Monthly Archives: November 2015

Small business chat update – Deborah Price

Small business chat update – Deborah Price

Welcome to an update with one of last year’s new batch of interviewees – Deborah Price from the boxer shorts and nightwear company, then called Dap Squared Ltd and now findable under the British Boxers brand (read on to find out how this happened). She’d been going for a couple of years when we met her in October last year, and was planning some exciting new expansion and looking forward to attending a trade show as an exhibit. I loved her certainty in her answer to that tricky last question of mine: “In a year we’ll be selling our product into lots more stores. We’ve already been invited to exhibit at a pretty exclusive trade show and I’m very excited about that.” So has it worked out as expected? Read on to find out … Oh, and a quick note: if you do read these posts as they go out on a Saturday, through a blog aggregator or all in a big block once in a while, please pop a comment to let me know – I want to make sure I’m posting them at the right time for my readers … cheers!

Hello again, Deborah! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Yes, we’re definitely selling in more stores and we loved doing the trade show and will be doing more. But we’re slicker than we were a year ago.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Last year when we spoke, we had two ranges, Double Dapper for the nightwear and the British Boxers for the underwear. I spoke to one of the buyers at a big department store in London and she advised me to have everything under one British Boxers label. She said that it’s difficult enough trying to break in with one new brand, let alone pushing two labels. She’s absolutely right, so that’s what we’ve done and now it’s easier to understand and we sell the whole collection as one on

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

When I look back I don’t know why we didn’t just have everything on the one label to begin with. I also wish I’d sorted the accounts out a year ago with a simple system so that if we want investment we can go to someone with very clear and straightforward spreadsheets so they know exactly where you’re at. It’s something we’ve just started doing now and I’m really pleased. Again, it just makes everything clear and not muddy.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Just keep going. It takes a while to establish a business, so keep going, keep selling, keep smiling and PICK UP THE PHONE. Business is about relationships and it’s so easy to hide behind a computer screen or email. No good, you need to speak to people, have a laugh with them and get to know them. You’ll enjoy it more too.

You know what else, business is about buying and selling. It’s not about BMWs and dinners in fancy restaurants. That’s what you aspire to if you’re an employee. You aspire to become management and have all of that. If you set up your business that’s your risk, you risk losing all of that, but of course if you know your stuff and you’re good at what you do you might get all of that back. Ask yourself “What’s my risk?” If it all goes belly up will you still have a home, will you still have friends, will you still still be able to eat? I was able to answer all of those questions positively and so the risk to my life, my real life was minimal. My daughter had been diagnosed with Williams Syndrome before I set up my business and in part I wanted to control my time to be there for her hence me setting up on my own. When I assessed the heartbreak of her diagnosis with jacking in my posh job nothing was scary anymore. DO IT!

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

In a year’s time I want us to be in big department stores. We already have meetings in place for Autumn Winter 16 to see the buyers so I’m really pleased that we might be making inroads there. Also I want to increase our online sales, and they’re building all the time. Our product is really, really good! That’s the thing, people are happy to buy from you when they know it’s a really good quality product.

I love Deb’s positive outlook and the way she, like all of my interviewees, is so ready and willing to share those hard-learned lessons. I know that what I do now is very different to what I thought I was going to do when I started my business, and Deb’s right that it’s all about buying and selling, even if you’re selling a service rather than a physical product!

You can find British Boxers and Double Dapper online at If you want to  know more, you can email Deborah or get in touch via Twitter.

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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Posted by on November 28, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Small business chat update – Sally-Jayne Braisby

mugsA bit late if you read these live (sorry), but today we’re saying hello again to Sally-Jayne Braisby from SJB Teaching. Having first met Sally-Jayne in August 2012, and revisited her in September 2013, it was a difficult one last year, as she had recently lost her mum, and was taking things slowly. At that point, necessarily, she was seeing where things led and not planning too much: “To be honest, I’m still taking things one day at a time so I’m not making any future plans for the time being. I’m just going to see where life and work takes me over the next few months, and then when I feel ready I shall reassess where I am and where I want to be.” So, let’s see how things are going for Sally-Jayne now.

Hello, again, Sally-Jayne: it’s good to have you back. Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

This time last year I hadn’t made any real plans for the future because I was still coming to terms with losing my mom just a few days after my previous update. Unfortunately the last 12 months have been equally difficult. A few days after my update last year my Dad got rushed into hospital – equally suddenly and unexpectedly as my mom had been, and for the 2nd year in a row I ended up sitting in Resusc, watching someone I loved fighting for their life. Thankfully he pulled through and he was finally discharged from hospital on Christmas Eve. It took a while after that to fully recover though, and he didn’t get the all clear from the doctor until the following July. The result is that with juggling work commitments, hospital visits and looking after Dad’s house as well as my own, I wasn’t able to put any real effort into changing things, so some of the plans I had for developing new career pathways were left on the back burner again.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

The biggest change I have made this year is to work less. The only way I coped over the last two years was knowing that I had always made time for my family – even when that had meant staying up into the early hours to get work done after spending time with my parents. I’ve realised though that you can’t do this indefinitely and that something had to give. I now set aside one day a fortnight when I don’t go into schools, and this gives me a chance to catch up on my planning and admin. I’ve also reduced the number of evenings I work, which means I have extra time to spend with family and friends.

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

I’ve learned that there will always be more work than you can do, and that it’s OK to say no. I still have a waiting list for tuition but I don’t feel guilty anymore that I’m setting time aside for me instead of taking on more pupils.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Set your goals and work hard towards them – but never let work become more important than your family. Remember that working for yourself means that you have the power to make the decisions that are right for your life and not just for your business.

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

I’d still like to do more university language teaching, and there is a possibility that this could happen this time next year so I’ll be looking into that.  Other than that I’m hoping to move more of my work closer to home to cut down on travelling time, so I shall be targeting local schools offering my services for next academic year. This should then free up more time for tuition and still leave me time to spend with my loved ones.

I was moved by Sally-Jayne’s honesty and generosity in sending in this account of another difficult year – and I’m sure we can all find something of use in the hard-earned learning points that she’s described. Sally-Jayne had this final thing to say, which I completely understand and respect: “I think I’m going to make this my last update.  Having finally achieved that elusive work-life balance after a tough couple of years, I’m not planning to make any major changes to my working life, so this seems like a good time and place to bring my updates to an end”. We wish her all the best for a stable and happy time ahead, and there’s a space in the schedule now to be filled, so let’s see who will fill that in …

To find Sally-Jayne online, visit her website, find her on Facebook or Twitter or read her Blog

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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Posted by on November 21, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat


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How do I get back to the full dashboard on


I’ve been asked this question a few times recently, as WordPress has sought to make it easier for users to post a quick blog post or create a page. People who are familiar with the old, more detailed dashboard want to find it again. So here’s how.

How do I find the old dashboard on WordPress?

When you log on to WordPress, you will find a button marked My Sites. Click on that and you’ll get the new, simplified dashboard:

WordPress new admin page

Now click on WP Admin, circled on the above image.

This will take you to the old familiar interface:

Old WordPress dashboard

If this doesn’t work there is another tip, which is to add /wp-admin to the end of your page’s URL.

Note: this works for, the free version – self-hosted is a little different. If you’ve found this post useful, please do share it using the sharing buttons below.

Other useful posts on this site

Is it worth having a website for my business?

WordPress 1 – the basics – joining and setting up a blog (links to all the other WordPress tutorials)

Resource guide – blogging and social media


Posted by on November 18, 2015 in Blogging, Business, SEO, Social media, WordPress


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Small business chat update – Jenny Woodberry

mugsWelcome to a new update with one of last year’s newbies, Jenny Woodberry, young entrepreneur and creator of the healthy living business Miss Fighting Fit, We first met Jenny in September 2014, at which point she’d only been going for six months. However, she’d already developed and grown the business, and this was her answer to my question about where she wanted to be by now: “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!” So, let’s see how she’s getting on …

Hello again, Jenny! How’s business? Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Yes – the business is progressing and expanding really well, but not so quickly that I cant keep up!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

The nutrition plans have developed but continue to be a great source of advice for customers, and the kitchen has progressed well. I have expanded my delivery radius and am looking to continue doing so. I also run monthly fitness + diet challenges that are really popular and can be done anywhere as they are available online!

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

I’ve learned about the importance of social media management, planning and networking.

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

Hopefully with a small team, in a small unit where we can produce, package and deliver meals out across the South-West, as well as having the space to give consultations and advice.

Big plans there, but I’ve seen the food delivery service go from strength to strength (I wish I was nearer by as her recipes look delicious!) and I’m sure she’ll do it!

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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Posted by on November 14, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Small businesses – what do you wish you’d known when you started?

Small businesses – what do you wish you’d known when you started?

I’ve interviewed 105 small business owners since June 2011 when I launched my Small Business Chat Interviews series on this blog. Some of them have just appeared once, two of them (so far) have reached their fifth interview. There’s a lot of info there, and every now and then, I pull out some useful stuff and put it all together in one post. Today, I’m looking at what people wish someone had told them before they started their business.

Of course, as expected, it falls into a few categories. Here they are – all anonymous, some edited down, but thank you to all of my interviewees again for sharing so honestly and openly! I think it’s so interesting that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a maker, a service provider or anything else – these are universal.

Money, tax and cash flow

Expect to spend several times more money and time on marketing than you plan to.

It would take time to develop, so to start with funds were stretched and there were initially a few worrying moments.

Certainly everyone wanting to be a writer should be aware that it is difficult to make a living – the average member of the Society of Authors earns less than five thousand pounds per annum from their writing.

None of your clients will pay on time!

Register for tax self-assessment in plenty of time as you can’t complete the thing before you receive their PIN number through the post, which can take up to a week!

I wish someone would have told me how much I was really worth! Perhaps it came with age, experience and maybe confidence, but I priced myself quite low compared to the rest of the market. On the other hand, I was running the business from my bedroom, so anything I earned went straight into my pocket, and this may have given me a competitive advantage while I got my feet under the table.

Don’t spend money on marketing companies which offer Google front page search results when you can do it yourself!

Not to bother with approaching banks and go for crowd funding right from the offset. The banks I’ve approached did not want to lend at all to me, which made equipment and investment in premises very difficult to fund initially.

That high street banks are not there to help you.

Sort out your prices from the start. Make sure to include everything you’ve used in your costing.

Finding Customers and Networking

That sales are harder than just rolling up and asking for the work! I really wish I’d overcome my reluctance to get out there and network much sooner than I did.

One thing would be don’t waste your money advertising in Yellow Pages and similar companies; networking and going out to meet people is by far the best way to gain new clients, although print directories are rather an old idea now with all the internet sites available.

Where the tree of clients is planted, and directions on how to get to it!

How many prospect clients are prepared to put up with a low quality or average quality of service from their existing provider and sometimes appear to be too lazy to want to make the effort to change to a new supplier.

It’s hard work and always keep in contact with clients and potential clients.

That at least half my time freelancing would be spent finding the next … project.

Don’t rely on just one or two clients. I lost my major client after a few months and, although I was able to replace them fairly quickly, I could have done without the panic!

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, which I did … because they gave me so much work. When they closed, I was sunk. My other clients had all gone off and found other suppliers. I was really struggling to find childcare and it was all distinctly hairy for a bit.

You can’t set up a business and expect work to fall into your lap. You have to work really hard to get yourself out there and get clients. I knew this, but I was far too timid at first

The importance of contacts and networking.

Branding, marketing and differentiation

I wish someone had told me that by investing in my business I would take it more seriously – which would mean other people would take me more seriously. It was only really when I paid for a professional brand to be created that I began to treat it as a fully fledged business!

The importance of marketing. At the beginning I really expected that I would have clients kicking my door down without any effort on my part. I sat back and expected the business to come to me.

You need to understand two things to succeed – how you are different from all the other folks out there and how that translates into a value proposition for your clients.

The importance of promotion. Promotion is very important if your company and brand is to stand a chance in people’s memory retention when they’re looking for the services you provide.

That you need to work hard to market the business, not just do a few things and hope that lots of business will come your way. The first stages of a business are the most critical, and also where the most amount of marketing and advertising would be of the greatest benefit. Ironically, often new businesses scrimp on the advertising when working out a budget.

To be yourself, and not to be afraid of adopting a unique approach. When you start out its tempting to benchmark yourself with everyone else  and not to stick your head above the parapet in case you make a mistake. In fact, the market – ANY market – wants fresh original ideas and approaches rather than re-hashes of existing products and services, so I think it’s important to make your own mark as quickly as possible.

I wish I had been told to design my business stationery to meet my needs rather than adhering to a ‘normal’ format. For example: I designed my business cards with my name, job title, address, phone number, email and website because that’s what I had on my business card when I was a project manager. However, nobody that I hand these cards to will ever need to write to me. Phone me – yes. Email me – again yes. But write to me? Never.  I wish I’d saved the space I wasted on my address for showing more of the services I offer.

Don’t buy cheap business cards!

Get to grips with marketing – make a list of potential marketing strategies which can be developed as the business evolves.

Confidence, emotions and energy

That I could do it. Like everyone taking that big leap, it can be really scary at first. One year down the line, my confidence is high and the timing seems right for what I have done.

How much more of an emotional rollercoaster it would become.

That sometimes it is really difficult to get your head down and work from home – but that you are not the only one that feels like that.

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!

That I could do it, and that I should have faith in myself. (this one is me!)

Have more confidence in yourself – take the plunge and go full-time earlier!

Just how busy I would be.

That nothing goes to plan!!

That there would be good days and bad days but that the excitement of managing your own destiny is worth it.

That it would take some time but I just had to hang in there and things would work out.

That you get out what you put in. Moving to self-employed, I thought it would be all fun and games and a walk in the park. Go to work when I want and leave when I want. This wasn’t the case.

Pace yourself.

Don’t worry. You will be fine!

How much time would need to be invested in networking to make a FB page work…

I wish someone had told me that getting a balance between work and home life is difficult.  I find that so many other businesses are run by people who have another job, that when I want to network online with them, I have to do a lot of it in the evening, meaning that there is a tendency to work all the time!  Had I been told this early on, I might have got the balance right sooner!

You can do this! I wish I had known someone who ran their own business back then, now I know loads of people! Maybe I would’ve taken the plunge sooner.

‘ITS LATER THAN YOU THINK! Sort your life out, you lazy sod!’ I would have liked them to have shouted that to me while shaking me by the lapels. I probably would have cried, but it would have been worth it.

Quite how many hours of my life it would absorb and how unfit I would become, spending so many hours at a computer. There are no nine to five hours involved when somebody wants to book, so it can be difficult to really relax and switch off from work.

Don’t panic, don’t stress!

Not to be as self-critical of what I do.

Keep going. You might think it’s too difficult, and some say it is very hard, but the emotional rewards that come from working for yourself are great.

Freelancing is a pretty slow slog to start off with, but if you keep at it, it does pick up.

That the ebb and flow that you get in business is normal. It takes a while to not panic when things slow down.

That it really is not as scary as you think it will be… quite the opposite – its exhilarating. The fear we build up in our heads, whilst it can feel very real, is really unjustified.  You have to realise and accept that things will not go to plan, and it may feel like it’s going wrong – but that is your opportunity to pick yourself up and find another way.  And every single time this has happened, I’ve always had a better result.

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

That there will never be a right time to launch. It took me a long time to pluck up the courage to make the move, I was always waiting for something to get finished, or something else to fall into place. The perfect time will never come, so if you’re going to do something, you have to just make it happen

Believe in yourself and your abilities! Don’t wait until everything is perfect, just take those first few steps and before you know it things fall into place.

I guess the Guide motto is always useful – be prepared!  – and then be prepared to be surprised.

That this is a 24-hour business, both from the point of view that obviously someone could ring us in the middle of the night to ask about our services, but also more fundamentally that if it’s your own business, you can’t switch off. It even invades your dreams!

You will need to work harder than you ever thought you could. You need to forget about holidays for a few years.

How to know who to trust and when to say no

Be cautious in what you sign up for!

Learn to say no. When I quit my job, I was offered all sorts of opportunities, and as that kind of thing is very flattering, you commit to things that perhaps you shouldn’t. I have narrowed it down to four major projects now and happily they all tie in together.

Everyone has an opinion, they can’t all be right!

Not to trust everyone who offers to help you. Do your research and get to know people first.

No matter how desperate you are for work, if a prospective client makes your teeth itch, just say no. Trust your instincts, because if you engage with that person, you will regret it. I can still be conned occasionally, but I’m a lot better at qualifying customers than I was when I started out.

I wish someone had told me not to listen to the purveyors of doom and gloom. The people who draw breath through their teeth when you tell them you’re setting up a new business in the middle of a recession. This is a great time to set up: bigger companies cannot compete against SMEs on either price or quality of work. Nobody can afford the over-inflated prices of the fat cats and so they look elsewhere. Once you understand this you realise that this is the best time to start up!

From a freelance consultant’s perspective: don’t expect too much loyalty from people you know beforehand.  However positive they seem about you, they may not actually have the decision-making power to give you work!  Imagine starting out knowing ‘0 people’ and ask yourself if you think you can get complete strangers to believe in you.

That it’s OK to negotiate and that you don’t have to accept any rate proposed to you by clients or agencies. A bit of confidence in your skills goes a long way.

To never undersell yourself and realise the value of your time. I started off charging a ridiculously small fee for my work, not really taking into account the time an effort I put into each piece.

That people won’t always be happy for you . I’m a very honest and trusting person, so it shocks and upsets me when people actively try to stop you achieving your goals. I don’t understand it – it’s not in my mentality.

Stand up for yourself. For example, If you’re working for someone who has their own crazily complicated payment plan say, “No, this is how I work, this is how I invoice”, end of story.

Sometimes enough is enough and it’s OK to say no. I have been fortunate in that I’ve always had plenty of work, but that means I tend to work a lot of evenings and weekends. On the whole, I get a lot of satisfaction from doing that, but occasionally I think I could take on a little less work, and have a bit more time off.

That the value lies in the quality of the work I do, not the length of time I’ve ‘officially’ been doing it. I severely undervalued my services in the beginning, assuming that this was necessary to ‘break into the market’. In fact, that caused more problems; potential clients didn’t trust a low-priced service and consequently I had to work much harder for much longer, in terms of finding and securing clients and in terms of hours in for cash out.

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

One of the most important lessons is learning to say “No” to certain projects. When starting out, you are hungry for business and do not want to lose any potential deals, but there are some projects you need to walk away from. It is not worth winning a project at any cost, because you end up spending too much time and don’t make any money, or have clients you can never please. Being willing to walk away has provided me with the freedom to choose who I work with, and now when prospecting for clients, I want to see if the potential client is a fit for my company, as much as they are looking to see if I am a fit for them.

Contracts, legalities and business advice

It sounds cynical, but always get an agreement/contract in place with clients from the start so there is no room for misunderstandings especially when some clients try it on and try to not pay or pay late. Unfortunately there are some people like that out there.

That the customer was not always right! Well, partly due to my fault since I did not have documented ‘Terms and Conditions’ when I started. I had some challenges with customers owing money or not collecting their outfits at agreed times.

Listen to sound good business advice given from reliable sources such a Business Link.  You can’t do everything yourself, so outsource tasks to other people.

I read numerous books and watched endless programmes on other entrepreneurs and I learnt a lot from doing so.

How to price up my items correctly, I have under-quoted for so many jobs!  To have clear terms & conditions and a cancellation policy, I forgot about that bit and ended up out of pocket. ALWAYS take a deposit, even if the job is for a friend!

Knowledge and technology

Make sure you are fully up to speed on the technology side of things.

Make sure you are fully up to speed with the technology. We have to learn as we go.

How to run a business! It sounds so stupid to me now, but when I started I thought that running a business meant money coming in, money going out and paying an accountant once a year to submit my tax return.

I wish I had known how many resources were available to help get me started, such as classes and training, list-serves and discussion groups, online invoicing, etc. I did not need to reinvent so many things—it was all out there but I didn’t know where to look for it.

I wish I could have sat down with real entrepreneurs and just sounded them out before I started in business. I would have liked to have shared their wisdom.

I had really great advice from a successful friend before I started who shared so much of her knowledge. I wish I had listened and constructed a proper business plan, as I left that on the back burner and became a bit chaotic.

[For makers] photography is key. It seems obvious, but it’s really not when you start out.

I had the artistic skills, but I hadn’t appreciated how much time and effort all the other aspects of running a business – admin, marketing and so on – would take up.

I hope this huge wodge of learning points have helped you. If you have others to offer, or you think this article is great and would help other people you know, please add a comment or click the sharing buttons below!

If you’ve enjoyed this article and want to know more about the Small Business Chat 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 November 11, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Small business chat – Hannah Jones and Duncan Jones

Small business chat – Hannah Jones and Duncan Jones

Hello and welcome to a brand new Small Business Chat with Hannah and Duncan Jones from Marine Discovery Penzance. We came across this company when holidaying in Cornwall this autumn – they run fantastic voyages on a sailing boat – a lovely stable catamaran – around St Michael’s Bay and beyond, spotting all sorts of birds and marine mammals. They’re really knowledgeable and great sailors, and although the end of the season has come along now, giving them time to reflect on their decade in business, if you’re going to the Penzance area next year, do take a look at what they have to offer. I was pleased to chat a little about business life as we sailed along (I say “along”, it was more up and down on a very lumpy day which was coincidentally my husband’s first venture onto a sailing boat … but perfectly safe!) and to invite them to take part. So, just how do you end up sailing boatloads of people around a bay full of dolphins?

Hello! First things first, what’s your business called? When did you set it up?

We are called Marine Discovery Penzance and we started in 2005, so we are ten years old this year. We run wildlife watching sailing adventures from Penzance Harbour, searching for seals, dolphins, seabirds and so on, with a touch of history and heritage thrown in. In the 10 years we have been operating we have become one of the most reputable sea safari style trips in the country.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

We were both qualified teachers and after three or so years of teaching had both more or less had enough. This was for a myriad of reasons, not least the way successive governments have systematically devalued the profession and the effect this appears to be having on society. Duncan had always been the one with business ideas, even during teacher training – we both seemed to know from the start that it wouldn’t be a “forever” profession for us. On the other hand it helped give us skills which have been enormously helpful in the development of our business, so I will never regret it. So many teachers have very successfully been convinced that it’s the only thing they can do, and that their skills are not transferable so they are stuck there until they retire or until they keel over – this is rubbish! I have enormous respect for people who are still in teaching, and still enjoying it and finding it rewarding.

Both of us felt that we would work well in a small business environment, being self motivated and willing to have a go at most things, without someone interfering from above.

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

We have both always been very interested in marine wildlife, and in conservation and the environment. This was Duncan’s academic background also – his degree is in Marine Geography which combines Oceanography with coastal management, amongst other disciplines. At the time (2003) there were no businesses operating in the same way as we planned to in Cornwall and we thought there was a real gap in the market. Marine eco tourism had been operating successfully for many years in similar areas e.g. West Wales and North West Scotland.

Marine Discovery Penzance sailing

Marine Discovery under sail

Had you run your own business before?

No, we were utterly green. As it were.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

We launched full time after quitting our teaching jobs at Whitsun 2005. After that first season, in the winter of 2005-6 we both did a lot of supply teaching to keep the money coming in.

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

You will need to work harder than you ever thought you could. You need to forget about holidays for a few years.

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

You WILL lose perspective from time to time, so listen to relatives and try not to get impatient when they tell you to get a grip! You will probably face setbacks and money worries and be exhausted. If you still want to carry on despite all this after five years, then it’s worth it. It doesn’t matter what other companies are doing – just know what you are doing, and be the best you can be, and the customers will come

Marine discovery boy-watching-a-common-dolphin

Not only customers, but dolphins, too!

What do you wish you’d done differently?

I wish I had wasted less time and angst worrying about the “competition”. It really wasn’t worth it! And me [Hannah] staying in my full time job until the end of the summer term in 2005 would have been logistically difficult, but financially helpful!

What are you glad you did?

The best thing by far that we ever did was switch from running our trips on a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) to a sailing catamaran. This immediately set us apart from the competition, broadened our appeal and our market, and added to our environmental credentials. I am also really glad we embraced social media fairly early on – it has made a big difference to our appeal.

What are your top business tips?

At the beginning at least, try and master  as many skills as you can so that you can save money initially e.g. basic website maintenance, accountancy, VAT spreadsheets. At the same time, know your limits and know that sometimes it is more cost effective to get a professional to do it, rather than do a bodge job yourself. As the business grows, you need to be very careful not to let it swamp you or you will end up being a control freak – train your staff carefully and give them the opportunity to get it right rather than insisting on micromanaging them. Know that you cannot be all things to all people – find out what market works best for you and focus on it. While social media is an amazing marketing tool. if you are microbusiness it is very unlikely you be able to do it all. Pick a couple of tools and use them really well.

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

We have grown year on year since we started. Even as this season ends, with the awful summer weather we have had, we are on course to surpass last year’s turnover by the time April comes. We now have a team of four running the company in the summertime, and while this may seem laughably tiny to some businesses, it is certainly a few steps up from the two of us, a RIB, a rented maisonette and a beaten up old Land Rover which is where we were in 2005.

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

The time has come now to either grow the business or streamline it. In our case growing further would mean having to buy another vessel, and take on a skipper and more staff. Streamlining would mean trying to almost narrow our appeal – a business cannot be all things to all people and all budgets. We are still thinking about which way to go, but something will change because the summer we have just had was insanely busy and we don’t want to suffer burnout.

Marine Discovery Dolphins

A close encounter with the wildlife

What an inspiring story of following a dream but learning and refining what they did as they went. We certainly picked Marine Discovery to go out with because of the non-motorboat aspect, and it was the right choice. Hannah and Duncan are indeed  now at a difficult point that many of us have reached but some only dream of reaching – what to do when you get to full capacity. I’ll be interested to find out what they decide, and look forward to their update next year. In the meantime, do pop over to their website or social media for lovely images from this summer’s adventures …

You can find Marine Discovery Penzance online at as well as on Facebook and Twitter. You can email them or call on
07749 277110

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. 


Posted by on November 7, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Wyke Farms: Please change your mind on your Superlight Cheese!

Reblogging from my Adventures in Reading, Writing and Working from home blog to leverage the bigger audience for this blog. This is a plea to bring back the only cheese I could eat on my cholesterol-beating regime, which has now been discontinued. Please click through to the article, like, share, etc. Thank you!

Adventures in reading, running and working from home

Wyke Farms Superlight Cheese Wyke Farms Superlight Cheese

Way back when I discovered I had high cholesterol and became determined to get it down using diet rather than drugs, my friend Gill went to the Good Food Show and came back with some SuperLight cheese by small producer Wyke Farms. Hooray – created for a family member who had high cholesterol himself, this cheese had only 1.5% saturated fat. And.




it tasted really nice. Like proper cheddar. Because it was proper cheddar. Cheese you would want to cut a slice off and actually eat (but would melt nicely on toast or on top of your pasta, too). I wrote about it in my book. I wrote about it in this blog.

First of all, I could get it from a few places locally. Then it narrowed down. But hey, it was OK, because I could still get it direct from…

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Posted by on November 5, 2015 in Uncategorized