Wealden Business Group Launches The Business Edge Competition To Supercharge New Business Growth

Wealden Business Group, the successful professional networking organisation for small and medium sized companies, is launching The Business Edge, an initiative aimed at supercharging the growth of a new or recently-established business.

Says Martin Tickner, chairman of the Tenterden-based group: “As owner-managers of small and medium sized businesses, we know that money is tight in the early months after a business is launched, which is precisely the time that new business leads, advice and support are most valuable”.

The Business Edge is a competition offering a year’s free membership of Wealden Business Group, worth more than £500, plus free one-to-one mentoring and advice sessions with existing members, experienced specialists in marketing, PR, law, finance, IT and other vital business disciplines.The Business Edge Wealden Business Group

In addition, the winner of The Business Edge has the opportunity of pitching their business services to members – since April, the group has generated almost 200 referrals between its members – as well as attending free seminars on topics such as social media and cyber security.

The Business Edge is open to owner-managers of any business launched in the past three years. The entry process is simple – applicants should email  edge@wealdenbusinessgroup.co.uk explaining in no more than 100 words why their company deserves to win the prize.  Closing date for applications is Wednesday 28 February.

Three shortlisted candidates will be asked to come along to a meeting of the Wealden Business Group and present their case in a two-minute pitch.

To find out more about Wealden Business Group, visit their website at www.wealdenbusinessgroup.co.uk

The Able Label Winter 2017/18 Range

The Able Label known as the retailer of ‘beautiful clothes, designed to make dressing easier’ are thrilled to announce the launch of their new Winter Collection. In The Able Label Winter Collection 2017/18 you can see the introduction of:

  • The Able Label Adaptive ClothingStunning wool mix coats without the fiddly fastenings (actually closing with Velcro)
  • Sophisticated and on trend rich red tones in our best selling shapes
  • Wraps to keep the chill off without the faff of contending with armholes and a squared off neck to help prevent the wrap from falling off shoulders
  • Super stretchy, easy care trousers in a warm ponte fabric that have no fastenings

Who are The Able Label?

The Able Label Winter Collection of Adaptable Clothing 2017/18The Able Label is a British company that designs, makes and retails clothes. BUT not just any clothes – beautiful clothes, which are inclusively designed making them easier to dress into and out of.

The range was inspired by young entrepreneur Katie Ellis’ Grandmother who has Parkinson’s. At the time, she only needed a little extra support with dressing but hated the fact Katie’s Grandfather had to help. She also still wanted to remain stylish, keeping her identity – there was no way she was going to settle for anything which sacrificed this!

Having searched together for alternative adaptive clothes that would meet both her functional and fashion needs, it soon became apparent that there was nothing suitable. Shocked by the lack of options, Katie Ellis decided to do something about this, drawing on her experience as a fashion buyer for White Stuff. The Able Label was born to help all those in the same situation as Katie’s Grandmother, who do not want to, and should not have to sacrifice their style for functional clothes.

What makes The Able Label Winter Collection different?

The Able Label Winter collection provides stylish women’s clothes, which are comfortable and high quality like traditional clothes but have the added benefit of being easy dress like adaptive clothes. Think style not fashion, quality not quantity and easy touch closures instead of fiddly fastenings.

Attention to detail is always at the heart of everything we do. We appreciate it is the little things in life that can make the biggest difference. The quality fabrics, discrete adaptive designs, innovative fastenings and hidden extras make dressing a lot easier for those who may suffer from restricted movement or lack of finger dexterity perhaps through, arthritis, a stroke or just the general effects of ageing.

What really sets The Able Label apart?

We aim not only to help maintain the independence of anyone who may find it hard to dress in conventional clothing but also instil self-esteem by providing the perfect combination of function and fashion making you look good and feel even better. We have:

  • No fiddly fastenings
  • No overhead dressing

When worn, you would never know the clothes were adapted, so… it’s our secret!Adaptive Clothing from The Able Label Winter Collection 2017/18

Business Startup Journey with AJ Stanning Founder of Sharp Relations and PR Toolkit

Meet AJ Stanning, Founder of Sharp Relations and PR Toolkit Who Speaks About Her Business Startup Journey.

First things first, tell us what your business does in 100 words or less:

Sharp Relations provides affordable public relations (PR) consultation to food and drinks businesses. We work hard to support our clients to manage reputation, grow sales but predominantly increase awareness of their brand or product range. This might mean setting up an interview in a business publication or negotiating a client’s product to appear in a top five feature in a magazine. PR is not just about “coverage – i.e. how many column inches you can fill talking about your own product range”, but about putting the right messaging in the right publication to reach the right audience.

Business Startup Journey Sharp Relations PR Toolkit

Where did your idea come from?

Honestly, I have always wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and work for myself, it was a case of getting some experience working in London for a few years first. I have always admired the flexibility and satisfaction of knowing something was only as good as the work you put in. My father – Martin Sharp – took over the family retail business in his early 20’s – locals may remember Sharp’s Menswear on Gabriels Hill in Maidstone – and he spent many decades growing and developing it into a thriving manufacturing business. He sold the business in 2001 and, not ready to retire, he set up a property management business which he still manages today, well into his seventies. I can’t imagine my father ever not being interested in business and he has passed on that passion to me.

The idea to start a PR agency, or indeed any service-based agency, is not necessarily innovative. It is a tried and tested formula to offer a service to a person or business that needs this service. Like an accountant or graphic designer or plumber, you offer something someone doesn’t necessarily have the know-how or the time to do themselves and you should have a successful formula for a business.

I started Sharp Relations in 2010 and I was going to launch a generalised PR agency offering to support any type of business industry: I didn’t want to pigeon-hole my offering by being too niche. It wasn’t long before I had a breadth of clients, all of them food and drink, and I realised that I was fighting the inevitable. Businesses were actually choosing me for my specific niche experience in food and drink and what I thought was a weakness was actually a strength.

Why did you start the business?

I started Sharp Relations because my work at a big corporate food and drinks agency in London was taking me further and further away from the product and the passion. Increasingly, the contact meetings I attended were in marketing departments and surrounded by spreadsheets and graphs. My passion really is food and drinks. I love to see these artisan businesses succeed. I like working with real people making really good products. I am lucky to be able to choose my clients and I only work with products that I really believe in.

What did you do before you started Sharp Relations?

I worked for three different food and drinks PR agencies in London to gain experience and finished up as an Account Director in one of the most successful London food and drinks PR agencies. I managed a team of around 15 and was responsible for the delivery of five large client accounts, billing well over £1m in total.

What did you find was the biggest barrier for you when starting the business? How did you overcome it?

The biggest barrier for me then and now, is working in an office by myself. When you are used to a bustling office environment, socially and professionally it is really hard to sit alone and keep the motivation levels high. Having been so relieved to work for myself, I used to find myself wishing I had a boss to tell me what to do next, and that was when I got a business mentor.

The first mentor I ever had was provided by the Kent Foundation, a local lady with a background in client account management and she was helpful. Once someone talks you through a process, whether that’s taking on new clients, employing someone or getting VAT registered, the requisite steps don’t seem nearly so daunting.

Simply Ice Cream Kent Sharp Relations Food PR

What’s your proudest moment in business (so far)?

Encouraged to enter by the Kent Foundation, I was nominated for a KEiBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2012, and I was proud to be a finalist. I sat on the table with the rest of the Kent Foundation team and they took the time to introduce me to a number of important contacts from across the county.

More recently, I was really proud to launch PR Toolkit in 2017. PR Toolkit is off-the-shelf DIY PR solutions for small and growing businesses. It is genuinely entrepreneurial; the first of its kind. It’s been a real leap of faith.

Funniest thing that’s happened to you in business?

I can’t think of any one particular thing that could be the funniest but I have had a lot of laughs over the years, even over the last few weeks. Some of my longer standing clients have become genuine friends and we have a great giggle. We’ve had meetings hilariously interrupted by all sorts over the years including escapee litter of puppies, a teenage son in a towel in the school holidays, excited toddlers, tractors and an artist group lost off the public footpath!

What advice and support have you sought whilst on your business startup journey?

I have been really lucky to get a lot of support from many people over the years. I received some grant money from the Kent Foundation back in 2011 and in return I helped another start up enterprise with PR.

But the main source of advice and influence for me has been my father; he really supported my business dreams from the get-go and helped me to set SMART goals for Sharp Relations; ways to identify if it was succeeding at every stage. Not only that but we shared an office for the first two years after I started my business which helped me to keep costs manageable as well as offering an in-house business advisory service! He showed me how to realise my worth and the value of the service I was offering, and always offered a second pair of eyes for the occasional difficult correspondence.

Over the years, I have also sought the professional help and advice offered by accountants, business mentors, designers and solicitors.

What’s the BIG idea? Your plans for the future.

Now I’ve launched PR Toolkit, the plan is to make PR much more affordable and accessible to more businesses, growing organisations and entrepreneurs. I want to take away some of the mystery and help everyone to enjoy the business benefits of PR at an affordable rate.

Name the best and worst thing about being in business?

The best thing is being in charge of your own destiny. You think the business needs to go in a new direction; then you can take it there. The worse thing about being in business is finding down time; the ‘to do’ list is never complete; there is always more you can do.

AJ Stanning Owner of specialist Food PR Agency Sharp Relations PR Toolkit

AJ’s business startup journey tips:

Do what you do best and out-source the rest. It is so worth spending money on web designers, accountants, PR and marketing, sales managers and/or business mentors. Not all at once, and not in the very early stages of growing your business. When you are starting out you can usually find almost everything you need to know using Google, but once you are established, do not waste your valuable time on things you aren’t so good at. I promise you will save money in the long run.

Digital Beans Donates £500 to Support Future Entrepreneurs in Kent

Digital Beans donates £500 to business support charity The Kent Foundation. Piperis Filippaios, who started his first business at an early age, received help from The Kent Foundation at a vital time.

While studying at Kent University, Piperis set his sights on becoming a successful entrepreneur. At the end of his third year as an undergraduate and the start of his Masters degree at the University, he started a new website called uFlog.

The website was targeted at students to help them buy and sell items on campus for free, with any income coming from advertising. Like any university student, finance was tight and Piperis approached The Kent Foundation for help.

They agreed to give him a grant of £150 to help him purchase some advertising to increase awareness of the site. However, although uFlog was being used by students, he struggled to get businesses to advertise.

A bi-product of this relationship with the businesses though, meant that he started receiving requests to help them with their digital marketing instead.

Digital Beans Donates £500 charity supporting Kent's Young Entrepreneurs

Piperis said: “Like any start-up, it was tough getting it going and The Kent Foundation gave me the boost I needed. Setting uFlog up led me in a direction I had not expected. Getting businesses to advertise was hard, but I started to receive requests to help with their digital marketing instead. This set me on the journey I am on today. Because of this, it led me to evolve my business into uTargeting, which was the start of my current digital marketing agency – DigitalBeans. So that £150 grant has led me to where I am today.”

Digital Beans, which is located in Canterbury, now employs three staff and has a number of clients helping them with organic and paid search and social media strategies including Search Engine Optimisation, Google AdWords, Paid Social Media Advertising and Retargeting.

Piperis added: “The business has been steadily growing and I am fortunate to be able to now offer something back as a thank you for the help The Kent Foundation gave me when I needed it. This is why I am donating £500 to them, so that they can help other young people in their business journey as well.”

Stuart Tanton, the Operations Manager at the charity, said: “The Kent Foundation, over the last ten years, has grown into the number one charity for supporting young people under the age of 30 in business. It is great to know that Piperis benefited and valued our support, and has created a successful business. It is essential our charity continues to offer the next generation the same opportunities Piperis had. His generous donation will go directly towards our volunteer business mentoring service which will support other aspiring young people to achieve success in their businesses.”

Instant Courier Service App UniRunners Crowdfunding Campaign on Seedrs

The UniRunners Crowdfunding Campaign on Seedrs has now launched. The instant courier service app launched towards the end of last year and has had some great traction since.

What does the UniRunners App do?

Users of the UniRunners app can choose any item to be delivered to them. Items range from favourite local foods, bespoke items and commercial brands. Initially targeted to students, UniRunners is a perfect solution for money conscious students. Rather than having part time drivers UniRunners have been able to keep a steady growth with full time drivers. Ensuring that the food and other products/brands arrive intact and on time. UniRunners allows the user to order any item they desire or they can choose from the pre-approved list. This means users can have their preferred meals rather than the limited menus competitors provide.UniRunners Crowdfunding Campaign on SeedrsAfter a successful beta launch primarily targeting students in Canterbury, Kent UniRunners have decided to raise their first round of investment. They aim to hire staff and focus on developing the app to make it more scalable in order to target other student populated towns across the Country. It is a brand new type of marketplace which allows business owners to list their own items and target directly to their preferred audience. It creates an instant 24-hour marketplace for local commerce and SMEs whilst concentrating on the user experience.

So far UniRunners have raised nearly 50% of their target from over 50 individual investments. UniRunners have overcome a difficult hurdle and are predicted to have a successful campaign. You can take a look a the UniRunners crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs here…UniRunners Crowdfunding Campaign on Seedrs


Does regulation in business need to be complicated?

Sue Harvey works for Kent Trading Standards, in their Business Advice Team. In this blog she’ll give you an introduction to regulation in business plus informs us about what’s on offer for businesses in Kent and Medway from the Better Business for All initiative.

Why do I need to know about regulations?        

Regulations can get a bit of a bad name and can often be seen as ‘red tape‘ but in actual fact they are there to protect and ensure consumers, our communities and businesses are safe and fairly treated. As a business you will have certain responsibilities to meet but there’s also rights to protect you and your business.

  • Getting your regulatory responsibilities wrong not only means that you may end up breaking the law, but it can harm your business reputation and end up costing you more in time/money in the long run.
  • Knowing your rights means you can avoid losing money, for instance giving a refund or losing a deposit when you are not required to, doing unnecessary building work, or buying unnecessary equipment.

It really is best to get it right from the beginning, rather than learning from what could be an expensive mistake, it doesn’t have to be tricky though, all you need to do is ask.

What is Better Business for All?

Kent & Medway, Better Business for All (BBfA) is a partnership between local regulators and businesses. The business partners include Federation of Small Businesses, Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, Kent and Medway Growth Hub and Produced in Kent.

The regulators included in this initiative are:

  • Building control – for new premises, alterations to your premises or new services and fittings within your premises
  • Environmental health – for food registration and hygiene, health & safety
  • Environment agency – along with local environmental protection teams can advise on pollution and nuisance prevention
  • Fire & rescue – help on fire prevention, fire procedures and firefighting equipment
  • Licensing – you may need a licence for your from serving alcohol, animal breeding and boarding to skin piercing
  • Planning – you may need permission for the use of land and the design of buildings
  • Trading standards – advice on consumer and traders rights, safety of consumer goods, food and animal feed labelling and selling goods by weight or volume

We all want Kent & Medway to enjoy the economic growth that businesses bring.  Making it easier for the good businesses to comply with the law and be successful, means regulators can spend more time tackling the unfair competition from rogue traders.

How can BBfA benefit my business?

We can’t promise to change the law but we are keen to help businesses locally get it right. We do understand how daunting it is; being faced with lots of rules and regulations, especially when you are first setting out. Whether you are just starting to develop your business idea or are up and running, regulators can guide you through what appears a complex web of rules.

Better Business for All provides advice on how the law applies to you and your business helping you find the most cost effective way for your business to comply. To help small businesses in Kent and Medway on offer is:

  • A website to point you in the right direction so you can contact your local regulators in each district or borough council where your business is based, which may be your home address. Contact countywide regulators e.g. Kent Fire & Rescue plus find out about national initiatives and news.

Kent and Medway Better Business for All Regulation BBFA