Business of the Month

Although JK Online is only a year old, both Karl and Joe have been in touch with us at The Kent Foundation for about 7 or 8 years. They first approached The Kent Foundation when they were both about 18, with an idea to sell art at local craft fairs that their friends and family had made. This business didn’t go very far, but was an amazing opportunity and insight into the business world for the both of them.

Jump forward several years, and now with the idea of JK Online, they approached The Kent Foundation again, shortly after setting up the business. Both Karl and Joe were keen to learn as much about business as possible and also connect with other like-minded business people.

Karl and Joe

The business started with us both being part time, but over the last 3 months, both of us have gone full time as we continue to grow and improve the business. The business started with just the idea of providing website designing, but has now grown into also providing social media marketing. Our plan for JK Online over the next few years is to keep growing our service list until we can offer the full digital marketing package. At JK we strive to break the norm. We believe in good service at affordable prices for website design, social media marketing and more. We are now officially a 5-star service on Wix arena, Google and Facebook! We truly value making customers enjoy their experience with us, and to date we have creating nearly 100 sites.

So, the first thing we were provided with through the Kent Foundation was a business mentor to help us through the first months of what was starting to be a busy time as the interest in JK Online was growing. Our business mentor has been one of the most valuable assets to the business. Both of us can can get overly excited by new ideas and lose the initial vision for the business. Hanna at The Kent Foundation matched us perfectly with a business mentor that can keep us grounded, and point us in the right direction. We now meet monthly with our business mentor who gives us tips and ideas for what we should do for the following month. Some of the biggest shift in the JK Online business were off the back of one of those meetings as we both realised that the direction we were going was not exactly where we wanted to be and our business mentor was able to help us realise this and get us back on track.

We were also invited to various Kent Foundation events that would help us take our business forward. This has been a great asset to us both as it has introduced us to other young business people going through the same process as us, as well as businesses that have been through the aches and pains of a new business and come out the other end successfully. The ability to talk to others and get their input is a great asset. Kent Foundation host Mastermind sessions where they get some of the business mentors and the young businesses together to talk about areas they may need help with in their business.

Just a last note from JK. We would like to thank The Kent Foundation for all the support they have given us and would urge any young business people to get in touch with them to see how they can help you too.

Visit JK Online here

Business of the Month

At school, Hannah Catchlove decided that she wanted to start her own business by the time she was 30. She didn’t know exactly what her business would be, she just knew she wanted to make it happen. Her opportunity arose in 2015 when she was relocating from her home in Kent to Suffolk, when her current employer asked her to continue working with the firm as a freelance graphic designer.

Whilst living in Suffolk, Hannah started to grow her freelance client base and also launched a range of illustrated cards that she began selling online. In 2016, Hannah moved back to Kent and attended the Kent Foundation A Blast! networking event where she found out about the support available and subsequently signed up to be matched with a mentor.

Since moving back to Kent, Hannah’s online shop had been having consistent sales and she was enjoying illustrating and creating new products. She decided this was going to be her business focus and now sells a range of cards, prints and homeware through her website and specialist retailers.

Hannah first met her mentor, Julie a few months after the A Blast! Event and was low in confidence, having suffered some setbacks in her business. Julie initially helped her with confidence building exercises and overcoming ‘imposter syndrome’ whilst also focusing  Hannah to develop a robust business plan with measurable goals. Hannah and Julie continue to review her progress each month and they set fresh goals for 2019, reflecting on her achievements from the previous year.

Hannah’s plans for 2019 include raising the profile of her brand, particularly across Kent, increasing her range of stockists and to continue building upon the success of her online shop.

Hannah’s biggest success was securing her first retailer and her biggest challenges have been adapting to the isolation of working on her own and securing high quality british manufacturers for her illustrative products.

Hannah’s word of advice for other young people in business are….

Make sure you are starting a business you have a passion for.

Use your Mentor to give you advice and feedback that your friends and family may not want to.

Get systems in place and take advantage of technology to manage your finances, admin and invoicing.

Work when you are most effective, you don’t have to stick to office hours!

Hannah will be exhibiting her products at A Blast! 2019 on 16 May so drop by and say hello!

Visit HannaH’s website here

Clarke Virtual Assistant – Star Business of the Month – September 2016

Clarke Virtual Assistant in Kent LogoHi I am Kascha Clarke, a Virtual Assistant and Founder of Clarke Virtual Assistant Business Services.  In a nutshell I provide administrative and creative support to busy business owners across the UK on a virtual basis. Some of you are probably thinking ‘virtual’? What do you mean ‘virtual’?….well first of all, I am a human being and not something out of cyberspace or an app you download to let you know when your next meeting is, last time I checked I was a 29 year old female! So I am human and I help busy people from my own, now fully equipped, office in Whitstable.

From audio typing to invoicing, the list in endless. With today’s technology and the ever so useful cloud storage, I am able to support individuals and businesses anywhere in the world and the best part about it is that I can be wherever I want to be too. For example whilst writing this, I was on a Virgin train to Edinburgh with my chromebook in front of me, and have already cleared a few client’s inboxes for them and booked a flight for another.

Clarke Virtual Assistant – How did it all start?

I have always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to start a business, but just never really knew what or how. I started my career as a Post Room Operative for Oxleas NHS Trust, organising, sorting and delivering post and medical records around their headquarters in Dartford. It was this job that made me realise I was an ‘organiser’.

Clarke Virtual Assistant in KentAfter Oxleas I worked in London as a Secretary for a large construction company, until I moved to the Kent coast and took on a position as Company Secretary and Finance Assistant for a farming day centre for adults with learning disabilities. As much as I loved my job and the environment I worked in, In May 2015 I was ready for a change and decided to look in to starting a business. Knowing that if I was going to do it, it needed to be something I was passionate about and good at, to make it a success.

I can’t quite remember how I came across the term ‘virtual assistant’ but the moment I read about them I instantly knew it was what I was going to do. I had 12 years’ experience, a supportive partner and family, so what was stopping me.  Why wouldn’t I want to do what I was good at, but for many businesses rather than just the one. After 3 months of spending my evenings and weekends researching online, I thought what the hell I am going to do it.

When I think back now, it seems so crazy to think that I built my business, Clarke Virtual Assistant from literally having a laptop whilst sitting on the sofa in our 1 bed flat. I wasn’t quite brave enough to hand in my notice straight away, so I spent endless evenings setting up a website myself, signing up to various forums and speaking to other already successful VA’s in order to get a feel for what I was letting myself in for. On August 15th 2015 I left my full time employment and started working for my first client on the following Monday….one year on and I now have 11 wonderful clients that I work with every month, an office, and another associate VA on board.

Business networking, it’s not that bad really…

Running a business is a rollercoaster of a ride, there are many lows but also lots of highs. I would say that I have learnt more about myself and my capabilities in the last year than I have in my whole career. The biggest hurdle for me was walking in to a networking breakfast meeting and standing up in front of lots of strangers, telling them who I was and what I did. So many people told me that in order to pick up clients I would need to network network network! Yes, I understand that you need to get yourself out there in order to let others know about your services, but when you aren’t the best at talking about yourself, it is seriously hard. I struggled to be myself and feel good enough, I was always conscious that someone may ask me something I didn’t have a clue about, although I am sure most people have had to overcome this to begin with. How did I overcome this barrier? I was myself, I relaxed and spoke with honesty.

I believe honesty is what has made the last year a success, if I don’t know something in particular or have never done it before, I am honest about it.   My clients need to trust me with their business and honesty is the best policy!! I am now lucky enough to say that the majority of my work comes from recommendation and word of mouth.  That is not to say that I shouldn’t still get myself out there, I just do it in other ways, like marketing, social media and attending business events, which are a lot more relaxed and less pressurised.

Clarke Virtual Assistant – Future Plans

Since recently hitting my 1 year milestone, I have been reviewing the past 12 months and planning for the next year. My Kent Foundation mentor, who, may I add, has been a huge help during this time, will tell you that my long term vision 6 months ago was completely different to what I envisage now. I remember saying to him that in 5 years’ time I want to have a commercial office with at least 3 full time employees, as well as managing and working for client’s full time as well. Now I realise that Clarke Virtual Assistant has been built in to a lifestyle business… no one wants to work 12 hours each day, 6 days a week and I have now realised that I don’t have to do this to run a business. I can have a family, become a mother and still run a business. The beauty of it is, that I can work from wherever I want, give other working mums an opportunity to work around family life and still do what I am passionate about – by supporting my clients with managing and growing their businesses.

My Regrets

That I didn’t do it sooner!!

My Business Tip

Work with people you like (wherever possible), if a business relationship doesn’t feel right then there is a good chance it isn’t. Go with your gut instinct. When one door closes, another opens with other, sometimes better, opportunities.

Day One Wellness – Star Business of the Month – April 2016

Day One Wellness is a holistic personal training company. We create and deliver programmes that make it as easy as possible for busy people to restore their health and transform their bodies naturally.

Day One Wellness - Be More BootcampsI started the company in October 2014 because like everyone, I absolutely hate seeing people suffer, so I wanted to create something that provided a real solution to all the problems I was regularly getting asked about. It seemed like no matter who I spoke to, people were complaining of low energy, low self-esteem, health problems or battles with their weight that was making them unhappy.

At the time I was working on a public health contract helping obese children and their families embrace a healthy lifestyle. A large part of my role was collaborating with dietitians and psychologists where I was exposed to a variety of different nutrition principles and behavioural change theories, from there I emerged myself in anything I could get my hands on to do with these topics. I’ve never been to university (apart from a brief soccer scholarship in the states – but that’s another story) but I’ve probably paid Amazon a similar amount to tuition fees in the amount of audio-books and paperbacks I’ve purchased!

The ‘Ah-Ha’ Moment for Day One Wellness

Day One Wellness Personal Training & Nutrition CoachingLike most business ideas, my ‘ah-ha’ moment for Day One Wellness was less of a light bulb and more of a combination of life experiences. I think particularly in customer facing roles you have to serve your time in the trenches first to discover and develop your own unique style. For me it was the combination of personal training in both the public and private sectors as well as the numerous life lessons, cultures and environments I experienced whilst travelling through Asia, living in New Zealand and experiencing my most physically demanding job to date; being what my mum liked to call a ‘Chalet Bitch’ for 5 months in Austria.

I eventually decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge after about 6 months of living with a nagging feeling that I should be doing something more. The first goal I set myself was to be 100% self employed within a year of starting which I’m pleased to say, not only did I achieve but by the time the year was up I was paying myself more than my last job too!

Day One Wellness As I’m writing this the business is still in its infancy – just 19 months old, and I’d never of predicted where we are now from where I started. We’ve recently moved into a new base at Southcote Chiropractic Clinic, working alongside some exceptionally experienced and educated health professionals. Our team of trainers are growing by the month to keep up with client demands, both for our 1 to 1 coaching programme and group coaching services, plus I’m doing a lot more ’empower workshops’ in the corporate sector to meet the wellness demand on the County’s workforce.

The vision for Day One Wellness is to be Kent’s most influential well-being company by 2020, providing inspirational outdoor venues and exercise referral schemes that make ‘healthy’ affordable, accessible and most importantly enjoyable for as many people as possible. It may seem like a big goal but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the last 19 months, it’s to keep faith and focus on one step at a time!

Business Tip

“My advice to any young entrepreneur, as cliché as it is coming from me is to invest in yourself first, you are the driving force behind your business so reserve some of your energy for you! Provide your body with real foods that fuel you, move hourly to stimulate more blood to your brain, switch technology off when you are socialising with friends and family (trust me you’ll need them) and prioritise your sleep because you are much more productive at 5am if you’ve got to bed by 10pm rather than attempting to pull an all nighter!”

Towers Design – Star Business of the Month – September 2015

Towers DesignBen Towers and Towers Design: What’s the Story?

I recently had my 17th Birthday and life is good.  It’s good because I’ve recently finished secondary school and received my GCSE results which I was really pleased with.  It’s also Kent Excellence in Business Awards KEiBAgood because I now get to spend all my time working on my two businesses, Towers Design and Social Marley, rather than juggling them with school work as I have been doing for the past 5 years!  Don’t get me wrong, I loved school but now I can focus 100% on what I’m truly passionate about – business.

I always enjoyed using computers and when I was 11 a family friend asked if I could build her a simple website.  So I learnt the basics of web design, mainly by watching YouTube videos, and did the job for the princely sum of £50.  I realised that I could do this over and over again, so I joined a freelancing website called People Per Hour.  Within a year, I had already secured 25 customers and so decided it was time to set up a business – Towers Design.

Social Marley - Social Media ManagementTowers Design continues to grow and I now have a great team of 15 people working for the business and hundreds of business clients on the books.  We have expanded our range of services to a full serviced digital agency offering design, printing, website development and hosting.  For the past year I have spent a lot of time on my latest venture, Social Marley, a new platform for businesses to manage their social media accounts.  We are currently seeking investment and looking to launch in 2016.

I am breaking down the barriers facing young entrepreneurs…

Ben Towers - Towers Design Social MarleyAlthough I enjoyed creating the websites for my clients, I found my young age created problems for the business.  For example accepting payments online was difficult, because you have to be 18 to have a merchant account. To get around this, I had to make an online merchant account in my dad’s name, even though he had nothing to do with the company.

Also because of my age, I was unable to get a business bank account which meant we couldn’t accept cheques.  Then one day when my bank found out that I was using a child account for business they froze the account.  I had to ask the Federation of Small Businesses to get involved and fortunately it was resolved.

Another issue with being a young business owner is credibility.  Some people just don’t believe that you can do a great job and deliver the goods.  Fortunately I met plenty of people who did believe in me enough to give me that chance and prove myself.

Last year I was really honoured to be awarded the ‘NatWest Young Entrepreneur Of The Year – Special Merit’ at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2014 and to be a finalist in the prestigious Startup Awards 2014.  This year I was awarded ‘Young Entrepreneur Of The Year In Kent 2015’ at the Kent Invicta Awards and was a Finalist at the Kent Excellence in Business Awards.

I’m now an ambassador for several organisations, including The Federation of Small Businesses, Young Start-Up Talent, The National Enterprise Challenge and Young Entrepreneur Networking Association.  Together we will hopefully tackle the unnecessary barriers and obstacles young business owners face.  I also talk at various business and youth events all around the world.  I’m happy to share my experiences and if it helps to inspire other teenagers to start their own businesses then that’s good too!

Business Tip

“Start now, do not wait for your business to start itself or for you to leave school. You will learn loads from running your own company so make sure that you actually take the leap and give it a go.”

Reflect Digital – Star Business of the Month – August 2015

Becky CampbellReflect Digital Logo creative digital marketing agency

For as long as I can remember I was destined to do something in business. From an early age I used to copy my Kent Excellence in Business Award Winnerdad (a businessman) by using one of his old briefcases to carry my things around. As I grew older he used to refer to me as his personal assistant since I was always taking telephone messages for him from his colleagues when they called the house.

Despite having very good GCSEs and A level results, I knew university was not for me, to the consternation of my teachers although funnily enough not my parents! I was hungry to get out to work and start my “business apprenticeship”. Not a formal one but a succession of jobs that gave me the grounding in customer relations and management. The last of these positions provided me the inspiration to start my own business.

So what was this inspirational job?

Becky Campbell Reflect DigitalIt was an account manager for a digital agency that built and managed websites and the on-going digital marketing for these sites. I’d had account manager jobs before, but working exclusively in the digital world was like switching all the lights on. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised about this, my dad had worked in IT for 40 years! The more I researched and learnt about digital marketing the more excited I became by this vibrant and still emerging sector.

So in February 2011 at age 24 I took the plunge head-first into the unknown, handing in my notice and quitting a very well paid job. With just a £3k initial loan from my parents and working from the spare bedroom of my flat, Reflect Digital Limited was born.

Reflect Digital is the realisation of my dream to run a digital agency that cares passionately for its clients. We have “set our stall out” to play the long game; we want our clients to remain our clients this month, next month, next year and forever! We really want to be viewed as our client’s own digital marketing department showing them real ROI throughout the life of their website/marketing campaign. Understanding a client’s business is fundamental to getting results from their digital presence.

The one thing I believe you must have above everything else when starting a new business is passion! Bags of it! You are going to be living your work morning, noon and night, without that passion you will soon start to tire of the fight to get established. Also that passion is what is going to make you stand out and to be listened to by your new prospective clients.

How did I get my first clients for Reflect Digital?

My very first client was a City of London Law firm specialising in the technology sector, as I researched and learnt about this particular area of business I was able to appeal successfully to other law firms. This has led to us becoming quite a prominent name in offering digital marketing expertise to the legal profession in general. Technology companies were our second target sector and as the company grew and I had sales staff I encouraged them to pursue business sectors they were passionate about. This led us to winning Tottenham Hotspur Football Club as a client!

At first all of our development work, building websites, was contracted out to a third party company, which was the only option if I wanted to offer this service, since I can only dabble with a bit of HTML, I’m no expert! Bringing development in-house, which we started to do in 2013, has been a real challenge. In fact finding the right staff in general is one of the most difficult tasks you will face as you build your business.

Look after your employees…

Reflect Digital TeamYour employees will make the real difference with regard to how successful your business will be, running a business is a team event and you will need to know you have a solid core within that team. I have tried to make working for Reflect Digital special, I care about my staff and provide the best benefits that the company can offer whilst providing them the opportunity to develop their skill set and always encouraging further learning. We organise company days where we share thoughts about the direction of the company and have some downtime fun. My best recruit so far has been persuading my fiancé to join me as a director of the business. Paul’s skill set compliments mine and together we are the driving force.

Funding for a new business is never easy we found the traditional high street banks to be very unhelpful, fortunately for me my parents were able to extend a business loan when we needed to expand, this has helped tremendously with cash flow, something you will need to keep a very close eye on as your business moves forward. You can be amazingly successful but due to slow payment from your clients you can find yourself in difficulty when salaries need to be paid!

Having been a managing director of a successful technology company my dad has been a great source of advice and a sounding board for problems and ideas. I would encourage any new business owner to try to find a mentor that you can talk to. Having someone who has had experience of growing a small company to talk to is a real benefit in many ways.

Business Achievements, so far…

Reflect Digital Drum Search Winner2015 to date has been an amazing year for Reflect Digital, in March this year I was named as runner up for the Kent Women in Business Awards, Business Woman of the Year – which was a fantastic personal achievement, which I could not have done without the incredible team around me. Then in June we won a Drum Search Award for Best B2B SEO Campaign for our client Egress – which was amazing, as we were up against some of the biggest agencies in the country. June also ended on a high by being awarded Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Kent Excellence in Business Awards – which was hugely unexpected against some really talented entrepreneurs.

It’s been four years since I started Reflect Digital and I’ve been amazed at the success we have had, we have literally gone from zero turnover to over half a million and from one person to a staff of 23. Now the fun really begins, we plan to organically grow the business to a turnover of £5 million in the next five years. This is going to be a very interesting journey.

Business Tip:

“Take time to ensure your recruitment process is designed to know as much about your new prospective employee before you extend the offer to join the team. You are going to need people who want the opportunity to do something more than just come to work. These people will be the building blocks of your company and together you will achieve great things.”