Category Archives: FOXY

#SBS lessons learned from Theo Paphitis

FLDC #SBS Badge_2Last Friday some 800 representatives of businesses that have won weekly Small Business Sunday Awards since 2011 (#SBS on Twitter) as chosen by famous business dragon Theo Paphitis, travelled to Birmingham’s ICC.

We were all there to attend a full day’s programme of events including networking, presentations, a question time session and the opportunity for newbies to collect their award certificate and have a photo taken with Theo.

Let’s be quite clear, this was January, with snow on the ground (and horizon), some travelling as far as Cornwall and Guernsey and often solo which can be a daunting prospect for many. Such was the evident determination of so many to celebrate the #SBS Winners Day 2015 in good company.

Whilst others will undoubtedly write about the day itself, the fab cakes, the packed goody bags, generous sponsors Ryman, Robert Dyas, Boux Avenue, Red Letter Day and iLaw, I wanted to write about the lessons I learned whilst the memory and inspiration still lingers fresh…


1/ Everyone’s a Winner

A winning philosophy is very powerful. We are all #SBS Winners and members of an elite club. Newcomers are welcomed and congratulated. We all know other businesses that want to be part of this family but haven’t made the cut yet (keep trying…). We were treated like winners on the day.

All this puts we winners in a good mood and in good company. Everybody loves being recognised for their business efforts…

And yes, the event was free so we won on that score too.

The sponsors WILL win too (even if they didn’t have a choice, perhaps…), we winners WILL go on to bigger and better things and ultimately Theo WILL cherrypick the best winning businesses to work with/invest in (?), ahead of others.

That’s an all round WIN WIN philosophy and one well worth considering in my business.

2/ The Importance of a Website

Chris Wheeler launched the new #SBS Winners website that his company Metalfrog Studios has developed in record time. This is a huge leap (frog?) forward and is going to make a big difference to all #SBS Winners. We can all add offers, news and blogs and the website is fully SEO’d to make sense of this. That’s very impressive, it’s free and it’s exclusive to all #SBS Winners.

The significance of a website was also touched upon during the Q and A session when someone asked whether to invest a limited budget in a website or social media.

‘You need both’ replied Theo.

I agree from experience. So many small businesses in the motor industry still rely on the likes of online directories that tie them in to a domain address they don’t own, instead of investing in a website and domain they can control. Knowing that anyone can open a garage in the UK and that mechanics don’t have to be licensed to repair cars (with all the rip off and safety implications) the ONLY surefire way for motorists to steer clear of the cowboys is to choose a business with a professional looking website, demonstrating a clear commitment to customer service and every conceivable sign of measurable quality… And you won’t find the cowboys using Twitter or LinkedIn…

3/ How To Play the Long Game

Even Theo admits he didn’t get everything right to begin with. Phew, not just me then. But let’s see how he is helping us all to make more of a success of our business so we are more likely to payback in some way in future. In addition to a much improved website mentioned before, here are a couple of excellent examples…

#SBSWinnersHour run by the remarkable Angela @PearlySmith – driving awareness and attention to the #TheoPaphitisSBS website for us all to benefit from

#SBSAngels– a new opportunity in May 2015 for #SBS Winners to pitch to a combination of business angels, banks, venture capitalists and the like. Described as speed dating for money, businesses will have 5 minutes to make their case and amazingly will be offered money there and then (terms apply). This sounds like good TV in the making to me…

4/ Dreams vs the small business reality

judy_naakeYes, we all want to be as successful as the wonderful Judy Naake – turning c£4000 set up monies into a £70 million windfall in just 11 years. If only getting St Tropez to that stage had been at all easy…

The reality is very different reminded Theo.

“We start by feeling privileged to work for ourselves and can’t believe our good luck but the reality soon dawns – hard work, long hours, tears and untold shit with dead fire certainties never coming off…”

Who doesn’t identify with that!

5/ Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

I am not a fan of The Sun. Why would I be when I have been offended by Page Three for most of my life, even if some women are prepared to model there for money.

But now that The Sun is going to do something special to do with #SBS (says Theo) will I want to be involved? Of course I will. And I can justify this now because it does seem that we’ve kicked Page Three into touch.

Just imagine! #SBS Winners on Page Three of The Sun instead – that’d be SUCH a result for a feminist like me, even if 000s of men are mourning the loss of their daily titbits. Bless…

6/ Traditional Marketing Works Too

This was an excellent point well made by Julien Callede from We might run online businesses (as many #SBSWinners do) but to communicate a message to as wide an audience as possible Made.Com found that offline could be as, if not more, effective than online but it usually involved discounting and measuring sales by using voucher codes.

I should know – most of my living room furniture comes from Made.Com and I love it.

7/ The Value of a Good Business Story

Few have as compelling a business start up reason as GandysFlipFlops founder Rob Forkan after losing both parents in the Sri Lankan tsunami 10 years ago. Clearly not an event he wants to be reminded about on a regular basis yet Rob and his co-founder brother Paul had to decide whether they wanted to tell the world about this.

Gandys’ strapline of ‘Orphans for Orphans’ gives us all a clue about their situation and aspirations, explaining the link between flip flops (other products to follow) and building children’s homes…

Not only does it make sense telling a story that’s relevant to what you do, this can then become a business culture. It’s well worth visiting their website to see how this has moved on. Do read the bit about their finding the right investor for the future…

8/ Words of Wisdom on the Day

“You make your own luck.” Theo

“Shout about your business. From the rooftops.” Theo

“I owe it all to Victoria Beckham…” Judy Naake, Founder of St Tropez (ask her about David’s role at some stage and her stories about the many celebrities she has tanned herself…)

“Take something and do it better.” Julien Callede of Made.Com

“Not just a charity, we wanted a business to reflect our parents’ philosophy.” Rob Forkan of Gandys Flipflops.

A wonderful day, lots of business advice for me to adapt and new business friends to nurture to mutual effect.

Thank you Theo and the #SBScrew who perfectly reflected your business values through what was, for them, a long and very busy working day.


New FOXY Lady Drivers Club video

I’ve been meaning to use video for a while but I’ve kept on putting it off for fear of this becoming an expensive head and shoulders sort of interview, us trying to pack too much in one or not knowing how we might ‘animate’ our FOXY Lady….

Excuses, excuses I know; so I never got round to it.

But we were tempted to have a go by the new hbtoo website because of their style and similar philosophy to ours ie an expert, different and low cost service – so here is our starter attempt.

Click this link if the above video doesn’t display

… and now we’ve had a go, we’ll probably have a few more in future; explaining our female take in a similar style when it comes to buying cars, garages and insurance services. It’s all about knowing where the best deals are, which ones are genuinely female friendly and what other women drivers think too.

So watch this space.


Proud to be an #SBS winner

rectangle-SBSI’m thrilled we’ve just won an #SBS award from @TheoPaphitis.

If you’ve ever watched Dragons Den you’ll remember Theo Paphitis and his gentle voice of wisdom, experience and authority. Sadly he’s not part of the panel this series and even Peter Jones agrees he’s a loss to the programme.

He’s busy doing other things of course; being Chairman of Ryman Stationery, Boux Avenue lingerie and Robert Dyas as well as joint owner of Red Letter Days.

#SBS competition


If you run a small business you’ll also know that Theo runs a highly sought after #SBS competition every week to put the spotlight on six winners.

They are often businesses that are ploughing their own furrow, demonstrating a commitment to excellence or that have won other awards and so on. Theo also seems to spot the altruist amongst us, providing this makes business sense of course.

Small businesses are invited to tweet him on Sunday evenings with a view to attracting his attention and in the hope he’ll return the favour with a retweet on Monday nights.

Those are then #SBS (Small Business Sunday) winners for the week and join a prestigious club of similarly committed businesses that work together to support and benefit each other.

Last night FOXY Lady Drivers Club was a #SBS winner and we’re very proud to be recognised by Theo Paphitis, joining his massive fanclub. Our Twitter feed went mad last night and we’re featured at his very popular website homepage for the week.

Most importantly we’ve just joined a club that isn’t easy to get into. This makes it all the more rewarding to win of course.


New Year, New Membership

welcomepack_1401In 2014 FOXY Lady Drivers Club returns to an annual membership subscription.

Strictly speaking the Club is in its tenth year of trading although things have changed a lot.

We first opened our doors for business in December 2004 with no members and only Nationwide Autocentres supporting us.

The early days were tough and, with the benefit of hindsight, we were too ambitious; opting for a membership model that was more paper based than online, including a quarterly magazine.

We struggled to make financial sense of that publication because of the printing costs and sadly we upset some FOXY Review fans when we decided to make this an online newsletter in 2007/8. We had to do this and it helped us cope when the recession hit.

In August 2008, we launched a network of female friendly garages, run by sister website FOXY Choice.

Having reduced the Club’s operating costs as explained, by a lucky coincidence we were well placed to roll out a lifetime online subscription offer for just £23 recognising the fairly immediate impact the recession had on so many female motorists.

Despite the length of the recession we stuck to our guns until the end of 2013. All members who previously signed up to a lifetime subscription (as either a Classic or Online member) will have this honoured into the future, subject to our Club Rules and providing they keep us posted with any address or email changes of course.

To cement our business values, the Club finally became a not for profit organisation in 2012, funded by the garages and repairers that subscribe to what is now known as the FOXY Lady Approved female friendly network of garages and repairers. Having now put a financial model in place for the Club in future, we now plan to raise additional income to fund our not for profit campaigning activities (to remind the industry that women drive as well as men and might have different needs…) by returning to an Annual subscription from 1 January 2014.

Annual membership in 2014

For just £35 per year members can enjoy VIP services at female friendly garages, repairers and car dealers plus exclusive Club services and special offers including…

A new car buying discount and advisory scheme
A UK network of FOXY Lady Approved garages, repairers and car dealers
Exclusive moneysaving offers
A friendly motoring helpdesk for jargon-free practical advice
A ‘no-fault’ accident assistance support service
FOXY Review – a monthly e-newsletter with advice, information, car reviews and feedback

In addition, new joiners in January will receive a Welcome pack including their membership card, Members Booklet of services, a copy of The Girl’s Car Handbook, a FOXY pink pen and a windscreen sticker.


FOXY wins Online Business Award

Much to my surprise and pride I picked up the Online Business Woman of the Year Award last Friday in Arundel on behalf of FOXY Lady Drivers Club.


Being an online business I’ve been more used to online Award competitions nominating occasional accolades by email.

On this occasion it felt so much more special and rewarding as it involved talking to local hero and Awards compere Sally Gunnell whilst giving me the opportunity to explain FOXY’s philosophy, on behalf of women drivers, on the night.

I remember being asked at a Mumpreneurs Networking meeting in Lewes earlier that day if I had a speech ready, should FOXY win. ‘Not a chance’ was my honest verdict and fairly obviously, to all there on the night, I didn’t have a speech rehearsed!

As it happened, the Online Business Award category was sponsored by CapGemini, a huge company that specialises in business consultancy, technology and outsourcing services and their Senior Manager, Kevin Reed, handed over the impressive certificate on the night.

I have since read up about Capgemini’s ambitions to recruit more women into IT, echoing FOXY’s efforts to do the same to attract women into the motor industry. With young women outperforming young men at GCSE level in STEM subjects the potential for female talent is obvious but clearly few STEM-related industries are managing to get a female friendly career message across to young women.

As I see it, the message that careers in IT and the motor industry are equally challenging and rewarding for either gender is one that needs making early on in education. Both sexes need to understand the benefits of working together – a business partnership as in marriage, each have complementary strengths and talents to bring to the table. And this message must include students’ parents who are key influencers but often seem to hold old-fashioned and stereotypical views about masculine industries being forbidden zones for females to enter. Far from the truth!

Let’s hope there is something that FOXY and Capgemini might do together to challenge this gender thinking in future…