Want a Star Wars wedding? Former registrar’s new business will help you celebrate


If you’d like a hand-fasting, a zombie-themed wedding, a non-religious naming ceremony, or a non-religious funeral, you need a celebrant who will help make your day reflect your personality.

For former registrar Jane Grayer (pictured above), the desire to give people the individual ceremonies they need is the reason she set up her small business, Create Ceremonies.

Monmouthshire-based Jane, 50, carries out weddings and commitment ceremonies, funerals, and naming and family ceremonies.

Recently, she created a special ceremony to mark the adoption of a child.

“It was a lovely day,” says the former stage manager and charity worker.

“I haven’t heard of anyone else creating ceremonies like that for when adoption becomes legal and the process in the courts has ended.

“The ceremony marked a welcoming of the child into the family.”

Supportive adults were chosen – a non-religious version of god-parents. They help and support a child throughout their life.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my four years as a registrar, but registrars are bound by the law. For example, they can only carry out a ceremony in a permanent structure with walls and a roof,” Jane says.

“Now, I can offer ceremonies outdoors, or in places which haven’t been licensed for marriage such as a number of castles in Wales.

“The couple would have to legally have a Register Office ceremony too, but some people like to have their own ceremonies afterwards in places which are special to them, or in different ways. They can write their own vows, and make their commitment in their own way.”

In an era of blended families, non-traditional ceremonies can help create special roles for those who would not necessarily take a major role in a traditional wedding, like step-parents and step-siblings.

People feel increasingly confident to ask for something different for their family ceremonies, Jane says. Her clients come from all faiths and no faith.

Some of the commitment ceremonies she offers are perfect for those who want to show their commitment without having a legal marriage – such as hand-fasting and broom jumping.

Jane, a member of the UK Society of Celebrants, gets to know her clients and their personalities and offers them a bespoke and personalized service.

As more people ask for non-religious funerals, Jane also works with the families to create ceremonies which reflect the life of the person they have lost.

She also creates non-religious baby naming ceremonies for parents who prefer to welcome their child into their family without a traditional christening ceremony.

Jane, who lives with her husband and two teenage sons in Monmouthshire, carries out ceremonies across South Wales.

To find out more about Jane’s work, go to www.createceremonies.co.uk. Or you can call 07733 201158.

Do you have an unusual business you’d like us to feature on this blog? Email maria@wordsyoucanuse.co.uk




How to share the buzz on Record Store Day


Hundreds of independent shops will take part in the UK’s Record Store Day 2016.

This year’s event is set to be the biggest ever seen with more than 200 stores taking part and tens of thousands of music fans attending live events to mark the day.

There will also be 500 limited edition vinyl releases on Saturday from artists like Florence and the Machine, Primal Scream and David Bowie.

A number of the events have a strong Bowie theme to mark the passing of the music legend three months ago.

Record Store Day began in the USA nine years ago and is coordinated by the Entertainment Retailers Association in the UK. This year, the day is staged in partnership with BBC Music.

Recent years have seen a resurgence in vinyl sales, fueled by events like Record Store Day. In 2008, there were just over 75,000 vinyl albums sold in the UK. Sales reached 2.2 million records in 2015. In 2016, LP sales are already up 67% on last year’s figures.

If you’re taking part, make the most of your marketing opportunity.

Use the official hashtag #RSD16 when posting your events on social media and copy in Record Store Day’s official feeds for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. That will give your posts a wider audience.



Share the buzz

Let local media know what you’re doing. Here’s the official press kit: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/nw7b3b6vlvc1aqw/AADKhN8jAYtLyTu_WV8v_6bla?dl=0 – if they can’t attend send them video and pictures during the day for their websites, and after the day for their print editions.

Here’s The Wonderstuff’s Miles Hunt at last year’s event in Swordfish Records:

Plug your events on their sites and your own channels before the day.

Share your images and social media posts throughout the day – people will spot them and decide to come into your store. Retweet and re-post images your customers have taken during your events.

Create a year-round Facebook page for your Record Store Day events and encourage followers to share their stories and images with you. Keep it going so you can use it again in the run-up to next year’s event.

 Here are just some of the events on offer:

  • Rough Trade in East London will be hosting Irish singer- songwriter Glen Hansard, multi-instrumentalist Georgia and Benjamin John Power’s solo project Blanck Massplus.
  • The Museum of Soho will be screening three Bowie-related documentaries from the BBC Arena archive on Saturday.
  • In Newport, Gwent, Newport Rises and Newport City Radio have organised a ‘pop up’ vinyl sale in the foyer of Newport Market and a showcase of the best live music in three locations around the city centre. Kriminal Records based in Newport Market is donating records to sell in order to raise money for Maes Ebbw School. The ‘Kriminal Records pop up shop’ will be open in the foyer of Newport Market during the day.  Newport City Radio will host local music acts across three sites:  at the vinyl sale; at Slipping Jimmy’s bar and grill on High Street; and The Ivy Bush in Clarence Place, from 2pm. Diverse Records on Skinner Street will also have exclusive vinyl releases.
  • The British Record Shop Archive is hosting an exclusive pop-up curated by the Museum of Soho from April 14 to 21 on Beak Street, Carnaby.
  • Pie & Vinyl in Southsea is hosting an outside music festival with Band of Skulls taking the headline spot
  • Hannah Peel is touring the South East Coast with her music box. She will be attempting to perform nine live in-store performances in one day. She starts off in Brighton.
  • Piccadilly Records in Manchester is hosting DJ sets from Mary Anne Hobbs and Domino’s Higher Authorities. Face painters will transform staff and customers into their favourite David Bowie incarnation.
  • Container Records host an all-day DJ party at Pop Brixton.
  • Rough Trade in Nottingham hosts soul star Charles Bradley.
  • The first vinyl playback of Ian Brown’s Solarized LP will take place at London’s Soho Hotel in conjunction with Sister Ray – in total darkness.
  • Inspiral Carpets’ Tom Hingley will be performing an acoustic set for the crowds at Vinyl Revival in Manchester.
  • Jumbo Records in Leeds is staging performances in store by C Duncan and Allusondrugs.
  • VOD Music in Mold (which measures 67 sq ft and is said to be the smallest record shop in the UK) has limited edition vinyl releases and festivities.
  • Vox Box in Glasgow has 15 bands lined up to play in store including 2016 RSD artist Pinact and Emma Pollock.

Find your local record shops using Record Store Day’s store locator here: http://recordstoreday.co.uk/participating-stores/

Maria Williams is a copywriter, professional blogger, and PR for small business. Visit www.wordsyoucanuse.co.uk



Business coaching event planned at Celtic Manor Resort


The five-star Celtic Manor Resort in Newport (pictured) will host a ‘growth club’ helping business owners focus on making their companies flourish .

The day-long event on April 29 is organised by Action Coach for businesses from across south Wales.

Coaches Simon Buck, Cassandra Bodington, Nigel Jew, and Chris Gibbons will help each entrepreneur come up with the one key thing they can do to make their businesses a success in the coming quarter.

Business consulting firm Action Coach holds the day-long sessions quarterly, and they involve reviewing a business’ goals, brainstorming solutions to problems, and meeting other business owners.

Anyone not already a member of Action Coach’s network can try out a day-long session including a one-to-one coaching meeting for £595 plus VAT, while members attend free.

Find out more or book a place here. The Celtic Manor, which hosted the Ryder Cup in 2010, is owned by billionaire businessman Sir Terry Matthews.

Thousands of small business jobs under threat in steel crisis


Port Talbot steelworks PICTURE: Chris Shaw/Creative Commons


Thousands of jobs in small businesses could be at risk alongside the threat to the livelihoods of more than 4,000 steel workers if Tata closes its Port Talbot plant.

Local councillor Tony Taylor said there are more than 4,000 jobs directly under threat inside the town’s steelworks, the UK’s largest. He said there are also 3,000 contractor jobs and 6,000 in the supply chain who rely on steel plants as a source of work. Their jobs are also under threat if Indian firm Tata Steel closes its plants while it looks for a buyer, he added.

Tata says the Port Talbot site alone is losing £1m a day, highlighting high energy costs and cheap steel subsidised by the Chinese government flooding the market as major problems.

Taking into account potential knock-on job losses in other small businesses like local shops as the local economy contracts from such a shock, Cllr Taylor told reporters: “You’re talking about 15,000 jobs which could be lost in a community like Neath Port Talbot.”

Cllr Taylor told reporters: “You’re talking about 15,000 jobs which could be lost in a community like Neath Port Talbot.”

The councillor called for short-term action to stop the closure or the mothballing of plants: “In the short term, we need the Welsh Government and the Westminster government to work in partnership to get in a short-term impetus into the plant so a new buyer can invest in confidence and ensure there’s a sustainable steel industry left for the future generations.”

There are likely to be thousands of contractor and other small business jobs facing a similar threat at Tata’s other remaining UK sites including Llanwern near Newport, Rotherham, Corby, Trostre at Llanelli, and Shotton in North Wales. In total, Tata directly employs more than 15,000 people in the UK.

Wales’ First Minister Carwyn Jones talked to company bosses to press for breathing space for the workers today. Tata has warned that it needs to find a buyer in weeks, rather than months, for its plants. A worker-management buyout would need an investment of £300 million, experts say, and government support short of nationalisation could fall foul of EC rules.

Prime Minister David Cameron staged an emergency meeting in Downing Street today amid growing pressure from opposition parties and unions for government action to keep the sites open and save the British steel industry. Unions and opposition politicians, including Neath MP Stephen Kinnock who travelled with union leaders to Mumbai in a last-ditch bid to save the site, criticised the government.Some claimed the government is in “chaos” in the face of the threat, and the Labour leadership called for nationalisation as a short-term measure to prevent mass unemployment in Port Talbot.

Mr Cameron said he did not believe nationalisation was the answer, and said the government was doing “everything it can” but warned there are “no guarantees of success”. He added the threat to the UK plants was of “deep concern” and that the steel jobs were “vital” to their communities.

Chancellor George Osborne told reporters the government is taking action to cut energy prices and to make sure British steel is used in major UK construction projects.

A petition lodged by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanding Parliament be recalled to debate the crisis reached the 100,000 signature level needed to trigger a Westminster debate today. As this blogpost  was written, it had attracted more than 126,000 signatures. A date for a debate was awaited. See the petition here.



5 effective tips for anyone outsourcing their blog


When you decide to outsource your blog, you do it for very good reasons.

Usually, saving time is top of the list. Often, you take the decision to bring in an expert writer who can craft your blog posts because they have both the time and experience to do so.

Finding a great professional blogger is a major boost for your marketing campaign. A good blogger will be able to understand your company, know the style in which you’d like them to write, and do their research about your ideal customers.

They can write you social media headlines to maximise your SEO when sharing your posts, and emails to help you share your new post with your database.

If you’ve never used a professional blogger before, here are some tips to get the most from that relationship:

Be specific.

If you want something done a certain way, be as specific as possible with your blogger. They want to give you copy you’ll love, and which gives you a great return on investment. The more detail you give them the better. If you want a headline with a figure in it and a post based closely on data you’ve collected, tell them. Don’t assume they’ll know exactly what you’re thinking, even if they are on your wavelength.

Embrace their creativity.

If you’re not sure what to do with a post, ask your blogger. They may have tried and tested ways of delivering something great which you hadn’t thought about. A good blogger will be able to come to you with ideas, and you can agree with them what you’d like them to work on. Part of the time-saving in hiring a professional blogger is that it frees you from having to come up with all the ideas yourself. That can be a real headache after a few months of consistent blogging.

Copy them in on your calendar.

That helps them spark off ideas for new posts around events you’re attending, sales, product launches, or new directions you’re taking in the business. Blogging calendars will also contain major events like film launches and holidays such as Easter and Christmas, but the more relevant the blogger can make it to your individual business, the better.

Let them mix it up when it comes to length.

Statistically, posts which are between 1,200 and 1,700 words get the best engagement. Shorter posts, however, are also excellent ways of getting information across quickly, especially if you’re blogging every week, and longer posts tend to be more expensive. The best way forward for your business could be having a longer read every month or two, helping to build engagement with your blogging audience.

Images are important.

Most bloggers have good sources of stock images. The best ones have good contacts among freelance photographers. If they offer you free stock images, take a look at them. If they’re relevant and good images, why not use them? Most social media platforms have far better engagement when pictures or video is used, so take any opportunity you can to embed them into your blog. Would it be worth getting  a new image taken for your post? Could you use it elsewhere in brochures or flyers, or on an advert? It’s worth thinking about that, too.

Here’s to a fruitful relationship between you and your pro blogger!

Maria Williams is a professional blogger, copywriter, and PR for small business at Words You Can Use Limited.


Businesses asked to help save threatened animal sanctuary


Businesses are being asked for urgent help to save a closure-threatened animal sanctuary.

Time and money are running out for All Creatures Great and Small, based near Cwmbran.

Now, businesses are being asked to adopt the cause to save the sanctuary from closure, and allow the animals being cared for to remain there.

Spokeswoman Heather Short said: “This is a serious S.O.S appeal for All Creatures Great and Small. The sanctuary has grown over the years and so have the running costs.

“Without support, it is feared that All Creatures will be no more. It has always been difficult keeping afloat, relying on the kindness of the public. We have always had some pretty special supporters and understand that people’s income has dwindled with these austere times.

“So we are asking people to spare £1.25 per week to save us. With your support, we can continue, without it the unspeakable will happen.”

Businesses are being asked to give whatever they can. Some animals like Trevor one of the sanctuary’s farm cats can’t be rehomed as he cannot be house-trained.

Ms Short said: “He has a special and safe home with us, we understand him and love him. What would happen to Trevor if the sanctuary closed?

“What would happen to Faith, our dear resident pig? She has arthritis and receives medication. This is her home, she knows our voices, loves having her tummy rubbed and her back scratched. We cannot contemplate what would happen to her.

“Chelsea our beautiful horse has Cushing’s Disease and receives daily medication which is expensive, nobody would want her.

“A lot of the creatures here hold sad stories, we want to continue to improve their lives with a good diet, cosy bed, veterinary care and, of course, lots of TLC.

“Our three new pigs Ruby, Rosy and Rebecca had nearly starved to death after their owner died. They have required large amounts of food to rebuild their bodies which of course is costly.”

Another cat, Luna, may well have to have her ear removed because of cancer, and the sanctuary has to raise funds for the vet bills.

Businesses able to help are asked to download a standing order form or send a cheque made payable to All Creatures Great and Small. Please visit the website for more details: http://www.allcreaturesgreatandsmall.org.uk/

Businesses and individuals can also donate online by clicking the following link: