Welcome to Saturday Business/Freelancer Chat – today we’re talking to Alison Perry from the Purple Dog Network. I came across Alison on Twitter a few months ago – the @PurpleDogNet account does sterling work promoting small businesses. Every day they choose a business of the day to promote, and you can get on the shortlist by retweeting when they promote other businesses and when they talk about the business that’s sponsoring them on a particular day. On the day they choose you, you see your business mentioned regularly through the day. Other Purpledognet followers will then take a look at you, your Twitter profile and your website – I gained about 70 new Twitter followers that day, and got a rush of views on my website and blog too, and my follower stats have stayed at that level, which suggests I made some long-term connections. I’ve “met” a few nice people through this Twitter community, and as I work my way towards full-time Libro, that makes me some more virtual colleagues.
Purple Dog have recently launched a website through which Alison offers consultancy on Twitter marketing. If you know a niche, it’s good to stick with it and really drill down into that knowledge to help people interact with the particular marketing channel. The website was launched on 1 December, celebrating Purple Dog Network’s half-birthday, and at the same time they’ve launched #PurpleXmas on Twitter, which is a fund-raising effort in aid of Cancer Research, in memory of Harry Moseley. They’re having a virtual Christmas party on 20 December and are encouraging members to donate to the JustGiving page they’ve set up. I do like it when people use their business experience to give something back, which is why I’ve promoted this interview up to the top of the pile to coincide with their launch.
Exciting times ahead – but how did Alison start the business those six short months ago … ?
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
My business is called the Purple Dog Network and was set up as a twitter business network on 2nd June 2011
What made you decide to set up your own business?
The success of the purple dog network on Twitter gave me the confidence to consider doing it full-time and finding ways to make money from it. Working from home will enable me to be there for my kids and have a more flexible lifestyle.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
It really happened by accident. It started as a bit of fun and within a few days was completely hooked on twitter and the purple dog network.
Had you run your own business before?
I used to run a franchise business offering Maths and English after-school support for children.
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 with early mornings, evenings and weekends which was very hard work but I needed to have the confidence that it could work before I took the plunge.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Running your own business is a rollercoaster of emotions. The good days are so much better but the bad days so much worse because everything matters so much more!
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Trust your instincts and go with the flow – nine times out of ten you will do the right thing!
What do you wish you’d done differently?
Very little at the moment but ask me that again in a year’s time!
What are you glad you did?
I am so glad that I put so much effort into building the network, had a clear vision from the beginning and stuck with it even when the going got tough!
What’s your top business tip?
Find something you are passionate about and then find a way to make money from it. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking!
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
The Purple Dog Network has gone from strength to strength. 10,000 followers in the first 4 months and at its peak we had a klout score higher than Theo Paphitis and were in the top 10 recommended accounts in the UK. [Klout is a system someone set up to measure the influence of individual Twitter (and other) accounts. Theo Paphitis is one of the entrepreneurs from Dragon’s Den. Twitter recommends accounts for people to follow based on a magic algorithm of popularity and success]. Still a long way to go to turn it into a profitable business but the foundations seem very strong and I am excited about the future.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
I would like to continue to keep the network fresh with new ideas so that its popularity doesn’t fade. I would also like to be the go to adviser for UK small businesses who are trying to make their mark on twitter. Now that Mark Shaw [former Twitter guru – information here] has pulled out of this market, I would like to think that I can go some way to filling his shoes.
Thank you, Alison – an interesting, if accidental, start, and a great point to meet you – I’m looking forward to interviewing you in a year’s time to see how you’ve done! You can find the update here.