Guy Marson is the Director and Co-founder at Profusion. He has 16 years’ experience in data driven digital marketing, which has led him to work across a wide range of sectors including technology, retail and finance.
Guy is passionate about creating and using cutting-edge techniques to improve digital marketing. This led him to set up Profusion, a data science and intelligence marketing company which Guy co-founded with business partner Russell Parsons.
Before founding Profusion, Guy was Managing Director of email marketing company Mailtrack. Before this, Guy spent five years in Hong Kong as a website developer specialising in sports marketing.
In his spare time Guy founded the Steiner Academy Frome Free School and currently holds the position of Chair of Governors.
Tell us about Profusion and how you came up with the idea for the business.
Profusion is a data science and marketing services company based in London and Dubai. We offer data driven marketing, data science and data management services to a range of different clients including a global bank, two leading FMCGs and several retailers.
The idea for Profusion was born out of my passion for effective data use by businesses. At the time Profusion was set up, big data was really starting to capture industries’ imaginations but nobody really understood what it was and how you could use it. With fellow co-founder Russell Parsons, I set up Profusion to help solve this issue.
What challenges did you face when you were first starting out and how did you overcome these?
Profusion offers data science, a relatively new field that many business leaders are largely unaware of. Our greatest challenge has been to raise awareness of data science and its uses across different industries, as well as educating leaders on precisely what data science can do for them and what results to expect. Several data science techniques are brand new to a commercial setting, which can be exciting for a business as these techniques can really give you an edge over your competitors. However, gaining buy-in for a brand new technique can be difficult, especially in larger organisations.
Scaling the business was another challenge we faced. We’ve grown from a handful of people in a small London office to over 65 members of staff working from our London and Dubai offices. Keeping up the communication and close-knit feeling we fostered in the beginning has been a constant battle as we’ve grown over the years.
What are the biggest setbacks you faced since starting Profusion and how did these impact your ability to make better decisions?
As Profusion has grown in size, I had to learn very quickly that there would be a change in our company culture thanks to the number of new hires we brought on in a short time frame. The challenge for Profusion was to retain the essence of the culture we had when first starting out, but also fostering a new culture that reflected our growing and diverse workforce.
At the same time, the growth in employees naturally led to the rise of a small pyramid hierarchy in our previously flat organizational structure. This created another challenge in ensuring that communication from senior management was relayed accurately and quickly across the entire business. On the flip side of this, our new structure, along with a personal and professional development plan implemented for each employee greatly increased the satisfaction staff felt around career progression and training.
In your opinion, what are the most effective marketing channels for businesses to use and why?
Email has recently been touted as the top marketing channel for many businesses and I have to agree. Far from being over-the-hill, recent advances in the way you can target and segment your customers means that the ROI you get from email can far outstrip the likes of social media, video, banner ads or direct mail.
That said, the best marketing channels for businesses ultimately depend on your business’ aims and audience. Targeting over 70s with email, for example, is not likely to be effective. Likewise, the only way you can really determine what marketing channel works best for your business is to take a look at the data you get from it – the number of engagements, how much you spent and any leads or sales you received from the campaign.
What are some key aspects for attribution models and how can they help businesses?
In basic terms, attribution models help businesses and marketers effectively attribute ROI to specific marketing channels. When you’re marketing through lots of different channels, say social media, a website and email marketing, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint exactly where a sale originated from. Attribution models use a combination of different data science techniques to determine what channels led to a customer purchasing from you and therefore where you should be focusing your resources.
Of course, in order to do this you need to have your sales and marketing data available for analysis. A large part of Profusion’s work before analysis is helping organisations clean and store data correctly. Breaking down departmental silos and setting up a good data management platform is the first step all businesses must take before doing any kind of data science.
How do market trends differ for businesses and what should business owners take in consideration?
Market trends are going to differ across industries, countries, regions and time. Tracking market trends is a relatively easy undertaking – you can look at social media data to determine user sentiment towards different products or developments. Text mining on blogs and reviews can tell you what people are talking about and looking at, while transactional data can show you what products people are buying the most at different times. Analysing this data over time will help you identify patterns in consumer interest and spend that you can then use to predict what might be popular in the future.
It’s important to note that something may be a growing trend but not necessarily a money-spinner. An example of this could be Pokemon Go, which worked wonders for some businesses (like McDonalds Japan) but wouldn’t work for others. Again, looking at your data will tell you whether tapping into a trend has been worth your while.
How can businesses utilize data to become more sustainable and become market leaders in their field?
First and foremost any business looking to use data effectively needs to ensure the data is stored safely and in a format where it can be easily analysed. That means you have to break down any data silos between departments and clean the data so it can be easily compared.
Making sure your customers have given permission to use their data and that the data is stored securely is also essential. You’ll need to ensure that your customers understand what you are using their data for, why, who will have access to it and how it is stored. This will go some way in protecting you from consumer backlash in the event of a data leak.
Lastly you need to set your aims for carrying out the data analysis, and make sure these align with your wider business objectives. Carrying out data analysis without a clearly thought out strategy or aims is akin to wandering the desert without a destination.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to turn their vision into a successful business?
When you first set out it’s very easy to be motivated, especially if you get some quick wins, but ultimately, it’s when the going gets tough that real entrepreneurship really starts to shine through. Never let a setback actually set you back, find a way to either resolve it or go around it and don’t give up.
Likewise, asking for advice from someone more experience or senior within your industry can help you reach your goals when you’re not entirely sure what the next move should be.
It’s also important to clear your head of business related matters from time to time. Find an environment or hobby you enjoy and take time out to spend your time on something other than work for a little while. Often you’ll find you return to your business renewed and ready to get going with a fresh perspective on things.
Successful people have a few things in common, but the most important one to note is hard work. Entrepreneurs from all around the world share their wisdom with others and almost every single success story comes from hardship and a lot of hours spent on working hard to lead to what you love doing. We spoke to Harsha Rathnayake, founder of London Junk, whose application for start-up funding was turned down by the banks so he cleaned up by creating a million pound company collecting rubbish in London and working 19 hour days.
What was the moment you decided you wanted to start your own business?
After graduating with an MBA, I went full time with the waste company I worked 20 hours a week for during my studies.
Shortly after, the owner decided to retire and close the business, so I saw an opportunity to set up my own business.
I accepted an old Ford Transit 3.5 ton tipper truck, instead of my final month’s salary and stated my own business shifting people’s unwanted rubbish.
You worked various jobs to be in the position you are now. Working 19 hour days must have been exhausting. How did you keep the momentum going?
Childhood was quite difficult for me, as I lost my dad when I was 5 years old. But it was always my childhood dream to start and build my own business.
I was really passionate about building on the opportunity to start my own business, and make it the very best I could. I was willing to do whatever it took to make it successful.
Working 19 hours a day was hard, but I had a vision was motivated by the progress I was slowly making towards my goal.
The money never motivated me - happy faces and nice feedback from customers after going the extra mile on a job gave me extra energy to work even harder.
How did you fund your business in the beginning stages?
I stated London Junk with my lifetime savings of £160. I went to three different banks – all of them refused to lend the money, saying I had no credit rating and was therefore a bad risk.
Some banks even refused to let me open a bank account, as I didn’t have any credit history in the UK.
I borrowed £400 from wonga.com and soon realised that this wasn’t a good idea, as I faced the massive interest rates. I settled this loan and looked for other options.
I didn’t know where else to go, and soon realised the only option I had was to do it myself. I looked for part-time work for the early morning or late evening. I was lucky to find two part-time jobs to get that extra cash to help grow my business.
What has been one of the biggest career milestones for you so far?
One of the biggest milestone for me so far is growing the fleet from one to six custom build trucks.
Another is being able to employ 10 people in a company I started with just £160 seven years ago, with no contacts, support or credit history.
Many people are aware of the importance of hard work to become a business owner, but the level of this rises so high that some quit maybe due to exhaustion or lack of confidence. How did you avoid burn outs and over exhaustion?
It is so important to start a business only in a field you are really passionate about.
Your passion will keep you moving through the hard times. If you really want to achieve something, you will find a way.
That’s what I exactly did. As Winston Churchill said once “If you are going through the hell, keep going.”
What have been the hardest things for you to tackle when you first started?
Yes I do agree with this. When I started my business I was working 19 hours a day, and this meant I could no longer go out with friends.
Friends told me that they didn’t understand why I refused to enjoy the life I had, especially as I was young.
They understood me less and less - I chose not to spend money on fancy foods or designer clothes, when these were the types of must-have things that my friends valued.
My only focus was to cut down on all unnecessary expenses so that I was able to invest everything in building my business. This worked out brilliantly for me, but was hard for the people around me to understand.
Knowing what you know now about starting a business, what are some things you would have done differently?
I did everything I could at the time to make to most out of very limited resources.
Looking back at these things after seven years, I can say honestly that I have nothing to regret. It has been hard but I didn’t waste anytime, I am always glad of that.
What advice do you have for aspiring business owners?
Be sure about your motivations and be realistic about the sacrifices you will have to make. Don’t wait for the perfect business plan: start now, fail, learn and try again.
Tell us about your business and what made you want to start a social media marketing company?
Inferno Media is a social media agency with offices in Bournemouth and London. We specialise solely in social media, meaning we can grow and develop multiple social profiles for a number of clients in various different industries. Our clients vary massively, ranging from the hospitality industry to the construction industry. We love working with even the most challenging of industries!
I wanted to start a social media agency because of the success I had with growing a following on a Twitter page of mine. When I was 17 I created a parody account on Twitter and grew the following to over 150,000 users. After this happened, I felt like I had some groundbreaking industry knowledge and heaps of passion that needed to be pursued… so I decided to start Inferno Media!
What were some of the most challenging aspects you found when you were starting out?
There are always going to be challenges when starting a company no matter how successful it is. I would say the biggest challenges for me have been coming up with the finances, finding the right clients and finding the right office space! (Your creative juices won’t flow in just any old place, right?)
What are some road blocks you encountered and how did you manage to overcome these?
As I said, I think one of the most challenging things to happen to Inferno Media as a business was finding an office space that was right. We outgrew our old office space quickly, and cramming team members into such a small space disrupted the creativity! So I went through the long process of finding another office, which was surprisingly stressful to do in a short space of time! But now here we are on Holdenhurst Road in Bournemouth and creativity is better than ever.
In 2015, you were awarded The Entrepreneur Star Award at the Rock Star Awards. Tell us more about that.
To this day I am still delighted to have won The Entrepreneur Star Award at The Rock Star Awards in 2015. The Rock Star Awards is an award ceremony held by Rock Recruitment which celebrates talented local entrepreneurs and companies. Winning the award was a really pivotal point in my career and made me realise that things were going in the right direction - all the hard work was paying off! It really raised my profile and was a springboard for future development.
At Inferno Media, you help businesses grow via social media. What are some of the key factors you have found businesses tend to lack when trying to manage their own social media platforms?
I tend to find that businesses have a lack of strong content and a lack of strategy. This is usually because, for most companies, social media is an afterthought. Staff members from that company will post on social channels when they have a spare minute, meaning posts can seem infrequent and therefore disjointed. This is where we come in and build a strong, continuous strategy for our clients.
What are some of the most important social media strategies SME's should focus on?
One of the biggest and most important strategies for SME’s, particularly social media SME’s, is to focus on getting the right message to right person at right time. You could have a message that is spot on in terms of promoting a product or service, but if you aren’t targeting it to the right people at the right time then the message is pointless! I also think that building relationships with existing and new customers on a personal basis is crucial - always treat the customer with the utmost respect and importance.
How can business owners get more sales from being active on social media?
Businesses can generate more sales from social media if they actively seek to connect people to their page, ensuring the user knows their products and services exist. From there it’s best to send traffic to the business’ website in order to spark interest in the brand. One of the best ways to do this is through Facebook’s advanced targeting options.
In your opinion, what is the most effective social media channel for bringing success to a business and why?
I would definitely say Facebook. The powers of Facebook are incredible really; Facebook knows if you are married, Facebook knows if you are working as a labourer, Facebook knows if you are about to have a baby. We have the ability to then utilise this information from a commercial standpoint, for example, we can target baby accessories to women that Facebook tells us are pregnant.
Social media is a highly competitive medium. How can businesses stand out on the platform from their competitors?
Simply being different. It’s all about creating highly engaging, relatable content that users will want to see and haven’t seen before. Businesses shouldn’t be scared to push the boundaries on social media… do things that other companies in the same industry haven’t yet thought of!
Facebook advertising has been known to bring revenue success to many businesses. What is the secret to mastering this?
There are a few things that I think are important to master if you want to have real success with Facebook advertising. For example, nailing the call to action message and purpose is crucial. It is also important that you are using the correct custom audiences and targeting options, as this is very easy to get wrong. I would also suggest doing in-depth A/B testing on adverts in order to see what works and what doesn’t.
Most entrepreneurs will say that you need to take risks in order to be successful. We spoke to Larisa Ginzburg, founder of Vint & York, who took a big risk that certainly paid off in the end.
You left your 9-5 job to pursue your passion. How did you decide to make this transition?
My 9-5 job was never really 9-5. When you work in business and information technology consulting, your hours become unpredictable. There is always a deadline to meet or last minutes requirements to squeeze in. The transition was natural because it also gave me flexibility to attend my children’s school events and other activities.
Vintage eyewear is completely different from the corporate environment you were in previously. How did you find this change in the beginning?
I was ready for the change for a long time. When you work in corporate there is a limited amount of decision making you can participate in. And usually there is very little room for the creativity. I really wanted to get involved in fashion and design, but at the same time find a way to apply my IT experience.
Leaving a secure job where you are financially comfortable can be quite a risk. How did you ensure you kept your vision going?
Yes, it was a significant risk. Naturally, I had mixed feelings about it. It wasn’t easy especially in the beginning. I had my doubts, at times. However, I felt it inside that I was going in the right direction. What I considered difficult was ironing out the details – starting from the manufacturing aspect and all the way to creative direction, technology, marketing and others.
Did you have a business plan before quitting your job?
I didn’t have an actual business plan before I quit. I had a vision which I wanted to pursue. Eventually I developed a business plan but, as we all know, in life we can forecast things but it almost never follows the plan. We can attempt to make predictions and forecasts of what will happen in the future. However, the reality is that there are always unexpected circumstances and obstacles that we are never fully prepared for, and which we must deal with as they happen.
How did you fund your business in the beginning stages?
We self-funded from the personal savings.
What have been some of the most challenging things you faced in the beginning and how do they compare to the challenges you face now in your business?
In the beginning, we were concerned about developing and sticking to a certain concept of what our eyewear was suppose to stand for and represent. The actual development process was a lengthy one and involved trying different concepts and figuring out what worked and what didn’t in terms of design, messaging, brand appeal.
At the moment, the most important challenge is growing the brand awareness beyond our client base and also internationally.
You have six children. How do you maintain your work-life balance?
Sometimes I can't even explain it, but my work day is intermixed with my life at home. I recognize that work life balance is not easy, particularly as a business owner. However, family is my top priority and I try to take at least 1 days off per week. I also wish I could spend more time in our retail location, as I would like to hear how our customers feel about the frames. I'm interested in what they are looking for in terms of design, fit, materials and colors. I also monitor our chat from my phone - after hours - and sometimes answer to chats at 11 pm EST as we have a lot of customers shopping from the West Coast.
Many people want to go after what they are passionate about but are paused by the fear of the unknown, leaving a comfortable, stable situation for something that could work or could end up failing. Did you experience this fear and how would you advise aspiring entrepreneurs to overcome it?
It’s important to have a vision and believe in it. Passion is also key - being completely immersed and invested is imperative in building a successful business.
I would advise other to be receptive to both input and criticism - before making a decision – run it by your friends or family members and see what their reaction and thoughts are.
This is an invaluable way to better your brand and yourself as a business owner. You will know that your business is constantly improving.
It’s also important to remember that the final decision to pursue your dream is yours to make and nobody else can do it for you. In essence: be confident, be proactive, believe in yourself and take action. Don’t hold back and move forward with complete dedication and ambition.
Fear and doubt are a constant factor, and are always present in some form in the back of your mind. Even the most successful people experience fear. The difference is that they don’t let it discourage them. Use fear as fuel to push you to improve and continue building your success.
Gary Lyons founded Plastic Box Shop with his wife Lisa in 2003. Since then the company has gone from strength to strength, winning the Retailer of the Year award at The Press Business Awards in 2015 and aiming for a revenue of £10 million this year.
In this interview, Gary shares his business success story and opens up about how innovation has helped Plastic Box Shop grow.
What did you do before you founded Plastic Box Shop?
We had a discount retail outlet in a small North Yorkshire town.
Where did the inspiration come from to begin a new business?
We were looking for opportunities to increase our sales with minimal outlay, and online shopping, which was in its infancy, seemed like a great opportunity.
Each year, the biggest seller in our retail outlet was our plastic boxes, and we always found ourselves offering advice to customers on this one product range. When we set up our online store, we took a gamble and specialised in plastic boxes. We’ve never looked back since.
How did you go about setting up the new venture?
We initially started selling on eBay and, while I recommend this as a starting point for anybody with a budding business idea, we eventually grew to the point where we wanted to create our own image and stand out from our competition in the online marketplace.
Setting up the Plastic Box Shop website allowed us to create our own voice and stand out from the crowd. This is the next step for any business looking to take their startup operation to the next level, as it gives you a platform to build your brand voice and develop a relationship with your customers through your levels of service.
How did people react to your products?
They loved the site, and we were even getting orders through before it officially launched, which was a great sign. This was the point that we realised what a good choice we’d made specialising in plastic boxes.
When did you decide to grow the business? How did you achieve it?
The company has always been market led — it was busy from the word go and we just went with it, doing everything we could to help it go as far as possible. While the business has always grown organically, moving into our last warehouse and investing in packaging machines really helped us to move it to the next stage.
We grew the business by listening to what our customers were asking for and responding to their needs. One of the biggest changes in direction that came from this approach was a massive expansion of our product range, which has been one of the best business decision we’ve made to date.
As an online retailer, our position on Google has a huge impact on our bottom line, so we pumped as much revenue into our SEO strategy as possible in order to grow. This all helped us to move on to bigger and better things, and along the way we’ve made sure to invest in retraining long-standing staff, finding the right courier service, redeveloping our website to move with the trends, and moving to a larger warehouse. These have all been essential parts of our growth.
What have been your biggest challenges to date?
Our biggest challenges have definitely come during major changes, such as a warehouse move or site redevelopment. It’s extremely difficult to maintain a seamless service during these periods, but as we feel great customer service is the foundation of any successful business, these periods involve a lot of hard work and long workdays.
Have you undertaken any innovative promotional activities that have helped to grow your business?
As our business continued to grow, we wanted to start really getting our name out there, so we were proud to bring Jesse McClure of Storage Hunters fame on board as our brand ambassador. Over the last two years, Jesse has undertaken a lot of promotional work for the company including recording videos and adverts. We also invested in some talking Jesse dolls which we give to our customers when they spend over a certain amount — the doll has our company logo on and is a fun little reminder of Plastic Box Shop.
Additionally, we have had the opportunity to sponsor Accrington Stanley FC since the 15/16 season. This has brought some fantastic exposure for our brand, and has gotten our name out there. The company logo was re-designed for this so that it really stood out for all marketing opportunities with the club. This has brought us a lot of coverage, and it’s a great feeling when you see your company logo on television and even on the FIFA games, which our children were certainly impressed with!
What plans do you have for the future?
Going forward, we are looking to find even more areas through which we can grow the business. These include increasing our range of plastic boxes even further and also expanding with some completely new product ranges. We are also looking to stock some really innovative products, some of which we’ll be developing in-house.
We have also recently moved for the third time into a bigger and better warehouse facility, and we are now in the process of installing a new fully-integrated warehouse management system that will help to streamline our dispatch process and keep a much tighter control on our inventory.
We are also planning on redeveloping the website again so it’s fully responsive. We’re hoping this will improve our delivery and checkout options and provide an even better experience for our customers.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to start their own business?
Keep focused on your vision and always keep moving toward it. Be prepared to work extremely hard, and move on quickly from the lows while basking in the highs.
Nikki Robinson is one of the top Myofascial Release Physiotherapists in Europe, a gentle and safe treatment that work with the mind and the body to help with pain and inflammation. Her vast expertise and knowledge in the field together with passion for well-being and health put her in the spotlight to get nominated and finally awarded the Best Business Woman Award in Health and Wellness. She qualified as a Physiotherapist from the Queen Elizabeth School of Physiotherapy, Birmingham in 1993 and then worked in the NHS and in Australia.
Following that she travelled to America and trained in Myofascial Release with John Barnes, the American Physiotherapist who developed the technique. In 2006 she founded Holisticare, one of the few specialist Myofascial Release practices in Europe, opening a purpose built treatment centre in 2010.
A member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and registered with the Health and Care Professions Council, Nikki is also a member of the Fascia Research Society, ensuring she has access to the latest fascia research and journals from round the world to keep her knowledge and skills up to date.
What is the story behind Holisticare?
I started Holisticare 10 years ago, working 2 mornings a week from home while my daughter was at playgroup. Holisticare is a specialist center offering Myofascial Release which now based in a purpose built Treatment Centre on a working farm and has 4 specialist Myofascial Release therapists.
I took a career break from 2001 when I had my children, then in 2006 I was looking for a course to update my skills and came across Myofascial Release. I didn’t know anything about it, but it sounded interesting, I could afford it and was able to get to the venue, so I booked it! After the first five minutes, I knew that this was for me but I didn’t realise how much it was going to change my life.
This technique satisfies my Physio-head as it’s based on science and research, and it suits me personally as it enables the therapist to truly follow the patient and work with their mind and body. It is the only treatment I have come across that works with the patient rather than doing things to them. So I never know what I am going to be doing in a treatment session – it depends on what my patient does so it is never boring. In fact, every day I am inspired and humbled by our patients and how they allow us to work with them in changing their lives.
Before I found Myofascial Release, I knew that I would start my own private practice in some shape or form. So the Holisticare name and logo were conceived one night by my husband and me, with the help of a bottle of wine. We even registered the limited company and website!
Myofascial Release is a treatment developed by an American Physiotherapist called John Barnes and Holisticare is one of the few specialist centres in the UK. It is a safe, gentle, hands-on treatment that works with your body to untangle the restrictions that cause pain, tension and inflammation.
Everything that happens to us from the time we are conceived is recorded within our fascial network (the myofascia). This is a continuous web of fibers that holds our cells in place and connects them all to each other. This 3D network gives you strength, flexibility and stability meaning that no part of the body exists in isolation. The myofascia solidifies and shortens in response to any kind of trauma, repetition of movement or ongoing poor posture. It will slowly tighten, spreading tension throughout your whole body.
There is a gloopy substance between the cells and fibers, called the ground substance. This reacts to physical and emotional stress and becomes more solid, preventing your body from being able to adapt to things and leading to symptoms and illness.
The ground substance is thixotropic, meaning that it becomes more fluid in response to warmth and pressure. During treatment, this comes from our hands and we use this reaction to feel where the restrictions are coming from and to gently release them.
As we never force our patients’ bodies, it is very safe and enables us to truly follow what they need, getting long-term results. It also allows us to work very deeply without pain, so most of our patients find it a very relaxing treatment.
Myofascial Release is also very effective for athletes before and after training and competitions. It helps to loosen muscles, which reduces the chance of injury, and clears lactic acid after exercise. As it is such a gentle technique, you don’t have to endure the pain of a sports massage.
The technique is even safe in pregnancy and for new born babies, helping with conditions such as back pain, SPD, colic and reflux.
Obviously Myofascial Release can’t cure everything but there is a good chance that it can make a difference to most symptoms that people present with. Many of Holisticare’s patients have tried lots of different therapies with limited success before they come to them. By working with their bodies, they are able to help conditions that are often hard to treat.
As a centre of excellence, we have patients travelling from all over the UK and even internationally to come to us for treatment. To enable them to make the most of their time with us, we offer an Intensive Treatment Programme - 15 hours of treatment / week for 1, 2 or 3 weeks. These weeks are often life changing and are a very rewarding part of the business.
You have won the Best Business Woman Health and Wellness Award. Tell us about this and how did you feel to receive this great award?
This is the first year that I have entered any business awards, so I was very happy to have been shortlisted as a finalist. The whole Holisticare team attended the Awards Evening - a black tie event for all the finalists. When they announced that I had won I started shaking, I was so surprised! To be in a room with so many inspirational women was amazing, so it was a huge honour to be chosen as a winner - for my team as well.
It has been lovely to get our patients' feedback about the win too. They are really happy for us and have been saying some lovely things about us.
How did you fund your business in the beginning stages?
I started my business from home and built up gradually as the children got older. Other than paying for courses and a treatment couch, I had no initial expenses, and as I wasn't working when I started I didn't have the pressure of giving up an income to start my business.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when you first started as a business owner?
The main challenge to begin with was how to explain what I did. As Myofascial Release is a specialist Physiotherapy treatment, most of my patients came to me for Physiotherapy and were happy to receive the treatment I recommended. It took me nearly 10 years to come up with a concise explanation of what we do, which we now give to our patients on a card to carry with them so they too can explain it:
‘Myofascial Release is a safe, gentle, hands-on treatment that works with your body and mind to unravel the restrictions that cause pain, tightness and inflammation.’
This is getting much easier now as Myofascial Release is increasingly being recommended as the treatment of choice for many conditions, such as Fibromyalgia and pelvic pain.
Physiotherapy is a very competitive field. How do you make sure that your practice stands out from the rest?
Our specialism is the main difference. And the fact that we only ever treat one patient at a time, our treatments are all hands-on and we are all passionate about what we do.
Customer service is another area in which we excel - we were also finalists in the Harlow Business Awards Customer Service category. We pride ourselves on providing our patients with a service that comes from the heart. We feel that their therapy doesn’t only happen on the treatment couch but in all our interactions with them and their families.
Holistic medicine is becoming more popular now. Why do you think people are starting to pay more attention to holistic practices when it comes to their health?
I have definitely noticed a shift over the ten years that I have been in business. I think that is partly due to the strain on the NHS - frustration with waiting times and limitations on treatments offered mean that if people are able to pay for their own treatment they are looking for options.
Increasing media coverage of health issues and the internet publication of research have also given people the knowledge to make decisions about their own bodies.
Nearly 80% of new patients at Holisticare come through word of mouth. I feel that this illustrates the power of doing a good job so people talk about us. Many of our patients have been through the traditional NHS route and not been helped, so they feel they have no choice but to look for alternatives.
How important would you say social media has been for you?
Social media has helped raise awareness of what we do and has enabled me to respond to requests for help. We have also had new patients from other people recommending us on social media, but it is not a large source of business for us.
What advice do you have for those who want to start their own business?
I would really recommend speaking to a business/marketing coach before getting started - the learning curve needed is huge and I didn't know how much I didn't know! And once you understand your own strengths and weaknesses, it is easier to know what areas you need help in.
I also learnt that you have to be confident in what you are offering - if you can't tell people that you're good, then why would they try your services? Business networking has helped me to spread the word about my business and I have met lots of wonderful people who I have been able to use too.
If you want to learn more about myofascial release physiotherapy and get in contact with Nikki and her team, visit the Holisticare website for more information.
What made you want to start your own business and how did you come up with the idea for Butlers in the Buff?
When I was 21 years old, I finished university and landed a full time job. Amongst other things I realized there was an allowance of 20 days of holiday a year and I thought this is not very much. I wanted to work for myself and be in control of what I was doing professionally and make it, as I wanted it to be. My current business partners (Jason Didcott and Will Jones) approached me with the idea of Butlers in the Buff, as Will knew I had a marketing background. At the time, Jason had just came out of the navy, had a good body and thought it would be a great thing to do, a bit of a party trick really and it worked everyone loved it; there was a huge gap in the market for something charming yet cheeky for hen and birthday parties. Strippers had become old and dated and what we offered with Butlers in the Buff was fresh and new. I had a solid background in PR and marketing, so we joined forces to launch the business. At this point, I still had a full time job as it was giving me secure income. We were all employed for about a year and a bit until the business took off.
How did you market your business in the beginning stages?
I came from a PR background, so that helped because I had knowledge of how to market a business to the press. I spent time writing hundreds of press releases and finding different angles that would be appealing to the media. As we were the first company to provide semi naked butlers we were lucky as no-one had ever heard of Butlers in the Buff for parties so we had a really good newsworthy story.
I had built a great list of contacts from already being in the PR industry so this came in very handy when I began pitching Butlers in the Buff. I remember contacting the Telegraph and they said they were not able to write about the business. A couple of months later we were approached by ITV who wanted to make a documentary about our company, so we got involved with that. The show featured four businesses that fitted under the main topic of “Going to work naked” and Butlers in the Buff was one of the companies presented in the documentary.
The following week the Telegraph phoned me and wanted to feature Butlers in the Buff. The power of media definitely helped and overnight, our inbox was fast overflowing with emails from people wanting to book a butler to people wanting to become one. Also good old fashioned word of mouth really helped! Word began to spread and the rest as they say is history.
Looking back from when you first started until now, how important would you say social media is for business owners? And what is your preferred social media channel for business and why?
Social media is massive for business. Facebook is still our biggest channel but Instagram is coming a near second! Back when we started, social media was not a developed platform for companies, so PR was the leader. But now I would say it’s really important. The power it has just by enabling people to share your content and speak about and recommend your business to a huge reach of people is absolutely invaluable. I definitely think there should be a balance between PR, social media and advertising (if you have the budget). For Butlers in the Buff, all these channels helped us especially when looking for butlers. We have high standards for our butlers and they have to be charming, polite, friendly and definitely not sleazy. So being able to use these platforms to find the right people and to communicate with our customers is really great.
What would you say the hardest thing was for you when you first started?
In any business, you have to get your accounts right; getting a good accountant was a challenge to start with because we had very little knowledge in that subject. We are a fun business but it is serious at the same time because we have to make profit to keep going. For us at Butlers in the Buff, it is important to work with the right people so finding the right ones to hire can be a bit of a process. When we began, we got all sorts of applicants as you can imagine, but at the end of the day we have a criteria we follow and that’s important to us. Getting your story out there is very can also be challenging but finding a way to make it work is worth it.
Butlers in the Buff services are available in many different countries including UK, Australia, US and Canada. How did you identify that these markets will work for the brand?
We picked English speaking countries because it was just easier to communicate with our audience- translating the websites would have been more complex and more time consuming. We did a lot of market research, especially for the US as the bachelorette industry there is huge. We knew Australia would love it as it is similar to the UK in this field. My business partner is married to a Canadian so he knew the country and how it works there so that fitted nicely.
We know that being a business owner is not a 9 to 5 job. How do you keep your work life balance?
It is challenging, especially dealing with different time zones. For this reason, sometimes I have very early morning meetings and late night ones so they can be congruent with each country. But technology makes it a lot easier; our philosophy is work hard but work smart. I make lots of lists, spreadsheets and prioritize a lot. Priority lists are vital, it’s easy to get distracted by the things you enjoy doing or the easier jobs but try to not get distracted and keep focused on the priority and time sensitive ones. Allocate some quiet time for yourself so you can focus on one project at a time. But you do need to relax for a little bit too so much sure you have a break as well. Get some fresh air and you’ll be more productive!
What advice do you have for those individuals who plan to start a business with an international market angle?
It can be very hard, we started with full time jobs and we worked our day jobs then met up in the evening to get the business off the ground! If you have a vision and believe in it then put everything you have in it and do it. Learn how to market it and come up with catchy story angles that will make the headlines; do a launch event, do something that you can get to the press with that stands out. Use social media to get the word out there about it and connect with your audience to build a loyal community for your business. Dream, believe it and achieve it!
Founder and CEO, Laura Stembridge is at the helm of the ship leading a team of six. "We’re building a really strong team and will be making three more hires early next year".
Laura has over 12 years industry experience and a passion for the tech world. Starting life working in Sports Event Management where she secured grants of up to £250,000K to improve sports provision in local communities, Laura later turned her hand to Management Consultancy. During her time as a Management Consultant (c.10 years) Laura worked with companies including BP, Unilever, NHS and British Energy assisting them on the implementation of global IT enabled change programs.
Laura set up her first business aged 23, which ran successfully for four years. “I have always has the entrepreneurial bug and knew I wanted to set up another business, but this time in tech, it was just a case of coming up with the right idea at the right time. Jambo is getting amazing feedback and traction, I am really excited to see how things develop over the next 1, 3 and 5 years”.
Tech is always something that has interested me. In terms of what tech can do the possibilities are endless and I find this really exciting.
Laura is a keen sportswoman and loves travel – 40 countries and counting!
What is Jambo and how does it work? (Please give as much detail as possible)
Many business opportunities occur from chance encounters over which we have no control. Who you meet locally, at events or whilst travelling for business is left almost entirely up to chance. Those first conversations can be cold and super awkward, making building a network both tedious and daunting. Jambo was designed to change this. With the rise of technology and mobile first platforms, our mission is to put humanity back into networking and ensure you never miss a connection again.
Jambo, a mobile first, location-based platform and invite-only community helps business professionals build genuine and valuable connections, in real-time, wherever they are. The Jambo community is highly curated, we know your time is precious; we want to ensure you meet the right people. We use an innovative algorithm to suggest people for you to meet based on your preferences.
After downloading the application and making it past the ‘gatekeeper’ who looks after the waitlist, members are able to network with those around them who share similar interests. Whether you’re looking to connect with people on the next floor of your office, whilst on a business trip, or at an event, Jambo can help you meet the people you want to meet professionally or socially, either on a 1-2-1 basis or 1-2-many via Tribes which are in-app communities. If you fancy meeting people in London who are passionate about Fintech, or those in New York who love running then we have a Tribe for that!
Jambo also has two other cool features;
1) it lets you see who else is attending events ahead of time so you can get the most out of your time and meet the people you want to meet who will add value
2) if you’re away on business, we’ll notify you when members of your network are also in the area to help you keep your network active.
Users will be able to download the Jambo for free on the App Store and Google Play from 30th November. People can pre-register for membership to the Jambo Tribe by signing up to our private beta on our website.
Who was Jambo designed for and how can they start being active on the app? Do members have to pay a fee or is it free?
Jambo is designed for working professionals and business travellers who want to network both professionally and socially, whilst on the go. Whether you’re looking to meet new people from your company, a sales lead, or somebody to grab dinner with whilst you’re away on business, Jambo allows you to connect with those around you and build genuine connections. Networking shouldn’t be about meeting new people and taking turns to pitch; it should be about getting to know people personally. Not only is this more enjoyable, but it helps cultivate richer and more valuable connections.
Jambo is free to download from both the App and Google Play Stores. The sign up process if simple, users log in using their LinkedIn credentials and then they’re ready to go. We’ve made the process of sign up super easy, because nobody likes having to fill in the same information over and over again. Users are given full membership to the Jambo community as soon as their profile is approved by the Jambo Gate-Keeper - their role is to ensure that the integrity of the community remains highly curated.
Users will be able to download the Jambo for free on the App Store and Google Play from 30th November.
How did you come up with the idea and when was Jambo officially launched?
Jambo was born out of personal frustration. I used to travel extensively for business and frequently attended conferences. I thought business travel would be the best thing since sliced bread, getting to see the world whilst working - what could be better? Little did I know how lonely and isolating the experience would be, room service, dinner dates for one, you know the drill! You would see other business travellers in the same situation. It’s crazy because you get to go to some of the world’s best cities, but you never get to experience them as a local.
Then there are the serendipitous moments when you randomly bump into old colleagues, contacts or people from your company at conferences and on business trips. Sadly, these are few and far between.
Imagine if there was a way to see who from your professional network was nearby. Imagine if you knew that the person at the event worked for the same company but in a different office. Imagine if you had a way to meet other business professionals quickly and easily whether you are in your office or on the road travelling. Jambo was born!
How many active users are there on Jambo?
We launched our alpha with 1,000 test users. We currently we have over 10,000 people on our waiting list for our private beta which launches on IOS and Android at the end of the month. Business professionals can sign up for our private beta via our website here and gain Founding Member status of the Jambo Tribe.
You have recently won the Alibaba UK Creative Cloud Competition. Tell us about this and what did it entail?
Winning the UK Alibaba start-up competition was really great; I still can’t believe we won! The process was similar to pitching for investment - we had to submit an application form detailing what the business is and why we should make it through to the final. Eight start-ups were taken through to the final. On final day, founders were required to give a a 10 minute pitch about their business which was followed by a 10 minute Q&A to a panel of judges from Alibaba, Cocoon Networks, UK Trade and Investment and London and Partners. I remember being last to pitch. When we entered the stage, one of the judges saying ‘finally, a female founder!’. The judging criteria looked at the problem being solved, the solution an degree of innovation, the team and traction. It was a really great feeling winning the competition, especially being a female founder! A lot of doors have been opened since we have won.
Tell us about your recent trip with London mayor Sadiq Khan, and the other 29 innovative London start-ups chosen to attend. What was the event about? (please give as much detail as possible)
After winning the UK Alibaba Start-up competition, we were awarded a place on the Mayor’s International Business Programme (MIBP). A programme run by London and Partners on behalf of the Mayor’s Office, which is design to help support scale-up companies gain traction in the UK and launch internationally. Through the MIBP we were invited to accompany London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, on a Trade Mission to Chicago and New York.
During the Mission we were given the opportunity to pitch to investors, FTSE 100 companies and build relationships with other organisations and influential business people in both cites. One of the highlights of the trip for myself was accompanying Sadiq Khan to the New York Stock Exchange where we went up onto the platform and rang the closing bell. That’s a career highlight for me thus far!
The core focus of the Mission was to support the “London is Open” campaign post Brexit and enable the participating scale-up companies to network with industry leaders and company c-suite execs who it would ordinarily take us months to get to if we were to reach out to them directly.
The Mission was a really valuable trip for us, we certainly got a lot of contacts and leads out of it! It’s great to know that our friends and contacts across the pond love Jambo as much as people here in the UK.
If you could choose any public figure/influencer as your mentor, who would it be and why?
Casey Neistat. He’s a YouTuber who produces really great daily content. Casey also runs a tech-start up in addition to producing content for his YouTube channel. He has an amazing work ethic and somehow manages to find time for sport, and more importantly his friends and family. The passion he has for what he does is contagious. I love his commitment, drive and ambition. He’s grown his following to c.5m on YouTube – a pretty amazing achievement!
Technology is evolving very fast and it is becoming a highly competitive market. What are your expectations in terms of business growth for Jambo and what is next?
We’ve had a really good response to Jambo so far. It seems the problem we are solving is a pain point for a lot of people. People are genuinely positive about the product and are bought into our vision of putting humanity back into business networking and making the business world more connected both locally and on the road. We’re super excited to launch our private beta at the end of the month on iOS and Android.
We have a bunch of cool new features on our product roadmap that we will be implementing early next year. Jambo is going to go from strength to strength and I can’t wait to go on that journey with our users!
Will you be downloading Jambo? Let us know on Twitter.
Starting a business from scratch was not an easy "challenge" this UK entrepreneur set himself up for. Luke Hughes, founder of UK personal training course provider Origym put his heart and soul as well as his lifetime savings into his startup. Today, Origym turns over a few hundred thousand per year, making it a worth while investment for the young entrepreneur. Luke takes us through the steps he took to get to this point and all the challenges he faced towards the success.
Tell us about your business. What kind of services do you offer and how did you come up with the idea for it?
Origym is a training provider for internationally recognized fitness qualifications. We primarily sell gym instructing and personal trainer courses for the fitness sector through a variety of learning styles including, mentored, e-learning and classroom based courses. We also provide bolt on courses for those who are already qualified including continuous professional development and targeted courses for those wishing to become a specialist within a certain aspect of fitness.
We have several unique selling points to the way we operate that save us both money and generate a better customer experience (in our opinion). Firstly every member of our team is a qualified personal trainer, from the Directors to the sales team and the accounts. This is so every member of the team can fully appreciate the learners’ needs and empathize better with their circumstances if they raise a concern. I have paid for some staff to be qualified and others are already qualified. One aspect that we felt the industry was lacking in, was the business side of becoming a personal trainer and that an alarming 70% of people who qualify are back out of the industry within 12 months and 90% within 3 years. We knew it was due to the lack of business input and understanding how to get clients, market themselves correctly and engage with clients. We introduced free business webinars, videos and created a specialist course in it too to give our students the business skills to allow them to hit the ground running when the had achieved their qualifications.
Our other major USP is actually how we deliver. We wanted students to learn from established experts and have their assessments locally as opposed to travelling like every other provider so we employed mentors who had a wealth of experience as personal trainers and paid for them to get qualified as tutors. The student then saw them for 24 hours of direct one to one learning plus shadowing of real personal training sessions with real paying customers. This has not been done in our sector and we are still the only provider to do this. This also had the positive that we did not have to pay venue costs and allowed us to scale as soon as we had another mentor in place meaning we went UK wide within a few months.
How did you decide you wanted to start your own business?
I have always wanted to start my own business, but I did not know what in and I wanted to start a business that did not have an earning cap or based on an hourly rate. I was a national sales manager for a course provider, but I saw some fundamental flaws in their business model, which derived into a large volume of complaints. Despite offering numerous strategic routes to enhancing customer experience I felt my contribution was not valued and that the interests of the consumer was not the main concern.
I knew my skill set were sales and marketing, but I needed a partner that possessed relevant tutoring qualifications to write the course structures and knew how to legally start a business and Steph who worked on a freelance basis in Liverpool for the same company matched my needs perfectly as we are both the same age, have similar educational backgrounds, owns another business but has very different skill sets, thus after one quick email from myself, I was up in Liverpool talking about our plans and what we felt the market lacked and most importantly how we could combat it.
You mentioned that you sacrificed two and a half years of your life to get the business up and running? How did you keep that business vision alive in the hard moments and kept pushing through?
Firstly it was my dream to have my own business and I had no intention in letting this opportunity slip through my fingers by not putting the hard work in.
I worked between 80-100 hours a week 7 days a week, in the first 6 months, I did not take 1p in salary and funded my Facebook ads, which fortunately were a massive success from my own bank account to keep the working capital above the threshold we set.
There have been plenty of highs and lows, but the main motivation came from watching us slowly get good reviews from customers.
This showed we were onto something with our unique style of teaching. Even when certain aspects went wrong or not quite as effective as I thought they would, that our idea worked, just maybe the execution needed tweaking which we did several times over the past couple of years.
When times got tough and I was out of my comfort zone on areas that neither of myself or Steph had familiarity or felt out of our depth, I just had to remind myself would you want to go back to a job where you have no control and your input is not valued? Definitely not!
Sometimes you are better off taking a day or half a day off to re-charge, stick to your ethics and what you believe will make a difference and remind yourself your not going to be great at every aspect of business and that sometimes you have to seek help from other sources. There is no shame in not knowing what SEO is or where to advertise, just that it is an integral element of business and that there are companies that do specialise in this to help you. Another added motivation for me personally is that there is no chance that I am telling my mother that I sold my car, rented out my house and move cities for this not to work. She is very supportive with everything I do but my family is from an employed background and I wanted to show them it was the right decision.
How did you fund your business in the beginning stages?
My business partner Steph, had an existing business that would act as the venue hub for our training and our long term vision and major USP, which is that we would not use third parties for our venues but actually run and lease our own, something that we still do as the only provider in the UK within our sector. This allows us to undercut all our competition. The arrangement I had was to live with my business partner rent free for 12 months and utilize her already self paid venue to perform our training needs and daily business running, such as practical training days, calls, internet access, whilst I put in over £20,000 in running capital, which derived from savings and selling my car.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when you first started as a business owner?
My biggest challenge was figuring out where to start. What should be in house and what should I outsource from my business. I was far from an expert in any area apart from sales and marketing, but even then as I had never run a website before, I knew little about things like SEO or other techy phrases that are extremely crucial. I self taught and went on online courses for some aspects and then outsourced for others that I struggled with and just simply could not get inspired by.
I also wanted the product to be perfect with all these ideas running through my head, that I wanted to implement right away. I soon realized its all an ongoing process in that even the biggest brands in the world are not finished articles and that they are evolving all the time too.
Another major challenge for me was scheduling my own day. Sounds silly, but I was 28 years old and had always had a structure imposed onto me on what I should be doing and when I should be doing certain tasks. Now there was no structure and there was nobody else to tell me off if I was late or had not completed something by a certain time. Thankfully myself and Steph created pressure on each other as both our roles although very different directly influence the rate of the other, hence a pressurized schedule of tasks from Steph gave me structure, drive and I soon found that I was far more productive as answering to myself and matching my own ambitions than feeling the heat from any employer.
Another big challenge was as we scaled quite quickly our margins decreased and as VAT kicked in our lines were really fine. We kept hearing the phrase “this seems too good to be true” so we upped our prices by 34% and actually it made no difference to our sales volumes, we just simply made more money.
Being an entrepreneur, your workload must be very demanding. How do you prioritize your work?
My workload is far less demanding now than it used to be, where I was the marketer, sales rep, accounts, finance, solicitor and business developer to name just a few. Firstly you need to know when you work best!
I am not an early riser and never have been. I work really efficiently in the evening and at night. I think any aspiring entrepreneur needs to understand themselves and when they work best, which can be completely different to somebody else. You will NEVER see me at work before 9am, but you will frequently see me in the office on my own at midnight on a Saturday.
I used to categorise work into tiers of levels of urgency and ones that I felt needed to be conducted during business hours and ones that could be handled after business hours. If it was ever a complaint, customer enquiry or anything customer facing, speed of reply was and still is paramount. Firstly from a sales perspective I know from experience that getting their first is everything, especially if it looks like they have enquired at a few places so our sales reps are told to call them within one hour of their enquiry being submitted unless other sales calls inhibit. Secondly I want my customers to know they are getting their issues handled with by a real person, quicker than any other service they have paid for, so during business hours this type of work means stop what you are doing and handle the customer enquiry before anything else. I also pay my staff on customer satisfaction, which is done over a series of surveys, speed and quality of reply, which we do go through every two weeks one by one to sustain quality.
For ongoing tasks such as link bulling, course and resources development I would literally ask myself which ones of these is going to make the biggest impact on my business either from from either a sales perspective or a customer service one. Then I would solely work on that aspect that I felt would do the most! I used to try and juggle several at once, then a friend of mine and multi millionaire business owner, Tim, said are you a snake? I said which I assume every body would say, “what on earth are you talking about?” He said snakes can digest several things at once without any issues, you are not a snake, focus on one thing at once and get things live! Once live and running, then you come back and optimise to improve it, and then you move onto the next aspect. This has really saved me from myself. I was doing my best on about four or five different projects simultaneously and doing them badly as I was not giving them the attention and individual priority that they needed. I have also learned “to let go” on some aspects of the business and have staff to perform my accounts, sales, marketing and SEO and I just oversee and manage the process, which sounds a lot easier than reality. I block out time after business hours where I will not respond to any emails or calls to entirely focus on the area that needs doing and then as and when it is complete repeat the same process for the next area in order of difference to the business.
What would you say are the key things to keeping grounded as a business owner?
Keeping grounded is easy for me; it’s about knowing your routes and sticking to your ethics. I’m just an ordinary guy from Birmingham who wants to love going to work, which I do! This is an aspect many people take for granted. I wanted to find something I was honestly passionate about and that I was genuinely going to be proud of. I conduct business people facing and personable, hence why my face is on our website and I ring EVERY student who enrolls onto our course to introduce myself and give them my email address if they need anything.
Same as any other social entity, people buy off people they like, so I try and keep business very real and simple. I also believe in seeking opportunities and always ask every email from other companies to be directed to me, never want to miss a way of moving forward, where I know other business owners who mark emails as spam and I always think what if that was a great opportunity that you could have taken advantage of. A great example would be when QMU university emailed my sales guys who go referred to do their qualifications through us, some people may think this is spam, but now we run courses all year round directly out of their Edinburgh campus.
I think I used to be someone who shied away from pressure situations, but now I thrive under them.
What is your strategy to keep on trend/stand out from your competitors for your business market?
Everything for me is about balance. I take parts that I like about my competitors’ business and apply it to my own whilst staying true to what I believe is right. Just because your competitor has a massive turnover and does something one particular way, this does not mean they their way is correct, otherwise nothing would ever evolve. I use tools such as AHREFs, Google alerts and MOZ to track all my competition, as it is naïve to just focus on your own efforts.
Sustaining your USPS and truly believing in their value keeps you on trend to success. When I say believe, I mean know that they will make a difference to your customers and your profitability. I knew the venues would save us money and in fact it is better than saving us money, it makes us money on top as we have half converted them into gyms for access to the public giving us an additional revenue stream that none of our competition have.
Being first to market an idea is always good and using technology as that is on an onward spiral is something that we are very aware of too. For instance we are trying to create a mobile app for our student’s to access to that they can login via the phones which is yet to be done in our industry.
How do you market your business? What are the most effective channels in your opinion?
Marketing, my favorite topic! As we are providing education we want to look professional, yet personable so we use a lot of images with our real staff on and have our images and details people facing. We always keep our brand colours concurrent across all platforms and try and focus on offering the best value for money as an organization. I stay well away from phrases like “number one in the UK” or “fastest growing education company”, we want to give the impression of being humble and prospects see this jargon written across every site, which actually puts them off.
Channels depend on you margin; my margins are wide thus nothing is better than Google Ads and Facebook ads which is responsible for 85% of the revenue we generate. Having a wide margin leaves room for error, but if you have a small margin per sale, this room for error diminishes and you need to be checking your ads all the time! I always stress to apply logic to situations, have you ever read a newspaper ad and then rang the company running it, I never have! I do all my shopping on Google, which is why getting good, optimized Google ads that are relevant to your target market is key to success online. I would always have spare budget to focus on SEO and if you don’t know much about it, learn it and fast!
We do utilize course and leisure specific sites, but personally I never advertise in areas that are difficult to measure such as magazines, radio or TV. These are great for establishing brand awareness but at the beginning you need to know what works well and the numbers coming back down to the pence, so you can see what has worked and what has not and the plough more into what works, its that straight forward. The great thing about Google and Facebook ads is that they are so granule so that you can really laser in on your target market and ideal customer even if you input a very small amount of money, you can still get the return that you want, making them suitable for all types of business’ of any size.
I also do a lot of organic outreach as I love being pro-active and when something comes off, it can really come off and make a massive enhancement to your business. Relying solely on reactive business is a dangerous strategy as far as I am concerned. For example, I send around a hundred emails per week to fitness blogs, magazines, educational companies, trusts and potential affiliates to try and work with them o build a relationship.
Many entrepreneurs say that when it comes to decision-making, they rely a lot on their intuition and take calculated risks. Can you relate to this and what do you take in consideration when making calculated risks?
Completely agree! You will make mistakes, I certainly have, but I like to think that they are small or I have done the background and my due diligence before commencing with an idea to give it the best chance of success. I must be a pessimist, but I work out what would happen if the worst-case scenario occurred and then see how that would financially influence my business if all went wrong and have clear contingency in place if so. I know a lot of entrepreneurs work on the positives, but I work backwards when making my decisions, I work on the negatives until there are none left before committing to a decision that is risky, so the process of lamination if you like. This frustrates my business partner a little, but I have used the phrase “I told you so” before, which I am pretty sure she hates more.
A great example of this was that we wanted to start owning our own venues to cut the £150 per day that was being spent on venue hire. We then calculated what would happen if the courses did not sell and the we were stuck with a venue lease for three years with nothing getting run out of it? Simple we planned for it, we would sub lease to our competitors and other training companies and we would still make profit! I personally do not believe in making big risks that could potentially jeopardies my entire business, but I do think sometimes being a little edgy with your marketing or angle on how things should be done is good thing! If you conform to the standards of your competitors you end up losing your identity and lose your USP.
What advice do you have for those who want to start their own business?
I would strongly advise on being prepared for the relentless nature of business. It never stops and there isn’t really such a thing as a day off contrary to what productivity hacks you read in my opinion. The world does not care if it is your day off or your feeling run down, the emails still come in and the work needs to be done. The thing that does change is how you handle and manage this flow, so by having times of the day when you don’t even look at your emails and allow your mind to rest is equally as crucial as to the process of answering them.
This for me is the only negative and starting my own business is the best thing I have ever done. Having a business partner or investor I think has benefited me massively. Someone who is strong in the areas where I am not, picks me up when I am down, who shares my passion and loves talking about its development as much as I do. I used to feel my ideas were bound by parameters that actually never really existed, so if you have an idea that you really feel works, just go for it! If it really is viable and you feel that it can make a difference you need to hold yourself accountable for taking action and create your own opportunities. For example I wanted to run course for universities, I rang EVERY university, emailed all programme leaders and got no replies, not one! Six months later I did the same again! Had multiple replies and now run the courses for these establishments and the contracts are worth tens of thousands per annum. I persevered and created my own opportunity and when things did not go right the first time I changed my approach and tried again!
At the age of 38 years old, Erica King set herself up for a new challenge in life. Completing her first ever marathon in the big smoke, New York city. Since then she has completed a total of 21 marathons. What started as a passion, soon became a business for Erica who is now the founder of Running Divas, an online women's running community to empower and inspire women to live their best life and encourage this by offering online training programs. Erica spoke to our Editor-in-Chief about her remarkable journey towards launching her successful business.
Tell us about Running Divas. How did you come up with the concept?
I decided to learn how to run 14 years ago and trained myself from zero to completing a marathon (New York). There was almost no information online or in magazines that was specifically tailored for women who run. I found myself in San Francisco in 2007 to run the marathon and was at an expo when I saw t-shirts that said Running Divas - the name stuck with me from then onwards.
Erica you are a truly remarkable woman, having completed 12 marathons in 12 months and now you have a total of 21 marathons completed. That is amazing. How did you do it and how did you find your motivation?
Thank you! I take it one step and one marathon at a time. When I crossed the finish line while completing my first marathon in New York in 2002, I knew in that moment that I could do anything I decided to. And so I have kept challenging myself knowing that with good training, focus and lots of determination, I will continue to cross each marathon finish line. Running is my happy place - I love it even when my body is screaming.
Living a healthy lifestyle can sometimes be thought of by some people as dieting and excessive exercise or vice versa. What would you say is the best balance for women to have in terms of leading a healthy life?
Find peace with who you are and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. It’s all about being the best version of you. Don’t be focused on or thinking about being a specific body size, just be focused on feeling and being healthy for yourself. One of the many things that I love about running is that anyone of any age, body shape, running ability line-up to be part of running events. There is no typical runner's body, we all just go out to enjoy the feeling of being healthy and fit.
I love to eat as most runners do so preparing nutritious, tasty meals and treats is all part of feeling great about who we are individually. I encourage women and certainly follow this approach myself and that is to make food our friend, enjoy and don’t starve ever! If you have ever seen a hungry runner it is not pretty. Life is all about being happy and to be enjoyed not miserable and focused on some unrealistic ideal
Who/what inspires you in business?
I’m inspired to be making a real difference in the lives of as many women as possible
around the world, one run at a time.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when you first started your business and how do they compare to the ones you face now, as a successful business owner?
One of my biggest challenges was understanding how to create a business from my passion. This means putting on my ‘business hat’ rather than my emotional one, reaching out to my target audience and learning about their own run, health and fitness journeys so that I fully understand what they want and need from me and my business.
What attracted you to running and how do you keep motivated to continue the sport?
At 38-years-old, I wanted a completely new challenge that would push me out of my
comfort zone. I had never run before, so thought that it would be a great learning.
After deciding that I was going to learn to run from zero, I thought that it would be
very motivating to set a huge run goal and so I settled on a marathon and a location
that is the most exciting place to run a marathon – New York. Since completing this
first marathon in 2002, I have continued to set new run challenges that keep me both
terrified and excited to continue training. Plus, the ‘high’ of crossing a marathon finish line is addictive
How important would you say social media has been for you and your business?
Extremely in terms of reaching as many women around the world so instantly and
creating a running community where we all share our run experiences and journeys
would have been impossible without social media.
What advice do you have for those who want to start their own business?
I have the following tips: