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

A Blast! 2019

On the 16th May 2019 The Kent Foundation A Blast! opened its doors at The Maidstone Studios. It was a awesome evening celebrating Young Entrepreneurs and Business owners in Kent. A huge thank you from everyone at The Kent Foundation to all the exhibitors and their amazing stands which showcased their businesses, to our visitors and your interest in the work we do, and our key sponsors for your support. A final thanks to Liu Batchelor for capturing our event, we hope this inspires you to think about how you get involved in A Blast 2020! We look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks to our sponsors

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

Kent Foundation Awards Reception

On the 15th January 2019, the Kent Foundation held is first Awards Evening. It took place in Sessions House, Maidstone and was very kindly hosted by the Chairman of Kent County Council, Cllr Mike Angell, to recognise and celebrate the outstanding achievements of our young entrepreneurs and hard working, dedicated team of volunteer business mentors. The evening was opened by Stuart Tanton (Director of the Kent Foundation) and saw three genres of awards being given to nominated trustees, mentors, and mentees following another successful year for The Kent Foundation, and the businesses we support.

First, The Spirit of The Kent Foundation Award, Mike Angell (Chairman of Kent County Council) and Pip Lawrence (Kent Foundation Trustee) awarded those nominated volunteers who had promoted the vision of Kent Foundation, and made significant impact on their mentees and their businesses through the ongoing support they have provided. Eight people received this award. Congratulations go to Oliver Trailor, Adam Bissill, Michaela Partridge, Joanna Dennis, David Kirk, Bryan Hall, Rohani Emmanuelson, and Liz Jenkins.

The second award of the evening recognised Start-up Business of the year. Cllr Mike Angell and Liz Jenkins (Kent Foundation Trustee and Mentor) awarded three young and hardworking businesses as a result of nominations from their mentors. The winners of this award were: Ellie Cachia of Renowned Resourcing, which connects people to their perfect job in the South East, including London, alongside mentor Adrian Wenn; Angie Everett-Penfold of Body Secrets, a massage specialist who also offers beauty service, with mentor Tunde Daczo; and Sophie and Katie Kember of Ruby Frances Bridal, an award winning wedding dress shop, with mentor Paul Markland.

The final award of the evening, the Impact Award, was handed out by Cllr Mike Angell, Julian Kirkness (Chairman of Kent Foundation), and Ben Towers (Award-winning Young Entrepreneur) to three individuals who have individually made a huge contribution in promoting and supporting young people in business and had been nominated in recognition of it; this years incredible winners were Pip Lawrence, Roger Williams, and Adrien Wenn.

A big thank you, and congratulations to you all for what you have achieved.

Following the awards ceremony, the evening continued with some great networking between volunteers and young people, whilst enjoying some exceptional food and a glass or two of Chapel Down wine. Bekka, a young entrepreneur with a new business gaining support from The Kent Foundation, said on reflection “Networking went so well for everyone…Everyone was so kind and welcoming to a new person like me, it was wonderful!” and that she “left the awards night feeling recharged creatively, and ready to work on her business, full of ideas and a confidence in her abilities…and looking forward to the next year!”

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.