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!

KCC Chairman visits Kent’s Young Entrepreneurs

On the 29th March 2019, the Chairman of Kent County Council, Cllr Mike Angell, and the Director of The Kent Foundation, Stuart Tanton, had a day out visiting young entrepreneurs and business owners. The visits were organised for Mike and Stuart to see the success these companies have had, as well as some time to get to know the business owners and understand some of the challenges they may of faced in their business journeys.

Ruby Frances Bridal, a designer wedding dress shop located in Minster, Thanet, and owned by sisters and business partners Sophie and Katie Kember was recently awarded The Kent Foundation Startup of the Year Award at our event in January. While there, Mike, Stuart, and the young business owners were able to talk in depth about the truly impressive boutique, what they offer, and what goes on behind the scenes for Sophie and Katie. Following the discussion, Mike and Stuart were also given an opportunity to have a guided tour around the store by the owners themselves.

We’ve just had a lovely visit from The Chairman of Kent County Council, Mr Mike Angell and Stuart Tanton, Director of The Kent Foundation, to talk all about our business and what we do. It was a pleasure looking after them both and showing them around our shop this morning! “

@rubyfrancesbridal on Instagram

Ben Towers, an Award Winning Young Entrepreneur and former mentee of The Kent Foundation, was also visited at his office by the Chairman and Director after their initial meeting at the January event. Towers, an influential businessman who started in the sector at the age of 11, sat down with Mike and Stuart to discuss his relationship with the business world, as well as what he believes regarding the future of young entrepreneurship and all the wonders that it could lead to.
“For me it’s always the dream for youth entrepreneurship to be encouraged and developed. It’s something that’s been a huge part of my story and I know just how significant it can be for myself and other young people in my field when we see our grind and hard work being recognised and pushed.  
It was a real honour to be able to welcome the Chairman of Kent Council yesterday to my office and sit down to discuss the endless possibilities that could come from pushing youth entrepreneurship.”

@ben.towers on Instagram

SimplyHair is operated from Hersden, near Canterbury by Piperis and Amy Filippaios, Piperis is also a Kent Foundation trustee. Their company distributes high quality hair extensions and tools for application to beauticians, parlours, and the public . While there, Stuart and Cllr Mike Angell were able to talk to Piperis and his team about the company’s target markets, growth to date, and their plans for growth in the future. Mike and Stuart were also given a tour of the warehouse and the opportunity to ask questions to Piperis and his colleagues regarding the business.

“We were honoured and pleased to host Cllr Mike Angell at our office and give him a tour of the SimplyHair warehouse. I personally enjoyed hosting Mike and I know that the rest of the team also enjoyed meeting him and answering his questions, of which there were many!”
Piperis Filippaios

A huge thank you to Sophie, Katie, Ben, and Piperis for hosting Stuart and Cllr Mike Angell!

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!”

Another successful A Blast! Business Networking event at Maidstone TV Studios

This year’s A Blast! business networking event boasted an incredible mix of exhibition space for Kent’s young business owners who showcased their businesses at Maidstone TV Studios. A buzz hit the studios as they networked with their peers and gave the opportunity for the business community of Kent to see and hear the stories behind their successful businesses supported by The Kent Foundation.

This year over 200 people attended for the event and nearly 40 businesses were on show with an eclectic mix of products and services ranging from cookies, kart racing, wedding dresses right through to gluten free chocolate.

Gemma Keith owner of Gemma Keith Designs had this to say about this year’s event:

Gemma Keith Designs“Wow! what an evening I had at the A Blast! event at Maidstone Studios. An inspiring space to hold all kinds of local talent, and business entrepreneurs. A huge thank you to The Kent Foundation for organising such a bubbly and exciting event where you are able to meet all kinds of people. I received so many helpful ideas and positive feedback from people who are whole-heartedly there to help you and want to see you and your business grow. I truly cannot wait until next year’s event to see how everyone has grown! Thank you.”

Our charity is recognised as the go-to place for Kent’s young people in business to receive support to grow their business. This is reliant on our volunteer business mentoring service where business people from across Kent volunteer their time to support Kent’s young business owners to achieve in business. Stuart Tanton, Director of Kent Foundation expands further on the event and business support services:

‘In my first year with the Kent Foundation as Director I am immensely proud of the success of A Blast! 2018. All of the exhibitors are inspirational young business people who are really showing that business is very much alive and well in Kent. Without exception, all of the stands looked amazing, and the professionalism we are seeing is really something we are genuinely excited about. The future of business in Kent looks good! This year’s event has been a real showcase for our charity and Kent’s young people in business. I’d like to extend a special mention to our volunteer business mentors that give up so much time in supporting them.’

The Kent Foundation has ambitious plans for the future in creating a vibrant business community led by young people. Over the last year we have seen an increase in new businesses taking up our offer of business support, and we need to keep this momentum going to reflect the excitement they have, energy they bring, and celebrating the achievements they make.

Check out the photos and videos from the event below:

Thank you to Rose Bainbridge Photography for the photos check her out at www.rosebainbridgephotography.com

Credit – Rose Bainbridge Photography – www.rosebainbridgephotography.comA Blast! 'Probably The Best Business…

Posted by The Kent Foundation on Thursday, 17 May 2018

Thank you to AM Marketing for this video showcase

Thanks to Corralex Media for the video below

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.