I love running a small business, and have always been an advocate of small businesses – and of course I should be…I run a small business in a very competitive marketplace, the food & drink sector.
And I love the idea of Small Business Saturday, because it gives a chance to put the spotlight on small businesses and celebrate them.
In fact, I love small businesses so much, that, after starting a career in investment banking, and enjoying myself, I took the opportunity to take over a small business which was failing when I was just 22 years old. I went for it and now I’m so grateful I did. There’s never a perfect moment to start your business – you just have to go for it or that perfect moment will never come.
At the time, I was only 22, and many of the investors in the subsequent years that I approached thought I was too young, and too much of a risk for them to back financially. It was made clear to me on more than one occasion that being young and female was a disadvantage and made me less ‘investible’.
This all started to change when I took a stall at a popular trade show – a huge financial risk at the time. A day later, I received a call from Tesco, saying they wanted to launch Creative Nature in three weeks’ time! I’d been chatting to a lady very casually at our stall and didn’t realise that she was a buyer. Then we had to deliver quickly and that led to late night, early mornings sticking on labels and packing to fulfil that first larger order.
Creative Nature is ultimately my business, so I have to make all of the decisions, and at the beginning, I learnt five main things:
· Have a purpose and make sure you deliver. Don’t spend all your time ogling competitors.
· Surround yourself with people who raise your standards and that you can learn from.
· Time management. What is your value? Focus your time on what’s best for the business and outsource other essential tasks which waste your time yet need to be done.
· It’s all about the team. Trim the fat and be selective when recruiting. Good team members become your gold dust, hang on to them if you can.
· Tiny changes can make a big difference. That’s what it takes. Small changes make all the difference. Try changing your pitch from price pushing to value proving – this means you sell the story and then the price tag becomes simply housekeeping.
Since the start of my business, I’ve strived to grow the company gradually, keeping on track with the latest trends in the free-from market, listening to what my customers like and want, and having a strong belief in what I’m doing.
I have built a small team around me who help me to run the business, as I’m not an expert in everything! But, I am involved in the company 100%, and we have fun creating new, fun marketing ideas to engage our followers on social media, alongside the more serious marketing.
Over the years, I and the company have won several awards celebrating successful small businesses. I am proud that the company won, FSB’s (Federation of Small Businesses), UK Small Business of the Year, 2018. An award we won for our continuous product innovations, inventive marketing, strong export model and rapid growth. Oh, and at the same event, we also walked away with the FSB Scale-up Business of the Year award.
We were the smallest business to appear, alongside larger businesses, on the recent Panorama programme, Brexit: Six Months on.
Last year, we launched our, low sugar, allergy free, (available in four flavours), Gnawbles into John Lewis’ flagship store on Oxford Street.
Gnawbles had already won a UK Quality Food Award within weeks of their launch.
Small businesses can and do think big!