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Small business chat – Jennifer Martin

mugsWelcome to another brand new small business chat. Jennifer Martin contacted me after reading and enjoying this series, to ask if she could be featured. Jennifer, who’s in California, runs Zest Business Consulting, which aims to help small business owners and solopreneurs to make sensible business decisions and achieve or maintain a good work-life balance. Well, we all want that, don’t we! Jennifer is quite unusual among my interviewees for the way in which she launched her business – OK, she had previous experience in the business area, and in running her own businesses, but then she just went for it, cold, straight into it, no preparation. That’s a bit brave, isn’t it – but she’s been going for 18 months now, so something must be going right. Let’s see how she did it …

Hi, Jennifer. What’s your business called? 

It’s called Zest Business Consulting.

When did you set it up?

I set up the business in March of 2013.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I am passionate about helping small business owners get out of overwhelm. I wanted to help people learn how to reinvent the way they do business so they can make money and live a fun, interesting, balanced life.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

I have been a Business Consultant on and off for many years.  This time around I named my company Zest because I wanted to help bring more zest to the lives of my clients.

Had you run your own business before?

Yes. This is the 6th business I’ve owned.

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 started Zest in an unusual fashion. I had taken a full time job after being a Business Coach. One day after an argument with a supervisor I was clear that this new job wasn’t a good match. So I quit. With no job, no health insurance and no idea what was next I sat down to think about what I would do if money were no object. In about 5 minutes it was pretty clear to me that I would be returning to the work I love and opening my own business (again).

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

Don’t be afraid to turn away clients who aren’t a perfect match.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

You are enough.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Planned to start a new business. Had money set aside to cover my expenses for 6 months.

What are you glad you did?

Every day I feel blessed to see my clients make such amazing changes in their lives. So, yes, starting Zest Business Consulting was a great decision

What’s your top business tip?

Create Strategic Partnerships. You’ll get a team of salespeople and you’ll only pay them when they deliver clients.

How has it gone since you started?

Like any new business, there are always a few bumps, and stops and starts but overall it’s gone incredibly well both financially and in the fun and rewarding department.

Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

I feel like I’ve grown personally. Recently I’ve gotten really clear about my niche.

Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?

I see myself working with groups of people from all over the world through webinars, seminars, and in-person retreats. I can see myself giving in-person presentations to large groups of people and having a big smile on my face.

So, although Jennifer jumped into this round of running her own business, it’s interesting to see that looking back, she wishes she’d planned it and saved up some money first! I love her answer to the question “Have you grown?” – I usually receive replies about business growth, but this one’s about personal growth. As this is something Jennifer seeks to encourage in her clients, it’s great to see that she’s experiencing it, too!

Jennifer’s website is at www.businessconsultingsanfranscisco.com and you can pop over to pick up a free guidebook to learn 10 Fast & Easy Ways to GET OUT OF OVERWHELM & FEEL MORE BALANCED AT WORK [Note: I've checked this out - you are asked to sign up to Jennifer's newsletter to access the guidebook, but that's done legitimately and reputably with an opt-in screen and the ability to unsubscribe; the guide itself has some really useful points put in a clear and accessible way, and comes in PDF format.] You can email Jennifer or call her on (USA) 805-669-7160

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2014 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat – Jenny Woodberry

mugsWelcome to another brand new small business chat, and I’m delighted to welcome Jenny Woodberry, who’s building up her business Miss Fighting Fit, going straight into entrepreneurship as she was finishing her education, and providing a good role model as a young woman who’s interested in being strong, fit and healthy. Unlike some of my older interviewees (and me!), Jenny was able to make a quick move into her new endeavour, and had the energy to run it alongside what must be a pretty demanding day job. With no worries to hold her back, she’s just gone for it, and is doing well so far, while recognising the need for a healthy work/life balance, too.

Hello, Jenny! What’s your business called?

The two sides of my business are called Miss Fighting Fit / Fighting Fit Kitchen

When did you set it up?

I set up the business in February 2014.

What made you decide to set up your own business and what made you decide to go into this particular business area?

I had developed a keen interest in nutrition, fitness and a healthy lifestyle over the last year and after completing my nutrition course decided to offer personal nutrition plans to my fellow fitness enthusiasts to share my knowledge with other people who were aiming at living a healthier lifestyle. From there i have written plans for all kinds of people with all kinds of goals! In the last couple of months I launched Fighting Fit Kitchen, as my daytime job involves working in the kitchen at top Falmouth restaurant Oliver’s and I have ALWAYS had a passion for cooking! People would comment on Miss Fighting Fit’s food photographs and i realised that there was a real gap in the market for convenient food that was healthy and nutritious!

Had you run your own business before?

No, i hadn’t really thought about it either!

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 didn’t really think too much about it, I just had the idea and ran with it, and I think that really worked for me. A friend of mine had just launched a fitness business very quickly and suggested I just go for it and I’m so glad I did. I kept my part-time job in the restaurant and spent my spare time writing nutrition plans for people. Now on my days off work I am in the kitchen again but on my own terms and cooking healthy menus for my customers! It’s hard work but i love it!

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

That setting up a business as a nutritionist means that you are considered to be the food police! People hide treats from me all the time! Haha!

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

To keep going and remember to take time for yourself. It’s always difficult at first and each time I have progressed Miss Fighting Fit it has taken a few months to get into a comfortable work/life balance – but it always happens in the end!

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Nothing really: I feel like everything so far has gone according to plan and worked out well!

What are you glad you did?

I’m glad that I went ahead and started!

What’s your top business tip?

I have three!

1) Be Brave! If you are unhappy or your current career/lifestyle isn’t what you want to do then make the change and get on track to a better future – there’s always time to change if it means doing what you love!

2) Make time for yourself. Whether its 30 minutes with a book of choice or a nice hot bath, it’s important to take the time to turn your business head ‘OFF’. I spent the first few months of Miss Fighting Fit feeling run down and unwell because I didn’t realise that it was OK to say no to work and that it was important to take care of myself as well as my customers!

3) Make friends! Honestly the best thing you can do to boost your business profile and customer base is be friendly! The nicer you are and the more people you go out and meet, the more likely people are to want to support you!

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

When I first started, I was just writing nutrition plans for people and posting healthy recipes on Facebook. Now I operate Fighting Fit Kitchen too, which supplies healthy ready meals on a weekly basis. I have also given nutritional talks at events and worked with CJ’s Bootycamp to give advice and guidance. I am just about to launch Fighting Fit Dining Experience, offering a pop up style restaurant experience where diners can relax knowing that everything they are given is healthy and nutritious!

Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?

I have so many plans for the future, it’s fantastic! Potentially i would love my own restaurant and to collaborate with more fitness professionals and set up Fighting Fit HQ – a place for fitness, health, well-being and tasty food! I am also really interested in studying food as medicine, as I strongly believe that our diets have the power to cure so many ailments and illnesses!

I love Jenny’s point about people thinking she’s the food police (in error, I’m sure). I get people telling me they’re worried about making spelling and grammar errors when they’re replying to my social media posts or commenting on blog posts – and just like I encourage people to express themselves, I’m sure Jenny would rather people discussed good nutrition with her, or left it out of the equation sometimes, rather than fearing her sharp eye! She’s got great plans for the future and bags of energy, so I’m sure we’ll all looking forward to seeing what she gets up to in the upcoming year. Good luck!

Miss Fighting Fit can be found on Facebook, as can Fighting Fit Kitchen. You can also get in touch with Jenny via email.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
 

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How to avoid two common mistakes when using MailChimp

Mailchimp is a very popular program for sending newsletters – mainly because it’s free to use to send newsletters and other messages to up to 12,000 emails per month to up to 2,000 subscribers. I use it myself, as do the people who write quite a few of the newsletters I subscribe to. If you use MailChimp yourself, this post helps you to avoid two common mistakes that I see occurring very frequently (and if you don’t use it yourself, I bet you see at least one of these in the newsletters you subscribe to – feel free to share this post with their creators!).

What am I talking about?

Well, this is what you might see in your email box when you receive a newsletter:

MailChimp newsletter email with errors

Ignore the “[Test]” – that’s me sending test copies of my newsletter to myself for demonstration purposes. So, with email on preview mode, and then when you open the email:

Full MailChimp email with errors

… what can we see here?

  1. The email subject is simply “Newsletter”. Not that inviting.
  2. This is the biggie – there’s an odd bit of text in the preview that reads “Use this area to offer a short preview of your email’s content.”

How often have you seen the second point and been confused or even tutted slightly to yourself? (Note: as a kind editor, I avoid tutting. But I do smile wryly every time I see it and think, “I really MUST write a blog post about that one”).

How do these MailChimp mistakes come about?

I’m going to assume here that you know how to set up and send a MailChimp newsletter campaign, and just concentrate on eliminating these errors. If you need a step-by-step MailChimp walkthrough, let me know in the comments and I’ll put one together for you if enough people want it.

The boring email title error comes on the Campaign Info page:

MailChimp campaign info pageIf you set up your very first campaign with a title like this, it will carry on sending it like that forever, but this is editable. I’m not going to go into ideas for good subject lines here – first off, MailChimp obviously provides a link to some further information, as you can see from the screenshot, but I’d like to take a moment here to mention my client Nathan Littleton’s book, “Delivered“, which has masses of information on creating a good email marketing campaign, including lots of advice on subject lines (he’s not sponsoring this post: I edited this book and I got loads of ideas from it which I’ve implemented in my own newsletter, to good effect).

So, first things first: change that Email subject field to a good, interesting phrase and I’d like to bet that you’ll stop boring your subscriber list and get more opens.

The second one is the dreaded “Use this area … ” text. How does it get there?

Well, when you get to the Design screen in your campaign creation process, bits of helpful text automatically appear in your template to tell you what to do. And one of the bits of helpful text that always appears is this one, right in the top of the screen, and in ever such a small font so that you’re very likely not to see it:

Sample teaser text in MailChimp

And that’s where that text pulls from that displays in your recipients’ emails.

Whatever the design, it’s always up there. Your eye is of course drawn to the main body of the email – the nice picture, the lovingly crafted text you’re going to place into the template.

What do you need to do here? Simply click on that teaser text, just like you would to edit the main body of the newsletter, and you can enter whatever text you want to.

What should it look like?

Once you’ve given your newsletter a more dynamic subject line and eradicated that bit of pesky sample text, this is what your email recipients will see:

MailChimp errors corrected

I think you’ll agree that you’d be more likely to open that one .. and so will your newsletter recipients!

In this article I’ve shared how to avoid two common MailChimp newsletter errors. Please do use the sharing buttons below to share this with anyone who you think might find it useful – thank you!

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Business, Errors, Social media

 

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Small business chat update – Annabelle Beckwith (plus update from Sally Evans-Darby)

mugs It’s time for a new Small Business Update, and I’m delighted to welcome back my old friend, Annabelle Beckwith, of Yara Consulting and Never Mind the Buzzwords. We had a reunion weekend last month, along with two other ladies we met on the first day of university, and we’re still rather surprised that the two of us are running our own businesses, however, we always knew Anna would be doing something creative involving other people, and that I’d end up something to do with books. Anyway, on she goes, collaborating, learning, developing new training programmes and jet setting around the world to do so, as well! I first interviewed Anna back in 2012 and again last year. At that point, her plan for where she wanted to be now was: “Working collaboratively with others for larger clients … and maybe I’ll get some of those online products going!” Let’s see how she’s doing – oh, and look out for a quick update and farewell for the time being from Sally Evans-Darby …

Hi again, Annabelle! So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
Sort of! I’m working with other people and have been approaching larger companies for bigger pieces of work, which is working well.
We’re building our own team of associates, so in a practical sense there are more of us to be able to actually deliver larger programmes to clients, and we’re deliberately working with people who have specialist skills that complement our own, meaning that we can pitch for work which we wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
In addition, my business partner, Ian, and I are developing some online products (a series of business scenarios and activities which in-house trainers or other providers can use within their own courses) and the first of these will be launched in September.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
Not enough has changed and it’s not moving fast enough!! That’s how it feels, anyway. We’re moving in the right direction, though, and I’m working with the right people now. Our business model is changing as we’re targeting longer-term programmes and consultancy rather than one-off projects, which will give us more financial stability.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I’ve learned a lot by looking at what other training companies are doing, and also by looking at what consultancy companies in other sectors are doing, and pinching ideas from them. I wish I’d done this a year ago, as I’d be further ahead now!
Any more hints and tips for people? 
Things can take longer than you think they will. But keep going with it!
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
Working with more clients on longer-term programmes, and able to invest more money in marketing and PR.
Perseverance is the key here: in the mature business, things don’t change quite as rapidly as when we’re starting out, and especially for dynamic and changing business areas, this can be frustrating. Checking out the competition and what peers are doing is a great way to pick up hints, tips and ideas, and helps you to stay fresh and at the front edge of the game. Let’s hope things are moving to Anna’s satisfaction by this time next year – I can’t wait to find out what she’s up to!
Annabelle’s business collaboration, Never Mind the Buzzwords can be found online at http://www.nmtbw.com/ and on Facebook. The Yara Consulting website can be found at www.yaraconsulting.com  and she has a blog, too. Anna can be contacted via email or her contact page online.
And a quick update from Sally Evans-Darby of Write Sense Media. As Sally’s business has settled down, she finds she doesn’t  have much detail to report since the last time we spoke, although things are going well and she has this to say about her progress: “Another year has zoomed by! I’m very happy to say that my business is still thriving, with a good solid client base along with some new ones that I’ve just started to work with. I feel like during the past year I’ve managed to cultivate a good work-life balance, with many and varied jobs to keep me busy but essential time for leisure too! I love the work, and as I head towards my two-year anniversary as a full-time freelance, I couldn’t be happier.” So, we won’t be following Sally’s progress any more, but I’m very happy to see how well she’s doing, and wish her every success in a settled and balanced career in the future.
You can find Sally’s website at www.writesensemedia.co.uk and, of course, email her. She’s on social media, too, for example Twitter and LinkedIn.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 

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Small business chat update – Julia Walton

mugs Welcome to another Small Business Update, and I’m sorry it’s a bit late but I had commitments to clients and had committed the terrible blogger’s sin of not scheduling in advance. Today we’re catching up with Julia Walton from J. Walton Restoration  who we first met in July 2013. When I asked her then where she wanted to be now, she replied “Hopefully contentedly plodding along much as I am now (maybe with a bit more money coming in, though). I can only do as much as I can so don’t want to increase my workload too much. I’d rather enjoy my work and do it well: I might as well be doing something different and have a job that pays more money if I’m not going to enjoy myself”. That sounded like a good plan to me, so let’s find out how she’s been getting on …

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

I don’t feel things have changed that much in the past year as much as I’d hoped. I’m still working on increasing my client base. I have some things in the pipeline and am hoping for some good feedback on a large job I have coming in soon.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
One big change which actually occurred this summer is that I’m breaking up a working relationship with a joiner I’ve been working with. I’m taking a chance of dropping the client because the work really doesn’t suit my skills. This way I’m giving myself more time to devote to work that will stretch and improve my skills.

What have you learned? 

I’ve learned that taking on a job that’s not really in my field just because it pays is not always a good experience. By stepping outside my comfort zone I’ve learned new skills and how to transfer the skills I have, but on a couple of occasions I’ve really regretted not trusting my initial instincts and have wasted a lot of time worrying over jobs I shouldn’t have started.
 
What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
About a year ago I took on a client that was pretty toxic. If I could go back in time I’d definitely make sure I told myself not to be so trusting and set a very short limit on working with outstanding payments!
Any more hints and tips for people?
Take time to assess each and every job before saying yes. Even if it’s from a client you deal with all the time, if the job is not what you feel comfortable doing just say no rather than worry about it after you’re committed. Remember to give the customer what they want, nothing more and definitely nothing less, if you can’t do that then don’t take on the job.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
I’m really not sure. Permanent workshop space is an issue and I think that’s something I need to look at, however relocation back to the north of England is niggling away at the back of my mind, we’ll see.

It looks like some good lessons learned there. It is often a few years in to a business that a) you start to look more carefully about which clients and opportunities to say yes to, and b) you start to explore diversifying and looking at new areas to grow into – but as Julia comments, it is vitally important to make sure that you assess those opportunities and check whether it’s something that you want to do again. I wonder where Julia will be in another year’s time – both with her business and her location! I’m looking forward to finding out!
You can find Julia online at www.juliawalton.co.uk and email her if you want to discuss any restoration or other work.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
 

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Small business chat update – Tammy Ditmore

mugs Welcome to another Small Business Update, and it gives me great pleasure to publish my second update post with fellow editor Tammy Ditmore of eDitmore Editorial Services. We first met Tammy back in June 2012, and read about her growth and achievements in June 2013. At that point, here’s where she was thinking she’d be by now: “I’m not quite sure, actually. I feel I’ve taken initial steps in several different directions that may pay long-term benefits. I’m hoping to remain flexible enough to pursue the best opportunities that come along—let the business grow more organically, to use a bit of jargon. Even though I’m not quite sure what eDitmore Editorial Services might look like in a year, I feel confident that I’m on a good path and am looking forward to what this next year will bring.” So, where is she and how’s she doing? 

Hi, Tammy! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Well, a year ago I didn’t want to predict where I would be, so I have to say that, yes, I’m right there! Seriously, my business has continued to be steady, and I continue to gain clients from expected and unexpected places. I am usually booked several weeks in advance, even though I’m not doing a lot of active marketing, which is good. The downside is that I’m often overbooked, and I wind up working long, frantic hours to finish everything by the clients’ deadlines.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I think for the most part things are pretty much the same. I’m still thrilled to get to work on a wide variety of projects. This year I added some new clients, including working on a federal grant application for the first time. I also got a chance to speak to several groups about editing, and I enjoyed that experience very much and discovered I would like to do more of that in the future.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I recognized earlier this year that the majority of my clients have come from word-of-mouth referrals from friends, co-workers, and clients. So I feel if I keep pleasing my clients, then my stream of work will probably stay steady. A lesson I have been learning, and continually re-learning, is that I can’t do everything. There is always more to learn, more people I could talk to, more social networks I could join; there are better ways of recruiting clients, better computer apps and programs that might make my life easier, more productive habits I could adopt. But I find myself getting so wrapped up in trying to make everything better that I actually make it harder on myself just to do the work that is in front of me.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I was really surprised this year when I stepped back and analyzed where my clients had originally come from and saw how many of them were from personal contacts. (I wrote a blog post about my findings if anyone is interested.) Since then, my advice to any independent business owner is to tell everyone you know what you’re doing and ask them to keep you in mind if they hear of anyone looking for the kinds of services you offer. Some of my favorite clients have found me from what I would have considered very unlikely sources.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

Probably in about the same place as I am today. I recently stepped back and took stock of my current family and life responsibilities, and I realized I just need to focus right now on keeping my business steady so that I have the time and energy to take care of these other obligations. I do have some dreams for expanding into other areas at some point, but I don’t think this will be the year for that. Admitting that I needed to take a step back — or at least not try to move forward — was hard at first, but it’s given me a greater sense of peace and helped me focus on what’s most important to me right now. I believe there are seasons to life, and I don’t want to miss this particular season by trying so hard to launch myself into the next one.

Tammy’s only about 18 months “behind” me on the freelance editing journey, so I always find her updates very interesting. I urge you to go and read her post about where she’s found her clients – very interesting. It was at about the point Tammy’s at that I took stock, too – I recommended some clients transferred over to colleagues as the way they needed me to work and I wanted to work didn’t gel any more, and I have a much more relaxed and flexible life now, with slightly (but not much) less income but much more time. I wrote about how to achieve that balance here. Update: Tammy wrote a lovely blog post of her own about the process of doing these interviews!

Tammy’s website is at www.editmore.com and you can of course contact her by email. She’s based in Califormia.
 

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
 

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Small business chat update – Diane Grogan and Pat Wilkes

mugs Welcome to another Small Business Update. Today we’re catching up with two interviewees, Diane Grogan and Pat Wilkes, to see what they’ve been up to during the last year. Diane’s had some hurdles to face this year, but has taken them on, moving premises to cut costs and helping her volunteer staff to get qualifications and stay with her long term. Reading between the lines, Pat has also faced some issues this past year, but she’s steadily evaluating what works and what doesn’t (a vital task in those early years of a business) and is pressing on with her plans, too. Craft-orientated readers will find her points particularly useful.

 

Diane Grogan

We first met Diane from Kanine Kampus and Pet Au Purrs, a dog day-care centre in Oldham, in May 2013  When she was asked where she planned to be with the business in a year’s time, she had fairly modest ambitions: “I hope that the business keeps growing and we could maybe have another branch of Kanine Kampus in another area.” As I said above, Diane’s had some setbacks this year, but she’s moving onward and keeping going, and has some good advice for those readers who are committed to using premises rather than a home-based office. 

Hi, Diane! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

We have had quite a few setbacks during our first couple of years trading, such as higher than average costs due to business rates electricity etc, so this has slowed down our venture somewhat, we moved premises to cut costs and are still playing catch up, and this has had an impact on where we though we would be by now.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

We have taken on more staff than expected, due to having some wonderful volunteers who we didn’t want to lose – we have managed to get them onto some free training programmes with a fantastic company called Keyed Up Training. All our volunteers are now on animal care courses and have all completed other courses in Cleaning principles and Customer services.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

Think twice before putting any money into advertising, it’s really not needed. Facebook and word of mouth have been our lifelines.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Look at all the options and check, check, check business rates they are a killer for small businesses who need a larger building and don’t get the same discounts as small buildings.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

We are seeing a light at the end of a very long tunnel, and if we keep our heads down and work hard we will be on track to continue and expand towards the end of next year.

After a tricky time, looks like things are getting back on track for Diane … let’s hope the coming year is a bit more simple!

You can visit Kanine Kampus and Pet Au Purrs at www.pet-au-purrs.com, phone Diane or Paddy on 07942 892 728 or visit their Facebook page.

 

Pat Wilkes

Pat runs gift company Starlight Gifts By Pat, and she’d really only just started concentrating on the gift side when we met her back in June 2013. At that point she was already dreaming about getting out of the day job, although planning sensibly and accepting that might not happen right away: “I would like to have either reduced my day job hours right down or have stopped doing the day job altogether. This is a long-haul dream, not something that I expect to work in a few months.” So, how’s she doing now?

Hello again, Pat! So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

No, I haven’t achieved my goal of not having a day job, however I still feel I have come a long was and am steadily raising awareness of my business and building a customer base. I did say that it would be more of a long-haul goal which would not take place over night. So I am happy with how the business has moved forward this last year and hope it carries on over the future.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I am still doing events, although not as many so this has only changed slightly, I still have stock in outlets, currently holding stock in three shops although I am a lot more choosy about which outlets I stock. I now choose which fairs to attend and try new locations rather than stay in the same places which I used to do.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I have learned that smaller fairs appear to work best for sales, something I did not realise last year when I was doing lots of fairs. I have learned to stop doing events that have lots of resellers, as handcrafted cannot compete with mass-produced cheap items. I now know my target audience and the ideal outlets for my sales. I have also learned that social media is great but you need to be prepared: people will copy your ideas and pass them off as their own.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Use fairs not just for sales but for promoting your business and always dress your stall well: after all, it’s your shop front so be creative. Promote , promote, promote and be prepared to change the business in response to what your customers want.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in (another) year’s time?

Hopefully the business will continue to grow and I will be looking for more outlets to sell from and reduce the number of fairs again. I want to try selling online at some point. I would like to think that eventually I will reach my goal of using my creativity to make a living.

It sounds like Pat has had a few issues to contend with this year, however she’s taking the very sensible approach of evaluating what she does and constantly checking that she gets value out of what she does and pleases her customers, an attitude which should provide her with a very good backing over the next years of operation. Let’s hope she’s managed to reduce those day-job hours this time next year!

You can visit Pat’s website at www.starlightgiftsbypat.co.uk and view her products, or visit her Facebook page. Click to email Pat, too!

If you’ve enjoyed these interviews, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2014 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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