Following my last post, I had mentioned that I was asked to speak at a bloggers event at The Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds, which was my very first time speaking publicly... I was nervous to say the very least, but I happily waffled about where my blog has taken me and the advice that I would give other bloggers as some photos of my past events and exploits scrolled through on a screen behind me for some visual support.
I think nerves did take over a bit, so I forgot to mention a few things, but I also thought this would be handy to tell my story here too, so here is my journey over the last 3 years in a brief run through ; )
Photos by Liquid Photo
How my blog got started: In 2009, to put it simply, I was bored!
I worked a full time roll, after chasing a lengthy career in Events & Hospitality, I was then in a crappy admin role and was going home to watch films, lay in at weekends, not too bad a life, but not exactly living it to the best of my abilities. So, I started my 101 challenges in 1001 days (that’s a list of things I’ve always wanted to do and doing it in 2.5 years!) with the aim of it helping me get out of house & meet new people.
One of the challenges was to start a club, so I dreamt up a “Cupcake Club” to swap recipes and treats with friends and drink coffee in local tearooms (Very similar to the Clandestine Cake Club which I now co-host, bizarrely!). I even got a cupcake tattoo, showing my dedication to the cause, even if I have fallen out of love with cupcakes lately!
After some research to better the Cupcake Club, I was Googling ideas and found a “Pop Up Tearoom” in London and decided to book, intrigued. It was a 6 person event, sat in a lovely ladies basement, lovely French inspired food, but not a lot of it, so we came away hungry.
I then decided that I could do something similar, but bigger & better... so I dreamt up “The Secluded Tea Party”, deciding to take it to the Cambridgeshire countryside and it all started with a blog post announcing idea - see the very first blog post here.
I had no idea who I was blogging to... I actually started off with a lot of American followers, some even sent me china for my impending adventures, people were SO supportive!
I had also been asked to make some close friends cupcakes for their wedding at a similar time & they gave me the purple gingham tablecloths that you can still see me using to this day... It’s where the purple colouring came from originally and their wedding barn was the first inspiration for my future events, so thank you to Mark & Amy who have supported me all the way along, even to this day!
Why Miss Sue Flay? Other “Pop Up Supperclubs” & their hosts had quirky names and I wanted my own - so Miss Sue Flay was dreamt up as a persona alongside my cakey themes & ideas.
It was also due to the dangers involved with pop ups at the time, nobody really knew how safe it might be, the legalities were a little less known and there weren’t half as many as there are now, 3 years on. So using an alias was also protecting my Identity.
Photo by Debbie Wallwork
So to my blog
= What I write about & why! I simply love sharing my experiences & advice with my readers, talking about what I see, who I meet, what I am doing. It’s also a simple way to be documenting what I get up to for reference or perhaps even that book deal one day - a girl can but dream!
I am also a firm believer in the almighty power of word of mouth and I feel it’s important to be supporting of your favourite businesses and other blogs, sharing the love doesn’t hurt.
My most popular blog posts:
My “guest book comments” from my physical events book - all good of course!
“How to's” - How to throw a Jubilee tea party through to my How to host a “Breaking Bad” themed tea party. And How to make the perfect Cucumber sandwich to learning how to “Dine like Downton”... All firm favorites of mine!
The honest blog posts - My honesty on the “Not so glamorous side of being an Afternoon Tea hostess” got my readers interacting with me, which I was thrilled to see happen. Also, my honesty on my weightloss journey in my "baking on a diet" post has been fantastic in regards to readers & their support.
“The Great Scone Debate” - People like a little controlled argument or somewhere to post an opinion, lord knows I for one am one of those people! The “Jam Vs Cream / Cream Vs Jam” debate always gets people talking.
Recipes - My Giggle Cake recipe is an uncommon find, and I find these unfound/unknown recipes are always exciting for readers, so educate them, don’t churn out the same as everybody else, be known for your great inspiration and ideas, trust me - be original!
Where it's taken me / Things that were VERY unexpected since writing that 1st post:
Guest blog posts/Column writing - Writing for the Cambridgeshire Journal Magazine for 2 years plus now. Getting my column onto the Cambridge Evening News “Food & Drink” section as well as columns with “Vintage Life” Magazine and guest blog posts on Jordan’s Cereal Blog and “The High Tea Cast”. I'm so proud of my writing, seriously chuffed!
Professional Photoshoots - in the snow in -5*c temperatures, at Cath Kidston Cambridge & at Madingley Hall with the lovely Debbie Wallwork. As well as in my favourite tearoom & the Hotel Du Vin with Liquid Photo. Professional shots do wonders for a blog!
Making a new friend in the fabulous William Hanson & a new found etiquette enthusiasm!
Making friends - Deepa, Nora, Ireena, Sian, Maria, Shelley, plus many others! Their support has been overwhelming from day one and I can’t thank them all enough. I looked back at some of the photos of my first ever Afternoon Tea events and I am still in touch with many of the guests that came along to sample my treats and meet Miss Sue Flay, I love Cambridge so much for this.
Hosting a Gory Zombie tea party with Sean T Page, a passionate zombie expert/author!
Appearing on BBC Radio Cambridge - With Liz Fraser, Mark Rumble & even hosting Live Radio Tea Party at Cambridge Cookery School, it was a tremendous amount of fun.
Filming with BBC s “Escape to the Country” - I was in my element making Cucumber Sarnies, talking about Giggle Cake & Etiquette with the gorgeous Alistair Appleton at the home of Afternoon Tea, Woburn Abbey - I even got to sit in the Blue Drawing Room!
Appearing on BBC’s One Show live - With the Clandestine Cake Club & Chris Evans fingering my cake haha, as well as having my very first published recipe in the cook book of the same name with my “Tuck Shop Cake” on Page 210 - not that I know it by heart of course ; ) I’m even teaching it now too!
Being a VIP at Betty's of Harrogate & recording a BBC Radio 4 documentary on the history & etiquette of Afternoon Tea. (To be aired later this summer, exciting!)
I was invited to be a Judge on the Cambridge Bake Off & a local Masterchef style competition with John Lewis over the next few weeks. I need to exercise. A lot!
Meeting Gregg Wallace (Thanks to Twitter & losing my cake-based research through Weightwatchers, I won a competition to have lunch with the lovely man himself... blog post to follow shortly- naturally!)
I Got creative with a WWF Cake entry for a Bake & Destroy competition - had so much fun with that and really started to listen to my own ideas when it came to cake decoration.
I even filmed for ITV’s *Food Glorious Food* -even if they did muck my application up after some filming, but I won’t get started on that, twas a terrible show, so a lucky escape ; )
BUT BIGGEST THING TO COME FROM BLOG: Turning my ideas from that very first blog post to a viable business. It all started as hobby and then a sideline against a full time job, where I was hosting events for baby showers, birthdays, even sophisticated hen parties. Now I’m finally self employed, teaching Afternoon Tea Baking lessons in peoples OWN homes & loving it. As well as teaching the etiquette of Afternoon Tea & formal dining, which I am having a lot of fun doing with the lovely William Hanson, with plans afoot!
So where to next?!... My last “Secluded Tea Party” event is in fact the “Secluded Blogfest” on Saturday 11th May, before moving to www.misssueflay.com .
I host these to help inspire others when it comes to blogging and to help get them enthused about blogging and networking. You can read more about this event here.
There are a few tickets left - £70 for 2 guests, so you can even share the cost ; )
And then my rebranding will take me to teaching afternoon tea baking in your own home (all you need is an oven & kitchen sink ; ) & private (and affordable) Afternoon Tea etiquette workshops with a VERY well known brand in central Cambridge.
I was even teaching baking & etiquette to a Japanese pop star a few weeks back.. it truly has led to some fun & quirky situations to say the very least.
To finish, I will leave you with some of my blogging tips :
Be honest - Take my tearoom reviews, I always pay in order to gain fair review. If I don't, I declare it, which helps to respect a blogger who reviews, there is nothing worse than a free loader who says a few lines after a freebie if I’m allowed to be honest here!
If unsure, stick to simple blog posts - “Top 10s”, opinion posts & “how to” guides - be known for your very OWN style.
My main message to ANY blogger - Don't be a sheep... be yourself / stick to passions
You never know where it Will take you! So stay professional & true to your beliefs - try not to swear, however tempting it may be ; )
Always credit, where credit is due. Either with support, a photo, a quote, story or help in your projects, always say a thank you and let your readers know who supports you. I think it's only fair and never steel a recipe, image or content from another blog, it's simply not OK.
It shouldn’t ever be a chore to blog in my opinion, you need to want to write & it will flow.
Don’t let it ruin your *real* social life - Remember your friends & family and don’t let your “to do list” on your blog take over..make sure there’s a life vs blog balance - I know this too well!
I can honestly say, life is no longer boring!
Photos by Groover Photogrphy
Miss Sue Flay
PS - You can read about the event I spoke about the above by clicking HERE.