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April 4, 2017

A fabulous night to remember at Cumbria Family Business Awards

Sue Coulson, Janett Walker and Sophia Newton - Cumbria Family Business Awards

CFBA organisers Sue Coulson, Janett Walker and Sophia Newton – photo Victoria Sedgewick

‘I gotta feeling’ by the Black-Eyed Peas rocked out from the speakers as Sue Coulson, Janett Walker and Sophia Newton stepped onto the stage to announce the start of the very first Cumbria Family Business Awards. Sue, whose company, Coulson Associates was one of the CFBA  sponsors, Janett and Sophia had worked tirelessly for many months in the run-up to the ceremony in March 201 7.  “From over 100 applications we had to whittle it down to about 30 finalists. The judging panel really had their work cut out!”  The tone for the evening was set as they held up the ‘Wrong Envelope‘; a reference to the recent Oscars fiasco when Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty read out the wrong name of the Best Picture winner!

Cumbria Family Business Awards - the Wrong Envelope

Sue, Janett and Sophia with the ‘Wrong Envelope’

An audience of 250 people, including the finalists, their families and friends plus sponsors, judges and the media, enjoyed a fabulous evening with delicious food, plenty of drink and a fair smattering of gossip. As Sister Sledge belted out ‘We are Family’ the celebrity host stepped up to the mike …

Cumbria Family Business Awards 2017

Dave Myers opens Cumbria Family Business Awards

Dave Myers introduces the finalists

Let’s face it, you don’t choose to have a business in Cumbria to make millions. You do it because it’s a great place to live and work.” So said TV chef Dave Myers as he opened this glittering event at the Castle Green Hotel in Kendal on the edge of the Lake District. All the businesses nominated for the Cumbria Family Business Awards are family-run, and many have links with the area going back for generations. Some could move away from the area and probably be more profitable, but choose to stay in and around the Lake District because of its inspirational landscape and local links. There were 12 categories plus Ones to Watch. Finalists included well-known names such as Hawkshead Relish, English Lakes Hotels and The Herdy Company as well as lesser-known but equally significant business including The Churchmouse in Barbon, West Coast Composting and JB Banks, as small ironmongers in Cockermouth. Winners included Zeffirelli’s Restaurant and Cinema (Food & Drink Establishments), PHX Training Providers (Professional Business Services), Sally’s Cottages (Smalle Leisure and Tourism Business) and Bells of Lazonby who won Food and Drink Producers AND Outstanding Cumbrian Family Business of the Year.

Winners Cumbria Family Business Awards 2017

Zeffirellis, PHX Training, Sally’s Cottages and Bells of Lazenby

The beautiful glass awards were made by local artist Jo Vincent, ‘…. designed to reflect the intimate relationship between family businesses and Cumbria.’  The ‘star prize’ was an enormous ceramic bowl, created by Siobhan Newton. ‘It combines three iconic Cumbria materials: Egremont Haematite, Coniston Slate and Shap Granite – along with Cumbrian rainwater!‘ Full list of the Winners of Cumbria Family Business Awards here. I was seated on the Lamont Pridmore table, main sponsors of the event, along with Bells of Lazonby, who were clearly overwhelmed at winning both their category and the overall award. “It’s such a great honour. We really had no idea we’d win, especially against such strong finalists.”

Cumbria Family Business Awards Dinner - Castle Green Hotel Kendal

Dinner at Castle Green Hotel

Earlier, as guests arrived, a welcoming Drinks Reception Market served up sparkling wine and got us all in the mood. Photographer Victoria Sedgwick had us all posing for glitterati photos and Castle Green Hotel did us proud on the hospitality front.  We ate very well on local produce that night. I had Cartmel Valley smoked salmon, smoked salmon rillette, beetroot, horseradish and rye bread, followed by Eden Valley chicken, fondant potato, shallots, wild mushrooms and broad beans, finished off with delicious Windermere Ice Cream and Grasmere Gingerbread. All served with excellent wines – thank you Graham Lamont! Every table had Wax Lyrical candles, bottles of Hawkshead Relish’s new product, Black Garlic Ketchup, prints by artist Daniel Cooper and also signed copies of books by Cumbrian authors to take home. I chose Dances with the Daffodils by Matthew Connolly.

Paula Scott, Sue Coulson and Zoe Dawes at Cumbria Family Business Awards

Paula Scott, Sue Coulson and Zoe Dawes at CFBA Awards – photo Victoria Sedgwick

Dave Myers was an excellent host, bringing his inimitable humour and a local awareness that was much appreciated by everyone. He stayed on until every award had been given, every hand had been shaken and every selfie had been taken. A real gent and a great Barrovian ambassador. This photo of the winners sums up a great evening of fun and laughter, business excellence and Cumbrian friendliness.

Cumbria Family Business Awards winners 2017

Cumbria Family Business Awards winners 2017

Many thanks to Sue Coulson of Coulson Associates, Janett Walker of Make it Happen and Sophia Newton, The Good News Girl for inviting me join in such a wonderful celebration. More CFBA photos by Victoria Sedgwick here.

Castle Green Hotel

I stayed overnight in the Castle Green Hotel, a four star hotel on the outskirts of Kendal, in one of their very luxurious Executive Bedrooms, complete with a huge four-poster bed. See what the room really looks like; watch this short video recorded on my arrival, before the CFBA evening started.

For many years I was a member of the hotel’s excellent gym; use of their Health and Fitness Club with swimming pool and spa was included in my stay. Breakfast was delicious and I was pleased to see local produce including Hawkshead Relish sauces, Cumberland Sausage, Lakeland Mues muesli, organic milk and bread from More Bakery in Staveley.

Breakfast Castle Green Hotel Kendal

Breakfast at Castle Green Hotel

Find out more about Cumbria Family Business Awards and Cumbria Family Business Network here.

November 6, 2015

5 reasons NOT to be a Travel Blogger

Some time ago I wrote an article called 5 Reasons to be a Travel Blogger‘ It got a very enthusiastic response, understandably, given the nature of the role and the lure of travel for so many of us. Most people love to travel, if only for a holiday, and most people can write; ergo most people can be a travel blogger, right?  Wrong. Yes, it is easy to set up a blog and start blogging but to make a success of it takes a lot of hard work, time and effort.

When I use the term ‘travel blogger’ here, I am referring to those who want to blog on a regular basis and maybe eventually start to make an income from travel blogging. There are lots of reasons to start blogging, but here are some of the negatives …

The DISADVANTAGES of being a Travel Blogger

  1. You spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen

Asus Tablet in bed

Some people imagine travel bloggers spend all their time gadding about the globe on exotic trips. We actually spend long hours at the pc/laptop/tablet/mobile, not only writing articles but creating content to share across various Social Media platforms. If you want to be a travel blogger you need to keep up with the latest trends in digital marketing and be able to assess where to put your time and energy. Before, during and after a blog trip, you’ll often be required to write/produce a number of posts/videos/podcasts and share with your audience. The more successful you are, the more emails/comments/requests you will get and they all need to be dealt with. All of this has to be done online and is very time-consuming – and not good for your back …

2. Writing a readable blog post takes skill and craft

Blogging cloud

Blogging cloud

Crafting a readable blog post can often take ages. You need to pull together your material, do research, write a decent piece then edit your writing and proof read. If you’re serious about the craft of blogging you should consider going on a blog training course or travel writing workshop to learn how to do it better. These cost money – at least the good ones do. Of course there are plenty of free online tips and courses but they also have a cost in hours. Choosing and editing photos to go with your blog post and support your social media marketing is a skill in itself and again time-consuming.

3. You need a broad range of business skills to be successful

Blogging for Business workshop zoedawes

When I started blogging about 10 years ago, hardly anyone knew what it was, Facebook was just for students and Twitter a mere fledgling. It’s a highly competitive digitital world now and to be noticed in amongst the racket online is increasingly difficult. At a talk I gave at Blogstock So You Want To Be A Travel Blogger? I emphasised to a very enthusiastic audience of (mainly young) wannabee travel bloggers, that to succeed you need to think of your blog as magazine, and yourself as the owner, chief editor, finance director, HR specialist, project manager, marketing manager and general dogsbody. You’ll be dealing with PR companies, Tourist Boards, DMOs, travel companies, media specialists, brands, journalists, fellow bloggers and many others, so you need excellent people skills as well a good communication. There has been an on-going debate about the difference between a travel writer and a travel blogger; many travel writers are bloggers, and I think it is in the skill of running a blog that the main difference lies.

4. Making money is NOT easy


One of the questions I get asked most, is how do you make money from blogging? Travel bloggers make money in a number of ways. These may include publishing ‘sponsor posts’ to be hosted on the blog, writing blog posts for other clients’ websites, becoming a brand ambassador (though the blogger may be ‘paid in kind’ ie product), taking adverts in the form of ‘buttons’ or banners on the blog, e-books, affiliate programmes, being paid to post social media updates (yes some people do that), host a ‘Twitterchat’ or maybe take part in some form of media event. Each country has its own advertising code and it is important that bloggers abide by this.

Marienburg Castle Way of the Crown poster

Marienburg Castle Germany

Sometimes a client will pay the blogger a daily/campaign rate to go on a visit and/or produce content. As bloggers are required to do more and more both during and after the trip, many are now negotiating payment, which recognises the blogger’s time and work for the client. I take occasional ‘sponsor posts’, write for other travel companies including Laterooms and am occasionally a Brand Ambassador. I don’t tweet or post on Facebook for money though some of my posts are paid for. I am paid for some of my trips, especially in Travelator Media campaigns. Up to now I haven’t taken adverts but am considering it if the right client comes along. However, I don’t make enough to survive solely on blogging and have a separate Training and Coaching business that supports my blogging. if you ask most bloggers for an honest opinion, they often don’t make significant amounts in a year and very many have full or part-time jobs (often tourism-related) and blogging is what they do in their spare time.

5. Travelling for work is tiring and not always enjoyable

Kempinski Ishtar Hotel Dead Sea Jordan

Oh, I can hear you saying, she can’t be complaining about the travel, surely? Well, no, I’m not but you are working when you go on a blog trip and the working day can be a long one. It may start at 4am (at Uluru we were up at that time 3 days’ running but it was to see the MOST magical sunrise each time) and not end until the early hours of the morning. You’ll stay in amazing places but often only for a night and you won’t have time to really relax. You’ll be wined and dined, which is lovely, but you do have be able to make polite conversation with your hosts and fellow travellers, however tired you may be. You have to try to stay sober(ish) when being plied with excellent wines and not make a fool of yourself if possible! There are some who think that a blog trip is a freebie and that they can abuse their hosts’ hospitality. The industry soon gets to hear of them and unsurprisingly, they are often not invited on other trips.


You’ll often be asked to tweet/instagram/facebook/periscope whilst you are on the trip, all of which can detract from your enjoyment of the sight, experience or meal that you are there to promote. In the early days of my blogging career I used to write blog posts DURING the trip. The most memorable was on a Cunard cruise to Norway aboard Queen Elizabeth. I was going to my cabin after a lovely evening and working until the early hours trying to write a decent article, edit photos and post; all with dodgy internet connection at sea. Very tiring – I don’t do that now. It’s important to clarify eactly what you and the client expect. You are being invited on a trip by a client who is hosting you to promote their ‘product’ and it is important that both sides recognise that and are happy with the ‘deal’.

Zoe Dawes travel blogger

I look upon travel blogging as a job. It’s a very enjoyable one and I wouldn’t swap it for the world, but there is a downside. Every job has its negative side and if, having read all this, you want to make a go of travel blogging, good for you. It’s incredibly rewarding and you’ll have some memorable, magical, marvellous experiences that you’ll never forget … What do you think?

September 11, 2014

EVA Awards: TQT Training and Coaching Business finalist

Absolutely delighted that TQT Training has been nominated as a finalist in the EVA Awards for Training and Coaching Business of the Year.

The Enterprise Vision Awards (EVAs) have been created to specifically recognise women in The North West who are inspiring others by successfully running their own businesses or are at the forefront of their profession.  

EVA celebrates these women, who our championing entrepreneurial growth NW England and recognises the efforts they have made to start and develop businesses whilst facing challenges along the way. 

EVA Awards finalists 2014

EVA Awards finalists

The Quirky Traveller came about because of the recession and how this reinforced my belief that even the gloomiest of things can have positive outcomes if you work hard to find them. The juggling act of being a single Mum, dealing with family illness and bereavement whilst trying to grow a business, are challenges many of us face.  I couldn’t have done it without the support of family, friends, colleagues and the kindness of strangers.  Now I have a great team at TQT Training and am able to combine my 3 loves of travel, writing and helping others to fulfil their potential in many different ways. It really is a dream come true.

December 4, 2013

Quick Travel Survey – and an Amazon voucher might be yours!

To improve is to change - quote by Winston Churchill

One of the many lessons I learnt from the world of business is that continuous improvement and adapting to change are vital for success. And to do that I need your help.  Since starting this blog in 2009 it’s been a real pleasure to share travel stories and advice, social media tips and quirky musings. Now I’d like to find out a bit more about you to improve the content and services on offer.

The Quirky Traveller Travel Survey - Irrawaddy River photo c/o

I’d really appreciate you taking a couple of minutes to do this Travel Survey.  It’s just 12 questions compiled (with 5 other travel blog sites) to help understand your travel interests, social media habits and travel focus.  As an incentive/bribe/carrot/gift when you enter your email address at the end of the survey, you will be entered into a draw to win one of THREE £15 (or $20) Amazon vouchers.

Please do the quick travel survey NOW, with most grateful thanks:

Closing date: December 15th

February 25, 2012

Ten good reasons to begin blogging

Business blog blogging strategy - data HubspotGoogle the word ‘blogging’ and today there are over 60 million results [2017 update 138 m] – so, what does that tell you? Well, probably not a lot more than you already know – blogging is out there and there’s a vast amount of stuff being written about it.  Note my use of the word ‘stuff’; I’ll come back to it later.  Now, assuming you are reading this because you are interested, and not just because you have stumbled across the page by accident, you might want to know WHY you should blog and what it’s all about.  Well, this is a short ‘post’ (blog-speak for article) so all I’m going to do is share a few reasons to begin blogging – at least give it a go …

Before we start, in case, in case you didn’t know, BLOG is short for WEB LOG = diary/journal

1.  Everybody’s talking about it, so you’ll be in the zeitgeist
2.  It’s easy – you’re reading this you already have the skills to get started
3.  You can be a blogger with absolutely no training or qualifications whatsoever
4.  Being ‘real’ and using everyday language is OK (see ‘stuff) because it’s your writing
5.  Connecting with others is easy with a blog – people can comment and interact with you
6.  It’s really neat way to market/sell/promote your ideas, services, products etc
7.  You MIGHT be able to make a bit of money directly from your blog
8.  Creativity can take many forms – writing, video, photos, podcasts all have their place in blogs
9.  Blogs can be any length and done anytime – your choice
10. People may actually read what you write – and how good is that?!

If you want to start blogging a couple of sites to try for free are WordPress (my favourite) and Blogger.  There are loads of easy tutorials out there and plenty of help to be had – just ask or search on-line.  Social media is a great medium to help get you some readers – Face Book, Twitter, LinkedIn etc – they all have tools to support blogs.

So, whether you want to start blogging to promote your business, share your hobby or interest with like-minded others or simply try something new, give it go – it’s fun!

Rough-Guide-Book-Blogging-Workshop by Zoe Dawes

I run seminars, workshops and give 1-1 coaching on blogging and social media. Read about The Quirky Traveller Training here and do get in touch if you’d like some help getting started …

November 18, 2011

The quirky universe of the World Travel Market


You need a refuge, comfy shoes and plenty of stamina to get the most out of the World Travel Market … It's like a giant sweetie shop, where the temptation to overdose on all those treats is almost overwhelming.  The experience starts well before you get there – the journey to the Excel Centre on the (mostly) reliable Docklands Light Railway gives some indication of the multi-cultural experience ahead of you.  Crushed up close and personal to a Brazilian dancer, a Maori chieftain and a kilted Highlander in full kit you start to realise this is going to be an anything but ordinary day.

WTM board

This year was my first visit to the WTM; fortunately I was going with an ‘old hand’, Lynne Grey of That’s PR, who has worked in the travel industry for many years, been here lots of times and could help with advice on what to see, who to visit and pass on wise counsel about RnR what when feet started to complain too violently!

Here’s what WTM says it’s all about:

“The World Travel Market is the leading global event for the travel industry – it is a vibrant must attend four-day business-to-business event presenting a diverse range of destinations and industry sectors to UK and International travel professionals. It is a unique opportunity for the whole global travel trade to meet, network, negotiate and conduct business.

By attending World Travel Market, participants efficiently, effectively and productively gain immediate competitive advantage for their business and stay abreast with the latest developments in the travel industry.”

That definitely doesn’t catch the buzz, vibrancy and fun of the event – dull corporate-speak never does, so here’s a glimpse of some of the sights and sounds of a newbie’s 1st visit.

Walking into the cavernous, modern, echoey entrance to WTM was the worst bit – the brusque treatment on the Press Registration Desk was not a good ad for the organisers – first impressions really DO count guys!  Fortunately, once the lanyard & plastic pocket was firmly in place things got 100% better as I gazed down the hall at the enticing signs tempting us to visit the whole world under one roof.


  1. An Indonesian dancer gracefully twirling elongated fingers to the sound of the Gamelan
  2. The Minister of Tourism for Antigua & Barbuda proudly showcasing their uber-modern airport plans and sharing champagne
  3. Infectious Irish enthusiasm on the Belfast stand for 2012 opening of the Titanic Experience
  4. Having a colourful band clamped to my wrist by a laughing lady (Ecuador?!) in an enormous orange dress
  5. The intense concentration on the face of a man carving intricate whorls into a large Thai fruit
  6. Being tempted by the taste of Soul Food in Serbia and the passion of their PR guy for a Gourmet Food trip
  7. Watching a teenage student getting her hand hennaed by an Indian woman in a teal blue sari
  8. The immaculate luxury of the no-expense-spared space in the strangely soulless Abu Dhabi & Dubai area
  9. Cocktail shaking and laughter in the Caribbean
  10. Discussing the unique culture and hanging monasteries of Bhutan and dreaming of a trip there some day

Thai fruit

Having got a Press Pass we were able to use the facilities of the Press Lounge area, a godsend as a place to meet fellow travel bloggers and other media people and relax over a coffee and Danish pastry (VERY stodgy – Denmark would be ashamed to be associated with it!), write up a few notes and just rest those aching feet.  I had just got my hands on the very new, uber-cool Eeepad Slider – the latest tablet from Asus (with a built-in QUERTY keyboard!) so I was able to show it off to fellow writers and have a play with the nifty widgets and Apps.  There was also a good selection on press material, newspapers and other material to keep up with the outside world.

As well as all the stands there are seminars, workshops, press briefings and media events where specialists “delivered unmissable expert advice and key industry knowledge.”  We were unable to get into most of the Social Media events as there was huge interest this year so most of the sessions were full ages before they were due to start.  (Another highlight was an outraged Aussie guy yelling at the patronisingly powerful door keeper about the appallingly dreadful organisation – only he used slightly more colourful language …)  I did go to some really interesting and useful talks – and some rather dreary ones too.   That’s for another post.

Bateaux London

As a thank you to their team of Super Bloggers, Visit Britain had laid on an evening dinner cruise with Bateaux London along the River Thames.  What a treat – beautiful surroundings, great company, delicious food and some of England’s most iconic sights drifting past the window like a slow movie reel.  The high points were passing the golden Houses of Parliament and slowing down by newly-painted, brightly lit Tower Bridge to a crescendo of ‘Zadoc the Priest’ – brought a patriotic tear to my eye …

At the end of a long, tiring day of sensory stimulus, you need somewhere comfortable to chill out; Lynne and I were very lucky to be offered the really fab Isis apartment in Canary Wharf. With two huge bedrooms, a well-stocked kitchen (we never did figure out how to work the coffee machine) and full services it had all the benefits of a hotel with the advantages of luxury of self-catering.  Sitting on the balcony sipping our welcome bottle of wine, we could look out over the the river and the pointy pyramidal building (Canada Tower?) …. and the O2 Arena almost within touching distance, unwind and relax, whilst still being right in the heart of things.

Isis Wine & chocs

Back at my desk at home, I’ve been slowly going through all the business cards, leaflets, brochures and quirky souvenirs I brought back, following up on interesting contacts, new and old friends and quirky ideas, starting to adapt my business based on all the excellent information learnt recently.  Yesterday a fellow travel blogger, who hadn’t made it, asked if I’d be going back next year.  Well … what do you think?

WTM 2012

If you’d like to see more photos from WTM the check out The Quirky Traveller Face Book WTM Photo album. if you have been to WTM or want to go next time, do share your thoughts, tips, photos and reflections.

March 29, 2011

Can You Make Money from a Blog?

“Can you make money from a blog?” has to be one of the commonest questions I get asked and the answer is … not straightforward. SOME people are making money DIRECTLY from blogging but it is still a relatively new commercial arena and there are currently few guidelines.  What is interesting  is that advertisers, PR companies, sponsors and business partners are approaching bloggers as potential platforms to connect more with their customers.

TBU11 Bloggers gathering

The 2011 Travel Bloggers Unite Conference in Manchester brought Travel bloggers from all over the world to share ideas, discuss latest trends in blogging, learn more about developing blogs and to network. Also attending were some of this country’s most influential travel PR agencies and travel businesses

There were a number of  ‘How To’ sessions, including talks on how to make your blog a magnet for possible income generation.  Some travel bloggers are succeeding in making money and they shared their experience and views.  Here are some tips that came out of discussions during the day:

  • Do your research – check out demographics, trends, business year ahead
  • Stay up to date with latest technology, social media, business direction
  • Be consistent – identify your brand, style, voice, persona that you feel comfortable with and stick with it
  • Tell a story – make it compelling. Don’t just do the obvious – find an angle that will appeal
  • Write for other bloggers, especially those who you admire, respect and value
  • Get other bloggers to write for you – Guest Posts share the word & generate more exposure
  • Develop relationships with PR companies, advertisers and business-related contacts – it’s about people not commodities
  • Use Social Media ie Face Book, Twitter, StumbleUpon, YouTube, Fickr, LinkedIn to promote your blog – and be generous about promoting others
  • When sponspors/advertisers approach you, think carefully about pricing and what you want from it. Ask for advice and don’t undersell your blog
  • Have a Rates Card so you can send it to potential advertisers, sponsors
  • Be reliable in your delivery. Get a publishing schedule and deliver the goods on time.
  • Work hard – it will only happen if you stay focused and put in the hours
How to make money from your blog

Keith Jenkins of Velvet Escape

This just gives a flavour of some of the ideas generated by the event.  Keith Jenkins, of Velvet Escape gave an insight into his journey to financial success and an expert panel of travel bloggers shared their knowledge and answered questions on how to monetise a blog.

Tips from the experts on the travel blog

The Travel Bloggers Unite

If you want to find out more – check out these guys …

Keith Jenkins

Melvin Boecher

Kash Bhattacharya

Matt Preston

Karen Bryan

The answer to the question ‘Can you make money from a blog’ is most definitely YES but, as with everything, it takes time, effort and commitment.