Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Key Takeaways from Last Week's Business Start up Conference

Enterprise Hub Partner The Women's Organisation played host to this month's Enterprise Hub Business start-up Conference, providing opportunity for men and women thinking of starting a business to understand what is involved.  

Joanne & Sara Ava and Harrison with Bernie Cox
Joanne & Sara with event host Bernie Cox (in the centre)

Two brilliant businesses joined us at the event to share their stories and Bernie Cox Training Coordinator at The Women's Organisation hosted the evening. 

Sara & Joanne Ava and Harrison with Anna Slater Northerwest Linen
Sara, Joanne & Anna Preparing to Speak
Engaging double act Joanne and Sara from children's hair salon Ava and Harrison were first to share their story.  Quite new in the world of business, Sara told us that things are going so well that ""By the end of week one we had to employ someone else. Our second week, another staff members.  Our estimate for week twelve is that we will be up to a team of 7". 

But how did they go from idea to thriving business in such a short space of time?  Here are some key takeaways from their talk

  • Social Media is Key - Joanne told us how getting their page up on facebook has been a godsend as the second they put their shop sign up, a local mum took a photo which was shared on a 5,000+ member strong facebook group of mums saying how excited she was to 
  • Involve Your Client Group in the Branding Process - Naming their business after Sara's daughter and Joanne's nephew is a great story that appeals to their customer base.  Sara recounted though how her daughter Ava was key in the design process. Joanne ran all design ideas past Ava to ensure they had a child's eye view on it.
  • Follow Your Dream - Having talked about their idea for a few years it was Joanne who started the catalyst for change by quitting her previous job.  While waiting to push the new business forward Joanne had started offering mobile hair and beauty, but remembers she questioned "What am I doing? Why am I delaying this? We just need to get that business open". Now they have Sara and Joanne have no regrets seeing how quickly it has all come together
  • Get advice - Joanne and Sara managed to access start-up loans to get their business off the ground, but realise without the right advice they may not have known that this fund was available, wouldn't have had their business plan completed and wouldn't have had a supportive person to bounce their ideas around location and strategy off. 
Next up was the impressive young Anna Slater of Northwest Linen.  Having started her business thanks to investment through Merseyside Special Investment Fund and her family, Anna's story reads almost the complete opposite to that of Ava and Harrison.  Diving in without much advice Anna picked up a business she had watched her father run successfully back when she was 8 years old motivated by "Feeling out of control" of her own destiny. 

Anna's starting point was renting a laundry in the evening while still working in education and relying on her father to drive her around her first customer's 3 locations. Anna reflected that "It hasn't been easy" but she has achieved her core objective of once again feeling in control of her destiny.  Key takeaways from Anna's story included

  • Choose a marketing strategy that works for your business - Anna confessed she barely does any marketing for her business.  While she felt compelled to put her business on facebook, in hindsight she realised her core customer base of large hotel chains or restaurants are unlikely to be browsing facebook when choosing their linen service supplier. Anna has instead grown her business through recommendation from clients, but has achieved this through a personalised customer care strategy which has essentially been her core marketing tool.  Beyond that Anna's marketing investment has been using Google Adwords to ensure when those who don't know her business are searching online, her business comes top of Google search. This shows that marketing strategy that works for one business doesn't necessarily work for another, so you need to consider your customer. 
  • Pace Your Growth - While Anna grew her staff team to 15 and expanded her customer base to make her business a high growth enterprise, Anna's strategy has been very measured.  It was as she was growing that she came across The Women's Organisation and took advice.  Anna recognises that at this point she is in a position where she could take on more and more contracts, however her current strategy is one of "consolidation". Anna advised that sometimes you can grow too fast and lose control of the business, so it is important to take some moments to step back and get everything you are already doing well fully consolidated before taking on more and potentially spinning out of control.
  • Know Your Why - Anna told us that when deciding on what business to open she asked herself what she wanted from the experience. "Do I want to be a millionaire? No - Good because this wouldn't be the right industry for that. Do I want to be proud of what I do? Yes - and I can honestly say that I am".  It is important to understand what your end goal is and to evaluate whether that business you are thinking of will help you reach that goal. And think about how to achieve that.  Anna has achieved her goal through choosing an industry that is a family tradition, through building in good customer care strategies, and through carefully evaluating who the people are that will help make that happen. 

From the key points above you can get a flavour for what an inspiring and informative evening we enjoyed.  But you don't need to take our word for it! Here are some of the comments from those attending saying what they thought:

"Presentations were inspirational. Well presented and useful. Thank You."
"Really enjoyed it! Fantastic. Very motivational.  I hope to set up a business now, maybe 2 or 3."
"Great conference and found it very rewarding."
"The energy of the staff and the building were very positive."
"Very informative"
"Really well organised, excellent leader in Bernie, her advice, ethusiasm and honesty."
"Very inspiring guest speakers"
"So glad I came, many thanks."
"Inspirational speakers, Excellent event!"

If you missed out, but are looking for business advice you can contact the Enterprise Hub team on 0151 706 8113 to find out more about the free support available to Liverpool City Region residents through our European Regional Development Fund supported project. 

Hop over to our facebook page too to keep up with latest events on offer. 

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Angelica Makes A Fashion Statement With Incabrit

Angelica Elliot launches Incabrit, a business creating fashion accessories such as wool scarves, jewellery and leather bags. 

Angelica Elliot, The founder of Incabrit approached The Women's Organisation seeking business support and was excited about finally starting her own business with support from The Enterprise Hub.

Before starting up, Angelica Elliot had worked a number of different jobs, from working to help the homeless to being a full time special needs teacher in Chile. When asked about venturing into self-employed, Angelica said “at this stage of my life I wanted, for many years, to create different products from the comfort of my own home but continue being financially independent from my husband.”

Speaking about the support she received from the The Women’s Organisation, Angelica said, “I received support from my business adviser, Francine Taylor. The free courses are also very good in quality and it’s a process of constant learning which is what I need to keep doing”

Incabrit launched in December 2017 and Angelica is starting to focus more on her marketing and gaining social media knowledge. When asked about the advice she would give friends looking to jump into self-employment, she said “Go to The Women’s Organisation and be brave enough to jump into it and give it a good try”

To read more about Angelica's story, head to The Women's Organisation blog.

You can contact Angelica and keep updated with Incabrit on Facebook here

If you have an idea for a business and would like to receive advice and support we can help you get started! Contact our team on enterprisehub@thewo.org.uk or 0151 706 8113.

Jennifer Makes Interior Design Simple With The Mini Interior Design Company

With a passion for design and turning houses into homes, Jennifer Kay launched The Mini Interior Design Company to offer quick, easy and inexpensive interior design with the help of The Women's Organisation.

After designing her friends and families homes, Jennifer began to dream of turning her hobby into a profession and going self-employed. Jennifer approached The Women’s Organisation for business start up advice and guidance, “the advice and support given by The Women’s Organisation has been invaluable to me. My adviser was so helpful, and I really enjoyed our meetings”.

Taking an unconventional approach, Jennifer decided to make great interior affordable for everyone using a online service, "I wanted to offer an affordable, time-saving and convenient service for everyday people”.

.. and how is the company doing now? “I have now found that interest is growing, more enquiries are coming through and most importantly sales are increasing. I am really enjoying working through all the different aspects of my business. It is extremely rewarding to hear nice comments about what I am doing and there is nothing better than making a customer happy with a room idea I have designed especially for them.”

You can read this case study in FULL over on The Women's Organisation blog.

The Mini Intererior Design Company was recently featured in the Liverpool Business Post which you can read here

You can contact The Mini Interior Design Company on FacebookTwitterInstagramand Pinterest!
They also have a website and can be contacted with any queries on info@theminiinteriordesigncompany.com

If you have an idea for a business and would like to receive advice and support we can help you get started! Contact our team on enterprisehub@thewo.org.uk or 0151 706 8113.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Community-Owned Cafe, Naked Lunch, Brings Heart Warming Food to Smithdown

431 Smithdown Road Limited is a multi-stakeholder cooperative that trades through the successful Naked Lunch Café, which is based at 431 Smithdown Road in south Liverpool. The cooperative was formed by members of the local community in order to save a popular local café that was in danger of closing following the proprietor’s illness. The purchase of the lease, the refurbishment of the premises and the business start-up were all financed from members’ investment and subsequent revenues are 100% derived from the café’s trading activities.

Following support from Everton Development Trust under the Enterprise Hub, the cooperative was incorporated on 10th November 2016 (FCA Mutuals Registration Number 4341) and currently has 49 local investor members. The cooperative has been a key addition to the Smithdown Rd townscape, providing a beacon for community ownership and independent trading to counter the creeping dereliction and explosion of fast food takeaways from the north of the road and the spread of generic chain operations from the south. To this end, 431 Smithdown Road aims to be an exemplar of local wealth building and retention as a means of community regeneration.

Naked Lunch café employs 14 staff across a range of functions, including front of house and kitchen staff. First year turnover was £380,000 and second year turnover is projected to be £420,000. This rapid growth in sales revenue saw the café quickly pass the VAT threshold and the challenges that this presents.

In addition to being a café, Naked Lunch is also a popular and flexible venue. Since opening, the café has hosted numerous exhibitions, gigs and community events. Naked Lunch is an established venue for the annual Smithdown Rd Festival and has also played host to a number of sell-out performances by artists of local, national and international repute.

Naked Lunch provides an ideal exhibition space. The layout and ambience have attracted exhibitions from a range of diverse artists, including Joel Goldberg, Paul McCoy, Emma Boutet, Eimer Cavanagh, Jim Sharpe and Phil Hayes. In addition, the cafe has been used by the Writing on the Wall literary festival and as a venue for book launches and readings by an array of authors and poets.

Following the success of Naked Lunch Café, the cooperative is considering expansion into the ground floor of the adjacent premises at 429 Smithdown Road. This expansion will enable the café to provide a wider range of events, including exhibitions and concerts, as well as generate increased income from more tables, a larger kitchen and increased licensed trade.

Find out more about Naked Lunch Cafe by heading to their Facebook or Twitter here.

If you’re feeling inspired to find out more about going self-employed, contact us on 0151 706 8113 or enterprisehub@thewo.org.uk.

Friday, 29 June 2018

5 things to put on your business action plan today

‘What should I put on my business ‘to do’ list?’ is one of the questions our ‘Boost Your New Business’ trainers are always asked. When it comes to running a business in its first year, it can be easy to be side-tracked by the day-to-day running of your business and lose sight of your business goals.

That’s why its so important to take time out to strategize and create an action plan to keep you on track! Here are the FIVE things you should put on your ‘to do’ list today…

1. Re-visit your market research

Lack of market research is well-cited as one of the biggest causes of start-up failure. Everyone knows the importance of conducting market research before taking the plunge into a new business, but many forget to set aside time to keep up with the market as their business progresses.

You should be re-visiting your market research on a regular basis to find out how market trends and your customer needs are changing. And of course, to keep up with your competition!

2. Carry out an updated SWOT analysis

Much like your market research, your SWOT analysis can easily fall by the way-side in the day-to-day running of your business. But it’s an exercise which you simply can’t afford to forget.

The opportunities and threats within your market change on a daily basis, as do your strengths and weaknesses, so it’s vital that you continue to adapt and change with this document. This will help you to grasp those opportunities which can help you to grow and avoid pitfalls which could damage your business.

3. Review your pricing

When you first start out in business it can be easy to undervalue your product or service and sell yourself short when it comes to your pricing. This is one of the main mistakes we see new businesses making.

As you begin to grow into your business, make sure you set aside time to re-evaluate your value proposition and adjust your pricing accordingly. Don’t sell yourself short! It’s also worth bearing in mind that your competition may be changing their pricing strategy as the market changes.

4. Check your time budget

Between juggling your sales and marketing, business development and finances with the day-to-day running of your business, your time as a business owner is a very precious commodity. It can be easy to get side-tracked on tasks which take up your time but aren’t profitable. ‘Don’t become a busy fool’ is our motto!

Take ten minutes out to look at the tasks where you spend the most time and ask yourself if you could be working more smartly. There are lots of free tools out there which you can utilise. 

5. Review your marketing strategy

“How can I increase my sales?” is the BIG question. Clients always ask what they should be doing to reach their target customer and boost their sales – the answer will be different for every business.

If you’re putting hours into your marketing but aren’t seeing any return, then its time to change your approach. Ask yourself, am I using the right marketing channels? Am I engaging my audience – if not, why?

You can find out more of our top tips for actioning all of these factors through our free ‘Boost Your New Business’ programme. This is an interactive two-day course which will help you to survive and thrive in your first year of business.

To find out more, contact enterprisehub@thewo.org.uk or call 0151 706 8113 for an informal chat. 

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Helping Katie to get her word out

With 18 years’ experience in marketing communications under her belt Katie Crozier decided it was about time to take the plunge and set up on her own, all with a little help from Enterprise Hub.

After leaving her full-time job, and a stint upcycling furniture, Get Your Word Out was born. Offering copy-writing and proof-reading services for marketing materials, from websites and blogs, to leaflets and brochures, Get Your Word Out is all about helping businesses to communicate with their clients more effectively.

Katie says: “I’m a big fan of plain English and getting to the point. No one has the time or inclination to read much these days, so what you have to say needs to be delivered quickly, clearly and authentically”. And this is the mantra on which her business is built.

When asking Katie what she did to get the ball rolling on her new venture, she said: “Honestly, I did all the wrong things. I left my job as soon as I decided I wanted to set up on my own and then started from scratch building up relationships with agencies, attending networking meetings and using all the connections I had to build my business.

“I would recommend that if you can, give yourself a good 6-12 months of planning your new business and networking with potential clients, while you’re in full time work, before making the leap.”

Katie soon approached the Enterprise Hub to find out what support was on offer and she was set up with our business advisor, Jo Mountfort, to help get her business off the ground. It wasn’t long until Katie was ready to take on Enterprise Hub’s range of courses, from social media training to help understanding tax and national insurance.

She says: “I had the works! I attended every course and met with a business advisor regularly and can heartily recommend it - it’s essential to have that support because quite unknowingly you can have some really silly ideas and indeed, miss the really obvious ones!”

Katie also makes it clear that being savvy with your income is essential when starting out in business: “I dropped lucky with some guaranteed copywriting work for a Chester agency - two days a week producing blogs/news stories for websites - but when this fizzled out early this year I struggled to get enough work to keep me afloat. Finding new clients is a slow process, and although for each job I’ve done I’ve had really good client endorsements, I don’t yet have enough work to sustain me so I supplement by income by being a background artist on Hollyoaks.

“The financial side of the business was the most daunting for me, having never been self-employed before, so the support of The Women’s Organisation, with training and meetings with a business advisor has been really useful.” 

With this in mind, Enterprise Hub was able to offer Katie tailored support to give her the skills to manage her cash flow effectively.

And it’s safe to say that Katie hasn’t looked backed since: “I’m really proud of what I have achieved so far and who knows what the future might bring. I love the fact that I’m getting to meet lots of new people and am really enjoying the work that I do. Getting positive comments from clients makes it all worthwhile and I get a little bit too excited every time an invoice is paid too!”  

Any parting words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs out there? “Soak up all the advice available and join the support networks out there within your business sector. Talk about it to everyone you know because you’ll be surprised where your leads come from.

“I had to call a locksmith out the other day, having left my key on the inside of the door, he was quick and efficient so I asked for his card. Turns out that as a new business he hasn’t got any cards, leaflets or a website. So I gave him my card and said “I can help you with that!”.

If you would like to find out more about Get Your Word Out, you can visit www.getthewordout.uk  

Enterprise Hub is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund and offered FREE to residents of the Liverpool City Region. For more information on how to get support to start your business call 0151 706 8113 or email enterprisehub@thewo.org.uk

Thursday, 21 June 2018

QUIZ! Find out which Enterprise Hub route is right for you

So, you've had a great business idea and need some guidance on what to do next, or perhaps you need some support in your first year of business? The good news is, Enterprise Hub is on hand with expert start-up advice and business support for residents of the Liverpool City Region!

From 1-2-1 start-up advice from our team of business advisors, to our 'Boost Your New Business' programme, Enterprise Hub is here to help you. 

Take our quiz to find out which route is right for you...

If you would like to find out more about the courses and services on offer through Enterprise Hub, contact enterprisehub@thewo.org.uk or call 0151 706 8113 for an informal chat.