30 December 2013

Reach for your dreams, 2014

Oh! This time last year, I had never heard of a place called Shepton Mallet, which just so happens to be the closest town to Glastonbury Festival! Now, I live there, have a shop there, as well as the one in Enfield, my two children go to school there and I am now a Town Councillor there too. All within around 3 months of moving there. We looked at the shop premises on 7th July, we got the keys on the 30th August and we opened on September 20th, even though we didn't have chairs, tables or a carpet!
At the beginning of the journey, we didn't know how we would achieve moving to Somerset, keeping the Enfield business and opening another shop but as we reached for our goals and knew what we wanted, things seemed to fall into place.
I have learnt, that if you have a vision and know the specific end result of the vision, that you will make it come true, through belief and conviction. You create your own opportunities and shape your own dreams.
I think 2013 was my best year ever, there were plenty of positive changes, plenty of challenges and plenty of choices open to me.
As 2014 unfolds before me, I realise the intrinsic power that each and everyone of us has to change their lives for the better.
For a longtime, I was waiting for someone to see my talent and potential, to give me success. It's only when I used my talents regardless of anyone giving me their permission or not that I was able to change my world, into an even better life than before.
At this point in time, I feel loved and blessed, to be able to contribute to my community in so many positive ways.
What am I trying to say? Well, I wish you a very happy new year and I wish you the power and strength for you to make the changes you need to make, have your vision, feel it, dream it and then live it. It is possible. You can do it.

29 May 2013

5 Coffee Shop Business Secrets for Beginners.

1/ Know what you are selling...

You are NOT selling coffee, it's usually something else, for instance in our shop, we are selling a good feeling, community, comfort, an experience and usually a change of mood, from grumpy to grinning in 30 seconds!

2/ DON'T tie your money up in loads stock.

Strict stock control is an absolute must, having lots of stock hanging around means that you are paying effectively for storage space, when those things could be at your suppliers, until you need to order again. You'll find that as with anything 20% of your stock will sell about 80% of the time, concentrate on never letting that run out. But don't waste rent money on space, stocking stuff that sells only slowly.

3/ Don't be a leader!

That's NOT the aim, just be different. When you compete on difference, that enables space for other people to enjoy success within a similar sphere to you. Coffee shop owners needn't be in competition with each other, as long as their differences are highlighted and strong, that then leaves opportunities to collaborate with each other.

We enjoy an excellent cafe round the corner from us, called Michaelangelos and we enjoy supporting them and spending our money in another independent, we love recommending them to our customers too. Yes, we both sell coffees and cakes which is a large cross over but there's also massive differences between us, for example, they do fabulous lunches and we do fabulous networking and events.

4/ Change your way of thinking.

If there is something that you perceive to be a huge negative factor, in your business....twist it around and see the positive! Believe me there is a positive in every negative, you just have to look very hard for it.

When we first opened our shop at the end of a train station platform, people said it was in a difficult location, not much footfall right up to the door and so on. We looked at the premises and saw it's potential as a hidden gem, that turns it around doesn't it! Now it's a truly magical moment when someone discovers us, they open the door from a cold platform and the atmosphere of our coffee shop seems to glow, with warm and welcoming shades of oranges and browns, laughter and chatting, books and flyers, they are amazed by the contrast of how it is outside to how it is when they open that door and the warmth embraces them.

5/ Keep Your Door OPEN!

When you are open, keep your door open! At first people are scared to walk into a new place, you have to remove any barrier that you can and that door can be a big barrier. I have seen people push on our door handle half-heartedly and then walk away when it doesn't open easily.

Keep your door open and make it easy for them to make the transition from outside, to inside, at least until you are established. Bring tasters outside to them on a platter, bring coffee out to them leaving the sugar and so on in the shop, so they have to come in to use the sugar.

What would one of your top tips be to start up a coffee shop?

Please let me know by commenting here.

9 May 2013

Is Facebook Boring?

Honestly, I did NOT want to go on Facebook ever, I viewed it as low cultured, a time drain and addictive. All that insight, without even holding an account!

It was in 2008 when colleagues at LBC Radio kept nagging, or suggesting to me that I 'should really' get onto Facebook but I resisted.

In August 2009, after about 6 months of running My Coffee Stop, with my partner, Gunter Hollenstein and several suggestions from my peers that it would be good for my business, I reluctantly set up a Facebook account and a Twitter account.

I have enjoyed an amazing amount of success using these two and other social media platforms to raise the profile and the profits of my business, resulting in great press, tv exposure and translating into real cash, with sales increasing too. I was frustrated that other businesses didn't know these secrets, so I set up a forum for an exchange of ideas about how best to use social media for your business called, The Ideas Station. A once a month meet up in my shop in the evening for free, with coffee, tea and cake provided.

Attendees said it was so good, I should charge, then a few months later, they said I should charge more. Individual business owners started coming to see me for some spot on free advice and help for their business, so I could train them in how social media would help them. I wanted every independent business in my local area to be able to have the choice to use these different platforms to connect with their customers, potential customers and their community. I had to start charging for the one to one sessions after being let down by some no shows.

So, I had now grown from a coffee shop owner into a social media trainer too and the two businesses feed off and support each other.

I have now successfully applied for funding from the Enfield Residents Priority Fund, to teach business women in the Edmonton area, how to successfully use social media in their own businesses.

However, just recently, I've had a niggling doubt about the effectiveness of Facebook, it's becoming less personal and more corporate every second.

Forget about my business for the moment, looking at this as a personal user, I just looked at my newsfeed and rather than seeing lots of lovely updates about what my friends have done, I'm seeing lots of business updates, I'm invited to some 83 different events at the moment, some of which I have no interest in whatsoever, why did they invite me? I know I can change my settings and change what is shown but I'm feeling dissatisfied and turned-off of Facebook.

It's been so successful and worked so well, for a time, that it is now crowded, noisy and just UNCOOL! I'm saying this despite the fact it has helped me so much in my business and even helped me to run a very successful campaign to increase the profits and profiles of local independent businesses, through SHOCK Cash Mobs.

My original view that it is addictive and a drain on your time still stands true but I feel I've had a reluctant love affair with the Facebook beast and now it's time to find something different because conversely, what was working for my business on Facebook isn't so powerful anymore. The dilution of each post becomes more apparent, each time we crowd our Facebook connections with inappropriate invites and randomly add them to new groups that we don't even really know if they have an interest in.

So, yes, I'm admitting it, I AM BORED WITH FACEBOOK! I feel jaded and worn out with it. That exciting ping as I'm notified of an invitation to a local event, has deadened into an unwelcome thud, a drain on my resources, as I decline again and again, or can't decide between 10 great events in one day.

Then there is the responsibility of being a publisher, each and everyone of us is publishing when we press that 'post' button and sometimes the decision to post something that seems informative, can actually just stir up anxiety and Chinese whispers style speculation.

Facebook has maybe become the red topped, tabloid equivalent of the social media world, loads of people love that style of journalism. I don't.

What do you think?

15 April 2013

#Hugasana: Raising Awareness of Autism Project

What a Beautiful and Inclusive Idea...

+Cathy Underwood has come up with a fabulous campaign to promote awareness of Autism on her Facebook page for Yoga4Mums.

It's simple and beautiful and encourages an all embracing attitude to anyone on the Autistic Spectrum.

As Cathy herself explains,

'It's Autism Awareness Month and to celebrate diversity, hope, understanding and love we have launched a campaign to collect 'Hugasana' photographs from around the world.'

So, please send in your interpretation of the 'Hugasana' pose and help Cathy build her amazing collection of photographs that are starting to come in from around the world.

Watch the video above to get some inspiration and post your 'Hugasana' pictures, here.

Many Thanks to Brigitta Scholz for donating the stunning images in the above video! 

30 March 2013

Is #Suspended #Coffee a Good Idea?


The post below was created on March 30th and I have been updating the story, with dated entries below.

However, I know that many of us might not have enough time to read this whole article, all the way down to the most important bit, so I'm putting the most important bit, here, right at the top.


We are very pleased to say that thanks to the Suspended Coffee post that went viral on Facebook, we have pledged to connect with London's only FREE homeless shelter, that is open ALL year round, Shelter From The Storm

We are encouraging you to donate any money that you might have spent on buying a Suspended Coffee to Shelter From The Storm, instead.

It's very easy and you know that the whole amount will be going directly to the cause. 

Shelter From The Storm tell us,
'We promise that your £2, the price of a cup of coffee, will go directly to providing food and drink to London's homeless.'

Please help them to help our homeless by texting CAFE13£2 to 70070.

ORIGINAL POST, March 30th:-

Is #Suspended #Coffee a Good Idea?

Suspended Coffee?

What's the BIG Idea?

The idea is that you can walk into any coffee shop, buy an extra coffee, a 'suspended coffee' and then that 'suspended coffee' isn't made but kept in reserve, for when a homeless person walks in, they can then say, 'Is there a suspended coffee here, please?' Then if there is they can have a free coffee that's already been paid for, by another member of the community.


This post has gone viral all over Facebook and people are loving the concept, it really pulls at their heart strings and you'd think that coffee shop owners and large chains would be rushing to support it wouldn't you?

They do NOT! But why NOT? When it seems like such a brilliant idea, an idea that pumps money into the coffee shop, makes people that pay for the coffee feel good and gives a little help to a homeless soul.


So is my partner and Co-Founder Gunter Hollenstein. Gunter and I have often spent many hours discussing the direction of our business, who we are going to help, how we are going to connect with our community, how we can help promote artists, what we can do to help in a crisis situation. How do we support local business? How are we going to help the local economy, how can we run our business more efficiently and greener? Long hours and discussion. 

When we heard about the suspended coffee scheme, we both had the same bitter taste in our mouth and a sadness in our hearts.

People have responded almost hysterically to this idea and in the last five days, I have been asked so many times to support the scheme, that I'm sick of saying no and giving my reasons. So this blog is principally to tell you why, although this idea seems like a good one on the surface, we would NEVER EVER do it.

People in our local community know, our customers and business connections know that we are very kind hearted and soulful in the way we run our business, so how could it be that we are so AGAINST this popular idea?

These are the reasons:

1/ Part of the spirit of owning a coffee shop is that you can pass support onto others when you can, both Gunter and myself enjoy doing that. We are not alone, several other independent Coffee Shop owners agree and I believe that the chains are also against this idea, even though it could potentially boost sales.

2/ I believe most people in coffee shops will give a coffee and a bite to eat, to a homeless person, without such a scheme being in place. We certainly do! Didn't really want to shout about that as I don't want the rest of you dressing up as you think a homeless person might look. Plenty of independents and chains do the same.

3/ That's what truly brings our community together, those little actions, that we don't need to shout about. I feel sorry that I've have had to mention it here, in explanation to my aversion to the 'suspended' coffee scheme. There doesn't need to be a scheme, as you know most people running coffee shops have a really big heart and sense of community. 

 4/ Do you really think that if a homeless person walks into a coffee shop,  they get turned away, if there is no 'suspended coffee'? I've heard of this idea but it doesn't appeal to me...Gunter and I see it as part of the pleasure of owning a coffee shop that if someone can't afford a coffee, they're homeless, destitute, depressed, we can offer them coffee, water, tea, soup and a little snack to take away.

5/ I really, really wouldn't want my customers to pay for what. I seeas quite a spiritual thing. It's because of our customer's support of us and our business,that we have a responsibility to share that success with others that need help in our society. Being in a train station and near to the job centre, we have a few 'regulars' who are homeless and down on their luck. I've tried to help some further by getting St Mungos involved, in certain cases too....but sometimes....it doesn't work. I feel suspended coffees would go against our ethos as a shop, it's something I just could not do. It would feel dirty to get money from someone and make a profit from someone else's misery. We are very firm about right and wrong in our little shop and that to me just feels so wrong. 

6/ Look at how many people support the idea and would pay for those coffees....they are just the same type of person who, if they owned their own coffee shop, would give a free coffee and nibble to eat! It's human nature. 

7/To set up a scheme like this and get everyone to say 'ah' and get them to pay for coffees that they don't know are ever going to be provided stinks of scam and it's not necessary.

8/ Human nature says that the homeless person will get a cuppa.....and funnily enough, that is what the post is proving. There but for the grace of God, go I. I think most of us think like that and treat others how we would like to be treated.

9/ I was homeless for a while, right down at the bottom of the pile....I was lucky enough to be put into disgustingly horrible temporary accommodation...I know, as many of us know that these people are not scum of the earth, to be sneered at, we know any homeless person could be our brother, our mother, our father our sister our son our daughter, or ourselves. These are vulnerable times and we are all close to the edge....

10/ If you truly want to support these individuals, either ask what coffee they would like, and take it to them,.or make sure you visit your independent coffee store more regularly, in the knowledge that most of them would give out coffees upon request and at discretion to homeless people....and that by ensuring these coffee shops are running at a profit because you love them, they will naturally share back the love to the community without shouting about it! Book an appointment with yourself and 9 friends, to meet in your local indepdent coffee shop, buy them all coffees, introduce them to a great business, help the business to thrive, so they can keep trickling down the love and support that you have given, into their community.

That's sustainable!

What Do You Think?

Please let me know, please join in the debate, what do you feel? Please comment here. Can you convince me otherwise? xx

UPDATE APRIL 5th, 2012

Thanks to The Consumerist for their Blog, all about this Blog, which you can read, here.

At least one of the major coffee chains has been reported by a national paper as joining the Suspended Coffee scheme, I'll let you judge whether they have joined the scheme or not by reading the article for yourself, here. 

The great thing about the Suspended Coffee debate is that it has made the coffee industry, including ourselves look at more ways that we can help homeless people, it is something that we all need to look at very hard indeed.

So, we are very pleased to say that thanks to the Suspended Coffee post that went viral on Facebook, we have pledged to connect with London's only FREE homeless shelter, that is open ALL year round, Shelter From The Storm

We are encouraging you to donate any money that you might have spent on buying a Suspended Coffee to Shelter From The Storm, instead.

It's very easy and you know that the whole amount will be going directly to the cause. Shelter From The Storm tell us,

'We promise that your £2, the price of a cup of coffee, will go directly to providing food and drink to London's homeless.'

Please help them to help our homeless by texting CAFE13£2 to 70070.

Thank you for reading this far. If you have any thoughts about this, please join in the debate and comment below.

Karen. xx

Update April 7th

The article by Boughton's Coffee House, below, is the most balanced article that I have seen about Suspended Coffee so far, it quotes from this very blog post above, as well as having quotes from independent coffee shop owners that have taken on the scheme.

Read the Boughton's Coffee House article about Suspended Coffee, here.

We are looking forward to going to visit Shelter from the Storm, very shortly, to see their work.

Thanks to The Londonist, for also picking up on the Suspended Coffee Story and for referring to our blog, in this article, here.

24 March 2013

Low Gi, Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Muffins!

I am so excited! I have finally created a low GI, gluten-free and dairy-free muffin recipe!

These muffins are great for diabetic people, those on a low carbohydrate diet and those that have gluten and dairy intolerances, as well as those that just want to enjoy a healthy, tasty and nutritious snack.

I have just finished one of these muffins and I have to say it's the best tasting gluten and dairy free item that I have ever tasted.

The muffins I chose to make were Blueberry and Banana and I used a brilliant combination of gluten-free flours to create a really fluffy texture. The flour replacements I used were gluten-free flour made from potatoes and rice starches, quinoa flour, ground almonds and gluten-free oats.

The milk I used which was an excellent dairy-free replacement was Rice Dream Original. I have been trying to bake with Coconut Milk but it's been making the cake too dry. We normally use yoghurt in our cakes but as I wanted to make these dairy-free, I substituted unsweetened 100% apple puree, from Biona, instead.

For the sugar, I used a small amount of raw cane sugar, with a low GI Coconut Sugar.

I am so exceptionally pleased with these muffins and feel they are a real break through in my dairy and gluten-free baking.

Hope you can pop by and try some soon.

Please let me know if you have certain foods you can't eat and what kind of cake you'd like us to bake for you, just by commenting here.

Keep happy and healthy. Xx

20 March 2013

What did very small-businesses get from this #Budget13?

Picture by Anne-Marie Sanderson

After the excitement of ITN News coming round and filming us for the budget and our 10 seconds of Prime Time TV, once at 6pm and then again at 6.30pm, let's look at what the budget really brought for small businesses.

1/ £2,000 NI relief

Businesses can claim relief for NI contributions of £500 a year for up to four employees. This is something that the Federation of Small Businesses have fought for and they are really pleased.

However for small business owners, like myself there are already massive financial barriers to employing someone, or even taking on an apprentice. The budget has not changed that situation.

2/ £10,000 threshold before tax.

This could help people feel like they have a few extra pennies for spending in their small, local independent businesses, so this could trickle down to the small business owners.

3/ Corporation Tax brought down by 1%

Some small businesses are run as a Ltd company, so this could help them, many micro businesses are not Ltd and have a different trading style, so this won't help them directly.

That's It!

I'm not an economic expert but they are the only three things that I can find.

So, seeing as the really small businesses of Britain have NOT been particularly highlighted or helped by this budget.....

I pledge to keep up my SHOCK Cash Mob Campaign, to help small businesses boost their profits and profile.

19 March 2013

5 Great Uses for #Yogi #Classic Herbal Teabags!

A teabag is not just a teabag, especially when it is a Yogi Classic teabag.

The Yogi Classic Teabag is an extremely extraordinary teabag indeed. For a start, just the sublime scent of it's warm, comforting spices is incredible, with cloves, cinnamon and ginger intermingling in a delicious dance of aromas as I draw the scent up into my nose....ahhhhhh! Always so comforting, so homely and warming.

The Yogi Tea Classic blend of spices is exceptional above any other spice-blended teabag that I've ever experienced because it has a superbly balanced blend of the herbs, resulting in a sweetness and heat, that I've never experienced in any other spice based product, it is absolutely unique.

So, of course I find other ways of getting to experience this special blend of herbs and spices in my life, beyond what they were intended for as well as, of course, still enjoying an excellent cup of herbal tea, which leads me to first use, for The Yogi Tea Classic Blend Teabag.

1/ An exceptionally fine cup of herbal tea.

Place the bag into a tea cup, preferably a branded 'Yogi' tea glass, actually, just to add to the experience, then pour just boiled water over the bag. Enjoy the steam rising up and breathe in that wonderful mixture of spices but hold it there, don't drink it yet! You must wait the allotted 7 minutes before allowing yourself to take even one sip. I'm not sure what you're meant to do in these 7 minutes, other than wait but hey, it could be a good idea to find out from +Cathy Underwood , Director of +Yoga4mums if there is a special pre-tea drinking Yoga position you could practice in public, without too much embarrassment, whilst you wait for the full flavour of the tea to develop.

The great thing about waiting those 7 minutes is, I find, that the tea is just the right temperature to enjoy and the flavours beautifully infused. The taste of the tea is instantly warming, nurturing, healing and comforting, with a sweetness I can't find in other herbal teas and a full flavour of cinnamon, that feels almost chewy in my mouth. Just wonderful, a simple and pure enjoyment.

2/ Apple Pie in a Tea Cup (Thanks to +Kareen Cox for the name suggestion!)

You get a Yogi Tea Glass, or your normal mug or teacup, pour in some apple juice, then pour that apple juice from the cup into a pan on the hob and gently heat it. When it is hot put the Yogi Classic teabag in and wait until it's the right temperature to drink, again 7 minutes might work here.

We sell this concoction in our shop and it is very popular but you can also take the time, just to make it yourself at home and to enjoy it. For me, it's almost like slurping an apple strudel. what I really love about it is that it's incredibly tasty and yet it is so simple, just apple juice and that special tea bag, no added sugar, nothing else and it is so deliciously YUMMY!

3/ An extremely healthy and tasty breakfast!

This is also served in our shop and is especially good for you, if you are on a gluten-free, or dairy-free diet as we use gluten-free oats and coconut milk. Again, you can make it at home easily. It's a great snack before bedtime as well as for breakfast.

Warm up some coconut milk on the hob and put in the cinnamon tea bag, take away from heat and let the flavours seep out, for around 5 minutes.

In the meantime, get the gluten-free oats and pour them into a bowl, then pour the spicy warm milk into the bowl but don't let the teabag go in! Put a dollop of sugar free apple puree into the oats and swirl around.

It is so delicious and nutritious, I love food that tastes good and is good for you!

4/ Clothes Sachets.

Yes, hang those little teabags up in your wardrobe and not only will your clothes smell warm and spicy but although we humans enjoy the scent, moths do NOT like it at all! Result, sweet scented, moth-free clothes!

5/ Car Scent! 

This idea was suggested by Roz Lishak of Character Bakes! You could make a delicate little thing out of material, maybe a heart-shape or something and then put that yummy Yogi Tea Bag in. Imagine how much easier it would be to deal with other people's rubbish driving when you have that calming smell in the car, everything in the world would seem right, wouldn't it and then it would all slip off, like water off a duck's back! Sigh.

And once you've finished with all those tea bags you've been using, don't waste them put them on the compost heap!

Yogi Tea Bags, Coconut Milk, Apple Puree and Gluten-Free Oats are all available to buy in our shop. Yogi Tea glasses are free with every purchase of two packets of Yogi Tea.

Try to get to us before +Garry kousoulou , as he is a Classic Yogi Tea fiend!

Please let me know your thoughts by commenting underneath.

And if you liked this article please share your discovery with others by Tweeting, Facebooking or Google Plussing. Thank you.xxx

18 March 2013

#Budget2013 Small Business Wishes

Many business owners believe that they need money to grow, or expand their business in the form of loans but I believe that can easily put more pressure onto the business, especially when the cheap interest rates that should be available are just not passed onto us when we buy a loan but are only passed onto us, when we want to try and save our money.

So, I don't think throwing money at small businesses and causing more debt and bigger expenses is the way through these difficult economic times, I believe that we must use the resources that have been created by these circumstances.

What resources are these?

1/ Empty Spaces.

Leaving shops empty, or sticking pictures of pretend businesses over the windows, does not help to create a cohesive community.

Either make these spaces into homes or free business spaces.

The budget needs to enable councils to let entrepreneurs, local groups, volunteers and so on use these empty spaces by brokering a deal between the landlords and the potential tenants, where the tenants have to leave as soon as a long term tenant appears.The councils have the contact details of the landlords, as these are the ones that would have to pay the business rates, when the property is empty, after a certain time.

Business rates need to be brought back to zero for these temporary tenants, for 6 months, after that time, they should have enough idea of whether the business is sustainable or not.

2/ People

There are now several people that unhappily have no work but would be willing to learn and to work but how can small businesses employ them, when keeping the business sustainable and cashflow healthy in these times is a balancing act in itself? Why not match these people and their talents and desires to apprenticeships, or job roles that suit them and they still get paid unemployment benefit or the business receives funding directly for this job creation, the small business doesn't have to pay but the person that's looking for work with be contributing to a small, local business and in turn, helping to regenerate the local economy.

There are apprenticeship schemes at the moment but they mainly target young school leavers, rather than unemployed people, also the business is not given the money directly and has to wait for it to be paid to them after laying it out.


Come on! It's obvious, if the parking charges are so high and people can't just park for half an hour, pop in and buy something, then people are not going to use the shops in the town centre. Parking charges have to go completely, or the charges must be very much reduced, what about 20p for each 30 minutes.

If people spend their money on the parking they can't spend it in the shop. Parking costs more than a coffee these days, how rubbish is that for a business like mine!

4/ VAT

The tax for the end user. My business is not the end user but still has to pay large amounts of VAT, as our turnover is not high enough to register, not paying the VAT on their rent would be an amazing help for small businesses like ours. No one wants the extra time and hassle in registering to be a VAT business if they don't have to and people need to be encouraged to spend, the public need to have more pennies in their pockets. I've heard about the concept of helicopter money, where lots of extra money is printed up and then thrown out of a helicopter but then the value goes down and you can buy less with it because there is more about. So instead of helicopter money, why not slash the VAT back to 10% or maybe even 5%, reward those in business by giving them bigger margins to play with and reward those that are still spending, by making things more affordable! If less people are buying because the VAT makes it too expensive, then bringing the VAT right down, should increase sells and reverse the trend to stagnate.

5/ CashFlow

3 month credit terms need to be made illegal. All small businesses must legally be paid within 14 days if they agree to giving credit. No large businesses should ever be able to get away with waiting 3 months before paying and this includes councils.

More From Me:

Whatever the budget brings, I'm sure that with our optimistic way of looking at things we will see the positive in any perceived negative and whatever happens on Wednesday we will continue in our campaign to help small, local, independent businesses not just to survive but to thrive!

#IFE13 Show Highlights for an Independent Coffee and Healthfood shop owner!

My 5 Top Products at The International Food and Drink Event at the Excel Centre, 2013.

The five following products are the ones that interested me the most at the show and I'd be very pleased and proud to stock them in my shop. Discovering the products is only half the journey though, as a small independent company we have to work together with the producer and our wholesalers, to see if we can get the product delivered in the small batches we require, as we have the minimum of display space and we need to keep our cashflow healthy and our business sustainable.

Top 5 Products

1/Quinotto by Urcupac. Stand N3555a
Did you know that 2013 has been declared International Year of Quinoa by the UN? And quite rightly so, quinoa is a fantastic replacement food for those carbohydrate laden foods such as rice, pasta and potatoes. The product is pre-washed, which makes it more convenient than usual and the range of different mixes uses only natural ingredients with out an e-number, flavour enhancer, or yeast additive in sight.
At the stand, I tasted a most delicious mushroom style one and it was so delicious I really did want to grab the whole terracotta bowl and eat it all by myself!
I want to stock this product in the retail/healthfood section of my shop, as I believe it is a convenient, easy way to enjoy a food that is extremely good for celiacs, diabetics and healthy eating addicts.

2/ tingz by Peppersmith. Stand N1465 
An innovative, new product that has won the show's award for Best New Confectionary/Snack.
The Award Winning Peppersmith, N1465
Personally, I don't believe in selling sweets, a bit of licorice is ok but I just cannot bring myself to stock pure sugar confectionary. Perhaps it's because my Dad was a Dentist, perhaps it's because I have a great sense of responsibility for our customers. On a personal level, I think sweets are nasty things that should never be given to children, especially not mine, however, I have just allowed my two children to nosh their way through these. The marketing leaflet tells me, 'Seriously good for teeth.' So that's one concern out of the way. They are actually seriously tasty too and I stood talking at the stand for ages, just so that I could keep popping these Strawberry and Vanilla flavoured delights into my mouth. There's also an Orange and Mandarin flavour too.

The presentation box is eye-catching and the two monster characters, one of which is named Floyd are very endearing. I reckon adults and children will enjoy this product, I'm so confident about this, I took the unusual step of ordering some for the shop, right away.

3/ Dark Chocolate with Clove by Zaabär. Stand N3440c
What a beautifully presented stand, with tastefully wrapped slabs of chocolate in a pearly, grey packet, with a name label wrapped around the middle. The unique thing about this product is an exceptionally long shelf life, due to the special foil wrapping and the amazing range of flavours, in their purest form. In front of each row of wrapped chocolate bars are cute silver tins, with chunks of the chocolate inside and silver tongs by the side, with which to take a sample. Some examples of the unusual combinations were dark chocolate with Lavender, or with Thyme, or even with licorice. What I enjoyed was the simplicity of balancing the taste of one herb with the extraordinary taste of the beautifully made Belgium chocolate.
Dark Chocolate with Clove and lots of tasters to try, Zaabar, Stand N3440c

Going to that stand and being allowed to sample all those delicious chunks of flavours was the stuff dreams are made of, in fact, when I'm an old lady in a rocking chair looking back on my life, that's one of the experiences I shall live and relive again.

It's very unusual to taste a chocolate that successfully combines a winter spice flavour, it always, always sounds better than it tastes, however, the Dark Chocolate with Clove that I discovered on this stand really, really worked. So scrummingly spicy, so much so, that my cheeks blushed, mixed in my mouth with the bitter, earthy notes of the chocolate. My tastebuds couldn't believe the way the flavours interplayed with each other on my tongue, the sweet, the bitter, the texture all intermingling to produce something as close to an orgasm, as you can get standing in an exhibition hall, in public!

I do apologise to the stand owners, if you run out of the Dark Chocolate with Clove, I did sample much more than my fair share.

I believe the only way they could encourage me to go away was to give me my own bar to take home.
I would like to place a small order of this product, I know it's not the massive order of their dreams but I know that where the independents lead, the others will follow.

4/ Coco Mojo by Coco Mojo Ltd. Stand N1606
This is exactly what I mean about functional food. It's actually a drink but it's so full of good stuff that you'd be foolish not to drink it. Between you and I, I absolutely hate the taste and smell of coconuts, so when they offered me a taste of this drink at their stand, I had imaginations of not being able to swallow it and having nowhere to spit it out, I could just imagine the look on my face putting anyone passing by off visiting the stand entirely.

Luckily, they gave me a carton to try at home. It's a combination of coconut milk, coconut water, tropical fruits and botanical herbs and it's the best coconut water based drink I have tried so far. It has a creamy, smooth taste, with a herby zing.

I can see this selling well, standing in my fridge by the coconut water that we already stock. It's a real crossover drink that will appeal to both adults and children, with lots of natural energy, hydration and immune-boosting properties.

It's a brand new product just being launched at the IFE Show now, when it becomes available, we hope to be one of the first stockists.

5/ Dark Chocolate covered Golden Berries by Pacari Chocolate. Stand N3555
Beautifully packaged in a cute box, which protects the product and makes it a great little gift too.
The covering chocolate is dark and hard as you bite into it, cracking open to reveal a sweet and sharp tasting, chewy centre, which is actually the very nutritious, Golden Berry.

A really unusual tasting product, which I feel would fit well on our shelves and I hope to be able to arrange a small order.

Best Stand Display

Honeybuns' beautiful stand N1113

Honeybuns Stand N1113
This stand is so beautifully presented with teapots hanging across and wooden spoons and retro styled packaging and the cutest little string of bunting I've ever seen. The Director works closely with her brother's coffee shop, to see what point of sale is effective and uses that knowledge to develop excellent point of sale support for their customers. Their stand is visual proof that it works, it's absolutely gorgeous and supports their brand of homebaked, gluten-free cakes, with no compromise on taste. We already stock one of their products but having seen the strength of their point of sale material, are thinking of stocking a few more of their lines. Their Brownies are particularly delectable.

Best Stand

Olives Et Al. Stand N1319
I'd love to stock olives in our shop, as a snack but we just don't have the room for a great selection of olives for people to try and then buy. Maybe we need to get an olive shop in the future! But in the meantime, on a personal level, I love this stand.

They are generous with the tastings and allow you to help yourself with no pressure, which is great for building up the product presence at the show and developing a relationship with potential purchasers, even if as a member of the public, rather than a professional stocking up. I was honest with the ladies on the stand and said I wouldn't be able to stock their product but on a personal level, I think they do the best olives ever. I am passionate about olives and can rarely be friends with someone that does not also enjoy the taste of olives. I think people that enjoy olives are often eccentric and just my kind of people. So, this of course was my top, personal favourite stall of the show. Those smooth, shiny olives, so gorgeously good for me and full of protein. My top tastes from this stand were the shiny little black ones from Australia with a sweet raisin taste and fleshy meat, the bright green ones, nutty and buttery flavour and then the little sun blushed cherry tomatoes, sweet, juicy and a slightly sharp, clean after taste.

Olives Et Al at Stand N1319

If you visited The International Food and Drink Event 2013, please let me know your highlights by commenting here. If you're going to the show, or exhibiting at the show, ENJOY! xxx

15 January 2013

Google+ Communities

Google+ Communities Breakthrough Development...

Towards the end of 2012, Google+ released a new development called Communities, it looked interesting to me and it looked powerful but I didn't 'get it' straight away. I've 'Got it' now and I will explain why it will also help you to target your messages more effectively and efficiently and why it will be easier for your connections to pick out the communications that they want to see, thus cutting down on all the noise that can be present on Facebook Groups.

It's Very Easy...

Normally, if I have a project/campaign that I want to support and promote, I'd quickly build a website on Moonfruit and grab a domain name....job done....oh and get a Twitter profile and a Facebook page for the campaign, then put those live feeds on the website.....I was just about to do the same little scenario with SHOCK Cash Mob, which is my initiative to support local and independent businesses across the UK. I have got a very unfinished website, got the domain name....I've got a group page for SHOCK Cash Mob on Facebook and then I heard about Google + Communities. So, I thought I'd have a go at setting one up and I've just realised that from the structure of it, it can act like a very easily made website, with no programming or fiddly bits required.

Powerful Tool...

In Google+ Communities, you can have various sections, so you can focus on each message you are trying to say and members can filter out unwanted 'noise' by just choosing to go to the section they want to go to.

I find it a really logical progression. For instance on Facebook Groups, certain messages stay up at the top because they are the popular ones but it might be that you are looking for something more specialised and specific than the posts that are up at the top.

If you already have a Facebook Group imagine having the facility to be able to compartmentalise posts, so that people can find what they want really easily.

Take a Look...

Visit my SHOCK Cash Mob UK Community on Google+ and you'll be able to look at Press in one section, for instance and look at Business and Shop suggestions in another section, which means that as well as other's messages coming over more powerfully, you'll also be able to target your message more effectively too.

I feel very excited about this new development and can't wait to work on my new Google+ Group and turn it into a forum where people can interact on every page but with a simple website structure, within the forum, almost like an internet, within the internet.

If you are interested in how you can use Google+ Communities to connect with 'Your Tribe', then please take a look at my community and if you want to support local and independent businesses, then please join the community, which you can find here.

If you have your own Google+ Community, then please post the link to it in the comments section. Thank you. x

2 January 2013

Google+ Mentions in Blogs!

Google+ Is Growing!

If you are not on Google+ already, you might find that you need to get onto it NOW! This social media platform is becoming stronger day by day and the developers keep coming up with surprising and simple little twists that increase Google+'s attractiveness as a platform to engage in.

Mention Google+ People, Easily!

Their newest twist is to make it ever so easy to 'tag' or 'mention' people that are on google+, in your Blogger blog!

You Can Tag Pages and People...

Look, if I put this, +My Coffee Stop it brings up our Google+ page, in a little box to the side when you hoover over it and you can put our page into one of your circles!!

So, seeing as you are probably trying this out right now, these are the kind of circles that I suggest you put us in:

Healthy Living
Independent Coffee Shops
Herbal Tea
Social Media
Cash Mobs
North London
Great Britain
Meeting place

And a few more that you can decide for yourself!

Oh and if I do this, +Karen Mercer you can now see my personal profile on Google+.

Is 2013 Google+'s Year?

Well, to me it looks like it could be!  +John Salmon is right when he says that it looks like we won't be able to avoid getting involved in Google+, in his post on The Ideas Station, Facebook group. Another good friend of mine, +Sleeping Menace, was talking to me about the growing phenomena that is Google+, just the other day!

I've yet to have a natter with my friend +Garry kousoulou about this yet but I have a feeling, that he will agree. I'd love you to comment on this post Garry!

Find Out More...

If you want to read in more detail, what this is all about, then read this!

Tell Me More...

I feel very excited by this new development. How do you feel?

Please let me know by posting your comment here.

Looks like 2013 could at last be the year that Google+ wins the social media battle. Let's see.