This week I’m talking about our incredible team and sharing some personal Christmas memories.

Highlight of the week

Sometimes you need to get away from the detail and see the bigger picture. Getting out of the office on Thursday to have lunch with our chairman Maurice Helfgott was one of those occasions. It was a great opportunity for David and I to step back and look at what we’ve achieved in just over 12 months, which includes: a team of 10, our own office, a brilliant website and a growing business. What, I wonder, will the next 12 months bring?

Monday

David and I spent a big chunk of today preparing for our next board meeting. We both understand how important it is to keep our social investors fully informed about the business and we put a lot of work into ensuring this happens. I also attended our Monday product meeting which was led for the first time by new team member Katie, and focused on cross promotions, merchandising and our 2016 catalogue.

Later, I had a meeting with our new advertising agency. They’re incredible and I’m very excited to be working with them, developing a tone of voice for our brand which really engages carers and people with dementia. Unforgettable’s key demographic is women aged 45-60 and it’s essential that we speak their language in order to really connect with them.

Tuesday

Spent a long time preparing for the board meeting and starting to work in more detail with our charity partners – we’ll soon have six charity partners including Dementia UK and Carer’s UK. We finished the day seeing our very own personalised jigsaws going live on the site. It’s a great start.

Wednesday

Started with a meeting with GTX Corp, the company which manufactures SmartSole GPS tracker insoles. I then spent the rest of the morning working on – and completing - the final 40 page legal agreement with our biggest supplier.

After lunch, I interviewed a prospective marketing manager. The interview was supposed to last one hour but ended up lasting two because he was so impressive. Shortly afterwards, I called him up to offer him the job. Daniel starts working for us in the first week of January which is brilliant because it means we now have a full team in place.

I finished the day reviewing an employee survey we recently completed about our company values – and found myself surprisingly moved by the feedback from our amazing team, and the sort of business they want Unforgettable to be. They cited integrity, honesty, transparency and innovation as their main values. Wow! I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Thursday

The day was slightly taken over by a lunch event with our chairman Maurice Helfgott. He invited David and I to a lunch with the leadership teams of the businesses he works with, including some high profile retail organisations. It was great to be there as a mission-driven social business. Talking to people with very different views and business models was fascinating and reinforced my belief that what we’re doing is the future.

Back at the office, we finished the day saying goodbye to Zoe. Zoe joined us as a pro bono consultant for three months…and ended up staying for seven. We couldn’t have launched Unforgettable without her and it’s really sad to see her go. Thank you Zoe for all your hard work!

And finally... a few thoughts about Christmas

Mum was incredible at Christmas. She’d start planning in September, surrounded by her Mrs Beaton cookbooks and recipes for home made cranberry sauce, Christmas cake and pudding. The Christmas turkey was bought from a farm and would hang in the garage until she plucked it herself, then gutted and cleaned it. Presents were perfectly chosen and beautifully wrapped and the countdown to the day itself was organised with military precision.

Then one Christmas it wasn’t prepared, the food wasn’t sorted, and the presents were a bit weird…

If you’re caring for someone with dementia this Christmas you’ll know exactly how that feels. Christmas becomes a bitter-sweet experience. On the one hand you’re happy and grateful to still be able to celebrate with your loved one, and determined to enjoy the day as it comes. But you also can’t help remembering how it used to be. If the day gets really difficult, you might even start wishing you were somewhere else, having fun, then feel consumed with guilt – just as I did.

The physical challenges can be just as hard. On Mum’s last Christmas she was very frail and struggling to eat. I spent hours encouraging her to eat her pureed turkey lunch. It was dark by the time we’d finished, but she was massively underweight, so it had to be done.

Of course every dementia journey is unique and the challenges you face at Christmas may be very different to mine. But I do empathise with you every step of the way.

The only advice I would attempt to offer is to keep an open mind. One year when Mum was still trying to manage Christmas herself, she bought me the strangest gift; a tiny, wind-up music player. I thought she’d lost the plot when I saw it…. But I kept it and now it sits next to a picture of Mum in my lounge. Every time I think of her, I wind it up and it plays the most beautiful tune. That strange gift has become one of my most precious items because it reminds me that even when she had dementia, Mum was able to buy something really beautiful, which was to have a far bigger impact on my life than any of the other perfect presents she’d bought in the past.

So have a very merry Christmas everyone and remember – you aren’t alone.

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