Small Business Saturday Blog

How Small Businesses Should Deal With Adversity

Monday, July 24 at 10:28Inspiration | Planning | Quick Guide | Small Business | Small Business Saturday

Credit: pexels

My typical approach when faced with adversity is to see every problem as having a solution. This healthy attitude helps me problem solve, and prevents me from wasting any time. These days, you are spoilt for choice with resources and advice that can help you navigate the testing first few years of your new business. This advice is useful regardless of what vertical you are in, so keep reading for some advice on how small businesses should act when faced with challenging situations. 

Don’t panic – find a solution 

As a small business owner, you are important as the leader of the team. A lot of responsibility rests on your shoulders. One of these responsibilities is the need to stay calm under pressure. Panicking will hinder you from staying level-headed and coming up with a problem to your solution, and it will make your employees stressed too.

Problem #1: Insufficient funds to make necessary investment 

Financial problems are common in businesses of all sizes. However, your finances may be a little more unstable if you are just starting up. It’s commonplace for businesses to make a loss until their third year. You need to pull up all of your data and analyse it thoroughly to determine where the leaks are in your ship.

Are any of your accounts or departments operating at a loss? Perhaps your clients aren’t paying you what you truly deserve for your services?

Here are some points for you to consider if you are running into financial hardship:

● If you feel you deserve more money for your products or services, consider showing your clients the great results you have delivered to them. Don’t be afraid to ask for more, within reason.

● Are there any projects or product ranges that just don’t yield enough of a profit margin? Take a look at this article for inspiration on ways you could cut costs, from shopping around for the best deals on your overhead costs, to embracing cloud technology.

● Have you thought about diversifying into different lines of business to supplement your existing revenue? Maybe selling your product offering online will help you generate the revenue that you need to grow? This is so easy to do – there are a lot of online store creators on the market for you to get set up in a matter of hours. Take a look at start up favourite Shopify, popular among SMEs thanks to its premium designs.

● Securing funding might be what you need to do when all else fails. This article has more information on these sources of funding, including loans and grants.

Problem #2: No time to make important changes to your business 

credit: Pexels
 
As a small business owner, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work and responsibility that comes your way. You need to be realistic about your workload and manage your time effectively. Here’s how:

● Delegate the tasks you feel can be handed on to your employees, once they have received proper training. This will allow you to focus on the big picture task of growing your business.

● Getting a good night’s sleep, exercising and eating well will help you stay focused and productive, reducing the time taken to complete important tasks

● Luckily, there are plenty of time-hacking apps available to help you with your time management. Toggl is great to keep track of how long tasks are taking you, and Rescuetime helps you understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive. Give these apps a try make your days go further.

The most important thing about the problems you face is to see every experience as a valuable lesson.

Make sure that you make a report for every problem you face and document exactly what your solution was. Offering your employees guidance on how to implement solutions is key here, too – communicating effectively with them will save you from encountering the problem again.

Victoria Greene: Brand Marketing Consultant and Freelance Writer. Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing consultant and freelance writer, working with large brands to help them blossom. She loves nothing more than sharing her knowledge with the world and encouraging entrepreneurial dialogue.

Meet the businesses on the bus: Gough Quarters

Thursday, November 26 at 07:51Bus Tour | Inspiration | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday 2015

The Small Business Saturday Bus Tour is now under way! The tour is supported by TalkTalk Business and we are delighted to feature the logos of fifty TalkTalk Business customers on the #SmallBizSatUK bus!

Hear from Aaron Gough of Gough Quarters, a Bristol-based business featured on the bus...

What is your small business?
A property management and lettings agency

Where did you get idea to start your business? 
Having worked for a property management company for five years, my knowledge of the market meant I could start on my own and provide a high level of customer service.

What's the best thing about working for a small business?
The flexibility to provide a tailor made service of what is required rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

What makes your business unique?
We keep as much as possible ‘in house’ – as little as possible outsourcing to third parties. From reference checks to inventory’s everything is carried out by us meaning that we know our properties inside out.

Meet the Businesses on the Bus: Unflatpack

Friday, November 20 at 12:13Bus Tour | Inspiration | Small Business Saturday 2015


What is your small business?
Unflatpack takes away all the hassle from self assembly furniture by sending a friendly trained furniture assembler to do the job quickly and professionally. What began as business to consumer service in London has grown into a national business with a rapidly developing commercial arm building the in-store display furniture for some of the UK's leading furniture and undertaking office fit out and large commercial furniture installations.

Where did you get idea to start your business?
After moving to London in  2004 and doing some property development in which I installed a few Ikea kitchens, friends of my junior doctor wife asked if I could help them install other flatpack furniture. I quickly realised that there wasn't a service sector for something that was a widely felt pain and set about creating one.

What's the best thing about working for a small business?
The freedom to wear as many hats as you choose.

What makes your business unique?
The Unflatpack management team combines a blend of expertise and passion for the work we do with a solid understanding of marketing and how the business fits into the wider commercial landscape. We are also committed to using technology at every staged of the business to improve the service we give our customers and help us punch above our weight




Meet the Businesses on the Bus: Recipe

Friday, November 20 at 12:08Bus Tour | Inspiration | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday 2015


What is your small business? 
We are an independent advertising agency called Recipe.

Where did you get idea to start your business? 
In 2004 we saw a gap in the market to produce cost effective TV commercials for smaller brands. For the first time they could advertise on cheaper niche tv channels due to the introduction of Freeview and the expanding Sky platform but couldn't get cheap adverts made.

When did the business begin? 
Three of us started the agency in 2004 from one of our founders bedroom and we've been growing organically ever since. We now have two offices in the West End and employ 35 people.

What's the best thing about working for a small business?
We're able to adapt to ever changing market conditions faster than the competition which gives us the edge. The advertising landscape is constantly changing with the frequent introduction of disruptive technologies and we need to constantly evolve to keep ahead of the trend.

What makes your business unique? 
We're the only agency I know that started with three founders who had no experience in the advertising industry. This has meant we've developed a less bureaucratic and more efficient way of working which our clients love and can't be found at other companies.

Meet the businesses on the bus: Riverside Dental

Tuesday, November 17 at 09:48Bus Tour | Inspiration | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday 2015

The Small Business Saturday Bus Tour is now under way! The tour is supported by TalkTalk Business and we are delighted to feature the logos of fifty TalkTalk Business customers on the #SmallBizSatUK bus!

Hear from Bim Sawhney of Riverside Dental, one of the businesses featured on the bus...

What is your small business?
Riverside Dental is a state of the art, modern, award winning dental practice in Norwich city centre.

Where did you get idea to start your business? 
I always wanted to have my own business and did not to work for other people long term. As a dentist, my ambition was to always set up my own practice!

When did the business begin?
11-11-11! 4 years ago!

What's the best thing about working for a small business?
Being responsible for the day to day running and seeing how the business flourishes over the years. There is no better feeling as a business owner walking in every morning to see the fantastic team we have assembled and interacting with our loyal patient base.

What makes your business special?
The team, patients, premises, location and our work ethic. These are the reasons we have achieved what we have done and won the awards we have. To find out more see our website www.riversidedental.co.uk and follow us on Twitter


Spot the Riverside Dental Logo!


Making the most of Small Business Saturday in the big city

Wednesday, November 11 at 14:38Collaboration | Inspiration | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday 2015

Birmingham has a great reputation for its retail repertoire: with the iconic Bullring, the newly opened Grand Central, and the recently refurbished Mailbox; the second city has cemented its place on the map for being a shopaholic’s heaven. However, perhaps Birmingham’s best-kept secret is its thriving small business scene. In recent years, Birmingham has made moves to embrace its independents.  Initiatives like Joe Schuppler’s citywide loyalty card, Independent Birmingham, have helped locals and visitors alike to swap big businesses for lesser known shops, restaurants, and cafés.

One of the pioneers in the push for supporting independent retail was, and still is, Great Western Arcade. Built in 1876, the Grade-II listed Victorian arcade was restored in 1984 and has since been voted Birmingham’s favourite building. Set right in the heart of the city, GWA is the home of independent retail, representing a step away from the high street, into an emporium of unique brands. The centre houses around 40 of Birmingham’s best-loved small businesses and is a modern day treasure trove. GWA offers everything from freshly made food and the finest wines, to hand-made trinkets and high-end goods from hand-selected designers. Though the businesses may be small, they are not to be underestimated, as many have been recognised both regionally and nationally by various award boards: GWA’s Loki is the most awarded wine merchant in Birmingham having won 11 major national awards in the past two years, whilst traditional delicatessen Anderson & Hill has been profiled by the Guardian as one of the best budget eateries in the city. The arcade has also recently welcomed luxury accessories store Peter Forson and will soon play host to leading lifestyle and menswear brand P&Co. GWA has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and there seems to be no sign of stopping anytime soon.

Opportunities like Small Business Saturday present GWA with the much-needed and appreciated platform to shout about all that they have to offer. The GWA is choosing to celebrate the day as a collective body, rather than as separate shops.

The general premise concentrates on trading out to get trade in, something that GWA’s central location will lend itself to nicely. The arcade is a popular thoroughfare given its proximity to the city’s major stations, particularly for commuters in the surrounding Colmore Business District, which alone has 35,000 professionals. In recent years, a huge focus for us has been making GWA a destination in its own right. For Small Business Saturday, we want to consolidate this, creating a market-vibe in the arcade itself and showing Birmingham what GWA is all about.

Whilst we are keen to be seen as a whole centre, we are equally eager for each seller to be able to express their image in their own way. With such a wide-range of retailers comes a wide-range of activities. For example, the well-loved Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe is planning to give shoppers a taste of something sweet, having special guests from Alice in Wonderland hand out a selection of pick’n’mix treats.

With the spotlight already on Birmingham’s thriving business scene, Small Business Saturday is set to see GWA shine.

TE&CH: Collaboration, Cross-Pollination and Re-imagination for small business success

Monday, August 24 at 16:52Collaboration | Inspiration

Small Biz 100 Alumnus, Cinter are bringing you TE&CH on September 3rd 2015 at Central Working Whitechapel, London. They tell us a bit more about it...

TE&CH is about doing things differently, drawing upon a mixture of expert perspectives, sharing new insights and facilitating linkages between seemingly disparate sectors and disciplines.

Cinter describe how collaborative practices helped their business: “by collaborating with other small businesses we have been able to gain big company capacity from small organisations. We are able to do more, remain agile, share skills and reduce risk by making decisions and changes together. Collaboration has allowed us to reach a broader network outside of our main disciplines and the strong relationships we have generated by working with other organisations has allowed for unprovoked recommendation. Without collaboration our business wouldn’t be as dynamic and effective.”

The TE&CH event will host talks and exhibits that will provide practical knowledge and advice on future technology, innovation and productive collaboration. TE&CH will demonstrate the power of inter organisational collaboration to create profitable, sustainable, and efficient solutions that will respond to business and societal needs.

A highlight for our network will be the opportunity to converse with fellow small businesses BIMscript, Sutrue, Massless, GrowUp and BentoBio. They will be identifying technology as a means to innovate as part of the early speaking session. TE&CH also sees the importance in varied and stimulating break out sessions and enhanced networking via Weave.

This is a great opportunity for small businesses to meet and discuss all things collaborative. The highly anticipated panel discussion will draw all the sessions together into a healthy discussion with delegate participation.

Cinter intends to establish TE&CH as a regular event and a conduit to a growing community of businesses interested in cross-sector activity and collaboration. It will draw upon a wide and varied network of professional connections across the London tech scene, enabling TE&CH to act as a focal point for innovative thinking. Network members and event supporters alike will benefit from newly-established connections between blue chip companies, highly-investable tech startups, and forward thinking service providers.


Please register your attendance here or contact Charlotte Downs on 020 7607 0704 | charlotte@te-ch.uk | @teandch

Stunning scented flowers from a stunning location

Wednesday, June 17 at 09:05Inspiration | Small Business

We are very privileged to live and work on the beautiful Isles of Scilly, a group of islands 26 miles off the south west tip of Cornwall.  This small group of islands has long been famed for growing scented narcissi – multi headed small daffodil type flowers that have a beautiful perfume.  Over 150 years the flower farmers of the Isles of Scilly have earned a reputation for growing the best scented narcissi.

Flower farming has flourished on Scilly due to the islands mild climate – frosts are virtually unheard of even in the harshest winters.  Scented narcissi grow outdoors and flower from October through to Easter.

Years ago Scilly’s farmers benefited hugely from the railway which took their flowers direct from the ferry in Penzance to Covent Garden in London.  However in the 1980’s when flowers started to be air freighted from around the globe, competition increased and flower growers on Scilly found it hard to compete.

My parents-in-law, Andrew and Hilary, were determined to keep our small farm on St Martin’s going. They looked for a scented summer flower and chose traditional English scented pinks.  By a process of trial and error they made a success of the new crop and this extra income helped keep the farm afloat.

Then one day some holidaymakers passed our farm and asked Andrew if he thought the scented pinks could be posted as a gift for their friends at home.  This spark of an idea was grabbed by my in-laws and from very humble beginnings, literally on the kitchen table, and nearly 25 years later Churchtown Farm sends 90,000 gift boxes of postal flowers a year and the farm is a thriving business, helping to keep the island tradition of flower farming alive.

My parents-in-law have now handed over the day to day running of Churchtown Farm to my husband, Ben, and myself, Zoe and we live on the farm with our two children Rosie and Piran.  St Martin’s is a very special place, we are surrounded by the most beautiful scenery and a close community of about 130 people. Being so remote obviously does bring with it some unique challenges when it comes to running a business!

There are 18 of us picking and packing the flowers and when you only have a population of 130, 25 of whom are still at school, you have to cast your net a little further afield.  We have a talented team from all over the world who have come to experience island life and live at the farm.  Some come for just six months, others fall in love with Scilly and make St Martin’s their home.

Obviously the weather influences life in a big way. All our gift boxes of flowers go by boat to the larger island of St Mary’s from where they are then flown to the mainland.  If the weather is stormy or the fog comes in it can disrupt logistics.  We spend quite a lot of time watching various weather websites and making plans to minimise any disruption.

We also have to be very organised - not something that comes naturally to me! We plan months in advance to make sure we have all the things we need.  If we run out of boxes we can’t just call our supplier and ask them to send a lorry, it all has to be carefully planned, booked on to the freight boats and collected by tractor from the quay at our end.

The upturn in internet shopping has made a huge difference to our businesses and this year the islands got super fast broadband which is already changing the way we work. So if you are ever on Scilly pop in and see how a remote traditional flower farm is able to thrive thanks to very modern technology.



By Zoe Julian, Scilly Flowers

Why social media is a treasure for independent business collaboration

Monday, June 15 at 11:00Collaboration | Inspiration | Small Business | Social Media

As a new startup in the beautiful world of flowers and weddings, I’m always keen to promote and grow my business by using as many creative and engaging ways as possible- social media being my preferred option, so when the opportunity arose to team up with another local business  - Pipley Flowers, to co-host a Social Media Lonely Bouquet Treasure Hunt and support British Flowers Week – I jumped at the chance.

British Flowers Week is a National campaign, which encourages everybody (including us Florists!) to buy more seasonal, locally-grown cut flowers. We used to have a thriving cut flower industry in Britain but 90% of this was lost to places like Holland. Campaigns like British Flowers Week aims to show everybody what amazing flowers are literally on our doorstep. British Flowers Week will run from Monday 15 June to Friday 19 June 2015.

When I first started trading, my first port of call was always the regional flower market. The guys are friendly and try and stock British Flowers, but inevitably being a large regional wholesaler, they stock a majority of imported flowers. Then one day, through the wonderful connections I’ve made on social media, I came across Liz Rawlings of Pipley Flowers, a local British Flower Farmer (and a pretty good florist too!) who lives less than 10 miles from my business.

Being an avid follower of floral and bridal trends, I had noticed that there had definitely been a shift in the public's demand for more British grown flowers. I had always wanted to use locally sourced flowers, not only as a wonderful selling point to my customers - British Flowers have an incredible fragrance, vibrancy, and a really long vase life, but to support other local businesses, whilst tapping into the bridal trend to buy local.  I had been unable to do so until I really got into social media -  I just wasn’t aware of how many local flower farmers there are in my area, and by having a connection through social media, I was able to make my dreams of stocking locally sourced flowers a reality.

Most businesses know that social media has made it easier than ever to connect and engage with customers through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all of the other platforms available, but one of the over looked bonuses of social media is the ability to connect independent businesses together. The opportunity to work with Liz and create a social media bouquet treasure hunt for British Flowers Week gave us both the opportunity to promote our individual businesses, use our joint social media campaign as a vehicle for traffic to both of our business sites and raise awareness of the beautiful British flowers that are available to both trade and public.

I found that working together on a joint campaign with another small independent business that compliments your own is a brilliant way to share skills, ideas, responsibility and have a bit of fun in the process. Liz and I created a really fun engaging campaign for the public to find out more about buying British flowers. During the campaign week we will be co-hosting a social media treasure hunt across Bristol for anybody who follows us on social media, giving our potential customers the opportunity to find beautiful bouquets made entirely from locally sourced flowers.

I would totally recommend as a small business to look for opportunities to collaborate on mutually beneficial projects with other independent businesses, not only for the shared commercial rewards, but to contribute towards making a strong network of independents businesses who support each other and create good relationships with each other, after all, two heads are better than one!


By Victoria Baker, Peppermint Rose Flowers, 07717 336659
twitter:@_peppermintrose
Facebook: www.facebook.com/peppermintroseflowers

Liz Rawlings, Pipley Flowers, 07722055702
Twitter:@pipleyflowers
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pipleyflowers 

How To: Crowdfunding for a Small Business

Tuesday, May 26 at 13:14Crowdfunding | Finance | How To | Inspiration | Small Business

For those who aren’t familiar crowdfunding is a new option to raise money by reaching out to the ‘crowd’, i.e. everyone online. You are able to gather funding to expand your business, or to embark on a new small business venture.

2013 saw crowdfunding raise £666 million in the UK, with that figure increasing to £1.7 billion in 2014. Crowdfunding is a particularly useful tool for small businesses that have difficulty finding funding from traditional sources.

In the US, a crowdfunding success story is the Pebble Smartwatch, whose campaign raised over $20 million. Recently in the UK, Scottish company BrewDog received £5 million through crowdfunding with their Equity for Punks campaign, with the goal of financing their business with support from happy customers. Crowdfunding is a fantastic opportunity to grow your business if you set up your crowdfunding campaign in the right way.

Be a Celebrity

You already have supporters. If you’re considering growing your business there are already customers who like how-and-what you do. Reach out to these customers along with your family and friends; offer them the opportunity to become more involved in the company to their own benefit as well as yours. These supporters are your advocates. Potential investors who don’t know you personally will see that they trust and value your company enough to invest, making them more likely to do so as well.

Be a Person

A crowdfunding campaign is about working together with your supporters to expand. To do this well you need to be a person: approachable and identifiable. Simply put, people are more likely to trust and invest in a company made up of people they can identify with.

Be Professional

That’s not to say there’s no place for facts and figure. Alongside your charming self they’re a valuable tool for someone to decide whether or not to hand over their money. Particularly to those bringing larger amounts of investment that might not know you, it’s important to present your professional side and display the business acumen behind your success.

Be Open

Explain what the project is for- in detail. Tell your supporters how the funds raised will be spent on new equipment, more staff, or extra retail and operating space. Tell them how this will increase business and tell them how that will allow you to repay their investment. Crowdfunding allows for a truly symbiotic relationship. Small businesses are able to find funding under fair terms and supporters benefit from the success of the small business; local investors will also enjoy the improvements to your business.

Be Ready

Crowdfunding provides great access to potential investors and simplifies investing in your business but there’s still work involved. Before the campaign begins, things already need to be in motion. Arrange interviews or reviews that will be available before and during your campaign to attract interest. Have updates ready to be sent out when you reach your goals; thanking the investors and explaining how those funds will be used. Be sure you have social media accounts set up, where you can post these updates and interact with your supporters.

Crowdfunding  requires effort, energy and focus. But with a good pitch and some preparation you can expand your business on your terms. If you want to start up a new venture or develop your business further go to YouCan2.de to learn more.


By Sam Hemming from YouCan2.de, a crowdfunding company where you choose the best option for you with complete control over your campaign’s length, target and return on investment as well as multiple funding options to suit you.



Our purpose and the importance of small business

Friday, May 15 at 15:07Inspiration | Small Business Saturday

‘People of Portobello’ is a lifestyle project creating a photographic library, with supporting interviews, to capture the community and culture of the Portobello Road area in London.

It is intended as a celebration of a wonderful collection of people and it is also a message on the value of community, and diversity within that community. We believe in the importance of understanding and immersing ourselves in what is different and new. Celebrating examples of this, such as Portobello Road, is one way to send that message.

Small independent businesses play a massively important role within any local community, but even more so in Portobello. They focus and retain investment within an area, and offer cultural value to customers and communities through original and varied experiences.

A large proportion of our interviewees are small business owners and we love to celebrate what they do and why they do it in Portobello Road - we should all try to take the opportunity to support local businesses whenever we can!

Some lessons from Portobello Road for other small businesses


Small businesses can benefit from planning strategically about how to make the most of their unique position. There are many competitive advantages to being a small business and in Portobello Road I’ve found that the most successful small businesses have taken these into consideration:

Move Quickly  

Your advantage of being small means you can make decisions, implement them and move forward quickly; whether they be strategic, marketing or operational. Make the most of that.

Be ‘Close’ to the Customer

In a small organisation, you, as the decision maker, have the advantage of seeing your customer face to face regularly. Use this interaction as an opportunity to understand, and meet, your customer’s needs.

Be Unique 

Ultimately customers want to try new things and experiences but may have fallen out of the habit. Re-introduce them to the value of ‘the new’, whilst remaining accessible and approachable.


Simon Hardy, People of Portobello

Simon and the People of Portobello team will be joining the Inspire series on 16th May and conducting interviews and photography of the event: @PoPortobello 

Blue Badge Style

Tuesday, March 24 at 08:53Inspiration | Social Good

I worked for 25+ years for various large software companies, operating mainly in the Finance sector, selling multi-million pound systems. However, due to progressive disability I became adept in finding ‘cool’ places to go with clients, places that held no surprises regarding accessibility & facilities.

There was nowhere to find this information and no one site for anything to do with disability and style. I realised that there must be other people with the same needs so I collated this knowledge into a Website and more latterly a Mobile App - Blue Badge Style.

In 2012 I received some investment and decided that this would now be my life’s work! I wanted to create a community where “style & disability are not mutually exclusive” and I’ve subsequently developed a business model where I can make money from the idea. In line with producing information on where to go we have developed a product that gives this accessibility information on a venue’s website (something that is lacking in most cases), in the form of an online access brochure that treats disabled people as customers rather than health & safety issues! They’re known as PADs (Pictorial Access Descriptions), you can see one on the website of South Place Hotel http://pad.bluebadgestyle.com/south-place-hotel/ .

In 2014 we won the coveted European Investment Bank Institute’s Social Innovation Tournament.

I’ve met many challenges in setting up the business but the main one has been transport to meetings. Public transport exists for wheelchair users but it’s not always reliable and involves military planning – so spontaneous journeys are impossible and getting to meetings on time is precarious. Journeys can be unacceptably long, especially if the man with the ramp is not available. The only alternative is taxis and I have a network of cabbies I regularly use who know my needs. The challenge is the expense!

I set up a business because working for a company can be very difficult if you’re disabled. It has changed a lot since the Paralympics and the companies I worked for were very understanding and helpful but a daily journey to an office or a client’s site became just too difficult. The freedom of being the boss means I can work more flexibly and choose what my goals are.

Whether disabled or not you need to believe in what you’re doing and enjoy the journey. I’m the poorest I’ve ever been setting up my own business but I’m the happiest and don’t regret my decision. I wish I’d had the courage to do it earlier in my career. My advice is consider the risks in anything you do but in my experience working with people you like and respect, as well has ‘gut feel’, gave me a successful career in software sales and more latterly with my own business.

Challenges are what drive me and being disabled means I have to overcome them every day in my personal life, challenges at work are nowhere near as difficult to deal with. So perseverance and being open to new ideas and experiences is my advice.

By Fiona Jarvis, founder of Blue Badge Style  

Blue Badge Style is holding a concert to celebrate the launch of a new music scholarship for musicians with disabilities at the Royal Academy of Music, April 14 2015 7.30pm at St George’s Bloomsbury, London.

This inclusive concert in Central London is being held to raise further funds for the 2015/16 academic year. The multi-genre event, will be a showcase for an eclectic mix of disabled and able-bodied talent. Several acts have already signed up to play, ranging from a blind soprano to a jazz funk band. They will all be supported by The Aldwych Sinfonia. For more details and to purchase a ticket, please go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bbs-mix-concert-supporting-disabled-musicians-tickets-16188390913

4 Tips for buying your very own small business

Tuesday, March 10 at 09:28Finance | Inspiration

For many, it’s a long-held dream. Owning a business could give you the freedom to pursue your professional passion, to be your own boss and to grow a brand to be proud of. Whatever your motivation, starting your very own business is an exciting time.

Building your business from scratch can be rewarding but it may make better sense to buy a business with an established customer base that’s already supplying cash flow and profits. It’s likely to be more costly – in the short term at least – but you’ll be generating a revenue from the get-go and you should find it easier to obtain finance, as your bank or backer will be investing in a business with a track record and orders in the pipeline.

It all starts with you

Start by taking time to think long and hard about the type of business you want. You may be considering basing your new career on a personal talent or hobby – landscape gardening or dressmaking, for instance. As long as you plan realistically and conduct due diligence, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t build a business around a passion, after all, countless others have.

Do carefully weigh up your own skills and expertise, though. If you don’t know the first thing about early-years education, you might face a steep learning curve if you plan on running a pre-school nursery. Consider re-training if you’re aiming for a big career change and try to select a business that will make the most of your personal qualities – as well as one that dovetails with your lifestyle. If you’d rather stay indoors when wet weather descends, an outdoor activity centre may not be the right choice for you!

Take your pick

When you’ve narrowed down your search by business type, size and location, you’re ready to begin your search in earnest. Business transfer resources like Bizdaq help you get a head start but you should also keep your ear to the ground for local intelligence on businesses that may never make it to the open market. Talk to business owners and use your network of contacts to make sure you’re the first to know about new opportunities. Bear in mind the budget you have available.

Do your research

Bone up on your chosen market and try to get a feel for its economic outlook. No business is bomb-proof, but you want to feel the tide is with you rather than against you. Make sure you assemble an ‘acquisition team’ to help perform due diligence on your purchase – your solicitor, accountant and financer (if you have one). Start by digging into the business’s finances, reputation and trading history. See if you can discover why the owner is selling, what the potential for growth is and if it carries any liabilities.

At the end of the process, you should know exactly what you’re buying, which, in turn, will help you to decide if the price is right.

Closing the deal

Agreeing a price is just part of the negotiating process. Decide what kind of deal structure would best suit your circumstances and look carefully at your options. If you need finance to go ahead with your purchase, consider the most cost-effective way of acquiring the necessary backing. A straight business loan may work well but you could discuss alternative funding options with the seller - such as deferred payments or seller financing.

The right business is one that will grow because of your personal and professional strengths and blossom under your stewardship. So take the time to find it, heed the professional advice you’re given and keep the seller on side to ensure a smooth transition on D-Day. Be honest, play fair, work hard and you’ll soon be running your business like a pro. Good luck!

Jonathan Russell is Marketing Manager at Bizdaq, an online platform that helps people easily buy and sell small businesses in the UK

Confessions of a SmallBiz Mum and 5 top tips to help you ‘Make it Happen’

Sunday, March 08 at 10:00Inspiration

Whilst I do not define myself by the fact I am a mum, being a mum has in many ways defined me.  I chose to end the career I had worked hard to establish through my twenties after I became a mum because I knew the extended periods that I would be required to work away from my family (for months at a time) would make me miserable.  I had to find something new to do, something that would ‘fit’ with my new life.

So I got a degree in glass blowing because… well, just because.  I specialised in lighting and large scale installations, I was proud of what I achieved and I had a blast!  It made me realise too that I had so much more inside me and it gave me confidence not only in my creativity but in the experience and knowledge I had accrued throughout my life.  Ready to start a new chapter in my life, a new career, I got into freelancing and it was a revelation, I had skills that people wanted AND I could fit it around my child (now children), I also had a burning desire to set up my own creative business alongside this and to make a success of it all.

The theme for this years International Women’s Day is #makeithappen (‘it’ being anything your heart desires and gender equality too); but making it happen can be a daunting task even when you are passionate about what you do, and whether you identify yourself as a feminist, a woman, a mother or all three, there are 5 things that you can do to make ‘it’ happen for you as a parent starting your own small business:

1. Get the childcare sorted:  When you know your children are safe and happy you will be able to give 100% to your other baby (your business!).

2. Get organised: this is very important, as is being honest with yourself and others about your limitations.  Once upon a time you could jump on a train to Edinburgh at the drop of a hat.  Now you can’t.  You don’t need to apologise for having children.  In other words, make your worklife work for you.

3. Be adaptable and flexible, at home and in work:  Your life is not just your life – you have extra little lives dependent on yours, lives that are in fact more important than your own – ‘stuff’ will happen with your little people that is beyond your control.  You don’t need to apologise for having children (I know I am repeating this.  That’s because it’s important), they are part of who you are.

4. Don’t punish yourself for what you can’t do.  I realise that even if I tell you not to, you will probably do this regardless, but know that there will always have to be compromise and there is nothing wrong with that.  Perhaps you will forget its dress up day once in a while but you will always be a strong female role model for your children and that’s more important.

5. Finally, and most importantly:  It’s always simpler than you think.  Just make it happen.

So that’s what I’m doing.  Trying to make it happen.  Trying to make a success of bringing up my children, freelancing and starting a small business too.  My company, SeeingSticks, produce gender-neutral children’s art activity packs for weddings, parties and other celebrations and events.  Our products help children to look at the world in a way they hadn’t before, to see colours, shade, shape, texture, emotion, change, movement & light… where before there was just a tree.  Learning to visually interrogate your surroundings can only lead to more inquisitive minds and a questioning mind is the one that will bring about future change…

There have been many times that I have sat covered in scrambled egg working at my laptop while my little one slept, when I have worked late into the night knowing that even when I did eventually get to bed I would, without doubt, be woken again several times before the sun.  And although I sometimes question if I am just making life hard for myself and although I often feel guilt, I really wouldn’t have my life any other way.  Now I wake up everyday (more often than not following an uninterrupted nights’ sleep!) knowing that I can #makeithappen (whatever ‘it’ happens to be that day!).

By Victoria Jackson of Seeing Sticks

Twitter @seeingsticks
Facebook /seeingsticks
Instagram @seeingsticks
Pinterest #seeingsticks

How I Set Up My Business and the Four Reasons Why It Is Successful

Wednesday, March 04 at 09:35Inspiration | Social Media


My daughter was nearly 2 years old and I’d been a full time mummy for 669 days! (I wasn’t counting of course!). The extent of my mental stimulation was remembering and reciting nursery rhymes and singing the alphabet song 30 times a day.

The need to find a means of income that was more satisfying and rewarding than a ‘job’ but without the commitment and time needed to dedicate to a ‘career’ was essential (only later did I realise that any business you run yourself involves an incredible amount of your time, commitment, dedication… blood, sweat & tears!)

I had 2 rules when making this decision:

1. My daughter comes first so it has to fit around her (sorry to spoil the sorry but I failed on this lots of times! But it’s okay she still loves me and I learned a big lesson about what’s important in my life).

2. I must have passion for it & love doing it. Luckily this is easy if you choose the most obvious path, and the bits you don’t love (because there will be some) -  outsource!

Well after 5 years of writing plans in my ‘Business Ideas’ book (which I still treasure today) I came up with the concept of The Beauty Event. This little idea actually turned out to be pretty big! After an exciting launch event at Hotel Du Vin in May 2012 I went on to host many events over Bristol including The Pamper Area at Women Outside The Box festival in the autumn of 2012 & 2013.

The only niggle was…. my number 1 rule was being broken! (By then I had 2 little people in my life, my son was 2 and my daughter 6). Anyone who works in events and especially management of events where the sole responsibility for every aspect of the event is down to one person: YOU! It’s a tough job and to say its a rollercoaster ride is an understatement.

In May 2014 the 2nd anniversary of TBE we celebrated with The Merrymaking Festival. A wonderful family event full of hands on activities, craft, live music, afternoon tea, an amazing line-up of speakers and all my favourite exhibitors too. This was the last event in the TBE journey. I’d made a decision to choose my family over the rollercoaster.

During those last few months I’d done a lot of soul searching as to what I could possibly do next on the path of life. All along it was staring me in the face! Without me even recognising people’s interest in my social media skills my next business was sowing seeds all over the place!

Exhibitors and therapists often asked me for tips and advice on how they could use Facebook to let more people know about their business and ultimately get more bookings. Looking back the opportunity had been there a while, but I guess I needed a few more clues before I could actually ‘see it’.

I don’t like to hang about and once my mind is made up I’m 110% focused on ensuring it happens. Seven days after TBE’s last appearance SHC Social Media was born and within the first week I had three clients!

10 months on, I’ve launched my website, given more than 25 1-2-1 tutorials, hosted group workshops & training and managed social media accounts for 13 different clients! On top of all that I’m really keen to collaborate and work with local businesses especially those with a female core focus. In November of last year I sponsored the CLIC Sargent Celebration Ball held at the Marriott Hotel and I’m currently sponsoring the BeFab Bristol event taking place in March, which is all about being fabulous inside & out! (this is right up my street!)

I do have to admit that rule no.1 is still being broken on occasion but that’s because of rule no.2! As long as you have a burning desire at the core of your business that will keep the fire alight then your sole objective then is to just keep that passion in check!

I am incredibly grateful for my success in my new business venture and would measure this based on 4 reasons, which can apply to any business:

1. NETWORK: I had a ready made market just waiting for me. Through my event work I met and got to know a lot of small businesses. (But I don’t rely on this and I continue to network and build my contacts, meeting new people is a very enjoyable & fulfilling part of life)

2. DEMAND: My market need & want my service (small businesses really benefit from  social media and it is very accessible for them).

3. PASSION: I love working with small business owners to help them make their business more successful. Ultimately this is the driving force behind what I do every day.

4. REAL: I’m approachable, genuine & easy going! (Many small businesses find the idea of social media a bit daunting so I make it user friendly!).

I believe people come first and everything else comes second. If you put the people in your business first (you) and the people in other businesses (your clients) first also then you will find you’re fostering strong relationships built on mutual trust, respect & understanding. To me this sounds like a recipe for success, wouldn’t you agree?



By Sarah Cook, founder of SHC. "SHC is about opening people’s eyes to an amazing and ever changing online world which has incredible potential for your business when used in the right way! I help small businesses and start-ups get more social media savvy! Take a look at my website for more info & feel free to get in touch for a free consultation.” www.shcsocialmedia.co.uk

Happily Ever After for The Fairy Tale Fair

Monday, March 02 at 10:38Inspiration

The Fairy Tale Fair is a whimsical themed craft and vintage fair in Brighton and Sussex. Launched in 2012 by Claire Montgomery with an aim to support local makers and designers, and bring their creations to the community.

Claire says, "The Fairy Tale Fair evolved from my love of crafts and background in design. I myself am a maker/designer. I graduated in 2011 from Brighton University with a 1st Class honours degree in Communication Design. After I graduated I knew I wanted to work creatively in the design industry but wasn't sure exactly how. I was lucky enough to be offered an internship at a small design studio in Brighton which I had previously volunteered with. This internship evolved into a full time job in web design, and I am still there today (although now part time!). Its great working within a creative environment as it means your skills and ideas can continually develop with the technology and audience.



At the same time I began illustrating greeting card designs in my spare time. I set up a blog and posted them on there and on social media. People seemed to like them and I was asked by a local handmade design shop in Brighton's lanes if I'd like to be part of it. It was a great feeling to know someone wanted my designs in their shop, and although a bit scary at first and a lot of work it certainly helped me with my journey to where I am today.

In spring 2012 I was invited to take part in my first proper craft fair in Brighton town centre. I spent ages getting all my designs and creations ready for it, and it was really great meeting other makers in the same position as me. It really inspired me to continue with my creative adventures. In summer 2012 I launched my laser cut jewellery designs and starting taking part in a lot more fairs and also set up my website and online Etsy shop in late 2012.

After taking part in a few craft fairs I realised there was a lack of craft fairs aimed at families and the community in particular, so in 2012 I decided I would start my own.

Our first fair was in a little hall locally in Patcham, Brighton and a fairy tale theme seemed very fitting for the family audience. The first fair was a big success, however we knew we'd be needing a bigger venue!

Since that day our fair has continued to grow. We still hold local fairs in Patcham, Brighton but in our much loved home of Patcham Methodist Church (Ladies Mile Road). The space here means we can hold a craft workshop room, vintage tearoom, face painting and much more. It makes for a wonderful family day out for all ages. In 2014 we also expanded into central Brighton with fairs at Brighton Open Market and Brighton's biggest handmade Christmas fair at Brighton Racecourse with 100 stalls and lots of magical extras on the day. This was held on Small Business Saturday UK, of which we were one of the top 100.

This year we are continuing to expand with fairs every other month at Brighton Open Market and Easter and Christmas specials at Patcham. We've now built a big social following and want to say a big thank you for everyone’s support in getting our fair to where it is today. We have regular sellers and customers, and it’s always wonderful to see those people back again and again.

At our craft and vintage fairs in Brighton you can expect to find a selection of: jewellery, cards and prints, knitted and crochet, ceramics, homewares, baby and kids gifts and clothing, original artwork and paintings, homemade chocolates, jams, hampers, accessories and lots more to explore. Everything on sale has been lovingly made or designed by hand, with the majority of the makers from Brighton or Sussex. The fairs are a great opportunity to find one off gifts to impress family and friends.

The fair has become a well-established name in Brighton. I also run my own laser cut jewellery company - Cat-a-Cake Creations, have an online shop - Just Daydreaming.com, plus I am a Brighton Etsy Team leader. I like to keep busy and creative as you can probably tell!

If you find yourself in the Brighton area do pop along and say hello. We hope to see you at one of our fairs soon! www.thefairytalefair.co.uk"



By Claire Montgomery, founder of the The Fairy Tale Fair

If you are going through hell, keep going

Wednesday, February 25 at 14:33Inspiration

Churchill first said this when he took the reigns in 1940 and faced down the Second World War. Pretty much in the face of unbeatable odds, he refused to give up.

Businesses small and large face these challenges every day, and it is the Churchillian that survive. At some point, all businesses will go through a tough time and it will seem that survival is impossible.

GM faced down bankruptcy, one of the biggest in US history, used it as an opportunity to reassess, and survived. Smaller businesses across the world face what can feel like a biblical apocalypse every day, and whether they survive or thrive depends on how they handle the fire.

Taking Churchill’s words, if your business really is in crisis, standing still really isn’t an option. When you are in hell, you will either be consumed by the flames, or you have to push yourself on. But often the hardest thing to do when in a crisis is to see a way out: how can the business use this as an opportunity?



We help businesses in crisis all the time – and we see the same behaviours coming up again and again. It is hard to make good decisions when you feel like life or death can rest upon them. It is also hard to take risks when this may be the last one you take. But, and we cannot stress this enough, there has never been a more important time to make decisions and take risks.

The process to get out of this situation may differ by business, but there are 5 key steps we find over and over again can make all the difference:

1. Focus. 

Define EXACTLY what the problem is and get your best people (or best mates, or best contacts, or a mentor, or reach out to someone you admire on Twitter…) to start articulating the problem with you. What exactly needs fixing? Is it customer numbers? Is it customer satisfaction? Is it production? Is it a failing market? Be clear on what the (main) problem is and focus in on it (remembering, there will always be smaller problems, but if they are not critical, they can wait until later)

2. Work. Hard. 

This is no time for long lunches, procrastination or being too busy on the day job. Strategy often gets put to one side, then to one side, and then addressed later as the day job takes over, and that is easier to address. You know where you are with the day job. It is a nice place to hide your head… But in the end, it isn’t going to solve the Big Problem (see point 1) so let’s put that down for a moment and start work on the tough stuff

3. Think differently. 

The old adage, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got, couldn’t apply more here. If you always plan, build a strategy, think about your market and customers in a particular way, now is the time to do it differently. Throw out the rule book and try and look at things afresh. This is a tough one – it is hard to break habits, particularly in a business that has worked in the same way for a long time. Make this easier on yourself by bringing in some outsiders, or looking at other businesses for inspiration. How would Virgin approach your problem? How would Apple? How would Joe The Guy In The Business Next Door? We think that bringing in a little innovative thinking into your business can be like a gust of fresh air.

4. Work collaboratively. Learn from others. 

You are definitely not the first business to face this challenge, so find other people who have been in the same boat to help out. The story of the man that fell into a hole resonates here: a man falls into a hole; the sides are steep and slippy and there is no light – no way out. A friend walks past and the man calls out to him for help – the friend jumps in the hole. The man asks: what are you doing! Now we are both stuck! But the friend says: yes, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.
Businesses tend to focus in and look to solve their problems internally – this is not making the most of the resources available to you. Ovens&co work with people all the time who have been in this situation and can definitely show you the way forward. Lets roll our sleeves up together

5. Don’t. Give. Up. 

That’s the big one. Take the responsibility. Don’t expect anyone else to jump in. Don’t forget about it at 5pm. And don’t think, well, that was that, I failed. As Churchill said, “never, never, never give up”



We would like to leave you with one of our favorite moments of inspiration, and something that keeps Ovens&co going: the RAF motto, “Per Ardua Ad Astra” – through adversity to the stars.

Couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

By Ovens&co - a boutique strategy consulting house, working with the best analysts and experts in the fields of media, retail and telecoms, to deliver exceptional strategic advice to enterprises large and small - www.ovensandco.com

Getting the Dog’s Ball Rolling: Mrs Bishop’s Doggy Deli

Tuesday, February 24 at 09:50Inspiration

Back in 2010 we saw a market. My Sister-in-law had a rescue dog with a heart condition. No salt, no sugar, only healthy food. She would cook his main food but there was no suitable treats for sale from ordinary pet shops. My wife stepped in, as a great cook, and said she’d find out what dogs could eat and bake some little treats for her companion. She did and they were so popular by word-of-mouth, we did a lot more research into the industry.

Then my wife was made redundant.

It was a “what have we got to lose?” moment. Months of research had unearthed the massive market in dog treats in the US as well as the tons of legislation required to produce “complimentary pet foods”. Why so much red-tape? Well, vet bills are expensive and if you’re selling a treat to a stranger then the owner must be able to trust your product. Also, if you don’t comply to laws then your insurance is invalid!

Why did we carry on? Dedication and knowing what we did was right. We didn't assume it was easy money. There is no such thing. We saw a gap in the market - something different to offer the public, something fun and in demand. Consumers want to trust that what they buy is of the best affordable standard and this was what we aimed for.

We pooled all the redundancy pay, our savings and loans from relations and started out as we meant to go on. A dedicated kitchen to make our treats, registering a trade mark on our brand, setting up an online shop and months and months of selling at markets, events and dog shows. People questioned what we did, thinking it was “silly”. Standing in the freezing rain, early morning driving, late nights cooking and packaging ... was it worth it?

Yes. No external funding or loans has meant we’ve had to use what profit we make to advance the firm and meant we had to streamline our operations. Any spending we make is discussed, weighed on its merits, planned and only made when we see a clear return. We’ve little money to waste or gamble.

This said, we started in a recession and have survived it. In fact, we’ve grown despite the current economic climate.

So from our humble beginnings, where is Mrs Bishop’s Doggy Deli?

We have a high street “barkery” (a term from the US) and a thriving online business. We sell wholesale to carefully selected outlets. We’ve been finalists in two retail business awards (and aim to win next time!). This year, we’ve been contracted to produce dog cup-cakes for a major pet food retailer’s 10th birthday at Crufts. And we are contacted frequently for advice on setting up in the “barkery” retail industry; so often that I’m currently finishing a book on our experience and advice.

Top Tips:

• Research, research, research! Always assume there is a law concerning you business and find it.

• Be prepared for hard work. There is no such thing as easy money.

• Don’t copy another business - be inspired but find your own “take” on it.

• Have confidence in your product but be realistic.

• Spend your finances tactically. Think of what the return will be to your business.

• Take your work seriously; it’s not a hobby!

By Alan Cassady-Bishop, a Partner at Mrs Bishop's Doggy Deli

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