Why Genuine and Organic Instagram Growth Is Best For Your Business

Hello!

I've recently seen a rise in article and posts advocating that people buy followers and even poach their competitors followers. Personally, I think buying followers is an instant no no as it's quite easy to tell when people have. If your audience find out that you have, it can be a turn off as people will think that you're shallow or all about the money/numbers. As for poaching your competitors followers, there is a clear line. Using it as a way to connect to artists and small businesses can be useful but just going down someone's follower list and following everyone is not the right way. I had this recently where I noticed a follower of mine, who does similar things to me had followed a large portion of my followers. This is the thing, not only the artists and businesses as just mentioned but my own personal friends. Personally, I think this is crossing the line, although maybe I shouldn't be so precious in this day and age with the accessibility of social media. Each person's moral compass is different to your own. Stepping beyond that line is something I would never do but again it harks back to the point I am about to make about being genuine online.  So, here are 5 reasons why I think obtaining Instagram growth organically and authentically is the best option for growing your business.

1.  Engagement

Chances are if you're in it for the numbers and you poach other people's followers, randomly follow people in the hopes that they will follow back, you won't get the engagement you're after. Simple.  At first look, Instagram appears to be all about the number of followers you have, with this determining how successful and "big" you are. However, Instagram's algorithm is mainly based on engagement. It's not enough to have thousands of followers anymore, people actually have to engage with your post in order for your posts to be more visible to them. Chances are if you've poached a load of followers and you haven't bothered to genuinely connect with them and establish them as friends, they're not going to bother to engage with your post. This also applies to buying followers from certain companies. You may get promised anything from hundreds to thousands of followers "overnight" but the truth is most of those are bots that are rarely going to engage with your posts. For me, a massive benefit of curating an genuine, engaged community is cultivating feedback and insight. For example, I often use Instagram to ask for people's opinions on a certain product idea or colour way or design. This is a huge advantage that you would massively miss out on if a large portion of your followers were bought or didn't connect with you.  

2. Authenticity

One reason someone might decide to follow you besides liking your work, is because they like your personality, your brand vibe, your feed or your lifestyle. Another big reason would be because they feel that you're an authentic, genuine person that they can trust. Being authentic in your business and you're approach to marketing has more of an impact on your audience than you might think. For example, you might like a person's Instagram because they seem to genuinely care about how their business effects the environment but if you found out that they had bought thousands of followers, you would think that all they care about is popularity or money. 

People don't want you to be "salesy" all the time. So you need to create content that you like and is genuine but that also reflects what your followers are interested in. If you have the majority of bought or poached followers, they are not going to give you that feedback on what they like. They'll just like everything or randomly. You need to use this wonderful engaged community to your advantage and help them, help you.

3. Traffic

If you pay for followers or follow someone else's followers without checking if they are your target audience, that's a huge chunk of your audience that won't be likely to ever head to your website or buy your products. A recent study by Fohr Card found that 8% of the estimated 600 million Instagram accounts were fake, which equals 48 million potential bots! That's a large percentage of accounts that don't have a human being behind them. Yes you will have loads of followers but you have to ask yourself - what's the point? If they are bots, you're essentially  standing up on your soap box, speaking to no one.  All that time and effort that you put into your content and for what? For it to look like it's well liked but actually not many people have clicked through to read your blog post because most of the people that liked the post are "AI".

Back to the engagement point real quick, if you create genuine connections with your organic followers, they have the potential to pass on your work via word of mouth or on their own social media platforms. Bots and people who you haven't connected with won't do that.  One of the biggest benefits of creating an engaged community is that you can build mutual respect and admiration for people. Again, you shouldn't create those friendships with the intention to exploit them, but genuine friendships can often lead to connection and shows of support in multiple ways. Be it a purchase from your shop, a motivational support boost, a share on their page, a mention on their blog or a lovely comment on your post. These sorts of relationships can't be created with bots and people that don't have a connected interest in you. Marketing is the biggest part of running a business and most marketing is off putting as it is done in an aggressive way. Unexpected, genuine marketing can be the loveliest and have the most impact. Besides, everyone is more likely to trust a brand and purchase from them if they have good reviews, right? 

4. Focus on your own lane

Constantly searching through your competitors followers and scouting out what they are doing, leaves you with less time to concentrate on your own work. You know the saying, stay in your own lane? This very much applies to that. Work on developing your own brand, your style, your portfolio and creating a place where people will want to be.
"If you build it they will come." 
"Your vibe attracts your tribe."
These phrases are popular for a reason. Because they're true. By trying to copy someone else, you lose some of your authenticity and what the people who followed you originally liked about you. You will probably end up doing things you think other people will like and less of what you and your original followers like. If you're not enthusiastic and love what what you're creating, other people won't love it either.

5. Brand Integrity

Just as with most things, good things take time. Building trust with your followers and consumers is something that can't happen over night. No matter how many bots you buy or how many of someone else's followers you try and steal for yourself. It's not just a case of they follow my competitor so they're going to follow me. They might follow your competitor for a whole host of reasons and I'd bet that one of them is because of their authenticity and integrity. Quality content takes time, expertise and a real effort to obtain an organic social community.

So, that is why I think being genuine and growing your following organically is the best approach for your marketing strategy. It may be slower and as we live in a society that is all about instant gratification, it is easy to get lost in the numbers and focus and obsess about looking good online. In honesty, looking good online comes from being genuine. Building that genuine connection with your followers and providing them with interesting, tailored content that they love and want to engage with. At the end of the day, that is where the progress and trust lies. It's like the lesson you learn after school - "I would rather have a small group of close friends than thousands of friends who don't talk to me." You can have thousands of friends and still feel lonely. The world around us and our new and constantly changing online business world revolves around engagement.  

Community over competition.
Communication is key.

Elle x

1 Year of Dots and Ink Pots

Hello! 
So, the 1st August marks a very special date! It's my 1 year business anniversary! *dance party*
It's snuck up on me so quickly that it doesn't even feel like a whole year yet. I have a giveaway planned over on my Instagram page, so head over to that to enter to win a space bundle! There is also a 20% off coupon for my Etsy shop in order to celebrate the occasion. Finally, I thought I would write a post on my blog to sum up my first year in business. Everything I've learnt so far, my honest feelings, business milestones and hopes for the future. 

Things I've Learnt:

Do the things that you're obsessed with. Create the things you love, not just what you think will be popular.
This lesson happened fairly recently, thanks to Tiffany Han's opening keynote at Blogtacular. When I first opened I sold just prints of hand drawn pointillism pieces such as anatomy and animals. In the space of a year I have evolved so much and gone into digital pointillism illustration and created things that were out of my comfort zone but that I am passionate about. I am taking this motivation and new outlook on the things that I make for all of my future projects. I'm already using it to create a Vegan collection, something that I wouldn't have done a year ago, because I was still thinking that I had to be less experimental with what I was creating in order to appeal to people.

Take risks in what you're doing.
Following on from the last point, taking risks is something I have started doing more recently. Prints were my comfort zone, they sold relatively well but they weren't my best seller. I started to want to expand my product range within 5 months of opening up shop, the urge was just too strong! First came cards (which are now my best seller), I've just launched notebooks and I am already looking to expand even further before the end of the year. Once you start taking risks and step outside of your comfort zone, it's super addictive. 

The creative community will be so important to you. 
One thing I found out as soon as I set up my Instagram page back in March  2017 was that the creative community is the best thing on Earth. Once you start cultivating a strong community on any social media platforms, it literally changes your business life in so many ways. I go to them for advice, support, help, inspiration and motivation. Being able to talk to other creatives and small business owners was something I didn't truly understand the power of before. Genuine connection with real people is all I care about when it comes to social media. I'm not here to obsess over numbers and how many followers I have. Obviously when I hit milestones, I am thankful and I will celebrate, but genuine connection and engagement is what i'm about.

Don't overestimate your stock.
This was something I found out relatively quickly after opening my business. After initially worrying about how many of each print to order, my boyfriend made me realise that I had planned to print too many and that it would be a big expense and investment in a lot of stock. I had planned 75 of each of my starting 6 prints, which would have been 450! I can't believe that I had even considered that straight off the bat! I settled on 20 of each print in the end and i'm very glad I did. Buying in bulk is often the way to go to save a bit of money, however it can be a lot of money to invest, especially for new items or when you're starting out.  I've found it's better to buy a smaller test amount, see how that goes and if it sells well you can always buy in slightly larger, bulk numbers when the initial stock gets low.

Don't underestimate your worth, your time or your value. 
I feel like every artist, creative and small business owner will struggle with pricing and valuing the time they spent on their work. It's something I struggle with daily. I often think that I am underpricing my work, especially with commissions. After a year of working on my business, I feel that it is something that we will never truly be content with, we'll just get better at improving it step by step. That's okay too. As long as we are always taking steps to better value ourselves, we should never feel that we are ripping ourselves off. Stemming on from that, we must be paid for all work we undertake. I know full well how easy it can be to work for free. This can be through free competitions for exposure, speculative work, payment in exposure or anything but money. Whilst some opportunities might be good for your business, you need to make sure you research the company, their terms and conditions, if their audience is the same as your target market and if their reach makes it worth it for. Otherwise, you'll be making a potential loss for your business, your time and it devalues the worth of other illustrators, artists and creatives in your field that refused to work for free. 

MIlestones:

Now I've talked about all the things i've learnt thus far, I thought for the interest of documentation and for me to read back in a few years time, I would detail all the milestones I've managed to hit this year!

-I was interviewed as part of Ashleigh from Bert Shop's "Confessions of a Small Business Owner Podcast". In my episode we discussed starting your own business, overcoming imposter syndrome, just going for it and working out the minefield of manufacturers. I never dreamt that I would be interviewed for a podcast, especially within my first year and alongside super amazing business babes.

-I managed to hit over 40 Etsy sales and bag my first 2 commissions. I am planning to open up my commission books again by the end of the year, after the launch of my Vegan Collection coming in November.

-Although the numbers aren't that essential to me, I am proud of the community i'm cultivating on Instagram, I'm currently approaching 900 Instagram followers and I love the help and encouragement they give me. 

-As of writing, I've entered into 3 product areas - prints, cards and notebooks. I've got plans to enter more by the end of the year and 2019 is going to be a big year for me! Watch this space.

So, that's it! That is my round of my first year in business. Did you like this post? Let me know in the comments below if you did and if you would like me to talk more about my business advice. if there's anything in particular you would like my advice on, just let me know. I'm more than happy to share my advice, tips and tricks with you. Sharing is caring and community is better than competition.

Speak soon!
Elle x
 

What I Learnt From Blogtacular 2018
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Hello!
I have finally finished writing about Blogtacular 2018. Yay! So, this marked my first ever Blogtacular experience and it was definitely interesting and informative. Instead of writing the standard blog post afterwards explaining how the event went in a diary format, I'm going to share with you my takeaways from the event. Because, my goodness, I learnt A LOT! Not all of this was learnt on the day, in the two weeks since I've been able to reflect and learn from things that happened on the day as well.

1. Tiffany Han's Keynote.
This keynote was the bomb. Full of SO many inspiring, motivating and kick-ass tips and lessons. Having not heard of Tiffany or been to Blogtacular before, I was unsure of what to expect. This keynote shot my expectations out of a cannon at great speed and exploded them into the sky in a series of fireworks. Before it was even half way done, I wanted to jump up, leave the room and work on my business. 

My top 3 takeaways from the keynote were:
1. Work on whatever you find exciting. If you're bored with what you're working on, your audience is going to be bored.
2. Do the things that won't leave you alone.
3. Be in front of the evolution.

2. Insta Stories Talk by Laura Jane Williams and Carrie Santana Da Silva
This was another fab talk that was funny and informative. I had never thought about my Instagram stories that much but this talk highlighted to me how important it is to be true to yourself and your brand. Laura asked us to think of three words that describe ourselves and create content that embodies them. My three words were: Passionate, True and Kind.
It helped me to narrow down my content, narrative and my brand and it's really helped me to look at the bigger picture.

3. Overall Feelings
I was very nervous before and during the event as I had never attended a conference of that size before and imposter syndrome definitely set in. Looking back, I feel that even though it was a perfectly normal feeling, I am pretty annoyed at myself for not being more proactive in starting conversations. At the time I made excuses for myself by saying "they look deep in conversation" or  "I don't want to leer nearby or be rude." Although it's perfectly valid to feel that way, I know deep down that I could have handled those situations, I could have broke the ice but instead I stuck to people I knew and on my own. Coming away from Blogtacular has given me the oomph and drive to go to more social and networking events and be the best and most confident version of myself that I can be.

Would I go back? Yes.
Tips for next time? Make more of an effort to network. Everyone is there to connect with people. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about my Blogtacular experience. There is no conference next year, but there is one in 2020. I'm so excited to attend that one! I'll be three years into my business and with the reflections from this one, it should be my most confident one yet.

Elle x

World Environment and Oceans Days - Beat Plastic Pollution
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This week it is World Environment and World Oceans Day. Each year they pick a theme to focus on and this year they have both picked "Plastic Pollution." World Oceans Day provides a unique opportunity to honour, help protect and conserve our world's shared ocean. Whereas the UN's World Environment Day encourages worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment.

The ocean is important as it generates more than half of the oxygen we breathe and absorbs the most carbon from it, it helps feed us, regulates our climate, cleans the water we drink, offers a variety of medicines and contains a whole ecosystem of marine life.

However, there is an estimated 12.7 million tonnes of plastic that end up in our oceans each year. This ranges from plastic bottles and plastic bags to microbeads. Due to the plastic travelling on ocean currents, it is ending up all over the world, even trapped in Arctic ice. The impacts this is having on marine life is devastating. Most of us will remember the harrowing scenes from Davd Attenborough's Blue Planet series of the Albatross dead with plastic inside their stomachs or the Whale carrying her dead calf around with her after it died from drinking her pollution contaminated milk.

Although the majority of plastic bottles are technically "recyclable", most of them don't actually make it to the recycling plant. However, plastic doesn't actually biodegrade, it photodegrades, which means that the plastic breaks down into smaller, more toxic fragments which then pollutes the land and ocean. This then leads to them being ingested by animals, which can then be eaten by humans, or it can kill them.

                          THINGS WE CAN DO TO HELP - PLASTIC ALTERNATIVES

-Use tote/canvas bags instead of plastic ones
-Invest in a glass/steel straw and say no to plastic ones in bars
-Invest in reusable coffee cups and water bottles and take them with you to coffee shops.
-Shop in bulk food stores - bring your own containers, household cleaners, pasta, lentils etc.
-Buy fresh bread in bags
-Buy fresh fruit and veg loose and bring your own bags
-Buy bar soaps instead of bottles - lush do some great packaging free products.
-Stop using cling-film and use reuseable tupperware.

There are obviously many more ways we can help reduce our own plastic consumption and I have shared some of these links below.

Greenpeace
Mother Nature Network
Friends Of The Earth
WWF

Also I don't claim to do all of these methods, but I am slowly working towards reducing my plastic consumption as much as possible, which is all anyone can reasonably do.

Hope you enjoyed reading this post and you are leaving feeling inspired to ditch the plastic!

Elle x

Vegan Inspired Etsy Finds

Hello!
Many of you may know that I have been Vegan since March 2017 and it is something that is very important to me. I myself have been designing and working on some Vegan inspired products for you all but until they are ready I thought I would gather together some of my favourites from other Etsy sellers.

World's Okayest Vegan Jumper - Warya Tshirts - £17.10

This jumper is a perfect statement piece. I love the slogan for those days where you feel less like buddha bowls and more like Oreo's and vegan ice cream.

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Not your Mum, Not Your Milk Tee - The Goose and Rabbit - £18.19

This wonderfully illustrated design shows the exploitation of the dairy industry in a striking and artistic way. It's cute, yet informative and is simply gorgeous.

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Vegan Tattoo Mug - All Glamour No Guts -  £10.00

I do not have enough mugs. This is one I definitely NEED. This Vegan tattoo style heart design is perfect on this mug. Simple, straight to the point and stylish, this mug is a win.

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Avocado Boob Tee - Cactus and Spoon Prints £14.50
This screen printed t-shirt design is made using a hand-printed lino cut design. This cheeky t-shirt is sure to be a fun and casual way to show off your Vegan pride, or just your love of Avocados.
 

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Vegan Badge Pack - Hello Treacle £5
These 38mm Vegan pin badges are designed, printed and handmade by Hello Treacle. The illustrated designs are perfect for popping onto bags, clothes and accessories. Plus the products and packaging are made from recycled materials where possible. Check the listings for further information.

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Vote With Your Fork Print - The Creative Toucan £12
I love the Vegan prints by The Creative Toucan so much that it was hard to choose between them. My favourite design is the Keep Calm and Become Vegan print. Although this design is perfect for your kitchen walls. These prints are beautifully designed and illustrated and make the perfect vegan statement.

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Plants are Friends Jumper - Tme Printing £13.29
This screen printed jumper design is wonderfully illustrated and quirky. The company also operate a "Tees for Trees" initiative in that for every item they sell, they will plant a tree on your behalf. This is carried out with their partners at "Trees for the Future." So not only are you getting a great piece of clothing, you're also helping the environment in the process. Win Win!

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Those are my first 7 picks! I really enjoyed coming up with this list and I still have SO many items saved in my Etsy favourites, so let me know in the comments if you would like to see another one in the future! I hope you go and check out these wonderful Etsy sellers and their great Vegan inspired items.

Elle x

Deaf Awareness Week
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Hey everyone!
Some of you may know that this week is Deaf Awareness Week, so I thought I would take the time to tell you all about my own personal experience with hearing loss in order to raise awareness.

I have mild hearing loss in both of my ears. I was born with it and it was passed on to me through my paternal grandfather. Apparently it's degenerative but my hearing has stayed the same since I was 18 so that's a good sign! 

It was noticed when I was a child as my mum would call my name or make loud noises around me and I wouldn't respond or react to the sound. It's also the reason I am so incredibly clumsy - due to my balance being affected. I was meant to wear two hearing aids as a child but due to being stubborn and the fear of the other children noticing, I rarely wore both of them. This then meant that I was able to learn how to lip read pretty well. My audiologist actually says that I am able to lip read people without looking directly at their lips, which is normally a big giveaway. Somehow I am able to do it whilst looking at their eyes! I went through most of secondary school wearing them in dribs and drabs. I finally decided I needed to wear them at college due to missing things in lessons, so I went to get new moulds fitted. Again I only wore one instead of two because it would be less noticeable and I could tuck one side of my hair behind the ear without the hearing aid and no one would know. After years of rarely wearing them and at most only wearing one, two hearing aids was just too much noise. My audiologist says that I must be getting all the sound I need from one as that's the way I've conditioned my brain to receive the sound.

That's the thing. Despite the fact that wearing hearing aids isn't something to be embarrassed about, I spent my whole childhood and teenage years feeling exactly that. I used to be terrified that the other children would see and make fun of me for it. I used to always wear my hair down so that there was less chance of someone seeing it. A lot of my friends that I went to school with never knew that I had them because I never told them. I appreciate that my hearing loss is mild in comparison to others and so there's no way you can tell from my voice. It's taken me a long time to be able to get to the point where I am writing and publishing this public blog post about my hearing. I was bullied during junior and the start of secondary school, so keeping my hearing loss a secret seemed the best way to avoid extra attention. I always felt that people would then treat me differently after knowing or then may use that against me in some way. Growing up there was never a large number of role models that were public about wearing hearing aids and were my age.  No one really talked about it and the only adverts you would see of it on television were for the elderly. 

However, through my confidence growing so much, my amazing friends, family, boyfriend and I think just general ageing, I felt it was important to address it. There may be other children, teens, young adults, adults or anyone else that are feeling the same things that I felt up until very recently that this may help. I'm not pretending that I am 100% confident about my hearing all of the time, but I have generally reached the point where I don't care what people think anymore. People have hearing aids just as they have glasses. Hearing aids are mostly associated with older people, which is why I guess people are ashamed of them. The more we spread awareness of deafness, the more it becomes normalised and accepted as part of everyday life. Some people wear glasses, some people wear hearing aids, some people have tattoos, some people wear skinny jeans. 

It definitely gets easier to deal with when you put it into perspective. Everyone has something about them that makes them unique and different. When I was at school, the environment was one of which "if you're different and stand out, people notice" and that's not always a good thing. As a child, I took that to mean that standing out was wrong, which I realise now is inherently untrue. Standing out is what we should try and aim for. I think the largest factor that contributed to the school environment, is that people were not aware. If everyone in my school knew about hearing loss, they were educated on it, had role models in popular culture of all ages with it, it wouldn't be so much of an issue. This would have definitely reduced the stigma and curiosity that then turned to negativity whilst I was growing up.

With the World Health Organisation predicting that noise-induced hearing loss is a potential health crisis, with 1.1 billion young people across the world at risk, it is an increasingly important topic. Hearing loss can be linked depression and anxiety so it is SO important that together we break the stigma associated with hearing loss, deafness and hearing aids. Our hearing doesn't define us, but it is a part of what makes us. The hearing aids are an essential life-changing improvement in sound-quality, allowing us to be confident and lead as normal of lives as possible.

I hope this post has been informative and useful to as many of you as possible.
If you wish to find out some more information on hearing loss and how to deal with it, I've left some links below. I am going to take more steps to work with deaf charities to support and encourage education in schools right from a young age, in anyway that I can in order to spread awareness and knowledge about something that is more common than we all think and share.

If anyone reading this is from a deaf/hearing loss charity and you want to work together, please email elle@dotsandinkpots.com and I would love to hear from you.

www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk
www.scope.org.uk
www.hearinglink.org

Elle x

National Stationery Week - Indie Business Finds!

Hello, it is National Stationery Week in the UK this week and so I thought I would use this occasion to gather some wonderful stationery together from some indie businesses!
I love stationery but I go through phases of buying it. Mostly because I spend the majority of my money on food...  However, these pieces have been on my lust list for ever.

1. Scrabble Inspired Fun Plans Stationery Set - Claireabellemakes -£10
With this wonderful little stationery set you get:
 -Fun Plans Notepad (A6 size, 50 sheets, 80 gsm) 105 x 148mm
- Slogan Pencil (Make Some Fun Plans)
- Fun Plans glossy sticker
- Gold glittery heart paper clip

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2. Bunny Ears Cactus A6 Notebook - BertIllustration - £4
This little A6 Kraft notebook design is handrawn by the lovely Ashleigh. The blank pages inside are perfect for jotting down notes and ideas as well as sketches. Perfect for any plant obsessed pals out there!

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3. Pug A5 Notepad - Hello DODO - £4.50
I am a sucker for anything with a dog on! If you love dogs as much as I do, then you'll love this notepad! 48 blank pages made from 100% recycled paper means that you can doodle away guilt free!

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4. Big Ideas Notepad - OHNORachio - £8.50
I LOVE a good list. I would write an endless amount of lists when I was in my teens. Even lists of lists that I wanted to write! This A4 notepad would have been perfect! It's gorgeous colour scheme and hand-lettering is a 10/10 from me. 50 pages at 80gsm.

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5. Wizard Class A5 Pack of 3 Notebooks - Fairy Cakes - £12.00

As much as I loved lists when I was in my teens, I also loved Harry Potter. Yes, that's right. So, these lovely designed wizard class notebooks are perfect for pretending you're off to potions class or they can be used to contain your muggle notes. 40 pages of 80gsm recycled lined paper in a square stapled spine.

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There you have it! I hope you liked checking out some of my fave stationery items for National Stationery Week and if you like them, the links are in each listing so click them and head over to the site! 

Elle x

1 Year Vegan Anniversary

1st of April marks my year anniversary of becoming Vegan! Yay! Go me!

So I thought I would write a (probably rather long) blog post on why I decided to go Vegan, what food I eat, how I'm finding it so far and what I'm looking at doing in the future.
As a little bit of context, I was vegetarian/pescatarian since I was 13 and I used to cook most of my own food. I was vegetarian up until the age of 21 and I really enjoyed it. I think it started as a bet to do it for two weeks and then I enjoyed it so much that I just carried on! I never really used to like the taste of meat anyway and I rarely used to eat it that much. 

I briefly started eating meat again not long after I met my boyfriend as he was a big meat eater and for convenience and money, it was just easier. I wasn't earning a lot of money at the time, as I was on a zero hour contract, so it made sense to just cook one big meal instead of having to buy and cook different things. I'm not proud of this little relapse but at this point I hadn't really researched Veganism and so I wasn't fully aware of the implications of eating meat.

My boyfriend and I moved in together two years ago and from then I would say that my receptiveness to Veganism slowly started to increase. I think not long after we moved in together, I went back vegetarian again. I noticed the impact that eating a diet of meat and dairy had been having on my health, as I was feeling constantly tired, lethargic and just crappy most of the time. I would also say that I noticed having more spots when I was eating this diet.

We had planned a holiday to Spain in May 2017 and in the year prior to that I had slowly started noticing and reading the odd article here and watching the odd video there. These articles and videos had detailed to me the unnecessary and barbaric slaughter of innocent animals, the incredible health benefits of a wholefoods plant-based diet and the positive implications on the environment. 

I had planned to go Vegan after our holiday so that I could enjoy the holiday without being limited to what I could eat in a foreign country. It's hard to say what actually made me go Vegan as I think it was a build up of things but the main catalyst was a documentary called Carnage by Simon Amstell. My boyfriend had really wanted to watch it as he thought it looked like a spoof parody documentary set in the future where everyone is Vegan and past meat eaters repent in "AA" style meetings. We got half way in and suddenly there were graphic scenes of scared animals being slaughtered, tortured and shot. I immediately ran into the bathroom and sobbed for 10 minutes straight. I decided then and there that there was NO WAY I could possibly eat meat, dairy or eggs ever again.

I must preface this with the fact that I used to be a MASSIVE cheese lover. I loved it. The best part of Christmas for me was the massive cheese board. Everyone I told that I was going Vegan immediately said "but you love cheese so much?" And it's true, I did love it and I think the main reason I didn't go Vegan sooner was because of this reason. But honestly, I don't miss it. At all. Once you see the brutality and the suffering that these poor animals go through for meat and cheese, it really changes you. Once that association is made, it is really hard to go back.

So, I started my Vegan lifestyle in April 2017 and I haven't looked back since. I would say that it is snowballing massively and I'm very happy about that. It started with food and I have loved researching and educating myself on the wonders of plant-based food and the tremendous health benefits of eating certain foods. I have always loved food and so it makes me very happy to be able to try new foods and explore new combinations through my cooking instead of relying on meat. This lifestyle has seen changes in my shopping as I'm replacing my cosmetics and household products with Vegan and cruelty-free alternatives once they run out. I'm trying to be more environmentally friendly, increasing my recycling habits and trying to buy less packaging and plastic. This is also extending to my business, as my cellophane bags are used up, I'm replacing them with bio-degradable alternatives from Eco-Craft and using recycled materials where possible.

After discovering Earthling Ed on Youtube, I am trying to increase my activism slowly. I've joined various Facebook groups (Anonymous for the Voiceless and some outreach groups) and I'm hoping to join some local demos soon. I'm making strides to include my Veganism in my business, with Vegan themed products and prints in the works! Stay tuned! I've also influenced my mum to become Vegan as well and she's been Vegan since the start of the year. Woo!

So! That's a wrap on my Vegan journey so far, I've already waffled on quite a bit!
If you are interested in Veganism and what it can do for you, the environment and the animals, I'm going to leave links to videos, information and books you can check out if you wish!
I hope you found this interesting and can understand a bit more about my Vegan journey!
Let me know what you think!
Elle x

Earthling Ed Youtube Channel - Vegan activist, calm and informative.
Land of Hope and Glory - "UK Earthlings" - showcasing footage from UK farms.
Veganuary Website - 30 day Vegan Challenge - free, lots of information, starter kits, recipes, advice.
Forks Over Knives - Website as well as a Documentary - mostly focusing on health and food
What The Health - Documentary - focusing on health and food
Challenge 22 - 22 day Vegan Challenge - free, vegan mentor, recipes, advice
Cowspiracy - Documentary - slightly graphic, focusing on the impacts of animal agriculture on the environment.
Earthlings - Very graphic documentary exploring the exploitative relationships we have with animals.
 

Random Acts of Kindness Day

Hello!
Many of you may know that today is Random Acts of Kindness Day. This year I am all about spreading happiness and being kinder, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to share with you all 5 Random Acts of Kindness.

1.  Send A Card
Sending someone a card can be a great way to be kind. It can be someone you've not spoken to in a while or someone just because! I recently sent a card to a friend because of "Send a Friend a Card Day" this month and they loved it. It surprised them, made them feel happy and overwhelmed by the gesture. Doing this simple act can really brighten someone's day and besides, writing is a lost communication method with texts and social media now, so it's nice to go back to the roots!

2. Buy a Pay It Forward coffee or meal
When I was in Brighton last summer, we stopped in a food place called Bagelman, partly to shelter from the rain and also because we were hungry. As I was paying, I noticed a sign up on the counter that said I could buy either a coffee or a coffee and a sandwich bagel for someone who needed it in the future. I thought it was a great initiative, meaning that a homeless person would be able to have a hot drink and some food because I had already paid for it for them. 
This is something I encourage any food businesses to do and any person that comes across an initiative like this to partake in. 

3. Acknowledge a Homeless person
In the same vein as the post above, simply acknowledging a homeless person can make a world of difference. Often people choose to ignore them sat on the street and I imagine that would be one of the hardest parts - not even being recognised as a human being. I recently asked a homeless guy sat outside my local shop if he wanted anything from the shop. He seemed genuinely surprised that I had started talking to him and he seemed confused as he tried to think of what he needed. He settled on a packet of crisps but when I asked him what flavour he wanted, he was again confused as he hadn't had the luxury of choice for a while. He eventually settled on chicken crisps. Inside the shop, I bought a 6 pack of meat flavoured crisps, some chocolate chip cookies and a drink. He seemed so happy at this and the fact that I had bothered to actually talk to him, that he was very grateful.
Regardless of whether you buy them something or not, just acknowledging them and perhaps even taking the time to talk to them and find out a bit about who they are and what led them to be homeless can really help them feel worthy.

4.  Volunteer time at an animal shelter
This is something I am going to do when I start university as I love animals and it makes perfect sense. Most animal shelters are run on donations or limited income, where they rely on the kindness of strangers and volunteers. Being able to commit to a couple of hours a week can really help out, plus you get to spend time with animals and help get them ready for their forever homes. Also you will be able to use the experience and skills you have learnt on your CV too.

5. Genuinely Compliment Someone
Finally, giving someone a genuine compliment can really make them feel great and it will make you feel great too. Seeing the smile on someone's face can really help brighten both of your days and help increase someone's confidence.

There you have it! 5 simple ways to spread a little bit of kindness and make everyone's day a little bit brighter.

Elle x

Space Valentines Card Range

Hello everyone!

Many of you will know that until now my Etsy shop has been filled with a variety of just prints of my pointillism pieces. Well, I can now reveal to you all my first range of pointillism cards!! (Fanfare, fireworks and confetti cannons fire)

Space is my main theme for this year, so I thought it would be perfect to release a range of space themed valentines cards. There will be more added to the range as the year goes on, but for now there are five wonderful love-filled designs for you to get your hands on. The text for all of the cards was hand-lettered by myself and I absolutely adore how they've turned out!

Home Is Wherever I'm With You Card

You Are My Greatest Adventure Card

Look How They Shine For You Card

I Love You More Than There Are Stars In The Sky Card

I Thank My Lucky Stars To Have Found You Card

Click on the pictures above to be taken to my Etsy shop, if you want to check them out further or buy them!

I really hope you like them too. It's spurred me on to make more exciting things and I'm having so much fun exploring new products and designs. 

Let me know what you think of them in the comments below!

Elle x