Take a writing sabbatical


When you start to feel like that you need to take a break!

About five years ago that’s how I felt. I had been in Market Research since leaving University, first training with Taylor Nelson, then client-side with ICI Paints and then Qualitative training with the wonderful Bill Schlackman and Wendy Gordon at Q-Search. I went on then to run my own company and with the arrival of children came more of a focus on everything related to kids. Kids Brands was born and I started to become an expert in Brand Licensing which was a growing industry. It was and is a fun industry, it was just what I needed to keep my enthusiasm and interest in Market Research. I worked on some great TV brands like Noddy, Postman Pat, Pokoyo, Fireman Sam and many more. My kids loved it and I was constantly stretched and enjoying my job.

I didn’t really notice how clients seemed to be getting younger and seemed more disconnected with the consumers they were serving but I had a series of projects where I was researching new product ideas that, had they ever talked to mums with children about their product category, they would never have dreamed up. They were badly thought through, ill-conceived, too expensive and assumed that parents had money to fritter away on products that had nothing very different or stimulating about them save that they looked like the character on TV. When I couldn’t share the client’s enthusiasm and was no longer curious and excited to show the kids their ideas, I decided that I should turn my attention to something I really did feel passionate about. Writing.

I took Creative Writing courses with the Open University and also did my NLP Trainers Training so I could fund my writing as I didn’t really expect it to pay off and I wasn’t even dreaming of writing a book. That all changed when I met a Publisher at one of the talks I went to and asked if they’d be interested in NLP for Parents. They were! ‘Be a happier parent with NLP’ was my first published book. I was so proud. There have been quite a few more since and I’ve become a bit complacent.

My next challenge (yes I do need a challenge fix every so often!) was to write for children and as JudyBee I have written the Queens of Africa Books, co-written the Jane and Jake Adventures and have two other children’s writing assignments ongoing. Let me make it perfectly clear, writing does not pay and unless you are brilliant (which I am not) you don’t sell enough books to earn a crust. You get 10% royalties which amounts to .69p per book sold. On Queens of Africa I share my royalties with the project owner and the illustrator so I just get .17p per book.

So I’ve decided that I’m ready to return to the world of Market Research. What have I learned? What tips can I share with you?

1. Great ideas come with dog walks and gym classes. Sitting beavering away at a screen working towards a deadline doesn’t result in insight.

2. You can’t beat chatting to mums in a supermarket. That’s where they are making their purchase decision not in a viewing studio in London.

3. Mums have enormous pressures on their time and purse. It’s easier for them to assuage their guilt by giving children what they want. So ask the kids not the mums.

4. I have value, it is not determined by how much I am paid (thank goodness!) nor how much clients praise my work. I have value because of who I am.

5. Whatever you do is good enough so long as you give it your 100% attention. Multi tasking is not an effective way to work.

So here I am available for your Freelance Market Research projects, either working alongside your own team as the Kids specialist on a project or handling stand alone kids research. You can contact me using the form below or just give me a call 01628 660618 I’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to see what I’ve written go to the Judy’s Books page.

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Press Release – Queens of Africa

Queens of Africa is outselling Barbie in Africa heralding the start of a new era of ethnic pride and confidence for girls of African descent.



According to Refinery29 this week, Mattel’s Barbie has finally been unseated by a ‘brown-skinned’ doll in Africa.  The ‘Queens of Africa’ dolls were developed by Nigerian entrepreneur Taofick Okoya, “to show African children that ‘black is beautiful’ by enabling them to play with dolls that reflect their culture and heritage”.

The dolls are available in toy stores all over Nigeria and will soon be available worldwide. Each doll represents a different tribe of Africa. There is Nneka (Igbo), Azeehah (Hausa) and Wuraola (Yoruba) and they are sold in various outfits.  The most popular are the dolls dressed in traditional attire.  Okoya comments that “The Queens of Africa dolls were created to inspire and influence the coming generation, especially the ‘Girl Child’, so in designing the dolls and their outfits, the team bore this in mind.” Critical to the promotion of the dolls has been the series of books that compliments the dolls that have been released worldwide including Amazon USA.

Okoya felt it was critical to have dolls that represent African heritage so the Queens of Africa program was born. Okoya has the support of an impressive ‘Who’s Who’ list of Nigerian artists and celebrities. According to Okoya, the role of the books is one way to “take the Queens of Africa project global”.

Okoya was inspired by his work with local child support agencies where the predominant toys available to local children were white dolls. He comments “To the vast majority of people, toys are mere play items or pacifiers for children. Little thought goes into which toys best serve the purpose as a tool for a child’s development. Children mentally absorb positive and negative influences which can later be detected in their character, especially in their teenage years. We need to see toys for what they really are…..A fun developmental tool.”

Okoya’s team worked with a British children’s writer and NLP (Neuro Linguistic programming) specialist, Judy Bartkowiak (JudyBee), Yetis (LittlePinkPebble), a Children’s Illustrator from Singapore and for the second Dan Doodies (Dan Durant) . The dolls are represented as schoolgirls and together with them, the child reader learns about the lives of ancient African Queens. “It was important for us to take the key messages of the lives of the ancient Queens of Africa and thread them through the stories in a way that children of today could identify with and be inspired by.” says Bartkowiak. “Using stories and imagery steeped in African heritage, with a modern twist we bring important messages forward for the young girls”. The first series comprises six stories featuring different Queens of Africa and the second series focuses on teaching the reader, through Nneka, Wuraola and Azeezah, various life skills and introduces key NLP techniques. The first is entitled ‘Learn Confidence’ and it was the first life skill that Okoya and Bartkowiak identified as being required amongst young Nigerian girls as a result of  work with local child support agencies.

Okoya works closely with many support agencies in Lagos – the main one being The Bethesda Child Support Agency. The agency supports over 2,000 orphans and vulnerable children in the Lagos area. In addition to opening a nursery and primary school in 2004 that has grown from around 30 to over 150 children, the charity runs scholarship, sponsorship and mentorship programs. Okoya is passionate about giving young black children a strong start in life including making sure that the toys, music and books given to them convey positive messages about their heritage.

The books are being published by the UK independent NLP publishing house, MX Publishing. MX are best known for publishing international bestsellers in the NLP field including Bartkowiak’s Engaging NLP series of workbooks for parents, teachers, children and teenagers.

Supporting the Queens of Africa program was a natural step says Managing Director Steve Emecz “We like to take on books that the team can get passionate about. The Queens of Africa program has a brilliant and simple message. Growth through a proud heritage. The dolls, music, comics, and books all promote positive messages and we are delighted to be involved.”

More Information:


Nigeria is the world’s most populated Black nation with over 150 million people. Located in the West of the African continent Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960. There are over 200 ethnic groups with three major tribes and languages – Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba.

Contacts Queens of Africa Books

Press Enquiries – Judy Bartkowiak – Email: judy@judybartkowiak.com  Tel: 0044-(0)7917-451245

Publishing Enquiries – Steve Emecz – Email:  steve@mxpublishing.co.uk

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Why do Market Research?

Whatever the size or nature of your business, you will at some point need answers to questions. To ensure you get answers that will be actionable, rather than just interesting; careful planning of the research process is crucial.

The questions you have may be about who buys your product or service – your target market. We call these people ‘consumers’ if we are selling products and ‘customers’ when we are selling a service. You may also want to know about the potential target market – those people who could have a need for your product or service but currently do not know about it. This is not how we do it!


You may have questions about the market. These may relate to a geographical market or country in which you are doing business or an industry sector such as the retail market. ‘Market’ can also be used to describe a sector of consumers such as ‘the education sector’ or the ‘youth market’.

Understanding your consumer and your market are essential to reducing the risk associated with making business decisions and this is why we conduct Market Research. Every day in business we make decisions and these will vary in terms of risk. Some decisions are high risk such as launching a new product, changing the packaging of an existing product, making a price change, changing the creative direction or strategy of the advertising or selling into new markets. Decisions are not taken in a vacuum; there are competitive products and services in your marketplace so consumers have a choice; whether or not to buy your product. How will your consumers react to your decision and how will your competitors respond?

In today’s highly competitive and fast moving global business environment it is ever more important to be able to anticipate consumer needs and satisfy them because if you don’t, someone else surely will. Routes to market are changing and direct communication with consumers via the Internet, social media and customer loyalty programmes means that products and services can meet quite specific and niche markets more easily and cheaply than previously. Therefore accurately identifying these needs is vital.

This book takes you through the Market Research process from initial problem identification through research design, consideration of alternative methodologies, briefing the agency, questionnaire design and approval, managing the project, analysis and presentation of results.

Whether you use an outside Research Agency or your own Market Research or Consumer Insight department, spending a week to totally understand the process will give you unique skills which will ensure that you get the research results you need that will address the marketing questions you have.

Market Research is a fascinating Marketing Tool and it is not unusual to find that once you have decided to conduct Research, everyone in the organisation wants to add their own marketing issues. ‘Can we just ask…?’, ‘It’s only one more question…’ is what you’ll hear. Unless you take control, you can end up with research results that answer none of them, including your own. Designing one project to fulfil very different needs can be more expensive than several smaller scale projects each with a different design to meet their objectives. This book will help you design different types of surveys.


If you’d like to have a chat about your project call Judy Bartkowiak on 01628 660618. I work with agencies as the children’s research expert or direct with clients.

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Returning to Children’s Market Research.

So what have I been doing over the last few years and what do I bring to your project?

When I learned about NLP (neuro linguistic programming) I immediately knew that this was knowledge parents needed. At that time I had four children from toddler to teen and to be honest, I was struggling, trying to do my best for my clients and for my family. I was also a bit bored. I had been in Market Research for 20 years and I’d been a parent over a decade. I needed a challenge. So I decided to take some creative writing courses with the Open University and I approached Hodder and Stoughton who rather amazingly gave me a book deal.That book was as far as I was concerned, a guide for parents on how to apply NLP to their parenting and become happier and calmer.

Be a happier parent cover


So I have now written my fifth book for them, one of which is about Market Research. I also wrote one on Brand Licensing which contains a number of interviews with key licensors, licensees and retailers.

Market Research coverColorPF5.500x8.500.indd









I wanted to stretch and practise my new craft so I added my writer profile to Elance and found myself invited to bid on all sorts of writing projects. I loved it! I was able to combine my love of research with my new found love of writing as I scoured the internet for information about the topic, interviewed people and read books. My bookshelves are now jam packed with books on all sorts of diverse subjects!

my bookshelf

I’ve also written a number of children’s book series and it won’t be too long before these book series become established enough to be looking at licensing. Queens of Africa would be an example of this as the dolls are outselling Barbie amongst girls of colour and the books are just starting to become popular too, even though I wrote them a few years ago.

Here are the books.

QOA set of books


I’m currently working with a team in the US The JNP Self-Esteem Movement writing a chapter book series for children aged 5-12yrs . You can download the first book free here.


So over the last few years I have done a great deal of writing. I’ve also used my NLP skills to train existing NLP Practitioners and teachers in working with kids and I’ve worked as a child therapist helping kids with issues such as confidence, anxiety, goal setting and so on.

….and I’ve lost two stone in weight, no doubt because I haven’t been trekking around the country doing focus groups and eating from airport snack bars and service forecourts. There was a book in that too of course!

Weight loss

Anyway, I feel I am all done with writing, non-fiction anyway. I really miss Brand Licensing and the enjoyment of watching kids’ faces when you show them a new TV show pilot or ideas for licensed product. I have done a few projects over the last few years but now feel ready to bounce right back into the fray and reconnect with all my Brand Licensing chums and find out what they’re up to. So get in touch if you have a project you think I can help you with or you just want to say ‘Hi’

Judy Sept


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Positive Parenting with NLP

NLP gives you the tools and techniques with which to make these choices so you can influence and guide your children in the direction that will allow them to achieve.

They are usually applied in the workplace in the area of management skills, leadership, rapport and negotiation which, let’s face it, we parents certainly need! Our children will need these skills too as they make their way in an ever more challenging and competitive world.

‘Being the change’ means that instead of expecting to get a different result when you do the same thing, you will get a different result when you do something different. So YOU are the change.

What you do and say makes a difference to the results you get so Neuro Linguistic Programming is a way of life, a new and different, positive approach to the way we communicate and how we interpret the way others communicate with us both verbally and non-verbally.

The only way to make effective changes in our life is to engage with this new way and incorporate it daily into everything we do.

At home, at work or at play, whether we are a child, a teenager or an adult, we can make new choices about how we live our life so that we achieve all we wish for in our friendships, relationships and our own state of well-being and happiness.

Engage with NLP and see, hear and feel the difference immediately. You will improve your self-esteem, how you get on with people and your effectiveness both as a parent and in all the other areas of your life.

As you incorporate NLP into your parenting, your children will pick it up too and learn how to get the positive learning and more effective communication for themselves.

Learn how to teach them NLP so they can reframe negative experiences so they learn from them and set compelling outcomes for school, home and socially.

Positive Parenting is about focusing on what’s working, what’s going well and extracting the structure so we can get more of it.

As parents we often feel we’ve failed because we focus on what’s not working. When we change our focus we can get a different and better result.

NLP is a completely different way of viewing your world. Once you have been introduced to the NLP way of thinking and communicating it will seem like you’ve come home. It is respectful of others and more importantly of yourself and it is positive.

From ‘Positive Parenting with NLP’ which you can download from Smashwords or Amazon onto any device and there’s a paper version on Amazon as well.


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How to commission cost effective Market Research 

So how can you ensure the Market Research you commission does the job you want it to do and cover its cost with extra revenue generated as a result?


First let’s just cover some basics.


There are two types of Market Research, Qualitative and Quantitative.


Qualitative Research comprises

Focus groups

Individual / Paired / Trio depth interviews

Accompanied shopping

In home ethnography studies


Main objectives of Qualitative Research is to gain understanding of

Your brand or property

Your consumer and / or purchaser

The relationship between the two

Main use of Qualitative Research is to identify

New product opportunities in your existing market

New markets for existing products

New markets for new products

How to leverage your competitive strengths to gain market share with existing products in your existing market


Quantitative Research involves questionnaires which are administered in the street or using a High Street venue (Hall test) to a large sample (c350-500) in order to provide statistically valid data


Main objectives of Quantitative Research is to gain competitive knowledge of

Brand Awareness

Brand usage

Purchasing behaviour

Concept testing

Product testing

Main uses are to enable you to make informed decisions based on a statistically valid sample regarding ‘ the 4 P’s’


  • which products to launch
  • to whom (age , gender, country / region)
  • how product should be positioned (described) to gain competitive advantage


  • what price point


  • which channel eg stores, internet etc
  • which shops


  • promotional and advertising message to use
  • media to select


In my experience over many years Licensing clients tend to be ‘wow’ed by the idea of watching their consumers in focus groups. Indeed it is very exciting to hear consumers talking about your brand but be aware that these focus groups give you insight and cannot be relied on to make decisions. By far the best choice is to initially start with some focus groups, perhaps homing in on your core target market to gain insight on new concepts but then follow up with Quantitative to enable you to verify how these insights translate into purchase intention across a wider market.

To give you an idea of cost, a ‘four group’ project in one country or market costs around £10K. This should be sufficient to cover your core market although for kids’ products we often conduct six groups, as we like to separate gender and age more discreetly. The cost is about the same as the kids groups are shorter. Mums groups tend to last two hours and kids groups one hour.

Another appealing alternative to focus groups is the ‘ accompanied shop’ This entails the researcher asking consumers at point of purchase (with retailers consent) a series of semi – structured questions relating to the product or product concept in a competitive environment. This is more realistic than a focus group and enables the researcher to consider views of the purchasing group e.g. family, teenage friendship groups etc as well as the full competitive environment with its accompanying pressures of time, price, special offers, merchandising etc. Costs are similar to the focus group scenario but output tends to be less in depth but strategically invaluable. .

Some projects require more sensitivity, an understanding of the home environment, behaviour in home and more time with an individual eg babycare/ feeding etc. The researcher spends a day with a mum and baby and observes processes such as food preparation and feeding. This is costly but is a project often shared with company marketing personnel to enable them to gain valuable understanding of their product portfolio of the product ‘in use’.

Other forms of Qualitative Research may involve in – depth interviews face to face or over the telephone. As with other Qualitative methodologies, questioning is semi – structured , allowing plenty of opportunity for the respondent (consumer or purchaser) to volunteer insights they feel are relevant. It also enables the researcher to use non-directive questioning to explore deeper, using drawing and games, collages, mood boards etc

In some cases Qualitative Research alone may be sufficient to move the project forward but in most cases at some point Quantitative Research is necessary to enable decisions to be made following insights generated by the Qualitative Research. Remember Qualitative Research is not a representative sample but Quantitative should be.

Other more cost – effective methodologies used for multi country projects are Omnibus surveys and online surveys but these don’t offer the opportunity to include open ended questions e.g. ‘Why do you say that?’  or ‘What do you like about….?’ . This isn’t a problem if extensive Qualitative has already been conducted as this understanding is already in place.

Market Research Agencies will provide you, free of charge,  a Research Proposal based on your brief and ideally you should get two or three agencies to tender for any project so you can consider their approach and compare them for value for money, understanding of the brief and experience in your market.

When commissioning a Market Research Survey it is important to give your agency as much information as possible. I know it may be tempting to hold back on some of the political issues, diverging corporate views and other contentious issues but unless the agency is fully in the picture, they cannot do the best job for you. The agency should be working ‘with you’ rather than ‘for you’ as part of your Marketing team.  You should give the agency the following information as a minimum.


What has triggered the decision to conduct this research?

Why is it being done now?

What is the hypothesis that they want to test?

What level of accuracy do you need e.g. is it insight you need or figures?

What decisions will be made based on the research?

Markets in which you want to research

Profile of consumers / purchasers




Whilst you may be reluctant to give the agency an idea of budget in the belief that they’ll spend the maximum for you, this is counter productive. Quantitative Research is significantly more expensive then Qualitative so if your research objectives indicate Quantitative e.g. you have mentioned Brand awareness, they will have to do this Quantitatively. You will therefore get a high quote when perhaps Brand Awareness was not a key objective.


It is also important to send them samples of the product and competitive product, as this will enable the agency to get a better picture of the market for the product and your brand position in it.


Background information they should also have would include

Company brand and product portfolio

Corporate ethos

Brand history and past research findings

Detailed information about your consumers and purchasers e.g. what is there about this product that appeals to them and why

Brand personality

Channels of distribution


Competitive scene


Once the agency has been selected, costs and timing agreed, there would be a detailed briefing meeting usually at your offices to fully brief the agency on the project. You should insist that the moderator or researcher conducting the project be at this meeting. Important aspects to cover at the briefing meeting are

Recruitment criteria (who do you want in the sample)

Stimuli (what will we show them and in what format)


It is not possible to provide a recording  of the groups after the research unless this has been agreed at recruitment due to data protection laws protecting  the confidentiality of the respondents so this should be clarified at the briefing.

The agency will invoice you on commission usually 50% of the value of the contract, as they will immediately begin working on your project. The agency will keep you informed on progress and you should attend fieldwork and encourage your team to do so too.

Some clients particularly in the US like to produce long lists of questions for the Qualitative Research although the US has now started to follow the UK model of a more informal approach using a checklist of issues to cover rather than specific questions. Increasingly clients are involved in the focus groups and will be asked at the end whether they have any specific questions not already covered.

For Quantitative surveys there will probably be several drafts of the questionnaire for each market and sometimes this can result in mistakes and typos being missed as client teams concentrate on content. It is therefore important that the agency pilot the questionnaire before fieldwork starts to ensure that any mistakes are picked up.

Before the first day of fieldwork, whether Qualitative or Quantitative it is your responsibility to ensure your team is fully briefed on what is taking place and given the opportunity to add any issues they feel have been omitted from the checklist agreed between you and the agency.

It is essential in multi country projects that you decide who will project manage. This is an additional cost and tends to be incurred when the company commissioning the research does not have a Research Manager. To ensure consistency of methodology and analysis and therefore usability of the end research, a project manager needs to ensure the needs of all markets are considered, that terminology is correct, language versions of discussion guide/checklist / questionnaire are correct , competitive products and pricing is correct in each market and that samples and stimuli are distributed in time for fieldwork. Ideally the project manager should visit each market to watch at least the first group in each set or hall day. Nowadays this is facilitated by web streaming which is available in most viewing facilities and enables the team to watch the groups live online and ask questions which are then relayed to the moderator.

In my opinion, analysis of research tends to be undervalued.. Clients often seem to feel that having attended a few groups or hall days they know what the findings are. However, an experienced Researcher will be able to effectively feed what he or she hears and sees through a filter of experience and interpret the findings based on this.


The output from research should be

Debrief to the team with PowerPoint presentation (bullet points possibly also with some video clips)

Full report (usually also PowerPoint) shortly afterwards


Lastly, check that your Market Research Agency is a full member of the MRS – Market Research Society – as this ensures that they are complying with quality and legal requirements and that they are professionally qualified.


Judy Bartkowiak is the author of ‘Secrets of Success in Brand Licensing’ and ‘Learn Market Research in a Week’. She is MD at Kids Brands Europe Ltd and has been working in Market Research for 20 years and in Licensing for the last 10 years. Clients include Lego, Mattel, Spinmaster, Zapf Creations, Tomy, Little Tikes, VTech, Woolworth’s, Entertainment Rights, Aardman Animations and many others. She can be contacted on 00 44 1628 660618 and email judy@hitchamvale.co.uk


Market Research cover







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Where to start …and when to end?

Writers everywhere will be familiar with the dilemma of where to start a new piece of writing, whether that be a book or a blog post. We tend to assume that we should start at the beginning and work through to the end. This seems logical, doesn’t it? However, I have started in all sorts of different places with my books. Perhap my examples will help you decide where to start with yours.

My most recently published book ‘NLP for Weight Loss’ I did in fact start before the beginning for a very good reason. Weight Loss is not a very ‘NLP’ term because it’s what we call ‘away from’ whereas we know that ‘towards’ goals tend to be more successful. Also, I don’t believe weight loss works as a goal if you don’t have self-esteem and believe that you are ‘worth it’. So I needed to come to terms with the concept of NLP and weight loss before I could start writing. I did this by applying NLP to my own weight loss. When I had lost two stone and felt I had learned how NLP had contributed I then sat down and wrote the introduction to the book to explain why I had decided to write it.

NLP for Weight Loss

NLP for Weight Loss

When I started writing the book itself I just wrote what I felt like writing and eventually it seemed to form into some sort of order at the end. I could have carried on writing in fact, I did have to stop because the publisher had already priced the book and had the cover designed with a maximum number of pages agreed.

The previous book ‘Secrets of the NLP Masters’ I sat and stared at the list of 50 chapter headings that had been agreed with the publisher and picked one at random and started with that one because I didn’t feel inspired by the first few. I worked through all the chapters that way, doing them completely out of order and it seemed to work. Each day I just decided which chapter to write and rewarded myself with lunch when I had finished the first draft and a cup of tea when the required number of words per chapter had been reached.

Some days I don’t feel like writing what I have planned to write and I’m fine with that. I give myself permission to deviate and so long as my ‘to do’list for the week is completed by Friday afternoon, I can be flexible about what I might add to it and the order I do it in. I believe so long as I’m writing something or researching a piece of writing then I’m working.


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