Celebrating a London institution – Trotters turns 25!

If you live in Kensington, Chelsea, Notting Hill, Fulham, Battersea, Clapham, Shepherd’s Bush or anywhere near those areas, the chances are, you’ve been to Trotters.

For as long as I can remember, Trotters has been around. It was the only place that I would have my hair cut without screaming bloody murder (when I was under 8 years old I hasten to add!) and it’s always been the kind of place that parents and children are equally happy to spend time in.

Not surprisingly, Trotters has been incredibly successful and they are soon to be celebrating their 25th birthday. On Saturday 26th September from 11am-5pm, Trotters will be hosting a party at Duke of York Square. Unfortunately I can’t go as I have a wedding to attend but for all of those who will be in the area, don’t miss it!

Trotters 25th BOKAC

Here is what Trotters had to say about the event:

“As a thank you to loyal customers, Trotters are throwing a big party for children and their families to come and celebrate their 25 years. Activities on the day will include a petting zoo and pony rides, a Victorian carousel, cookery classes, live music and children’s performances, a baking and biscuit decorating competition with Partridges, entertainers by G&O Parties, face painting with Galt, posh hot dogs from Manicomio, ice creams, candy floss, traditional fete stalls, Harper Collins storytelling and book signing by some of Trotters favourite children’s authors, an arts & crafts area and a quiet corner for mummies in need of some pampering by the team at Liz Earle…and much more! For more information visit: http://www.trotters.co.uk/trotters-25-birthday/

With support from local businesses and retailers Trotters will be donating all proceeds on the day to one of their chosen charities Place2Be, who provide much needed school-based mental health support to children across the UK and for whom The Duchess of Cambridge is patron. To read more about Place2Be visit: http://www.trotters.co.uk/charity/

We look forward to seeing you there!”

Pony rides, candy floss and Liz Earle – oh my!  #TROTTERSTURNS25

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#SummerTimeOut Pick of the week – Food glorious food! (markets)

This is our last #SummerTimeOut pick of the week post and think I have saved the best to last. The food markets dotted around London are one of my favourite things about this city. What better way is there to catch up with a friend or spend some quality time alone then to potter along rows of stalls run by independent (and usually incredibly friendly) business owners selling delicious food and drink?

There are far too many to list in one post (quick shout out to Herne Hill Market which is also great) so here are a few of our favourites:

Borough Market

Image taken from the Borough Market blog

Image taken from the Borough Market blog

It is no coincidence that our second branch, Babysitters of Southwark (opening in September) is for families in South and South East London, including those in Bermondsey where Borough Market is! This has got to be the king of food markets. Whether you’re looking for cheese, paella, curry, vegetable juices, brownies the size of your head, pulled pork sandwiches or granola – they’ve got you covered. Go hungry because it’s an excellent place to have lunch before you pick up something sweet for the journey home. Borough Market is also circled by many wonderful cafes and restaurants including Monmouth Coffee and Elliot’s Cafe (in my opinion the best burger in London but they only debut on weekdays at lunchtime).

Portobello Road

Taken from  'Shop Portobello'

Taken from ‘Shop Portobello’

If you’re not all that interested in food (in which case i’m not sure we have a lot in common) then Portobello Road will keep your foodie friends happy while you get lost amongst antiques, jewellery, leather bags, paintings, postcards, clothes, pocket watches and pretty much anything else you can think of. Portobello Road is a complete tourist hot spot and only crops up on Saturday’s (there are some food stalls open during the rest of the week though) so get there early to avoid the crowds. If your feet are aching after a long day of browsing then treat yourself to a red velvet cupcake from Hummingbird Bakery before curling up in a luxurious red velvet chair at the Electric Cinema.

Duke of York Square Market

Image from The Blimey Blog

Image from The Blimey Blog

If you’re looking for a much more serene version of Portobello Road, this little gem pops up on Duke of York Square (nestled into the King’s Road) every Saturday. One of my favourite things to do is to buy some sushi rolls from Aki Maki (in fact, I mentioned them in my interview with Sloane Square Magazine at the beginning of this year) followed by a coffee and a cannoli from Casa Cannoli to eat on the grass in front of the Saatchi Gallery (particularly nice when it’s not raining…but don’t count on this!). The Saatchi Gallery is free to enter and a wonderful place to wander around and work off those pistachio treats.

We’re only just getting in to August so with the rest of this month and September (my favourite month) still ahead, I hope you can all find some time for yourself and enjoy some #SummerTimeOut!

Thank you so much to Vicky for running such a fantastic campaign. The lucky winner of our #SummerTimeOut competition was Fiona Armstrong who has won a free BOKAC babysitting appointment – congratulations Fiona and thanks for entering!

#SummerTimeOut Pick of the week – The pub!

Hurrah, the sun has made an appearance! I don’t mean to panic you, but as we can’t be sure how long it will stick around for, I’m going to start planning some al fresco drinks and meals asap!

Living in West or South West London means being spoilt for choice when it comes to pubs with beautiful outdoor spaces. Below are some of my favourite spots for a glass of Pimms over the weekend or a cheeky mid-week burger:

The Devonshire Arms (Kensington)

Image from 'Fancy A Pint'

Image from ‘Fancy A Pint’

Since it’s slightly away from the madness of High Street Kensington, you might describe this place as a hidden gem if it weren’t for the pretty substantial beer garden at the front which entices passers-by. Monday’s are ‘beer and burger’ night (£10 for a pint and a burger) and the inside is cool and airy (they recently redecorated) in case you can’t nab a table outside. Find out more here or visit 37 Marloes Rd, London W8 6LA (between High Street Kensington or Earl’s Court tube stations)

The Windsor Castle (Notting Hill)

Image from 'Londontown' (looks much better in real life)

Image from ‘Londontown’ (looks much better in real life)

This pub has the seasonal X-Factor in that it is popular all year round. In Winter, the low doorways, cosy nooks and rustic furniture make the place feel snug and cosy. In Summer however, the garden is where it’s at. A gigantic (by Central London standards) area at the back complete with its own bar (sometimes). The food is also very good and it’s a favourite with the locals of Notting Hill. Find out more here or visit 114 Campden Hill Road, London, W8 7AR (between High Street Kensington and Notting Hill Gate tube stations).

The Queen Adelaide (Putney)

Take from The Queen Adelaide website

Take from The Queen Adelaide website

I rarely make the trip to Putney but when I do, it’s usually to come to The Queen Adelaide. This place really sings in Summer thanks to their humongous garden and fantastic Sunday roasts. Book a table and get there at the beginning of lunchtime because I have been known to wait over an hour for my food. However, the crisp white wine and Bloody Mary’s more than help to pass the time! Find out more here or visit 35 Putney Bridge Road, London, SW18 1NP (between East Putney tube or Wandsworth Town station).

I know everyone will have their personal favourites when it comes to the Great British past time of whiling away the afternoon in a pub so I’d love to know where your hot spots are?

#SummerTimeOut Pick of the week

I’m writing this on a grey, drizzly, muggy morning – you’ve got to love London in July!

Despite the post-Wimbledon gloom, I’ve got high hopes for sunshine next week so this is a good time to take stock of the places I want to make a trip to this Summer. I’m starting with one of my favourite spots in London and somewhat of a hidden gem – Holland Park.

Nicknamed ‘the back garden’ for many of the pedigree pooches of Kensington and Notting Hill, Holland Park is an excellent place to escape the hustle and bustle of West London and enjoy some #SummerTimeOut.

Image from 'What's On In London'

Image from ‘What’s On In London’

Although many local families will already be familiar with the park due to the playgrounds and mountain of kid’s activities which take place there, it also has lots on offer for mums and dads looking to relax.

A must see are the beautiful Kyoto Gardens, arguably one of the most tranquil spots in London.

If you’re feeling fancy, book tickets to the opera and treat yourself to dinner at the Belvedere Restaurant.

The beautiful Belvedere Restaurant, smack bang in the middle of the park

The Ice House Gallery, which is tucked away behind the cafe (also a lovely spot for a cup of tea and/or an ice cream) is a tiny art gallery which changes hands every few months and is always worth a look.

Otherwise, Holland Park can’t be beaten when I’m in the mood for a quiet stroll. It’s small enough to be able to walk around in about 40 minutes, with lots of sheltered walkways which make it feel incredibly peaceful. The benches scattered throughout are all dedicated to loved ones and you really get a sense of how important Holland Park is and has been to so many local people and families throughout the years.

So block out a couple of hours for yourself, bring a book or a newspaper or simply lose yourself in thought. You’ll love it.

p.s If the rain holds up, you can always follow them on Twitter: @HollandPark_LDN

Embracing the competition

I was recently contacted by a company who are looking to partner with a number of babysitting agencies. In trying to work out whether this was an attractive proposition to go ahead with, I decided to get in contact with some of the other fantastic babysitting/nannying services in London to see if they had been approached and what their thoughts were.

Starting and running a business is extremely hard work and all-consuming and as a result, people are incredibly protective over their brand/client list/industry (I am certainly guilty of this). However, there are enough factors working against business owners and I don’t think those working in the same field should be one of them. Everyone sets up a business because they feel they have something unique to offer so in theory, there shouldn’t be any fear of treading on toes.

I would correct Shakespeare and say 'Trust until you have a reason not to'

I would correct Shakespeare and say ‘Trust until you have a reason not to’

I’m not saying I would handover my client database but I can certainly see the value in building relationships with and helping those who work in similar industries. A little competition is always healthy and if there was no one else trying to do something similar to BOKAC, I would be extremely worried about what I was missing that had put others off! As the emphasis on relationships and human contact is so crucial, there has not (as yet) been a dominant international resource for parents looking to book a babysitter and for this reason, agencies tend to remain small. However, as the world of online childcare is rapidly expanding, the potential to ‘unionise’ and stand together against any major players who try and enter, is incredibly powerful.

The response I got from the other babysitting agencies was overwhelmingly positive. All were more than happy to help and willing to discuss their thoughts on the partnership proposition. I am delighted that I can now recommend the agencies who specialise in nannying placements (BOKAC specialises in babysitting requirements primarily but we do get a lot of enquiries from families looking for a full-time nanny) to parents as I have previously only been able to respond unhelpfully.

Just kidding...!

Just kidding…!

Does your company or the company you work for embrace its competitors and can you share any success stories as an example? If so, i’d love to hear from you: acameron@bokac.co.uk.

Banana & Peanut Butter Pancakes

I know pancake day was yesterday but to me, that occasion calls for either fluffy American pancakes or crepes – the real deal.

However, a friend of mine made these babies for me a couple of weeks ago and they were super easy to make and absolutely delicious! So if you’re feeling a little guilty after a Nutella/sugar overload, why not give them a go for an almost guilt-free treat (whether it’s half-term or not):

Image not taken from this recipe!

Image not taken from this recipe!

Serves: 4 people (or 1 if you’re not feeling generous)

Ingredients

4 bananas

4 eggs

1 tsp cinnamon

1 heaped tablespoon of smooth peanut butter (or you could try almond or cashew nut butter)

2 tsp butter (or coconut oil)

Preparation

– Chop the banana and add to a food processor with all the other ingredients except the butter/coconut oil

– Heat a large pan and start to melt the butter/coconut oil

– As the pan heats, blend your ingredients until they form a batter like texture. Taste and add more cinnamon if you wish

– Add the mixture to the pan, creating pancakes that are about 4 inches across. Of course, the bigger the pan the more you can add at one time

– Top with blueberries, yogurt or syrup and start munching!

The original recipe can found here: http://fitterlondon.co.uk/food/banana-peanut-butter-pancakes-with-maple-syrup/

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The Self-Employment Diaries: Day 6

Friday was a tough day. Well actually, that’s not true, Friday was a productive day (see https://babysittersofkc.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/the-self-employment-diaries-day-5/ for details). I reached the end of my first week in self-employment and was feeling elated with how quickly the week had flown by and how relieved I was that I didn’t feel at all lonely or have any doubts about the decision I had made to work on BOKAC full-time.

Friday evening however was stressful. I was on my way to a NEF Alumni dinner (which was great fun by the way, thank you to those who organised it!) and while en route, I was faced with a babysitter who had arrived at an appointment but had a gut instinct that something was off and so told me she could no longer babysit. This has never happened before and led to a very uncomfortable conversation with the parent (who was new to BOKAC) to explain that, as we don’t ‘vet’ our parents in the same way that we vet our babysitters, our policy is that if sitters ever arrive at an appointment and they feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable, they can leave. Quite understandably this parent was not pleased and I was mortified to have left them without a babysitter.

Then a couple of hours later, another babysitter who was booked to babysit twice (once first thing and then again in the evening) the next day, texted to say she had a tummy bug and although very apologetic, would have to cancel. So that was three appointments cancelled in less than 3 hours and one new parent who would almost certainly not want to come back to BOKAC and may even tell all their friends about their dreadful experience.

BOKAC is my pride, passion and my livelihood so I would never complain about having to handle these situations but that doesn’t mean that I don’t find them stressful. I know I need to become more resilient but when it is just me running the business, I can’t help but take these blows personally as well as all the guilt that comes with letting parents down.

However, the only good thing with these set backs (and I’m pleased to say they aren’t frequent) is that they make me 10 times more determined to do better and I am now working on new policies to make sure the first situation never happens again. I was also up very late on Friday and then very early on Saturday morning to find replacements for the cancelled appointments (luckily, with the help of some incentive payments for our sitters, I managed to find replacements for both).

Today on the other hand was a very good day! We had two other new parents book first-time appointments over the weekend, both of which ran smoothly. Both parents sent excellent feedback this morning and nothing makes me more proud than that ‘it works!’ feeling I get when parents say they are happy to have found BOKAC and also to tell the babysitters that their hard work is appreciated by someone other than me!

Despite this great feedback, I didn’t find myself as productive today and I had been on Friday night/Saturday morning when I was fighting those proverbial fires. Perhaps the learning from this is that the negative events, even though they are really horrible, do serve to make BOKAC a better business and me a better business woman and for that, they’re worth it (almost). This Friday, I will be attending a workshop on resilience as part of the NEF programme and it seems this couldn’t be better timed. I know I can handle whatever is thrown at me and I do try to see these events as ‘positive learning experiences’ but I would love to learn how not to see these situations as such personal set-backs.

Hmm this is all turning very ponderous for a Monday evening. Time to go out for a swim! I’ll leave you with the immortal words of Nietzsche (expressed beautifully by Kelly Clarkson).

The Self-Employment Diaries: Day 4

After leaving the IoD , I attended an event held by NEF (http://newentrepreneursfoundation.com/ the programme I’m part of) called ‘Inspiring Women to Become Entrepreneurs’. I’m all for women supporting other woman and I’m certainly looking forward to a day where these kind of gender specific events aren’t necessary. The speakers were:

  1. Dessi Bell – Founder & CEO Zaggora http://zaggora.com/gb_en/
  2. Michelle Morgan – Co-Founder Livity http://livity.co.uk/
  3. Sarah Wood – Founder UnRuly Media http://unruly.co/

All three were incredibly charismatic, quick-witted and great to listen to with very practical advice. I’ve been thinking a lot about marketing and budgets this week so listening to Dessi talk about generating $40m revenue in 18 months with barely a penny spent on marketing was music to my ears.

Michelle left us with the thought that the key to a successful and enjoyable entrepreneurial career is: “Fun, Faith & Friendship” – I couldn’t agree more. Unless you’re enjoying running your business (OK some days you wont but broadly you’re having fun), truly believe in the potential of what you’re doing and that you meet and help people on the way, you might as well save yourself the stress and go back to employment. 

Day 4 started with an 8.30am meeting (love those, it’s a great excuse to get cracking nice and early) and because of the bus strike, also meant a slightly snowy walk to Parsons Green where I met Lindsay from Pure Lifestyles (http://www.purelifestyles.co.uk/). A mutual friend of ours put us in touch and said that we might have some things in common. I love meeting other business owners, learning about how they got started and sharing tips and contacts to help each other. As much as the word makes me cringe a bit, there really is such a great ‘community’ of young entrepreneurs and the people I meet are intelligent, fun and generally really great.

Lindsay was no exception and has been running Pure Lifestyles since 2011, the same time as BOKAC but she has always been full-time which is hugely impressive. We met at Cupcake Family Club (http://www.cupcakefamilyclub.com/) – if you have children or live in the area, go! I had heard of it but hadn’t yet had a chance to see the place which is beautifully fitted out with a lovely cafe at the front (since Lindsay is a nutritionist and personal trainer, I decided to go for a green juice which has been somewhat cancelled out by the Twix I am eating right now..). 

Lindsay was telling me about the weekend retreats she has recently started organising which sound amazing! She can explain them much better than I can so here is some information from her below:

After running Pure Lifestyles, for 4 years I have recently branched out to setting up holistic health and fitness retreats in the UK and Portugal. Each retreat caters for all fitness abilities but what separates them from the rest is the home-made food I cook for you daily, ensuring you are always well fuelled with the perfect balance of nutrition. In all the work I do with clients I focus on long term plans for long term gains and the retreats are no different. This ensures you won’t leave a retreat feeling lost with the risk of falling back into bad habits. If you want some R & R away from the stresses of life my Relax and Revival Retreat is for you, but if you want to ramp up your fitness, book onto the Revive and Strive Retreat. My website can tell you far more information on the weekend retreats I offer and while you’re there check out the 7 day retreat to Portugal too! 

Lindsay retreat 1 Lindsay retreat 2 Lindsay retreat 3 Lindsay retreat 4

Since BOKAC and Pure Lifestyles cater for similar customers and in very similar locations, we know there can be lots of cross-over which is great! If you’re looking for one-to-one training sessions or are interested in a retreat, get in touch with Lindsay: lindsay@purelifestyles.co.uk

The Self-Employment Diaries: Day 2

Don’t worry, this post won’t be quite as long as Day 1!

I spent the morning updating the theme and layout of this blog. Turns out WordPress is just as frustrating to use as everyone says. I changed the title of the url from babysittersofkensingtonandchelsea (which was way too long) to babysittersofkc (which matches our twitter handle) but it now seems I can’t share anything directly to social media so i’m not sure if anyone will be able to read this. Perhaps that’s a good thing.

Having simmered down I cracked on with some of the actions from yesterday:

  1. I got in contact with our biggest competitor to see if they would be willing to share some advice on how to grow BOKAC – I’ll let you know if I hear back!
  2. I have been researching PR and how to write a press release. Rather than buying a book, I have come across some interesting online resources such as: http://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2014/jul/14/how-to-write-press-release
  3. I also started thinking about investment and the types of investment I could look for. As part of the NEF (http://newentrepreneursfoundation.com/) I attended a workshop led by the fantastic Itxaso del Palacio (who works for a VC, teaches Entrepreneurial Finance at UCL and teaches spinning classes – what a woman) so I have a good overview of my options in terms of crowd funding, angel investors, VC’s, private investors etc. I am trying to work out exactly how much I would be looking for which I hope will then lead me to who to approach

In the late afternoon I interviewed a babysitter applicant. I always enjoy meeting babysitters as, aside from the events we hold for parents (which aren’t all that regular yet), it is one of the small bits of face-to-face contact I get from BOKAC directly. The applicants are always really lovely and interesting people who are either studying, part-time/full-time employed or starting off as self-employed (those are my favourite both because they are often the most available to babysit and I love hearing about new business ideas!). I usually meet about 5 babysitters a month as the ‘lifespan’ of each babysitter tends to vary between 6 months – 1 year although we have one who has been registered since 2011. Usually by the time I meet each applicant I have a pretty good idea of what they will be like as we will have been communicating back and forth for a month or so while I collect and verify their references and various other bits of information.

This evening I’m off to meet up with a friend here: http://www.lebeaujolais.london/ for a well deserved glass of wine!

BOKAC MANTRA