Conversations at brunch: Did you hear about Large Almond Latte? | Part 5
You've seen The Social Network and WeCrashed, but do you know how the totally equivalent Large Almond Latte got their start? It's basically how to start an online brand 101...
A new personal blog series exploring the highs and lows of the conversations you have at brunch.
This is Part 5 of a series. For a recap, click here.
I was given a month's notice, so I effectively did get paid for a month to do no work. So, I wasn't working, and I wasn't going anywhere or doing anything. All there was was time and an internet connection. And this is when a little thing called Large Almond Latte was born.
Well, that's a bit of a lie.
As you can probably tell from my writing style, I do have the ability to... go on. Just a tad!
For context: I loved English at school. I studied writing at uni, and had worked various jobs in writing and communications. During this time, rather than a public blog or getting a useful hobby or skill like learning Chinese or mastering toast without burning it, I would write emails.
(Remember, those born from 1996 onwards, social media wasn't really a thing until like 2015, and blogging was only for people who didn't have a shared internet connection and phone line #SignYouWereRich).
I think the emails started when I did my gap year in 2007 about travels abroad (mainly focusing around meeting people who steal underwear, kissing Frenchmen who steal your digital camera, and landing in various hospitals around the globe), and sporadically continued for years to anyone who was interested about life, the universe, and everything. Sometimes, people even wrote back.
It was like a blog or travel diary in a way. I kept a diary in high school, but this way was more fun - I could type, interact with people, get responses, and get their stories too (particularly interesting during work hours). I had a record of things, forever.
I would fantasise about turning the emails into a book, or would think about publishing them into a blog or written form, but would always chicken out. The thought of someone other than my closest mates reading my words filled me with terror. A lot of it came from millennial high school insecurity. Feeling like the way I write, and what I write about, isn't important, isn't clever, isn't different enough, isn't interesting enough.
For much of my 20s, I cared much too much about what other people thought, and was scared that some intellectual guy from uni who played guitar and went to socialist rallies would read my work and find me shallow or lame. I would go to write and possibly publish something and then cringe at it, or think that friends would gossip about me being a try hard or lame, just like I felt when I wanted to pursue singing for a while. Of course, no one did this (well, to my face). It was all internal.
If I could go back, or if there is anyone who likes to write, paint, draw, create, sing or has a hobby where they are holding back out of this fear in any way - please don't. I wish I didn't care so much. I wish I had realised much earlier that people who judge you aren't your mates, and that your real friends will lift you up and be excited for you. Cut anyone who makes you feel less than out your life, stat. Life's just way too short for that shit.
Anyway. In the aforementioned job I was let go from, I had gotten experience with writing an internal newsletter of sorts that was pretty casual in tone. Yes, it had work news, new starters, statistics etc, but the best part was, for some reason, they let this entry level copywriter go rogue and speak in first person, where I could do an intro talking shit (just like in The LAL Monthly Newsletter - like and subscribe! #AlwaysBeClosing), add in activities and reviews, and make it fun. And not only that - but they liked it. Like, really liked it. I also f*cking loved doing it (more than my actual job, tbh). So with that, plus gaining a few (Year 8 level) skills in online mailing, newsletters and design, I decided to do something a bit different with my emails this time round.
Around January of 2020, instead of my regular word vomit from email@example.com, when I got engaged in Malaysia, I decided to format my email as a newsletter, complete with pictures, videos and GIFs (you can read a blog version here).
It was fun, and seemed to get a good response (my mum, for one, loved it). I continued experimenting, and since I had a lot of time on my hands with lockdown and work being slow (I hadn't been let go just yet), I started making myself a website, more as a portfolio for work purposes than anything. It had a pink and flamingo theme (my favourite animal) and so I decided to formalise the newsletter, naming it The Flock. This was meant to coincide with the name of my website, The Flamingo Pen (note to creators: always, always test out your business name as a URL first. Because this is how a name you love like The Flamingo Pen reads as www.theflamingopen.com when live. It has since been discontinued - for obvious reasons).
By now, lockdown was in full swing, so I decided to experiment a bit with the emails I would send to friends and family. Instead of just a Times New Roman ramble with in-jokes for friends, I made it a newsletter than anyone could read if they were bored af inside their houses. I added in sections on things that (admittedly, only I) found fun and interesting, and to be honest, could write about easily with very little research (note: also why I did not pursue a PhD despite loving the idea of telling people I was doing my PhD. Apparently doctorates are not built on Wikipedia alone).
Hitting publish on my very first public newsletter, I was nervous as f*ck. What if people were like, what the f*ck is Jess doing? Does she actually think she's like, famous or something? Why is she doing this? Why does she think this is good, or we would read this? Were people screenshotting it to each other and laughing, or sending it straight to junk mail?
I mean, maybe all the above happened. I don't know. While it was just really read by mates, it was a good time for sending content - people were bored with cabin fever and would divulge anything.
As it went on, I learned that some segments worked, some didn't. TV show chat - tick. A Dear Miss Maple section did not really take off in the way I hoped (I just really want a Dear Abby column in the paper, guys. Make it happen). Book Club, nada (note: no adults want homework). And then there were sections I'd play around with that are still there, like Fashun Chat, Activities, Careers, Cute Pictures, quotes and the like.
I kept this little hobby going in between.... well, nothing, as we were in lockdown, until I saw a friend from the year above at school launching a podcast. Fancy!
Enter Nikki and Large Almond Latte
Nikki Sherwin and I had grown up in the same vicinity - a year apart, we went to both primary and high school together, went to the same parties, were in the JC, and moved in similar social circles. I'm even able to let her know how long she and her gentile partner have been together when she forgets, as I remember them hard-launching at my 21st (you're welcome mate).
In 2020, Nikki was also bored af during lockdown, and with the added bonus of being on mat leave, wasn't involved in the Covid corporate shitshows. She started a podcast called Large Almond Latte, where she would talk shit about movies, current entertainment and lifestyle news, and add in fun discussions on topics like cults, petty deal breakers and normal behaviours with your dog.
I was totally hooked. It was like, me, but the voice version, and I was the newsletter version! Plus, a large almond latte was like, totally my drink! (But weak. Two shots, yuck). I sent her a message about a collab, and luckily for me, she was super keen. This also benefitted me greatly - Nik already had a decent following on her podcast and socials. I had a Jewish mum who sent unreadable screenshots of my newsletters to her Israeli dancing group.
We spent some time developing our website, socials, branding and taglines (well, Nikki knew how to do most of that. But I was a very willing protégé). We had structured posts, captions, schedules and content strategy. By July 2020, we unveiled our new collab on our socials, our website, the podcast, and in the new look LAL Monthly Newsletter.
While 2020 was a shit show of gigantic proportions for the entire world, the one thing it did help with was getting me out of my writing shell. While I know I come across very extroverted, publishing myself publicly had been something I'd wanted but was always a bit shy, sometimes dipping a toe in the odd freelance gig and then pulling back, never fully committing or knowing how to do it the right way.
When I got made redundant, I just dedicated myself to LAL full-time. With it, Nik and I had a schedule, we had content flowing through our veins, and most of all, we were having fun writing, talking and engaging with everyone and everything while being stuck at home during the pandemic.
So, to Nikki and everyone who has liked a post, read a newsletter, listened to a pod or slid into our DMs, thanks so much. Cos when you've been made redundant and your wedding is cancelled and your dad is dying, it sounds stupid, but something as simple and innocuous as an Instagram comment saying 'loved it guys!' was the only good part of an otherwise pretty shitty time.
By November of 2020, things were getting a little better. While we were still in lockdown (I think? Who can remember?) Dad had been put on a new clinical trial for his cancer treatment that was looking positive. LAL was in full swing. We were going to move into our new house in January after months of pushback during hard lockdown.
Then one day, a recruiter asked to put me forward for another job similar to my last one, writing for a finance company. This one was bigger, paid a LOT more, had mad perks and they were ready for me to start right away. What's not to like?
A lot, it turned out.
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