Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sam unwraps her entrepreneurial spirit

“Who doesn’t love sweets?” That’s what Sam Birkett of Bournemouth, Dorset, said when asked why she set up a business supplying a sweet buffet on a cart for events.

Inspired by the eye-catching array of candies often displayed at wedding receptions and similar celebrations, Sam decided this could be turned into a commercial opportunity. So she set up South Coast Sweet Cart.

She persuaded her partner, a carpenter, to make an attractive cart complete with striped awning, and set about promoting her service locally. The business is very new, but Sam was excited to receive bookings in her first week of trading. She’s targeting a wide range of functions including christenings, school fetes, fundraisers, hen parties and corporate events.

Sam is a great example of an entrepreneur who comes from a normal background. She has a diploma in Early Childhood Education and worked in a nursery for a couple of years before spending time in Canada as a nanny. Since then, she’s been involved in charity fundraising, event organising and marketing.

What Sam’s added to this is an inspirational spark and the motivation to succeed. The result is a small business offering a novel, fun service. It required a little investment of cash, which came from her own savings, and plenty of hard work.

Her advice to others considering going into business is: “Be realistic about the amount of tasks and the time you will need to start.” She’s had the benefit of supportive friends and family, for which she is extremely grateful.

You can book Sam's sweet cart, or simply find out more, by visiting the South Coast Sweet Cart website.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dorset business networking and exhibition - January 2012

Business Connections Dorset held their first business exhibition of the year at Redlands Community Hub, Weymouth, on 20 January.

Over 130 local firms had stands and the Fire Fire and Rescue brought along their mobile domestic sprinkler demonstrator. Watch this and more in this short video of the event, from Champagne Film.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Running your first payroll

When do I need to run a payroll?

If you have been running your own business as a sole trader, you will be used to drawing your earnings from the business and accounting for your profits under self-assessment. However, if your business becomes incorporated, you will probably be employed by the company and will need to start operating a payroll system. Alternatively, you might be running a payroll for the first time because your business has expanded and you are taking on an employee.

Do I need to register for PAYE?

Not necessarily. You only have to register for PAYE if:
  • You are paying someone at or above the PAYE threshold.
  • You are paying someone at or above the NI Lower Earnings Limit.
  • Your employee has another job or is receiving a pension.
  • You are giving an employee benefits.
If your business is a limited company and any of the above applies to you, then you will still need to register for PAYE even if you are not employing anyone else.

If you are unsure as to whether you need to register as an employer with HMRC, check the Business Link website for more information or ask your accountant.

Payroll software

Although it is not compulsory to keep your payroll records on computer, it is necessary to submit various payroll forms to HMRC online and therefore most businesses choose to do so.

HMRC’s Basic PAYE Tools is downloadable free from the Business Link website. This programme allows you to record your employees’ details and calculate the PAYE and NI deductions and is suited to businesses with up to nine employees. You need to have Adobe Reader and Flash Player installed to make this work, but these can be downloaded free from the Adobe website.

Basic PAYE Tools is limited, but does allow you to submit forms directly to HMRC.

However, if you are looking for something a little more sophisticated, the HMRC website lists  approved payroll programmes, including a number of free versions - 12Pay, IRIS, Keytime Objective Ltd and Payroo Ltd.

All these are fully functional and free for up to ten employees, whilst Payroo is funded by advertising and allows up to 5,000 employees. Some of these are downloadable whilst others are web-based. These systems allow online filing and printing of payslips and other reports.

Where can I get help?

The HMRC and Business Link websites have lots of information to help get you started, setting up your payroll system and operating it correctly. However, if this all sounds too daunting, there are other options. You can outsource your payroll to a third party. Your accountant should be able to provide this service or recommend a payroll bureau.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Free service to improve business health

A new and free service to help small firms manage sickness absence was launched last week. The Health for Work Adviceline is for firms with less than 250 staff and intends to provide top quality occupational health advice.

Millions of working days are lost each year because employees go sick. According to figures from the CBI and AXA, some organisations lose as many as 12 working days per year through health issues. That’s a huge cost, especially for small businesses.

Occupational health is all about managing the relationship between health and work. Many firms who use occupational health services experience a measurable reduction in the number of working days lost to sickness.

There are four ways that you can use the new Health for Work Adviceline:
  • Free telephone service on 0800 077 8844.
  • Search an online database of health information and advice.
  • Ask a question about your particular issues.
  • Live chat, an instant messaging system with NHS staff.
You can also follow the Adviceline service on Twitter @Health4Work and on Facebook.

Every small business owner should take a few minutes to make themselves familiar with the site, bookmark it in their browser and find a way to remind themselves that it’s there. While your staff might all be fit and healthy today, there’s no telling what tomorrow will bring.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Revival of the Riviera Hotel, Weymouth

The Riviera Hotel in Bowleaze Cove, on the Dorset coast, will reopen in Spring 2012 following a £4 million refurbishment by the current owners the Dhiafah Group who purchased the hotel in 2009 for £3.5 million.

The Riviera Hotel is the first investment for the Dhiafah Group however this family owned company also own hotels in London, Paris, Saudi and Geneva. The new owners instantly saw the potential of the iconic Weymouth hotel and its facilities and immediately got to work with ambitious design plans. The Dhiafah Group, (Dhiafah means “hospitality”), own over 18 hotels worldwide with hotels in London, Paris and Geneva.

In Spring 2012 the 3 star hotel will reopen and new facilities will include the brand new “Bowleaze Restaurant” which can seat up to 200 people. The Restaurant will serve fresh, first class quality local produce at affordable prices to both residents and the general public. All 98 bedrooms have been completely refurbished with new ensuite bathrooms, plasma screen tvs, handpainted canvases and exclusive furnishings in stylish surroundings.

The hotel will employ over 80 members of staff at the peak of the Summer season and General Manager Kevin Bungay has some interesting plans on how to recruit the perfect team for the Riviera Hotel.

Mr Bungay said “I have been in the hotel and pub trade for over 25 years and during that time I have developed an interesting interview process which takes the form of a “staff audition” each applicant will have the opportunity to share their appropriate talents. We will be holding recruitment days on 2 and 3 February at the Spyglass Inn 10am – 6pm and I have already received many CV’s and applications.

"The hotel will be recruiting chefs, kitchen staff, baristas, service staff and porters, Management and Reception staff plus housekeeping staff. I am also on the look out for an excellent Entertainments Manager as keeping our guests happy and entertained is one of our top priorities.”

The hotel will release more information and images of the newly refurbished hotel in January, in the meantime if anyone is interested in applying for one of the positions at the new Riviera Hotel please contact: General Manager, Kevin Bungay 01305 836600 or email [email protected] .

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Are you making the most of LinkedIn?

If you want to do all you can to promote your business, you should have a LinkedIn profile. You should also update it on a regular basis.

A few years back, LinkedIn was little more than an online CV system. Many of us created profiles because we thought we should, but we weren’t really sure what the point was. You couldn’t ‘use’ LinkedIn in the same way that you ‘used’ Facebook - it wasn’t very interactive. It also had quite a ‘corporate’ feel, giving the impression it was aimed at employees in big companies.

All that has changed. Many small business owners and sole traders now have profiles. LinkedIn has grown to include discussion groups and question and answer sections, and it has its own social media feed connected to Twitter. It’s generally regarded as one of the ‘big 5’ social media sites.

LinkedIn connects business to business

LinkedIn can be a great source of recommendations. Not the ‘Recommendations’ that contacts can leave against your profile (although these are extremely valuable), but recommendations for suppliers of services that you need.

Most of us would prefer to use a supplier who comes with the recommendation of a friend or contact, rather than simply plucking someone at random from a Google search.

If you’re looking for a particular skill or service, and no one is recommended to you, LinkedIn allows you to perform your own search. Having found someone who seems to match what you are looking for, you may discover they are already in the network of one of your contacts. This could facilitate an introduction, or simply allow you to ask the question directly of your contact: “Could this person deliver what I need?”

In the same way that you ask your contacts to recommend others, they could also be recommending you to their contacts. It figures that the bigger your pool of contacts, the better the chances of your being recommended.

Demonstrate expertise through a LinkedIn discussion

Getting the most from LinkedIn involves joining a number of special interest groups which are relevant to your business. Within these, you can join in, or initiate, discussions. Participate in these regularly and you’ll become familiar to other group members, who’ll also start to identify your areas of expertise.

LinkedIn discussions are not an opportunity for direct self-promotion. They allow you to help others by providing advice based on experience. Through sharing, you’ll win recognition for adding value, raising your profile.

If you’re looking for a low-cost marketing opportunity this year and you’ve not made much of LinkedIn so far, it could give you just what you want.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The pennies keep dropping for Dorset Vending

Inspiration for a new business can come from the most unexpected places. For Gavin Borthwick, owner of Dorset Vending, it took the persistent nagging of his very young nieces to trip his entrepreneurial switch.

A family holiday in France was continually punctuated by the girls’ demands for Euro coins to put into novelty and sweet vending machines. Gavin’s brother spotted an opportunity to bring these machines to the south west of England. He soon brought in Gavin, who was frustrated by his Civil Service job.

The initial challenges for the brothers were finding the capital to acquire the machines, and the venues to house them. Holiday parks, pubs and other entertainment sites are ideal locations, because they have high levels of visitors, many of whom don’t mind dropping in the odd pound or two in return for a toy, sweet or snack.

An attractive business proposition

It’s not just Gavin who benefits from the sales from his machines; the venue hosting the machine also gets a percentage. This makes it a hugely attractive business proposition for sites that can turn dead space into an income generator. Dorset Vending now has their machines all across the county, but Gavin, who now runs the business single-handed, is always looking for new sites.

He’s also on the lookout for new machines. From the earliest days, Dorset Vending has been committed to using the highest quality machines, and they come from right across the world. Some are classic designs, such as the gumball dispensers from the USA. Others are much more contemporary, like the sleek, futuristic, toy dispensers from Japan.

Surviving in tough times

The recent recession struck just as Dorset Vending was finding its feet. For a business that depends on people being willing to spend a few pounds here and there, it was right in the firing line. The high turnover of pub landlords hasn’t helped.

However, Gavin had the foresight not to focus on just one type of venue, and he’s confident that his business will continue to grow in the months ahead.

His advice to anyone else thinking of setting up, or already running, their own business is not to be afraid of debt. “There are occasions when you need to seek loans to further your business,” he says, but adds that it’s important to stay in control of it. “Keep to a repayment plan even if it means going without, and keep your eye on the finishing line. The last payment of any big loan is very sweet indeed.”

Take a look at the Dorset Vending website.

Read more Dorset start-up and success stories