Thursday 30 May 2019

Want more customers? Follow these 5 simple tips

So, you want to get more customers for your business? Convincing people to spend their hard-earned money on a new product or service can be tricky business. That’s why its so important for small businesses to have a stellar growth strategy in place to attract and retain a strong customer base.

Whether its improving your product or streamlining your internal processes, there are plenty of ways small businesses can improve and grow.

We’ve rounded up 5 simple tips to help grow your customer base...

Start with your existing customers

They say change starts at home. And the same goes for growing your customer base. Before you even think about GROWING your customer base, make sure that you’re offering your current customers a product or service which keeps them coming back time and time again. Retaining this group is central to business growth. Not only will repeat custom (if your product or service allows) enhance your cashflow, but word of mouth referrals play a key part in customer decision making and the buying process.

Many business growth gurus will tell you that the key to selling is solving a problem for your customer. If you can, find out what made your customer choose you in the first place. If you know what challenges you solved for that person, then you can shout about this in your marketing to attract new customers. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to any returning customers or send a Survey Monkey questionnaire out to your database. Offering a small reward or incentive might encourage them to take part.

Pinpoint your unique selling point

Knowing what sets you aside from your competitors is key to attracting new customers. Perhaps your service offers a solution to a problem faced by businesses, or maybe your home-baked cakes have been voted the most delicious in your local town. Whatever the nature or scale of your business – find your unique selling point and play to it.

Use your marketing channels to let them know why they should choose your service or product before they spend their money with a competitor.

Call on your contacts

Did you meet a really helpful contact at that business networking event last week, or did a happy customer leave a five-star review on your Facebook page last night? If you’ve made a positive connection with someone, don’t be afraid to ask for their help! Could they recommend your business to any of their contacts or friends? Likewise, don’t forget to return the favour for their business if the time comes.

If the prospect of networking fills you with dread, we’ve put together some top tips for networking effectively, which you can read here.

Build your online presence

It goes without saying that your online presence can help you build your customer base. Afterall, your virtual shopfront can be found 24/7.

Many would-be buyers will take to the internet to find out more information before deciding which product or service they want to buy. So, make sure you’re there to tell them why it should be yours.

For some small businesses, investing in a website might not be the best use of resources. But with social media its easier than ever to build an online presence – and for free! From building your brand to sharing key sales messages about your latest offers, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram could work for you.

Play with your marketing strategy

Your digital marketing strategy can easily be overlooked in the day-to-day stresses of running a business. But it’s so important to dedicate time to getting it right. If you just have twenty minutes a day to update your social media or send out a newsletter to your database, you need to make sure your investing your time wisely.

Set yourself some key goals and make time to analyse whether you’re reaching them. Most platforms will offer analytic tools to help you investigate how well your marketing activity is going. For example, if you’ve set a goal to build your presence on social media, then use Twitter or Facebook’s analytics section to check your engagement rate (the number of people who interact with any given post) or see how many new followers you have accrued. That way, if something isn’t working you can experiment until you get it right.

If you’d like to find out how else you can grow your business, or need help with any of the practicalities mentioned in this blog, get in touch with Enterprise Hub to find out what support is available to you. Email or ring us on 0151 706 8113.

Monday 13 May 2019

Space is open for business! Funding and support from The European Space Agency

Is space technology on the radar for your business? The European Space Agency’s Business Applications could be the ideal platform to help launch your concept.

ESA Business Applications offers funded support programmes to help businesses integrate space data and technology into commercial services.

Put simply, think of ordering a takeaway on popular mobile phone apps like Just Eat. This platform uses satellite technology from space to track location and get your food to you. It is this space data which is changing and simplifying business, not to mention our everyday lives on earth.

Whether you’re developing a mobile phone app, or work in industries from construction, to the insurance sector or lifestyle industry, businesses big and small, space applications could fuel your business.

The European Space Agency’s team are looking for innovative ideas which use space assets like human spaceflight technologies, satellite communication, satellite navigation, earth observation and space weather.

Does this sound like something your business could use support with? Then ESA Business Applications could have the support you need.

If you have an idea for space technology in your business, you can apply for ESA Business Applications support and funding anytime through their open call system. There are also regular opportunities for competitive tenders which follow specific themes. You can find out more about the application process here:

If you’d like to find out more about what space has to offer for your business, then why not join the European Space Agency’s Business Applications Regional Ambassador for ‘Your Business Powered by Space’ – a free event to introduce you to how your business can utilise space and what support is on offer for you.

Taking place on Thursday 13th June, 9am – 5pm at Concorde Hangar in Runway Visitors Park, Altrincham. Full event details can be found here:

For more information, you can contact the ESA Business Applications Regional Ambassador (North West England & North Wales), Alan Cross by e-mail via

Unique shoe shine business looks to clean up in the North West

With 26 years of experience working in the corporate world for Nokia and living in the USA, Australia and throughout Asia, it’s fair to say Keith Harris has had plenty of life experience. 


Returning to the UK in 2016 and following redundancy with another corporate business,  Keith was pondering the next stage of his career, when he came up with the idea of a shoe shining business while on a fishing trip with his brother.  

A shoe enthusiast himself, Keith established  “The Shoe Shine Project” in 2017 with support from St Helens Chamber and Enterprise Hub and the business has gone from strength to strength.

Keith commented: “I researched the market and quickly realised there were very few companies around providing a quality shoe shine service and I saw this as a massive opportunity.
Keith contacted St Helens Chamber at the inception of the company and benefited from business advice, training and business mentor support.
Keith continued: “I decided to join St Helens Chamber, not only for the advice and training on offer, but to also expand my network. The mentoring service from St Helens Chamber was particularly valuable as this provided a great sounding board for formulating ideas and strategy.”

Within 12 months, the company has secured business with many of the city region’s leading Tailors, providing services for both their clients and at their events.  The business has also established chairs and drop off points at The Crowne Plaza and The Barbershop, Dale Street, quickly becoming part of the fabric in the cosmopolitan city centre.  However, it is the engaging and innovative services offered to business that have put The Shoeshine Project firmly on the map.

Keith explained: “Many companies have engaged us to provide on-site shoe shining services for their staff.  It’s a great employee benefit, plus many companies like their staff to look good from head to foot. 

“We have also had a great uptake on our trade show service, where we provide a traditional shoe shine chair and service on a customer’s exhibition stand. Essentially this is a lead generation service, as it really drives footfall, differentiates a trade stand and guarantees a captive audience at an exhibition.”

Keith, who has a masters degree in business studies, is looking to employ two staff before the end of the year and has plans to explore a franchise model for The Shoe Shine Project.
He adds: “We are bringing back the lost art of shoe-shining, but in a modern, innovative and entertaining way. Our focus is on interaction and engagement with customers, and we are excited about the journey ahead.”

St Helens Chamber is part of Enterprise Hub, the enterprise gateway for business start-up support in Merseyside.  Offering expert advice and support to anyone thinking about starting a business including help to:
  • Understand the process of starting a business
  • Research a business idea
  • Build a comprehensive business plan
  • Develop a marketing plan
  • Create financial forecasts to understand the costs of running your  business and potential income
  • Identify sources of finance to get started

Enterprise Hub is funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

For more information on the shoeshine project, please visit

For more information about the support available from Enterprise Hub please contact 0151 706 8113 or

Thursday 2 May 2019

From creative outlet to landing a book deal, Caz Finlay is writing her own future

With a novel nearly three years in the planning, it wasn’t until recently that Caz Finlay switched on to the possibilities of turning her creative outlet into a fully-fledged business. Today, Caz has a Harper Collins book deal under her belt and is about to launch her debut novel, “The Boss”.

Approaching Enterprise Hub, Caz received the business advice and training, alongside support from the project’s community partners Writing on the Wall, to realise the potential and become self-employed.  

As WoWFEST 2019 gets underway this month, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to sit down with Caz to find out where it all began and what her journey to becoming self-employed looked like…

Tell us about your novel – what’s it all about and what’s the inspiration behind your work?

The Boss is a gangland crime thriller set in Liverpool. He’s inside. She’s running the family. But now he’s back and only one can boss the streets of Liverpool. Ultimately, it’s a story about family, loss and betrayal.

My inspiration for writing The Boss, was undoubtedly my beautiful baby boy, Finlay, and I use his name as my pen name as a tribute to him. It sounds odd to say that a tiny baby inspired me to write a gangland thriller, but he did. We found out Finlay was ill at my 20 week scan. He had a condition called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH) which meant that his diaphragm hadn’t fully formed, resulting in some of his organs moving up into his chest and restricting his lung growth. Like all babies with CDH, he was given a 50% chance of survival.

Finlay was born on 11th August 2016. Although he was a whopping 10lb 14oz and initially seemed to be doing well, he died just over two days later at Liverpool Women’s Hospital. The days after his death passed in a blur. There was nothing quite as surreal as walking out of that maternity ward with no baby and knowing that he would never come home. I really don’t know how me and my husband functioned, except that we had to maintain some normality for our other son, Jude, who was two and a half at the time.

It was the day after Finlay’s funeral, and Jude was in nursery for the day. I was trying to keep myself occupied and decided to have a bit of a clear out. I found my old laptop in a box in our conservatory. It was the one I’d used to do my degree but it had stopped working properly and I’d intended on throwing it out. I turned it on and it seemed to spring to life. It had never been the fastest of machines even when it did work, so I was startled. It even connected to our wifi – something that had always taken at least a dozen attempts. At that moment I just remember thinking to myself, I’m going to write a novel. And so I did.

Once the idea came to you, what did the writing process look like?

It took me 45 days to write the first draft of The Boss. I used to love writing when I was a teenager and although I hadn’t written anything fictional since I studied English at A Level, it felt like it came back very naturally to me. It started with one paragraph from the middle of the book, which is still my favourite now, and just went from there. I read somewhere once that you should set your characters free and chase them to the end of every page, and that’s exactly what I did.

I started out with a vague idea and the more I wrote, the more ideas started coming to me. I’ve always been a big daydreamer and I discovered that writing is the perfect creative outlet for these. Writing that novel got me through one of the most difficult periods of my life. At first, I wrote it for myself, just to keep my overactive brain occupied. But once I’d finished, and some friends of mine had read it, I started to hope that I might one day get it published. My goal was to see my book in print – with Finlay’s name on the dedication page. So, even though very few people met him, lots of people would know who he was. It might sound strange, but it was almost like that would give his death some sort of meaning.

Securing a book deal was a major achievement and turning point in your journey to becoming self-employed – tell us how it happened and what got the ball rolling?

I was about ready to shelve The Boss when I went to a book signing event at Liverpool Waterstones – a night that changed my life. I’d been editing and submitting to agents for over a year, with little success. I’d decided that I might try my hand at writing something in a different genre, particularly as a few agents had told me that the gangland genre was too hard to break into.

My friend invited me along to a Kimberley Chambers book signing. Kimberley is huge in the gangland genre and regularly tops the bestseller lists. I thought maybe she might have some advice for a newbie like me. The event was great, and at the end, while everyone else was queuing to get their books signed, I spotted Kimberley’s publisher standing on her own. I decided to approach her and see if she had any advice. She was lovely and asked me what my book was about. I told her and was gobsmacked when she asked me to send it to her. I remember her giving me her email address and making me swear I wouldn’t pass it onto anyone as she didn’t usually give it out. I held onto it like it was a winning lottery ticket. She told me that she never usually asked for unsolicited submissions, and I don’t know why she took a chance on me, but I’m so glad she did. Less than eight months later, and on the day after the anniversary of my son, Finlay’s death, she offered me a two-book deal with Killer Reads, an imprint of Harper Collins. Needless to say, I couldn’t reply fast enough.

You still work full-time alongside being an author – do you think this impacts on your writing?

That’s right, I’m a senior probation officer and I still do this full time alongside writing. Although I have a dream of being a full-time writer one day, I could never imagine leaving probation entirely. It’s such a rewarding career and I work with some fantastic colleagues who are incredibly dedicated to helping people change their lives.

Because of my role, people often ask me if it’s based on anyone I’ve ever met, or any real life events. But it’s honestly not. I think I’m more influenced by the gangster films I used to watch at my grandparent’s house when I was teenager, and the books I used to love read back then too, by authors such as Martina Cole. Even now I still love a good gangster film, and thrillers are my usual go-to read.

My professional background and Criminal Justice degree does help me with my writing via my knowledge of the criminal justice system and how the different components work together. In The Boss, one of the characters is released on licence to probation, so I knew exactly what would be required of him. In the book I’m writing now, my main character visits someone in prison, so the fact that I have seen the inside of many prisons in my time as a probation officer was very helpful in writing this scene.

You’ve been working with Enterprise Hub’s business advisor, Jo Mountfort, to make the leap into becoming self-employed - how instrumental has this support been in your journey?

Jo has been an incredible source of support. She is so positive and enthusiastic about The Women’s Organisaiton and the work they do through the Enterprise Hub programme, it’s always a pleasure to work with her. I feel like she genuinely believes in me and that makes me feel really enthusiastic and positive about the future too.

She has been particularly helpful discussing branding with me and helping me with the social media and publicity side of things, using her connections to put me in touch with the right people. She always lets me know when there is a course or event which she thinks might be useful to me too.

Having always been employed by someone, I’ve never completed a self-assessment tax return before, so that will be a challenge to overcome next year. Luckily, I have a friend who can help me through the first one and there are also courses I can attend through the Enterprise Hub programme to give me the tools I need.  

Tell us about the work you did with our partners, Writing on the Wall – what work did you do with them and how have they helped you along the way?

When I enrolled on the Enterprise Hub programme they linked me up with their partners Writing on the Wall, to see how they could help me develop the business from a writer’s perspective. I had a few sessions with WoW and were particularly helpful in advising me about the best ways to utilise social media and develop my online presence.

They also talked me through possible ways I might use my writing to develop my business further which is something I’m keen to do in the future. 


What would your advice be to someone looking to set up a business, based on your experiences and the things you have learned along the way?

This is a difficult one, as I don’t feel like I’ve set up a business in the same way someone might go about setting up a coffee shop, for example. For me, I didn’t think about setting up a business at all until very recently, I just wrote a book. But one piece of advice I would give any friend would be to get in touch with the Enterprise Hub. They are so good at what they do and their belief, expertise and support makes all the difference.

Needless to say, the last three years have been a whirlwind for you, what does the future hold?

I’ve just submitted the first draft of my second book, which is due out in June 2020. After this, ideally I’d love to get a further book deal with Harper Collins. I have so many ideas for books, and sometimes find it difficult to focus on one at a time as other ideas keep popping into my head.

In the future, I’d love to do more with my writing. If I could help others somehow, that would be amazing. Writing helped me thought such a difficult time in my life, and so many people have stories of their own to telI, I’d love to be able to help people do that.

The Boss is out on Friday 7th June and is available to pre-order now by clicking here.

You can find out more via Caz’s website at and you can find her as @cjfinlaywriter on Twitter. Caz can also be contacted directly on