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Small business chat update – Paul Alborough / Professor Elemental

Small business chat update – Paul Alborough / Professor Elemental

My old friend Paul is, amazingly enough, Professor Elemental. and I think of him whenever I go to Moorgate Overground as we used to get the train together to work, him writing lyrics on an A4 pad, me reading, I presume. Now he’s got a brand, records, comics, a tea brand, a novel and more. I persuaded him to join this series in February 2013, catching up in February 2014 and February 2015, March 2016, March 2017, and March 2018 (it’s completely my fault that this one has scooted through the year!) – and his interviews have been some of the most entertaining I’ve done so do have a click through the past ones if you have the time! When I asked the Prof where he wanted to be by now back in March last year, he replied, “Is it possible to maintain a small business without expanding and ruining what made it good or shrinking so it becomes untenable? Can a creative business remain contented without losing its spark? Why didn’t I spend the previous 5 years taking the train to shows instead of the car? Find out the answers to these questions and probably less in exactly 365 days’ time … “ So, let’s find out those answers, 365 plus a few days later!

Hello Paul, and I’m adding your bonus paragraphs in here first because you are always entertaining!

Hmmmmm. Well. I mean, I’m not sure I learned that much in the last year. Although my aim was largely to see if I could do less work for the same results, which hasn’t worked out at all. Just by virtue of saying an enthusiastic YES to talented people who have offered to work with me, I’m doing more than ever. But it’s pretty fun stuff, so I am not complaining.

So apart from being able to answer the question of whether or not it’s possible to stay contented (Spoiler alert: it is), it’s quite possible that my answers will be less help than ever this year.

The big question then: Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Not at all. I’d aimed to find a sweet spot between ‘successul creative business’ and ‘semi retired man’ and this has not panned out in the slightest. On the other hand, I am riding a wave of more exciting creative projects than I ever thought possible, so semi retirement will have to wait.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Still performing in more shows than you could shake a stick at, while juggling a plethora of Professor projects across every conceivable media. It’s all much the same sort of thing, except I’ve moved up a gear and I’m also trying to find ways for my work to do more good (via charity projects and the like)

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

Very little. If anything I think I might have unlearned some stuff. There’s every chance that I am regressing and by the time we do this in a decade I will just be uttering vowel sounds and grunting.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Writing books takes a lot longer than you think, boylesque can show you things you never wanted to see, overconfidence leads to a terrible live show, libraries are awesome (and so are the people who work in them), hackers and coders run the world, never drink with a German elf, Dutch fairies can be surprisingly strict, Portuguese Steampunks are as lovely as everywhere else, Patreon is a creative person’s best friend, Swansea has some really good tea shops, Hip Hop is still the best genre of any music and never underestimate the value of 8 hours’ sleep on your body and mind.

Love these, as always! And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

This year has been about starting work on so many things- so next year, I’d love to see some of those things come to fruition. From an animated cartoon, to several books, there are so many projects I cant wait to finish. And music too, I really should make some more of that.

I do always love the Prof’s hints and tips and I hope you’ve all taken careful note! What a wonderful career to follow, and of course doing good as he goes, too. I’m privileged to know this chap and be able to share his chap hop with a bit more of the world.

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. His School of Whimsy album is out now, and do search for him on YouTube, too, to get the flavour of his wonderful videos.

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 June 8, 2019 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business update – Yvonne Donald

Small business update – Yvonne Donald

I’m thrilled to say it’s hello again to Yvonne Donald from the rather marvellous 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, January 2016, January 2017 and March 2018. Yvonne is still going strong, being careful in what she does and now carving out some essential free time for herself, something that small business owners find it very hard to do! When we last spoke, this was Yvonne’s plan for the year: “Bigger and better so that hopefully I can seriously make a move to work full-time in the business. This business is self-evolving – I plan but things never go to plan so I set myself small goals. Within the next year ideally I want or rather need a bigger space to work, so I think for this year I either need to think of extending or looking for a separate kitchen/workshop space, but I will continue to seek out opportunities and increase sales even more.” So, is that what panned out?

Hello, Yvonne, great to chat with you again. Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

My first thought was what have I done in 2018 but when I look back it wasn’t too bad!
I think in all reality yes, I am where I thought I’d be. I decided that as much as it would be nice to work in my biz full time and have a store front, the level of uncertainty, especially with Brexit looming, makes me twitchy as well as a few cake makers deciding to cease their business, so I’m still doing my FT job but now I cap cake orders to make sure everything is manageable.In other words, I’m not being a busy fool because my pricing is right, so fewer cake orders but the same if not more income from the cakes I do, because I value my skills and time and so do my lovely customers My biz runs very well online, I’ve done a lot of SEO work on my website and so running the biz online is how it will stay for now.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Early 2018 I analysed my biz and looked at all aspects of the business, especially pricing. My prices have increased across the board due to price increases on food and non food products. It had to be done: I lost 1 or 2 customers but gained more than expected.

I’ve become even  stricter in my processes: I now have a dedicated day for admin and non-negotiable days off which is fab, also contact times so I now have even clearer boundaries in running my biz and having some downtime.

Some of my product lines have changed due to changes in trends and I’m getting more requests for gluten free and vegan which is a sign of the times and emerging trends. One of these is for fewer sugar paste cakes, more buttercream cakes (who knew!).

My brand is still growing and running itself (if that makes sense). I’ve got myself a little merchandise going on which increases my brand awareness, which is great after the rebrand.

My most exciting times were that I was asked to speak on BBC Radio West Midlands discussing black women in business with two other panellists, wrote two articles for Baker Magazine, and won another award from Jacqueline Gold, so regarding exposure it wasn’t a bad year!

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

I continue with my mantra of saying yes to things and figuring it out later. I was commissioned to bake 850 cupcakes for a cocktail bar launch in Brum. My kitchen isn’t the biggest but I sought out a kitchen to bake in and I managed to deliver – so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Any more hints and tips for people?

* If you have a website, work on your SEO, as it helps so much in helping customers to find you [here’s an article I wrote on SEO that might help – Liz].

* Don’t think increasing prices necessarily means losing customers: those that value you will stay and are your customers, those that don’t are not.

* Seek out those opportunities, Twitter is great for this so always put yourself forward and challenge yourself.

* Get strict with your time: I’ve sacrificed so much but now with firm boundaries I feel more in control. After all, we all deserve some downtime.

* Understand your niche and follow your own path, don’t always feel you have to do what everyone else does. If certain products or services don’t work or you don’t like doing them don’t be afraid to let them go and switch focus.

* Ask for help. My sister and nephew have been great in helping with deliveries and admin and saved me so much time.

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

To keep the brand awareness strong .To keep offering fab cake, maintain a strong customer base, increase sales and maybe collaborate with similar small business and overall continue to enjoy and be happy in what I do.

I try to plan but nothing goes to plan so let’s just see where my destiny takes me!

I’m so impressed by Yvonne’s tenacity and ability to keep those boundaries and manage her time. It’s wonderful to see her cake brand going from strength to strength and watching her tread that line between following ALL the trends and keeping to what she excels at. Best of luck for the next year!

Twitter @Cupkakery
Phone: 07837 876604
 

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Small business chat update – Matt Rose

Small business chat update – Matt Rose

It’s small business chat update time and it’s always interesting featuring my friend Gill’s clever and enterprising son, Matt Rose of Prestige Quoting Limited. I first interviewed Matt in April 2016, when he’d just set up in business. We then updated things in April 2017 and March 2018 (he’d just had some good news then so I did it early) and here we are again, checking whether he is indeed where he hoped he’d be by now, which was … “Hopefully maintaining steady state. With my first baby on the way, I’m not quite sure what to expect and how this will impact my business. With my Wife able to take a year in maternity leave and supportive grandparents, I’m hoping the business won’t be affected too much. A lot of my clients have been able to give advice and, due to my good relationship with them, will be very understanding if I can’t reply in the timeframes they’re accustomed to. I think a key is to set expectations from the outset.”

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

I’m pleased to say that the business is still going and has maintained steady state from the previous 12 months. This means being able to support my family, maintain a comfortable lifestyle and allow Loraine (my wife) to take a full year off work.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Well, running a small business can often lead to a fair amount of give and take. With my young boy now on the scene, managing client expectations prior to his arrival was something I felt was very important. I’m fortunate in that a lot of the business owners I work with already have children and totally understood my scenario and were very understanding indeed.

For 3 days a week, I’m working away from my home office. This has proven to increase my productivity and mean that, for those 3 days at least, I’m not tempted to work into the evening.

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

Being an owner of a small business (it’s still just me, and I don’t have plans/desires for that to change), managing client expectations is even more important than I thought.

By setting an appropriate out of office response, having a 3rd party call handler (I use Moneypenny) I had almost no issue with my limited availability post Jude’s birth.

I did have one client raise a bit of a fuss when I didn’t answer the phone the day after Jude’s arrival. I must confess in that I wasn’t too unhappy to see them decide to work with another company going forward. It certainly showed it was time to reassess that relationship.

Any more hints and tips for people? 

I’ve begun actively asking for testimonials/case studies post completion of a project. This gives me areas to think about for improvement and also, often, gives the opportunity to celebrate what you’ve brought to a client.

It’s interesting to get the perception of your work from a client’s point of view and can help guide any changes you may need to make.

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

As we continue to adjust to family life and new ways of working, my ‘target’ is to continue to maintain the level of business as the previous 12 months.

I’m so glad things have worked so well for Matt and it’s refreshing to read about a man’s work-life balance when a baby comes along, as it’s much more common for women to be asked about this. His plan for working outside the home office three days a week is a great one – even with “only” a house to run, I find myself interrupted by deliveries and laundry organising some days and would love to be spirited to another place! And asking for testimonials is a great idea, and something to use to attract new customers, as well. Are you a chap who runs a business from home and how did you cope with childcare arrangements?

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 May 25, 2019 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Happy birthday to me! (or, rather, to my business)

Happy birthday to me! (or, rather, to my business)

Although I issued my first invoice in August 2009 (and so will be celebrating in August, too), when I set up as self-employed, I matched my financial years to the UK’s financial years, to make everything easier, and so Libro officially started in April 2009. I cannot believe I’ve been going ten years, though – that astounds me.

Originally, after a lot of experience working on various types of texts through my working life (see About Me for more information), I was approached by one of my colleagues at the university library where I worked to see if I could edit their student’s Master’s dissertation. I said yes, did it, and instigated a string of lovely referrals. For the rest of that year, I mainly worked on dissertations for people whose English wasn’t their first language (I still do that today, although I work on more PhDs now).

I was lucky enough to have a fairly routine job and flexitime, so with a lot of time management and hard work, no holidays and an understanding then-boyfriend (now-husband), I worked part time editing and full time in the library through 2010. Then in 2011 I made the decision to go part time at the day job, after making sure I was replacing my wages with my self-employed income. I came off the Certificate of Low Earnings (which lets people who don’t earn much from their self-employment not pay national insurance: something I only did because I was paying NI through my PAYE in the job). Later that year I dropped a second day of the day job and in November 2011 I resigned, starting full-time self-employment in January 2012 (at which point I got jury service for the first two weeks of January!).

It’s been a lovely part of my working life and one I hope never to leave. I have a reasonable amount of flexibility, working alone at home (but with lots of friends a Facebook messenger message or “meet me at the cafe!” request away). My earnings went up and then stabilised, I had a good year last year and I’m aiming to work a bit less this year to retain my flexibility. I’m grateful to my lovely clients, some of whom have been with me almost from the very beginning, and I now edit, proofread, localise and transcribe, so I have a lovely variety of work, from helping academics record the voices of their interviewees to sorting out philosophers’ words and making sure British people understand American companies. Here’s to the next ten years!

And to celebrate, I added two chunks to my Kiva portfolio and, with the repayments I had sitting in my account, made three loans to three entrepreneurial women around the globe:

  • loan Rosa
    Honiara, Solomon Islands

    A loan helps to buy bags of rice, biscuits, soft drinks, and noodles for her canteen (general store) business.

    $25.00

  • loan Jivtiben
    Kutch, India

    A loan helps to purchase kurtas, sarees, leggings, etc., to expand her clothing business.

    $25.00

  • loan Mwanaisha
    Makumbusho-Dar es salaam, Tanzania

    A loan helps to add stock of braids, weaves, earrings, necklaces, hair food, hair pegs, and hair treatments.

    $25.00

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2019 in Business, Celebration

 

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When you see businesses being criticised for not being prepared for Brexit, this is why some of us are not prepared for Brexit

So having had lots of emails telling me how to export goods to the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit, I tried once again to find out what happens to tax arrangements for people who export services. I’m by no means the only UK person in this situation. Please note I do not expect them to have all the answers, however it would be nice to know if this issue has been discussed, what to do if there’s no deal, etc. I think I am right to want to know how to conduct my business after Brexit, especially given the government, etc. reports detailing the horror of companies NOT being prepared! (Financial Times reports, for example)

Here is my somewhat Kafkaesque conversation over live chat with a representative of HMRC (I checked and it is OK to share this, see below).

[Note, I seem rude to start without saying hello but you’re told to enter your question first!]

LIZ DEXTER: Are the reciprocal tax arrangements between the EU and UK going to continue?
Additional detail: I provide services to EU clients. Currently, I only need state I pay self-assessment taxes to HMRC in the UK, or occasionally need to provide my UTR to prove this, in order for companies to pay me my full invoice and not tax me at source. However, some countries insist on further
paperwork (e.g. a client in Lithuania asked me to get an HMRC employee to sign a letter for them stating I paid tax in the UK). Is this situation being
monitored over the time of Brexit and how can I find out what’s happening?

HMRC: Good afternoon

LIZ DEXTER: Note: I have signed up for all the email alerts, but they are solely about companies that export and import goods, not services. There’s nothing I can find having read the WTO rules which we revert to with a no-deal Brexit. And hello.

HMRC: There is no further information I can give you regarding leaving the EU other than what’s available on gov.uk

LIZ DEXTER: There’s no information on gov.uk about this specific situation that I can find. Can you point me towards any information for exporters of services, not goods, please?
The reason I ask this is that the Ease of Doing Business if I have to get an HMRC employee to sign a paper for every client I had will badly adversely affect my business (and the tax I’ll pay in the UK!).

HMRC: Give me a moment whilst a check my guidance.

LIZ DEXTER: OK thank you.

HMRC: I don’t have any guidance I can give you. It just tells me to direct you to guidance published on gov.uk

LIZ DEXTER: Which doesn’t have anything to do with exporting services at all. OK it’s not your fault but can you please feed back that there are so many people in my position, I have EU customers asking me how they’re going to deal with me post-Brexit, whether they can continue to use my services. It’s embarrassing and very stressful. Or HOW they can continue to use my services.

LIZ DEXTER: Is it permissible to share my download of this chat with other self-employed people or my clients?

HMRC: I will feed that back. Sorry but at this time we don’t have the information you require.

HMRC: Yes that’s fine.

LIZ DEXTER:  Thank you. And I appreciate your help and that
you’ve done all you can.

REFERENCE: Record of your HMRC webchat [url redacted, can be provided upon request]

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2019 in Brexit, Business

 

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Small business chat update – Nicky Lloyd Greame

Small business chat update – Nicky Lloyd Greame

It’s a big 2019 welcome to Nicky Lloyd Greame from business coaches and mentors People and Potential, who we met first in July 2014. and caught up with in September 2015, September 2016. and January 2018. When I asked her then where she wanted to be now, she replied, “To be honest, similar to where I am now but with a more consistent client base. More training being delivered and more schools as clients. I just want to help more people, especially children.” How’s she getting on? Let’s see!

Hello again, Nicky, and thanks for sharing your progress with us again. So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

In many ways yes, and in others no – but I find that when you work for yourself that’s often the way – there’s rarely a straight clear road to success and that’s part of the excitement!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

The Stress Specialist as a brand is most definitely on the map now. I am doing much more corporate work in addition to 1:1 coaching and my business model has expanded more than I could even imagine. I have online courses (live coaching using FB lives), an active FB group, companies are using me as an ongoing resource rather than just to deliver training. Its amazing 🙂

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

How to harness the power of LinkedIn… this has made such a huge difference in my business this year. And I’ve also learned that I LOVE being on stage talking about mental health and stress and how everyone can help themselves just by learning a bit more. Its transformational.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Surround yourself with people who believe in you – I’ve been working with a business coach this year and along with my other coach and supporting friends and family – they have not only helped lift me but (and equally as important) they have been there to make sure I recognise and reward my successes.

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

For the first time ever I see the possibility of me needed to recruit to keep up with demand… and definitely much more speaking from the stage. The more people I can reach and share my positive message about mental health the better we all are.

What wonderful progress Nicky has made this year, and it’s interesting how she’s found LinkedIn helping her, as I personally ended up leaving the groups I was in on there as they descended into adverts and self-promotion with no real community and support. This shows it is still good for accessing corporate markets and it’s brilliant that Nicky’s been able to get her very important message in front of those companies.

Nicky@thestressspecialist.com | www.thestressspecialist.com | https://www.facebook.com/groups/stressspecialist

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2019 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Tammy Ditmore

Small Business Chat Saturday is back! After having a bit of a break from blogging, I’ve been in touch with all my interviewees from last year and I’ll be continuing to feature a good number of them. There’s a chance to join the roster at the bottom of this post. So we welcome back  Tammy Ditmore, owner of the perfectly named eDITMORE Editorial Services! We first met Tammy in June 2012, and had update chats in June 2013, August 2014, September 2015, November 2016 and January 2018. Editors are always interesting for me to talk to, of course, and I felt for Tammy, who was worried about work coming in regularly at the time, with her resolution for the next year being, “If things stay slow in the new year, I will be making some concentrated efforts to contact past clients, and some new publishers, businesses, etc. I’m not panicking (yet) because I have some good ideas about which bushes to start shaking. In fact, I’m not too sad about having a little extra time to catch my breath during the holiday season–I just don’t want this slower work pace to last for too long!” Unfortunately, Tammy had no idea of the terribly stressful events that were just around the corner. Read her story now – and thank you, Tammy, for sharing this difficult time with us.

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

Yes, mostly. When we touched base last year, I was coming off a down year and was not quite sure what to expect. But 2018 turned around with some long-term projects coming from unexpected places.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I continue to work for a wide mix of clients, but last year I worked with two clients on some large projects, which filled my schedule in unexpected ways. That enabled me to reduce my workload significantly for a couple of months in the summer when I was able to live in Florence, Italy, where my husband was teaching with his university program. I did very little work during that time so that I could enjoy our amazing experience. Unfortunately, the big projects that carried me through last year will be winding down in the next few weeks — I have work scheduled for the next couple of months, but it I will need to start lining up others beyond that.

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

The main lessons I learned this year were ones I never wanted to learn about dealing with trauma and stress and how much that can affect my ability to focus, which is an absolute essential in the work that I do. In November, a gunman walked into a nightclub a few miles from my house and murdered twelve people, including a police officer and a young woman who was a student at the university where my husband teaches and our 21-year-old son goes to school. Less than 24 hours later, wildfires ripped through both sides of our community; my husband and I were evacuated from our house at 3 a.m., and our son spent a long day and night helping to run an emergency shelter at the university as fires burned to the edge of campus on every side. The fires and the weather conditions that make them so dangerous and unpredictable lasted for about five days in our area. Although our neighborhood and the university ultimately were spared from major damage, three people died and hundreds in our community lost their homes. At almost the same time, scores of people died and thousands lost homes in a wildfire a few hundred miles north of us.

It’s difficult to describe just how much impact these events had on our lives and our community. My son knew two of the people who died in the shooting and several others who were in the club that night, and everyone we know has been grieving the senseless loss of so many beautiful lives from our community. We also know people who lost homes and see evidence every day of the damage and destruction caused by the fires. Although I and my family were physically safe, I was not able to do any real work for several weeks. I simply could not concentrate enough to edit or write for any length of time. Fortunately, my clients were completely understanding — coincidentally, the two clients I had to delay the longest were authors writing about traumatic events in their lives. One of those writers actually provided me some very practical tips that helped me deal with my own stress.

Eventually, I was able to focus and work again, but it took me much longer than I had expected, and I am still trying to catch up. Ultimately, I learned that I cannot force concentration in times of stress and that berating myself for my lack of productivity only makes things worse. I had to give time and attention to myself, my family, and my immediate community before I could find any attention span for work. I know these kinds of events do not affect everyone the same way, so I can’t compare myself to how someone else reacts–I simply have to respect my own feelings and start from there.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I continue to find that word-of-mouth and repeat business are my best ways to find clients. A lot of people actually find out about me from a friend or colleague. Many of the people who recommend me have never actually worked with me, but they know what I do and are ready to recommend me when they find out someone needs an editor. So my tip is to make sure that everyone you know is aware of what you do and is aware that you need clients.

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

I hope I’ll be in about the same spot as I am now: working steadily with a variety of clients and projects. My husband will have a yearlong sabbatical from his university job starting in August, and my goal is to be able to do some traveling with him while continuing to work.

First of all I want to say how honoured I was that Tammy chose to share her story with us. When you’re self-employed, it’s easy to think you live in a little bubble, and it can be so traumatic when events outside our office but close at hand intrude (I’ve been very concerned about Brexit because I’m not sure how it will affect how I work with my EU clients, with very little information available as I write this, for example). The other points Tammy makes are equally pertinent: all of my work pretty well comes from word of mouth and recommendations, as well as regular clients, and it’s worth reminding people of what they do. I wish Tammy an uneventful year of solid work and a lovely sabbatical.

Tammy’s website is at www.editmore.com and you can of course contact her by email. She’s based in California.

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 January 19, 2019 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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