Small Business News | Cash-strapped entrepreneurs get creative

Small Business News | Cash-strapped entrepreneurs get creative

A recent BBC article discusses the problem of finance for cash-strapped entrepreneurs looking at a new generation of online funding platforms.

In order to get new ventures off the ground these online platforms, such as Kickstarter, cater for everyone from starving artists to tech start-ups. They also allow anyone with a business proposition to post an online pitch which goes straight into the offices and homes of potential investors and donors across the world. Although there is no limit on how much people can raise, creators of the projects must take a Dragons Den style approach and set a cash goal and a time limit. If they reach the goal within the time limit they get to keep the pledges. If they don’t, all pledges are returned. Alongside the ability to gain funding, young entrepreneurs receive feedback on their products and plans and well as having the added bonus of a readymade group of potential customers. So far 650 projects have been successful and pledges have come from 70,000 people globally.

To read more about this scheme please visit the BBC website.


Small Business Advice | Protecting the force

I run a specialist clothing company, Rig Equipment Ltd , for people working in dangerous environments, such as air ambulance crews, paramedics and specialist units in the police. It actually started out as a hobby business back in 1994 when I was still working for the police, but when I retired I’d put in so much work to the business, I decided to start running it full time.

Paramedics in Action

In my experience, turning a hobby business into a full time occupation has been proved to be a great decision. However, making the move from a career in a specialist unit within the police to MD of a small clothing manufacturing company has also brought with it its fair share of interesting challenges.  So, although I would always encourage other budding entrepreneurs to do the same, I wanted to share with you some of my own thoughts on things to consider before you make the move; so that your hobby business translates into a full time success:

Be clear on your business idea and the reasons why you are setting up a business. If, like me, you started the business as a hobby then you already know you enjoy all that it involves and making the jump to full time will be a natural progression.  I’d suggest starting with the basics. Research your business idea and see who is already offering your proposed product or service; research their strengths and weaknesses, is there a gap in the market? Consider how you plan to finance your start-up and which people do you need on board to help you get set up? I’m sure you won’t forget that you need a name for your business, but you’ll also need to register it too.

Be honest about your skills. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. If you are a fantastic sales person but lousy on finance then seek advice and get help. There were obvious gaps in my own CV. I lacked a background in sales and my previous experience of running a business was limited. On the other hand, having worked within the specialist circles, I really understood the product and the end-user which was a huge advantage. Other suppliers to the police, although good at manufacturing, didn’t really understand what the product was supposed to do, whereas my insight enabled me to provide the best product on the market.

Take advice. On everything. There’s so many blogs, websites, forums and organisations available that can offer practical advice on starting a business, there’s no need to go it alone.  Some of the things you might want to consider seeking advice on are how to structure your business – should it be a sole trader, partnership or limited company – to finance and auditing, HR policy and even finding a suitable premises. I personally found some of these resources to be invaluable.

If you require funding, make sure your business plan and financial projections are well thought out. There are a number of options you can look at to get funding, from banks or private investors to government agencies, so do your research. Personally, I found a lot of my help came from government agencies. For example, when we came to designing our product and getting it CE tested and the European Standard ISO, we had a strict budget in order to remain competitive. The Manufacturing Advisory Service were able to offer us half of the total cost in funding as well as offering what would probably have cost approximately two thousand euros of advice, for free. Likewise, Advantage West Midlands assigned me with my own mentor to help me through the early stages of the business which made a world of difference, especially when it came to helping me build up confidence around my weaker skills such as sales. Input like this was invaluable.

I hope some of my own experience can help you make the move too!

Good luck!


Small Business Advice | Networking – Mum’s the Boss

This week I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of women entrepreneurs in Bedford.  The networking group is called  and it was created to support and network mums in business, and its growing rapidly.  As a mum of three I’m really passionate about how much better, not to mention how exciting life can be for everybody, when you’re in the driving seat.

My talk was on how important it is to have an overall vision, not only for your business but also for your personal life, and how having a big vision accompanied by big juicy goals focuses the mind.

At the start of Tots to Travel, I remember receiving some business advice that encouraged me to think small, so I did.  I went about creating a business with a limiting brand and, perhaps more worryingly, a limiting mindset. 

However, I’ve changed all that now!  My baby friendly holiday business has a 5 year vision, big, juicy goals and a planned exit strategy.  With a 3 or 5 year vision in place you can then work backwards and figure out exactly what it is you need to do today to make your vision a reality.  Everything falls into place then.

Sam, one of the founders from Mums the Boss filmed me afterwards using a nifty Flip.  Here it is…

Generally, women approach their businesses lacking the conviction and the confidence to make them fly. However, with a bit of support and encouragement I believe women – and particularly mums – make excellent business leaders and perhaps more importantly, fabulous role models for the next generation.  I know from the feedback that I’ve had that there were more than a few mums who left with a new found bounce in their step and a grander vision in mind!  Go for it!


Small Business Advice |Top data mistakes from SME’s

The success of a marketing strategy relies heavily on a business’s ability to turn data into real and usable knowledge. An article by Small Biz Point notes the common pitfalls experienced by small businesses and the best way to avoid them.

Assuming data provides infinite business opportunities: It’s unwise to assume that data provides you with an endless list of prospects for your business. Businesses need to understand the overall universe of prospects and who is likely to use their products in order to avoid wasted resources and time.

Not treating data as strategic: Too many businesses fail to focus on the reasons behind a prospects ‘no’. Instead of static strategies, learning why prospects choose to use you or not and modifying accordingly may actually help turn that ‘no’ into a ‘yes’.

Assuming data is correct and complete: Never assume that data is complete and accurate. Businesses need to invest time and money into ensuring that data is current and fully representative of the sectors they seek to cover.

Price doesn’t matter: Paying the lowest rates for data is a bad choice. Given the benefits that arise from accurate and extensive databases, it is always worth paying the price for a decent service. Remember data isn’t a commodity.

Failing to ask the right questions: Failing to ask the right questions from data is a mistake. It is important to understand the complexities of data, even down to where it is sourced from. If you’re unable to ask the correct questions yourself, then hire someone to do it for you. Better to spend more money in the short-term than to misunderstand a valuable resource and lose your campaign altogether.

To read the advice in full, please click on this link.

Small Business News | British Chambers of Commerce wants red tape cut

Regulation costs for businesses grew by £11bn in 2009 after the UK adopted 40 new European regulations, according to new figures from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). The new government has already promised to reassess business regulations. The BCC is calling for a review of all regulations that incur costs for business and wants to see a moratorium on new employment laws until at least 2014. BBC News Online quote David Frost, the general director of BCC “During this critical time for the economy, we need businesses to be driving recovery and creating jobs“. For the full story please visit BBC News Online.

Labour pledge to cut small business costs by £6 billion

According to the Labour manifesto launched earlier this week, Labour plan to support small businesses by cutting the cost of business regulation by £6 billion before 2015 – this would be done by simplifying administration and reducing costs across the board.

Read the full story on