Put A Label On It

Put a label on it 4

Putting a label on things used to be bad. The 90s were interesting that way. We wanted to have a DTR, “Defining the Relationship Talk”, but because we thought labels were so bad we made fun of the fact we had a label for it. . Then we got into slogans, mantras and mottos for people, products and places. Now it seems like everything has a label on it. I hadn’t even noticed, but then the other day I was out shopping and bought instant soup. There were two kinds of powdered instant soup and one kind said, “Made with responsibly grown New Zealand pumpkins.” Can you guess which soup packets I bought? Yes, I bought the reconstituted pumpkin with maltodexin thickener, sugar, creamer, glucose syrup and hydrolyzed corn protein. I felt good too, until I realized how ridiculous that was. I mean what does responsibly grown even mean? On top of that, it is powdered soup so does that even make it taste better? Does anything make powdered soup taste better? I guess in the end I am really happy for those pumpkins because they were raised well. The label did make me feel better though. It made me feel better long enough to pick up two packets of that soup and bring it home.
After I thought about how silly my responsibly grown pumpkin soup was, I started to wonder how many labels were on things in my house. I found quite a few. My lotion says, “Gentle formula for sensitive skin.” Our peanut butter said, “Never oily, always smooth.” I am not sure how on earth peanut butter is ever not oily. My tomato sauce says, “No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives”, but it lists sugar and food acid as main ingredients. My brownie mix says, “premium brownie mix.” Any time you put premium on a mix I PUT A LABEL ON IT 2think a chuckle is deserved. My coffee has a fair trade logo on it but I will be honest and say that I don’t know exactly what the details are of why one product is allowed to put fair trade on it and another product isn’t. Is it actually a fair product which helps people in need or does it just make me feel less guilty? Does it make me feel like I have done my part without actually researching what I am putting in my pantry? I found a drink mix online and its slogan was, “There is love in every cup.” It also said, “Australian Brand.” I am not sure that love is something I can taste, contrary to what pop culture might tell me. Also, being an Australian brand doesn’t actually guarantee that the product is made, packaged or grown here.
Now if you think I am getting snarky, well maybe I am, but my point is not that the products may be misleading us, but that we like to read those things on our products. We buy those things for our house and feel just a put a label on it 3little better, maybe we even feel a little healthier because someone wrote five words on a plastic bottle.  Maybe you don’t, maybe it is just me and my premium brownie mix but I felt good about that too. I may buy brownie mix instead of making brownies from scratch but gosh darn it is premium brownie mix. It says so right there on the box. My zip lock bags have, “Secure lock guaranteed”, printed on the front. I don’t know for sure that they work better than the other brand but I sure do like it when someone prints guaranteed on the front of something. My dishwashing liquid is apparently, “safe for hands and for the environment.”  I am not a scientist, so I have to trust that the label on that dishwashing liquid actually means what it seems to say.
Some of those labels mean something so I don’t think we should do away with labels all together, no matter what the 90s taught me. I just think we have to be really careful about letting the labels make us feel better about the kind of person we are. Do I feel like I am a better person because I have a label on the soup in my pantry which says the pumpkins are responsibly grown? Does the fair trade label on my coffee encourage me to feel superior?  Sometimes we just let it makePut a label on it 1 us feel healthier. My soup must be healthier because it says the pumpkins are responsibly grown. I let that label make me think that, even if only for a short while. I think marketing companies are talented and I think sometimes I am silly. I do not think you will see me reading the back of every product in the grocery store, but if you have time to do that then more power to you.  I don’t think you should put the fair trade coffee back and go home and research the fair trade stipulations on the internet before you purchase coffee again. I would be in real trouble if I suggested that, because I can’t make sense out of the written word until I have had my coffee in the morning. I just think we need to buy what we buy without thinking it changes the person we actually are. No matter what those labels say it does not make me healthier. I am an exercise-hating, chocolate eating and coffee-drinking booklover and no amount of responsibly grown pumpkins is going to change that.

Pretty Pinterest

If you haven’t discovered  yet, you are in for a treat! It is a virtual pinboard where you can organise and share beautiful things you find on the web. People use it for all sorts of reasons. Here at Stacey College we are collecting images of every country in the world. So far we have a board for 60 countries… only about 133 to go!

We also have boards for collecting language learning resources for English, Mandarin, Malaya and Indonesian.

Then just for fun we have “Christmas around the world” and “Weddings around the world”.

Check us out at– but be careful, you might just get hooked on pinning too!

Digital Natives & Dinosaurs

Whether we are in the digital age or the post digital age makes no difference if you are a dinosaur. What you need to do is find yourself a native who can show you around the new land.

If you have children you’ll know how intuitively they seem to interact with technology. Not only do they know how to work all your current technology, but the minute you bring home something new they will be able to figure out how to use it. A little humility goes a long way for the dinosaur who, with a younger mentor, can soon adapt and learn the digital ways.

So why even bother with the whole social media thing? A few stats to persuade you…(from Deloitte Social Media Report 2012)

Australian social media users:

13 Million Facebook (who spend approx. 8.8 hours per week)

11 Million You Tube

3.8 Million Blogspot

1.6 Million WordPress

2 Million LinkedIn

1.8 Million Twitter

13 Million facebook users in a population of 22 million is rather a significant number.

And that is why Deloitte says “YOU CAN’T IGNORE IT. JOIN IN.”

You don’t have to look far to see the effects of DIGITAL DISRUPTION in the marketplace. Industries to be disrupted include music, entertainment, retail, advertising, education…

The more you get on board the digital revolution the less likely you are going to be left behind, or wake up to your methods or product suddenly obsolete.

So where do you start?

Start with something fun! Do you like talking – try twitter. Do you like keeping in touch with people – try facebook. Photos – Instagram. Learning – blogs or check out TED talks. Organising (or looking at pretty things) – Pinterest Presentations – prezi Making movies – You Tube 

Once you start learning how to use one thing, it makes it easier to learn the next. Before you know it you’ll be helping other dinosaurs adapt to the digital age.

What is this blog all about?

I guess this should have been my first blog, but it has taken me a while to get clear in my head what this blog is for. I think I have finally figured it out. If you have read any of my blog you will know that I am in the process of starting up a new small business – Stacey College. This blog is part of the social media presence of Stacey College. Quite distinct from the website – it is not actually aimed at potential students, other than in lifting the profile of the college, and increasing hits to the website. This blog is for me – the Stacey College director. I have decided that I will write this blog through the start up phase of the college, until we begin classes in February 2013. On a very practical level it is very difficult to blog about a college that does not exist yet. I wanted a blog – so I thought I would write about what is happening. And as I have gone along, I have realised, that not only does blogging, much like a diary, sharpen my thinking, but it is connecting me to a whole community of business support out there in cyberspace.

So What is this blog all about? This blog is about a 35 year old woman, who is starting a business for the first time, being a director of an International English College for the first time, and learning all about social media and how it can be utilized to help establish and grow her business.

Now that is clear I can summarize what I will be writing about from here on:
(1) Me and my experiences of starting a business.
(2) Small business theory and practice
(3) Marketing (especially social media marketing)
(4) Women in business
(5) Western Australia
(6) English Language courses, teaching and colleges.

So now I know what I’m doing (more so than at the beginning), I look forward to connecting to others in the blogosphere who are passionate and knowledgeable about these areas, and anyone else who is interested in reading what I write.

Reading about Business

Here are some books that I have read recently and enjoyed related to starting a small business.

6 Secrets to Start Up Success: How to turn your entrepreneurial passion into a thriving business. John Bradberry, New York, 2011

Great to start thinking of myself as a entrepreneur (and also learning how to spell it!). Helpful to learn a few things from people who have done the start up thing before me.

How to organise & operate a small business in Australia (10th Edition), John English, 2006.

It’s so hard to find good books by Australians but this is one of them. Obviously other people agree with me as it’s in it’s 10th edition. Being by an Australian means that all the links and organisations it mentions are directly relevant to me. A great book to have on the shelf as a resource. Other websites who also recommend this book:
Community Cultural Development in Australia
Danielle MacInnis

Small business, big opportunity: winning the right customers through smart marketing and advertising, Rob Harnett & Sensis, 2006.

I read this book while I was organising the logo, website and marketing design. It was really helpful in helping to understand the industry jargon and get a handle on what I wanted to achieve out of marketing and how to go about it. This can be downloaded for free here.

Online marketing: a user’s guide, Murray Newlands, 2011.

This book grew out of a blog – a bit of encouragement to all us bloggers out there. By the way – did you know that wordpress estimates that 120 000 new blogs are started everyday. So if you’re not getting much traffic (like me) don’t despair – the competition is fierce – but the drop out rate is also high. So the longer we hang in there, the greater the chance of winning readers and gaining a presence on the web. Back to the book – it is a helpful introduction to all things online marketing in a easy read fashion. This seems to be a growing area (that of online or social media marketing support). One thing to keep in mind is that the book needs to be new as this area is changing so rapidly all the time.

Social media marketing for digital photographers, Lawrence Chan, 2012.

This covers a lot of the same material as Newlands, just with more of a focus on the photography side of things. Up to date, helpful with a quirky sense of humour which makes it a little more readable. Chan is also a blogger (aren’t we all these days). Being a bit of a photographer, and recognising the power of the image, I found this book good to help me think about how to improve my use of images in marketing.

I hope you find this list helpful. I will continue to share other books as I come across them that I think small business start ups might appreciate. Please feel free to recommend good books that you have read to me. These books were all found at my local library. This demonstrates my good financial management (not spending money on books when I can get them from the library for free) which is important as bad financial management is the main reason for 1st year failure in small businesses as all the books will tell you!