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 www.fondcompany.co.uk 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!

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.

Sean Dobbins Fashion Designer in Kent – Talent Match South East

Sean Dobbins fashion designer in Kent endured unemployment for over a year and confidence had hit rock bottom. Find out how The Kent Foundation and the Talent Match South East project helped him develop the skills and confidence he desperately needed to start a business.

Sean Dobbins Fashion Designer from Kent

Sean Dobbins Fashion Designer, aged 23, from Kent, has turned his life around and started his own women’s clothing brand.

After finishing his degree, Sean struggled to find employment. He had been unemployed for over a year when he came across the Talent Match Outreach Team at a Chatham Jobs Fair in September 2014. Sean was split between the need to earn a wage and his career goal of becoming a fashion designer. This was coupled with nervousness surrounding potential challenges presented by self-employment and setting up alone.

With support from Talent Match South East, Sean was able to overcome these nerves. He secured valuable work experience at a number of fashion houses in London (including Amanda Kelly and Emilio de la Morena). However in a sector where so many young people volunteer their time for free, a paid role in fashion proved hard to obtain. Sean realised that a longer-term approach would be needed and began applying for vacancies outside of fashion.

After a lot of dedication and persistence, in July 2015 Sean successfully gained full-time employment at Tesco as a Personal Shopper. Sean has recently reached the six month sustainment success milestone but his story is only just beginning.

The wage and confidence that full-time work brought has allowed Sean to pursue his dreams of designing and creating clothes. Sean can do this at his own pace, having established his brand, S Dobbins, last year.

“Talent Match has helped me to explore my full potential and has given me the confidence to thrive within the fashion industry and explore new and exciting ideas to help create my label.”

He is making plans for the year, including pricing, ecommerce and marketing. Talent Match South East and The Kent Foundation will continue to support Sean in his career progression. With a number of local events scheduled to display his creations and media features scheduled this year, Talent Match will be a proud observer as his talents continue to flourish.

Talent Match South East - Self Employment in Kent

Wheelie Good Mobility – Star Business of the Month – March 2015

Wheelie Good Mobility - used and new mobility scooters and mobility aidsWheelie Good Mobility specialises in used and new mobility scooters and new mobility aids. We sell our used scooters via our workshop in Hartley and all new mobility aids via our online department store and mail order catalogue. We’re a family business consisting of me Charmaine Kemp, my Dad Bob, my nephew Dan and Stu in the workshop.

I can remember exactly when the business started it was in November 2008 two weeks before recession was announced. I had failed to find employment and I had got quite down about it. My mum wanted to keep me busy and said that Grandad needed mobility equipment so me and my father bought an old mobility scooter and restored it. Grandad accused us of trying to ‘bump him off’ and refused to get on it – he was 96, so it was quite a funny family moment. My Grandad made it quite evident the scooter wasn’t going to be used, so we sold it and made money. This was the lightbulb moment!

Charmaine Kemp - Wheelie Good Mobility - Used and new mobility scooters and mobility aidsI was unemployed and I had to have a serious think about what I was good at. I had gained some valuable skills at university obtaining two BA’s, the first in creative media and the second in consumer behaviour and marketing. I wanted to put these to good use so the business was created and we started refurbishing more scooters in the family garage. Eventually we moved out of the garage and into what is now a fully working mobility scooter servicing unit. We had found a market for refurbished mobility scooters but I felt there was still more to offer our customer base so I developed a mail order catalogue. This ended up being the perfect tool for our offline customers, plus I could apply my skills from university in its production, saving money.

Money. This for me has been one of the biggest barriers in developing the business. I started with £500 and a loan from the Princes’ Trust of £2500. As part of our strategy the business has done everything it possibly can to remain debt-free and recession-proof. However, it hasn’t come without drawbacks, I still invest all the money I can back into the business and its expansion. The key is not to borrow and not to spend what you cannot afford. You need to identify ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ for the business. Then find a cheaper alternative as long as the objective is met. You don’t need a flashy van, or a brand new office. Make do, as it’ll come.

Award Winning

KEiBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year Winner 2010Wheelie Good Mobility has won a few awards after support from the Princes Trust. In 2010 I won two Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, the first was a KEiBA (Kent Excellence in Business Award) judged by Kent Foundation’s very own Paul Barron, the second was from Shell LivewIRE in a national competition. In 2011 we won Maidstone, The Mall’s ‘Retail Factor’ which provided us with a free promotional stand in the shopping centre. In 2012 the University of Greenwich recognised us with a ‘Small Business Award’. In 2014 I had a crack at the Kent Invicta Chamber over 30s category for ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ and was excited to come away with a trophy. For 2015, we’ve already heard that we’ve won a Headline Award from Scoot, a leader in online business directories. This one is brilliant as I love the similarity of the Scoot website and us selling scooters 🙂

Wheelie Good Mobility is soon to become ‘Wheelie Good Mobility Ltd.’ as we make the transition from sole trader to limited company. Finally, my head won’t be on the chopping block. See, as a sole trader – you are personally liable for all the bills and debts within the business – it’s a breath of fresh air to have the limitation.

This turning point means we can now apply for funding to expand the business and take on staff. It’s a glorious thought to us, the four of us work like octopi on computers or in the workshop and we still don’t have enough hands on deck. We’d eventually love to take on apprentices, but the first priority is an office move, there’s only just enough room for us all at the moment. Also in the pipeline is Wheelie Good Kids specialising in pediatric mobility aids, so watch this space.

My Business Tips:

Just hold on to every penny like it’s your last. Your business’ lifeblood is the customer, yes indeed, but the money brought in is as equally precious. Don’t spend on what you don’t need to. Teaching yourself can save on costs – my first website was in Word and so was the first mail order catalogue. Youtube and webinars taught me a lot, right through from using photoshop to online advertising. Now they are all pretty nifty ‘shop windows’ and I’ve saved thousands in graphic and web designers.  Don’t get all ‘billy big potato’ because you’re an entrepreneur. Once you’ve built it and sold it for £20m, you can then buy yourself a top hat. Until then, work, work, work. Day and night. Time and money are both are precious to an entrepreneur, so prioritise both, but don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back when the rewards start coming in, it’s well deserved.

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