If you’re a fan of Strictly you’ll know about the “journey”. Tess and Claudia laugh about it  – as someone mentions the “j” word almost every week. What starts as a good idea, learning a few dances, getting fit and usually losing weight, turns into a compulsive, emotional, all-consuming journey that takes over every part of your life. And it happens to everyone, every year!

Not that I’m a Strictly fan or anything, and I wouldn’t say Kiwi Social has taken over every part of my life, not yet, but it’s made a big difference and I’m really happy to be on the journey.

Early beginnings 

It began a few years ago in a coffee shop in Llandudno. Eifion trying to squeeze his light rigs and backdrops into a far-too-tiny space, and a bunch of small business gals clutching cameras eager to learn some skills.

The original bunch has changed, Llandudno quickly become Chester, and the journey began…

Last week we reached quite a milestone. Business & Bloggers, it’s first incarnation, has fledged into The Kiwi Social. We started off trying to make small business owners better photographers, and we’re now added marketing and social media to the mix.

I say “we” because I’m really happy to be one of the founder members. I was there on day 1 with all the camera kit no clue, and I’m still here today with slightly more camera kit, and a few clues – but still an awful lot to learn.

What’s your cocktail?

If it was a cocktail, I would say Kiwi Social is a bespoke cocktail designed specifically for sole traders, micro businesses, bloggers, and social influencers. So whether you’re a creative, a digital guru, or service provider – this cocktail is for you and about you.

My favourite Italian cocktail, as featured on my recent italian adventure, is a Peach Bellini.  Everyone around me was drinking Aperol Spritz with a slice of orange (the tourist cocktail), Negroni with a good measure of Campari (the pre dinner cocktail) and the Amaretto with a kick of whisky (the after-dinner cocktail). I know, I know – Bellini is a bit girly, and I’m not one of those prosecco crazed girls, I promise. I actually prefer Cava – but that’s when we’re in Catalonia.

The Bellini is traditionally 3/10 peach juice, 7/10 prosecco poured into a champagne flute. It’s fresh, fruity. thirst quenching and a little bit sparkly. It’s an all-day drink so you can keep your head even on holiday.

The launch meeting of Kiwi Social was held last Thursday at the Chester Crown Plaza hotel in one of their big spacious function rooms.  Road access is really easy and parking free after 4pm at the adjacent Market St Carpark. We officially start at 6.30pm but I often arrive early to chat with folks, get settling in, catch up on emails and sometime sneak into town for a cheeky bit of shopping!

Sandra is my photography buddy and we share lifts from Colwyn Bay every month. We’re at roughly the same skill level with similar interests so sharing thoughts and ideas is helpful and fun.

It takes all sorts

At our first Kiwi Social meeting, I sat next to a web designer, a beauty therapist, a cyber security guru, a property photographer, a magazine editor, a construction consultant, a safeguarding officer, and a would-be blogger. Photography for all of us is either a hobby, an essential part of our business, or our whole business.

The meeting had a useful mix of traditional taught content, discussion and networking. We started with the essential introductions and a few thoughtful questions (answers on a post-it note) about what we wanted to get out of the sessions, what challenges we are facing in our business, and how we’d like Kiwi Social to help us achieve our goals. I did wonder what others wrote and whether there’s any crossover. Maybe next time we could talk about that more?

Nuala took the first session with some introductory thoughts on marketing. How to stand out in the business world, and how to develop branding that really works. It was good to be reminded of first principles and in my case, receive validation that at least some of what I’m doing is along the right lines. I find marketing psychology fascinating and look forward to getting into some of these interesting subjects in greater depth so we can hold a mirror up to our own business and feel comfortable that what we’re doing is really worthwhile.

There’s food too 

Chilli and chups, as you may know, is an essential part of any Welshot experience. Special effort is always made to cater for veggies, vegans, gluten frees, dairy frees and any other way you choose to go through life! By 8pm we’re all ready for food and it perks us up for the rest of the evening.

It was great to see the networking continue over plates of food. Little huddle of folks talking about the beauty of branding, the demands of data protection and in my case the fantastic food on my recent Italian adventure!

The technical slot, led by Lee Iggulden, focussed on Adobe Spark – a new piece of software joining the Adobe family to improve our social content. Lee helpfully explained the main features of the package which is free to use with the adobe branding, but more flexible if you subscribe to the Creative cloud.

Having a good tinker with our own photographs led to a useful round table discussion ranging from storing date to cyber security – both subjects that clearly need separate information sessions with changing legislation.

And finally photography 

The final part of the evening was devoted to photography. Every month Eifion sets up a flat lay corner for us bloggers. We can bring our own products and create compositions using professional lighting for our social and websites. This is a great example of how Lee and Eifion have really listened to the needs of members and created a very helpful feature for those of us who don’t have space for light rigs and backdrops at home!

I wonder whether, in future, I might use the time before the session begins to get some useful shots done for my business. I suppose photography is my first love and the thing that brings my cakes to life – so I need to make sure I maximise the sessions, use the professional equipment and gain as much wisdom as possible from the very clever Eifion.

Who loves cupcakes?

Oh, and I almost forgot – I brought cupcakes. My business is Judith Bond Cakes and so it seemed appropriate to bake some logo cupcakes for folks to munch on and celebrate the launch evening of Kiwi Social.

An emotional ending …. 

Finally, and a little surprisingly, the evening was a tad emotional.  The Kiwi Social has been a long time coming. Lee has spent a lot of emotional energy “birthing” this project – chatting, planning, wondering, studying, researching, and building the Kiwi team.

The first session is done – and it was ok. Everyone did good. All members happy and inspired.

There’s lots to think about and I suspect it’s going to be one of those projects where analysing one subject leads to 5 more sub-subjects and so on.

Running a business in today’s world is a high maintenance exercise. Not only is there loads to think about, but the goalposts keep changing, the technology evolves almost daily and it often feels that you’re running just to keep up.

My hope is that the Kiwi Social will provide a bespoke useful “community” that will give each of us the tools we need to keep our business on top, grow our audience, and achieve whatever personal goals we’re each striving for.

So I’m off for another Peach Bellini, here’s to Kiwi Social!

I’d love to know your favourite cocktail? Answers on a post-it note.

Judith x

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