Enterprise Hub Partner The Women’s Organisation played host to this month’s Enterprise Hub Business start-up Conference, providing opportunity for men and women thinking of starting a business to understand what is involved.  

Joanne & Sara Ava and Harrison with Bernie Cox
Joanne & Sara with event host Bernie Cox (in the centre)

Two brilliant businesses joined us at the event to share their stories and Bernie Cox Training Coordinator at The Women’s Organisation hosted the evening. 

Sara & Joanne Ava and Harrison with Anna Slater Northerwest Linen
Sara, Joanne & Anna Preparing to Speak

Engaging double act Joanne and Sara from children’s hair salon Ava and Harrison were first to share their story.  Quite new in the world of business, Sara told us that things are going so well that “”By the end of week one we had to employ someone else. Our second week, another staff members.  Our estimate for week twelve is that we will be up to a team of 7”. 

But how did they go from idea to thriving business in such a short space of time?  Here are some key takeaways from their talk

  • Social Media is Key – Joanne told us how getting their page up on facebook has been a godsend as the second they put their shop sign up, a local mum took a photo which was shared on a 5,000+ member strong facebook group of mums saying how excited she was to 
  • Involve Your Client Group in the Branding Process – Naming their business after Sara’s daughter and Joanne’s nephew is a great story that appeals to their customer base.  Sara recounted though how her daughter Ava was key in the design process. Joanne ran all design ideas past Ava to ensure they had a child’s eye view on it.
  • Follow Your Dream – Having talked about their idea for a few years it was Joanne who started the catalyst for change by quitting her previous job.  While waiting to push the new business forward Joanne had started offering mobile hair and beauty, but remembers she questioned “What am I doing? Why am I delaying this? We just need to get that business open”. Now they have Sara and Joanne have no regrets seeing how quickly it has all come together
  • Get advice – Joanne and Sara managed to access start-up loans to get their business off the ground, but realise without the right advice they may not have known that this fund was available, wouldn’t have had their business plan completed and wouldn’t have had a supportive person to bounce their ideas around location and strategy off. 
Next up was the impressive young Anna Slater of Northwest Linen.  Having started her business thanks to investment through Merseyside Special Investment Fund and her family, Anna’s story reads almost the complete opposite to that of Ava and Harrison.  Diving in without much advice Anna picked up a business she had watched her father run successfully back when she was 8 years old motivated by “Feeling out of control” of her own destiny. 

Anna’s starting point was renting a laundry in the evening while still working in education and relying on her father to drive her around her first customer’s 3 locations. Anna reflected that “It hasn’t been easy” but she has achieved her core objective of once again feeling in control of her destiny.  Key takeaways from Anna’s story included

  • Choose a marketing strategy that works for your business – Anna confessed she barely does any marketing for her business.  While she felt compelled to put her business on facebook, in hindsight she realised her core customer base of large hotel chains or restaurants are unlikely to be browsing facebook when choosing their linen service supplier. Anna has instead grown her business through recommendation from clients, but has achieved this through a personalised customer care strategy which has essentially been her core marketing tool.  Beyond that Anna’s marketing investment has been using Google Adwords to ensure when those who don’t know her business are searching online, her business comes top of Google search. This shows that marketing strategy that works for one business doesn’t necessarily work for another, so you need to consider your customer. 
  • Pace Your Growth – While Anna grew her staff team to 15 and expanded her customer base to make her business a high growth enterprise, Anna’s strategy has been very measured.  It was as she was growing that she came across The Women’s Organisation and took advice.  Anna recognises that at this point she is in a position where she could take on more and more contracts, however her current strategy is one of “consolidation”. Anna advised that sometimes you can grow too fast and lose control of the business, so it is important to take some moments to step back and get everything you are already doing well fully consolidated before taking on more and potentially spinning out of control.
  • Know Your Why – Anna told us that when deciding on what business to open she asked herself what she wanted from the experience. “Do I want to be a millionaire? No – Good because this wouldn’t be the right industry for that. Do I want to be proud of what I do? Yes – and I can honestly say that I am”.  It is important to understand what your end goal is and to evaluate whether that business you are thinking of will help you reach that goal. And think about how to achieve that.  Anna has achieved her goal through choosing an industry that is a family tradition, through building in good customer care strategies, and through carefully evaluating who the people are that will help make that happen. 

From the key points above you can get a flavour for what an inspiring and informative evening we enjoyed.  But you don’t need to take our word for it! Here are some of the comments from those attending saying what they thought:

“Presentations were inspirational. Well presented and useful. Thank You.”
“Really enjoyed it! Fantastic. Very motivational.  I hope to set up a business now, maybe 2 or 3.”
“Great conference and found it very rewarding.”
“The energy of the staff and the building were very positive.”
“Very informative”
“Really well organised, excellent leader in Bernie, her advice, ethusiasm and honesty.”
“Very inspiring guest speakers”
“So glad I came, many thanks.”
“Inspirational speakers, Excellent event!”

If you missed out, but are looking for business advice you can contact the Enterprise Hub team on 0151 706 8113 to find out more about the free support available to Liverpool City Region residents through our European Regional Development Fund supported project. 

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