On the 2nd of October we hosted a networking event in collaboration with Sun Pier House, Chatham, to raise awareness of The Kent Foundation in Medway. Young entrepreneurs Dayzee Potter (Dream Academy PA and Moondance Bar) and Anthony Bliss (Brave Little Tank) gave inspirational talks about the highs and lows of running a business and how the support of their mentors has helped them to succeed.
This was followed by a Q&A session as well as a brief introduction to the support offered from Medway Council and the benefits of co-working from Roland at Dragon Co-working. We had a great turnout from across the business community and five new sign-ups to The Kent Foundation on the night! Watch this space for similar events near you.
I started Pro Spray UPVC 2 years ago, during a very tough period as an entrepreneur. I was already founding Director of what had been, up till that point, a successful commercial painting and decorating contractor business. We specialised in spray finishing, so had a far better quality of finish than many competitors and could complete works faster. I had 18 members of staff including sub-contractors, and was working on some fantastic projects in very prestigious locations. The business had grown faster than I’d ever imagined, and as a young and somewhat naive business person, I was still running every aspect of the business alone. This included being on site doing the spraying side of things which I have always enjoyed the most. I had been spraying various paints on site for several years, when I heard about a product that could be used on uPVC. I had been writing a blog for a Decorators Forum and reviewing various products and equipment, so thought I’d try it out. It turned out to be rubbish! So, I did some research and tested 8-10 other products and finally found a couple that lived up to the job. Finding there to be a lack of other companies in the South East offering this service I knew this was a niche service, but didn’t really have the time to delve into it. Fast forward a year or so and I was in the middle of a huge contract and the payments from the client had gone from being 30 days late on each instalment, to not coming in at all. By this point I had exhausted all my resources and needed a way to get a short term income to pay my team and feed my family. Pro Spray was then born, completely out of necessity. Unfortunately despite my best efforts, the painting contracting had to come to an end – having lost over £130,000 to the client who had gone bust.
The primary service provided by Pro Spray uPVC (its in the name!) is spraying uPVC doors, windows and conservatories. We are not limited to these, we also spray composite doors, garage doors, cladding and even roof tiles! We use products that have been thoroughly tested. The product bonds with the plastic, meaning it will not flake or peel off due to weathering like normal paints. We also provide a 10 year guarantee for all external work, as extra peace of mind. We are able to match 10’s of thousands of colours in all our products, whether it be for plastic, metal or wood. As this type of work is generally seasonal due to rain and low temperatures, we also offer a variety of other services. At Pro Spray we specialise in spraying MDF and Kitchen cabinets using ultra hardwearing coatings that can withstand everyday use, including heat and steam etc. We are even able to spray melamine and vinyl wrapped kitchen doors, giving an old kitchen the look of a brand new one at a fraction of the price.
Pro Spray has turned out to be somewhat of a natural evolution of my previous business. Although it is scaled down compared to the decorating contractors, the quality of work is of an even higher standard and the enjoyment in it for me personally is much greater. I’ve also managed to get my wife Kay involved in some of the admin work which means I’m able to concentrate more on the things I’m good at. I’m far less stressed regarding time and money, and get to spend quality time with my family. I love the work I do and take immense pride in seeing the results, especially with MDF spraying and Kitchen renovations. Since speaking to the guys at The Kent Foundation, I’ve had a couple of business mentors – both whom have helped in different ways. Gary gave me a massive confidence boost with his enthusiasm of the product and service I provide, whilst Philip takes time to research things and sends me great information on things we have spoken about during our meetups. Philip also mentioned about doing ABLAST! which was the first networking event I’ve attended. Not only was it good to be able to show off what we do to an audience, we also met some other great young entrepreneurs who’s services we will use to aid the growth of Pro Spray. My advice for other young people in business is to keep an open mind. Sometimes the thing you always thought you wanted for your business, can turn out to be something quite different. Be prepared to adapt and change things if it isn’t quite working. Take risks, after all what’s the worst that can happen? It’s only money, and you can always earn more…..right?!
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.
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.
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!
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.