Business of the Month

Support Local – Hope Marshall

I started Support Local two and a half years ago when my son was six months old. I worked in the legal department of a finance company before having my first child. After he was born, I realised how wonderful life could be and I wasn’t prepared to settle for anything else or go back to a job I didn’t love. I really wanted to give small businesses a platform and I couldn’t see that anyone else was doing this at a price they could afford.

Support Local is all about connecting small businesses with an engaged audience who want to shop small and locally to them. Support local consists of two elements, pop up shopping experiences where the public can buy products or services from stall holders and Support Local Magazine which is a lifestyle magazine aimed at making advertising affordable for small businesses and encouraging the public to shop local.

Support Local magazine has a readership of ten thousand people across Kent and East Sussex and is stocked in independent cafes, shops, restaurants, dental surgeries etc. Advertising should be an affordable option for all businesses no matter their size, which is why our prices for print start at just £60. Our readers are passionate about buying independent and are enthusiastic about the Support Local Brand. This year I got into the finals for two awards, next year I want to win! I am also working towards an ABC accreditation for a regional magazine.

Larger firms are now starting to advertise with me which is amazing. They can afford to advertise anywhere so the fact that they choose me means a lot. I work with Knight Frank Estate Agents, Trinity Theatre, the Assembly Halls in Tunbridge Wells, the University of Kent (where I went to uni!) and my secondary school have also now started advertising as well.

I’ve built my business without any childcare. I don’t have a standard 9-5 day and for the last two and a half years I’ve been working a minimum of 40 hours a week from 4pm-midnight. Cramming a full time job into the evenings and then waking up at 5am and being a parent all day isn’t easy and has definitely been my biggest challenge. I’m really lucky to have found a mentor who I really click with, who makes mentoring fun and holds me accountable to my goals. 

My advice for other young people in business is to keep going. I think if you want something enough you’ll achieve it. You’ve just got to be prepared to put a lot of work in to reap the rewards. Also don’t beat yourself up over failure. I read a fantastic book whilst at Uni about one of the dragons from dragons den and he lost everything about three times and was living out of his car before he finally made a go of things. I’ve been on the edge of going under and not giving up, reassessing, and doing whatever it takes to keep going saved my business.

For more information on Hope’s Business please visit her websites www.supportlocalmagazine.co.uk and www.supportlocalpopup.co.uk

3 Top Business tips from Katie at Paddlesworth Produce

We asked Katie Anderson at Paddlesworth Produce to give us her top tips for anyone starting their own business.

1. Don’t be afraid to fail. As long as you learn something from it, it is not a failure but a lesson! Starting your own business means you have to learn so many new things – accounting, marketing, manufacturing, delivering – the list goes on! So you are bound to make mistakes. It is easy to give up or get down when things don’t go to plan but it has really helped me to write down the lessons I have learnt from each of the many mistakes I have made to ensure that I have actually grown through the process.

2. Start-Up businesses are just trials. When I sat in my kitchen last year and wrote down the idea for my business it did not look anything like what I am doing today. Businesses have to evolve with customer demand and there is no point offering something that people do not want just because you do not want to deviate from your original plan. Recently when I attended an entrepreneur’s course, one thing that really stuck with me was that start-ups should be renamed as “trials” and they should be seen as ways to test the water and check if your business is viable. Don’t invest too much at the start and get caught up trying to work out every individual detail because it is more than likely that things will change so quickly in the first few months that it will have been a waste of your time and money.

3. Network. When I first started my business, “networking” was such a buzzword that I thought it must be a fad I should ignore. In fact it has been one of the best things I have done to improve my business. Even if you are a shy person, there are ways to network online such as LinkedIn and Facebook groups but I would really recommend face to face conversation for the best impact. Most networking meetings I have attended haven’t ended in immediate sales, however they have always been beneficial because they have helped me to gain knowledge, find inspiration, meet contacts and source suppliers. I cannot stress how much networking should be part of your business, even if you just go and moan about how hard it is to be an entrepreneur with other entrepreneurs, it can be a lonely world running your own business don’t isolate yourself! There are tonnes of groups in Kent to join and a quick google search should get the ball rolling.

Here’s the link to her story

Business of the Month

Paddlesworth Produce – Katie Anderson

My business idea began in November 2018, the website launched in January 2019 and the first boxes were sent out this Easter. I started my business because I am really passionate about consumers buying food and drink responsibly – that means knowing where their meal has come from, how meat and eggs are farmed and acknowledging the environmental impact of packaging, waste and food miles.

However I am also a realist, I understand that farmer’s markets or rural farm shops, even high streets, are often inconvenient for shoppers to get to and I am a huge lover of online shopping because it is so simple! Combining my passion and my own shopping habits I came up with the business idea, in the hope that there were other people out there like me – who wanted to support local producers and understand more about what was on the plate but also like to place online orders in their pyjamas on the sofa.

Paddlesworth Produce sells Kentish produce online for home delivery. The produce is sold in complete meal boxes including a Breakfast Box, BBQ Box and Sunday Roast Box. The three boxes can be purchased as a one-off treat, sent as a gift or you can subscribe for regular deliveries. What makes us different is the fact that all of our products are from small businesses within a 30 mile radius, are packaged 100% plastic-free, only contain natural ingredients and are only sourced from high welfare farms.

I feel so proud of every day I get to run this business. My first orders were obviously a very memorable moment because that is when you realise that someone believes in your idea and is happy to support your business with their hard earned cash. I was announced as a finalist in the South East Rural Business Awards this week so that was definitely a huge gold star in my mind! But honestly the most satisfying part of the job is when a customer takes the time to leave me a review or send me an email saying they enjoyed their delivery. It is so easy to criticise and I know we are far more likely to leave a bad review than a good one, but in that moment that person has obviously had such a good experience with my business that they felt the need to let me know, I just love that.

I have really struggled with my pricing, it is an ongoing challenge, because I want my products to be available for everyone! It is such a hard truth to deal with when you set up a business, that you have to find your target market and create products that they will enjoy and spend their money on. It is especially hard as I am so often compared to supermarket prices, when the truth is my products cannot be bought in the supermarket, they are of a completely different calibre. I have had to learn that unless I want to offer an inferior product or create a business that is unsustainable, I do have to make sure I am making a profit not just covering my costs.

In August I am launching the Sunday Roast Box, which is really exciting and something I have had in the back of my mind since the day I launched the Breakfast Box. I am hoping this will be popular because a Sunday Roast is my favourite meal of the week and it is a great opportunity to get the family together and enjoy good food in good company!

In terms of longer term plans, I hope to increase my subscriber numbers and have started offering a bigger discount for regular subscribers to encourage this. I also am desperately searching for local and affordable storage because I now offer a range of optional extras for my boxes such as condiments, sauces, drinks & snacks and need somewhere to put it all!

Read more about Katie’s business on her website: www.paddlesworthproduce.co.uk

Look out on The Kent Foundations social media for Katie’s amazing top tips for new businesses.

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.