Guest Post: @StefanLia

2020 turned out to be an unexpectedly weird and a somewhat disappointing year. Yet, looking back, I must admit that, despite all the restrictions, I have managed to work around them. Who in a million years would have thought that a pandemic will hinder our daily lives? (Well, Bill Gates actually did foresee this).

For 2021, I have a couple of projects lined up. One of which are guest posts. Stefan sums up his experience of 2020. Have a read.

Looking back at 2020

Undeniably, this has been a strange year to say the least. For most it has been pretty difficult. Higher stress level from actual or potential job losses and cancellation of long-awaited holidays and big events such as weddings and graduations. For some, lockdowns proved difficult due to their personal situation.

People could not meet people. For most of us, not being able to meet your vulnerable loved ones for fear of inadvertently infecting them which could lead to much serious consequences is difficult. Worst of all, is the pain that those who lost a loved one as a result of the virus went through. 

Clearly, this was not a good year, a bad one for most, if I were to make a quick evaluation. Yet there is always a silver lining.

If, like me, you are lucky enough to work from home, I am sure you can appreciate the time spent with you family. Yes, kids drive you crazy and an important meeting may have been interrupted with your dog’s barks. Yet, look back at those moments with a moments of fondness and a way for colleagues and collaborators to see the other side of you.

A lot of people had free time on their hands – less going out, difficult in practicing hobbies meant that, for once, time could be on our side. A lot have taken online courses, refreshed their skills or learnt something new to take with them in the new year. That is surely one of the best investment one could make during 2020!

There was also increased realisation by some of our impact on the planet. We all saw the pictures of deserted major cities and quite frankly I am still sad to see no crowds in our capital city, Valletta which is generally bustling with local and foreign shoppers. Yet one cannot deny that we are pressuring our environment and greater awareness of that may lead to actual change in attitude that future generations will thanks us for.

Finally there is there was the realisation of the importance of front-liners in such crisis. Medical staff, law enforcement and other individuals putting themselves at risk on a daily basis as part of their daily job. Such key function within a country are sometimes underappreciated. With the pandemic, this was brought into the limelight and hope is that this will bring positive change for the people doing these jobs, being better conditions, salaries and greater appreciation.

As we prepare to celebrate a different Christmas this year, no work parties, no travelling and no big lunches or dinners, we can only hope that 2021 will be a better year. We will, for sure, take both the good and bad from 2020 with us to make the most out of it!

Stefan Lia is a governance & risk professional, father to 19 month old Bethany and 3 year old Nina (dog). He also happens to be my hubby ♡

Would you like to be featured on my blog? Let’s talk!

Amanda x

A few of my favourite things.

One thing you will most definitely appreciate when you start out on your own is support. Ever since I started my own business I realised how a single dose of support can keep your engine running through thick and thin (that, and a lot of hard work).

The COVID-19 situation we found ourselves in had me thinking. I realised I needed to support small local businesses even more, whenever possible. As a solopreneur myself, I know of the hardships we had to endure this year due to COVID-19 related budget cuts and restrictions.

So, without further ado, I am listing my top favourite tried & tested products from local businesses worth following and buying from. These small businesses work hard and deserve our appreciation ♡

MADUMA

My current stationery stash is all MADUMA. I have been a fan since day one. I even interviewed Kimberly, the brain behind MADUMA, in another post | MADUMA INTERVIEW.

Ikħal is my go-to colour. You can find it here: Ikħal Stationery Set

Rebels with a Cause

Rebels with a Cause are all about sustainability. Their reusable makeup remover pads are my Rebels with a Cause ultimate favourite.

You can find them here: Reusable Makeup Remover Pads

Kartolerija

For my birthday this year, a good friend of mine sent me this beautiful diary for a hopefully more beautiful year than 2020 ever was.

Their diary is available here: Djarju Elfejn Wiehed u Ghoxrin

Concrete creations

Another good friend of mine got me these handmade tealight candle holders. Love them.

Take a look at their creations here: Concreate Creations

The Learning Curve

I’m always on the lookout for educational toys, preferably not plastic ones. Bethany’s favourite is the natural Acvitivty Loop.

You can find it here: Activity Loop

The mama manual

I remember attending Nakita’s book launch and was super excited for her. If you’d like (or need) to get organised, this one’s for you!

You can order it here: How busy mums get organised

J-okini

I have a mild obsession with Japan. I even started learning the language but had to put a pause on that due to my whirlwind of a life. Sumie has the most amazing things and the perfect matcha. She even goes the extra mile and sends you matcha recipes and info.

If you love matcha tea, I suggest it you get it from here: Matcha Green Tea Powder

Pots by Veronica

These pots are actually painted by hand. The perfect seasonal gift!

You can find them here: Christmas Pots

Vanilla Mummy

I’m always trying to be creative with fruit smoothies and veggie snacks. These are a life saver. I’m being serious. Plus, they are reusable.

Check out the starter pack: Nom Nom Kids Starter Pack

Merlin

If you haven’t made my acquaintance yet, well, let me tell you. I adore books. Not love, adore. And by the looks of it, Bethany’s love for books is blossoming.

This is Beth’s favourite of the month: Kuluri u Forom

Well, that’s the end of the list (for now)!

Take care & stay safe

Amanda x

🎄 Have yourself a GREEN Christmas!

It’s the season of excess and it’s easy to get lost in the glam of it all. Let’s admit it. During this period, more than in any time of the year, we tend to overindulge and overspend (sometimes without even meaning to, or so we tell ourselves). Albeit this year, we might have already taken a step back as for most of us, 2020 has not been so kind to our pockets.

One thing is for certain though. Every choice and purchase that we make has an impact on our environment. If we had to make small adjustments to our spending habits, we would diminish our carbon footprint in the long run. Being responsible for our natural resources will also help ensure a better life for our future generations. So, why not avoid leaving your resolutions to the new year and make it a holiday resolution instead?

As soon as Halloween is done and dusted, we roll up our sleeves and get working on the Christmas gift list. Getting started early eases the way towards better and wiser spending decisions. It allows you enough time to also think about the environment. I’m pretty positive that if you’re rushing through the gift list, the environment would be the last thing on your mind.

Also, have you ever noticed how just one shopping spree can fill half of your recycling bag with the extra, double packaging alone? The alternative is too much of a hassle, you might think. Zero waste? How is that even possible? It’s true that the consumerist environment we have been immersed into doesn’t help on this account. But, at the very least, start small. Start by going for something light in packaging or sustainable in itself ↡ ↡ ↡

I realise that most of the times, it’s more convenient to just go with whatever.  The “U iva, issa mhux għar-recycling” mentality usually kicks in. What you might not realise is how in the EU member states, 40% of plastic production is for packaging and only 30% of plastic gets recycled. The rest is either incinerated, ends up in landfills or litters the sea. So, whilst recycling may be one of the solutions to tackling plastic litter, in reality, according to the EU Parliament, only less than a third of plastic waste in Europe is recycled.

Try thinking about this whilst your eyes are scanning the shelves or online stores for stocking fillers and Secret Santa gifts. Say your eyes rest on scented candles. Choose the one with less packaging. Avoid purchasing the one moulded in a plastic container, nestled in a cardboard box wrapped in more plastic. Or better yet, choose natural, reusable gifts or ones that are made from recycled sources.

Another idea is to look for locally made or grown gifts. Ordering something from halfway around the world comes with an added cost. Transportation contributes to greenhouse emissions and keeping it local is much greener. This way, you’d also be eliminating single-use outer packaging.

Not all gifts have to necessarily be store-bought. Gift giving is a gesture of thoughtfulness. I’m sure your loved ones will appreciate the time and effort you put in making something yourself. Having something homemade is considered a luxury these days.

Sustainable gift giving is not only about making better gift choices per se, but rather, transforming the whole experience surrounding it. There are several ways to cut down ways and have a greener Christmas without being a Scrooge. All you need is a little imagination and think things through.

By now, I’m also sure you are aware that wrapping paper is not eco-friendly. Most of the wrapping paper we buy contains glitter and synthetic inks which are not recyclable. Opt for other alternatives like brown paper, paper tape and twine. Try using newspapers, old posters or scarves (double the gift) to artfully wrap your gifts.

Think a little more about the environment while crossing out gifts on your Christmas list. The best gift you can give the environment (and ultimately, yourself), is to have a more sustainable Christmas this year. With a little effort and a touch of creativity, you can be kinder to our planet this holiday season. Let’s not forget what really matters!

Happy holidays and stay safe!

Amanda x

What’s NEW? MADUMA products & a mini-interview.

I have been following @madumamalta right from its birth. I even (and unashamedly) entered a giveaway and actually won. I was stunned; the last time I had won anything was in primary school (back then, I won a plant against a 25c fee. It died a while later).

If you follow MADUMA on Instagram, you know they’ve been hinting at launching new products TODAY. Well, guess what? I’m sharing the news IN THIS POST 😍 Here’s a sneak peak.

But first, let me introduce you to the person behind this much-loved local brand who is super nice and, let me tell you, down to earth. Kimberly takes the time to check in and see whether everything is OK whenever I publish a story featuring the MADUMA products. The last time she did, I asked her for an interview and she said YES 🙌

Photo by Naomi Gradel

We decided to keep it virtual for the sake of everyone’s safety.

I would love to know more about MADUMA. How did it all start?

The idea of MADUMA began when I was studying for my Bachelor’s degree at MCAST. I decided to focus my thesis on the demise of local trades, especially the historically rich floor tiles that you used to find all over Malta. I wanted to create awareness about this beautiful trade and do
my part to preserve Maltese culture. This sparked the idea of combining my two biggest passions, design and fashion, that led to me creating my own fashion label, focusing on the beauty of the Maltese floor tile.

So, tell me, Kimberly. What inspires you?

Whenever I walk into an old house or shop with traditional Maltese floor tiles. But not just that. My inspiration for new colours and ideas derives from exploring new places; especially when I’m on holiday and more relaxed.

I know for a fact that there are many creative people out there with great ideas who are afraid to take the leap. What advice would you give them?

Listen to your gut and just do it, even if people around you don’t believe in you or your idea. Do not let people discourage you from following your dreams, even if these people are the closest to you. If you believe in your idea, that’s all you need.

I have to ask this. What is your favourite MADUMA product (and why)?

It’s hard to pick, I love them all! I think it’s like asking a mother, who is your favourite child? This might be an unfair question, but I think if I really had to pick, it would be the organic cotton t-shirts because they were the first products that started my brand.

You, in three words.

Ambitious, brave, detail-oriented

Something on your bucket list:

To see MADUMA products being sold in brick-mortar shops around our beautiful island.

I’m sure it won’t be too long before you tick that one off your bucket list!

Now, for the good news! MADUMA launches these Maltese-tile inspired and potential stocking fillers today!

☆ Pocket mirrors ☆
★ Magnets ★
☆ Pack of 4 Magnets ☆ (so you can get all patterns if undecided)

Maybe we’ll be seeing other products in these new colours as well? 🤔💙

I’m always looking forward to see what Kimberly comes up with!

Show your support & go follow!

Amanda x

Why I keep photos of my toddler off social media

If you scroll through my Instagram feed or skim through my stories, you will occasionally see my little bee. But never her face.

Before reading this post, know this. This is my personal opinion, and for the record, everyone can do whatever they like. To each, their own. It’s not the first time that I liked a picture a friend of mine shared of her kids.

And as a mum, I know how it feels. My fingers itch to share a story of my toddler and show her insanely cute moments to the world. Her first smile, her first step, her continuous blabbering while we play.

But that’s just it. I don’t want the world to have access to her photos and videos. Her face. Once publicly online, they’re there forever even if you delete them. I have no way of knowing who saved her pictures on their devices.

I pondered on this throughout most of my pregnancy. On the one hand, I wanted to share happy pictures of our little family. On the other, my paranoid side kept kicking in. What if a stranger sees them? How would I feel if her pictures and videos had to fall into the wrong hands? Do I want that nagging feeling of doubt? No, I didn’t.

Unfortunately, it happens. Images, sometimes even retouched, resurface on the Internet. I revolt at the thought alone. But how can you know where the picture of your child is?

I’m quite a private person, so not sharing her pictures didn’t feel like anything out of the norm for me personally. Instead, I got creative. I include her in pictures, always fully clothed and her face never shows. The people closest to me, the ones who matter, see her in real life anyway 😋

She can start her own digital footprint when she comes of age. At least, I hope that when she’s a teenager, she’ll appreciate that I haven’t shared any ’embarrassing’ pictures of her 😅

Are there any parents out there who are on the same wavelength or is it just me?

Until next time
Amanda x

Featured image by https://www.instagram.com/kagrabowska/

Watch your tone!

Finding your brand voice requires more effort than you think. In my first post discussing tone of voice (TOV), I pointed out how some businesses tend to spend all their energy on perfecting their image and not spare a thought for their voice.

For those of you who missed the intro, you can catch up here 👉#TONEOFVOICE

I understand that not everyone is good with words. I see this everyday, everywhere I go. Both offline and online. That is why a TOV guideline will come in handy for your team. Different people, different manners, different ways of communicating. However, your brand must be consistent on all fronts.

The way your brand logo, colours, and fonts are of significance in recognising your name, so are the words you use and most importantly, how you use them.

Think of your voice as your personality. Your tone reflects that personality and sometimes changes depending on the context.

Source: CoSechedule

Both your tone and voice are about expression. An expression of your company’s values. Here, we’re looking at how and what you write rather than following writing rules per se. Mind you, grammar is just as important. I shudder every time I see desert on a restaurant menu.

Quick tip: revise everything before publishing a message or sending material for printing. Have someone else take a look. A fresh pair of eyes can save the day.

Here’s an example of what you might think is a simple greeting. When you’re representing your brand, which one would you go for?

Or, think about this example below:

A. “Thank you for reaching out.”

B. “Hey, thanks for reaching out 🙂”

Phrase A reads more serious than phrase B. The latter reads more easygoing and fun. Different word choice and use of emojis have set a different tone to the same phrase.

Take a look at these Brand Voice Examples:

Starbucks
Mailchimp
Old Spice

Quick tips

  1. Be straightforward and avoid jargon.
  2. Use the active voice and write positively.
  3. The tone of voice needs to reflect your business objective.
  4. If in doubt, read aloud. Is it too humorous? Too formal? Too sassy?
  5. Write all this down & create a guideline.

Why does it matter?

Your tone of voice is what sets you apart from the rest. It’s what makes you different, unique and relatable. It helps in creating an emotional connection with your customers. This familiarity you create is most likely to lead to loyalty and trust.

That’s why having a brand tone of voice matters.

Need help? Let’s talk.

Amanda x

Ready, steady, work?

Inspiration hits when you least expect it.

Triggered by something as simple as rain. Weird? I have no idea how it works but as soon as the smell of rain hit my senses this morning, I felt the need to sit down and just write.

Having a one-year old running around (literally now), sitting down at my make-shift desk to work, research or write, feels like a ticking time bomb. Coffees get cold all the time. Thankfully, with the turn of the season, I can turn that into a glorious ice coffee. Win!

I’ve been working on a personal project of mine for ages and keep on hitting the pause button. For one, client work comes first. I don’t know about working mums out there but as soon as Beth’s head hits the pillow, I’m on my laptop, crossing out the never-ending to-do list. The lack of sleep doesn’t help either. Many a person suggested that I rest while Beth sleeps.

Self-care is a priority. I truly believe that you should take care of yourself first before anyone else (otherwise, you wouldn’t have the energy or be in the right mind to do so). But let’s be real. There are tons of things to do every single day and they’re not getting done on their own. You cross one thing out and add three more. It’s just how it goes.

So, I cherish moments like these. When it’s quiet and my cappuccino is still warm, the rain drums on the window (albeit for an extremely short period of time) and I write.

It’s not crazy all day, every week, mind you. I make it a point to start my day with a 10 minute morning yoga routine to stretch and get in the zone. Even with Beth climbing all over me. After that, I make a list of targets for the day. I try not to overwhelm myself with tasks. It’s better to get one thing done and do it right than start a million things and end up with a million loose ends.

How do you go about work and taking care of the kids? I’d love to hear your side of the story 🤗

Believe it or not, I ran out of list pads. Maduma launched their new products just in time and I’m in love with this collection 😍 This is not sponsored, I actually bought everything in the video. It’s my appreciation towards small local businesses (plus I 💙 the traditional Maltese tiles).

Amanda x

#inthespotlight @Malcolm Gauci

Fashion is not my cup of tea. Those who know me best, know this only too well. Still, that doesn’t mean that I don’t follow at all. I do have a couple of friends who are stylists; one of whom has been trying to take me on a shopping spree for months now (you know who you are).

I got in touch with someone whose social media accounts are consistently active and who does not shy away from the camera.

My second guest interview this year is with the greatly talented @Malcolm Gauci.

  • Award-winning fashion stylist
  • Style Influencer

 

While scrolling through his Instagram feed I couldn’t help but wonder how he manages to do what he does. I have known Malcolm for a while now; so we met over a coffee to talk about his world (pre-COVID-19).

Care to tell me more about what you do and how it all started?

I started out as a freelance photo model. There, I learned more about styling and met up with people from the fashion industry. I’ve always been passionate about styling; I guess you can say it comes naturally to me. Still, it’s not something that happened overnight. It takes a lot of hard work. Plus, a lot of people believed in me – and that gives you quite the boost.

At first, I wanted to have a space where I could interact with people and show my work. It’s how I started out on Instagram. Over time, I wanted to show more than just my styling work; I wanted to show them who I am, what I personally wear and connect with my followers even more.

Favourite social media platform?

Instagram. It connects you to a whole world of other people. You can easily find your niche there and can interact very easily.

I personally think that being online all the time can be a bit exhausting. Do you ever feel the need for a digital detox?

Having a full-time job that is completely different from styling and the social media world – that alone is detox enough.  Truth be told, I am sucked into the digital world. Apart from sharing relevant content with my followers, I also love documenting random things.

What does the future of influencer marketing look like in your eyes?

I think that over time, brands will reach out to the less- famous. This is already a thing; they’re called micro-influencers. And, I think having the everyday person as an “ambassador” will be the way forward.

Quick advice you would give someone just starting out? 

Stay true to yourself. If you’re not comfortable doing something that you do not believe in, then don’t do it.

Ok, super quick questions that have nothing to do with anything above. Just for the fun of it. 

Tea or Coffee?

Coffee

Favourite film?

I would have a favourite if I actually made it through the whole film

Would you rather read minds or the future?

The future

One thing you would like to cross off your bucket list?

Be part of Gucci’s creative team

Who or what inspires you?

There isn’t just one thing. I get inspired by random things I come across along the way

Go follow!

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A shift to online shopping.

This is my twelfth official day of social distancing. Twelve days of video calling, online meetings, a deep yearning for cappuccinos (the real deal) and mobile shopping. I’m used to staying at home even with a baby in tow but not for such a long stretch of time 😞

In the past weeks, we have seen a general shift to online buying. Internet traffic spiked as more people resort to staying at home, working from home and distancing themselves from others*.

Think about it. We already spent a considerable amount of time on social media, pre-COVID-19. Everywhere you turned, people were on their phones. If people are spending more time indoors, chances are, they’re spending even more time online. Now more than ever.

Consumers have more time to invest in online research and browsing. They google, they follow local micro-influencers, and more often than not, they pose questions in Facebook groups to weigh their options before purchasing.

“Are there any supermarkets delivering before April?”

“From where can I buy toys for kids online?”

The doors to many businesses have been temporarily closed. At this stage, no one knows for how long. So, LISTEN UP 📣 In no way is this the time to disappear from social media. On the contrary, turn this unfortunate situation into an opportunity to get creative and step up your game.

Restaurant owners decided to introduce and reinforce take away and free delivery. Wine importer? True, the flow of orders from restaurants and bars has inevitably come to a halt. Why not connect directly with people staying at home? Introduce deliveries. If you do not have the capacity or riders, sign up with a local delivery service.

“One of the few good things that came of this: Delivery.

How many times have you read this on your Facebook timeline or thought about it yourself even?

During mobile marketing sessions I had carried out (in collab with the Malta Communications Authority), I always asked for a show of hands. Who shops online, who makes a purchase from their mobile device? This was a couple of years ago. I was surprised at the few hands raised. Then again, the sessions were targeted at small business owners who wanted to expand their digital marketing knowledge.

🔵 Businesses – if you haven’t already, get working on a plan. Think. How do people search online? Where is your audience – Instagram, Facebook, TikTok?

Online presence is essential in this day and age. Be in social media groups, follow trends, keep up. If this is too much for you to handle, find someone who can. But please find someone who knows what s/he is doing.

🔵 The big question is: What will happen after this? What repercussions, if any, will this have on your business? Change, albeit terrifying, can be beneficial. As in this scenario.

Business-permitting, consider having an e-shop. If money-wise this is not the ideal time to invest in revamping (or creating) your website and introduce an e-commerce platform, you can always take it to Facebook for the time being. You can take orders via messenger or Whatsapp. However, be prepared. Post-COVID-19, things will be different.

If nothing, the COVID-19 pandemic has urged people to take it up a notch and go digital. Remember, if people at home are happy with the service, they might keep at it. How convenient is it for consumers to order things online and have them delivered straight to their door? Not sure about this? Ask them. The easiest way to conduct a quick survey is to ask your clients directly and see for yourself what they think.

One last thing, help local businesses. As a freelancer, I know first-hand how hard things can get during times like these. If you need help setting up, let’s start a conversation 💬

➡️ Facebook

Meanwhile, stay safe!

Amanda x

____________________________________

*Source: https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/internet-demand-surges-but-service-providers-say-theyre-ready.779693

Working from home

Ah, what weird times. I decided to avoid all the hassle and distance myself socially for the time being. For everyone’s benefit 🙌

I’m honestly used to staying inside for a long period of time. I have been growing my business and working from home for the past three + years now. So really, it’s just another day at the office!

Still, I so miss grabbing my laptop and heading out to my local cafe’ for a nice cup of frothy cappuccino while I work. And meetings. Actual face-to-face ones. I miss those 😥

Come to think of it, it’s been a while since I could just get up, grab my things and leave for a little change in scenery. It takes me at least two hours to get little Beth and myself ready before we actually leave the house.

I think I spend half an hour preparing the bag alone. Parents would know about the bag: Change of clothing, nappies, snacks, bottles, milk powder, water flask…there’s more. But, my intention is not to bore you out of your mind.

Funny how we take the little things for granted in life, right? The minute we’re denied something, a temporary ‘lack of freedom’, we’re done for. Spare a thought for people fleeing for their lives with nothing but their clothes on their backs. People who were denied their freedom even before they were born.

It’s not the easiest time for businesses. I get that. Believe me, I do. But we will get through this. So, in the meantime, if you’re staying at home, make the most of it.

Read more, rest more! Perhaps, find a cause you believe in and help out remotely for the time being? The NGO I voluntarily work with, bBrave  (anti-bullying), is always on the lookout for new members 😉 Just saying!

Stay safe,

Amanda x