Monday 29 October 2012


Many people open up a conversation with the question "What do you do for a living?".  A straightforward question which most of us should be able to answer succinctly.  However are you really doing what you say you are in all aspects of your business and career?  Running a business is not just about making money; it's about building a reputation based on your word, based on your level of integrity.  The same can be said for your career; you can coast and do an "OK" job but are you really doing the best you can, being the person that you professed to be in your first interview?

As a businesswoman I always value the importance of integrity in business.  When our services are offered we do everything possible to keep to our word, even if it means going that extra mile to please our clients.  We would never profess to the ability of making our clients millions of pounds in a short space of time but we will commit to being available to improving our clients' visibility and business growth results.  By keeping our word we are building a solid reputation and thus enhancing our position as a top quality service provider.

Why is Integrity crucial to overall business and personal success?
  • Trust is built and maintained
  • Reliability of your service is rarely questioned
  • Reputation is fortified
  • Achievement is increased
  • Respect is developed
Keep your word in everything you do and the benefits can be immeasurable in business and in life.
Written by Ronke Lawal @rslmanagement

Tuesday 16 October 2012


Almond & Avocado Ltd were one of the fantastic exhibitors we had on board at the 2 Inspire Ladies        exhibition in August 2012, not only were they exhibiting their products but they facilitated the pamper-me corner so that attendees could have an area where they were able to relax and indulge.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Almond & Avocado Ltd is a  Holistic Natural Hair & Wellbeing practice serving
 South & East London. The company is owned and operated by Annette Clark Headley (M.A. Cantab, MCNHC) who is a Sisterlocks™ Consultant and CNHC Registered Complementary Therapist . The Company's motto is "Feel Better. Be Well" and that principle governs everything they do. In addition to  Sisterlocks™ and Natural Hair styling, they specialise in complementary therapies such as Aromatherapy, Reflexology, Therapeutic and Hot Stone Massage, Nutritional Therapy and Herbalism; alongside the Almocado range of natural hair & body products and a bespoke aromatherapy blending service. Learn more about the remarkable Annette,  her personal journey and her growing business in our feature:

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
There is no typical business day for me. My business has 3 distinct focuses:
  • Holistic therapies (aromatherapy, reflexology, hot stone & therapeutic massage therapies) 
  • Sisterlocks and holistic haircare 
  • Almocado natural skin, hair and bath products
 So on any given day, a particular focus will become my primary - at least for a portion of the day - depending on the enquiries received, appointments booked or orders scheduled. There are a few patterns however, e.g. Mondays tend to be Sisterlocking days, Fridays tend to be order filling days; and of course one has to make time to update the website with new products, changes in stock levels etc, and you also have to keep your twitter and facebook accounts relevant and engaging.

I work from home, so in addition to growing the business and balancing books there are my three lovely children who need to be taken to (and from) school and of course, let's not forget about dinner, laundry and housework!

What made you start the business and what steps did you take to start operating as a business?
I have always loved creating things and working with hair.  After graduating
Born in London in the late seventies, I grew up in the Caribbean caring for the natural hair of my friends, neighbours and relatives having learned from my elders.  Although I was braiding and twisting consistently from age 11, this was not my mother's plan for me so I focused on school work instead, cornrowing hair for friends and family in my spare time.

In 1996 I secured a scholarship to Cambridge University and, feeling the pull of academic pursuit, I placed my vocational career on hold and returned to the UK.  Rather than being the death of my hair styling dreams – I found myself regularly called upon at University to style the hair of both male and female students of African/Caribbean descent.   I wore my hair natural at university and continued to do so throughout my 12 year career in investment banking.

After the birth of my son, I decided to officially launch my company as a creative outlet as I intended taking the full 12 months maternity leave.  We started with the Almond & Avocado Natural Hair Service, and in October 2010,  I enrolled on the annual London SisterlocksTM Consultants training course and have since built up a successful portfolio of regular valued clients.

I added a range of holistic therapies to my business in 2011, having qualified in Anatomy & Physiology, Holistic Massage, Aromatherapy and Reflexology at Distinction level. I also offer Hot Stone Massage as a premium service.

The Almocado product range was added in 2011 as an extension of my holistic services; I added products because so many of my clients would ask me to create spritzes and butters they could use on their hair or skin, so I invested in training and assessments and here we are today!


What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
I firmly believe the best is yet to come

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
My biggest challenge has been marketing. When you are in the hair care business, everyone expects you to have gorgeous hair - and I did.. right up until I gave birth to my third child. Shortly thereafter I lost all my hair and I am not just talking about the hair on my head. It was a very difficult period in my life, just when things were gaining momentum I lost one of my greatest marketing tools: how could I show that my products were awesome, how could I prove that living a healthy holistic lifestyle was the way to go when most days I felt like crawling under a rock and dying? Thankfully, I did not give up. I soldiered on. I won't say it has been easy because it hasn't. We live in a very visual society, a woman with hair like 'Diana Ross' will find it easier to sell hair products than someone who looks like G.I Jane. A loctician with long flowing locks tends to be more appealing than a loctician with relaxed hair or a weave. Dealing with my 'handicap' as it were as been the biggest challenge I've had to face in this business so far.

                                Annette(centre) with a colleague and client at 2inspire Ladies Day

What are your future plans for the business?
I want to continue to grow and I want to expand. The past 2-3 years have been about gaining momentum and putting in truckloads of blood, sweat and tears behind the scenes to make sure my business has not just a solid foundation but the right foundation. I'm building my house and thinking about expansion. I am opening up the product line to the US market and the preliminary feedback has been positive. I'd also like to get my products on the shelves in Barbados, which is also where I'd like to open my next practice.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would have started my company 7 years ago, I would have told myself  "Girl, go for it, you CAN do this. It's ok to be afraid but don't let that fear stifle your creativity. " (That way, losing my hair would have had less impact to the business because I would have been more firmly established).

What’s the best compliment you could receive in business?
That me showing up (online, at an event, in a therapy room, in a product, whatever ) made a difference to someone in some way.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
  • Do your research. Is there a similar product out there? What makes yours unique? Is this a popular product or will you have to create demand?
  • Know your market: are you aiming for the penny pinchers or the premium dollars or somewhere in between?
  • Plan. Plan.Plan. Do your business plan, your marketing plan, your day to day plan, plan for everything you can think of because you need to make sure you cover all bases (or at least as many of them as you can). Be prepared for what life could throw your way. Think about it night and day before you actually launch it.
What or who inspires you in business and why?
I am inspired by female entrepreneurs who have triumphed over adversity. Businesswomen who were told they couldn't and turned around and did.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
"Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve"

To get in touch with Annette or to learn more about the company, contact details are:

Fan Page:
Sisterlist UK Group:
Twitter: @almocado

Monday 8 October 2012


Anyone who attended the 2 Inspire Ladies Day in August will not forget the remarkable Usha who was the Master of Ceremony at the event and whose straight talking approach was both entertaining and inspiring .  Usha's Company Dare to Dream was the official sponsor of the Award of Excellence which was awarded to exhibitor Lerie LeBlanc based on the votes of the other exhibitors at the event. Learn more about Usha and her company Dare to Dream in our business profile below:

CEO of Dare to Dream, Usha Penumuchi, acts as a mentor and transformational coach, working with people via the media of tailor-made training programmes and workshops to build their confidence and self-esteem, inviting them to consider novel and productive methods of addressing personal and corporate challenges, and encouraging them to create and chart their own personal development strategies.

Please describe a typical business day for you
Well , I have a business and a charity and also work full time for the moment so I have a lot to juggle in one day.  Dare to dream is my real love and my passion. As a part of Dare to Dream I do inspirational talks, training and development in confidence, public speaking and presentation skills.  A typical day is filled with ideas, consultations, mastermind sessions, networking and promotion of Dare to dream.  I am always working and looking at ways of making Dare to dream a creative and a distinct brand.  I am passionate about my business and so sometimes I get an idea at 3am in the morning which I will run with once I have thought of a plan to make it work .  I meet a lot of people in my business, as a coach and a mentor but also as a mentee, I am constantly learning new things every day from those I network with and have found that you can never know too much.

What made you start the business and what steps did you start?
In 2008 I came to a crossroads in my career , at the time I was managing private prisons but I  moved over to work for the training and development department.  The first time I did a talk at one of the away days, I got fantastic feedback.  The evaluation forms had comments like: “I can listen to her all day”, “she has a fantastic way of speaking and her delivery is excellent”, It was only after speaking at a second event at which I got even better accolades that it dawned on me that I could utilise this skill in my own business.  At that time I was part of the women’s issues network at the Ministry of Justice and went for a Winning Women’s conference, one of the jet banners had Dare to Dream below its caption – I walked out of there and knew instantly that the slogan was a message to me and it was the start of my dream to start my own business.  I soon attended  an event ran by a company called Partner Potential at the Charing Cross Hotel and the speaker spoke about perceptions,  his name is Kojo Gottfried, and when I walked out of there, there was a paradigm shift within me and I realised my perception of myself was different to people’s perception of me.  I began my journal and wrote down that I want to be a motivational speaker to influence people with my words.  I took my redundancy in 2009 and in October 2009, Dare to Dream was born and I have never looked back.  I built myself and the business by networking,  engaging in training and guest speaking at numerous events and by June 2012 I felt finally ready to formally launch Dare to Dream at the prestigious hotel Park Plaza.

What have been your greatest accomplishment in business world so far?
Seeing people tangibly change through my talks.  I want my words to empower people to reach where they want to go, I call Dare to Dream a runway to success and it is.  A lot of testimonies  I receive blow me away, I get told by so many that hear me speak that I have made something change in them and  that the passion and the words I deliver have not only taken them to where they want to be, but actually over and above.  When I see how some peoples  lives have changed  as a result of my talks or coaching I get the greatest feeling of accomplishment ever, as that is why I do what I do – I dared to dream and I want others to reach out for the stars and live their dream also.

What has been your biggest challenge so far
Finance.  Money is needed to start  a business but being a single mum getting my ‘House in order’ is a priority. I have had to look for external funding for my events in the form of sponsors etc to help to get the business to take off.

What are the future business plans for your business?
Wow, it really is such exciting times.  I want to be able to do more talks, work with associations and speak with integrity and passion to as many people as I can.  I want to start a training academy not only in this country but overseas and make Dare to Dream a reality for people. I also want to raise awareness of  the charity which I run .  I want to be a voice of the voiceless, to empower men and women to reach their God given destiny and to leave an indelible mark and legacy for the generations to come, through my inspirational talks and via my training and coaching.

If you had to do it all over again what would you do differently?
Have financial security. I would have made sure I got investors, sponsors and partners on board from the onset.

What is the biggest accomplishments you receive in business?
As I alluded to earlier, watching peoples lives change and their business take off really warms my heart.  I started Dare to Dream so my words would encourage, empower, build restore and people to regain their purpose and destiny of their lives. Seeing that happen as a result of my talks and coaching – is so warming and rewarding.  My passion is my genuine love for  people and those who know me know that all I want is to build not tear down people’s self esteem and help them see themselves as a valued precious and gifted human being , if this happens then it’s a job well done.  One soul at a time I tell myself .
What advice would you give somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
When I first started reaching out to networks and businesses and telling them about Dare to Dream, there was alot of come back – people  were saying things like “ there are hundred’s of motivational speakers what makes you different?”.  I told them I am an inspirational speaker who has come out of a bad situation fighting and my story and journey of success should empower people to build their lives.  I would advise people who want to do what I do, to know who THEY ARE – to value themselves, and to be authentic and have integrity when they speak. It is also important to have new material, to be different in delivery, have values and most importantly to ensure that their character matches their gifting and skills.  I work at mine every day.

What and who inspires you in business and why?
John C Maxwell. A leadership expert, powerful speaker whose authenticity appeals to me and I love his integrity and his love for God.  He does what he loves best and in that helps hundred’s of people.  On my vision board I have my picture next to powerful entrepreneurs and leaders such as him who I want to share a platform with .  His books inspire me, his passion is truly an inspiration.  He is my icon.
Other people that inspire me and whom I look up to are Steven Covey and  Joyce Meyer , who I think is a great evangelist and a powerful teacher whose teaching has changed my thinking and ways of doing things.  Another great icon is Bishop TD Jakes, he has such a way with words and I love words, I love listening to how he makes words come alive and resonate with my way of thinking.  Nick Vujicic whose love for life despite having no arms and legs really inspires me,  I use his videos in my talks to show people that nothing should stop them from achieving and to use whatever their best skills and features  are to be best they can.  He has a powerful quote: “ I have no arms no legs but look at my eyes they are my best feature, I am handsome aren’t I? - that is inspirational!

What are your favourite inspirational quotes?

  •  There is a tide in the affairs of men- which taken in the flood leads on to fortune.
  •  Follow knowledge like a sinking star like a sinking star beyond the utmost bounds of human thought is the be all and end of of life.
  •  The moving finger writes and have writ moves on
  •  We pass this life but once, there if there is any good we can , any love we can show and kindness given, let us not deter for giving sharing loving as we shall not pass this way again
  •  Watch your thoughts they become your words, watch your words they become your actions, watch your actions they become your habits, watch your habits they become your character and watch your character it becomes your destiny.
I dared to dream and that is what I want for every person.
Dare to Dream – where your inspiration meets your aspirations.

More information can be found out about Usha and Dare to Dream at:

Facebook: DaretoDreamLtd

Usha will be hosting the following event on the 3rd November 2012, for more information:

Monday 1 October 2012


The 2inspire Ladies Day exhibition that took place on the 19th August 2012 was an inspirational day out for those that attended. Over 200 attended the event  which was held to provide a platform for women to connect, be empowered and be inspired . On the day there was a clear message about  the importance of self-development and women becoming self sustainable within themselves with the aim to encourage and teach visitors to the event to utilise their skills and talents.  The event had 34 women run businesses whose combined range of products and services made the event an ultimate one-stop shop for ladies. The exhibitors showcased items such as jewellery, handicrafts, fashion, bags, shoes and natural hair and skin care products to name a few with  many of the businesses offering business opportunities that visitors could register for. There were Lifestyle inspiration workshops such as make-up tutorials  that demonstrated how to look and feel good and a business workshop and a business clinic that were armed with information to empower and support women in creating a clear vision for their business success. The fun-filled day had two entertainment segments which included poetry, singing and an exhibitor fashion show to highlight and promote creativity. A highlight of the event was the Award of Excellence which was awarded to the winner at the end of the event based on the votes of the exhibitors on the day, the award was sponsored by Dare To Dream and was won by Lerie Leblanc Patisserie. A feature on the award winner can be found below. The next Ladies day is taking place on the 9th March 2013, more information to follow.

Company Profile:
Leri Le'blanc Patisserie was started in February 2012 and is owned by Ilerie , a 25 year old aerospace engineer who designs delicious and creative gourmet cakes and cupcakes.  Her ladies day exhibition stand got the most votes from fellow exhibitors for the 2 Inspire Ladies Day Award of Excellence.


Please describe a typical business day for you:
A typical day for me starts really early. I prepare most ingredients and bake all my cakes on the day to keep them fresh and moist. When the cakes are baking in the oven, I focus on designing and paying attention to detail, which is the fun and creative side for me. This takes a lot of thinking, focus and time per cake. I sort out all orders in time for pick-ups or delivery. The best part of my day is WASHING UP with frosted Legs and covered in icing sugar, lol.

What made you start the business and what steps did you take to start?
I started my business in February 2012; I was a student at University trying to make ends meet. I tried recipes for my friends and they were very impressed and told me to give it ago. I juggled baking with Final year Aerospace Engineering and practically became a night crawler (Zombie) but I enjoyed every bit of it for the whole month. I decided to take it serious after I finished my degree in June.

I started my research about a business in general, as this was all new to me. I ran away from business subjects growing up as I found science to be my thing (nerd). I followed every baking company I knew, read & subscribed to blogs and joined forums. This helped me ask questions and get initial ideas, register my business, list my goals and rules to follow. It has been sweet and new ever since! Finding out a talent I never knew I had makes it all the more interesting for me.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world so far?
My greatest accomplishment so far has to be winning the award at the 2inspire Ladies day exhibition. I was really surprised because there were so many outstanding businesses and I was the youngest businesswoman there, yet I received the award of Excellence.
                          ILERIE & HER AWARD
What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
When I was just starting out, deliveries were an issue because I was at University, which was outside London, so it was extremely hard to get cakes to customers that were far away. This has now been sorted and I have learnt from my mistakes!

 What are your future plans for business?
To develop unique flavors, expand, cater to a wider variety of events, bake for charity causes, and make Leri Le Blanc Patisserie bigger and better one cupcake at a time.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would love to have gone to Culinary School to learn the art of pastry making and become a Pastry Chef. I still plan to achieve this goal.

What is the best compliment you could receive in business?
The best compliments for me are "Wow, this is amazing" and seeing customers really excited and touched. It makes me feel fulfilled.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
My advice to anyone is to follow and chase your dreams. It is never too late to follow your heart. Do what you enjoy and enjoy what you do. Be your biggest fan because people only see your vision the way you portray it. Practice, it’s the only way to get better at anything.

What or who inspires you in business and why?
Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Richard Branson. They inspire me because they followed their dreams and most especially they give and are very philanthropic. I believe GIVERS NEVER LACK.

 What is your favourite inspirational quote?
  I have a lot  *covers face*

  • 'Out of clutter, find simplicity, from discord, find harmony, in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity' - Albert Einstein
  • 'Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried something new' - Albert Einstein
  • 'Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘ I’m possible’!' – Audrey Hepburn
  • 'If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up some place else' – Yogi Berra
  • 'There is time for everything' – Thomas A. Edison
You can find out more about Leri Le'blanc Patisserie on:
Twitter: @LeriLeBlanc