Mandy Charlton - Photographer, Writer, Blogger

Photographer of Families, Small People and Delightful Places. Travel and Lifestyle Writer and Blogger. Lives in Newcastle, Loves the North, Often Accompanied By A Beagle Named Holly Bobbins

Monday, June 18, 2018

To all of the haters

Mandy Charlton, CEO of The Inspire Network, To All of the haters, photographer, blogger, writer

When you go into a new business, any business, there's a time of phrenetic change, in your life, and in the lives of the people who surround you, your friends, your family, people affected by that business in so many different ways.  When you are a change maker, a disruptor or a newly appointed CEO, that change is multiplied tenfold.

The truth is you can't make massive change without creating disruption and you can't be a disruptor of industry without making massive changes.

In the six weeks I have been the CEO of The Inspire Industry we have made so many changes, we have leapt over a thousand hurdles, we have instigated so many new policies and we have started to lead an overall change in the mindsets of everyone who knew and loved the company before it was a company.

Not for profit companies have a massive place in society overall, they're often run by great philanthropists and they have to be, they require so much time and dedication that other paid work falls by the wayside. In a business networking organisation not for profit requires time and energy taken away from your business, the one that makes money and that's why it's only tenable whilst a business is tiny.

When I became the CEO, we were already over 10,000 women strong in our group membership, we already had groups all over the region.  But in every single action to sustain the network we were asking women to take time away from their own businesses, the ones which fed and provided for their own families and that felt like it could only continue for a finite amount of time.

We are now The Inspire Network International Limited, we are a fully formed profit making company, we made a profit even in our earliest days, if you discount the fact that all of the money which has come in has gone back into building our new amazing organisation.

We have today, after just 6 short weeks, 26 new groups, all having their meetings right around the region and beyond and in every single circumstance apart from 1, those ladies are able to run how they see fit, charge whatever they want to charge and they are not giving up work or income to mould their amazing satellite groups. The 1 group which isn't profit making is Inspire Young Women and quite simply it's not profit making because it's for 16-24 year olds, not women in business although they're absolutely welcome to join, no, our young women's group is about empowerment, about making your voice heard as a young person, it's about self worth, making your mark on the world and feeling you have value, something young women don't hear enough of in our society today.

I'd like to say that the last 6 weeks have been easy or a breeze but I'd be lying, it's been 19 hour days, continuous meetings, exhaustion and when Looby and I took a break, it was clear I really needed it, we both did.  There have been days where I've cried at my desk, days where I've questioned myself and I guess those are the days when the small undercurrent of haters really get you down, it doesn't matter how big you become or how well known you are, in fact it's often a sign of success when the haters do come out to play.  You see, the jealous, the insecure, the ones who complain, it's because they don't have faith in their own abilities, some people, let's call them bullies cannot bear to look at their own businesses so they pick faults with others.  Then there are those who say "Oh I love those ideas, but I don't like that business so I'll copy that.  It's flattery to be copied, it's also a sign of unoriginality and eventually those businesses will fail because negativity, compliant, bullying and copying only lead you so far.

So what can you do in your business if it happens?  Well the truth is, whether you are a CEO or a You Tuber or a blogger or a writer, all you can do is find your people, surround yourself with good people, people who care, people who you trust, people who won't mind if you wobble or have the worst mental health day because you'll be able to be honest with them, those trusted advisors will know you like you know your own heart and they will celebrate with you, cheer you on and comfort you on the bad days.

So go forward and make the changes, be brave, be bold, disrupt things, be the unique one with the original ideas, the one who's not scared to stand up and say "I believe in us, I believe in my ability to grow something that is bigger than me, bigger than all of us.  You, yourself, you who came from such humble beginnings and worked harder to be better and fought great battles, you can do anything so go and be the change and believe you are worth it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Retreat, Refresh, Relax

Running a business is hard work, being the CEO of an organisation of over 10k passionate women is even harder so doing that and then running Mandy Charlton Photography on the top of The Inspire Network
Rocky's Retreat, a luxury holiday home for hire, haven berwick holiday park, northumberland coast
is definitely the most challenging thing I've ever done, it's 19 hour days and perpetual meetings but it's also the most in love I've been with my life.  Everything is just exactly where it's supposed to be at the moment, personal, business, I'm literally so happy, if a little tired.

Last week I put out the call that I needed a little help and collaboration, Looby and I needed to get away for just a few days and a lovely lady who owns Rocky's Retreat came to the rescue.
Rocky's Retreat, a luxury holiday home for hire, haven berwick holiday park, northumberland coast

Rocky's Retreat, a luxury holiday home for hire, haven berwick holiday park, northumberland coast

Rocky's Retreat, a luxury holiday home for hire, haven berwick holiday park, northumberland coast

Rocky's retreat is a luxury holiday home situated on the gorgeous Haven Berwick Holiday Park on the beautiful Northumberland Coast and for Looby and I it offers the opportunity to just relax, refresh  and re-energise.  Even Looby needed it, after spending an entire week looking after horses at her stables last week, making sure they were all spick and span for the competition on Friday.

Yesterday was my favourite day for ages, we clocked up more than 17,000 steps, we walked through the most beautiful countryside and the sun shone on our faces producing sun beams Roald Dahl style.

The great thing about the Berwick Holiday Park is it's size, it's smaller than a lot of Haven resorts we've stayed at and after our first visit in 2015 I fell in love with it immediately.  Looby reminds me that every time we come I say I'm going to have our own caravan here one day and she's right, now more than ever before I'm determined to make it happen and with the caravans priced at between £18k and £35k it's not like it's some kind of mad crazy dream, that amount of money is totally achievable.

The season here seems to be from around the beginning of March through to the end of November and I've experienced Berwick in all of those months, yes it's sometimes wild and rugged but on a sunny day you could well be Europe for Berwick on a sunny day is a gift from the Gods.  It's also one of those rare places where at one side you have the coast and on the other you have the most amazingly beautiful countryside with the river tweed running right through it.  Situated 100 miles from Newcastle and just 90 miles from Edinburgh it's the ultimate staycation if you don't want to travel too far away from home.

Although Rocky's Retreat doesn't have wifi, it's freely available in the Brig of Tweed cafe and restaurant.  you can access free wifi or I paid £15 for 4 days of really good wifi and I didn't have any problems with the connection when I took a Skype meeting yesterday.

Berwick of course is the perfect location for all of the family including our four pawed best friends and although Rocky's Retreat doesn't offer dogs friendly accommodation, the park is dog friendly and we've already booked to come back in September to stay at the dog friendly Berwick Shores caravan and for any of you worried about the lack of Holly Bobbins, she's in Yorkshire with Harriet's folks and she's having an amazing time, it's one of few places she can go where she's not on the lead at all because of their rural location.

So, you might be thinking "Oh well Mandy, isn't Berwick small, won't we run out of things to do?"

Well let me tell you, no, I still haven't walked the town walls and I've been here several times, yesterday we did a walk we'd never done before and the holiday park itself is situated between 2 beautiful sandy bays.  In fact Rocky's Retreat is right at the stairs down onto one of the bays.  If you really do crave some excitement whilst you're here, it's only an hour to Berwick by train and the train is about 10 minutes walk from the caravan park.

The Berwick Holiday park really does have it all and Rocky's retreat is something quite special, it feels instantly like home, the beds are so comfortable and there are little touches you wouldn't get with the standard caravans, things like supplying coffee, tea, salt, you all know how annoying it is when you want to come on holiday and cook and you have to buy the biggest box of salt which you then end up throwing away or you find yourself packing copious amounts of kitchen cupboard staples you really don't need to take home with you.

The last time we stayed here I found the shop to be expensive and terribly stocked but it seems to have had a total makeover, they have everything from pastries baked daily to lovely cuts of meat and locally sourced produce.

So that's food and walks sorted, if you have any energy left you can burn it off in one of two swimming pools, one of which is outdoor and heated, so yes, on a sunny day you can imagine you are in the med, I'll be honest it's been nippy this week so we've not tried that but we are going to the indoor pool later today.

Looby and I spend so much time together, me being self employed and her being home ed, it's one of the best parts of this life we lead but there's something amazing about being away together, we walk more, we talk more and we even subject each other to terrible tv shows, Love Island anyone?  I'm not sure I've grasped what it's about except girls excitedly screaming "I've got a text".

We're staying at Rocky's retreat until Friday and then we go back and I'm straight into a weekend of weddings and photo shoots, I realise by next week I'll be shattered again but for now, I've never felt so relaxed for quite some time.  If you need a break full of lovely people in beautiful surroundings which doesn't cost the earth, well Berwick really does tick all of those boxes!

We paid for Rocky's retreat but received a discount in exchange for a blog post, social media posts and some photography. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A progress report...

"Where in the heck have you actually been?"  I hear you ask?  Well, apparently in the 19 hour workday's I've been working for the last month, no one really left any spare moments to come and update my poor blog, it's like that year when I started my first business and only blogged 34 times in one year, shameful really and it's kind of the worst because so much has been happening that it would have been great to tell you all stage by stage!  

So, I took over as CEO of The Inspire Network International Ltd when the company was formed on May 2nd, my manifesto for Inspire is to educate, inspire and empower entrepreneurial women at every stage of business and my main task for May was to launch 30 new licensed groups which would mean meetings all across the NE of England and beyond, ready for our June 1st launch when we become national (or international if we can find the ladies out there who want to come and join this thing we're building).

We've successfully launched 25 groups all over the NE and one in North Yorkshire so I'd say it's going well.  We've made a profit from our first day but we're still a very long way from being able to employ me formally, we will though and thankfully I have Mandy Charlton Photography to fall back on which just about feeds the kids and Holly Bobbins although there'll probably be no holidays for us this year, no matter though, I had good holidays last year and I know it won't always be this way, times of transition are always the toughest and also the most character building.  I do need to find some time to try and get away to a small cottage in the middle of nowhere though just for a few days, I have so much planning I need to do and I need quiet, time and no wifi to be able to achieve that.  The business plans in my head need to be written down!

Our first event is tomorrow night, we had 75 tickets which were gone in 24 hours and that's very heartening though I still have to finish writing my TED talk "You can do anything you want as long as you do it on your own terms".  I want to Inspire women no matter what situation they're in that the can go out there and change the world, in fact, it's one of the reasons I took on the company because I fundamentally believe that I can change women's lives for the better.  When I first spoke about my crazy ideas to Julie and Amy (my board of directors) I said we were going to become a for profit company but with philanthropy always at the heart of it.  I want to always give more than we receive and no one should underestimate my power and strength in making things happen.

Overwhelmingly I've been met with joy and anticipation, the kind words of support are so encouraging, last week at the launch of a delicious summer menu at Mr Petit, a small, chic Tapas bar situated in old Eldon Square (check it out if you're in the area, the food is delicious and they make their own magical blend of Sangria, sadly I was allergic but I am allergic to most alcoholic drinks these days) I encountered so many enthusiastic friendly faces who were all excited for the future of Inspire.

My work in June is just to continue the work that I've started, at weekends I go back to my first love, photography and it's really like a holiday in itself because it's so completely different to being a CEO although when I get into bed exhausted on a Sunday evening, I wonder just how many hours someone can work in one week!  Thankfully I'm superwoman and because I announced next year I'll be only doing photography part time I know there's an end in sight although not necessarily to the 19 hour days.  I took one whole day off in May, that was on Monday this week, it was such a big help just to have fun and not worry about a thing, I'm aiming to do the very same kind of thing a couple of times in June, after all you have to look after your own health before you look after the health of a company!

Abigail is coming to work for Inspire as a paid intern once she's finished her exams and that's going to help so much as she'll be handling many of the administrative tasks which take up time but aren't necessarily the most productive things I need to work on.  It's going to give her so much work experience to add to her CV and we'll be looking at setting up our not for profit Young Woman's Inspire group over the summer too.

In mid-June we'll be having a summer social for the whole network and I'm hoping these become a staple of the calendar, a time to kick back, relax and for the first one at least, there'll be artisan pizza's courtesy of our friends at The Northumberland Hussar.

If you thought May was exciting, you won't believe what's coming next...

Thursday, May 10, 2018

My Night with John...

A couple of weeks ago I spent the night with John, actually my favourite John in the whole world...

My happy place, my go to mood uplifter and the place you'll often find me mooching around when I'm procrastinating and planning the day I actually have a mansion.
Garden pod featuring newcastle bloggers, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

The second floor and basement have always been my domains, furniture, soft furnishings, cooking utensils, gifts, garden furniture and of course at Christmas, the Christmas shop is always in the basement.  Yes I love John Lewis, it seamlessly changes with the seasons, did you know that you'll never see the change from spring/summer to autumn/winter?  You might in other shops, but never in John Lewis and I guess that's what makes it so very magical.

We discovered a terrace outdoors that looks out over our beautiful city of Newcastle, up on high, I'd never noticed it before, secreted away only for staff and special occasions, views as far as the eye can see of buildings and rooftops with the hustle and bustle down below.

After the views came the enchanted walk through the kitchens to find a buffet of tiny foods fit for tiny fairy fingers, the foods showed off the kitchens in all of their magnificence, and not just any kitchens, kitchens fit for country homes or chic urban city flats of bohemian owners who like books, poetry and wandering around with a Holga around their neck, taking low fi photographs of curious parts of our historic city.

Then to the back of the basement to see magical garden buildings, some big enough to fit a handful of bloggers and surely sit in your family garden with enough space for you, dad and the kids, covered over for even the rainiest of British summers, nights spent playing draughts or fighting over Monopoly or maybe enjoying a pink gin or too when the kids are in bed.

The upstairs we traversed to mooch and marvel at the grandest furniture department in Newcastle, styles brought straight from Morocco or that chic London gentleman's club of the 60's, you know the ones with the velveteen furniture.  Styles for everyone from the modern to the retro and even something students can purchase without breaking the bank (of mum or dad).  Each element we found in the room designs had been carefully picked and placed and if you ever turn around in John Lewis you may even find your own point of interest as you look down the aisles, not placed their by magic or mystery but by clever elves using years of research to make the department pleasing to the eye.

Styles to lust after, furniture you want so badly that you spend hours looking for just the right cushions to go with the chairs in the soft furnishing department, with rooms to plan and in need of help and assistance the worker bees in the home design service will carry the load for you, in store by complimentary appointment or for the full service to your humble abode they will come carrying swatches and samples of the most divine colours to help you create your own desirable residence.

All too soon our journey was complete and as we said our goodbyes leaving the vast perfect landscape of chairs and beds and tables and drawers I felt that thought which crossed my mind, maybe I could just live in the land of John Lewis forever, I could camp in their beds and dine in their kitchens, I could change the curtains and swatches without anyone noticing, after all, if I was going to do that, then surely I would shrink myself to 6 inches tall so I'd never be discovered.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Trying to be more body confident

You know what I love, women who support women, feminists who believe in equality, body confident bloggers and girls who always have each other's back.  A couple of weeks ago when I was having a rough time I messaged Naomi to see if she could send me some body confident Instagram accounts to follow, Naomi of course being one of those ladies who fits into every category in my first statement.  I looked at all of the accounts and found women who love themselves for who they are,  women who've not only accepted every curve but also love them.  It made me happy and warm inside and I decided that I need to be one of those women.

Today was my 4th weigh in as part of the #Boostbuddies for XLS Nutrition, I missed out a week writing about it last week because of my appointment to CEO of The Inspire Network International Ltd

So here's my catch up, last week I lost a whole three quarters of one pound and this week I lost nothing but I didn't gain anything either, I am now half a pound heavier than when I first got weighed which means it's not a plan that works for me, add that to the rosacea and for me personally it's not a success but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be for you.

In my life as an influencer I often get sent beautiful things and JD Williams offered to send me a beautiful Monsoon maxi skirt and some rose gold Sketchers.  I was going out for Harriet's birthday and being that we had the sunniest weekend in the northeast I wanted to wear them as an outfit to the pub on Saturday night.  Only problem was, the top I wanted to wear, showed my arms and not to mention my foldy bits, you know, more doughnut than love handles but as part of me trying to love me more at the age of 44 after 3 children, 2 C-Sections, a full on Hysterectomy, I decided just to go for it.  My lovely OH said I looked great and that meant the world to me and no one shouted "oi fatty" when I walked in the pub.  So, I decided to go a step further and asked Harriet to take a photo.

I literally adore this skirt so much, it's been an age since I even wore a skirt and I know even though I'm a little short to wear it with trainers that it's going to keep me cool during the summer months, it's light and airy and I love the cut of it, even being a size 16, I felt it's a skirt which is absolutely suitable for the larger lady and I might even wear it with heels next time.

The Sketchers are simply divine, I wear trainers all the time, you can't wear heels so much when you have a beagle by your side at all times so these are perfect whether I'm off to the pub, going out for dinner or just wandering in the park with Holly Bobbins at my side.

Something good has happened, you know the full length photo?  I don't hate it, I don't love it but my face doesn't look too bad in it and even though I look like I'm disappearing into the pavement and have a rubber ring around my tummy to stop me from sinking, I think I could look much worse.

Now I realise this is a long, long way from being body confident but that's me, too many knocks about my face, my weight, my body when I was young, well let's just say to any mums out there with daughters, just tell your daughter they are gorgeous every day.

So, now my epic quest this week is to just love myself more, to keep up the walking, maybe even try a little more speed walking although if you ask Holly she'll probably tell you that a stroll is just the right pace for her.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The scariest most exciting decision I've ever made

The Inspire Network, a networking organisation for entrepreneurial women, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger and soon to be managing director of the inspire network

8 years ago I went along to my first Inspire Network meeting, I met ladies who would become friends, clients, colleagues and in some cases, all three things.  The Inspire Network was founded by one of those amazing ladies, Julie who saw a gap in the market for a networking association which was child friendly, over the years we've grown from one small meeting to several around the region, we've inspired women to take the leap into their own businesses and we've seen businesses grow and become forces to be reckoned with.  We bucked the trend by not having any advertising and as a not for profit we grew to over 10,000 members in our Facebook group.

In June of this year I will be the CEO, I'm taking us into a whole new era with a team of trusted advisors behind me, late last week as the news was announced, I'd already chosen 2 of my new board of directors and my 3rd and final director and shareholder is in the works.  Together under my leadership The Inspire Network will be making the leap from not for profit to a company which will make a profit but with our community of the most amazing women at the heart of it.  

From June we are opening up our group to women all over the country and I won't stop working until we are a global brand.  We are working with our members to increase the number of groups we have and will be moving over to a licensed/franchised business model.  We will be offering new sponsorship and advertising opportunities and we'll continue to support our members at every level of business or entry into business.

For me this is a whole new challenge, it's unlike any job I've ever had before, I have been a director in name for the last 3 years but now this becomes my company, my fight, my mission to succeed.  I still have to get from no profit to turnover to profit so that I can myself even start taking a salary but I'm able to do this because I have Mandy Charlton Photography which is a success in it's own right and which will continue it's path of being known as one of the regions best photographers.

I've never been afraid of hard work, try shooting 300+ photography sessions in one year and tell me differently, try running a business for any length of time and you'll know what you have to do not only to survive but also to flourish, from small acorns grow huge oaks.

I've blogged about most aspects of my life and so it feels right that I should share this news, this journey, this monumental battle with you my readers.  I'm doing this not just for me but for my daughters and for every girl who has a dream that one day she's going to have her own business, as women we continue to break glass ceilings every day but in a world still dominated by the patriarchy our fight to be accepted as equals has only just begun.

As women we are fierce and wonderful in business, we are brave, we are daring but whatever happens we care, we are after all filled with not just business sense but we have the EQ to go with the IQ and so when you have an organisation of women supporting women in business, the most amazing things can happen and as my old mentor, the great Jane Graham MBE once told me, there's no such thing as competition only collaboration.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

It has to be easier than this doesn't it?

It's Week 2 of the Boost Buddies plan with XLS Medical and I've excelled myself by still being heavier than when I started!  My hopes, dreams and aspirations have not only been dashed but my health ended up being so bad that my whole body ached and eventually I ended up at the hospital with an eye infection which meant when I woke up on Saturday I couldn't use my eye muscle.

Inflammation has been proved to be the catalyst for depression and so by Friday when I was having depressive thoughts I knew things were bad.  With work, a visit to hospital and my head being a mess I decided to take a weekend off the shakes and by Monday I was feeling much more like myself, I'd weighed myself on the Friday and it wasn't good but the moment I stopped having the shakes I lost weight and was back to just half a pound heavier than when I started.  In the days I was off the shakes I barbecued, I made fresh salsa, I stuck to a plan of eating only things which were made by me or things I knew didn't contain bad things and this was the biggest success.

I can't give up though, I signed a contract to do this for 8 weeks and to blog honestly about the experience and that's what I'm going to do.  I think the main problem is that I don't ordinarily eat processed food, I can't  ever remember having a Mcdonalds and my idea of fast food is Sushi or a wrap with chicken and vegetables, I'm not immune to a takeaway but it's usually from Pret a Manger.  I think my body can't handle massive amounts of sugar or processed powder but I've had an idea...

The 5/2 diet is one of the most successful diets out there on the market, consume 800 calories on 2 separate days a week and then eat a normal healthy diet on the other 5 days so because the shakes contain 750 calories if you have 3 in a day, this would work perfectly and I can live without proper food 2 days a week.  I think adapting it would mean that the inflammation didn't have time to build up, my moods and rosacea should be okay and the 2 days wouldn't be consecutive so it's literally the best plan for me.  

I've had word that my Fitbit is on the way and I've sent a request for some fabulous running shoes and really that's what this week has been about for me, I've amped up my exercise levels and on a couple of days I've done 15 or 16k, when I lost 3 and a half stone I did it literally by walking and walking and walking, it's hard at first to get into the routine as it takes so much time out of my already busy day but when I walk, I have better mental health, my anxiety is always so much better and we all know a daily hit of vitamin D3 is amazing for our health.

I literally hate this weeks full length photo but again, I'm bound to share one, I hate that you can see all of my lumps and bumps and that basically, I'm just a chunk, I've been reading a lot about body positivity and that's overwhelmingly what I'm going to work on after the 8 weeks has finished as well as just learning to live on the plan of eating fruit, veg, meat and some dairy with a sprinkling of nuts, no cake, no crisps, no crap, it's a good plan, I might even call it the C-Word plan.

And so onwards we go into another week of me with my eyes on the prize, that prize being 2 stone of weight loss which would get me back to my curvy happy place, I have lost a probable inch though but it's not really enough to go throwing my arms up in the air and cheering just yet.  This weekend I'm working all weekend again and so that's always good for exercise and I think Looby and I are planning a little mini break with Holly Bobbins if the financial Gods smile upon me, we need walks and we need to be focused, week 3, I am coming to get you...

Just as a quick reminder, I'm not being paid to do this, I've been sent the shakes, and promised a Fitbit and trainers in return for an honest review and I'm sure you'll all know by now, I'm always 100% honest.

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