10 February 2021
How entrepreneurs have Reset and Restarted their businesses
Around the Business & IP Centre National Network, Reset. Restart webinars have been supporting entrepreneurs to pivot and adapt to the ever-changing business climate. We’ve caught up with businesses from around the UK who have made changes to their businesses since attending the programme's webinars.
Some business owners struggle with various aspects of running a business, planning, forecasting, research. Mario Spiridonov, founder of Santa Sofia coffee took part in our Reset. Restart programme to help with just those things.
Mario incorporated Santa Sofia in December 2019, with a B2B business plan. When COVID-19 struck and disrupted his plans, he turned to the BIPC’s Reset. Restart webinars to help learn about and research different markets.
“When the hospitality industry was in lockdown, I was in shock, as I had stock worth of £5,000 which had a shelf-life of less than a year and I wasn’t eligible for any of the government support grants. After browsing Eventbrite, I signed up for the BIPC Leeds’ webinars to learn more about marketing, forecasting finances and networking. One webinar in particular, with Helen from Collective Stories on getting your products in the retail market was an amazing experience. I learnt so much and Helen was so passionate. I had a follow up one-to-one session with her, which really inspired me.
I then signed up to a finance webinar with Gareth Allen coaching and really learnt the importance of forecasting, again, I immediately signed up for a one-to-one session and he helped me navigate my finances in a better way. He helped me understand the importance of expecting expenditure and money coming into my business finances. As a follow-up, I’ve also been supported with great market research, which is unbelievable. I just can’t explain in words how grateful I am for all the support I have had from BIPC.
The three main takeaways from the programme have been: Planning is important, networking is key, do your research and never stop learning about your market and finances. Since attending the webinars, I have started doing my forecast on a weekly basis, preparing presentations ahead of approaching clients and learning more about different aspects of my market.
At the start of lockdown, I wasn’t eligible for any grant money and having invested with my own capital money, three months before, was such a stressful time. However, I have since managed to secure a bounce back loan, which is great. Now I can start again from scratch."
For The Shortlisted founder, Silvia Pingitore, the pandemic opened up some opportunities both for her entertainment and music magazine, but also in terms of business support.
“It’s difficult to see and celebrate opportunities for you when this means somebody else losing their job. As a journalist, I have been able to interview many more people than usual in the music industry during 2020 because tours were cancelled and artists were suddenly available. Was I happy to interview all these big stars? Of course I was. But I won’t forget at what cost this was made possible.
I had previously taken part in so many amazing BIPC webinars, one-to-ones, panels and events prior to joining Reset. Restart that I was 100% sure this programme was going to be great too. Fluff and pointlessness are the worst things when it comes to online business events. It’s very easy to emerge from webinars extremely annoyed and confused, but this will never happen with BIPC programmes. They have structure, quality, plenty of practical examples and sense of purpose, in addition to bring together a great community of like-minded entrepreneurs.
Since attending the webinars, I learned to let things go. When you’re doing everything by yourself in business, it’s easy to get lost into three million different things, and if you absolutely want to do perfectly in every of the 50 jobs you’re performing, you’re going to burn out very soon. There are things that can be learned, other can be outsourced after you’ve learned how and what to outsource, but certain things just need to be scrapped. Less is more, and putting this principle into practice is the biggest change I’ve made to my business since attending the webinars… it sounds weird, but I basically learned to procrastinate!”
One business which is putting its best foot forward is Esentzia, who produce luxury men’s home slippers. The slippers are designed to be comfortable with added health technology in the insole. Brigitte, who founded the company, manufactures the product in the UK using only biodegradable and recyclable materials.
The Reset. Restart programme came at the right time for Brigitte, who is at the start of her business journey, who used the webinars to learn about business models, market research, marketing, finance and more. “It has also helped me to clear my mind and to focus on my business. I feel more confident in knowing where to find information and who I should address when I need help. Finally, I feel part of a group, part of a community that helps me to launch my dream, I feel to be in a positive environment to succeed.”
Alongside the main programme, Brigitte also attended the smaller group Q&As which helped cement all the elements from the main webinars to take into consideration and to keep in mind “what people value”. From these follow-up sessions Brigitte received additional practical support, with spreadsheets to help her create her financial forecast and the idea to use offcuts from mattress production as a recycled material in her product.
It’s not just Brigitte who is looking for ways to make her product more sustainable, BIPC Leeds’ entrepreneur, Omar Bahadur, founded Faraday after graduating from Bradford University. Faraday is natural raspberry rose flavoured water with similar caffeine to your typical energy drink without the artificial ingredients, high sugar content or carbonation. Sustainability is also at the fore of the business as it’s served in an aluminium bottle that’s resealable and reusable.
Whilst working on his business as a side hustle to his full-time job, Omar invested everything he earnt into his idea. “Since our limited first run of 2,000 bottles in July 2020, Faraday is now stocked in a total of 10 independent stores in Bradford and Leeds, as well as making sales on our website offering free UK delivery on our cases of 12.”
“Faraday’s first offering has been subjected to two years of R&D since inception in November 2018 prior to commercialisation. We are in a proof of concept phase collating feedback on our pricing, recipe and packaging. We landed a Bounce Back loan last year and this will be used to scale-up before seeking angel investment next year.”
Before the pandemic Omar used BIPC Leeds, in Leeds Central Library, for workshops, access the free market data and IP clinics. During the lockdown, Omar, with the help of BIPC staff has continued to access data remotely and attend Reset. Restart webinars on dealing with retailers along with one-to-ones with the delivery partner. “The webinar highlighted the importance of storytelling, and on a deeper level the DNA behind the brand as opposed to simply focusing on the product. This prompted me to work on developing this, for example, what are the three things I want Faraday to stand for in the minds of consumers? Natural, sustainable and inspiring. This then dictates everything we do from packaging design through to recipe and choice of words on the website as opposed to vice versa.”
Omar has also made sure his intellectual property for his product is protected and has taken out UK and US trademarks and a patent for the resealable bottle, which is a novelty with aluminium. This allows the product to be cheaper and more sustainable than using a traditional glass or plastic alternative.
Customer feedback is key to Omar’s plan, “we’re keen to implement the feedback from our customers across all areas. This also includes packing less into a case, strengthening our online presence via our website and Amazon, as well as tweaking the flavouring. Increasing our retail presence is likewise on the agenda. The pandemic has been beneficial for us in the sense that we landed the loan last year, without this I don’t think Faraday would exist today.”
It’s not just Omar who has been thinking about how his brand is seen by consumers. Susan Widlake, founder of Mill House Millinery, used BIPC Cambridgeshire & Peterborough’s Reset. Restart webinars to revisit the messaging to her customers in order to address her appreciation to her local community, which she’ll reflect on her website.
Susan had always had a passion for hats and after travelling the world as an IT auditor, decided to leave the corporate world behind her, return to the UK and turn her passion into a business.
“I now make hats at my home studio, a windmill, just outside Saffron Walden on the Cambridgeshire/Essex border. My hats are named after places and locations that have captured my imagination. I love to incorporate local silk, woven in Sudbury in Suffolk in my designs, and my millinery wire comes from twenty miles away in Essex. A case of inspired globally, created locally.
“Everything I make is unique, from wedding hats to show stopping creations made for racegoers and millinery competitions. I’m particularly proud that one of my pieces was selected from hundreds of entries to be exhibited at London Hat Week in 2020.”
2020 was a challenging year for Susan, with no weddings or events, it could have easily forced her business to stop, however Susan quickly pivoted to online fairs to showcase her designs and started sewing face masks. The thought of her local community was at the forefront of her designs with her Etsy shop stocking prints relating to the local area with crocuses and windmills. These struck a chord with the local tourist information office who saw her designs on Twitter and now stock Susan’s face masks and have put in multiple repeat orders.
She didn’t stop there. “Some ladies in a business network I belong to, Thrive Collective, asked if I’d consider making some sequin face masks for Christmas. I was a little dubious, as wanted them to be both comfortable and washable, so made some samples and got them to market test them. When they were road testing them, people were asking them where they came from, and I was referred to a local boutique, Blue in Saffron Walden. They asked if I could make some for them, and they were then featured on ITV’s Lorraine. These sales totally turned my business around, and have given me a huge amount of local and national exposure.”
Before Reset. Restart, Susan used BIPC’s webinars to help with her online presence. In the space of a few weeks after attending a Getting your business online webinar, “I’d stopped procrastinating, and purchased a domain name, and set up social media accounts”.
“Alongside Reset. Restart, I’ve been attending a millinery business course, and all of the topics have really reinforced the learnings I’ve been getting on the course.” Susan’s best piece of business advice is ‘done is better than perfect’, “I had to accept that in the real world getting your font choice and size doesn’t have to be perfect, and doing something is far better than nothing. My Etsy shop went live with just six product listings.”
Another business owner who attended our Reset. Restart programme is Lea Fletcher. In February 2020, Lea started a small business as a sole trader, offering business support services. “This started as a friend who had a business needed support and asked me to help out. I used the opportunity to set up Girl Friday Business Support Services. As my friend was an essential service business with key workers, I was required to work during the first COVID-19 lockdown period. My contract came to an end and I was offered other contracts by other businesses. I also applied to Anglia Ruskin University to complete a Master's in Project Management in order to provide additional services from my Girl Friday business and expand the range of services too.
“Unfortunately, I was in an abusive relationship and I had to leave home for my safety and go and stay in a Refuge. Whilst I have been living in the Refuge I have not been able to work, however, my current situation and the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown gave me the idea to focus on undertaking a project to help domestic abuse victims and survivors.”
Lea wanted to create a safety application that could be located discretely within existing commercial websites and an online community platform, in collaboration with other service providers, agencies and businesses etc. “The aim is to provide essential information, access to resources, and necessary products and services to help assist current victims and survivors with their ongoing recovery journey. I am very passionate about this having gone through my own experience and now have a back story I can utilize to help others. I am currently researching this project and entering the first stages of establishing the concept.”
The Reset. Restart programme has supported Lea since it started in November 2020. “I have been attending lots of workshops and one-to-one sessions. They have proved to be very helpful and informative. I have attended all the workshops so far, but the one I enjoyed the most was my one-to-one session with a business advisor who helped to give me clarity with my ideas. The workshops came at a crucial time for me and have assisted to give structure to my business and also explore possible pitfalls that I could avoid, amongst other things.”
Lea’s new business to support her first project is called Adhoc Project Management. “I am currently going through the process of setting up and applying for funding in order to undertake my project to help victims and survivors of domestic abuse.”
If you'd like to see what webinars are taking place with your local BIPC, or from London, visit our Reset. Restart webpage.