what inspired me to create a guide to the independent shops in Enfield that sell or serve Fairtrade, you can pick one up in our shop, or you'll find me out and about during Fairtrade Fortnight, encouraging other individuals and businesses to 'Take a Step' for Fairtrade and I'll have a stack of them with me then, to give out.

You can download our guide to Fairtrade in Enfield, from here!

Fairtrade shouldn't be a unique selling point!
The decision that my partner Gunter Hollenstein and I took, to stock Fairtrade was hardly a decision but more of a heartfelt step that we knew we had to take. Is there really a choice? If you know that one way of trading means that checks have been made, premiums paid and a minimum price band introduced and another means that workers are unable to unionise, that there is no guaranteed price and communities are not given additional help, then why would you, or even could you choose any other way? The Fairtrade labelling system guarantees that the farmers of that product in the developing countries have been given a Fair deal, as specified by internationally agreed trading standards.

I don't want My Coffee Stop stocking a good range of Fairtrade products to be our unique selling point! This is a unique selling point that, I'm wishing wasn't!

I actively encourage and delight in telling other coffee shop owners the excellent Fairtrade suppliers that we've found, so that they can support Fairtrade too and that's why suppliers are listed for everyone to see and use in the Fairtrade Guide that we have produced.

Fairtrade Fortnight Launch!
Just over 6 months after the riots in Enfield, I'll be taking to the very same streets to launch Fairtrade Fortnight in Enfield. I'll be wearing my Fairtrade tee-shirt, armed with stickers, the Enfield Fairtrade Directory and cards on which to register step/s and I'll be encouraging individuals and businesses to 'Take a Step', with me for Fairtrade!'

I'll be starting out at the Civic Centre in Enfield and will work my way up through the high street and back up to  My Coffee Stop at Enfield Chase Station. I'll pick out people and businesses randomly to approach and encourage to 'Take a Step' for Fairtrade, in the hope of helping the Fairtrade Foundation accomplish a grand total of 1.5 million registered steps!

The launch will take place at 10am on the first day of Fairtrade Fortnight, Monday February 27th, outside the Civic Centre, by the chunky Enfield sign.

Keep an eye out for me throughout Fairtrade Fortnight, as you never know when I might appear and ask you to 'Take a Step' with me!

Please Take a Step
I hope this post inspires you to join in and 'Take a Step', when you've taken that step, whatever it is, please register it here!

Please help me to encourage people to 'Take a Step' by sharing this article, wherever you can!
Facebook, Twitter, +1 it if you so desire. Hey! Maybe that can be your step, if you like.

Share this article then register that you shared an article about Fairtrade Fortnight.

As they say, 'Every Step Helps'.

Thanks for any steps that you do take to support Fairtrade Fortnight!


Karen. xx

16 February 2012

How to do Facebook for small businesses!

I was absolutely amazed, when James Whitaker, owner of a hairdressers in Enfield, Beauty and Hair Awards Finalist, 2012, turned up to The Ideas Station meeting that we hold every month and gave us all a constant stream of ideas about how to use Facebook to benefit our businesses. 

That's why I'm handing over this blog entry for him to do!

The following advice and tips are really valuable because they are what a small business owner has learnt and discovered and they work.


You're probably wondering what a hairdresser knows about social media!

Well, I'm going to tell you.

At James Whitaker Hair I have built a reputation on not just amazing haircuts and great service but on a level of customer service that you don't tend to get in high end, high street salons. I like to get to know my clients and interact with them. After all I am styling them and making them feel their best in everyday life. my clients trust me with their appearance and if need be, I can give them advice very quickly via social media. This is such an important interaction and service that I offer. Who else does this? No one in Enfield. This gives me a 'niche', in a very large market.

Here are my tips on how Facebook can help you connect with your customers and 1000's of potential ones.

Profile page , group page or business page?
If you want to use Facebook for your business, then a business page is a must. The clue is in the title. Facebook now offer you insights data which help you to know where your 'Likes' are from, as well as the age and sex of the people 'Liking' your page.

There are so many free apps and tools available to add to your page to help it move and look exciting. You don't have to have a great computer knowledge to implement these.

How do I get more 'Likes' on my page?
After you have invited all your friends to 'Like' your business page, have a look at offering a 'special' to get even more 'Likes'. 

You want people on there to suggest your page to friends. I found that a great way is to offer a prize, when you hit a magic number. For example, ' When we hit 200 fans I'm going to offer a £100 voucher to someone at random. The quicker we hit 200 the quicker you can win'. This works a treat.

Does it matter if I haven't got 1000's of fans?
It does look good, if you have a high number of 'Likes' but THE REACH of the page and HOW MANY ARE TALKING about it, are now displayed and these are really important figures. 

A great way of increasing these figures, is by increasing interaction. You can do this by asking a question that will start a conversation, such as '' Ladies what do you think of Mr Beckhams new hairstyle ?'' and post a picture of the new haircut too. You'll be amazed at the comments you get!

How do I get potential clients to see me?
Tagging is the simple way to do this. 

Write a note or post a picture and then tag your target market on them. For example, if you have a service for students, you could join University pages and tag those pages on your posts. That way it goes out on their page and then everyone else that's 'Liked' that page!!! WOW!! A post could go out to 20,000 local people and not cost a penny!!


Check my Facebook page out, here and you'll see how I've connected Twitter to my account and have also incorporated my blog into my page.

I gather I'll be seeing you at The Ideas Station on the 2nd Thursday of every month. Great coffee there too. All the best, James Whitaker

5 February 2012

Ginger, Lemon and Honey.

A magical recipe to help fight colds, flu, asthma and allergies.

For some months now, I have been suffering on and off from what has felt like an almost constant cold, in truth it's actually been a combination of respiratory problems including allergies and asthma.

I have to admit my asthma got out of control and I hadn't realised, as it only deteriorated very slowly. It took downloading an app onto my phone and filling in some questions, to realise that I needed to see the doctor about it. You can get the MyAsthma app here.

The doctor prescribed a higher dose of my usual asthma inhalers and allergy tablets and they've helped to some extent but I still felt ill and run down. I really wanted a special drink that I could make myself quite quickly, that could be made using readily available natural immune-boosting, decongestant ingredients, that would taste good and do me some good.

After years of doing the travel reports for Michael van Straten on LBC 97.3FM, I couldn't fail to be influenced by his passion for using everyday ingredients to target various ailments.

So, I turned to my very special Michael Van Strattan recipe books, for inspiration. In his book 'Super Hot Drinks', I found a great recipe for Ginger and Marmalade Tea, which I really enjoyed, despite hating marmalade! The marmalade was actually homemade and given to me by the man with the voice (and the marmalade), Robbie Stevens. But as I drank the tea again and again, I could taste the marmalade more and more, so I went back off marmalade again! Sorry about that Robbie!

After a while I managed to come up with the idea of using the ginger and substituting honey for the marmalade and then adding lemon for some extra vitamin C.

So if you're feeling rubbish and battling against coughs, colds and sore throats and you're looking for some natural relief, then this is what you need...

1 Mug
1 teaspoon
1 jug (Plastic or Pyrex)
1 grater
1 sharp knife
1 chopping board
1 kettle or pan to boil up water
Tea strainer

Tap water
Fresh Ginger root, not powdered ginger
Honey, preferably local. (mine is from Broxbourne which is not to far away)

Now Do this...
Put the kettle on, making sure you'll only be boiling the amount of water you'll be using.
In the meantime, peel a piece of fresh ginger, about the size of your thumb.
Then grate this ginger into a jug.
When the water has boiled, pour it into the jug with the ginger in.
Leave it to stew, for 5 minutes.
In the meantime put 1 or 2 teaspoons of honey into your mug and a squeeze of lemon juice.
When the 5 minutes is up, hold the tea strainer over your mug and pour the ginger tea from the jug into the mug.
Give it a good stir.
Take your mug, sit down and enjoy. Make sure you take this with plenty of rest too!


If you're feeling poorly, please do the above recipe and tell me how it helps you and get better soon.

If you're looking someone else, please let me know how it worked for them too.

Thanks for reading, wish you well. xxx

1 February 2012


The Top 5 Reasons for Enfield Council to drop Sunday car parking charges.

How do you feel about Enfield Council introducing parking charges on a Sunday? I feel very disappointed with their stance. Fortunately, my business, a coffee shop on Platform 1, Enfield Chase Station doesn't open on a Sunday, so I have no personal cross to bear on that count but I have been an Enfield resident for over 40 years and I've witnessed the demise of the High Street, as units are left empty. 

Where is the sense of stability and community created by that?

It's nearly 6 months after the riots in Enfield that devastated us as a community but in the aftermath, we rebuilt our community and it's even stronger than before. It's important that this strong sense of community is supported and encouraged by Enfield Council, not torn apart.

Top 5 reasons for Enfield Council to DROP THE CHARGE....

1/ DROP THE CHARGE because economic times are really, really difficult for independent retailers. Enfield Council has recognised the problems that all retailers are facing and have provided the cash for an amazing 'We Love Enfield' campaign, promoting Enfield shops and businesses and highlighting all that's good about Enfield with  posters, leaflets and social media and but have then eroded all the brilliance of deciding to do  that, by actively discouraging people from visiting Enfield and pushing them towards the large retail parks, where parking is free, instead.

The Enfield Advertiser says that 'Councillor Del Goddard dismissed the opposition’s argument that the sky-high cost of parking was driving people from town centres adding that the woes of the high street had to be looked at “in context”.'

The Mary Portas review of the High Street is an extremely useful document to enable us to look at the situation, 'in context'. At the very beginning of the report, Mary sets out quite clearly 28 recommendations, for the high street. One recommendation mentioned in the first 10, of the report, concerns car parking. It says,

'Local areas should implement free controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres and we should have a new parking league table.'

Read the rest of Mary's report, here.

2/ DROP THE CHARGE because many people, especially families, used to choose to come to Enfield on a Sunday to take advantage of the free parking and then spend the money saved and more, in local businesses. That's not going to happen now!

3/ DROP THE CHARGE because having NO parking charges on a Sunday is a good step towards being greener, it encourages people, mainly people travelling with their family, to make a shorter journey in their car and to support their local community by shopping in it, thus promoting sustainability for Enfield, instead of pushing people to other boroughs, on longer car journeys. 

The Enfield Independent reports that Councillor Chris Bond, cabinet member for environment, said that the charges on a Sunday were “designed to reduce congestion and on-street parking, encourage alternative forms of travel to the town centre and increase turnover of parking spaces”.  I tried to believe that maybe it was a good thing to force people out of their cars and onto public transport but where's the logic in doing that on a Sunday, the most unreliable day of the week for public transport?

4/ DROP THE CHARGE because we need to encourage community, it seems nonsensical that local Sunday worshippers are going to pay to pray and be penalised with parking charges on their day of rest. Why don't Enfield Council give it a rest? 

5/ DROP THE CHARGE because as people stop shopping in Enfield on a Sunday due to the charges and shops close down as they are not making enough money, no-one will want to come and park their car in Enfield anyway, so Enfield council, you will lose your car parking customers and you will lose your business rates customers too, so that leaves you in a worse situation, than if you would have DROPPED THE CHARGE!


Nick de Bois, MP, for Enfield North eloquently points out,

"The wonderful We love Enfield campaign, which was started by Fast Signs, one of our local businesses, immediately after the riots tore through the high street, is a prime example of how local businesses, close to their community, are entirely in touch with the individuals and locations for which they provide services. Subsequently, our local Labour council started a “Love your high street” campaign, which I was fully behind, to try to bring traffic to the high street. It is thus all the more baffling that the council has persisted in introducing a steep hike in parkingcharges, including for Sunday parking, that is causing economic distress to traders and frustration to residents and is penalising churchgoers. It is not acceptable."

If you support the plea for Enfield Council to DROP THE CHARGE, then please retweet this article, plus one it and share it on Facebook.

If you don't support free parking on Sundays, then please comment!

I truly can't understand the logic of introducing parking charges on a Sunday for Enfield, if I could, then perhaps I'd feel less annoyed!

Whatever you think or feel about this situation, I wish you well and hope you have a lovely day.

Karen. xxx

Read the Understanding High Street Performance report, here. 

Read The Portas Review, here.