Over the last six months, I’ve been working on building my own skincare brand SootheSkin, which stands for honest British made skincare for sensitive and problem skin.
The idea for the brand was inspired by daughter Lily who suffers from atopic eczema, a skin condition which leaves the skin extremely dry and crackly.
After several months of development time, I was able to find a product was both vegan-friendly and cruelty-free as well meeting my high expectations of a luxury cream.
Unlike developing a software program or service business, creating your brand and products is a different beast altogether. Getting the packaging, formulation, texture, smell, logistics and website done was very challenging and when you think that the product might take 6 weeks to procedure, effectively it took about 4 months from ordering to receiving the products.
Furthermore, we all had to deal with the aftermath of COVID-19, meaning that the online D2C channel is the only way to get products to people in a reliable fashion.
The feedback so far has been quite good and in addition to the cream, we also have a facial oil that depigments blemishes, acne scars and even sunspots.
Over the next three months SootheSkin can also be seen in the Condé Nast Traveller magazine in the Luxury Gift section.
When I came across Bitcoin 8 years ago, my interest in it was more technical than financial. I used to remember the days when I had a ‘miner’ with 3 graphics cards sticking out of my PC tower churning out about 1BTC per day.
After liquidating my holdings prior to doing my MBA, I have no regrets of loosing out on a few hundred thousand pounds of profit, even at today’s prices.
Why? Because in that time I went on a journey of discovery, with my education, family etc.
Also, when I liquidated my positions, those were sold at market price, hence in that time frame those mystical coins are just worth what they were then.
Consider this screenshot of a confirmation e-mail in March 2011.
At today’s prices, this would be outrageously cheap, but only because value is determined by a vote of confidence in the system. 8 years down the line, it is arguable that the market is much more mature, with many more controls against illegal activity, but at the same time financial companies have bolted on derivatives to amplify the volatility of Bitcoin.
With that said, it might be possible that in the next 2 months there will be another spike, just like 2 years ago. Either way, I do not consider bitcoin as an investment, but rather a global roller coaster of volatility.
In efficient markets, you would think that all exchanges would move towards the equilibrium price, but in my experience, the transaction costs of converting fiat currency into coin is much higher than a fiat to fiat transaction i.e. the spread.
The DJI Goggles I got as part of my bundle with the Mavic Air Flymore Combo have now been in my ownership for about 10 months, but I still haven’t managed to complete a full flight with them. The last time I took them to the seaside, I had the Goggles powered up and plugged into the Mavic Air controller, but somehow they wouldn’t link.
Due to the UK Drone regulations, you are actually required to keep the drone in sight at all times, hence the Goggles would in theory only be legal if another person wore them.
What I have been using them for is to watch Amazon Prime Video while plugged into my laptop via HDMI cable. The headset is really heavy, but once set up, the picture quality is decent and battery life is also quite good. At full charge, I reckon that you can get through two full movies.
Ideally, the Goggles could benefit from having two screens, one for each eye, and maybe removable battery packs. The battery pack is huge, hence the entire contraption has to be supported by the headband.
The Goggles also have a micro SD slot on the left side by the headphone output, but I’ve heard that it’s not possible to watch content from the sd Card (except drone footage).
After missing Dry January, I’m just going to make up my own event, dryish February. From today 6th February to 6th March, I’m going to try to cut down my alcohol consumption by at least 50%. To enable me to do this more effectively, one of the first steps I’ve done this morning is locked up my credit card. I’ve noticed that it’s much easier just to rack up unconcious spend when you ‘think’ that you’ve got money available, when you’re technically running on borrowed time.
The theory is that the more it hurts, the more you pay attention…
I haven’t really got any big New Year Resolutions lined up, but in the first week of 2019, I’ve already donated blood and set myself a target of run/walking 5-10 ParkRuns this year (even though I hate running).
As masters of procrastination, people tend to give up their health goals in the first 3 weeks of January. Fad trends like Veganuary and Dry January circulate the news, hence sales of relevant products go through the roof.
My intake of alcohol has certainly gone down massively after my holidays in Germany, but that’s mostly down to financial commitments (service charges, motor repairs, insurance, and so on and so forth).
Thus, the upside of being skint is that my diet is likely going to be much healthier.
Buying Christmas presents is a tedious task and many of those presents will either be returned or get lost in long term storage. If you are a grandparent, it might be tempting to give cash, buy premium bonds or toys, but for a lasting present that doesn’t corrode (literally), nothing quite feels like buying gold bars or coins.
With gold bars, the premium you pay over the raw material is relatively good compared with jewellery purchases. Unlike jewellery, the gold bars are usually sealed in a blister pack (24K Gold that is), hence it’s not worth bothering with cheaper alternatives like 14K, 18K gold commonly found in jewellery.
In China, giving gold jewellery to children is quite common, but what I find is that the resale value is usually just the spot price of the raw materials, hence you might as well buy a few 1g gold bars to chuck into a red envelope…
My favourite gold bar brand is the P.A.M.P. bar, which stands for artistic precious metals products, because the design is quite nice, is very well respected and each bar has a serial number which can be verified through their app.
I previously purchased a 50g bar at Harrods, but you can also get the bars delivered to your door through a site like BullionByPost (use my code ZAIS TP8Y to receive a free 1oz silver bar above 250 pound spend). The price of gold has been relatively stable/increasing over the last few years, unlike the price of Bitcoin, Ethereum and other speculative assets. Unless you’re minted, you’re unlikely going to gift bitcoin to your relatives, since it isn’t physical (even the physical bitcoin coins are just a proxy for the underlying private key).
Once, I remember gifting the equivalent of a pint of beer to a colleague (in Feathercoin), but a year later those coins would have been barely enough to buy a pint of tap water.
As a normal amateur photographer, there are probably a hundred different cameras that would be much easier to operate and do many more fancy things than the Leica and be much cheaper to purchase.
However, after using the Leica M240 for the last 3 years, I’m convinced that this is my best value camera purchase yet. The camera itself replaced my trusty Leica MP film camera that I got to experience photography in a more raw form.
Hence, the lenses I retained during the upgrade process were very much welcome, since the Leica-M Summicron 35/2.0 ASPH. and Leica-M Summilux 50/1.4 ASPH. (6-bit) currently retail for £2,700 and £3,400 respectively (Leica Store Mayfair – 2018)
When I bought the lenses, the 35mm one didn’t come 6-bit coded, which only means that you have to manually select the lens type through the camera menu. The great thing is that I got the lens from an eBay seller who needed to liquidate his pristine lens collection and snapped it up for only 1.1k.
A similar story was the 50-lux when a German Amazon shopped forgot to re-price the lens on the German Amazon to the UK prices, saving me a decent 25% off retail (2.7k in 2009).
I dare say that if I tried to resell both lenses today, I would probably be able to exceed 100% of the price I paid 9 years ago. Try finding other tools that retain the same amount of value. A normal car loses 50% of its new value after 3 years and 80%+ in 9 years.
While the lenses do not depreciate much, a grudge in the Leica community is that digital Leica cameras depreciate much faster than their film counterparts, noticeably against the likes of a Leica M6, M7, or MP, but so they should, since the electronic circuit boards deteriorate, the battery gets older and things break.
However, if you take a camera like the Canon 5D Mark III, which was sold at a similar time as the Leica M240, the retail price was close to £3k, vs. the £4.8k of the M240. On eBay today, the Canon fetch £1k (33% retention) vs. £2.2k on the M240 (45% retention). At the price I bought the camera from Wex Photography, the retention would be closer to 50%.
The most obvious reason behind the higher value retention is that Leica is an iconic German brand that has built its brand reputation over the last 60 years and also since the Leica-M cameras are released much less frequently than perhaps comparable Canon cameras. To confuse things even more, it’s actually getting more difficult to see what model of camera people are using, since the newer models like M10, M10-D don’t even have a model designation on the front anymore (saving people the hassle of buying duck tape to mask the model designation).
Some people say that part of the Leica experience is the less intrusive nature of the set-up. The camera isn’t supposed to feel “in your face” and if I had one regret it would probably be having the entire collection in black, to be even stealthier. Without a trained eye, most people would just pass you by and thing that you’re trying to be retro, but once in a while someone will nod approvingly and complement you on the camera.
Have you ever bought or received a Christmas Hamper from a proper posh place like Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason or Harrods and wondered how you’re going to finish half of the things in it? Well, you’re not alone.
Instead of purchasing a pre-selected hamper, wouldn’t it be much nicer to build one yourself with the items you actual want? Hence, I’ve spent some time to put together a premium hampers with less than ten items that I would buy if it was the last hamper I would ever buy.
This Iberico ham is perfect with artisan bread, high quality olive oil and a good cheese selection. My recommendation is that the meat is saved for special occasions and for people that appreciate high quality Jamón Ibérico, since my wife and son couldn’t really taste the difference between this and the normal parma ham we get.
This has been on my wish list for two years, since I can’t really justify spending this much money on a casual wine for my own consumption, since my wife doesn’t drink. As with most wines over 100 pounds, most people will not be able to taste the difference (me included), hence it’s just buying into an experience, the brand, and the nicely shaped bottle. This kind of Champagne isn’t really put into hampers, ever, since 50% of the value of the hamper would go into the wine itself, but I’d rather have this than try to eat some stinky stilton or try to appreciate a £25 pound bottle of balsamic vinegar.
Instead of the aforementioned balsamic vinegar, the smart option would be to include the organic smoked salmon, a favourite for canapes, starters, salads and more. Cheaper alternatives are available, but just don’t carry the same gravitas as the Fortnum & Mason name.
I think Cranberry Sauce is slightly more versatile than Piccalilli for savoury biscuits or crispbreads, since it goes quite nicely with some soft cheese. When I crave the taste of pickled vegetables, it’s must easier to just get some pickled gherkins.
5. Selfridges Selection – British Rosemary Sea Salt savoury biscuits (£4.49)
These biscuits are more like savoury wafers and the reason they are here is because they taste nice and weren’t totally useless when I went through the Selfridges hamper two years ago. Each biscuit won’t really hold that much cheese, cranberry sauce or salmon, which might be interpreted as embracing the low-carb living (or not).
The standard cheddar included in Fortnum’s hampers is a cylinder shaped cheddar packed in wax (Wax Cheddar Truckle 400g), which makes cutting into slightly painful. This cheddar seems to be much easier to chop into thin slices. It should deliver quite a strong taste as well, since it’s aged for 24 months vs. the 12 months on the cheddar truckle.
You can get the hamper itself in varying sizes from the likes of eBay. I could probably pick up some hay for free from a local farm, since that ends up in the bin quite quickly and isn’t really the nicest thing to have into the house.
Grand total: £238.96
It isn’t cheap by any means, but that would keep me happy for quite some time, without putting me through the potted Stilton challenge.