Welcome to Saturday Business chat. I’ve got a great sister-brother series coming up over the next two weeks: how exciting! And this also happens to be two people who I’ve known for over 20 years … So first of all let’s find out all about Annabelle Beckwith from Yara Consulting.
I met Anna on our first day at University. I’d like to say “Who would have thought that we’d both end up running our own businesses?”, but although that’s true to some extent, I think everyone thought Anna would end up in a people-based, lively, possibly acting- or media-orientated role, and I thought I was going to be a librarian or a writer … and now Anna’s training people in all sorts of unorthodox and exciting ways and I am a writer, amongst other things, so …
One of the things I love about Anna is that she is honest, humble, and open about the different lessons she’s learned along the way – which makes for a great Saturday Small Business interview! You should have a look at her blog, too, which often feeds out of her personal experiences and always has a new and interesting perspective on business and life matters. I’ve been privileged enough to help out with the Yara blog (she does the ideas and the writing and I do the tidying: friends and colleagues who complement each other very well!) but I enjoy reading it, too. Anyway, let’s meet Annabelle!
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
My business is called Yara Consulting and I set it up last year.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I’d worked with another friend several years, in an arts-based training company that we had set up together. We decided to go our separate ways a couple of years ago, as I wanted to continue in training and development, and she wanted to pursue her interest and flair for drama.
I had also been working as an associate trainer for a much larger organisation, and felt that there was a bit of a gap in the market for a non-mainstream approach to training that involves developing new ideas, methods and approaches.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
I’d been involved with training off and on over the years, mainly in the areas of presentation skills and personal impact, stemming from my drama training. Gradually, that training element became more and more part of my work until it was time to focus on it completely.
Had you run your own business before?
Yes – I’d been working as a freelance for a few years before setting up Yara Consulting, and several years ago I’d provided marketing services as ‘Incognito Consultants’. I was last in full time employment about 7 years ago, so I felt it was time to make the change from ‘freelancer’ to business owner / entrepreneur.
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
I first became freelance because I’d been made redundant! In fact, it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me (although it didn’t feel like it at the time!). I suppose sometimes life forces decisions on you that you should have been brave enough to make on your own.
The job I was in was quite a specialised one, and there were few opportunities at the same level in the same field. Training had always been part of what I did, so I decided to go for it rather than look for another job.
I think that the fact I’d burnt my bridges proved an advantage because there was no going back and no safety net – it was do or die!
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
There are lots of pieces of advice that I’d give myself, looking back. The main one, though, would be to be yourself, and not to be afraid of adopting a unique approach. When you start out its tempting to benchmark yourself with everyone else and not to stick your head above the parapet in case you make a mistake. In fact, the market – ANY market – wants fresh original ideas and approaches rather than re-hashes of existing products and services, so I think it’s important to make your own mark as quickly as possible.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
I’d also tell myself to get out and network, and make contacts and friends! You could be working on your own quite a lot of the time, which can be difficult to get used to if you’ve been used to working in an office with colleagues. Facebook has actually proved enormously useful in keeping up with people – especially other freelancers – on a day-to-day basis!
What do you wish you’d done differently?
Looking back, I wish I’d started out on my own sooner. I’d be further ahead than I am now.
What are you glad you did?
That said, I’m glad that I did take the plunge and decided to go it alone and take control of my own future rather than get another job.
What’s your top business tip?
My top business tips mirror the Yara Method that I developed with my associates: set your goals high, and develop a strong sense of self belief. Be prepared to learn as you go, and develop resilience and momentum.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
Since starting out, I’ve refined what I do, and narrowed it down to a few keys areas. I’ve also started to offer coaching: in fact, I was approached by several people asking if I’d coach them so it seemed like a natural progression.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
A lot can happen in a year! I plan to keep growing, and to turn some of my training programmes into online products to generate another income stream.
I find it so interesting how some of us hone and concentrate in and others of us expand our offering – but whichever way you go, it’s clearly important to do it in an organic manner that’s responsive to the needs of your client base. Anna has been tremendously inspiring to me, especially in the early days of Libro, when she encouraged me to be brave and go for it. I can’t wait to see how Yara is going this time next year!
The Yara Consulting website can be found at www.yaraconsulting.com and don’t forget to take a look at the blog, Anna can be contacted via email, too, of course. You can now read Anna’s brother, Tone’s, interview, and their cousin, Sam’s one, too. And did Anna do what she said she’d be doing in a year’s time? Read her update interview and find out!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.