European Christmas Market Guide

There’s nothing like the festive atmosphere of a Christmas market whether that be at home or abroad. The season to start decking the halls and serve up homemade gingerbread men and mulled wine is very nearly upon us and to kick off your Christmas shopping you need a winter break to get those special presents sorted. Stalls around Christmas markets are heavy with wine, meat and roasting chestnuts. You’ve just got to get involved! You can book a break through a website like and get the whole family involved or you can head off on something more romantic for just two of you. Whether you are travelling abroad or staying nearer to home, we’ve put together our top destinations in a two part guide that will get you right in the festive spirit.

Found in the romantic square of the Austrian capital, twenty-five markets spring up on the beautiful cobbled streets of Vienna which promise elegant gifts in a unique and truly festive setting. The entire city of Vienna get involved with the events, a tradition that began in the 17th Century. The Viennese Christmas Market stands directly in front of City Hall with a charming backdrop perfect for traditional shopping. The highlight other than the delicious aromas that dance from stall to stall are the beautiful voices of international choirs as you search through for that absolutely perfect and unique gift for your loved one. There’s nothing quite like a Viennese Christmas Market and taking the time to book a break and have a look round is something you won’t regret.

The home to the oldest Christmas market in Europe, there are three hundred stalls in Strasbourg promising handcrafted gifts, decorations for the tree and indulgent treats for the taste buds. Not forgetting of course, the rich heavy flavours of the traditional Bredle sweets you can find at every corner. The winter wonderland is always best late in the afternoon as the Christmas lights turn on and the smell of cinnamon and gingerbread waft through the air. If you’re not fussy on lights, then going earlier in the morning means more time to look with less crowds. If you’ve booked your break through a site like you could get fabulous discounts and offers so always check online before you go.

Always famous for its beer and chocolate choices, it’s unsurprisingly a favourite amongst the lovers of the Christmas period. Easily accessed via a hop on the Eurostar, Belgium is perfect for finding Christmas gifts without the fuss. Festively lined in an array of Christmas trees and colourful mood lighting, the market exudes a fantastic festive atmosphere and houses excellent shopping opportunities. The ice rink centred in the market square is perfect for the family and a fun and exciting way to build an appetite for sampling Belgian culinary delights.

Ultimately you have many choices for where you decide to go for your Christmas market break, and that choice lays with you!

The Need For Product Innovation

Innovation is the key to your company’s survival.  It is an imperative and it must be an integral part of your organization.  Innovation — it must be encoded in your corporate DNA. One of the most important parts in your innovation process is having an up to snuff new product development process. A formalized New Product Development with process is essential. Although alternative approaches exist the most common type is referred to as the Stage-Gate® Process (Stage-Gate ® is a registered trademark of Product Development Institute Inc.). The Stage-Gate innovation process is, according to its developers, ‘‘a carefully designed business process’’ and the result of comprehensive research into under- standing the reasons behind product success and failure (see for more information). The process was pioneered by Dr. Robert G. Cooper and is widely used, and trusted, by companies around the world.

The process, in essence, has two key elements:

The ‘‘stage’’ refers to the critical activities that need to be undertaken at a particular stage of product development. This is a cross-business process, and requires balanced ownership by multiple functions. Stage content, in my experience, should be divided among all business functions—it is not purely a technology process.

The ‘‘gating’’ process involves ownership, decision makers, degree of flexibility, criteria, and prioritization. This includes a selection of ideas and concepts from the hopper.

Overall, it is important to note that the NPD process must be a cross-business function. Therefore, all business functions must be aware of the process. Communication of relevant information is essential. Key personnel should be involved in the go/no-go gating reviews.

As for the reviews, these should be shared internally. Further, metrics are essential to demonstrate progress and create/encourage momentum and internal enthusiasm. Establishment of a mix of input metrics (such as average time in each stage), and output metrics, such as the value of launched products, percentage of new product sales, and so on, provides a balanced scorecard for innovation. Additionally, a streamlined, or ‘‘express’’ version of the process can be utilized for line extensions, to accelerate progress. The key purpose of the NPD pipeline is to create a structured, transparent process that allows management of project groups, DeFazio explained. And the key elements include quality, capability, and capacity.

In terms of quality, the innovation team strives to select projects that, if successful, will deliver the best strategic outcome for the invested funds.

For capability, the process helps track how effectively an individual project is managed and allowed to progress.

Capacity refers to how the business manages and prioritizes resources supporting a portfolio of well managed (or ‘‘capable’’) projects.

Remember what I mentioned in previous posts: Fail fast, but fail cheap. The institution of a proper NPD process will enhance your idea-to-launch methodology. Gates with ‘‘teeth’’ will help go/kill decision making and prioritization, define the gatekeepers, and provide a systematic approach to gatekeeping behavior.

Further, portfolio management will be simplified and flexible enough to achieve the optimal balance and mix of products in the hopper. Success criteria at the gates will be concretized, and, ideally, a financial overlay will further help prioritize projects against available resources.

Creating A Cheap But Brilliant Office Space

Creating a great work space needn’t be expensive. Here’s how you equip your office for pennies on the dollar, without sacrificing quality or productivity. You probably won’t be able to reach the dizzying heights of the world’s coolest offices, with their ‘collaboration pods’ and firing ranges, but there are certainly a few clever ways to equip your office on the cheap. You can get great quality franking supplies from companies like

Don’t be a magpie

Go with what you need, not what you want, no matter how shiny it is. Ask yourself if you really need need that cocobolo conference table or that new, top-of-the-range laptop with the latest graphics card.

The one exception is a good chair. You and every one of your employees need a comfortable, adjustable chair. Uncomfortable seating will land you with low productivity and high medical bills.

Think long term

Buying intelligently might cost you a bit more up front – think LED lighting and an efficient heating system – but may well save you pennies down the line. You might also consider buying laptops that allow you to later replace the memory and hard drive – a much cheaper option than having to buy a new fleet of laptops every time you’re looking to upgrade.

Be software smart

As Clare has said before, small businesses and startups have small budgets but big IT needs so, rather than buying enterprise-level software, use open source software, like LibreOffice, and other cheap alternatives to more expensive products. What these may lack in cool features (do you really need all those bells and whistles?) and clean design, they more than make up for in savings.

You should also make use of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications – Turbine, Basecamp, Dropbox, etc. Old fashioned software licences left you with the headache of hefty up-front costs and routine maintenance for software you had to install and host on your own servers. SaaS apps, on the other hand, are hosted by the SaaS provider and allow you to simply pay for what you use in monthly or annual instalments.

You don’t have to worry about maintaining your own servers or paying for the space to house them; there’s no need to upgrade or reinstall your software every year; regular updates are pushed to all users through the cloud so you’re always using the best version of the software; and the cost is spread over time, meaning software becomes less of a gamble – there’s more room to experiment and find what works for you and your team.


Try to squeeze the most out of suppliers without burning your bridges. Exercising your negotiation skills not only helps you get short-term deals but also helps you to build mutually beneficial long-term relationships with your preferred suppliers.

If they know you’re a valuable, repeat customer, you’re more likely to be offered discounts, free trials of new products and priority software upgrades.

Get thrifty

Look to see if any local businesses are downsizing or going under and if any office supply and IT stores are shifting old stock or having a sale – they’re all excellent sources to equip your office on the cheap.

What Is Grief Work?

Psychotherapists refer to the process a bereaved person will encounter as “grief work.” This is because the process is not one that just happens to you, or that will be healed only with time. “Grief work” means tackling some very difficult emotional tasks. Those families who work through these tasks do eventually experience relief from the intense pain. It has been said that there is no way around grief. You must go through it in order to come out of it. Working through your grief can take many, many months or years and only begins once a funeral has been laid with

  1. Accepting the reality of loss.
    When a loved one dies, people often experience a sense that it isn’t true. The first task of grieving is to come to the realization that this person is gone, and that reuniting with him or her, at least in this life, will not happen. Some families tell us they sense their loved one’s presence through sound, sight, smell or touch. Whether or not these experiences are “real” is a matter of belief. However, they are common and not a sign that one is “going crazy”.
  2. Working through the pain of grief.
    One of the goals of grief counselors is to help people through this difficult time, so that they do not carry their deep pain with them throughout their entire life. Those people who allow themselves to feel and work through the deep pain find that the pain lessens. Some things may prevent this experience. Friends, relatives, and co-workers may give subtle or not so subtle messages to “pick yourself up and go on” as if nothing has happened. Or, sometimes family members cut off their feelings and deny that pain is present. Allow yourself the time to cry or to be angry. Many people find these feelings appear while going through their daily routines such as grocery shopping or driving to work. Know that these experiences, though very hard, are normal.
  3. Adjusting to an environment in which your loved one is no longer present
    Your loved one had a special place in your heart and in your family. They can never be replaced. But bereaved families can eventually adjust to the absence of a loved one. This process might involve finding new ways of interacting with your surviving family members and friends.
  4. Withdrawing emotional energy and reinvesting it in other relationships
    Many people misunderstand this task and believe it means forgetting about their loved one. They believe that this would be dishonoring their loved one’s memory. This task is simply a continuation of the first three tasks. It involves the process of allowing yourself to make relationships with others. It does not mean that you care any less about your loved one or that you will not keep your special memories.
  5. Rebuilding faith, beliefs and values that are tested by the loss of a loved one.
    The loss of a loved one can test your faith and philosophical views of life. Talking with a spiritual leader or advisor such as a rabbi, priest, minister or holy person may be helpful since they have experience counseling others who have experienced a loss. Many bereaved families, whom we have known over several years, can remember their loved one and smile. Sometimes there is still sadness, though it does not come as often and is not as draining.

Over time and through these “tasks”, you will begin to remember your loved one without experiencing the unbearable pain. It will be a different kind of sadness. Do not hesitate to seek professional help. Counsellors are trained to assist you in working through these tasks and other issues you may be facing. It is okay to ask for one session with a therapist to see if you both will be able to work together.

How To Become A Florist

There are more than 8,000 florist shops in the UK, and nearly 7,000 florist businesses in an industry that is now worth £1.5 billion. It’s not surprising that increasing numbers of people are wanting to join the fun. Described by those involved as a lifestyle, not a job, floristry isn’t just a bed of roses. Early mornings, long shifts and busy periods are matched by quiet times; but if they don’t scare you, you might make it work! Everyone working with Flowers for offices Birmingham needs a decent early start!

Training is not crucial but as we all know, knowledge is power, and there are various ways to gain floristry qualifications. Gaining an apprenticeship and learning on the job is one of the most effective ways to learn the trade; witnessing the ins and outs of the everyday and seeing if you’ve got what it takes. The main path most UK florists take is doing a course. Part-time and full-time courses are available in order to gain practical qualifications; NPTC, BTEC and City & Guilds all offer some sort of award. You can also go back to university and get yourself a degree in Garden Design or Floral Industry. NVQ’s in floristry are also a possibility. The highest award in floristry in the UK is the National Diploma of the Society of Floristry. Most professional florists in the UK are members of the society, which offers certificates for florists to test, prove and improve their skills. Competition is an issue in every industry, especially when it comes to conducting your business online. All great businesses must have an impressive online presence and floristry is no different. It’s important to build up a recognisable brand for your loyal customer base.

A large part of your success will depend on your local area and how many successful florists there already are. You want people to think of you on every occasion, and your shop front should tempt people to buy flowers ‘just because’ on the way home. A Unique Selling Point is just as important in floristry as it is in any other industry, so it’s good to work yours out early. What sets you apart from others? What makes you the best in the area?

Early AM starts are common as you’ve got to go to market three times a week, load your van and take the flowers back to your shop. Often these trips are done solo, meaning that being strong and fit is a must in order to carry out all the heavy lifting. Once back from the market it’s time to put together the custom bouquets and ready-made bunches, as well as handling deliveries. Then of course there is making sure your shop is looking its best, helping customers and managing stock. Most florist businesses are relatively small, with one in four having no employees and 66% employing between one and nine. This may be appealing to many, as handling a small workforce helps retain consistency across the board. Not only will the few employees get to know the business, but your customers will get to know you, and everyone prefers to buy something from people they know and trust. You also want to have a good relationship with market traders in order to get the best deals and advanced knowledge.

Why Coffee Shops Are Amazing Meeting Places

The past decade has been undoubtedly good for coffee culture. City streets are now dotted with coffee shops featuring outdoor terraces where sun-kissed people hang out in the warm season, surrounded by small shops decorated with outdoor warm lighting in the winter. It’s indeed fascinating to observe how coffee culture and its physical manifestation – the coffee shops – has fast covered an important role in the city landscape. By reclaiming hidden backyards and attracting masses to relatively remote locations, these so-called third places (Oldenburg, 1989) play a pivotal role for cities around the globe turning food culture into the ideal soft-power tool.

Operating under the mantra of “we serve only good coffee and something else”, the new generation of coffee shops like not only offer freshly roasted good quality coffee, directly sourced from the farmers in Guatemala or Ethiopia just to name a few, but also a comfortable ambience with locally designed and crafted furniture, smart lighting system, white tiles decorating the walls, staff that enjoy their work- wearing a tailor-made apron most of the times and carefully handpicked magazines (Monocle, Kinfolk and Cereal are must have). Some also retail equipment to brew coffee and branded items, such as cups from where the customer can sip their freshly brewed coffee whether from the speedy Aeropress or the more leisurely V60. Not to mention the range of their own branded coffee, in the case of roasteries, displayed on wooden shelves and usually wrapped in detailed designed crafted bags available for the customer who wants to replicate the experience at home. Coffee shops offer an egalitarian space.

Customers are there for business, dates, surfing the free WiFi or idling before a train. Coffee places are where love begins and love ends. Coffee shops offer company and conversation but also solitude when needed.

Customers witness a dedication from coffee professionals that is not often found in commercial spaces and that goes from bean to cup. The dedication and passion of the barista and/or roaster leads to the desire to educate the consumer. If the coffee shop is annexed to the roastery, personnel can organize tours to give the opportunity to learn about the process of roasting and discovery of their roasting philosophy. Coffee shops attract and gather innovators, designers and creatives in general. These folks regularly visit the coffee shop not only for meetings and relaxed hangs-out with friends but often they become part of the experience as a whole. It’s not a rarity to encounter collaborations – long and short term – that goes beyond and across creative disciplines. For instance, tailor-made aprons, unique crafted pottery or chalk boards that change every week in look that are designed by the artist who drops by every morning for an espresso.

DIY Wedding Flower Tips

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a DIY wedding, you get to personalise your big day with special touches, involve your family and friends, use home-made crafts and where possible, save money.

When considering flowers for your wedding, it is important to understand the pros and cons of trying to do it yourself, how much of the work you should take on and when you should seek the help of a professional.

As a bride, you will probably have an idea about the style of flowers you would like to use for your wedding. You may have specific colours in mind, or know the type of arrangements you prefer. Not only will these flowers decorate your venue, but they will be carried with you down the aisle and will feature in the majority of your wedding photos. Flowers are one of the most effective and beautiful ways of styling your special day, so getting the right mix is important and the expertise and knowledge required should not be underestimated.

Quality vs. quantity
If you do choose to DIY your bridal blooms, keep in mind that you will need to allocate time (often more than you think) and you will need a certain level of knowledge in both selecting the flowers and arranging them.

Using cheaper flowers can actually require more skill; after all, if you are using stunning Grade A David Austin roses in full bloom it is easier to make a lovely posy than with a handful of Grade B pin-head tight roses from a supermarket.

An insider fact – when flowers are sold to suppliers, they are graded on quality, stem length and head size, all important factors in the final look of the arrangements and florists will usually order the best but more expensive ones for wedding work.

Be realistic about your abilities
Why not enrol in a wedding floristry course? Many florists run these courses as a one-day, fun and stress-free workshop, where you get shown how to make a bouquet, a table arrangement, a floral headdress and a buttonhole.

In addition to being taught the technical stuff, like how to wire a flower head and spiral your bouquet, you will also learn which flowers work well together and how to look after your flowers once you have got them home.

Ask for help
Florists are usually a very friendly bunch and don’t mind sharing information if you plan on buying stock from them. However, marching into a flower shop and announcing that you would rather spend money on champagne than their expertise, then proceeding to ask for advice on how to arrange the flowers you have grown at home won’t go down so well!

Insider knowledge
If you decide to do the floral table arrangements yourself, but think that the bouquets and buttonholes might be too much for you, then be honest and tell the florist that. If you are already ordering bouquets, the florist most likely won’t mind ordering some extra loose flowers for you.

Bear in mind, when shopping at wholesale flower markets, flowers are bought in wraps of multiple stems – and wraps can’t be broken up, so you may have to buy 20 or 50 stems of one type of flower. Florists usually buy more stock than they need for a wedding to allow for damaged heads, or flowers just not opening in time.

Timing is everything
Timing and seasonality of flowers is also crucial.  A gerbera or lisianthus doesn’t need time to bloom, but a rose can take three days to reach perfection and a lily up to a week.

Consider doing a trial run a few weeks before to avoid any potential nasty shocks, and then factor in time to make more than one trip over the course of your wedding week to buy stock.

As for cost, buying flowers in season means they are at their best and cheapest. Peonies in June are great, but in April they can be tiny and twice the price!

If in doubt – work with a florist
A florist like not only has buying power with a supplier, but knowledge of what is in season. We have time to dedicate to your big day and work within your budget, providing a full financial breakdown so that you know exactly how much it will cost and where your money is going.

We also bring experience and creativity to the mix. We will visit your venue to get a feel for what would work well and where and can advise you where to spend your money to maximise the ‘wow factor’ on the day. We know how long it takes to set a wedding up, how to pack a van, what needs to be done on site and what may take too long if the venue operate a strict turnaround policy during busy periods.

We are passionate about what we do and have a seemingly never ending list of ideas, not to mention props that can be hired – saving you the need to buy ten matching vases or 50 tea lights! In addition to this, we source beautiful ribbons and candles – all extra bits that you might not think of until you are trying to do it yourself.

If you do make the choice to DIY your bridal blooms, please take these points into consideration and remember to plan a colour scheme, source your props and flowers, allow a timetable, budget, ask for help when you need it and leave plenty of time to relax the night before your big day!