Friday, September 5, 2014

Get your Weymouth or Portland business going with some free help

Christine Collins of WSX Enterprise, who runs the club
A club for people wanting to start their own business is launching in Weymouth and Portland. 
Because it's supported by European funding, membership of the club is free.
The New in Business Club provides a forum for people to explore the challenges and opportunities of starting a business. The Club is aimed at those with little or no experience of being self-employed but who are attracted to the idea of being their own boss. 
It also helps people in the early months of trading, like David and Mandy Hunter of Dorset Trade Skills. They are launching their new business in Weymouth this month. David  said: “Having worked for other people as a trainer in building trades, such as plumbing and bricklaying, I knew I had the experience and skills to plan and run my own courses. What we lacked was experience in running our own business. Christine’s knowledge and advice on the business side has been invaluable.”
The club meets monthly in Weymouth College  
The New in Business Club has been meeting since May this year. But from this month it is open to anyone in the Weymouth and Portland area who is new to business. Its next meeting is on 11 September 2014, in Weymouth College.
The Club is organised by Christine Collins, Enterprise Adviser for Weymouth and Portland, WSX Enterprise. Christine said: “It’s fantastic that for the first time, we have a programme of training and support focused solely on Weymouth and Portland. In the six months since it began I have worked with dozens of new clients looking to start a business. I’ve also been providing support to a number of established firms looking to grow.”
Local business owners are sharing their experience with the club
The New in Business Club meets monthly and its members have already heard from Amy-Kate Crane of Heavenly Bump, a maternity wear business based on the Granby, who shared her experiences of taking the first steps in running a business.
In the next meeting, on 11 September, club members will have the chance to quiz Andrew Knowles, of Writecombination, about  using social media to promote their business. 
To find out more about the meeting on 11 September, click here.
The Club has set up a Facebook Page, to make it easier to provide support and to reach other people who want to explore self-employment but are not quite sure where to start. Click here for the Facebook Page.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dorset Business Awards 2014 are now open

Dorset Business Awards banner
Summer in Dorset means blue skies, glorious landscapes and the annual Dorset Business Awards.

Launched in June at the attractive Parley Manor, the awards are another opportunity to showcase the very best of the county’s many businesses, large and small.

When they began in 1994 there were just three award categories. This year the number has been capped at ten, but there could be more. Many companies do not fit into any of the niche awards, such as Family Business or Entrepreneur of the Year, so have to go for Company of the Year. That’s exactly what happened to last year’s winner, Atlas Elektronik UK, who were entering for the very first time.

This year the award categories are:
  • Business engagement with the community, sponsored by JP Morgan
  • Business Growth Award, sponsored by Advanced Exchequer
  • Dorset Export Award, sponsored by Atlas Elektronik UK
  • Entrepreneur of the Year Award, sponsored by Bournemouth University
  • Excellence in Innovation Award, sponsored by Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Liz Lean PR
  • Hays Employee of the Year Award
  • Lester Aldridge and Santander Company of the Year Award
  • Nuffield Health Excellence in Customer Service Awar
  • Princecroft Willis Family Business Award
  • Retail Experience Award, sponsored by Dolphin Shopping Centre
Dorset Business Awards cake
How about a slice of Dorset Business Awards cake this year?
Entry to the Dorset Business Awards is free and open to any firm based in Dorset, even if they are not a member of the Dorset Chamber of Commerce.

The deadline for entry is 12 September 2014.

Click here for more information about the different award categories.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The online shop that's selling Dorset to the world

The Dorset Shop logo
When Chris Wilson visited Scotland, she was impressed by how easy it was to buy locally-produced foods and craft goods. She realised that the same could not be said for Dorset produce. Despite the county being well known for high quality food, drink, arts and crafts, there did not appear to be an easy way to access a variety of goods from Dorset producers.

Chris decided to address this by creating The Dorset Shop, an online retail outlet bringing together a mix of local artisans. The Dorset Shop first went live around 18 months ago, offering local producers a new channel through which to sell their wares.

The website operates on a subscription model for artisans, with each one paying a small fee to be listed. Many small producers struggle to find the time to market themselves, when they would rather be making. Having a listing on The Dorset Shop site helps to solve this problem by putting their products in front of a wider audience.

Chris takes responsibility for promoting the site through blogging, social media and networking. Sales through the site are handled by the producers themselves, meaning she does not need to carry a stock of all the items on offer.

At present, the producers listed on the site include jewellery, jams and pickles, cards, stationery and photography. Chris is hoping to add more in the near future as The Dorset Shop website becomes more established.

For more information about The Dorset Shop, visit the website or follow it on Twitter or Facebook.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tall Ship Pelican does the business on the high seas

TS Pelican in Weymouth harbour
If you’re looking for an unusual day out for your business, either as team building or just for fun, how about a day of sailing off the Jurassic Coast in Dorset?

The Tall Ship Pelican, based in Weymouth, operated by the charity Adventure Under Sail, provides sailing experiences for people of all ages. When it’s not sailing off to warmer climes or taking part in Tall Ships races, the Pelican is available for hire, both by private parties and small groups joining a scheduled day sail.

What’s involved in a day of sailing on the Pelican?

I was invited to join the first day sail of the season for 2014, on the first weekend in April. Unfortunately, the forecast wasn’t too promising, with rain expected from around 9am to 5pm, exactly the times of the trip. But I was determined that the weather would not dampen my first experience of tall ship sailing.

Teamwork gets the job done
After a warm welcome aboard by Captain Paul and his crew, the day began with the inevitable safety briefing. Alas, one of my ambitions was immediately thwarted, as day sailors are not permitted to climb the rigging.

Pulling on ropes is allowed, even encouraged, and there’s plenty of opportunity for that as sails are raised, lowered and adjusted. Some of us were given the chance to steer the ship, using the huge wheel at the stern. We were encouraged to ask lots of questions of the crew, a mix of permanent staff and volunteers.

Working on a sailing ship gives you an appetite and we were fortified by mid-morning bacon sandwiches and a wonderful lunch served from the busy galley.

Networking and knot working
Spending several hours in close proximity with others who share a common interest, in this case doing business in Weymouth and Portland, inevitably leads to interesting conversations and the exchange of contact details.

Lots of rope on a sailing ship
For those uncomfortable with a pure networking environment, or who simply wanted to use the day to escape from the office entirely, being aboard ship presented plenty of diversions. Among them was the vivid reminder that the variety of knots we associate with sailing ships exist for a reason, as we saw them in use and could even have a go at tying some ourselves.

No trip on the water is complete without a discussion of seasickness and there was plenty of sharing of extreme past experiences. Fortunately, while some of us may have had moments of discomfort (particularly when spending time inside) there was no sign of anyone having a real problem.

As for the weather during our day sail - the rain held off until after lunch and we had a few moments where the sun almost broke through. Our glimpses, through the murky mists, of Weymouth, Portland and the Jurassic Coast, were enough to show us that on a sunny day, sailing on the Pelican would be a very different experience.

For more information about the Tall Ship Pelican and Adventure Under Sail, visit their website. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sainsbury's comes to Weymouth

Sainsburys shopping trollies

The opening of any shop is big news for those involved. The opening of Weymouth Sainsbury’s is big news not only for the 300 staff it’s just hired but also for the entire town.

A new supermarket brings more choice and also more competition. That’s good for consumers but what about existing local businesses, some of which may feel threatened by the arrival of another national brand.

 Bizoh spoke to Steve Jones, store manager to find out more.

 Let’s get some facts out of the way. The store opens on 16 October 2013. It’s 46,000 sq ft (if you can visualise what that looks like) with 520 car parking spaces and a café upstairs. The store is designed to be easy on the environment.

The filling station canopy will trap energy from the sun and use it to supply electricity. The store has over 70 rooflights to gain maximum natural illumination. All the internal lighting uses LEDs and a highly sensitive monitoring system turns these up or down depending on the amount of natural light available.

Sainsbury's and local business

This is manager Steve’s second new store and he’s familiar with the concerns of other local traders. In his previous store, he invited a worried local newsagent to sell some of their own products in the store foyer, and from this, a monthly community market developed.

Steve wants to “co-exist harmoniously” with his neighbours. He’s arranged for teams coming in to set up the store to stay in local guesthouses rather than the bigger hotels. Sainsbury’s have sponsored a local rugby team. He’s met with the organisers of Weymouth Foodbank and many other local groups. 

The Sainsbury’s team has performed makeovers at local venues and together chosen to support a local charity. They’ve certainly worked hard to win friends in the area. Steve says his door is always open to any local business wanting to discuss concerns or ideas.

A boost to the Weymouth and Portland economy

The arrival of Sainsbury’s is already delivering some benefits to Weymouth. Almost all of the 300 staff have been recruited from nearby, including 18 of the 20 team leaders. There’s scope for others to join them once the store opens and the home delivery network builds up.

 Local young people could find themselves a job for life at Sainsbury’s. Steve himself joined as a trainee butcher at 18 and he’s now managing his seventh store.

 Local firms always worry when competitors, particularly big hitters like Sainsbury’s, turn up in town. But competition and change are part of business. The biggest beneficiary of the new store’s arrival will be, we trust, the local economy of Weymouth and Portland.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Why you need to know about inbound marketing

Inbound marketing: it sounds like being on the receiving end of a particularly nasty piece of pressure selling. But while it’s definitely the sort of business jargon that you’d cross the street to avoid, inbound marketing is something you need to know about if you’re promoting a business.

Many of us think of marketing and advertising as being the same thing. That advert on the side of the bus, in the cinema or on the edge of your Facebook page is the product of an organisation’s marketing team.

But marketing teams should do more than just create adverts. They should be interested in every point of connection between the organisation and its customers. That’s because these are the places where the reputation of the business can be enhanced or tarnished. Good marketing is more subtle than simply promoting ‘buy us’ messages.

Inbound marketing is about attraction not offers

If you put your advert in front of enough people, some of them will take notice. That’s the been principle behind a lot of marketing over the years. Unfortunately, advertising this way can be expensive and the majority of people who see your advert won’t be interested in your product.

The people who do notice your advert are often already considering purchasing what you’re offering, or are open to being nudged in that direction.

Inbound marketing is about creating material aimed at people already interested in the products you sell. It could take the form of a blog post giving advice or news, a video that explains how to solve a problem or an infographic that sets out important facts in a visually interesting manner.

Having created these materials, the challenge for the inbound marketer is to find a way of getting them in front of the people who’d be interested in reading them.

An example of inbound marketing

Here’s how inbound marketing might work for a florist. Rather than pay for an advert in the local paper, they work with a graphic design agency to create an interesting and amusing infographic around the subject of men giving flowers as gifts.

Related: Power up your marketing with an infographic

They put the infographic on their website and share links to it through social media and their email newsletter. Because it’s informative and attractive, people share it with their contacts, who are more likely to take a look because it comes from someone they trust.

One infographic, like one advertisement, is unlikely to boost customer numbers. But sustained campaigns of inbound marketing activities are proving to be very effective for many businesses. It also sets you apart from your competitors who are still publishing adverts in the paper.

You might not like the term ‘inbound marketing’ but you should decide whether it’s an approach that could work for your business.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Paula and Brian drive business down a new road

Paula Thompson
Every time the government changes the rules, it can also create a new niche into which businesses can take root. This is what happened when firms were made increasingly responsible for ensuring the safety of their staff on the road.

Paula and Brian Thompson of Poole have just launched a new business aimed at helping small firms with the process of managing both a small fleet of vehicles and their drivers. The company, Uneedus Business Solutions, is providing advice and practical support to firms keen to comply with the new legislation around business motoring.

Experience counts for a lot

This isn’t Paula’s first start-up. She’s previously run her own businesses in hospitality and, more recently, in recruitment. In 2012 Brian looked to join his wife in running their own business, bringing with him almost 30 years’ experience of advanced driver training and fleet management.

It seemed logical they should blend their skills into a new venture, resulting in Uneedus.

The business supports small local firms both with recruitment advice and a fleet management system which does more than help keep vehicle running costs down. It also makes it easier to monitor and educate drivers, whether they’re on the road every day or just get behind the wheel for business on an occasional basis. 

Putting the pieces together 

Starting a business can be something of a puzzle. Achieving the desired outcome - a profitable and sustainable operation - requires piecing together the right skills, finance and resources, and having a product that others want to buy.

Like so many small firms, Paula and Brian have begun by working from home, although they expect that to change when growth comes. Finance has come in part from their previous business. They’ve also been working with a business coach provided by Business West.

“Having a coach gave us the focus we needed,” said Paula. “She helped to set targets and provide accountability.”

When it comes to advice for others thinking of setting up their own firm, Paula has some strong advice: “Don’t believe the hype; it’s hard work. It’s not as easy as you think.”

To find out more about UNeedUs visit their website.