Acacia Facilities specialises in interior and exterior landscaping from design to finish, including garden, pot and replica plants, living walls (very Instagram-worthy), fresh cut flowers and seasonal decorations alongside maintenance services.
After growing up in a family of avid gardeners, Natalie had inherited the green fingered genes (her grandmotherâs maiden name was fittingly, Green) and was destined to work with nature. After becoming inspired by the benefits of having indoor and outdoor plants, both in personal and business spaces, and spotting a gap in the market, Natalie set up her business in 1996 to improve wellbeing and transform spaces with plants and maintenance services.
Finding the gap in the market can be a difficult task, but for Natalie the best piece of advice she received was to âbreak from the norm. Look at your interests and problems in your sector of business and ask yourself the questions: Are they things people, other than you, are interested in? Do people spend money on these activities? Are there problems present that people need solving? Are these things that make people happy? If any, all or some of your answers are a âyesâ, then you have a niche which could be profitable.â
Natalie is also proud of how Acacia differentiates themselves from their competition, âwe pride ourselves in offering a personalised service to our customers. We will provide bespoke services to customersâ needs. We are always ready to assist at all times during our business agreement. Our customers are not just a number we know each customer by name.â
Word of mouth has been extremely important to Acacia, with 80% of business originating from recommendations, which highlights the importance of the personal touches. Not to rest on her laurels however, Natalie applied and was successful in getting on to the Business & IP Centreâs Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme to help take the business to the next level, using the specialist tailored business support in area such as marketing, branding, intellectual property and more.
One of the most memorable jobs in her career, as Natalie explains was for the Shrek premiĂ¨re, âwe were asked to create a swamp style effect with plants and flowers at Somerset House. The outside grounds of such an historical building was huge and took a lot of planning, but the finished product looked amazing and exceeded the customerâs expectations and ours!â
If you are already running a business and are looking to take it to the next level like Natalie, our three-month Innovating for Growth programme can help turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more here and register your interest!
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 10:35 AM
September 2018 saw our biggest Start-up Day yet, a day of free talks, workshops, tailored advice, speed mentoring and more, not just in London but throughout our National Network. Our flagship event is designed to help the thousands of people around the country who have a business idea, but arenât sure how to turn the idea into a reality.
The day is about encouraging and empowering people from all walks of life to start and grow businesses. Six months on, weâve caught up with some of the people who attended or who were involved with the talks and events, about what the day meant for themâŚ
Madeleine Barnes won the Start-up Day prize draw competition and since then has attended workshops including Networking for success and Online marketing masterclass. Madeleine attended the event as she wanted to find out more about marketing as she is in the process of further developing The Craniosacral Practice in Highbury, Richmond and soon in Barnes, which offers Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (CST), a gentle way of working with a light touch that interacts with deeply subtle rhythms and impulses in the body to assist with self-repair.
Madeleine came to the Business & IP Centre because she âwas looking for some practical and alternative ideas for direction and strategy. I also love talking to people about CST and hearing their discoveries along their journeys, so any opportunity to meet people suits me. I came to the Business & IP Centreto explore strategy, ways to educate and to be amongst other people starting businesses, as other friends have for theirs.â
Julie Boadilla, Reference Specialist at the Business & IP Centre since 2007 took part in the speed mentoring on the day, an opportunity for people to talk to specialists in particular businesses or areas, to help them answer some of their business queries. Itâs also an opportunity to hear from the expertsâ experiences and learn from them.
Julie explains, âItâs a great opportunity for people who are interested in starting a business. There is a specialist per table, made up of experts from within the Business & IP Centre reference team and our delivery partners, who can talk about their industry, or more general business topics, such as IP.â
Madeleine had CST in her twenties for RSI and persistent headaches but it was a treatment with her six-month-old son that drew her in entirely. She'd had an interest in nutrition, Ayurveda and Homeopathy, for many years so it was an easy choice to develop her intrigue in CST and to embark on the three-year training course, achieving accreditation and becoming a practicing therapist, "the biggest present I've ever given myself!".
However, Madeleine continues to learn through the challenges of growing a business, âLife as a CST practitioner is unpredictable, but word spread. Some people come for five or six sessions to address an acute condition and others come for weekly constitutional sessions. Volunteering at a charity, helping people suffering from addiction, was an invaluable experience in the early days. I set up in Richmond at Neal's Yard which has grown and grown. I also occasionally do home visits which arenât as easy for the practitioner but are enormously beneficial for people who are homebound. Having had hyperemesis gravidarum (the extreme sickness that also hospitalised HRH Duchess of Cambridge during pregnancy), I have known the loneliness of confinement. I am passionate to spread the word as I know how much CST can help!â
Challenges haven't stopped Madeleine from being able to grow her business, âThereâs always more to do and further to go!â which involves CPD, keeping in close touch with fellow CSTers (particularly helpful for referrals), seeing her own CSTer plus consulting with her supervisor on a regular basis, allowing her to grow her depth of understanding. Itâs also involved finding her niche in a field where every client is different and has a different experience, and each practitioner brings their own unique touch, supporting clients past anxiety, low energy or chronic pain to live their lives to the full.
Anis Qizilbash, who delivered the talk on How to charge your worth, echoes the importance of the impact on your customer. âOne tip for people to charge their worth is, instead of looking at your expenses, costs, overheads and then coming up with a price, ask yourself, âhow is your clientâs life transformed after buying your product/service?â, or âwhat difference does your product/service make in their life?â Continuing down this line of questioning gives you the confidence and certainty to charge more.â
Anis is a delivery partner for the Business & IP Centre and runs monthly workshops on selling and mindfulness and started her business, Mindful Sales Training, after listening to start-ups and freelancers about their fear of selling and was inspired to help them. Her talk at Start-up Day aimed to give confidence to those who didnât think they were the âright typeâ of salesperson, but more generally, Anis highlighted the benefits of attending Start-up Day. âItâs a rare opportunity to get inspiration, build a network, and receive actionable insight for you to take the leap to start that idea.â
The day was packed with tips to take away with you, Anisâ advice for entrepreneurs who are demotivated or lacking in confidence would be, âavoid looking at social media because it usually makes you feel worse when youâre feeling so vulnerable. Instead, look back to how far youâve come; look forward to the lives youâll touch with your business; look within, remind yourself why you started your business or want to start a business.â For Anis, the most rewarding part of her career is hearing the feedback and success stories from the people sheâs helped. Stories like, âafter hearing your talk I increased my rates by ÂŁ100â or âI made my first sale!â or âthanks to you I realised it was in me all along, not something I expected from a sales coachâ. âThese comments fuel me and makes me want to do more for more people.â
Start-up Day will be back in 2019 - we'll announce when booking goes live later in the year.
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 9:17 AM
Having a mentor at a crucial time in your business can make all the difference. Youâve started your business, youâre working at least part-time on it, your website is up and running, youâre generating revenue âŚ then what? You might feel you need someone to help with professional and personal development, give advice and encouragement, explore new ways of thinking, help expand your professional network. You might want to consider becoming a mentee and pair with an experienced and successful entrepreneur. Our mentoring programme, for those based in London, matches mentees with a mentor from our Innovating for Growth programme.
One mentee, Tina Bernstein, founder of Mapology Guides wanted a mentor as they can âpotentially help you move mountains. They donât do the work for you. They believe in you and lend a much needed guiding hand, which is priceless when you run a small business.â
Sarah Orecchia, fellow mentee and founder of Unbeelievable Health agrees, âIt was a bit daunting starting my business in wellness, an industry which was new to me, and I asked my father, an entrepreneur himself, for guidance. He suggested getting in touch with people doing similar things or those with market knowledge to ask for advice which I thought was a bit mad, 'contact strangers?! No wayâŚ'. He said at least one or two out of 10 people asked would be flattered and would probably be chuffed to help. One of my mentors (a father of a child in my daughter's school who I approached), had built and sold a very popular supplements brand and was immensely helpful, he shared all sorts of tips and contacts and gave me the confidence I needed to crack on and was there, quietly in the background for years, offering up help and advice when needed.â
Mentors will guide you through the challenging and rewarding process of running a high-growth business. One of our mentors, Amelia Rope, founder of Amelia Rope Chocolates encourages those who are thinking about having a mentor, âMentors don't necessarily have the answers but they can help you find your own answers. For myself, I value someone who is non-judgmental, open, trustworthy, honest, has a solid track record and top of the list... a very good active listener. Some of the time, as a mentee, you need to talk, to air undigested ideas/thoughts... be listened to. Oh and a sense of humour is pretty vital too! Always appreciate the time your mentor gives to you. They are doing it out of kindness, free of charge and as an altruist.â
Tina also sees the benefits as a recent mentee, âAsk yourself: have you had bad experiences with people advising or guiding you in the past? Are you fearful of something? If so, what? What do you imagine would happen? Now turn it around and dream up of what could happen. Where do you see yourself in three years and how will you get there? These are all things that a mentor can help you with. They gently guide you, they hold you accountable, they are on your side, they want you to be successful. The most successful business people have had mentoring. The wise amongst us know that having a mentor is a crucial part in the journey of a business. Iâd go as far as to say itâs critical!â
Amelia Rope has seen both sides of the journey and has benefited from mentors during her business lifecycle, âI have had mentors along my way. I have found that the right person tends to appear at the right time and then leaves when they have shared what I was in need of learning. I see it as a 360Â° experience, people move into your world when you need them (even if you are not aware at the time) and then they move on when you have absorbed what you needed to absorb.â
If you are interested in finding out more about our mentoring programme, click here. You can also find our FAQ blog with some additional information.
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 9:12 AM