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Small business chat update – Daniel Sodkiewicz

Small business chat update – Daniel Sodkiewicz

Welcome to an update with Dan Sodkiewicz from Royal Deer Design in New York and also now from GeekSeller. We first met Daniel in January 2015  and had an update chat in April 2016. Daniel formed his company a year before I set up Libro, it’s always interesting to me to see the different kinds of paths that businesses of the same age have taken. Back in April 2016, this was Dan’s plan for the year: “I would like to see 80% of our income source to be from our newly developed SAAS products (mainly GeekSeller.com), and 20% from web design business. That would be the ideal scenario for my business”. Did he achieve that? Read on to find out …

Hello again, Dan, and good to talk to you over the ocean. Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

We are actually a way ahead of where I thought we would be. Our new company (GeekSeller) has grown much faster than I expected.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

As planned, we closed our web design business and are now focusing on GeekSeller.com (an ecommerce multichannel platform). We do not do web design anymore, but are running our SAAS business, now with more than 15 people on the team and we’re still expanding.

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

You shouldn’t hold off too long on hiring people. This is a common struggle for founders, who try to do everything themselves. Building a large, successful company can only be achieved as a team. I am very happy with where we are with GeekSeller, but I suspect we could have grown even faster if we had started hiring more aggressively early on.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Focus on your users. This was and is the main factor in GeekSeller’s success.

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

How do you deal with stress and overwork? Is there such a thing as work/life balance when you run a startup?

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

We would like to double our company’s size and have GeekSeller become the go-to company for ecommerce multichannel solutions, supporting all major platforms on the market.

I think Daniel’s point on hiring is very interesting – it’s a big leap to take, and not one I personally chose to do, but it’s very hard to get the timing right. I’ve seen people who’ve hired too soon and not had the work or finances to sustain it, and people who’ve hired later and wish they’d done it sooner. I’m not sure what the solution is! With regard to his question on work/life balance, the people I’ve seen who’ve achieved this are the ones who’ve planned back-up and holiday time from before they even started operating, and I feel this must be the key. I’m doing OK now, but it took a few years to even out and still gets tricky sometimes – I think that’s how it goes, though; it’s never going to be perfect and I still think you get more out of being self-employed or running your own business than you lose. Good luck to Daniel and GeekSeller for the next year – I’m sure all will go swimmingly!

Royal Deer Design, LLC
New York
Email
Web: www.royaldeerdesign.com  www.geekseller.com

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 books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Matt Rose

Small business chat update – Matt Rose

Today I’m very happy to welcome Matt Rose of Prestige Quoting Limited. back to Libro Towers. I first interviewed Matt last year, when he’d just set up his business and, having done it very sensibly, was looking forward to growing the business and really pressing forward with it. When I asked him where he wanted to be in a year, he replied, “I’d really like to be in a position to consider taking on a 2nd person.” As predicted, he’s done really well, and he might even be looking at that goal – let’s ask him and see …

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

Broadly, yes, I am. Some things have gone better (revenue and world ranking, to name two) and some things I still need to address my mind to this year.

I’m certainly considering taking on my first employee, which is an exciting (daunting?!) step.

I’m currently reviewing the option of taking on an apprentice and looking at various council schemes that might make this decision an easier (financial) one.

In my first full year of trading I became the World’s Number 2 Solutions Partner. This means that I sold the 2nd greatest number of licences of QuoteWerks partners worldwide. This exceeded my expectations as I thought getting into the top 10 would be a great achievement.

I also won the individual award (QuoteWerks MVP).

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

The number of clients I have has significantly grown, both in the UK and the US. This has meant I’ve had to get clever at how I keep in touch with them to ensure that they’re still happy with the software. This has included regular mail outs with surveys and new feature details. I often use YouTube to link to videos of new features so they can see them in action, as opposed to just reading about them.

The growth of US-based clients has meant needing to work occasionally into the evening to virtually ‘meet’ with them during their office hours.

In terms of staying the same, the needs of businesses that could use my solution are still the same. What has always proved difficult, and still does, is making businesses aware that software like mine exists and being able to make them aware of why they need it.

With my software being bought in US Dollars, the exchange rate changes has increased the price of my software by about 20%, most of which I’ve had to pass on to clients. This has created one or two slightly uncomfortable phone calls with existing clients.

There are several services I’ve implemented such as using Moneypenny to answer calls when I’m unavailable. This was recommended to me by a client, as they use the service as well. For £30 a month, any calls I can’t take don’t go through to voicemail but they get to speak to a real person that will advise my status (I can put comments such as, out of the office today, will return their call when I’m available at 1600). This gives a much more professional view of the company and people often comment “I’ve left a message with your colleague”.

All my finance/tax/payslip tasks are also outsourced using March Mutual, another recommendation from a client. This means that at the end of the month, having logged all my invoices/expenses and when payments have been received, I get a payslip telling me how much money I can take out from the business and what needs to be set aside for things like Vat and Corporation Tax.

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

Saying “no” is still something I’m quite bad at.

When I had a feeling that a client wasn’t right for the solution, or they wanted a scope to include X and Y for a price of A; there have been a couple of occasions where I, with hindsight, should have said no or stood my ground.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Outsource those jobs you don’t enjoy (or aren’t very good at!)

Services like Moneypenny, March Mutual and Fiverr are worth their weight in gold and free up time for me to spend on other areas of the business.

If you have a good client, and your solutions fit nicely, try and replicate that client. It might be a certain business type, for example. I would say about 60% of my clients are IT focused companies. Working with those businesses has increased my knowledge of that sector and I give a good impression to prospects in that sector, as I can ‘talk their language’.

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

I’d hope that employee number one would be on board and the business will have seen some growth, both in terms of clients and revenue.

He’s done so well, hasn’t he! I am particularly impressed at Matt’s organisation of his life and business; phone calls are very important to a business like his and it’s great that he’s found a seamless solution to that and his financial arrangements. Well done to him!

Matt Rose’s website is at www.prestigequoting.com and you can email him or phone him on 07490 096232

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 April 8, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Sophie Playle

Small business chat update – Sophie Playle

Welcome to an update with  Sophie Playle from Liminal Pages,  We first met Sophie in December 2013, at which point she’d only been going for eight months, Sophie updated us on how she was getting on in January 2015 and again in March 2016, where this was her plan: “I’ve decided that I’d like to expand the Liminal Pages team. Ideally, I’d love to work with a few excellent editors who share a similar work ethic. And while others take on more of the editorial work, I’ll be able to fully immerse myself in marketing and growing my business while also developing and running more courses. For the first time ever, I feel very clear about the direction I want to take my business. Knowing me, though, this time next year I’ll have done something completely different!” So, did she do what she hoped to do, or change her mind as she thought she’d do? Read on to find out …

Hello again, Sophie! So, the big question: Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

As I predicted in last year’s chat, I changed my mind about where I wanted to take my business – which was to build a team of editors so I could take on fewer projects myself. I don’t feel bad about this, though. Having the flexibility to change my mind is one of the best things about running my own business.

I thought long and hard about whether I really wanted to start building a team, and it was an idea I kept at the forefront of my mind while I attended the Society for Editors and Proofreaders’ conference in September – I chose sessions that were all about expanding and developing your business.

After the conference, I felt I better understood the logistics of managing an editorial team – but then I crunched the numbers. And I realised that I wasn’t currently getting the volume of enquiries I would need to make it work for me financially. I would need at least ten times the number of clients for my percentage to add up to a reasonable salary, and that just wasn’t going to happen. I was getting too ahead of myself.

Not only that, but I realised I relish the personal connection I make with my clients. If I were going to have editors representing my brand, they would need to provide the highest quality work and match my values. I’m not going to rush into this. I need to be patient and let this branch of my business grow organically.

Other than expanding my team, my other goal was to create and run more courses – and this is something I’ve achieved. Back when we last spoke, I had one available course – Conquer Your Novel, which is all about novel writing, funnily enough. That’s been on the back burner for a while, though – it wasn’t where I wanted it to be, so I’ve been letting it lie while I focus on other projects. I plan to revive it soon, though, now I have a better idea of what it should look like.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Last year, I created a new course in collaboration with my good friend and talented business owner Karen Marston. It’s called Start Fiction Editing and teaches editors how to set up and run a fiction editing business. I ran it twice last year and both times it sold out.

The idea for the course came about when I was talking to Karen about adding editors to my team. I complained that though there were lots of copy-editing training courses out there, there wasn’t a single one that taught all the specific lessons I wanted a new editor to learn – such as how to edit fiction while respecting the author’s voice, how to use Track Changes and query using comments in Word, how to use time tracking to set rates that work for the individual … Karen suggested I create the course, and so I did. Together, we expanded the premise so it would help new editors set up their businesses (rather than just teach editors how to work for me!), making it useful to a wider audience.

Aaaand I’m currently in the middle of creating a new course called Developmental Editing: Fiction Theory. I’ve realised that I love talking about the mechanics and business of editing perhaps more than I like editing itself – so I’m dipping my toes in editorial training, and I’m enjoying it.

In terms of what’s stayed the same, I’m still editing novels, though slightly fewer than before since I’ve started building and running online courses.

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

This is an interesting question to ponder because one thing I’ve learned over the years is that we have to go through our own experiences to learn our own lessons. I’m not sure if present-me could travel back in time and give past-me a piece of advice that would be helpful – because I wouldn’t have gone through the process of learning the value of that advice. And that’s what matters most.

Perhaps, then, what I’ve learned is that I can read business books and blog posts and listen to others give me advice until my ears fall off, but that can only take me so far. Advice can be incredibly valuable, but it can also become overwhelming, which is something I touched on in last year’s post. However, it’s only through experiencing the particular challenges of our own businesses – through the prism of our own personalities – that we can learn the most valuable lessons.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I think it’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game. I’ve found myself looking at other people’s businesses and then creating an amalgamation of them in my mind that becomes this grand idea of what a successful editorial business ‘should’ look like – then I measure my business against it and either feel like a failure or feel anxious about branching out in a way that doesn’t fit the mould.

Obviously, this is absurd. It leads back to what I was saying at the start of this post: as business owners, we have the power to be flexible. Just like a blank page can seem paralysing to a writer, this idea – that we can build our businesses however we want – can be scary, and so we play it safe and follow convention. But we don’t have to. It’s not even about taking risks – it’s just about thinking outside the box a little, and not comparing our businesses to others that aren’t directly comparable anyway.

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

This time around, I’m not going to make any grand statements or plans. I’m going to get my head down and continue doing what I’m doing – providing editorial services to authors and online training to editors – and see where it gets me. I share my most personal thoughts on being an editorial business owner in my Liminal Letters, which I send out roughly every fortnight, so if anyone wants to keep up with my journey, feel free to subscribe!

Sophie’s a good and generous colleague to have – she contributed a guest post to this blog back in January, sharing her experience and support on how to move into fiction editing if you want to do it and she’s one of my recommended editors for fiction work. I love how she really thinks about what she’s doing and, indeed, the answers to my questions, and can’t wait to see what she gets up to this year!

Visit Sophie at her Liminal Pages website: http://liminalpages.com or find her on Twitter or Facebook!
Facebook:

Sophie’s rebranded website is at liminalpages.com and that novel-writing course can be found here: Conquer Your Novel

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 books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Paul Alborough / Professor Elemental

Small business chat update – Paul Alborough / Professor Elemental

Hooray – it’s update time with the rather marvellous chap, Paul Alborough, aka Professor Elemental. I know he’s been at Crufts recently, helping out with a dog charity, so it seems a good time to post this update! Although I first met Paul back in the 1990s, we first met him in this context in February 2013, catching up in February 2014 and February 2015 and most recently in March 2016. At that point, this was his plan for the upcoming year: “I will probably keep things slightly more simple this year overall. In amongst the busiest year of shows yet, I’d like to try to diversify – try more writing and some voice work beyond the Professor. I still love life on the road, but it might be nice to see what I can achieve without leaving my house.” So, did he actually leave his house, or did he spend the year making diagrams in his lair? Read on to find out …

Hello again, Paul! Splendid to “see” you again in Libro Towers. So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Slightly ahead of where I’d hoped to be, which is nice. Something I’ve started doing (and highly recommend) is making a huge spider diagram of all you want to achieve and how you are going to get it done – then hanging it on your wall for the year ahead. It worked a treat for 2016!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

One big change has been introducing Patreon, which is a way that fans can support you to keep creating art on a monthly basis. It fits my fanbase and work rate perfectly and has been a lovely way to connect with listeners, while providing a way to create more ambitious projects.

I’ve also grouped shows together in two ‘tours’ and ringfenced off certain months, so we are actually able to take family holidays this year. It has made the world of difference.

Oh and the voiceover work I’d been aiming for is taking off. Usually some variation of the Professor character, but I am not complaining. There’s also a podcast which I’ve recorded with a great cast and a new novel in the works, so plenty to keep me busy. In amongst that, things remain consistent – weird adventures, silly songs and a solid underpinning of relentless administration.

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

Five important things I have learnt in 2016:

1. Plan out your year ahead and how you are going to achieve your plans in various stages. Tick off each thing so you feel like you are progressing.

2. Speak about things you want to do in the present, rather than future tense; ‘I *am* doing more voice work’ rather than ‘I would *like* to do more voice work.’ Sounds a bit silly but it works wonders.

3. When things are going well, don’t get too cocky. The moment you think you are doing well, you might have three terrible shows in a row. And I mean really bad. The sort of shows that make you want to have a little cry in a darkened room afterwards.

4. Always work with people whose company you enjoy, that way, no matter what the result – the work will have been worth it.

5. Every live show is made better by the presence of a sword swallower, team of Cambodian breakdancers, fire breather or all three.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Make sure you get plenty of sleep. And cake. Regularly eat cake in bed to be as efficient as possible.

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

I have a really big project that I want to complete this year. I want to use a new album as a springboard into making a creative hub where people can share ideas and tips (much as you are doing now I guess). Plus I have a plan to use some of that to fund charities. It’s very ambitious, but achievable with the help of friends and collaborators. We’ll see how I managed it next year. 🙂

“Weird adventures, silly songs and a solid underpinning of relentless administration” – I love it! You can always see from Paul’s interviews that although he’s immensely creative and has so many avenues that he’s going down at the same time, he still supports that with good, solid, sometimes boring organisation. You really can’t have one without the other, and I see through these interview series that this is something our creative friends have to take on board. I think having had experience in other fields helps here, for all of us – I certainly wouldn’t be as successful as I am if I hadn’t learned to be a good administrator first. So good luck to Paul with his new ventures! It’s interesting to see Patreon is working for him, by the way – this is a crowdfunding programme, a bit like KickStarter but with a regular payment rather than an one-off, which gives the subscriber access to special and exclusive material. However, you do have to have an audience in the first place to do really well with it – something Paul obviously has in oodles. I can’t wait to see what he gets up to in the next year!

Here’s Paul’s Professor Elemental Patreon page, and do pop and have a look at his website, www.professorelemental.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter, of course.

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 books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat – Suz West and Alan West

Small business chat – Suz West and Alan West

I met Suz West through the wonder that is parkrun (a free, timed 5k run that happens every Saturday morning in locations all over the UK and, indeed, the world) but I hadn’t realised she ran her own business, SB Pet Sitting Service, until recently. Although obviously she keeps fit with dog walking, too, running is a really great activity for the self-employed person, as you can fit it in any time, anywhere, you just need your trainers and a bit of kit. I certainly wouldn’t be without it. Anyway, Suz and Alan have a well-established business, but of course they have learning points to share and still have plans for developing the business, as any sensible business owner would. Let’s meet Suz and Alan!

Hello, Suz and Alan, and welcome to Small Business Chat! First things first: what’s your business called? When did you set it up?

Hello! It’s called SB Pet sitting Service and I set up in 2005.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I had worked with animals since I left school, I always worked with rescue animals, working with RSPCA and Battersea Dogs Home. I moved back to Birmingham after working for the RSPCA in South Wales. I really wanted to still work with animals but in a different way. I felt the time was right to set up and see where it would lead (no pun intended).

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

My background is in Animal welfare and it gives me great pleasure seeing those pets who have been through a tough past being in loving caring homes.

Had you run your own business before?

No.

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 started off part time and also worked in retail part time. I worked in shop work in the evening so I was available for dog walking.

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

That things don’t happen overnight. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is patience, persistence and hard work all pay off.

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

Always believe in yourself and what you are doing.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Taken breaks and time out when it was needed. This is a lesson I have learnt: self care is important. Probably the hardest lesson to learn.

What are you glad you did?

I’m glad I never gave up!

What’s your top business tip?

Look after your customers, they are the important ones. Don’t forget the clients you have by trying so hard to get new ones, as chances are, new clients will come your way from happy clients. That is what I find.

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

SB Pet Sitting has grown since I started out, with my partner also working in the business, as there was too much work for one person. I have, since starting this business, become a qualified counsellor. I offer a pet bereavement counselling service too.

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

We are working on promoting our cat feeding and my Pet Bereavement Counselling Service. Our dog walking side I hope will stay about the same as we offer a unique one-to-one dog walking experience.

I completely and utterly agree with Suz and Alan’s top tip. I quite often ask new enquirers to wait for quotations, etc. until I’ve finished the job in hand, and always put my existing clients first. And I haven’t had to advertise or do a huge amount of marketing (apart from maintaining this blog), because the vast majority of my work comes through recommendations and word of mouth. I’m excited to feature this lovely small business and thank them for their insights!

You can find out more about SB Pet Sitting Services on their website www.sb-petsitting.co.uk, email them or call them on 0121 628 8648.

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 March 4, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Jane Badger

Small business chat update – Jane Badger

We’re welcoming the lovely Jane Badger from Jane Badger proofreading and editing (she’s also a writer) to the series again today. We first met Jane in November 2013 and updated ourselves on her new business venture in December 2014 when she’d launched her editing business full time. When we updated again in January 2016 and I asked her where she wanted to be by now, she replied, “Still growing, I hope”. Short and to the point, then! Let’s see how she’s doing now. 

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

Pretty much. Growth has been unspectacular, but growth there has been — at least on the proofreading and editing side. My regular clients are all still sending me work, and the fact they are expanding is helping me too.

I followed through on my plan to look at my continuing profession development, and took a series of courses run by the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders). That meant I could upgrade my membership of the SfEP to intermediate level, which was very satisfying!

Writing is in an in between state. Writing anything has been difficult, as the increasing volume of paid work means it is difficult to devote the time to it that it needs. However, I’ve found an interest in railways that surprised me: I haven’t become a train spotter, but have started putting some pieces together on the horses who worked on the railway, and the people who worked with them. One blog piece, on women, railway horses and the war, hit a spark, and was my most successful blog piece of the year.

I have also managed to complete a couple of smaller research projects that I’d been wanting to look at: horse stories published during World War II, and the horse stories published by Puffin books. The World War II project I did for a conference on girl’s fiction. I’d just about managed to retain my knowledge of how to present things from when I used to teach, so it went reasonably well.

On the academic front, I was also part of a conference run by the University of Cambridge on horse stories: Pony Tales: Writing the Equine. That was an excellent event, where KM Peyton (author of the Flambards series) and Meg Rosoff (Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner 2016) spoke.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Speaking at conferences was another of those things that I had thought were well behind me, so it was good that those opportunities came up.

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

I’ve learned to say no to clients! I recently turned down a large and lucrative book edit because I felt the book was not yet in a state where it could be edited. I’ve also become better at recognising red flags for when clients might prove tricky: for example, a prospective new client initially said they were happy to wait for me to be able to fit their work in, but when they sent their test edit chapter, it very soon became obvious that waiting for me was precisely not what they were prepared to do. I politely declined the opportunity of working with them.

At last, I managed to go to a local networking event where I met actual people rather than communicating over the internet. My plan is to carry on with local networking now that I have faced the fear and done it. One really useful thing that emerged from the event is that it’s not just about getting business for yourself, but also about looking out for the interests of everyone in the room.

I’ve also set up a backup for when I can’t take work on, for whatever reason, and that’s worked well. I find it does give clients more faith in you if they know you can recommend someone else who is as good as (or better!) than you.

What do I wish I’d known a year ago?

I am always learning, and clients always provide something new for you to learn about. Fortunately, I am a member of a couple of internet-based groups who are very good at providing support and help if you have a problem.

What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?

If you are an introvert, what do you find helps you to get out there and network?

Any more hints and tips for people?

Get out there and look for support and help in whatever form it comes, whether it’s local business networking groups, or internet-based groups.

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

I’m hoping to have some local clients.

The SfEP courses I did were really worthwhile, and my plan is to work on upgrading to advanced membership through doing more training courses, looking in particular at developing my editing skills.

I will get the rights back to Heroines on Horseback, my book on pony books, later this year, so am investigating how I’m going to proceed with that. Whatever I do, it will be a steep learning curve, so I’m looking forward to that. The Society of Authors runs workshops on e-book publishing, so I’m planning on doing one of those.

Fabulous progress from Jane here. To pick up on a couple of points, it’s SO important to learn to say no – and so difficult. When you’ve only been going a few years, you tend to say yes to everything, just in case it all goes away. But saying no is important – both for you and the client, if you’re not going to be a good fit – and listening to that gut feeling is also vital. In addition, having a back-up is, in my opinion, vital. I have a list of people (including Jane!) who I refer clients on to if it’s not a good fit or I can’t get them into the schedule, and have a couple of people who cover my work in case of illness or holiday. Well done, Jane, and I’ll look forward to seeing how you get on this year.

Find Jane’s website at janebadger.com

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 February 4, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business update – Yvonne Donald

Small business update – Yvonne Donald
I’m very pleased to be saying hello again to the lovely Yvonne Donald from delicious cake company, Kake and Cupkakery. Yvonne’s first interview was in September 2012, and we had catch-ups in in October 2013 and then November 2014. and most recently January 2016. What I love about Yvonne is that she’s always trying something new and always then assessing whether that was a good idea – so often we either think about new things but don’t do them, or we try something out but forget to take a good, hard look at the consequences for our business. In January last year, Yvonne’s plan was this: “In another years’ time I think the main goal is to take a massive step forward with Kake and Cupkakery being my full-time job. All the other times when I thought I was ready, I really wasn’t, but now I feel more established as a business and a little local brand, the winds of change are beckoning to help me sail on out to my next adventure”. So, let’s see how she’s getting on!

Hello, Yvonne, it’s lovely to chat with you again. Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
Well, I felt I was making positive moves with the business in having a store front which was the main goal for me to run kake and cupkakery as my full-time job, and 2016 seemed the perfect time after a very busy year for me in the world of cake, I decided the time was right to make a serious move towards fulfilling my goal of owning a shop front, even viewing a property local to me and looking into gaining some extra financial support through a local organisation, but in the first couple of months of 2016 there was an unexpected illness in the family that threw us all. Thankfully, everything is fine and dandy now, I’m very happy to say, but it was a stressful time that threw my concentration and focus and  made me re-evaluate my aims and goals, it sounds doom and gloom, but it really wasn’t: if anything it was a  bit of an epiphany really, and a little sign for me to focus on the things that are truly important and think about how I want to live my life and run my business in the future.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

My online presence has changed massively, so much so that it has made me reassess my business model from having a store front coffee shop style bakery to rethinking and looking into having a business unit instead to run the online business from, or even build upon my home to keep overheads as low as possible, which for me has always been an issue with running a storefront like it is for any business. With every step of my business, it has dictated where it was going. I would like to think it was me guiding it but it really isn’t, when demand grows for a certain item that I offer I tend to follow my gut and give it more focus and that’s one of the reasons (as mentioned in my previous update) I decided not to do wholesale orders to coffee shops any more, as it just didn’t feel right for me or the direction of the business.

I have continued to listen to my customers new and old, who seem to like the fact they can order cakes online and have cupcakes/celebration cakes delivered to their door or sent to friends or family, all done virtually, saving them time in having to go to a store to order or collect from a shop.

This is something I have realised more than ever in 2016, so because of this I decided to give the website a tweak and  researched a little about SEO and meta tags and got some nifty advice from someone I met at a networking event to make my website show earlier in Google searches.

In May I had one of my own cupcake recipes (blackberry Mojito) featured in a national baking magazine, to say I was over the moon was an understatement and then to top it off I was featured within the Birmingham Mail online as one of the best places to buy cupcakes in Birmingham, I’m still smiling about that as I type, as one of my ambitions was always to make one of these type of list, and after 5 years of hard work my business did, which in turn really helped raise my online profile which has me now gaining more orders via my website. I always get a little thrill when I get a form submission from my website for orders (simple pleasures).

Because of increased web orders, members of my family deliver orders for me when I’m not able, but I need to look into making my delivery and admin more streamlined and efficient so am going to get one of my sisters to help with that.

My blog called Adventures in Kakeland is still going and I’ve added a feature called “Meet the Baker” ,which was inspired by you Liz and your business updates. I basically send out questions to other cake business and bakers who can shout about what they do, the products they use and issues that we all share and feature them on my blog. I’ll be starting it up again for 2017 with a new batch of bakers. This helps me to create blog content which is linked to my business and will help increase web presence.

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

To not equate my vision of success with someone else’s vision of success.

Any more hints and tips for people?

  • If you have a website, work on keeping it updated with fresh content and make it as user friendly as possible
  • Think about writing a blog, you never know, you could become an influencer
  • Network and always seek out opportunities that will help raise the profile of your business
  • Listen to your customers: we can get so romantic about doing things that we want to do rather than what the customers want
  • Always let the customer be your focus and always try to add a little value or exceed their expectations
  • Get some balance in your life: this has been my number one tip with each of my updates as I’ve learned the hard way
  • We are all time poor and time is precious, so anything you can do to save someone (a customer) time is a win-win situation
  • Look at other industries as well as your own to see what innovations are taking place, I’m a little bit inspired by how Uber and Air bnb have dominated the market in what are pretty much traditional industries with the main focus I believe as saving (us) the consumer time in making booking a taxi or accommodation, just a click of an app away

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

What time-saving online tool or app would you recommend for other small business users?

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

After all this time I finally realise my main priority is to see kake and cupkakery grow and flourish whether that’s online, through a store front or both.

So for the year ahead I want this to be my main focus as I see Kake and Cupkakery as a brand which I would like to become stronger within the local community and Birmingham as a whole.

I want to have more of a presence amongst the wedding market as I still have a little concept that I haven’t given my full attention to.

And maybe look into having an app, as we all have mobiles and I think an app alongside my website might be a good idea to save customers even more time and have ease of access for ordering.. So if any fellow small techy businesses reading this can help with this, I would love to hear from you: I’m happy to give you cake

I love Yvonne’s learning points above and the time and trouble she takes to share them with us. Having a blog is certainly key: giving the search engines something that’s regularly updated means they are more likely to show your results high in the list and a blog is the easiest way to do this. I can’t wait to see what Yvonne does in the coming year!

Website: www.kakeandcupkakery.co.uk and blog Adventures in Kakeland
Twitter @Cupkakery
Instagram@KakeandCupkakery
Phone: 07837 876604
 
 

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