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Small business chat update – Lyndsey Michaels

Small business chat update – Lyndsey Michaels

It’s a big hello again to Lyndsey Michaels, or Lyndsey Michaels Bid Writer as she’s professionally known. Lyndsey writes tender documentation for small businesses who want to increase their sales. We first met Lyndsey in July 2014 and had our first update in August 2015, chatting again in August 2016. At that point, having shared her year with her trademark openness and honesty about the ups and downs. Lyndsey’s plans for the year up to now were: “Right now, I’m working hard on making better content for my site, to draw in more visitors and increase my visibility as an expert in my field. I’ve nailed down several formal targets and simplified those into The One Thing – in my case, number of enquiries – that meeting all the other targets relies on. I’m also hoping to do more public speaking (argh!). Hopefully this time next year I’ll be feeling positive and confident and may even be a few steps nearer to my goals!” Some great goals there, so let’s see how she’s done!

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

Yes and no. My refreshed website has certainly brought in a lot more business, which is as planned and very reassuring. In terms of increasing visibility as an expert in my field, there have been some very cool developments there too, which I’m hoping to capitalise on over the next year.

I haven’t done anything in the way of public speaking! But it’s been a very busy year in other ways, so I’m not sure I would have been able to fit it in anyway.

One thing I hadn’t anticipated was that, partly as a result of talking openly about my ‘to quit or not to quit’ conundrum last year, I’ve been offered several opportunities to do other things, completely unrelated to bid writing and I’ve taken a few of those opportunities up.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

A minor but ongoing health issue has pushed me into making some changes to my day-to-day work schedule and, after a lot of trial and error, I think I have it about as optimised as it’s going to get right now. I’m much stricter with myself about which hours in the day I allocate to different types of task and that’s also led to me being much clearer with clients about what they can expect from me and when.

Taking on new, non-bid related projects has been both exciting and nail-biting! Although there are a lot of transferable skills involved, such as project management, research and training, it also means I’m looking at how organisations work from a different perspective than I do when I’m dealing with bid writing, management and coaching. A couple of those projects are for an organisation whose services can directly impact peoples’ quality of life so that’s something I’ve been keeping at the forefront of my mind. With bid writing and consultancy, my input still has an impact beyond the bottom line – on the business owners, their staff and their own customers – but it’s at least one step removed.

One project’s remit included research and purchase recommendations, installing and setting up new software, training myself on software I’ve never used before, then creating training documentation and lesson plans and training other people, at all levels, on it. The initial research element led to that project parameters being changed and the addition of another project. I’m used to the only major changes in my work being a few lines in a specification or maybe the occasional deadline extension, so this has involved a lot more thinking on my feet than usual! The project is just about to go live so I expect there’ll be more tweaks and changes to come!

It has been refreshing though, after six years of thinking only about tenders, to stretch my braincells a bit.

One major event is that I’m getting married later this year! Business-wise, it won’t change much – I’ll be keeping my company name the same and just changing my surname for non-work purposes. But I do feel it’s brought a few work and non-work related goals and aspirations into sharper focus.

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

I’ve learned AND I wish I’d known a year ago that it’s not just ‘ok’, it’s vital, to keep your health at the top of your priorities, even if it’s something that seems minor or that you – for whatever reason – feel you should be able to ‘just power through’. Committing to a few changes to my work day has greatly improved my productivity, which is not just good for my clients but also prevents me from falling down the mental hole of despair!

I’ve also come to realise that, while it’s hard for any freelancer or one-person business to separate work from home – and, in fact, I’d spent a long time deliberately aiming to do the opposite for a number of reasons – at this point in my life, it’s something I need to look into more seriously. I feel I’ve become a little ‘one dimensional’ over the last few years. Getting married seems to be a timely point to start putting more effort into my non-work life and, maybe, even letting work take a bit of a back seat for a while.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Opening yourself up to other opportunities can be really good for your existing business. I’d spent a lot of time over the last six years on streamlining my services to appeal to a very specific sort of client and that’s always paid off. I don’t think I’d want to go back to being a generalist for that type of work even if it brought in more money. However, while juggling both can be tricky at times taking on new projects that are completely unrelated to my ‘official’ business has been and continues to be a positive challenge.

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

Ah, well that’s the key question this year! For my main business, I want to look more into ‘business sustainability’ – making the best of the hours I work, the experience I’ve developed and any opportunities that come up. I’m planning on changing my billing structure and re-packaging some of the services I offer.

Beyond that, I have no idea! There are a lot of roads open to me at the moment: stick with the bid writing business as-is; aim to move more into an ‘expert for hire’ role, still within the bid and tender industry; move away from bids and tenders entirely and capitalise on the opportunities I hope will come following one or more of these other projects; or, something completely different!

On a personal level, once the wedding’s done and dusted, my partner and I have Plans-with-a-capital-P and some of those will dictate or at least affect what I do with my business. It’s an exciting year all round!

All really exciting stuff, and some great plans there. I used my marriage three years ago to pause and have a think about my work schedule, etc. – at the time, my husband was moving into a period of self-employment himself, so things changed, then changed again. I’m sure Lyndsey will continue to embrace all the new opportunities that come her way. I’m lucky in that my job is quite varied already, and I think if I only did one type of thing, I’d be looking to diversify by now. It’s hard to do that from choice, though (mine happened by accident when I added one transcription client to my roster) but I’m sure she’s more than equal to it. Oh, and best wishes for your wedding, Lyndsey!

Lyndsey Michaels

Bid Writer
07813 606033

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 September 16, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat – Megan Ronan

Small business chat – Megan Ronan

Today we’re meeting Megan Ronan from Mind Over Matter Fitness and Nutrition, based in Oxfordshire. Megan has been the personal trainer for one of my friends for a year, so I know she’s good from her reports, and she knows a lot about running, my exercise of choice (so I took the opportunity to ask her a couple of sneaky marathon and ultramarathon tips at the end, too). There’s a lot to personal training and nutrition consultancy and there are so many under-qualified people out there, so it’s great to be able to feature someone so well-trained and knowledgeable. If you’re considering going into the health and wellness industry, you’ll find this and other interviews really interesting, but I love seeing people’s paths to success whatever line of business they’re in. Let’s find out how Megan’s got where she is today …

Hello, Megan, and it’s lovely to meet you. First things first: what’s your business called? When did you set it up?

Hello! My business is called Mind over Matter Fitness and Nutrition and I’ve been completely self-employed for almost a year now, but part-time for a good while before that.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I worked for other people in this industry for a few years to gain experience as this was not my first field of work – I was in education and nutritional research before. Working for other people guarantees you an income but does not allow you much flexibility or creativity. I was fed up with working hard, offering new ideas and not progressing. Lack of organisation and structure in my previous role(s) just made me want to work for myself. I felt I could offer more and make better use of my time, as well as earning more.

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

I’m a nutritionist by original training and worked for Oxford Brookes University for 6 years in a research role. Whilst I enjoyed this job it became tedious – always working in the laboratory and quite a solitary role. Whilst working in this role I also increased my own running (moving on to ultra-marathons) and was really enjoying it. I just felt that my knowledge of nutrition and my love of exercise, specifically endurance running and weight training was where I wanted to concentrate my energy. It seemed a natural progression to train to be a personal trainer and fitness instructor and try to inspire people to love exercise as much as I do.

Back in 2003, I knew I wanted to work in the fitness field and as such signed up to a personal training course whilst also completing my degree. I studied hard but actually failed one of the modules, this knocked my confidence and I never went back to re-take the module! So it took me a few years to gain the confidence to try again and go back to the drawing board and sign up to another course.

Had you run your own business before?

Yes, when I was in my last year or university I started my own cleaning company to earn some money and have a flexible job. I expected to have just a few houses, but after a few months I had enough work for 10 others and so started my own company. The company run for 3 years in total. I sold it to go into nutrition research.

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 studying at home (distance learning) to become a qualified personal trainer and fitness instructor. From there I applied to become a personal trainer at a small local gym, where I worked part-time (30 hours a week) and had a couple of regular classes at other gyms and trained my family and friends. Going for my first personal training job was a bit of a shock to the system as it was literally half my current income. It was a bit of a struggle financially to start with but other than going self-employed it’s the best move I made. It wasn’t long before I was a manager and earning a bit more.

From there I moved to Oxford Brookes University gym where I was also part time, working an average of 27 hours a week and slowly building my own client and class base around this. I was also working another job for an exam board which kept my nutritional knowledge up-to-date. Eventually in October 2016 I was working 27 hours for Brookes and had about 30 hours a week of my own classes and clients, so I had to make the huge decision to go completely self-employed before I worked myself into the ground! I still kept a few classes at Brookes to keep some guaranteed income. Now I only teach 3 classes for a small gym and run my own business full-time.

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

Learn to say no. You can’t do everything and you have to keep some time for yourself and family. There are also only so many hours in the day – try to work too many of those hours in the day, you only burn out.

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

Be confident and learn to ask for help. When marketing and selling isn’t your strong point, ask someone else professional to do it for you – it saves a lot of time and money in the long run.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Been bolder and more confident – tried to set up more classes and initiatives or set up with a like-minded friend so that you have more support and can bounce ideas off each other. There are things that are working really well at the moment that I just didn’t have the confidence to set up to begin with.

Set work and home life boundaries – by this I mean, have times where you turn your phone off and don’t answer client emails and texts and don’t feel stressed out about doing this. Otherwise work takes over every aspect of your life.

What are you glad you did?

Actually going fully self-employed – there is no better feeling than being your own boss and scheduling your own time.

What’s your top business tip?

Learn to love the cancellations and quiet days.

And – keep on top of the book keeping.

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

It’s my first full year in being fully self-employed so I am learning that the business can be seasonal, so it’s quiet in July and August due to people being away on holiday and enjoying the good weather and again in December as people are getting ready for Christmas and tend to have less disposable income. So, it is good to use these times for long-term planning and preparation for the busier months. These times are also good to implement advertising and marketing strategies that you don’t otherwise have time for.

Overall the business has grown with overall more clients and classes and my location has changed – from a small portacabin to a large commercial gym. The nutritional side of the business has picked up in the last few months which is exciting.

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

I would love to see myself (and a colleague) in our own premises but I think in reality this is more of a 5-year goal.

So more realistically I would like to see myself offering some sort of nutritional coaching and growing the nutritional side of the business. It would be wonderful to have someone else working for me to grow the business further, offering schemes linked to workplace well-being. And of course, having more 1:1 clients as well as my own classes.

And a final cheeky question: what are your marathon and ultramarathon top tips?

Marathon top tip – get the fueling right. Try lots of things during training to make sure you have sufficient energy and don’t crash on race day.

Ultra tip – Break the distance down in your head and mentally tick off the distances as you go, and be prepared to go to some dark places in your head – remember why it is you set out to do it in the first place.

Brilliant – thank you! I remember doing my first marathon I even tried out a million different hairstyles to find one that didn’t rub or annoy me. Anyway, back to the work stuff: I so remember knowing when it was time to jump ship and go fully self-employed (it was almost six years ago that I made that decision, shockingly!), and building in boundaries to work time and having one- and five-year plans is definitely the way to go. I’m looking forward to seeing Megan go from strength to strength (ha ha) and finding out how she’s doing next year. 

Megan Ronan’s Mind Over Matter Fitness and Nutrition website is at www.mindovermatterfitnessandnutrition.com and you can email her or call her on 07773 675884 / 01865 735708. She’s also on Facebook and Instagram.

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 September 9, 2017 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 Zoe Austin, who is a musician and voice, violin, piano and music theory music teacher, in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire. We first chatted with Zoe (an ex-library colleague of mine from a long way back) in 2011 and then updated in 2012. Having had a bit of a hiatus, we rejoined her in July 2016. Back then, this was her plan for now: “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!” Sounds sensible to me – let’s see how she’s got on.

Hello again, Zoe! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward just one year, four years ago?

Well, no. I am now mostly self-employed and have gained some very well-paid work in Peterborough over the last year which has enabled me to gradually reduce the number of private students I see and, finally, claw back my evenings! I now actually have decent amounts of free time to myself for the first time in 6 years of this work!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I continued to work for Hunts Music School, but this has now become a charity (rather than a part of Hunts Regional College – long story) and so I now work for them freelance; I began working (employed) at a charity called Rowan last August, as the Music Tutor & Co-ordinator for our students who are adults with learning disabilities. I also do a fair amount of freelance work contracted to Peterborough Music Hub as of last September. This involves me providing whole class instrumental tuition – it is VERY hard work, but it is, as I mentioned, well-paid.

In addition to these, I have picked up some private violin tuition in two other Peterborough schools and thinned-down my private pupil base. I only travel to the home of one of my pupils now, whereas this used to be a regular occurrence: now they mostly come to me, which means I have more time and energy left for myself at the end of the day.

Some personal/professional successes this year for me have been:

My grade 8 violin student got a distinction and is off to study music and history at Liverpool University;
I tutored myself on viola and gained a distinction at grade 6;
A pupil I took the risk of pushing up to grade 5 on violin (he’s only 10 and only took his grade3 last year) rose to the challenge beautifully and passed that exam last month;
I completed my first solo concert organisation and raised around £300 for Rowan: we put on a show at the Michaelhouse Centre in Cambridge just last Saturday and showcased original compositions and improvisations by the music students;
I taught Samba for the first time;
I somehow managed to teach violin and cello to 12 different classes of around 30 children at a time. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t advanced, but we got there in the end!

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

Not to work at a certain primary school where I’ve been treated poorly by the Head and by a parent.

Any more hints and tips for people?

In the world of music tuition, something else always turns up (or will do if you put the work in to creating it!) so don’t worry about letting go of bits of work which are causing you any amount of stress or anxiety: they’re not worth it!

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

I hope to have had as successful a professional year as has been the case this year, and I hope that my contract at Rowan as been extended for the foreseeable future!

The sector Zoe’s in is full of ups and downs and can be quite unpredictable, so I’m glad she’s achieved her aim of carving out more time for herself and having a quieter time of things, while still having the interest of working for multiple organisations and people. I know she’s so happy working at Rowan, and asked me to add the link above. Onwards and upwards (or along, in a stable fashion)!

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 September 2, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat – Dominic Irons

Small business chat – Dominic Irons

I’m pretty excited this morning, because here’s an interview with the representative of a brand I very much like and use regularly, and which anyone interested in stationery is going to love, Bureau Direct. I’ve been indulging my passion for ink pens and unusual coloured inks with them for a couple of years now and was thrilled to find they are the people behind a bricks-and-mortar shop I loved way back when! I’ve got a bit of a “thing” about European and Japanese notebooks – the ones with squared or – even better – dotted paper, and they make buying this a lot easier than going overseas! Anyway, rather than me ranting on about it, a) go and have a peek for yourselves, and b) let’s meet Dominic!

Hello, Dominic! What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

The business is called Bureau Direct although it was originally called just Bureau. We still call it Bureau ourselves but since going online 10/15 years ago we realised that Bureau was not such an easy name. Bureau Direct was an online presence and the name has sort of stuck since that is what people see.
The business was originally set up by my mother and sister – Kathy and Jo – back in 1995, as a shop. It had a bit of a cult following, since it offered smart, stylish and slightly exotic (back then!) stationery from far-flung places like France. The shop was between Leicester Square and Covent Garden and was something of a destination store, a place to stop by and see what was new.

My involvement came a few years in to try to get us online (this was real dot.com boom time). The business had been taken over by investors who briefly expanded to 5 shops in and around London. When they pulled out at the end of 2000 the business was left in the lurch and collapsed. We, as a family, decided to buy the business back out of receivership as we felt it had potential.

We did go online a few years later, and soon realised that our future lay online not in bricks and mortar. The shop was sold and so we became an online-only business back in 2004.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I’ll have to answer on their behalf here as technically I didn’t set it up. I think both were at a point where they had jobs that had either come to an end or were looking for a change. My mum ran a successful small retail business back in the 70s and my early memories are full of that – a homeware business with shops in Camden Town and Islington.

My involvement came at a time when I was frustrated in my job at British Airways, feeling slightly lost in a huge company with no real sense of what my role in it was for, plus the politics of big companies. When I left and joined Bureau it was such a change and nice to feel that my role had a direct impact on the outcome.

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

Stationery was felt to be an area that had real potential as the UK market was just dull and uninspiring. Stationery was so much better even just across the channel let alone further afield. The way stationery has changed since then validates this, and there has been a real explosion of demand and choice over the past 5-10 years. An antidote to the digital world.

I love that, and it’s very true! Had you run your own business before?

No, never before. It was a difficult time and a very steep learning curve for me personally. In fact, it has continued to be a steep curve as I often feel like I am learning so much, and wonder why I didn’t know that before.

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

As I took over in such unusual circumstances, I was already working full-time and just continued.

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

So much! We did try to bring in an outside person soon after buying the company back, to help act as a sort of mentor and although a couple of people we knew did briefly become involved, they had other commitments and it didn’t work out. It was always a regret of mine that we didn’t manage to make that work early on as I do wonder how things might have turned out with their involvement. I think they would have brought an experienced business mind to the table, been more prepared to take difficult business decisions and ask more demanding questions early on that could have better shaped where the business went in that phase. The years from 2001 to 2004, when we finally sold the shop and went online only, were a very difficult few years.

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

Go and do a crash course in business management, and better understand the nature of the business you are running (in my case a retail business).

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Been more ruthless at seeing what worked, what didn’t and focusing the business on its strengths rather than its legacy parts that did eventually get dealt with anyway. I don’t think we could have gone online much earlier as the demand and technology were not quite ready but I wish we had better understood some of the differences of trading online in the early years.

What are you glad you did?

Go online! It was what I had joined to do and I always think it slightly amusing that I worried we were a late arrival to going online, when now we feel like old-timers! Still, going online in the period from 2001 to 2003 was a strange time – the dot.com bubble had burst, enthusiasm had waned a bit and demand had yet to actually arrive to make it a serious activity. I think the history of broadband take-up will show that sometime around that period in 2003-2005 there was a tipping point and with that so it meant that online shopping was a serious prospect for all. Once that happened, so the marketplace for an online shop just grew and grew. And still is growing.

What’s your top business tip?

Get the right balance between the numbers and a gut feeling. If you are too numbers based then you are in danger of not seeing the wood for the trees, head buried in an Excel spreadsheet. If you rely too much on what you believe is right then however good your instincts you will be at odds with what is really happening.

I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule but for most of us a good balance of these two will go a long way.

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

After going online and then deciding that the business should be online only we have probably kept to a similar core business since. We have grown, considerably and consistently, since then but it has been slow and organic and with adapting to the changing world of online retailing. But the core of what we do now is the same as what we were doing 10 years ago. Even online there is a physical process that is required to get orders into customers hands and that just evolves gradually.

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

How did you cope with your worst situation (and what was it)?

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

We have made a lot of changes to how to run the business, taking out a lot of unnecessary costs and so in a year’s time I would hope that we are considerably stronger for these changes. In the short term they caused some problems, notably with the digital marketing side, but it will all be positive in the long run.

I loved reading all about how Bureau Direct started and grew – I don’t email people and demand that they do an interview with me very often, and I’m glad I did! I love Dominic’s comment about stationery being an antidote to the digital (in the middle of an interview about a retail website in particular!) – I keep records in books and write my book reviews in a journal, and it certainly balances all the screen stuff. Do pop over and have a look at the website – quite different from our last stationery interview, you’ll find delicious notebooks, pens to suit all budgets (how many pens does it take to become a collector?) and inks in every colour you can imagine.

Find Bureau Direct at www.bureaudirect.co.uk and you can get in touch with Dominic and his team via the website or his email address.

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 August 26, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat – Amanda Brown

Small business chat – Amanda Brown

Today I’m excited to feature the lovely Amanda Brown with her marvellous, crafty invention, Treasure Toyz Ltd, that helps keep your kids safe when you’re out and about. Amanda is in my neck of the woods soon, attending the top Home and Gift Retail Trade Show, Autumn Fair 2017 3-6 September at the National Exhibition Centre. Amanda’s a classic example of someone being made redundant and starting their own business, although in her case what she does now hasn’t been informed by what she has done before, but by her own family traditions. Let’s find out how she started, how it’s been going and how she ended up exhibiting at this big show … 

Hello, Amanda, and welcome to the interview series. What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

The company is Treasure Toyz Ltd, and it was established in September 2015.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I was made redundant from my Oil & Gas recruitment position when the oil price plummeted. I hadn’t been enjoying my job for some time but didn’t move due to it being work I was used to, and also a salary I was used to, but when I got made redundant, I saw it as an opportunity to try something myself.

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

When I was young, I was never allowed out the house without all of my Mum’s contact details pinned on to me in one way or the other … and when my friends started having kids, I witnessed them scribbling their number down their arm with pen and drilling them with meeting places and remembering phone numbers. I am very crafty, so bought some beads and started making up bracelets for friends’ children. After finding a lost boy and not knowing what to do, I knew this was a daily problem around the world, and it just went from there.

Had you run your own business before?

Yes, I had a bar in Spain for a while – so a little bit of a different industry!

I’ll say! 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 jumped in the deep end after being made redundant. The business was originally called “Phone My Mum” and I handmade all of the bracelets and accessories. Orders started coming from New Zealand, Italy, the States – everywhere via my Etsy and Amazon shops. But as it got busier, I realised the company couldn’t scale up if they were all to be handmade. I used to do a lot of stalls and parents kept telling me they would love to be able to make the accessories with the kids. So, I started to create a box where children could make their own – and bang, Treasure was born!

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

Everything takes at least twice as long and costs twice as much than you originally think.

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

Stop constantly looking for advice and opinions, trust your instincts and remember that nobody knows your business more than you!

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Taken bigger risks earlier.

What are you glad you did?

Adapted the business as I went along. Although I was busy, I would not have achieved my goals I have for myself and the business.

What’s your top business tip?

Say yes to every opportunity and work out how the heck you are going to do it later!

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

I have certainly grown in the waistline, anyway, having a beautiful baby boy a year into opening the business!

No, but seriously, I have grown as a person. I went from having a very comfortable lifestyle to living back in a little town, travelling by bus at first and not getting my nails done every two weeks. When you first start up and put everything into your business, the little luxuries go and you quickly realise you can easily live without the things you thought you could never live without! Starting a business has certainly humbled me and changed me for the better.

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

I see myself still in Ayrshire with a factory to assemble all my boxes. My boxes being sold across the UK and just emerging into Europe. The next loom bands – here we go!

Fantastic stuff – and you can see that exhibiting at Autumn Fair is part of this big push to expansion. It’s all very exciting, and I love Amanda’s bravery, willingness to take risks but acceptance of the personal changes the business has brought, too. Best of luck to her, and do pop along to see her at Autumn Fair if you are in the area – tell her Liz sent you!

Amanda’s Treasure Toyz website is at www.treasuretoyz.com and she also has a Facebook page. You can email her, too.

Details for the Autumn Fair, which runs from 3-6 September, with 30,000 retailers from across Europe, can be found here (Amanda’s in Hall 5, 5A76)

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 August 19, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Sarah Banks

Small business chat update – Sarah Banks

It’s Small Business Chat update time with Sarah Banks from Banks’ Business Solutions. Sarah joined this interview series in April 2015 when I was impressed by her dedication to helping people, particularly women, with email newsletters and websites, and ethically, too (not always the standard, unfortunately). We caught up with Sarah in July 2016 and when I asked her where she wanted to be by now, she said, “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.” So how’s she doing now?

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

Yes, the business is growing rapidly and I’ve recently been announced as a finalist for the Biz Mums Exceptional Service Award, which I am really pleased about.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I now have two associates working for me as well as working closely with a copy writer and social media marketing expert. This has enabled me to have more time to focus on growing the business and networking as well as being able to do more 1-1 WordPress support which is something I love doing.

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

I wish I’d had more trust to go out and look for associates, my business is all about outsourcing but I found it really hard to do that for myself. By building a team around me, I now feel less stressed and have more time to focus on growing and developing my business further.

Any more hints and tips for people? 

Network more, even if it is online by sharing videos on social media. One of my clients came to me via word of mouth and by having seen my online presence which just goes to show that social media can have a huge effect on your brand awareness. It really is true that people buy from people.

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

This time next year my family and I are going to be going travelling for 3 months so I see the business in a position that will allow me time to travel whilst dipping in and out when I can. I plan to increase my client base to be able to offer more hours to my associates and to have more distinct services so that people can really see the ways in which working with me can benefit them.

Wow – that’s an exciting plan, and one which I’m sure will work out really well – Sarah looks to have everything under control! It is hard to find people to trust: I only recommend clients to people I know or have worked with myself after making one recommendation led to a deadline being missed, so I appreciate how difficult that aspect is.

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 August 12, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat – Laura Hecht

Small business chat – Laura Hecht

Much excitement in Libro Towers – there’s been an influx of NEW interviewees recently, and here’s the first. I do get spaces in the schedule sometimes, as people drop out for lovely reasons like being too busy to sit down and answer the questions (although really you should never be too busy to keep up the marketing, it does happen), inexplicable ones to me like going back into employment, or sad ones like closing the business. So let’s welcome Laura Hecht and her partner Eyal, who run stationery and decorative craft supplies company Lau&Home. Crafters and stationery buffs will want to look at this very pretty website immediately, but do read the interview, too!

Welcome, Laura! Let’s start off with the basics. What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

The company is called Lau&Home and the business was set up in 2013.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I got tired of working long hours and spending 50% of my life in an office, knowing that my financial future would hit the “glass ceiling” if I continued being an employee. I wanted to create, invent, lead, be part of the foundation of something. I wanted to be a good, considerate boss to my future employees (better than the ones I had). I decided to take a risk and dedicate 100% of my time to make this business grow. Despite all the comments and criticism from relatives and friends after leaving my “well paid real job”, my husband and I were very determined to make this work.

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

I really like DIY decoration and love colourful stuff. I think that people can do better designs themselves, using a bit of imagination, than the items that cost hundreds of pounds in the big chains. We decided to start selling products that we liked and would have bought ourselves.

Had you run your own business before?

No. I was feeling too comfortable to leave for a new adventure. Up until the moment I made up my mind to make a change, it was too scary for me. But waking up Mondays and wishing it was Friday made me realise that it was about my life, my time.

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

In the very beginning, my husband and I made the decision to start our own business so I quit my job and we lived on one salary only while I was building and learning all about our future company. We started slowly buying items and selling them. After a year approximately, we had a little turn over so my husband left his job too to dedicate his time exclusively to our project. Money was very tight in the beginning but our first Christmas gave us a boost that helped a lot to keep moving. We always remember the first box of tapes that we got from the supplier: we took a picture of it and got afraid and excited at the same time! Today, having 1,000 square foot of storage, that seems like a dream.

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

Take a break from people who drag you down. They are afraid that you will make their dream come true yourself, so they will try to pass on their fears to you.

Be confident with decisions but don’t push it too far too early. Being profitable and getting into the business can take time, so be patient. Big, bad decisions can take you out of the game too early.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Do it and gradually. If you can, have savings so you won’t be too stressed.

In the beginning, you probably won’t have a lot of money, don’t get unmotivated too soon!

Use your time wisely and don’t get lazy!

What do you wish you’d done differently?

We made some mistakes managing the stock. We got too comfortable with the income and didn’t check carefully the market (competitors, demands, etc.), so we got stuck with a lot of non-moving stock which created a bad cash flow. We would have handled that more carefully.

What are you glad you did?

Took the decision to do it! It’s an incredible journey that hopefully will last for a long time.

What’s your top business tip?

Make a plan. Not too complicated, but it’s good to see the numbers in front of you. If it’s not good, confront it. Find the way to do it better AND don’t ignore the problems. They won’t disappear if you won’t solve them. Now you are the one in charge.

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

We’ve had a great three years and grown in a way we didn’t imagine, from a couple of boxes in the living room to our own industrial unit. But it’s not always like this: expect some periods of steady or small growth. Don’t panic, use this time to improve what you already have. You will be surprised how much you can do better with what you have.

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

Hopefully we will keep growing. We will have a bigger place, more employees and stock. We will create new lines of products. We hope to be able to inspire as many people as possible.

Wow – what a lovely, confident and growing business – but looking back to the beginning, they did it all very carefully, living within their means on one salary and only going into it full-time for both of them when the turnover started to rise. I love all the nuggets of advice, too. A fabulous journey and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

You can find the lovely Lau&Home website at www.lauhome.com and they are also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. That’s a lot of lovely washi tape and polkadots and bunting and so much more!

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 August 5, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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