Monday, 26 March 2012

Writer and Leading Intuitive Coach Annie Ashdown blogs on Improving Women's Confidence...

Without any doubt, self confidence is the key to success. Our perception of ourselves has an enormous impact on how others perceive us. The more self confidence we have the more likely we are to succeed. If we are not confident, how can we thrive? Sure, not everyone wants to be a worldwide leader, but having self confidence means being a leader in our own world. It determines how many of our goals we achieve and has an enormous impact on our happiness.

I can't teach anyone a shortcut to self confidence, because there is no short cut to any place worth going. You have to feel worthy of investing your time and energy into making the changes. Recent studies in USA show 70% of how we behave and feel is down to skills we have learnt rather than inherited biological make up. I cannot change you, nor am I trying to, but I can certainly help you make smart choices with your words, thoughts and actions. However, you are the one who has to implement the changes.

Self confident people have:

· Motivation.

· A flexible approach.

· A willingness to take risks.

· An eagerness to stretch themselves.

· A positive mind set.

· A clear direction in life.

· Clarity around their values.

· An acceptance of their weak points and faults.

· No interest in what others think of them.

· A way of looking the part but not showing off.

· A strong self belief.

· Excellent interpersonal skills.

· A belief in their skills and talents.

· Discipline.

· A heightened self awareness.

· An ability to be consistent and persistent.

· Self approval.

· Credibility.

· Self responsibility.

· Constant interest in self mastery.

· Self acceptance.

· Humility.

Self Confidence is not only critical to our performance in the work force but also an essential component to create and maintain healthy relationships. Possessing self confidence means we are powerful, engaging and inspiring as we are at ease with ourselves. We are proactive, rather than defensive and can laugh at ourselves. Self confident people glide towards a goal or an action with a sense of purpose, believing anything is possible. It doesn’t matter if we are a student or a Chairman; everything improves in our wealth, health, family, work life, and personal relationships when we have self confidence. Until our confidence is really high and we no longer allow others negativity to affect us, we need to avoid negative, toxic people at all costs. We must only hang with people who champion, encourage and support us in our visions and dreams.

I want you to promise yourself from today you will dispel any irrational beliefs and all lies your head tells that you that you are not good enough. Discard all negative self talk and replace it with positive affirmations. Stop blaming everyone else and start identifying your self defeating behaviours and start taking responsibility for your choices and actions. Start now by reframing and rewriting old scripts. I am certainly not advocating you change your personality as that’s what makes you unique, but I am suggesting you let go of your unhealthy traits and replace them with positive elements. Start now with redefining yourself by releasing self destructive, self defeating behaviours.

Rise above any criticism, stay true to yourself and remind yourself constantly of all your achievements. Say a thousand times a day “I can and I will”. Keep your visions huge, and your feet firmly on the ground. Building confidence means finding new solutions and ideas, allowing creativity and awareness in and taking time out to press the pause button and re evaluate your visions, dreams and goals. Connect your dreams with whatever makes your soul sing and do not allow anyone to diminish you - ever. Here’s the thing, the cost of not standing up for ourselves comes at a high price, as every time we neglect ourselves by not asking for what we want and need, or we don’t confront others who are disrespecting us we chip away at our self respect, self confidence, self belief and self esteem.


1 To deactivate the internal negative voice, imagine a volume control 0 -10, and turn it down to 0.

2 Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen if you take an informed risk?

3 The mind doesn’t know the difference between fantasy & reality, so when you fear doing something for the first time, close your eyes and imagine succeeding.

4 Read biographies of successful people and model their behaviours, attitudes and beliefs.

5 Do not be afraid to ask, ask, ask, ask, ask for what you want and need, and remember “some will, some, wont, so what”, move on.

6 Write out 5 of your attributes every day for 30 days.

Always remember empowerment comes from you remembering to believe in yourself, so get out and strut your stuff!

Annie Ashdown is founder of The Self Confidence Centre in Harley Street, one of the UK’s leading coaches specializing in intuitive coaching, emotional freedom technique, theta healing and is a master clinical hypnotherapist and licensed Louise Hay teacher. Annie’s debut book Doormat Nor Diva Be was launched Sept 2011. Her second book on Self Confidence is due out Autumn 2012.

For more info on Annie visit

Monday, 19 March 2012

Justin P Girdler; media agent to the stars blogs about how social media platforms are changing the entertainment industry

When Facebook first came along I was adamant it wasn’t for me. I had a close circle of friends who I kept in touch with via phone, email and by regularly meeting up. Why did I need to sign up to a ‘social networking’ site and spend time reading mundane status updates about the weather and what someone had had for their breakfast? I was oblivious to its potential in influencing and enhancing businesses and becoming much more than just a place to show off your latest holiday snaps!

How things have developed! Both Facebook and Twitter are now huge marketing tools for businesses across the globe. Having recently set up my talent management agency, JP Talent, I have come to realise their power more than ever. I make a conscious effort to check my Twitter daily. I find it an invaluable tool for keeping up to date with the media and entertainment industries. I follow television networks, publications, publicists, popular media personalities and anyone else relevant to my company or clients. This means I am on top of any trends in the industry - news tends to travel a lot quicker over the web than it does via television or print media.

It’s also incredible to see the effect Twitter and Facebook have had on the popularity of bloggers. It was not long ago that a ‘blogger’ was viewed as the angsty, social pariah who only left his or her bedroom to get a quick photo of Kerry Catona at the local Iceland (or Asda). Whereas now the bloggers themselves are becoming celebrities. I think this is a lot to do with the fact that we have now all become bloggers to a certain extent and therefore we take the ‘proper’ bloggers more seriously.

Social networking sites have also enabled high profile media talent to reach millions of their fans through a single tweet or status update. Fearne Cotton can promote who will be up next in the live lounge on her Radio 1 show to her 3 million plus Twitter followers. Piers Morgan can push his ‘Life Stories’ show by giving an exclusive snippet from an interview to his 2 million. Whereas Lady Gaga now has so many followers (over 21m) that she is about to launch her own social networking site, ‘LittleMonsters’. However the ability to so readily splurge out information to the world is a also a dangerous thing. A quick tweet in a moment of anger/passion/drunkenness and you've just shared something that will be archived somewhere on the web for hundreds of years. So, careful what you say! Perhaps count to ten first..? As a talent manager this can also be a difficult thing to manage, especially if your client is a bit of a Twitter-holic. There's been more than one occasion where I've had to make a call along the lines of, "Would you do me a huge favour and remove that tweet you just posted that could potentially ruin your career. Many thanks."

Another negative aspect of social networking and the web in general is that it’s becoming a lot easier for people to become lazy. There’s no substitute for getting out of the office and having a face-to-face meeting. Often I will come away from a coffee meeting with a new contact having discussed business which neither of us had realised existed between us. This would never have come about by a few tweets or emails to each other. I was recently given some essential advice on the matter, ‘Don’t just network. Build and nurture relationships. You’ll find you get a lot more in return.’

In conclusion, clearly there will still remain those people who like to tell the world how many km they ran today or how cute their baby was this morning. Zzz. However, Twitter and Facebook when used correctly are undeniably an invaluable tool for businesses, especially in the media and entertainment industry. Just make sure you don’t neglect real-life relationships. If you’re having a meeting – put your phone in your pocket!

Written by Justin P. Girder founder and director of JP Talent. Follow Justin at Twitter: @JP_Talent

Monday, 12 March 2012

Sholto Morgan of blogs about his work and preparations for The Wallpaper of the Year Competition at The Ideal Home Show.

Since September 2011, I have been on the hunt for good designers. I started by trying graduates of the world’s leading design schools including London’s Central St. Martins and Les Beaux-Arts in Paris, but very quickly through searching on the web and going to design shows the proverbial snowball effect kicked in.

I saw cityscapes by photographers that I thought would look fantastic on a lager scale on a feature wall, or an illustration by a cartoonist that could be a great playful pattern for wallpaper. I started approaching these designers and they told their colleagues and fellow designers about the Wallpapered venture and now I have daily enquiries through the site from aspiring designers.

Although Wallpapered is a London based company, it is developing into a truly international design community. There is enormous artistic talent out there and, in the few short months Wallpapered has been on-line, we already boast a growing design community made up not just of wallpaper designers, but surface designers, cartoonists, illustrators and photographers. I hope that the site will be a reflection of the dynamic artwork and talent there is the world-over. I think that it is progressive to have established brands like Watts featuring on the site along with emerging talents like Louise Tiler, New Designer of the Year 2011.

This week I am pleased to have invited Manuela Tan, a surface designer based on Lulu Island in Canada and Pikelus, a design brand comprising of a two of young female designers from Norway onto the site. The advantage of being a web based platform is that the world is your oyster: Manuela’s Cherry Blossom design could be on a wall in Yorkshire or on a wall as far as the United States soon.

As well as curating the content of the site, Robert Hoare (the founder of Wallpapered and a direct descendant of 19th Century architect George Gilbert Scott) and I spend every day working with a website designer and developers, making the site not only looks aesthetically pleasing, but ensuring it is user friendly too. I speak regularly with Jean de Chimay, (Robert’s co-founder) who heads up production.

We also endeavor that the actual product – the paper and print is of the best quality. Another daily task is processing orders for customers. It is incredibly rewarding seeing a design printed, packaged and dispatched to a customer. We have found the very latest in Japanese digital print technology, ensuring designs are realised into the best high-quality media; murals are also tailored to the customers’ precise product specifications and requirements. This also has the added dividend of minimal waste and is sustainable to the environment.

If we are not busy enough (!) Robert has been asked to judge with Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen – (of Changing Rooms fame) - the Wallpaper of the Year competition at The Ideal Home Show at Earl’s Court in London later this month. The winner of the competition not only receives the accolade of best design but is invited to join the Wallpapered design community and have 5 rolls of their design printed for them to keep.

We are really hoping - and have already met - some incredible designers who have entered the competition. Submissions so far this year have been incredibly varied in theme, colour and design. Choosing a winner therefore is mammoth task. It is great to see such adventurous designs being submitted, designs that (with the aid of our technology) can be easily realized into high quality wallpaper, for designers to hopefully sell one day.

It was imperative that the process of sending in designs was as simple as possible: Name, contact details and a jPeg of the design. Just let the designs speak for themselves!

It is the process of choosing (which design will win) that is now our priority. “Another challenge!” I think it would be unfair to disclose what sort of designs I like, but I know that the eventual winner will be an agreement between all the judges. However, I change my mind daily! I wonder how Lawrence is getting on?

I think, while Wallpapered is a commercial venture for the designers, we are adamant that they maintain ownership of their work, so a foundation policy renounces exclusivity. Chosen designers are given ownership of their page on the platform to exhibit their work. This page includes their own logo, website links and biography. Customers then order the artwork as a wall mural to their specific wall size. From that order, the designer then earns a commission. Designers wishing to be featured on the site are invited to submit their work for inclusion.

I find it incredibly rewarding to give designers not only a new medium to work on like wallpaper, but also another avenue of revenue for their work too. Whilst writing this blog I have had an extensive chat with a large corporate business and an even more extensive chat with a mum wishing to decorate her child’s room with a feature wall.

On that note… I better get back to work…. This Mum sounds like she means business! is coming out of “beta” in April 2012 so if you would like to join the design community, get in touch.

In a world of Google, Moonpig and Zoopla, is exactly what it says it is. However, if you are imagining a website of polite, delicate floral patterns and classical motifs that remind you of your great grandmother’s house, you can think again. This is Wallpaper for a new generation.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Soiya Gecaga writes on Africa Rising and her fight against child poverty

 For many years now, the continent of Africa has been synonymous with concepts such as famine, poverty and corruption in people’s minds and even though this may be part of Africa’s story there are many, much more positive things about the continent. Today, the countries of Africa are full of potential and home to a number of incredibly exciting bold new initiatives. In terms of landmass, the continent is larger than the United States, China, India, Japan and all of Europe combined and by 2020, the collective GDP for Africa will be $2.6 trillion, consumer spending will stand at $1.4 trillion and there will be 128 million households with discretionary income. At 1.1 billion workers, by 2040, Africa will have the world’s largest workforce – larger than India’s or China’s workforces. As G. Pascal Zachary wrote in a recent article, “A decade ago, The Economist labelled Africa "the hopeless continent." In December 2011, the magazine predicted that "the continent's impressive growth looks likely to continue." Apologising for their former Afro-pessimism, the editors now conclude that "a profound change has taken hold" in the region.”

Last week, I travelled from Nairobi to Cape Town to attend COMMON Pitch South Africa, where I witnessed first-hand, inspiring examples of some of the new social innovation initiatives that are being developed on the continent. I met people like, Dr Johnny and Clare Anderton, Heather Costaras and Glenda Tutt. I was also thrilled to see one of my friends, Charles Kalama, win one of the prizes that evening. Dr Johhny and Clare (who incidentally took home the top prize that evening) are a loving and kind husband and wife team who run a company called EarthBagBuild. They build low cost houses and schools using a construction system that combines ancient building techniques with 21st century technology. Locally developed and patented high strength polypropylene ‘EarthBags’ that are filled with earth and stacked one on top of the other.

Heather Costaras is the inspirational founder of VENT! - an art and performance platform for South African teenagers with incredible, creative talent and with few opportunities to express themselves. The project uses art and creativity to drive personal growth, education, empowerment and transformation. Glenda Tutt, is a compassionate and determined single mother from Cape Town who founded MPower - an innovative sustainable solution for sanitary menstrual management for women living in developing countries. Charles Kalama is the co-founder of EcoPost, a social enterprise founded in 2010 in Kenya to address the challenges of plastic pollution, urban waste management, health, unemployment, deforestation and climate change. The company uses recycled plastic waste to create plastic lumber products including fencing and signposts. All of the people that I met in Cape Town have one very fundamental thing in common; they are passionate people who are incredibly positive about the future prospects of Africa and who have been motivated to play their part in the change that they wish to see in our world.

I was invited to attend the COMMON Pitch event in my capacity as the Executive Director and Founder of “We the Change” Foundation, an organisation that is tackling child poverty in Africa through early childhood education and care programmes. Our organisation currently supports 30 children between the ages of 2 and 7 in our initial program in Mathare slum, located on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. However, it is our aim to progress our work further and to create a centre for excellence and innovation in the field of early childhood care and education that will comprise of model schools, backed up by a dedicated teacher training and research centre based at one of the top universities in Kenya (Kenyatta University). Our ultimate aim is to develop a model school system that can be replicated both nationally and then later, throughout the rest of Africa.

The first few years of a child's life are critical in terms of human development. Growing up in a stable environment and being properly cared for will mean that a child is more likely to fully develop his or her thinking, language, emotional and social skills, and to suffer less from disease. Having received this kind of support, a child is then able to take these valuable foundations with them when they start primary school. Whilst the years after early childhood are bound to be fraught with difficulty and challenge for many children living in marginalised communities, their journeys in life would be that much harder (if not nearly impossible) without a good and solid start in life. For children growing up in extreme poverty and deprivation, solid foundations in early childhood are very rarely developed. Many young children living in such environments are exposed to multiple risks, including poverty, malnutrition and poor health, all of which detrimentally affect their cognitive, motor, and social-emotional development.

Rather tragically, it is not the norm for early childhood care and education to be given much attention by education policy makers in governments across the world. Therefore, it is also my hope that through this work we will be able to raise awareness about the importance of education in this field and to transform education policy where we can. A report produced by the Centre on the Developing Child at Harvard University outlines the potential benefits of investing in early childhood education by explaining that, "extensive analysis by economists has shown that education and development investments in the earliest years of life produce the greatest returns. Most of those returns, which can range from $3 to $16 per dollar invested, benefit the community through reduced crime, welfare, and educational remediation, as well as increased tax revenues on higher incomes for the participants of early childhood programs when they reach adulthood."

In providing young children across the continent of Africa with good quality early childhood care and education, we will help to alter their life trajectories and to provide them with opportunities that would otherwise have eluded them. I have a vision and dream of a complete paradigm shift - where different stories are told about Africa. Where, rather than living and/or dying in poverty, tens of millions of children have access to good quality early childhood care and education programmes, which in turn leads them to complete secondary school and university and onto becoming the leaders and innovators of tomorrow. Where rather than talking in terms of a hopeless continent, Africa is recognised as a continent of prosperity, innovation and ultimately of hope.

Soiya is an Acumen Fund East Africa Fellow and a Creative Visions Dan Eldon Fellow. She founded “We The Change” Foundation, which tackles child poverty by providing early childhood care and education programmes to children in marginalised communities. Born in Kenya, Soiya was educated in the States and the UK. Trained as a solicitor specialising in charity and corporate law, Soiya has also worked for The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva, Nyumbani (an orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS in Kenya), and Mother Teresa’s home for the destitute and dying in Calcutta.

Follow Soiya and “We the Change” Foundation on Twitter at @soiya and @wethechange2010, or on Facebook. Visit