To inifinity and beyond…

I quit my job today.
No, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds. I have given 6 weeks notice, intend to part on good terms and I have a long term plan. I just thought that I would start out this post with a rather sensationalist line. A hook, if you will.

I’ve been working at the bank for a long time. I’m only 24 years old, though I always knew that I wanted to work in IT. I joined the bank for that reason, and I accomplished it. In that time I’ve managed to do some exciting things. Some boring things. But above all get real experience in the field. I had previously worked for NTL, providing technical support for their internet customers, this is where I first dipped my toes, professionally. Of course, I have been designing websites since 1997 and I started to learn my first programming language at the tender age of 6 (BASIC on the Commodore 64).

I leave my position on the 1st of May with no job to go to. Not at another company, at least.
In the past 9 months I have been dabbling with freelance work. After doing some unpaid work to bulk up my portfolio and some favours for friends of friends and with other contracts now in the pipeline and ready to go, I decided that I want this to be my new career goal. To become a self-employed, or freelance, web application programmer.

In the next 6 weeks I will be launching at least two separate ventures.

Pixelfreedom banner

The first, which will be my primary business, is web design and programming under the moniker ‘Pixelfreedom‘.
I created Pixelfreedom almost 8 years ago as a base for my photography portfolio. I still think this is a good name for a creative organisation.
Under this banner I will provide services to clients to provide a solution to the technicalities of their desired websites.
In layman’s terms, this means the clever stuff that goes on the in the background. Making a website ‘interactive’, being able to sign up, log in, upload your photo, add products to your basket, checkout and pay. All of the kind of stuff that you probably take for granted when using social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. This kind of thing takes many man hours and a lot of code in the background to achieve.
Along with this, as you would probably expect, is the part where the site is made pretty and functional at the front-end, for the user. This will also be something that I will be offering as a product of my labour.

The second venture will be provided under my own name, Nathan Collins, which will run from one of my other websites, ‘‘. For this I will use my considerable knowledge, expertise and experience in the field of online marketing, advertising and social networking to consult companies on their brands use of these tools.
This means advising clients on the best use of Google Adwords, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other means of conducting ‘viral’ advertising, and running the campaigns, which can be so very effective if used in the correct way.

The next few months will be a roller-coaster ride for me. I have been in full-time employment continuously since leaving college aged 18. I have learned many skills along the way and continue to learn new things every single day of my life, which is something that I relish continuing to do, as no doubt I will, especially considering the line of work that I am in where knowledge is most definitely infinite.

Now that the biggest step has been taken I will be carrying on at this momentum. Next week I am having my business cards printed up and will be filing forms to register myself as self-employed.

I hope you all wish me luck, continue to read hintofsarcasm while I go through this big transitional period and of course recommend my services to anyone that you come across that may require them :)

Q&A: Fab Mash

Fab Mash

I had the pleasure of conducting a Q&A session with Brian & Margaret Harries who are behind the venture ‘Fab Mash’ on Caroline Street, Cardiff, some days before the grand opening, which was on Sunday, March 1st.

Nathan: Since the sign went up a few weeks ago, anybody I mention the name to has been enthused to know what could possibly be served up in mashed potato takeaway. I have tried to explain it, but can you tell us, definitively, what Fab Mash will be serving?

Fab Mash: We will be serving a choice of five mash varieties; regular, leek, cheesy, spicy and breakfast mash. These are available in snack or regular sizes.
Mash can be eaten on its own or with a choice of items from our ‘Mix ‘n’ Mash’ menu, including sausage, faggot, beef casserole, lentil dhal, steak & ale pie, chicken, leek & bacon pie, mushy peas, baked beans, onions or gravy!
We also offer set ‘Fab Meals’, combining mash and selected accompaniments, ‘Snack Mash Meals’, which are just a bit smaller and an ‘All-day-breakfast’ menu, featuring our unique ‘Breakfast Mash’, plus sausage and/or beans.
Phew, that sounds more complicated than it is! Actually it’s really simple. Everything is laid out on menu boards and people are quickly getting the hang of it!

Nathan: Where did the idea for a takeaway restaurant with a mashed potato theme come from?

Fab Mash: We have loved making this type of food for a long time and people always enjoy it, so we had a hunch that this type of takeaway would go down well. After loads of research and planning we decided there was definitely a market for it.
It seems we were right, or at least the signs are good so far. We have sourced the best food and ingredients, as this was central to what we wanted to achieve. The initial feedback has been excellent and we’ve been extremely encouraged by what people have said to us.

Nathan: Cardiff is becoming quite the city for businesses to try to sell new ideas for food, what made you choose Cardiff?

Fab Mash:Although we live in Haverfordwest we have had close links with Cardiff for the last 20 years. It’s a vibrant city, it has gone through something of a transformation in the last 10 years and the fact it was nominated for City of Culture 2008 says an awful lot about Cardiff. We believe in Fab Mash and want to make it a national brand. Our capital city was the obvious choice to test the concept and its potential.

Nathan: How long have plans to open Fab Mash been in the pipeline?

Fab Mash: We’ve been planning to start Fab Mash for almost three years! It’s been a long road but we feel the results make it all worthwhile.

Nathan: I understand that Cardiff is to be the first Fab Mash location. If it goes well, where else do you have in mind to open stores?

Fab Mash: We’d like at least one more shop in Cardiff and are looking at another location currently. Our ultimate goal would be to take Fab Mash to London, which would help us establish a national brand.
It’s too early to say how long that will take and where the stepping stones along the way will be. We passionately respect our roots though, so the Cardiff store will always be our spiritual home!

Nathan: Fab Mash is located on one of the busiest streets in the city centre after dark. Do you have a late opening license?

Fab Mash: Our licence is from 10 am to 4 am. We will establish our regular opening hours over the coming weeks but the idea is to be open as long as customers are out there!

Nathan: If so, how do you see night revellers taking your concept of mashed potato and gravy over chips and gravy?

Fab Mash: Our decisions are not based on people taking preference over other takeaways. There should be enough business for everyone in this area. We are merely offering an alternative choice for people, which we think they want. Believe me, we have eaten our fair share of chips and gravy and will continue to do so!

Nathan: Chips and Caroline Street is an almost half century old tradition for Cardiff locals. Do you think you can compete against the likes of Dorothy’s, who’s patch you will be moving in on? What do you think will give you the edge?

Fab Mash: We do not see ourselves competing against the established traders in the street, who incidentally have been extremely welcoming and helpful toward us. The reputation of Caroline Street has been built by the existing businesses and we have just been pleased to be joining them on their patch.
One of our new neighbours actually summed it up very professionally when he explained to us that no matter how many people want your product when it is really busy you cannot serve them all. There is enough business in Caroline Street for all of us to co-exist.

Nathan: What advertising will Fab Mash be doing? Will there be any special opening offers?

Fab Mash: We are working to get the Fab Mash name out there however we can, and help from people like you is always welcome!
We are a family-run business and are very much about people and relationships, so we are trying to connect with real people both online and in person. We have created a Fab Mash website: and have a twitter presence:
This has been useful so far as it has helped us gauge opinion, albeit from a relatively small number of people. We are hoping to grow a Fab Mash community of loyal followers, that can help us take the company in the right direction.
We are also running a PR campaign, extending beyond this into traditional media and have a company helping us with all that, along with putting marketing materials together etc.
In terms of offers we will have to see how this develops. At the moment, we are just trying to see what people think of the current menu offering and pricing, then we can make some decisions.
Currently we are kept very busy! We are just focusing on meeting demand and getting as many people as possible to try our mash! Most people seem to be coming back for more, which is great!

-Syndicated from one of my other blogs,