Small business chat update – Maxine Johnston and Nathan Littleton

23 Nov

mugs It’s time for another Small Business Chat update and we have another pair here, Maxine Johnston and Nathan Littleton, because I feel they’ve got a lot in common. Both started out doing their own specialised thing – parties in a box in Maxine’s case, and web design in Nathan’s, but such is their success that they’ve started to help other people to replicate it, one establishing services helping people with their marketing and the other by developing a vital new product and developing a career in public speaking. Career and business development is a big growth area, presumably because more and more people are setting up their own businesses. I’ve been asked by a few people about offering career counselling in my own industry area – but I’ve decided to stick to my core business activities. These two have branched out and are having an interesting and stimulating time with it!


Maxine Johnston

Maxine started off running Life’s a Celebration, which provides party boxes for all sorts of occasions. This is her third interview: she started off with the series back in October 2011 when her business had only just launched, and updated us in October 2012. At that point, when asked what the year ahead had in store for her, she said, “I have no idea is my honest answer. I feel blessed that I have achieved last year’s objective. At the moment I’m taking one day at a time. But I’d like to think that Life’s A Celebration is still going and is collaborating a lot more with potential partners. Perhaps I’d like to have somebody helping me and maybe be pushing and achieving more international sales“. Well, she did so well with her marketing that people started to ask her how she did it – and she’s bravely launched a whole new business on the back of that!

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

Things have changed immeasurably with me and my business over the last year. Life’s A Celebration continues to trade, however, I have also been busy setting up another business called Maxine Johnston Marketing. This has come about because I was regularly getting asked to help other businesses with the marketing aspects of their business and a lot of my time was spent taking business owners through my own approach to marketing.
As I said in my interview last year, the marketing and promotion side of Life’s A Celebration was always the aspect that I enjoyed so I decided to set up Maxine Johnston Marketing. This is taking up most of my time these days, as I am picking up clients and working closely with them to develop their marketing.

Maxine Johnston Marketing is different from other marketing companies out there in that I will also undertake the work that people just don’t get time (or have the inclination) to do. So things like newsletters, blogging, social media, press releases, key word analysis, customer and competitor analyses, etc. are all undertaken for my clients. I think that my clients are reassured that I am speaking from ‘real life’ experience, too, in that I run my own business and know the challenges that business owners face.

I also work closely with my clients. This involves regular Skype chats and late night emails! It also means that I’m not limited to a geographical area.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Well as you can see from the last question, lots of things have changed. However, what has stayed the same is that I continue to learn and grow in terms of business experience. I remain open to opportunity and continue to feel blessed that I am still in business.

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

I’ve learned that when you’re in business you have to adapt to change and not stand still. Embrace the aspects of the business that you love and jump in with both feet.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I would reiterate what I said last year. Running your own business is hard work. It’s time consuming, it’s stressful, it will give you late nights and sleepless nights and it will make you tear your hair out.

However, and more importantly, it will be something that you can take pride in and bring you rewards if you’re prepared to work hard. Never underestimate how hard you will work when you run your own business. It does make you incredibly resourceful, though.

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

I really don’t know how to answer that. I just hope that I’m still doing something that I love doing and I’m working hard at achieving that. I’d like to think that Maxine Johnston Marketing will be doing well and I continue to be happy!

Wow – exciting times this year! I love seeing how my interviewees’ businesses are growing and changing, and hopefully sharing these stories with you is inspiring you, too. I can echo what Maxine says about embracing opportunities – although my portfolio of clients and types of work is relatively stable now, it’s very different from the student proofreading work I originally envisaged doing!

Maxine’s new website is here, at and you can get in touch with her via her contact page, which lists all the email addresses and phone numbers you need.

Nathan Littleton

Nathan’s our Boy Wonder, who started Future Visions when he was just 13!Now he’s busy developing new streams of activity and income and building his career in public speaking! We first met him back in September 2011, 8 years after he started working for himself, and he was still going strong in October 2012. Then, his plans for the upcoming year were: “I’ve always struggled to create clear, specific goals, and when I started my business I didn’t start with the end in mind. I still don’t know exactly how I’ll get there, but in a year’s time I want my business to be leveraged enough that I have 2 free days in the week to concentrate purely ON the business, to speak in schools and to mentor students.” Did he get there …?

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

In some ways, yes. I’ve achieved most of the business goals I set out to achieve and have got the core business to a position I’m happy with. I now spend more of time marketing my own personal brand as a professional speaker. My personal circumstances have changed a lot in the last year, which is something I definitely didn’t expect, and in some ways that’s influenced both what I’ve been able to do and what I hold to be important.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

In the last interview, I mentioned a new product we’d developed – The Hub – an online operations manual for businesses to document the systems and procedures that are important to them. This has now become a critical product of ours which is selling very well, and we’re launching the second version of the product on a subscription model this month.

I’d also recruited Tom to work directly with clients and keep operations running smoothly. He’s since gone on to start his own business, and now works with us (and a number of other clients) on a freelance basis as a virtual assistant.

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

Similar to last year, I’m continuously learning and changing where my time is spent in my business. Every month I review where my time’s spent and trim off the bottom 10-15% and either delegate it (if it’s important) or just stop doing it altogether.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I think the biggest value in any business is in its list: your customers, prospects and people you’ve met along the way. Nurturing that list and communicating with it regularly will help you to build a business where you can generate sales ‘on tap’. And that’s a wonderful thing.

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

I love speaking on stage, so the more I can do that, the happier I’ll be, and I’d like for that to be a bigger part of my income in the next year. Also, I genuinely see The Hub as my legacy. It’s the one product/service in my business that I can say is:

1. unique
2. has a clear market need
3. truly works without me

With that said, a big portion of my marketing efforts will be invested in making it available to as many businesses as possible.

So big changes for Nathan, and an exciting new project on the go, too – I hope the launch of the new version of The Hub goes well. Nathan seems very focused this year: I like the fact that he’s constantly reviewing his activities, and this is something I’ve been writing about lately, too. It’s vital to keep reviewing what you’re doing and making sure it’s optimised to get whatever return it is that you’re looking for (financial or otherwise).

The Future Visions website is at and all contact details can be found there.

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 new book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.


Posted by on November 23, 2013 in Business, Small Business Chat


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4 responses to “Small business chat update – Maxine Johnston and Nathan Littleton

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