Tuesday 29 April 2014

2Inspire Network Business Profile: Sophie Hannah Contemporary Houseware and Accessories

In this business profile we meet Sophie Walker, the founder of a lovely new business called Sophie Hannah which specialises in creating "Items of Loveliness". Read her inspirational interview and be motivated to follow your own dreams! 

Sophie Walker

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
I get up at 7.00 and then get my children ready, have breakfast together and take them to nursery for 9.00. I then go home, tidy up the kitchen while I make a cup of tea and then head upstairs to my workroom. I try to make my day as efficient as possible so I will start by doing any gluing or fabric printing so this can be drying while I work on making other items. I spend two or three hours working on products. At the moment it is some suede envelope purses. If there is time I like to photograph them before lunch so the pictures can upload while I grab a quick sandwich. That gives me an hour or so after lunch to do admin such as ordering materials and working on my website before I collect the children at 3.30. We spend some time playing, I get them fed, bathed and into bed. Then I will often go back to work for an hour or two to finish off any loose ends.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
I previously ran a business making handbags. I took a break to start my family. We moved to a new house on the other side of the country five weeks before my son was born, when my daughter was two years and three months old. I was still registered as self employed and knew my maternity allowance would finish before I knew it. I had very little budget to work with. The handbags I make can be intricate and time consuming and I didn’t feel ready to return to it with a new house, a toddler and a newborn. I also realised when we moved that I had a lot of fabric, a lot of haberdashery and a sewing machine. So I decided to turn what I have into lovely items for sale, so I set up Sophie Hannah’s Items of Loveliness. It allows me to make anything I like as long as it is lovely! This gives me a greater variety of products and I can work when the children are in bed and at my own pace. I started by making a small range of items, set up a website myself using a template and opened a Folksy shop. I have also sold through a couple of local retailers.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
It is very early days for Sophie Hannah but my website is a big achievement for me as it was a challenge to do and took a lot of hard work and late nights! www.sophie-hannah.co.uk

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?

Juggling work and childcare. My son is now 13 months and has just started nursery. So for the last year I have been working with him at home with me. I have also been extremely sleep deprived and it is hard not to feel guilty about catching up on an hours sleep here and there when I think I should be working. There is a tendency to overdo it and push myself too much.

What are your future plans for the business?

I would like to keep steadily growing the business; by finding more shops willing to stock my work and other selling opportunities online. We live in Yorkshire, near my husband’s family, which is great, there are many options for me to explore here. My family are in south London, so I would like to be able to combine work and London so we can spend more time with my side of the family too.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have believed in myself a bit more. It is very difficult to have confidence in your work when you are your own biggest critic. It is hard to effectively market your work and I would have undertaken more advice or study in that area.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?

It can be difficult for other people to take you and your ideas seriously. It is easy to give up and think you need to do something that isn’t what you love but offers you more financial security. Sometimes it is necessary to do both. Dreams take a long time to come true, businesses don’t make money overnight and when you are young it is hard to see the bigger picture.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?

Against much of the advice I have been given I would say: Do what you are passionate about and what you love and want to do. Your work will be better; if you try to do what you think other people want, you will lose your passion and it will show in your work. - It look me a long time to realise this.

What or who inspires you in business and why?

I know a very inspirational lady called Zoe Humphries. She is based in Liverpool and runs a company called Networking Mums. It’s a monthly networking session with selling opportunities, a lot of fun networking and goal setting activities, and a crèche. It is for all women, but especially caters for mums and is something of a lifeline when you work on your own from home. It is so good to meet other women and promote your business, knowing that your children are safely playing in the room next door. I hope she expands to Yorkshire soon!

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” – George Bernard Shaw

Twitter @sophiehannahs

Tuesday 15 April 2014

2Inspire Network: Neomi Bennett, Founder and Inventor of Neo-slip®

In this interview we meet the phenomenal, Neomi Bennett, inventor of Neo-slip®, a medical product that is gaining international acclaim for helping patients with Deep Vein Thrombosis to wear their hospital stockings, more easily.
Neomi Bennett
Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?

As founder and inventor of Neo-slip®, I don't have one specific job role, I have many, and this often makes each day quite varied. However, a typical business day can start around 5.30am. I begin my morning by tweeting my twitter followers and checking my Facebook. After I take my daughter to school, I try to arrive in the office for around 8:00am and begin with a stock check followed by my list of things to do. I fulfill orders received the previous day to prevent backlogs and to keep my customers happy. Sorting through paperwork is not my best part of the job but it is very necessary. My working day is pretty full on. My secretary Marlene responds to emails and organises meetings for me. This takes a great deal of pressure away from my workload. I’m responsible for creating new clients so I tend to make lots of telephone calls and visit hospitals and nursing homes. I take my lunch break late afternoon to coincide with my daughter finishing school. We grab a bite to eat and spend a few hours together. I head back to the office and I finish at around 8pm. I travel the UK promoting Neo-slip at conferences, exhibitions and on occasions internationally.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?

It all started when training to become a nurse at Kingston University and was given a risk assessment essay. I was asked to find problems experienced by nurses and patients in a hospital environment. The essay required me to identify and solve the problem.

I looked at the prevalence of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

After an individual has an operation for example a broken bone being repaired, he/she is prescribed anti embolism/hospital stockings, which should be worn for around 6 weeks after being discharged from hospital. These stockings prevent DVT by applying pressure to the lower leg. Within the lower leg is a pump called the peripheral pump, this pump is deep within the calf muscle and helps old blood return to the heart so it can be refreshed with new oxygen. So long as this blood is circulating efficiently and the velocity is normal the chances of DVT developing is reduced. When we walk this triggers the peripheral pump action so I also encourage patients to be mobile as soon as possible after an operation.

During my research I discovered 25,000 people die in the UK from developing 
(DVT) and it became apparent to me that due to the tight nature of the stockings, many people struggle to get them on and eventually gave up, this is more likely to be the case for elderly people. Nurses in the hospital also struggle to apply the stockings and the task is time consuming. 
I became very focused and determined to find a solution to this problem. Intuitively I felt that it was my responsibility to change this. At home I experimented with different materials alongside a variety of stockings, I eventually came up with my first prototype and conducted focus groups with nurses and patients and shortly afterwards Neo-slip was born.

Neo-slip®comes in 3 colour-coded sizes and is a low friction pouch that goes on the foot before the tightly fitted stocking. Neo-slip creates a lubricous effect and supports the smooth application of the stocking.

I applied for a patent, set about manufacturing Neo-slip®, sorting out packaging and other fine detail and now supply Neo-slip to pharmacies across the UK, Europe, USA and Canada. I supply Neo-slip® to hospitals and I’m currently working with NHS supply chain with a view to expand.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?

My greatest accomplishment was actually receiving the finished product as a physical entity. It felt so good to actually have Neo-slip in my hand.

I have travelled to Taiwan, Spain and Austria with my product. In addition it was a great honour to be invited to meet the prime minister at 10 Downing Street. Mr Cameron said Neo-slip is a great product.

As a school drop out, a teenage mother and considering what I have been through and where I have come from, these experiences have been wonderful.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?

I wanted to be a role model for my children so they could look beyond other people’s negative perceptions and stereotypes. Going back to education as a mature student was challenging because I didn’t do well at school, left without qualifications and was written off by teachers as a no hoper. I disliked maths and was fearful that this would prevent me from doing nurse calculations. However, because of my passion for people, wanting to help others and my children, I decided to face my fears and try my hardest to succeed.

It was whilst studying that I came up with my invention Neo-slip. In my wildest dream I never imagined I would become an inventor never mind become a nurse. Since developing Neo-slip, I have pitched my product to organisations such as the NHS and Universities. On one occasion I had to address a crowd of 700 people. The thought of doing these tasks was often terrifying. However the more I did them the easier it became, in fact I pleasantly surprised myself of my own abilities.

What are your future plans for the business?
Our customers are asking for Neo-slip to be more widely available, in shops, hospitals and at airports. I’m working towards this by setting up a variety of strategies to implement more sales channels, seeking more distributors and bidding for tenders. Also working on new inventions to join my company

(Neo-Innovations UK Ltd). The new products are medical devices and services to support nurses and patients. In addition, furthering my knowledge by conducting research and writing on the subject.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Although a bit of a cliché, if I had to do it over again, I don’t think I would change anything because each new day is a learning process and a different challenge. It is overcoming these challenges that has eventually led me to my goal.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?

This is the 21st century and it’s only fair that anybody who wants to should be able to follow in their dreams regardless of their gender.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?

Firstly research an area that you are passionate about. Once a need has been identified speak to friends and colleagues and get feedback on your ideas. This is where your business journey will begin. Thereafter take small steps and put in the work in order to succeed. Determination and perseverance pays off in the long run.
What or who inspires you in business and why?

Mary Seacole a Jamaican nurse & businesswoman, travelled to London to help soldiers in the war. She went to all the military & nursing organisations but not one wanted her services. Mary decided to go independently where she went out onto battlefields to bring comfort to wounded and dying soldiers.

Mary remained focused & determined even though people refused to help her, perhaps because of racial prejudice, however she still did what she believed was right. A born healer, courageous and a woman of driving energy, she inspires me.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?

Be the change you wish to see in the world (Gandhi)

Contact Details


Wednesday 9 April 2014

GUEST BLOG: E-Marketing - Creating real relationships with real people

Is Networking Important?

The world is changing.  Everyone is online, on Twitter and on Facebook.  The world is at our fingertips, we are a global society.  Even so, people still like to do business with people.  They like to see the whites in your eyes, as the saying goes.
A whopping 80% of jobs are landed through networking.  It’s the simple principle of “You never know who, you’ll meet and who they know”
It’s the same in business; people buy more through recommendations than through advertising. We trust our friends’ and families’ recommendations way over billboards or TV ads.

Imagine you meet someone at a networking event, make a great impression and connection?  Better still you find a way to help them?
Do you think that person will remember you and what you do? If you’re a photographer and the next time they meets someone who needs a photographer guess whose name comes to their mind?  You guessed it - Yours! 

That’s the power of Networking.  It’s not your well rehearsed elevator pitch, that you know so well that it sounds robotic.  It’s not shoving your business card in someone’s face without even taking the time to ask them about who they are.  It certainly is not droning on about your awesome company and the amazing product that’s changing people’s lives.  In fact it is simpler than all of the above.  The key to great networking is connecting with a person.  Finding out about them, being interested in them, rather than trying to be interesting. Why would you do that? Simply because no one is really interested in how special you are.  A person’s favourite subject is themselves.  The most used word in any language is I, Yo, Ich, Je Eu…….

The Fortune Is In The Follow Up
Have you heard that expression “The Fortune is in the follow up”? Well it’s 100% true.   When they say fortune they not only mean more business or sales, they mean a larger network.  It means more people that know who you are, what you do and if you’ve connected well with them, they’ll even advocate you.  That is priceless.  So don’t go home and add the cards you collected to the other pile of cards you already have.  Don’t ignore the people you met until you want something and suddenly remember them.  Connect with them at least 24hrs after the event.
The best reminder is a quick “great to meet you” text message on your way back to the office after the event.  If you can do something for the person you connected with (not necessarily business orientated) maybe some information that you know would be useful to them.  How would you know what was useful to them? Because when they were talking you were busy listening ;-)

And Then
Then comes you’re  e-marketing aka building the relationship.
E-marketing is a fantastic way to stay connected with your network as it grows.

I'm constantly hearing business owners say;

"I don't see the point in sending emails/e-marketing, besides I don't know how"

"I get lots of annoying emails and I don't want to be a nuisance"

"What on earth do I talk about in emails and I have enough to do anyway"

All good questions if you don’t understand what the real purpose of e-marketing is. It’s real purpose; build relationships, build trust and build a community of people who are interested and eager to know how you can serve them, all by taking one
simple action?

It's called e-marketing, but all it is really is sharing, communicating and connecting with people - people who already are, or may become your ideal customers.

It's not hard and it's not heavy.  In fact it's simple and straightforward.

If you’d like to know more about what to do you can take a look at my free 1o steps to e-marketing ease

But if you’d line to know “how” to do it I have an invitation for you.
I'd like to show you how you can make sense of e-marketing and make it work effectively in your business.

On Thursday 24th April, I'll be working with a group of hand-picked business owners to help them make sense of e-marketing, and I'm inviting you to join us.
If you’d like would to speak to me, call me on 07403398822 or email info@launicaindependent.com

Blessings & Prosperity  
Evette Franklin
Founder of launica Independent
Creating connections, collaborations and co-operation is how you Network With Ease: www.aprilnwe.eventbrite.co.uk

Tuesday 8 April 2014

2Inspire Business Profile: Rebecca Newenham of Get Ahead VA

In this 2Inspire Business profile interview we meet Rebecca Newenham, founder of Get Ahead VA, an virtual assistants company. Read her inspirational interview, highlighting her business journey and accomplishments in the world of business.
Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
My day starts with walking my 3 daughters Isabelle 12, Aimee 10 and Robyn 8 to school.  I love the fact that running my own business gives me the flexibility to be able to do it.  Then it’s usually off to either networking or client meetings.  Meeting people is a massive part of my job so it’s a good job I enjoy it!  I sometimes travel up to London as we are currently expanding our business there.  My mobile phone ensures I can keep working – even on the train.  I’m a bit of a social media addict!

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
I always knew that I wanted to run my own business.  My mother ran a tutorial business from home when I was growing up and was a great role model for me.  I wanted to give my girls the continuity of me being able to do school drop off and pick up but I also wanted to contribute financially.  I started to hear about the term virtual assistant more and more, it evolved in the US.  I researched various courses and found one run by 2 hugely successful UK based VAs.   The course ran over one day and it was fantastic as it ran through everything you would need for a home office right through to documentation and types of work we could do.  With my background and contacts I had a clear vision for how I could create a team and service a broad range of customer requirements.  I didn’t want to be a sole trader and always knew I would grow the business and give work opportunities to fellow mothers.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
We have been lucky enough to be recognised in several awards including being voted 2nd most loved VA business in the UK through 'the best of' business directory and being selected as a finalist in last year’s MumpreneurUK awards, as well as being a finalist in this year’s Networking Mummies awards.

On a personal level, a real highpoint for me was last year’s Christmas lunch.  Seeing the team together and hearing them all talking passionately about our clients and also the huge benefits of being part of our team made it all worthwhile.  The majority of our VAs have children and I know how much they value being able to work from home, flexibly around their families. 

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Running your own business from home is definitely a challenge but since moving into my garden office I have found it easier to set boundaries.  Technology makes it a lot easier to manage your time but you have to be disciplined.  At one stage I would wake up and check my emails before even putting on the kettle.  This was crazy but an easy habit to get into!

What are your future plans for the business?
I want to continue to grow the team, giving more mothers flexible and interesting work and to be famous for playing a part in helping small business owners to deliver their dreams.  I want to extend our geographic coverage and look at introducing area manager levels within the business.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Do it sooner!

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
My mother was an inspiration to me and I was so lucky that she encouraged me to follow my dreams of running my own business.  I hope to provide the same inspiration to my three daughters and to all the other mothers who work in my team.  I think women can feel that having a family can limit their career choices but our business is proof that there are real, flexible solutions out there that can benefit both women and clients alike.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
Make sure you really consider what your customers want and then deliver upon it.  I pride myself on being a fantastic match maker.  I understand our varied customers’ requirements and then make the right connections between them and our VAs.  I have also been lucky to benefit from a fantastic business coach and would strongly recommend working with one if you can.  My coach constantly challenges me to ensure I am doing the right things to continue to develop and grow my business.

What or who inspires you in business and why?
My mother has to be my biggest inspiration in business.  If it weren’t for her example when I was growing up I don’t think I would have had the confidence to start my own business when I did.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
“What will be will be!”  It allows me to not be afraid to make mistakes but to continually evolve and learn along the journey.

Contact details:
Website address: www.getaheadva.com
Twitter address: @GetAheadVA
Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/company/get-ahead-va

Tuesday 1 April 2014

2Inspire Network Business Profile: Joanne Napier of Linen Loft

In this inspirational business interview we meet Joanne Napier who founded Linen Loft when she spotted a gap in the market for a social selling business which also offered luxurious, high quality bedding and home accessories that are affordable. Her business story is one of passion and dedication and serves as an inspiration to many.
Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
There is no typical day! Yesterday I was sourcing new products for next season, which meant a bit of travelling, while today I am working with my logistics company to fine tune our delivery process. I also need to meet with my web designer to get our new products section finalised and am training two new members of staff on how to host a party and sell the products. It is varied and I love it.
What made you start the business and how did you get started?
The concept of social selling has been around for a few years now and is working really well for companies such as Stella and Dot – the US company organises jewellery parties. I was aware of the success of social selling companies, particularly in the States, and it was during a trip to the US that I spotted a gap in the UK market.
This gap was for luxurious, high quality bedding and home accessories that are affordable and available to women who might not have the time to shop, especially for themselves. The UK home furnishings market is estimated to be worth almost £4 billion and growing, however until now, the opportunity for high quality products to be browsed and purchased at leisure has not been recognised.
A lot of time was spent researching other products and companies and once I was confident there was a gap in the market, I put together my business plan, sourced my first product range and had a good chat with the bank manager! At first I ran my own Home Parties but was keen from the start to recruit other Home Stylists.
What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
Without doubt, setting up this company. It has been a huge learning curve – still is – and takes me out of my comfort zone, challenging me every day. I was particularly proud when we opened our showroom as it really does show off the products in situ. And when we launched in Scotland I knew we were doing well – that felt great.
What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Choosing the best suppliers to reflect the brand. I’m not willing to compromise on quality so it took me 12 months to get the products right and I’m still adding to the range so that element is a challenge. But one I enjoy.

What are your future plans for the business? 
Growth – we’ve had interest from potential homesellers in other parts of Europe, which is very exciting, but for now we are concentrating on the UK. It’s important to grow at the right pace and with the right people. So far we have created a fantastic team of representatives all over the UK and I want to continue with that and encourage them to grow their own teams. We’ve also diversified our range and include children’s clothes and products now and that is something that’s going really well, so I’m looking to develop that arm of the business.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Ask for a bit more help! At the start I tried to do it all but having met so many fantastic women through this I realise should have tapped into the resource that these girlfriends provided.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams? 
Happiness at work is so important, it takes up so much of our time. Women are told these days they can have it all and while I have yet to meet anyone who juggles absolutely  everything successfully (!), I do think there are some amazing opportunities out there now, through training, mentorships, scholarships and funding. Young women need to know that they don’t have to follow a prescriptive path. It’s about finding what is right for you and through sites such as 2Inspire, young women can hopefully see that this has worked for other people, giving them the courage to at least consider their own dreams, even if they don’t pursue them immediately.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
 Be passionate about the product you are selling or the service you are providing. Don’t start a business you’re not going to enjoy - because you are going to spend a lot of time on it in the first few years! And don’t be afraid to ask others to fill any skills gaps. You can’t be an expert at everything. Learn to delegate a little as soon as possible.

What or who inspires you in business and why?
The hotel inspector! I love Alex Polizzi. Her advice is very sensible and sound, but delivered well. She in a very direct, but nice way. She’s professional but approachable but what is key is that she relates to her customers and understands what they need. That’s key to the success of any business

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
I don’t know who said it but I like ‘It doesn’t have to be new, just better.’