Secrets of my Success: Claire Mischevani

04 30 2012

A mere five days before I got married, my sister and I went to the British Bridal Exhibition and we both fell in love!  Beautiful, hand-sewn, embellished belts caught our eye, swiftly followed by the truly elegant bridal designs of Claire Mischevani.  In a word, breath-taking.  But the real clincher for us was meeting Claire herself – clearly talented, as well as one of the warmest and most inspirational entrepreneurs either of us had come across.  We were both touched and inspired by her story and so wanted to share it with you….  And for the bride-to-be, a visit to the gallery at ClaireMischevani.com is highly recommended!

Tell us a little about you/your enterprise/your mission…

I am Claire Mischevani, a British Fashion Designer who has been designing for 10 years. I have my head office in Shrewsbury, Shropshire and a showroom a few minutes from Sloane Square in London.  I design bespoke garments for private clients, including celebrities and I have stockists for both my wedding dress and fashion collections.

What is your vision of your best life? 
Just to get the perfect work/life balance, as it can be difficult when running a thriving business.  I am so happy that the business has grown so much, but I wish that I could spend more time with my family and friends.
Can you tell us about some of the challenges/obstacles/fears you’ve faced and how you’ve tackled them?  
In the beginning I was faced with all sorts of obstacles, mainly stemming from lack of experience. I also found it difficult to find skilled workers, which is key to a business such as mine. I have always learnt valuable lessons from facing challenges directly and not shying away from them, it makes you a stronger business woman. You just have to learn from your mistakes.
Have you ever thought you had everything planned, only for life to show you an alternative?  
Yes, this happens all the time, but I believe that things happen for a reason and you just have to deal with what life throws at you in the most positive way possible. I have always found that if ever I go against my instincts/gut reaction then things tend to go wrong!
Has there been a ‘defining moment’ that has changed your life/your view of life?  What has been the nudge in the right direction for you?  
My nudge was when I was working as a lawyer and not enjoying it.  My Grandmother passed away and it just made me realise that life was too short to be unhappy at work, so a couple of days later I handed in my notice and left.  I have never spent a minute regretting my decision and that was 10 years ago and I still absolutely stand my decision to leave my job and felt it was the best decision I could ever have made!
If you were to look back and offer advice to yourself, what 3 pearls of wisdom would you share? 
1. Always go with your instinct. 
2. Take advice from people who have been in your line of business.
3. If things go wrong, do not give up.  Dust yourself off and do it better next time.
What book, piece of music, blog, quote or person inspires you the most? 
I take inspiration from so many different forms of media including films and magazines, that I could not name one in particular – I find new inspirations every day.
Image: One
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Secrets of my Success: Jenny Blake of Life After College

04 23 2012

I can still remember the girl in the year above me at school that I looked up to –  “a good all-rounder” I think the teachers called her, and confident and popular to boot.  A role model.  Fast forward twenty years and Jenny Blake is one of my grown-up equivalents.  With proven success in the corporate world at Google, Jenny took a courageous leap onto her own path to, in her words, “live big” and LifeAfterCollege.org is the result.  Speaker, author, coach and yoga teacher – Jenny tells a little more below…


Tell me a little about you/your blog/your mission!
I blog at LifeAfterCollege.org to help others “Wake up, Live Big and Love the Journey” through a mix of my own personal experiences and practical tools and templates. I recently made one of the hardest decisions of my life – I quit my job at Google after five and a half years to build my own business as an author, speaker and life coach. I was terrified that I’d end up in a van down by the river, but I’m thankful to say that so far, 5 months in, I’ve broken even. Finally, I love dogs, dancing, music, travel, and cupcakes.

What is your vision of your best life? 
In my best life I’m waking up every day, going for a run, reading with a nice, warm cup of coffee, taking and/or teaching yoga class, reading more, and doing meaningful work (not busy work, and not stressing over the small stuff). I feel like I’m closer to that vision now more than ever, so I’m really trying to focus on enjoying and expanding every moment, and remembering to express my gratitude for my life. 

Can you tell us about some of the challenges/obstacles/fears you’ve faced and how you’ve tackled them?
My biggest obstacles are usually internal, I can be my own worst enemy. For a while it was the thought that I’m not smart/pretty/original enough, then when I would succeed, I’d have fears that it was all going to come crashing down at any moment. I’m a highly sensitive person prone to over-thinking and anxiety, so that’s why exercise and yoga are so important for keeping me balanced. 

Have you ever thought you had everything planned, only for life to show you an alternative?
Absolutely! I thought I had landed my dream job when I was working at Google. I bought an apartment, bought a car, and was working in Career Development. And yet, something was missing from my life. I started to feel over-worked and unhappy. Little did I know that those feelings were planting the seeds for me to soon quit my job, rent out my house, and move across the country from San Francisco to New York to pursue the roller-coaster of self-employment. I left the corporate ladder and the “American Dream” I had created behind in order to live a life of freedom and spontaneity. 

Has there been a ‘defining moment’ that has changed your life/your view of life?  What has been the nudge in the right direction for you?
I had a terrible case of “book block” and even though I had a first draft of my book written in 2008, I couldn’t bear to look at it or see it to completion…for SIX months. I felt horrible – like I was watching my dream die on the vine. Then I decided to “act as if” and attend a local Speaker’s Association meeting. While there, I met Michael Larsen, the author of the book How to Write a Book Proposal, and he gave me his copy. I realized it was time to get back on the horse and at least TRY to pitch my book idea to literary agents and publishers. That set me on the course I’m on today, where my book eventually was published by Running Press (after 27 rejections from other publishers) in March of this year. I learned that when something is meant to be, spontaneity and opportunity WILL work in your favor, but only if you meet it halfway with your own conscious effort. 

If you were to look back and offer advice to yourself, what 3 pearls of wisdom would you share?
Don’t be so hard on yourself, and release judgment of others. 
Express gratitude often. 
Don’t sweat the small stuff. 

What book, piece of music, blog, quote or person inspires you the most?
Martha Beck is an author and one of my personal idols.  She wrote the books Finding Your Own North Star andSteering by Starlight, which I recommend to every single person I know! I love quotes too – one of my favorites is “action is the antidote to despair” (Joan Baez). 

Image: One

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Secrets of my Success: Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge

04 16 2012

Christmas has come early for me as I have one of my biggest inspirations, Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge, here to share for our Q&A Inspiration this week.  A former freelance journalist and contributing editor for House & Garden,New York Home and In Style, Grace started the design blog in 2004.  It now has, she says in her first book Design*Sponge at Home, a daily readership that would fill New York’s Madison Square Garden.  While I’m smitten with her enthusiastic, ‘have-a-go’ attitude that comes across in her writing, I’m in even more admiration of her encouraging, altrusitic spirit.  She’s keen to share the platform – Grace has established D*S Biz Ladies, a series of national meet-ups to support budding design enthusiasts, and founded the Design*Sponge Scholarship to assist art and design students in pursuit of their creative endeavours – their best life!  

Tell me a little about you and your blog…
Both my blog and my life (which are pretty intertwined these days) are about trying to live the most fulfilled, creative life possible.

What is your vision of your best life? 
A balance between personal and professional- and enjoying both so much that you occasionally lose yourself in either.

Can you tell us about some of the challenges/obstacles/fears you’ve faced and how you’ve tackled them?
My biggest challenge is knowing when to take a break. I struggle with it a lot and find the best cure is to surround yourself with people you trust who remind you (and force you) to stop every now and then to appreciate what you have and what you do.

Have you ever thought you had everything planned, only for life to show you an alternative?
Yes, never more so than in 2011. It’s been a difficult year for me, but it’s been an exercise in embracing life’s ups and downs and really, truly remembering it’s a journey and not something you have “figured out” right away.

Has there been a ‘defining moment’ that has changed your life/your view of life?  What has been the nudge in the right direction for you?
My defining moments are usually negatives that turn into positives- moments where I regret a decision I made or see something happen that I never want to have happen for me. I find I best define myself and my life by knowing what I DON’T want more than what I do.

If you were to look back and offer advice to yourself, what 3 pearls of wisdom would you share?
Take a break. One day your optometrist will tell you that you have the eyes of a 60 year old. You can still stop that.

Time is more valuable than money. Don’t worry about paying bills- worry about enjoying what you have around you now.
Invest in your friends. They are your family away from home and worth every second of time, energy and love you have.

What book, piece of music, blog, quote or person inspires you the most?
I go back and forth between inspirations, but this quote has been special for me lately (it was originally written to me in a middle school note):

Barn’s burnt down- Now I can see the moon.” -Masahide. 

It’s a good reminder to me that sometimes things that seem terrible can reveal something even better or more beautiful.

Image: One

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Do your goals and BIG dreams scare you??

03 05 2012
Dream BIG!  Dream big, SCARY goals….  Close your eyes and picture that goal that’s been side-lined for too long – how much does it scare you?  A lot?  Good, now we’re getting somewhere. 

Don’t you find that old comfort zone familiar but just more than a little…. how can I put it?…. beige??  Yes edging out of it is scary but basked in technicolour.  So, what are you doing about it??

I’m trying to practise what I’m preaching and I know it’s tough.  On a recent workshop I shared a few of my big, scary goals with someone and just the simplest act of saying them out loud spurred me into action (and her encouraging emails to check how I’m doing are the momentum!!).  So I want to be that catalyst for you.

Dream BIG
Say your dream out loud to someone
Do a little something every day to step away from the beige and into the sparkle!

Image: One

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Straight from the heart

02 28 2012
The very reason I started this blog in the first place was so that I had a space of my own, a reflective little hub, a creative outlet to share my own, personal pursuit to find my unique sparkle and live my best life.  It began as something that I enjoyed from the very heart of me, not another item on my weighty to-do list, and so I made myself a promise – if ever I didn’t feel the desire to come to this spot and share, if ever it felt like a chore, I simply wouldn’t blog.  And so I’ve not even logged-on to my blog since the New Year – well, the 16th January to be precise about it.  As fate would have it, as soon as I’d shared my goals and aspirations for the year, my usual go-get-’em was sapped!

 

The truth is I’ve been lacking the energy big-time.  And the focus.  It turns out I was a little overwhelmed with all that was going on at the beginning of the year.  You know, little things like house-hunting ….. and finding out that I’m going to be a mummy!  Yes, I can hand-on-heart say I was more than a little distracted…..

So I’m back and shouting it from the rooftops!  Now I look back, at 14 weeks pregnant with an ever-growing bump, and I can see that part of me was a little anxious about the whole thing too.  Not the being pregnant (though I’ve felt better!), but the responsibility upon my body to grow this little thing.  Anxious about sharing the news when everything has felt so fragile.  I’ve yearned to be a mum for as long as I can remember and I just wanted to keep this secret to ourselves and concentrate my energy on doing right by this precious little being.  I’m all kinds of emotions – deliriously happy (I had a little ‘happy dance’ as I was waiting for the kettle to boil this morning!!), daunted, hopeful …. it changes every day!

The simplest way I can put it into words is that it feels right, this, being a mummy feels like it’s my best life.

 

So please forgive the absence …. I’ve been busy trying to hold down my dinner!

Image: I’ll Know It When I See It via Etsy

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Goals: just a few more....

01 04 2012
Well not goals as such –  here are the qualities in my life I want to create this year, all cut and pasted to my vision-board.  Ta-da! I shared some of my aspirations with you (here) and now here’s part two, my intentions for the other areas of my life….
 
Nurturing: When life is running full-steam ahead, I often (guiltily) feel that, when it comes to time with friends and family, there is little fuel left in the tank.  What company I must be!  The irony is that it’s the people I love that are the biggest priority in my life.  As a nurturer, this year I want to make sure I’m living this value – making sure that the time I spend with these peeps is jam-packed with energy, my full attention and little touches to show I care.  Project Quality Time is on!
 
Nurturing #2: Are you sensing a theme here?  We’re on the lookout for a new home and, much to Jack’s disdain, I’m definitely one to be ruled by my heart.  My ideal home is light, airy and welcoming.  Comfortable elegance.  The deal-breaker is it has to have plenty of space to entertain.  I love being the hostess!  
 
Elegance: My role models and heroines ooze elegance and it’s one quality I’d love to bring into all areas of my life: home, work, wardrobe.  
 
Freedom: Maybe it’s the Aries in me but I’ve been (accurately) described as “fiercely independent” in the past.  A tad extreme.  This year, I want to tone down my independent streak and, instead, try to create a sense of freedom – be it in channelling my creative energies into my plans for BasilBe (as I talk about here), keeping my free time just that – plan-free – and letting my heart take me where it will, or keeping my mind open to new possibilities this year.
 
Success: This is the year I’m going to spread my wings.  I’m a dreamer but often lacking the courage to go. for. it.  I’m pushing the doubts aside and channelling a little self-confidence.  I’m determined to make this year a success.  
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From low point to dreaming big: 2012 intentions

01 02 2012
Resolutions: been there, done that.  And failed.  Big time.  Setting such strict resolutions in new year’s past has simply set me up for failure – I just don’t have the willpower to avoid that off-limits piece of chocolate, to stick to that unrealistic exercise regime I set.  Ask me what my goal and intentions are, on the other hand, and you can be sure I’ll be busily making plans, to-do lists and day-dreaming of the outcome.  Better still, make it visual and it becomes an even more appealing destination (I’ve talked of my vision boards here and here).


On this, the second day of a new year, I thought I’d share my intentions for this blog.  This in itself is a goal of mine – being brave enough to share my ambitions and future plans for this, my creative space in the world, putting aside my fear of other people’s opinion.  And, with a deep breath, I’ll begin…  (Get comfortable, it’s my longest post yet!)
 
The back story…
To set the scene, I’m going to re-wind two years.  I was 31 years old and, by this point, had been working hard for 8 years in the corporate world – I’d had successes, I’d progressed, I’d definitely had high points to celebrate, on paper my CV was looking good but I was running on empty.  It felt a struggle, it didn’t excite me anymore, it didn’t fit me – the real me.  I had had a stomach-full of being pushed to be more assertive, more single-mindedly ambitious.  I didn’t want what was promised, I didn’t want to become what I needed to be (or needed to pretend to be) to succeed in this environment.  And, without me realising, this toxic air started to choke me.  What started out as a feeling of being lost and frustrated, turned to despondency and, ultimately, took a toll on my health – physical and mental.  The low point, and ironically the turning point, was a 5am visit to A&E: as ridiculous as it may sound now in the cool light of day, I was having chest pains, struggling to breathe and I was sure I was dying.  Diagnosis: anxiety attacks.  


It was the smack around the face I needed to finally admit to myself something I’d known for a long time – this way of life didn’t fit me.  Something needed to give.  It turned out, the thing that needed to give was trying to fit my life into a perception of what was expected, the expectation of what a “good girl” should be doing with her life, of how “sorted” I should be at this ripe old age.  My life had been on automatic pilot since I left university – using my degree by getting a “good job” and working my way up the corporate ladder.  My wake-up call had shown me that I wanted my life to stand for something different.  
I’d learnt that I get a feeling of joy and a sense of reward by nurturing people; channelling my creative energy sets my heart on fire; having a sense of freedom to share the view from my lens on the world gives me enormous satisfaction.  This is the real me.

Fast forward a year and my blog was born.  I’d been in the shadows and come out the other side and I wanted to share my learnings with other people: life doesn’t have to feel like a struggle, you don’t have to take the path well-trodden; you don’t have to become someone else to succeed.  You already are.  Sorry if I’m getting carried away – maybe Judy Garland’s quote may put it more eloquently: “be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else.”  Through BasilBe, I set out to share inspiration of people living their best lives, stories, quotes and pictures that have inspired me and so, hopefully, could inspire someone else.


To the future….
So what’s next?  My intention for this space hasn’t changed – it still is a place for me to share inspiration, to speak to that knowing in each of us that we deserve to live the life of our dreams, and to share my own journey on that mission!  What has changed is my dreams for what it can become….


Dream One: I want to create a sense of community: Back in 2009, I felt completely lost, a failure and that everyone else was super-confident and free of the fears/doubts that tripped me up.  In being willing to share this personal experience with others, it seems I wasn’t alone at all.  Aside from my amazing family and friends, it had all felt a little taboo and it would have been great to reach out to others, to read about other people’s experiences and how they learned to live their best life.  I dream that I can create a positive community where like-minded individuals can share their own experiences and inspire, motivate and support each other.


Dream Two: I would love to use that “nurturing” part of me to help people get to the truth of their passion, their purpose, so that they can live at their fullest, happiest potential.  Apologies if this is all sounding a little hippy-dippy BUT I’ve felt the emptiness of ignoring the whispers that told me I had it wrong and it’s not a good place to be – if I can help just one person avoid this ‘low’ and prompt them to find their own higher ground, I would be one happy girl!  I’d love to build on my blog as is to become a place with tips and tools to help people to discover their unique sparkle and live their best life.


Dream Three (aka “the biggie”): They say everyone has a book inside them and I’ve often felt the urge to get pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and get writing – the stickler has been I’ve not known what to write about.  My biggest discovery of 2011 was finding my voice, finding the thing that inspires me to keep posting on this blog, good days and bad.  I’m getting that tingle in my tummy that says I’m onto something that sits right with me.  I dream that 2012 is the year that the book inside of me is born.


And there you have it.  I’m bravely sharing my intentions and hoping I get a few more nudges in the right direction.


Wishing you a wonderful 2012 – the year of your best life.
 
Image: One
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Not one qualification but living the life!! How?

11 03 2011
I can’t say I fit in with the cool crowd at school.  I tried too hard to be able to carry off the required ‘school is for geeks’ attitude.  Neither did I set the sports teams on fire.  And, while I did well at school, I certainly wasn’t the straight A student either.  This meant I was inconspicuous somewhere in the middle.

I must admit I never even considered doing anything but working hard and “applying myself” at school.  I was a good girl.  So I never quite understood the kids in my year that adopted the laissez-faire attitude with one eye on the end of the school year, the freedom that beckoned (that scared the bejeesus out of me) at the end of it all.  In short, it was drummed in to me that exam results, education, qualifications were the be all and end all.  And I’ve never questioned that.

Then I read Chris Guillebeau’s frank and bare-all admission that he holds not a single qualification to his name and I was forced to open my mind.  What, not one?  And he’s achieved so much?  I was in sudden admiration.

As I pack to spend a weekend at a coaching course, I had to stop and question why I was doing it.  This time it is for a big, fat selfish reason – I want to.  But I can’t honestly say other ‘qualifications’, for what they’re worth, have been motivated by the same reason.  For the most part, I think a qualification, a bit of paper, has been for everyone else BUT me.  To prove something to everyone else.  “Look, I can do this.  This bit of paper says so!”

And so I am in full admiration of Chris Guillebeau.  It must take a serious amount of guts to NOT take the easy option and conform.  He took the leap and trusted he would fly!  In his case, around the world…… Not a bad life for a school drop-out eh!

Image: Quint Buchholz

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Where should I be spending my time?

10 17 2011
Do you have those days/ weeks/ months (delete as applicable) where you just don’t know where to start?  I certainly do … and it seems I’m not alone.  A dear reader emailed a question after reading that I’d been spending a little time “charting my course”: “If you have a goal-list as long as your arm, where do you decide where to start?”

As an avid goal-setter, I can relate to the feeling of being a little over-whelmed by everything I plan to accomplish.  I don’t do things by halves! If you’re feeling that same inertia this little tool might help – the Wheel of Life.  It’s commonly used by life coaches and I like to use it when things just feel a little out of balance to get me back on track.  Have a look at an example here

The idea is you take a circle and divide it into segments to represent the various areas of your life: I divide it into
– My relationship (now marriage!)
– Friends and family
– My career
– Fun and hobbies
– Money
– Health and fitness
– Growth
– Giving something back

You then take a deep breath and give each segment an honest score out of ten for how satisfied you currently are in that area of your life.  It’s fab at giving you a kick up the tush and highlighting areas you’ve been neglecting. When I did this after returning from our honeymoon I realised it was, ironically, my friends and family and my relationship that had been missing some TLC in recent months as I was focused on wedding prep.  And from here I was able to prioritise these over everything else.

Table for two?

Image: One

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My happy ever after

09 09 2011
“The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was.  Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.  They’re in each other all along.”
– Rumi –

The writing was already on the wall but Sleepless in Seattle sealed my fate as a die-hard romantic. I remember it vividly, curled up on the sofa with my friend Sally and way too many chocolate treats for two people and a 90-minute film, as the magic between ‘Sam’ and ‘Maggie’ unfolded before my eyes.  By the time Jimmy Durante was crooning out Make Someone Happy I was a gonner – I was a 16-year old madly in love with love! 

And I couldn’t get enough of L-O-V-E love – films, books, music, even poetry (oh yes, I was a lot of fun), I needed to get my romantic fix.  I didn’t realise it but my own quest for ‘magic’ had begun.

Over the (wince) 17 years that have passed since, I have thought of myself as somewhat of an expert on all things romance.  Oh yes, there was a strict formula to this magic: thunderbolts, eyes meeting across a crowded room, love at first sight and a happy ever after, anything less was just not good enough.  As you can imagine these high ideals have posed quite a challenge for my former beaus and, frankly, meant I often had a nagging feeling of disappointment that it just wasn’t happening for me.  

So, with a mere 7 days to go until I say ‘i do’ how did my fairytale pan out?  Fireworks and violins?  Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day?  Actually, it wasn’t what I imagined – far from it.  It turns out my ‘happy ever after’ was right under my nose …. and far better than I could have imagined.  ‘Our story’, one of an on-off courtship during which my loved ones could see what I was oblivious too, has become almost folklore-ish as the irony of the story gets re-played for laughs (oh yeah, I can’t wait for that in the speeches!).  A blunt word from a friend and a nudge of the elbow from my sister had me open my eyes to the amazing man in front of me. It isn’t silverscreen-perfection but it’s real and certain and a match… and I’m extremely lucky.  He is not the ‘happy ever after’ I imagined, he is my happy beginning.  And I can’t wait for it to start. 

 

Images: One Two

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