Small business chat update – Diane Grogan and Pat Wilkes

16 Aug

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! Find out how she was doing in 2015 here.

You can visit Kanine Kampus and Pet Au Purrs at, 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! Find out how Pat was doing in 2015 here.

You can visit Pat’s website at 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. 


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


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6 responses to “Small business chat update – Diane Grogan and Pat Wilkes

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