Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dorset businesswoman awards £20k prize in franchise competition

Blending elements of 'The Apprentice' with 'Dragons' Den', Dorset entrepreneur Stephanie Pettitt has given the chance of a lifetime to an aspiring business owner.

The winner of the £20,000 prize, of the complete Equation Accounting franchise package, was selected through a Win Your Own Business competition.

Following an online application process, 32 candidates were whittled down to 6 finalists, who delivered pitches to the judging panel.

The prize franchise went to budding entrepreneur Anna Ward, a second year marketing student from Bournemouth University. Her inspiring and well researched pitch astounded judges with her confidence and in-depth understanding of Equation Accounting’s values and spirit.

Anna will complete a seven week intensive training course in preparation to launch her Equation franchise which will offer the full range of Equation accounting packages and services.

A one year work placement was offered as a surprise second prize to Kajal Bakrania after her impressive, infectious and persuasive pitch to the panel.

Stephanie Pettitt, founder of Equation Accounting, said she ran the competition to combat the “doom and gloom” of the unemployment crisis and get people thinking about starting their own businesses again. Stephanie said “I am on an absolute mission to encourage people to believe in themselves and start their own businesses from their creative ideas.”

The winning prize was presented by multi award-winning licensee and restaurateur< Ali Carter. “Seeing these amazing young people pitch so professionally and confidently in front of a prestigious judging panel and room full of accomplished businessmen and women from all over Dorset was overwhelming” said Ali.

The Equation Team like to give special thanks to all those who took part, in particular the candidates, Special Guest Ali Carter, Judging panel Ian Girling (WSX Enterprise), Karen Rickman (Dorset Chamber), Joanna Davis (The Dorset Echo), Nick Maybour (McDonalds Restaurants), Fabrice M'Pollo (Business Mania Director of Entrepreneurship), Rhyannan Hurst (Bournemouth University) and Clive Ozzard (Business Link).

Stephanie plans to launch a Dorset wide ‘Young Apprentice’ style competition in the summer aimed at young entrepreneurs who aspire to run their own business for a £1,000 cash prize.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Business Link replacements - what's out there?

It can be hard for you, as the owner of one of the UK’s 4.8 million small businesses, to get the impartial advice that you need.

While you may be an expert in your particular field, running a successful business requires making good decisions across a number of areas. Choosing the right business funding, legal structure, finance and IT systems and marketing strategies are just some of the issues you need to address. 

Making the wrong decision can be, at best, an expensive mistake and, at worse, could lead to failure. 
The government’s announced closure of much of the Business Link service removes a major free source of help to small firms. For years, Business Link advisors have offered support and guidance in various forms, but from this month, the service is reduced to a website and contact centre.

Business Link replacements

Fortunately, there are alternatives to Business Link. Some have been around for a while whilst others are launching to help fill the gap that’s being left. Here’s a list of the options we’re aware of.

Business Advice Service: This was launched recently by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). The accounting firms involved will offer an initial, free, bespoke consultation to small firms. The ICAEW is currently recruiting firms for this new Business Advice Service.

Business Link: The Business Link website that was launched in 2004 will continue, along with a new telephone helpline. This website is being enhanced from this month to include new, easy-to-use services. This will be supplemented by a dedicated, trained, business support team.

Chambers of Commerce: When Mark Prisk, business and enterprise minister, announced the reduction in Business Link services, he said that he wanted to see more advice and support coming from the private sector. 

Some of this could be through local Chambers of Commerce, who already supply valuable support and networking services to their members. For firms in Dorset, there is a county-wide Chamber and many local chambers.

Local Enterprise Partnerships: Intended to replace Regional Development Agencies, these Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) would allow the public and private sector to ‘take charge of the local economy’. A year after they were announced, many are still in the early stages of being established.

Private sector solutions: Even when Business Link was in operation, the majority of English SMEs preferred to use private sector solutions. (Alternative schemes operate in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). Some ex-Business Link providers, such as WSX Enterprise in Dorset, are continuing their support services.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

New Dorset social network whirls into life

A new social network is about to launch in Weymouth this weekend.

When Justine Blythe relocated to Weymouth in 2010, she realised that sometimes it can be difficult to make new friends in a new town, so she decided to launch a brand new social network called “My Social Whirl”.

One of the biggest social changes in the last ten years in affluent societies has been the increase in single person households. This is due to a variety of factors including the rise in divorce rates, increasing numbers of lone parents and young professionals moving around and living alone for longer.

Over the next twenty years single person households are predicted to increase by over four million to nearly eleven million in the UK alone.  Loneliness can have a detrimental effect on health, both physical and mental.

Studies have shown a direct link to increases in heart disease, high blood pressure and the incidence of cancer in patients who are lonely. Chronic loneliness can also be a major contributing factor in depression.Socially isolated people are shown to have shorter life spans than those with a support network of close friends and family.

These factors have contributed to the explosion in the number of social networking sites on the internet in recent years.However, chatting to someone on-line is no substitute for actual face to face interactions with friends.

My Social Whirl is a response to this. The network launches on Saturday 19th November 2011, 8pm at The Kazzbar, Banus, The Esplanade, Weymouth. The event is free to attend, but places limited. To book a place email [email protected].

Guests will enjoy entertainment from Spanish guitarist Jon Pickard plus cocktails and canap├ęs produced by baristas and chefs at The Kazzbar.

Justine Blythe, Director of My Social Whirl said “I am a very sociable person yet I still found it hard to make new friends , so the aim of the company is to allow people to make lots of friends, go on many and varied social events and try new exciting experiences.  Members will be able to interact on line too and arrange their own events or join specific interest groups. Members will be personally introduced to each other to avoid any awkward moments.  Events include Christmas Shopping, January Gourmet Evening, Pub Quiz, and a Spa Day.”

More information can be found at or by emailing [email protected]

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reece invests in a camera and freelance career

Reece de Ville has converted a passion for horror movie make-up into successful self-employment as a Dorset-based filmmaker.

A youthful diet of Hammer films and American splatter movies cut deep into his imagination and after leaving university he found employment as a make-up artist. Within a few years, Reece was working for the BBC's Future Media and Technology Department.

Not surprisingly, getting his hands on a BBC camera wasn't difficult and Reece soon earned a reputation as an internal filmmaker. He added creative flair to what could otherwise have been dull, corporate videos, bringing depth through new angles and stories.

As with so many who've turned to self-employment, the process began with redundancy. When the BBC unit closed, Reece took the opportunity to leave with a pot of cash to invest in his own business.

Establishing an independent filmmaking business isn't cheap. HD cameras, computers, editing software and simply paying the bills ate quickly into the capital Reece had managed to acquire.

Fortunately, he discovered that social media could be a highly effective, and relatively inexpensive, marketing tool. Combined with the adrenalin-fuelled enthusiasm which accompanies a new venture and a sharp eye for the creative, Reece began to win business.

Profitable in his first trading year, Reece is seeing steady growth both in his income and his client base. Happy customers include the BBC, Bournemouth University and the Arts Council, and singer-songwriter Thea Gilmore. He currently works alone, providing both the filming and editing services that his customers require.

Cash flow is a common challenge for start-ups. Reece also ran into the challenge of maintaining confidence after the first few months. "After the first six months, you may find a month here or there where work isn't as forthcoming." His advice is to remember "that you are still good at your job" and to "think of the great work you've done - focus on the positives".

Reece gives credit for some of his success to the support and inspiration of his wife, Zoe, and his baby son, Harrison.

He has two more words of wisdom for others starting out on the road to self-employment. The first is to make full use of social networks for marketing, such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+. "Use these to share work and ideas with like-minded businesses."

The second is simply this: "You've set up your own business - enjoy it, ride out the hard times and always remember: you're brilliant."

To discover more about Reece's business, visit his filmmaking website.

Read more business start up stories like this one.