How and why did you start your business? For many, it was a lucky accident: they fell into it by being made redundant, being asked to help a friend, or invented something to solve their own problem. For Priya Tourkow, her special interest in relationship counselling came about because most of the people coming to her psychotherapy sessions had problems in their relationships with partners or family members. Sarah Montgomery’s leap into promoting and selling Forever Living aloe vera products started from a desire to do something part-time from home that was more interesting, reliable and lucrative than her work as a musician and aromatherapist.
Think of some of the iconic images in our consumer lives: Hovis, with the man climbing up a cobbled hill; Mars, which will help you eat, work and play; Pepsi, which helps the world to sing; Heineken, which refreshes the parts other beers don’t reach; or going to work on an egg. These, and other images and slogans, create strong branding for the products they are promoting. And, while all of these brands were designed by and for large corporates with plenty of money to throw at promotion, small business owners should be equally focussed on their brand.
As Julie Harris put it in her talk at the Small Business Network’s November 2015 meeting, brands should add value to what they represent. Julie, whose Yellowfinch Marketing helps other small businesses with creating the right brand, was just the latest in a long line of speakers at the monthly Small Business Network meetings, held at Sable D’Or, Muswell Hill Broadway. But talks aren’t the only reason to attend SBN: most attendees go to benefit from the networking opportunities, to promote their products and services to other small business owners.
Whenever anyone launches a business, however small that business is, they need to develop a business plan. In fact, advised Rasheed Ogunlaru, author of the book Soul Trader and speaker at the last Small Business Network meeting on 21 September 2015 in Muswell Hill in north London, all small business owners should update their business plans on a regular basis, and certainly when something changes. “Just come back from holiday? Review your business,” he suggests.
How do you communicate the worth of your small business to potential new clients when you offer an intangible service, rather than a physical product? That was the key question emerging from the ‘Question Mastermind’ session at the latest meeting of the Small Business Network, held, as usual, at Sable D’Or in Muswell Hill.
And the answer? Visualisation. Small business owners must find a way to paint a picture of their service – of what they can do for their customers – through real or hypothetical examples, through videos on web sites, through detailed explanations. Read the rest of this entry →
Our very first SBN Bright Sparks Meetup took place on Tuesday 24 March 2015.
I’m delighted to report that it was a fantastic success! This was largely down to business coach Rebecca Fishman’s skill and expertise in facilitating it. Read the rest of this entry →
How influential are you? That’s the question asked by ‘mentalist’ Tom MacKay in his talk at the Small Business Network February 2015 meeting in Muswell Hill, north London. Tom pointed out that influence can mean a number of things, all of which help to attract potential customers.
“You are always influencing and being influenced,” he told the 17 attendees – a smaller group than normal because it was half-term. “And often you don’t even know it.”
Tom split ‘influence’ into six sections, including things like reciprocation (if you do something for someone, that person has an unconscious desire to do something for you) and social proof (if you see other people doing something, it is more likely you will consider it acceptable: if people buy something, you feel you should buy it).
All the small business owners at the networking event were fascinated by Tom’s theory – and his experiments to prove them. But there is one thing he failed to address: what do you do with the people who instinctively rebel against anything that’s meant to be the ‘in’ thing, the ‘done’ thing, or the ‘must-have’?
The regular business talks are not the only feature of the monthly Small Business Network meetings. Networking gives attendees a great opportunity to meet other small business owners who might need their product or service – or if not, maybe knows someone else who does. And in addition to the more common accountants, business coaches and alternative health practitioners, February’s roll call included newcomer and now SBN member, Jackie Beim, who not only teaches the Alexander Technique, but also offers the Shaw Method swimming lessons, combining Alexander Technique with swimming instruction.
For those wanting to get fit, Johanna Green was again offering free taster sessions in Nordic walking or her fitness boot camps and Sarah Montgomery is as ever looking for people who would like to boost their income by selling Forever’s aloe vera products.
Two long-standing sole traders who are members of Small Business Network have added another service to their cvs: accountant Michael Gainey has become finance director of a new theatre production company planning to bring four plays to London this year, and writer Marcia MacLeod is available to speak on writing publicity and other business copy for print and online at seminars, workshops, conferences and other events.
If you want to find out more about networking for small businesses, come along to the next Small Business Network (www.smallbusinessnetwork.biz) meeting on Monday 16 March at 12.30, at Sable D’Or, Muswell Hill Broadway.
‘Where are you on the marketing continuum?’ asked Karen Knott of Prime Time Business, whose talk on The Myth and Magic of Marketing informed and entertained networkers at this month’s Small Business Network meeting. Are you a ‘1’, hating the very idea of marketing, a 10, feeling confident and enthusiastic or a 5, understanding the concept and making tentative efforts to market your small business, but not really feeling comfortable with it?
Karen took us through the process of how to change your thinking around marketing so that it becomes something you love doing, rather than something you avoid like the plague. It’s all about seeing marketing simply as a way of connecting with your ideal clients or customers – people who are looking for exactly the service you provide and will be so happy to have found it. If you don’ tell them about it, how can they find it in the first place?
Most small business owners at the SBN meeting, held on 17 November 2014 at Sable D’Or in Muswell Hill, fell somewhere in the middle – but hopefully, after Karen’s advice and very useful tips, they went away a lot more confident about how to market their products and services.
The regular business talk is only one really useful aspect of Small Business Network’s monthly meetings: meeting other small business owners, itself a form of marketing, can bring new customers and allow members to find the products and services they need, from accountancy to business coaching, alternative therapies to natural chocolates. Karen herself asked if anyone could suggest an entrepreneurial business woman that she can speak to for her monthly inspirational interview.
Four new participants joined the November meeting, including keynote speaker and entertainer Tom MacKay, who bills himself as a mentalist. No small business owner is likely to forget Tom’s amazing display of mental powers, in which he correctly guessed the number Karen was thinking about.
Other new networkers included Lee Dein, who has just launched Magic Link Handwriting Programme, a video tutorial teaching people of all ages how to physically write legible letters, school reports and so on; Heather Holden, whose Coco Business provides a personal assistant service for any business owner needing help with secretarial tasks, marketing, or utilising technology and social media; and Meb Vidic, The Career Blog, who offers business and personal coaching and careers advice.
Ben Chapman, a financial adviser, and Bella Beraki, whose FeelSoFab.com is an online gift shop for women, were second-time visitors to the Small Business Network meeting. Ben has just become an SBN member.
But regular attendees revealed new projects, too. Johanna Green has added ballroom dancing for fitness to her keep fit repertoire; Marcia MacLeod announced she has more time to help small business owners write their web and print blogs, leaflets and brochures, now that she has closed her magazine, Your Allotment; and Nathalie Roth, who runs Nurse Your Tree alternative therapy service, is running a course right after Christmas to help people to relax after the stress of the holidays;
If you want to try out some of Nathalie’s alternative therapies – or Peggy Guglielmino‘s hypnotherapy service – visit the Highgate Holistic Clinic‘s open day on 6 December, where taster sessions will be on offer.
So that’s the marketing and mental tutoring covered; where does Movember fit in? Well, commercial solicitor Philip Deja, who specialises in helping small businesses, sported a moustache for the first time as part of the Movember fund-raising project. He promises it will be gone by the next meeting; if it isn’t, he might need legal help himself as his wife has threatened to divorce him!
Don’t forget the next Small Business Network meeting, to be held on Monday, 8 December, will not have a talk but will offer small business owners a chance to showcase and sell their products. The first meeting of the new year, on 19 January, will include a talk on Creating Healthy Boundaries on the Yo-Yo Journey of An Entrepreneur, by Mark Leruste
The blazing sunshine was no barrier to networking this month!
Mary McIlroy was one of two new small business owners at the May Small Business Network meeting, held as usual at Sable D’Or in Muswell Hill. Mary is a psychotherapist and councillor, working mainly with those suffering anxiety or trauma or those with relationship problems.
The other new small business owner, Rosie Slosek, is an accounting coach, who ‘helps people do their own accounts’ when first setting up their new small businesses. She advises them on what records to keep, how to keep them, what can be claimed against tax, and so on. Rosie, who calls her business One Man Band Accounting, also helps people deal with chartered accountants and legal issues which arise when starting a new small business.
In all, 17 small business owners were prepared to forego the glorious sunshine to benefit from the networking opportunities provided by the Small Business Network. Tom Trainer and Joanne Clinton of Chartered Accountant Online were at their second meeting, promoting their business of offering an online tax return and accounts service. Joanne joined Tom, who started Chartered Accountant Online, as business development manager.
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We were delighted to welcome a varied bunch of new attendees at the February 2014 meeting.
Commercial solicitory Philip Deja works for Highgate-based Streathers Solicitors. Andrew Tsai started his IT support firm in January, after 10 years’ experience in technical support, web design and social media management.
Michael Martin’s services at A M Accountants in Highgate include helping people decide if they want to become a sole trader or limited company, while Karen Tidsall specialises in business consultancy, helping small businesses to create business plans, pitch for new business in a competitive marketplace, and grow their companies.
Natalie Roth offers life coaching and therapy, including reflexology, Indian head massage, reiki and nutritional advice.
Five new members attended the October meeting of the Small Business Network, held at Sable D’Or in London’s Muswell Hill – and most offered products or services not represented among SBN’s small business members in the past.
Helen Laing of Tinn Moss Ltd designs and makes bespoke furniture, mainly kitchen furniture, while Kevin and Denise Fullerton run Spic’n’Span Cleaning, aimed at both commercial and domestic businesses.
Sonya Ross can help small business owners present a better public impression, as she is a voice and speech coach – and Alix Woods can help businessmen and women look the part as she sells beautiful mohair scarves made in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, which amazingly provides 50% of the world’s mohair.
When small businesses expand, they may take on more staff, entering the confusing world of HR. However, Nichola Coulthard can help, after starting his HR consultancy six months ago. (NB Nichola was a man, wasn’t he?) Read the rest of this entry →