7 lessons I learned from my day at the Festival of Female Entrepreneurs
On Thursday 18 October, I headed down to Bristol. Not randomly! I had my ticket for the Festival of Female Entrepreneurs. Taking a whole day out of your business needs to be worth it. After all, there is only me and if I’m not working, I’m not earning money!
Let me tell you that this was a day jam-packed with so much value, I had to write up what I learned and share it with you.
Kudos for the team at Enterprise Nation for putting together such an informative event with brilliant speakers. So, settle in (with a cuppa) and read up on what you missed!
You can do good whilst doing business
I settled in for the first session and bam! I was hooked from the minute Jaya Chakrabarti started speaking. Oh my gosh, what a lady!
If you’ve not heard her story, it’s well worth looking her up. Jaya is a social entrepreneur. She made a conscious decision to do good whilst doing business.
In fact, she believes you are who you do business with. I found that quite a profound statement and it set me off thinking about who I want to do business with.
She also said: the good guys aren’t who you think they are. If you want to know why she thinks this, then you need to hear her tell her story!
My favourite quote of Jaya’s session?
I’ve got to say that I was agog throughout this whole session and if you ever get a chance to hear Jaya, you should jump at it.
It’s OK to get the type of help you need at the time you need it
Next up was a session on access to money and mentors. Being a marketing mentor, this was right up my street. I know how much a mentor can bring to your business. That’s why I have one!
There were a couple of golden nuggets I picked up here. The first one is: life shouldn’t be about being busy all the time. You should enjoy every moment. I bet you weren’t expecting that!
As business owners, we spend practically all our time either working or thinking about what we should be doing. I know I do. I’ve recently realised that this isn’t good for me.
A few weeks ago, I took up yoga. After the first session, I realised I’d spent an entire hour being in the moment and not thinking a million things about my business. I felt so refreshed and worked better the next day as a result.
The next thing that struck a chord with me is: some mentors will be with you for a season, others will be with you forever. I knew when I set up my business that I wanted to be with my clients for as long as they needed me.
In fact, part of my mission is to help small business owners outgrow me!
Now, I’m not going to try to raise finance for my business, but one thing that was said really made me sit up and listen. Here it is:
Women pitching to raise finance should be scared. They should understand what the investors in the room want to know.
Do women who pitch to investors go into the room more scared than men would? If you are thinking of raising finance, do your homework on the investors in the room and make sure you’re ready to answer their questions.
It really is OK to run a business with your family
Growing up, I watched my parents run a number of businesses. As a child, it seemed to me that they lived and breathed those businesses. All their time was spent running them or working out what they needed to run them.
It really did put me off running my own business for the longest time.
In this session, what stood out to me is that family-run businesses, whether with your parents, siblings or partner, normally come from shared vision and values.
One of the panel, Amber Fraser-Sokol, started her business with her husband. It came from their shared vision of a healthy snack that fulfilled their values of being vegans. As a result, Brave Peas was born.
So, whilst you may think that running a business with a family member isn’t for you, it does provide a unique opportunity to leverage family values. This can run throughout the business, for example in the branding, and can help you to increase sales.
Stand out if you sell a service
As I sell a service, I was all ears for this session. What came through loud and clear was that digital marketing is an enabler for service-based businesses.
Digital makes it easier for you to test your services online and get feedback, just like this. It also makes it easier for you to reach your potential customers, something I’ve said for the longest time.
Another way to stand out is to engender loyalty. Everyone on the panel agreed that loyalty starts with the service someone receives. It’s about how you make them feel. It’s not about loyalty cards and collecting rewards.
When the panel mentioned that, it made me think about my contract with British Gas, which covers my boiler, radiators and plumbing. The reason that came to mind is we recently had to call out a plumber. I was able to book an appointment the same day, he called me when he was on the way, and he was very thorough in diagnosing the problem. I know I pay more than other providers, but I pay for the kind of service I received, and it keeps me loyal!
Have the courage of your convictions
Where has Emma Bridgewater been my whole business life? Emma started her business over 30 years ago when she couldn’t find two cups and saucers to send to her mum for her birthday. Her trademark pottery business now employs over 300 people. So, what did I learn here? So many things, but here are three.
The mood, the time, the DNA that sets you off in your business stays with your business. The reason this has stuck with me is that I knew I wanted to help other small business owners like me, when I started up. What I landed on for my business wasn’t quite right and I felt that very quickly.
I started my business at the end of March 2016. By the end of November 2016, I knew what I was doing wasn’t what I set out to do and I quickly started working out how to change that.
The next thing that stood out for me is: you’ve got to believe that what you’re doing makes a real difference to people’s lives. This, more than anything is what keeps me doing what I do. Because when someone works with me and I can see their business growing, I know I’m making a material difference to their lives.
The last thing that Emma said which had me nodding my head was: you’ve got to have a product (or service) that people want. It’s got to answer a need. Marketing will not give you success if you have a bad product.
Let that sink in. No amount of time and money spent on marketing will have any impact if no one wants what you’re selling. So, take the time to find out if people need your product or service. Find out why they need it and take this feedback and create something they will buy.
Build a community, find your tribe
I’ve been saying this for a long time. I work with lots of start-ups in a couple of accelerators. The thing that amazes me is that they don’t think about marketing and building their tribe as something they should be doing whilst getting ready to sell.
If you start to build a community early on, they will be there when you’re ready to sell what you’ve spent all that time working on.
But more than that, when someone feels like they’re part of a community, they’re more likely to stay.
And, not too dissimilar to the last point Emma Bridgewater made, you have to know the community you’re serving and want to build. I know my community is other people like me, who struggle with working out how to make marketing an integral part of their business, so they can find new customers.
That’s the community I’m building and helping. It’s important to do this. Here’s one of the places where you can be part of my community.
PR isn’t as tricky as you might think
It’s always difficult doing something you’re new to. PR is one of those areas where we think there’s a knack involved. There is, but what I learned from this panel session of journalists is that the knack is pretty straightforward.
If you’re a service-based business, journalists love stories where you’ve solved a problem. They also like their lives to be made a bit easier, so they do a lot of their research on social media. That means you should share stories where you’ve solved problems for your customers.
Journalists also ask for help, particularly on Twitter, using the hashtag #journorequest. If you see something that is relevant for you, reply and give the journalist the reason why they should include you in their story.
Product-based businesses should spend some time to figure out where their products can be seen. For example, is there an event where you know journalists will be where you can place your product? Say you’re a baker. You might bake a couple of cakes for a home show to be on display in a dining room set up.
Whether you’re a service- or product-based, the thing you need to be sure of is your target audience. Who are they? This is one of the questions I often ask my clients: where does your target audience hang out? Because once you know this, you’ll know the publications you want to target to create some PR for your business.