Welcome to a brand new Small Business Chat with Sarah Banks from Banks’ Business Solutions. I encountered Sarah in a small business group I’m a member of on Facebook, and was impressed by her dedication to helping other people, particularly women, and to providing simple solutions without ripping people off. This is something that doesn’t always happen in the email newsletter and website creation businesses, so I was happy to invite Sarah to join my roster of interviewees in this series. So, let’s meet Sarah …
Hello, Sarah, and welcome to the series! What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
Hello! My business is called Banks’ Business Solutions and I started it in April 2014. I offer administrative support to small businesses, as well as support with certain software including MailChimp and developing WordPress websites.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I returned to work following maternity leave in January 2014, and knew it wasn’t going to work out for me. I had a 5 year old at school and a 1 year old in nursery, and neither were happy or settled. One evening I was at a PTFA fashion show at school and got talking to another Mum who had her own business and was in need of some admin support but didn’t want the added expense of employing someone so she needed a freelancer.
I came down with tonsillitis a few days later and spent a couple of days in bed Googling the possibilities of working from home/clients’ offices providing admin support. I discovered that there was a need for virtual support and moved forward from there.
I guess my main motivator was my children, but I also wanted to find a way to support other women in business as I love to help people.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
I have always worked in administration, and this is something I know I am good at, so it made sense to start my business in an area where I could excel. I also had two clients lined up before I officially started as well!
Had you run your own business before?
No, I have never run a business, however my Dad has been self-employed since I was 8, so I had an idea of what I would need to do.
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 took on my first client in May 2014 at the same time that I decided to hand my notice in at work (I only worked 3 days a week). Due to circumstances at work, I stayed on there until the end of September 2014 (I had planned to leave at the end of July). This ended up being a good thing, as it gave me chance to take on two further regular clients, meaning I had a steady income from the business before fully concentrating on it. I don’t intend to run the business full-time until my youngest daughter is at school, however for the last month I have increased my hours and will most likely be doing so going forward as I am getting busier. By staying on at work I was able to save some money to act as a buffer whilst things took off – however I haven’t yet had to use it all.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
That as a women you will regularly doubt yourself and your ability – the first time something went wrong I went into complete meltdown and was ready to pack everything in! Luckily I have a very grounded husband who picked me up. Anyone, man or woman, who starts their own business has to be able to get through the tough times, as there will be some and you don’t have a big company behind you if you do make a mistake. We are all human, though, and the world didn’t end because of my little mistake!
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Value yourself more – I worked out my initial hourly rate based on what I was earning in my job – I didn’t take the additional perks of the job into account and sold myself short initially.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
I am happy that I did things the way I did: any mistakes I have made I have learnt from, and they have helped me to grow both personally and professionally. There is no point looking back with regret.
What are you glad you did?
I’m glad I jumped in with both feet and started out. I could have spent months researching and might have a slightly more slick business when I started, but then I also wouldn’t be where I am. I am strong believer that everything happens for a reason and by starting out when I did, I was able to pick up the clients that I have.
What’s your top business tip?
Keep your integrity – it is so easy to pretend to be someone you aren’t to close a deal, but I have always been honest and whilst that has meant not gaining some contracts, it has also meant I have gained others even over more skilled people.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
As I said above, I started out providing administrative support – I didn’t really even have a clear picture of what this meant! Since then I have learnt more and found things I really enjoy, like MailChimp and WordPress, so I have diversified and offer website development and email marketing setup via MailChimp now alongside my general admin support. I set out to work about 2-3 days a week, but am now working 3-4 most weeks, so I have definitely grown and I am really pleased with how the last year has gone.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
I hope to have one more regular client and be in a position to develop one website a month. I want to have enough work to fill 4 days a week and continue to make a steady income.
Well, I think Sarah’s got a mature attitude and a stable and scalable business, good going in a business that’s only just coming up for a year old. I think she did things very sensibly, too – I started off while working in a day job and having that financial safety net has stood me in very good stead ever since.
I’d be really interested to know whether any of my male readers think that the problem about doubting yourself and your ability is a specifically female thing, or affects certain business areas more than others. I certainly read about this as a female phenomenon, but maybe it’s more general than that. What do you think?
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.