'A frequently recurring issue for start- ups & micro businesses, is finance. It’s important to all businesses, this is what it’s about. However, in terms of expenditure, some lateral thinking will go a long way, for those that have small turnovers but plenty of ambition.
The Best Things in Life Are Free?
The first thing is to look at free things, of course nothing is really free, there’s always a catch but many large businesses frequently offer freebies as a means of enticing spend.
· For example, for presence & PR, you can get free business cards & free websites but beware of the upgrade bit.
· For SEO, free web directory listings can boost marketing potential.
· Like Enterprising Female, network for free, though you may be encouraged to upgrade & of course seek out free advisory services, in your local area, often run by funded community enterprises. The down side with this of course, is that free advisory service is rarely tailored. However, you’ll have moved your business up the value chain, when it comes to advice you may need to pay for.
· Depending on the type of business; technology, green industry, grants could be available. In social enterprise, this is certainly the case.
· Free space in coffee shops for meetings, try hotel lobbies also but the coffee’s more expensive.
· In UK, some solicitors offer first half hour free, so look out for the logo. Tax (ouccch!) office offer free workshops, on filing tax returns & VAT. If you’re very small, no need for an accountant. The helpline is also good to try.
· Free business packs at banks & check out of credible business websites like Enterprising Female's, where free advice, guidance & information, is available to download, free.
What of you, the owner manager? Why not do 'free business' yourself? Try car boot or, local jumble sale to raise initial funds, even a small amount is less expenditure (always need to watch this). Why not free offers, to win your initial customer base?
Finally, how about a bit of barter? This is all trade started, sociologists say. Finding partners with whom you can engage in exchange, maybe something you want to look at, while networking, especially at Enterprising Female, where this is actively encouraged. Lots more about this, in our women focused, workshops adapted from more corporate programmes. For now, hope this sets you on the way to being a bit of a ‘free scavenger’. Do look to the full service when you must & not apply cheapest/freest logic to everything, quality matters. So be encouraged… do some business for peanuts!
I was Wrong
Its only now that I beginning to realize what it is I have accomplished. It’s my belief that many of us, especially women, don’t give ourselves credit when and where its due. It’s probably the “blowing your own trumpet thing” I was raised not to be boastful, in the belief I think, that humility is a good thing. Thankfully, I realized suddenly, I’ve taken the notion too far.
I have done a lot of studying and work in my life time, faced/facing many personal challenges including to my health and consequently to my finances. I completed my first degree as most, in my early 20s, after pausing for a year. I then completed a Masters, then an MPhil thesis, while I worked as an independent management consultant & tutor all over England. I completed a teaching qualification around the time I was completing my Masters. I also went through the Fellowship assessment of the Institute of Consulting and gained qualification membership of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply, requiring I drive approximately 50 miles on the motorway. I have never given much to it thought, it was just what I needed to do, to keep improving and be at the cutting edge of my profession.
I Did It
I was recently going through a short on- line course, which after some acute business and personal challenges reared its head, I completed. I was really elated; the type of elation I did not feel completing my 4 – year, full- time MPhil (I deliberately decided against a PhD for time reasons, a PhD is 6 years!!). I had actually thought, of giving up this short course, which really does not add significantly to my consulting prospects but which I wanted to do, to prove my credentials and gain some sort of competitive edge. It got me thinking, why am I so chuffed about an 8- week, part- time course?
I began to reflect and it occurred to me that the pressure of what was happening around me, almost brought me to the brink of not bothering but I had stuck with it. I suddenly felt well done, its true you are a strong person (I hear I am strong frequently but again, never actually think it or feel it!). So I began to think of all the things I had accomplished, which I had given no thought and when I did, would think yes, but there are those with PhDs, or gone to Oxbridge, or are renown professors, or CEOs of large multinationals etc. and not savour my hard work and commitment to getting something done, sometimes against the odds and doing it well, as I like to.
You Do It Often
I wonder how many women are like me, not giving themselves credit where its due. Are you raising a family, working, studying, running a business, trying to run a business; facing real challenges or pressure, while doing so and getting on with it? Well now is the time to sit down and take stock and give yourself credit. If we gave ourselves a bit more credit for what we see as mundane, there’ll be less need for counsellors and therapists (I’m not suggesting this is not an option, just perhaps we gave ourselves a self- accomplishment lift, women may not need to resort to them, as frequently). Perhaps if we recognized the things we do without thinking, we would gain the self – confidence to address gender inequality, by achieving not bemoaning. Running Enterprising Female, I have seen the strength and potential of our gender. Women who couldn’t attend suddenly, due to childcare issues, those that attend with their children (being family friendly, a very limited number of children from 5 – 16 may attend if their parents take full responsibility) those that have made career changes into self- employment, for their families, those that have retrained from professional to vocational careers, with less money, to pursue their ambitions and preferences. Everyone needs to take credit, from time to time, it’s not boasting it’s a morale boosting fact.
For women in business summer can be a challenging time. The oils of enterprise must keep churning but with the additional challenges, of children out of school. So here are a few tips to help, as a reminder for those who know & pointers for those that don’t.
Many will already be using the library to keep their kids out of trouble & bond. However, there are also lots in terms of family activities. A suggestion to harmonize family & business is to see where & how you can dovetail your business activities, with summer programmes. Contact the library with offers of raffle prize, free sessions or sponsor an event (this needn’t be anything extortionate) try time donation rather than monetary. The bonus? This will generate publicity for your business & help reach new audiences, as part & parcel of the holiday fun.
Council Website/ Newsletters.
Are you organizing anything? See if your council is willing to help promote this on their site/ newsletter. Promote an offer to a segment of the neighbourhood, to attend at a discounted rate/ free & you’ll find many councils will take a friendly view. Of course the council also arrange summer events to you can use the tactics suggested above & below, as well.
Lots arranged by larger local stores & chains. Why not attend, you’ll find information, online, your local supermarket as well as the library. Take your kids, take your business. Try printing a t - shirt with your logo for yourself or add the kids, if your budget allows. This will generate a talking point among other parents, without the hard sell.
Let Your Phone Do the Work
Finally enjoy the sun, take a break & come back refreshed. All work & no play leaves Jill a dull girl. You’ll have much more fun if you remember to set up an auto message on your computer & voice mail, explaining to potential & current customers you’re away &when you’ll be back. If you have a shop, remember the sign. Tidy up loose business ends before your break, so you can fully relax, then forget the cares for a while, it really does regenerate those brain cells & gets you inspired.
It had been a while since the last Truly Me event. Ill health and lots of other pressing things meant these events, which I enjoy hosting so much, was put to the back burner. So I was a little surprised at myself when I suddenly decided to host one. This time I had learned lots of different techniques from experience of the last ones, on how to proceed with the minimum fuse and best organization.
The event started as usual with a workshop, important to business women and women as a whole; getting business information relevant and pertinent to your endeavours and techniques to de- stress and relax. A little later complimentary guests arrived. There were lots of new faces and of course some old ones, I find this extremely refreshing, as we need a constant flow of a mix of new and existing guests at the events.
The event was a little different from previous, in that we had 3 women promoting their services by offering free sessions of make- over and photo shoot and head & shoulder massage. We also had an artist in our midst and ladies were able to have a try at the unique art work at a stall.
Something else that was new was our raffle. At this event we had members of the charity we were raising funds for, attend and talk about their work in Burkina Faso. Ladies gave generously and without much adieu the funds were immediately counted and handed over. In the spirit of Christmas our goody bags, reflected the time of year.
the next event is planned for March and in line with my plans, I hope it continues to grow bigger & stronger. At the end of the day its all about you, the entrepreneur, accessing value added service to help you grow and gain confidence.
Many thanks to Mayfair Library, whom hosted Truly Me and helped with some of the publicity. I continue to receive great feedback, which makes it all worthwhile. It is quite a lot of work to host these 'get - togethers' and I continue to be open to ideas and suggestions, so do get in touch if you have anything that will support us women, up your sleeve. See you next year 2016 and have a goood Christmas. Best as always. Funmi
This has been a long time coming! I arrived from Bangladesh, rearing to jot down a little something, about my first experience of the country but as it is occasionally the mind was willing but the hands just was not!!
Anyway to the point, I enjoyed my consultanacy experience in Bangladesh. It was an opportunity to see for one’s self. So many misconceptions abound these days, that for me there is always nothing like making your own judgement, from personal engagement.
The first thing that struck me was the resourcefulness of people as a whole. Everywhere I went I saw men and women alike, working in the most innovative of ways to earn a living. My travel North from Dhaka was an eye opener, micro enterprises everywhere, often very basic by Western standards but nonetheless, evident of a resourceful people.
I was really pleased to have been able to support a woman run social enterprise, set – up to help empower women. The business recycles saris and makes hand- made soap, for the local and international market. I was glad to be able to contribute a little towards their goal, to grow the business from the current 45 employees to 200.
I met with an American lady resident in Dhaka working to up -skill, through developing leadership skills. A pleasant discussion, in the course of business, which concluded with a promise to put me in touch with a woman support organization, through which I can channel the funds, generously donated by some Truly Me women and a gentleman. Many thanks, will keep you up to date when this is concluded. The good thing with this is that I can hopefully build a lasting partnership of support.
On the down side, the infrastructure problems of the country put a bit of a dampener on things, particularly transport and levels of public hygiene. Streets are dirty in UK but really bad in Bangladesh. I also had some money and items of clothing stolen (not unique to Bangladesh) I’ve had my wallet lifted here in UK!! Also caught a minor stomach bug!
Overall a pleasant experience, my first rickshaw ride and generally curious but welcoming people. Funmi Ade
The next event is 25th September remember to be there, if in London.
Truly Me launched on Tuesday 24th September with the hope and promise of doing networking differently. I wanted to move the concept of networking from a profit making forum for discussion, into a social platform to promote and market, facilitate trade and boost skills all round.
It has been great fun and learning doing this. I sharpened my organizational skills, self-learnt, some best practice and have got to meet lots of great women, breaming with talent, hopes, ideas and business challenges. It has also, as I’ve said in previous blogs, been a lot of work, preparing newsletters, stalls, website management, agenda, promotional material, catering, venue and then, with follow- up and linking up women to women with an interest in a product or service. Women have kindly given raffle prizes and as a consequence businesswomen in Malawi, Afghanistan and Bangladesh have benefitted from this generosity. I have also received lots of good feedback and recommendations, so thanks. All this has meant Truly Me has encroached on my business (management consultant and business advisor) and “me time”, somewhat and as such, I’ve had to cancel the April event, just for a breather.
The intense, half –day, business planning workshop- 3 Key Secrets of Business Planning, will hold on Friday 30th May, as planned. Already many have indicated an interest, in attending, watch out for more on this. After this event I plan (if my diary allows) a new networking gathering, Sofa Evenings, informal evening socials, where women attending the main event, build personal relationships, to enhance the potential for their business/ social enterprise. So, another one to look out for. Then it’s a 3 month hiatus.
There are a number of things I want to put in place to enhance the whole Truly Me experience. Truly Me, is now a formal not- for- profit, the limited by guarantee status came through in March 2014. I want to put some plans in place over the summer period and have a re-launch in September, Truly Me’s 1 year anniversary. Then it’ll be a bigger, better, more engaged, result focused trade facilitation & networking all round. The same spirit of assisting, promoting and helping; first, rather than profit, will remain.
Thanks for attending, sharing and all round fun, plus the overwhelmingly good feedback. See you all again, soon
There was no blog in January, I’m finding it a lot of work preparing for the monthly cycle of exhibitions, talks, workshops and networking, with all the preparation of agenda, newsletters, promos, goody packs and venue arrangements. Still this is something that’s unique in its format and much needed, so I continue to do it, with pleasure, despite some fatigue.
For the first time we used another venue, in January, all part of the plan to keep Truly Me fresh and exposed to a wide variety of audience, as possible. I received great feedback about the venue and service, though I personally found it a little cramped and with less privacy. Great feedback as well about the event itself and in February, Cathie, a travel counsellor, suggested an easier ‘event options’ payment method, I’ll be trying against April. I continue to seek constructive feedback; one which I have been continually getting, is to charge for the second half of the event to reduce ‘no shows’. After the saga of having 53 women book (February) to attend free and only 8 showing, I have started a small £7 cost, for this segment, which includes light refreshments & goody pack. This is not only to reduce absenteeism but also to give better estimation of numbers, when asked.
We are back at the Lancaster Gate venue for March and the formal start of the Vroom Ur Biz, mini series. This is all about practical tips for growing your business, either as a start- up or existing micro entrepreneur. I will be taking these sessions but will be joined by other knowledgeable women for different aspects, of this vital success factor.
Missed my budding photographer Karla Simpson, whom kindly takes professional level photos and helps out, with the events, January and February but hope to have her with me again for future ones. I have to give her a mention, she charges nothing for the photos and refuses to take transport cost; choosing to contribute instead, as she likes what I’m trying to do. Thanks Karla.
Video of February event can be viewed on Past Events page of the site and excited about meeting you all again, along with new faces, in March.
Signing off for now
It was another event full of learning and shared experiences but a whole load of preparation and organizing, prior to the day. Newsletters, social media, networking, all contributed to the planning of the event that took place on 28th November 2013, at Windsor Suite Columbia Hotel. I’ve learnt alot along the way.
First, despite my previous claim, to have taken this particular lesson on board; not to rely on other people, for what they say they’ll do, or promises made. I fell into the trap again. Stalls held as requested, only to be cancelled last minute; raffle prize donated and announced, for which I then got no response and even payments unmade, despite this being a not- for- profit event, aimed at benefiting attendees.
For the first time a man attended, kudos!! Many men I invited, shied away from the event, because it had a female focus. This including a gentleman that did, however, take up one of the optional services, on offer.
The main issue though, seems to be attendance, about 75% of those that booked the free segment of the event, did not turn up. This clearly needs to change and I am working on how to do this effectively. I’m certain there’ll now need to be a charge, after the January event. There’s likely to be more commitment to attending, if an event is paid for. As Janice, the problem solver said “networking does not have a zero value”
About the event itself, I got lots of positive feedback and some constructive feedback too. I’ve taken all on- board and concluded that it’s going to be impossible, to be all things to all people. Overwhelmingly, the format works and people that attended are happy with the holistic approach and opportunity to participate and/or gain experience; raise their confidence levels.
A final newsletter will go out for the year, before I start the cycle again, in January 2014. It’s a lot of hard work and sometimes I wonder why I’m doing it??!! However, the feedback I get, tells me, there is a need and it is appreciated, so I suppose that is good motivation enough.
Wishing you all a happy Christmas and seeing you all, in the New Year.
Ps. many thanks to Marcia Brown, Vera Popa, Jartua Gilpin, for their raffle donations.
After a few diary clashes it was welcome news for Truly Me that Renee Wallen will be speaking at our event on Thursday 30th January 2014. Renee has a background in social media marketing, a must for social entrepreneurs and micro business owners.
A Star is Born
When I first muted the idea of Truly Me, I was hesitant about the journey to make it happen. I did want to make a difference and I had perceived some flaws but thought about all the challenges to bring it to fruition and bulked. Anyway I took the plunge very suddenly in August, with the aim of piloting a programme, for women that turns away from the traditional form of networking and that would be flexible, adaptable and provided underpinning support.
What I Call Traditional Networking
I did some On- line research and found:
· There is an annual membership fee often from £150 – 275/annum, some, in addition charge joining fees.
· Format of events tend to take the following shape-
Invited speaker, entrenched panel, networking- consisting of roving, talking and exchanging cards, sometimes a meal, sometimes a 1 minute intro from participants, sometimes speed networking
· There are free events, far less structured and limited but good to mingle and break the isolation of being self- employed.
With my management consulting and business advisory background, I saw the flaws and decided on another approach that would leverage the purpose for most business women networking- leads; not- for – profits- exposure & capacity building; professionals, career engagement in a socialized environment. I would do this all within the context of continual cross – sector engagement, shared learning and enhanced business performance (browse the site, visit FB).
Truly Me Launched
Truly Me was born on 24th September 2013. The format of the event and interactive nature of it, was well received and proved to be a success, from feedback. However, despite a large number booked, actual turnout was lower than anticipated. This is something I am now working on very hard, so the business growth solution, fully delivers every time. I am also formalising the structure and looking to bring even greater value by seeking sponsorship
The Journey So Far
So far it has been a learning curve of hope, disappointment, learning, challenges and partial success. I discovered I needed a new partnership approach, learnt about using social media more effectively, what to avoid, learnt not to rely on people; if you need to get something done, do it yourself! Most of all I got to meet some really great women, with a passion and drive to succeed. This has provided me, with greater impetus to carry on and see my vision of Truly Me reach its potential. Thanks for the support and encouragement, so far and to those that disappointed, still hope we can work together in future.