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Small business chat update – Andrew Donnelly

Small business chat update – Andrew Donnelly

Welcome to another Small Business Update – with Andrew Donnelly, who creates apps for iTunes (see the link at the bottom of this piece). I originally interviewed Andrew back in August 2011 and then followed up in September 2012, and October 2013. and most recently in February 2015 – so while we haven’t spoken exactly every year, Andrew’s one of my original interviewees! When I asked him where he wanted to be in a year’s time, he replied “Looking forward, I can see a lot more App work in the world of connected technologies and home. I think this is going to be a year where the game changes dramatically in the sense of what we can do with smart phones in a number of areas
1) connected home – controlling central heating, lights, garage doors, kettles, to name a few, are all out to market already.
2) Wearables – watches, fitness devices, gaming controllers, smart clothes all seem to be in the pipeline.
3) Beacons – like a personal GPS, you can set them up to detect based on proximity and action apps on the back of that, e.g. shop store fronts can offer discounts to customers who have the app installed.
I see the business looking into these technologies in more depth and producing apps to support them and make everyday life a little easier and smarter.” Phew, that was a lot. Let’s see how he’s getting on …

Hello, Andrew, and thanks for being one of the longest-standing interviewees! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Just over a year ago I was predicting that connected home and wearables would become a bigger player in the app market. They seem to have taken off, however what I didn’t quite get right is that it would be more connected car that would be the path my work would take me on. I’ve also released a fairly successful Photo app on the App Store, which allows the user to take selfies with both front and back camera at the same time.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

In the world of App development, things move very rapidly, so nothing really stays the same. I have expanded into Apple watch apps this year and have been playing around with the new iPad Pro, too. However the biggest impact is that Apple released a language called Swift just over 18 months ago and I have been learning that, as it’s become quite a common skill required in my line of work.

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

That the planned month off you had would turn to 3 months as it took a bit of time to get the work pipeline up and running again after the initial month off.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Get the work life balance right and make sure you enjoy what you do as it shows in your work.

BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?

If you could plan the perfect week at your business what would it be like?

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

Hopefully continuing the trend of growth, having worked on a number of projects this year and also moved into the automotive area of industry hopefully that can be a door opener for more opportunities in that area, A lot of how my business will operate will also depend on how Apple does and any new devices or changes to environments can impact my business as well.

It must be exciting to be in an ever-changing world where you need to react to the latest technology and keep up with everything, although I think I’d find that quite stressful. Andrew’s changed what he’s doing several times since he joined the interviews way back in 2011, and I’m sure that will continue in the future.

You can find Andrew’s iTunes apps here (and this is his new photo app) and contact him via email or Twitter: as he says, “I’m always still open to giving people advice or guidance to help them out”.

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 July 30, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Suzi Brown (was Zobair)

Small business chat update – Suzi Brown (was Zobair)

Welcome to another Small Business Update – this time with Suzi Zobair of The Smart Bear Digital Consultancy, who joined us back in June 2014 for her first interview and July 2015 for her first update. When I asked her where she wanted to be by now, she said, “In a year’s time, I definitely want to be in a position where I’m not as busy – either because I’m working less for the same money (i.e. working smarter) or I have some help.” Obviously one change is that Suzi’s changed her name – let’s see what else she’s been up to …

Hello, Suzi, lovely to have you back! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Yes, I am. Although I am still busy, I do now have help. Things are going from strength to strength.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I now share an office with Taylor’d Marketing – we work on a lot of projects together so we thought it would be great to share resources. And, as being a sole trader can be lonely sometimes, it’s great to have company and someone I can bounce ideas off.

I also have a new logo – I felt the old one didn’t reflect my business anymore so we had a bit of a revamp which had an amazing effect on business.
The only thing that has stayed the same, really, is my ethos for the business. I always wanted to be able to provide value for money to the small and micro businesses and I feel my range of packages and my monthly payment option for websites really does that.

Oh, and I got married, I’m now Mrs Suzi Brown.

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

I wish I had taken the leap away from ‘working from home’ to an office sooner. It is a big step for any small business as you have to know you can afford the rent month by month but, it does save money in other ways (for example, I no longer have to travel to various coffee shops for meetings), and I think it gives a more professional air which by itself can increased sales.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Network, network, network – I don’t get to do it enough anymore but if you don’t get out there occasionally, not only will people not know about your business but you become isolated and miss opportunities. If you don’t think you can get work that way, how about working with the people you meet, or simple learn something by talking to others.

BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?

I’d like to know how many people use contracts with their clients and why they see them as a good idea. (NB, I do use contracts but not everyone does.)

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

Judging by how we have grown in this year, I expect my turnover will be at least 50% more – perhaps we’ll need bigger offices!

Moving to an outside office is a huge step, but as Suzi says, if you’re in the type of business where you need to have face-to-face meetings with people, it does give a more professional edge to your business. Going into a shared office is a great idea, as it will presumably give a cost saving, and it gives Suzi colleagues and makes sense as the two companies do work together. How exciting!

You can find Suzi and Smart Bear Digital Consultancy here:

Suzi Brown
07927533075
www.thesmartbear.co.uk
Email Suzi
Facebook
Twitter
Google+

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 July 23, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Zoe Austin

Small business chat update – Zoe Austin

Welcome to an update with a difference – we last spoke to Zoe Austin, a Cambridgeshire musician and voice, violin, piano and music theory music teacher, back in 2012! She’s had some ups and downs since then, but I was very happy to welcome her back into the fold for this update. Back then, when I asked Zoe where she wanted to be in a year’s time, she had this to say: “Unlike some freelancers, my self-employed work is done, at this point, out of necessity rather than a great desire to be my own boss (although, that would be very nice!). I would quite happily be employed in one job which pays me enough and satisfies all of my creative needs. Realistically, in a year, I think I will still be a working musician – teaching and playing – and, I hope, I will be in a better financial position than I am now with a bit more energy and just as much love and enthusiasm for music as I have now.” Let’s see where she is now!

Hello again, Zoe, and it’s lovely to have you back. Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward just one year, four years ago?

As you mention, my last interview was actually four years ago. Whilst you did kindly wish to include me after that, I had too many things going on in my personal and work lives at that point to even know how to begin answering the posed questions! What I would say I have obviously learned since my last interview, however, is that I would not actually be particularly happy having only one job: I get bored very easily, by colleagues, job role, work environment and work hours, so it really is best for me that every work day is slightly different. I have also, through painful experience this year, come to realise that if I were to be in only one job and experienced difficulties there, I would not have anywhere else to ‘go’ for the rest of the week: in order to take refuge from any difficulties and, most importantly, to maintain my professional self-esteem which may take a battering in environments where my work is not appreciated.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I still provide voice, violin, piano and music theory lessons to mainstream pupils through my work with Huntingdonshire Music School and as a private tutor, so those things remain.

Things are in a state of flux for me at present, with a current posting as music teacher  in a special school ending this month but an exciting new one beginning in August where I will be providing music sessions for adults with learning disabilities with an arts charity in Cambridge. Events this year have cemented in my mind that I am most happy working with people with learning disabilities, so I shall pursue more work in this area over time.

I have finally stopped being afraid of practising Music Therapy and will have my first piece of work in that field since my last one around two years ago and it will be beginning some time next month.

In other news, I have begun writing a book for first-time music tutors. My hope is that if I mention it here I will feel more obliged to actually write some of it, so that I have something to report back in a year’s time!

You’ve said it here now, so you have to do it! Happy writing! What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I wish I had renewed my HCPC registration in order to maintain my licence to practice as a Music Therapist. Because I could not afford to do so at the time (and, I will be honest, I had given up on the prospect of ever being a Music Therapist – for both positive and negative reasons), I let it slip and will now need to undergo a lengthy process to ‘update my skills’. It is doable, but will mean a lot of extra work will be added to my already busy timetable and it could have been easily avoided.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Prioritise your own well-being, even if other people don’t like it.

I suffer from a chronic health complaint which flares up sometimes without notice and which will then necessitate my spending 2-3 days in bed recuperating. This happens roughly once or twice per school term. It has become clear that, whilst I experience wonderful support from the manager in one of my jobs, two heads of service in other places I provide music clearly believe that I am shirking my responsibilities and deliberately taking time off. I am as open and honest about my health problems as I can be, but I can only apologise so much and I can only do so much to accommodate the needs of other people. I am old enough now and have lived with these difficulties for long enough to know what I need when a flare-up occurs, and I will do whatever it takes for me to feel better. This has meant, unfortunately, that work opportunities within two organisations have been taken from me this year, but I refuse to take this personally.

My best friend Jon always says to me, ‘Go where you are appreciated’ and I would say the same to you. If you’re not liked, understood or respected within one setting, even though you have done nothing wrong, then keep your dignity intact and do whatever it takes to get out of that place: your happiness and health are far more important than the needs of any business.

On a different, more practical note, I gathered my courage and asked the parents of some of my long-time pupils to write testimonials for me. They were all very kind in what they wrote, I was very touched! With their consent, these testimonials are published on my business Facebook page and my profile page at musicteachers.co.uk.

BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?

Fancy any music provision? No, really, I need the work.

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

Still providing music to many different people in order to improve their lives somewhat, but with perhaps a little less travelling and a few earlier nights!

A rollercoaster ride indeed, but Zoe’s got some good learning points here and I thank her for her honesty and openness in sharing her story. Retaining our dignity and health is so important, but often forgotten in the struggle to keep going and/or the race for profits. Hopefully the new opportunities she’s embracing this summer will improve things for her and her business. Good luck!

Zoe said, “I no longer update my blog as I have found the following platforms to me much more lucrative and helpful”:

Zoe’s business Facebook page, her LinkedIn profile and profile on musicteachers.co.uk

You can email Zoe, or call her on 07791308536

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 July 16, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Stevie Maiden

Small business chat update – Stevie Maiden

Welcome to another Small Business Update with Stevie Maiden from Maidens Fayre. We first met Stevie in June 2013, when she was busy running a small business Facebook group and building up her jams, chutneys and pickles business, and did an update in July 2014. In 2015 she was continuing to dream that small business dream of getting the work-life balance right: “This time next year I hope to be making more effective use of my time. Being your own boss IS fantastic, but it’s also completely exhausting. I also hope to be talking to you again!” So, let’s see how she’s getting on …

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

Well, I’m still going and I’m talking to you, so yes

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I’m diversifying my range to see what products people prefer.

I still spend much too much time alone.

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

I have learned that its fine to have a core menu but expansion is essential.

I wish I’d known that not everyone who claims to be a friend has your best intentions at heart.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Keep your ideas close to your chest. It’s a jungle out there.

BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?

Do you feel supported in your endeavour?

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

I hope to be selling into more retail outlets and doing less standing in fields in the rain

Well, reading these answers makes me glad that I work in a corner of the world where cooperation is more important that competition – I know people with products rather than services to sell can really struggle with competition and copying, and I’d find that really difficult to cope with. I’m also glad that I only have to stand in fields in the rain on Saturdays when I volunteer at parkfun! I hope Stevie gets to stay under cover a bit more in the next year!

You can find Stevie online on the Maidens Fayre Facebook page and get in touch with her 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 (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 July 9, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Sarah Banks

Small business chat update – Sarah Banks

Welcome to a lovely Small Business Chat with Sarah Banks from Banks’ Business Solutions. Sarah joined this interview series last year after I had been impressed by her dedication to helping other people, and in particular women, with email newsletters and websites, and in an ethical manner (which doesn’t always happen in this line of business). When I asked her where she wanted to be in a year’s time, she replied “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.” Let’s see how she’s doing now (noting that she submitted her responses before this time of economic and business uncertainty!).

Hello again, Sarah! So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Yes and no! I have several more regular clients and am easily filling my 4 days a week as well as making the income I wanted. However I am not marketing my website development as much at the moment as I don’t have the time. I still however love my work and the flexibility it gives me around my family.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I am now focussing on growing a VA team so that I can offer more 1-1 technical support to clients. I have done this for several clients on an ad-hoc basis and love being able to get out and about. I am also going to be focussing on a more online marketing support with the launch of a new blog management service later this year. I still offer the same services and my original clients are all still with me. I am now working on being location independent and will be trialling having no set hours during the school holidays this summer as the first step towards this.

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

I have learnt that business can grow much quicker than you expect! In December I was worried I wouldn’t have enough work in January as some projects were finishing, however during the first week of January I had to contact a colleague to help me out on an ad-hoc basis as I had more work than I could manage alone! I wish I had known a year ago that this would happen, as I have spent time looking at other target markets that I could have focussed elsewhere.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Keep believing in your dream – work hard and stay focussed. Don’t be afraid to charge what you feel you are worth – I have struggled with this from day one and am now comfortable in saying to people that this is my rate – I have even increased rates for my original clients and whilst at the time I worried I would lose some I didn’t.

BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?

How do you grow a team effectively and not damage the personal nature of your business?

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

Offering the same services but with a team of at least 2 other part-time VAs supporting me so that I can take on more clients and have a more strategic view of the business going forward.

How funny that so soon after Stephen Tiano’s interview, we have another person whose business has grown faster than expected! I found that when I went full time all those years ago, and the work expanded to fill the space. I’d be interested to see the answers to Sarah’s bonus question, as this is something I looked at and decided not to do – however, I did build a network of colleagues I could refer people on to, and who could refer people on to me if I had a space, and that’s one way of doing things. Good luck to Sarah as she expands her business and strategises over the next year!

You can find Sarah at Banks’ Business Solutions on the web at www.banksbusinesssolutions.co.uk or you can phone her on 07736 938 480, email her or find her on Facebook or 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 July 2, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Five ways to drive and increase engagement with your blog

Five ways to drive and increase engagement with your blog

My viewing figures have gone down. No one is buying my books at the moment. Who wants to start a new business at a time like this? Well, here are five pointers to driving and increasing (or maybe, at the moment, maintaining) engagement with your blog. And here I am doing number five right now …

5. Publish more blog posts

The search engines like you to have regularly updated content, to make sure they’re not sending people to an out-of-date source of information. I find the sweet spot comes at around three posts per week. They don’t have to be long. Try mixing things up with different subjects or types of article.

4. Share useful information

One of the most-viewed of my blog posts is still one I wrote as a note for myself in 2011 on how to sort out a problem with Word. Still gets those hits, even now – and thank you comments.

3. Seek engagement

Ask questions. Put those share buttons on your blog (here’s how to do that in WordPress) and ask people to share if they found it useful.

2. Add Like buttons to comments on your posts

I love this feature of WordPress (and here’s how to do it) – if you Like as well as reply to comments, your reader will be alerted and should get a good feeling about you. If you don’t have time to reply right away, a Like will let them know you’ve read and appreciated their comment.

1. Reply to comments on your blog posts

I read a lot of blogs. If I put a comment on a blog post and the original commentator doesn’t respond to it, I feel ignored. I’ve talked about this at length on posts about reciprocity in social media (including blogs). I really try to reply to comments on my blogs within 24 hours; if I can’t do it quickly, at least I’ll “Like” the comment. Personally, if I read and comment on a blog and never get any acknowledgement, first I’ll stop commenting, then I’ll be less likely to read it. So I assume other people are like me and will do the same. Of course there are reasons why people can’t reply to blog comments temporarily, or don’t see some of them, but if it’s a constant feature, lots of comments with no replies, I’ll tend to lose interest.

I hope these ideas have been useful to you and help you to drive more engagement on your own blogs!

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2016 in Blogging, WordPress

 

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Small business chat update – Leigh-Ann Arundel

Small business chat update – Leigh-Ann Arundel

Welcome to another Small Business Update – today with Leigh-Ann Arundel, who launched Jingle Jewellery in April 2012 – I first interviewed her under a year later, in January 2013, and then again in January 2014, with the most recent update in March 2015. At that point she had expanded into a locket business and also some franchises for Jingle Jewellery, and at that point she said, “In another year’s time I am hoping that the jewellery party business will still be maintaining speed and the new business will be up and running”. I love Leigh-Ann’s flexibility and willingness to try new things, something I think is vital in a new business – or even a long-standing one. So, let’s see how she’s doing.

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

This year has been a hectic one. There has been a lot of upheaval in the day job and as such it’s been more difficult to focus on my businesses. I set up a new business with a friend and fellow small business holder and that also taken a lot of time. So Jingle has definitely taken a back seat this year.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I am now only operating in South Yorkshire and North Yorkshire. The licence holders in Cumbria and Mansfield had life changes that resulted in them no longer being able to continue with Jingle. I have not pursued anymore licence holders as I have improved my work-life balance. There is room for growth within Jingle but it will have to wait for now.

Our new business is called Pug4Pets (Personalised, Unique Gifts 4 Pets) and is a pet marketplace. I joined forces with Jo Ballantine, who is a graphic designer and owns the Driven by Design Ltd and Grace & Flo design companies. We launched in July last year and sell floating lockets for pets exclusively within the UK alongside jewellery and graphic designed cards and printed products. The lockets have been through a period of testing and have been made especially for use and for purpose. We crowdfunded the launch, which was a great experience as I have never done anything like that before. We are now busy getting the business onto different selling platforms in preparation for the busy Christmas period. The business is led by pets and the company is ‘run’ by dogs and cats who have their own profiles. It’s a really lovely project and it is coming along slowly but nicely. I have also started importing aromatherapy lockets into the UK and am selling them alongside Maria from Chi-Ki Holistics. She supplies the flower remedies and aromatherapy so we have a well-being package.  We have a lot of interest in these.

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

I have continued to not spread myself too thin. Also move on from things that are not beneficial to the business. I bought a 3D printer thinking I could make it part of the business.  However, it took up too much time and would not make a profit so I sold it on. I am also reducing my stock as I hold lots. Another thing I am doing is being more prepared. My angels continue to be popular alongside my children’s jewellery. As such I have been stockpiling these in readiness. I will also be doing this with my snowmen kits. This should mean less to do at Christmas.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I really enjoy working with other business holders. I see a lot of energy being placed in what other people are doing and competitiveness on the crafting circuit. I think that is pointless. Everyone is different and working together makes much more sense. Consider how you can help each other and encourage that. Also know when to stop buying! I struggle with this myself!

BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?

I would like to know how they maintain visibility in such a large marketplace. I often find this bit hard.

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

I am resigned to the fact that I need to remain in the day job for 5 more years. After that I will be able to leave and fully concentrate on my businesses.

I think for now Jingle will probably just plod along, but I hope to have had a great year with the lockets and especially PUG4PETS. We hope to be selling on Not on the High Street by then. Fingers crossed!

I totally agree with Leigh-Ann about concentrating less on competition and more on cooperation. When I’m too busy to take on a new project, I am so pleased when I can recommend a great alternative supplier for them, and Leigh-Ann’s way of working with her craft and design colleagues works really well for all of them. I’m looking forward to find out what she does next!

You can find Jingle Jewellery Ltd online at www.jinglejewellery.com and on Facebook, with Pug4Pets at www.pug4pets.co.uk and on Facebook, too.

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 June 25, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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