Saturday, March 31, 2012

Olympic legacy boost for Dorset college

Weymouth College has secured £100k of Olympic legacy funding from Sport England’s Inspired Facilities Fund.

The Inspired Facilities fund is part of the £135 million Places People Play legacy programme that is bringing the magic of a home Olympic and Paralympic Games into communities across the country. Every sports facility that receives funding will carry the London 2012 Inspire mark – celebrating the link to the Games.

The funding will enable Weymouth College to refurbish 2 sports hall roofs at the Redlands Community Sports Hub and Weymouth College Sport Centre, flooring repairs and underground rainwater harvesting at its Redlands site. This work will ensure a good quality facility for years to come and ensure the many people using the centres can enjoy their participation in sport.

The College also plan to purchase table tennis tables and equipment for use at its two sites to develop new opportunities for juniors and adults working closely with the local Table Tennis League.

Sport England’s Chair, Richard Lewis, said: “This investment will create a fantastic sporting legacy for Weymouth.

“This fund has really hit the mark with sports clubs in South Dorset. It shows we’re offering the legacy that people want for their local community. For hundreds of clubs and tens of thousands of people, 2012 will be the year their local sports facilities got better.”

Ben Heath, Sports Development Officer at Weymouth College said: “We are delighted to secure one of the first Inspired Facilities grants, as a College we are committed to engaging with all our surrounding communities and this grant will enable us to make the necessary refurbishments to our facilities and ensure the community have access to high quality sporting provision now and in to the future, providing an accessible 2012 Olympic legacy for all.”

Kieren Hasler, Director of Operations at Weymouth College said “Weymouth College is working hard to provide a real legacy in sport in Weymouth from the Olympics and the further development of these facilities is part of that ambition. By working with the local community in developing future projects and sustainable sports development we can build upon these opportunities to provide a real and tangible sporting legacy for South Dorset and create a sporting centre of excellence.”

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dorset firm automates for growth

A Poole-based provider of medical staff for public events has paved the way to expansion by harnessing web technology to boost efficiency and cut costs.

First Line Response, who also delivers first aid training, wanted to eliminate as many paper and manual processes as possible. Shawn Bullivant, Managing Director, knew that growth in both turnover and profitability would come from automation.

He engaged Southampton-based software developer Alpha Systems Consultants to create both in-house and externally facing systems to automate many of the processes, allowing more events and courses to be managed by the same size of administrative staff, bringing greater efficiency and reduced costs.

Corporate clients can now use on-line tools to plan their own courses and book places. The system sends out automatic welcome emails, completion certificates and reminders about certificate expiry, all with minimal intervention from administrators. This allows First Line Response staff to concentrate on the training delivery.

Event resourcing has also been made much more efficient, with a team being put together in hours rather than days. Finding the appropriately trained and certified staff is now much easier, with individuals maintaining their own records remotely, and the system allowing them to be booked via email and SMS.

The Bizoh blog loves to celebrate business success in Dorset. If your firm has a great story to tell, why not get in touch?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New moth prevention retailer launches in west Dorset

Local business entrepreneurs Adam Smith and Jon Sloper have joined forces to sell the UK's widest range of moth pest control products from a Dorset village. (team pictured right) draws on Adam and Jon’s combined expertise in online retail and business development, and aims to meet a growing need for prevention and treatment of moth infestation and damage.

Early signs indicate that there is a significant market for their products, with estimates that over one million households in the UK have suffered from moth damage. A recent feature earlier this year about moth prevention on the BBC’s The One Show, and several related discussions on BBC Radio 2 over the past year, highlight just how widespread the problem has become.

Maiden Newton residents Adam and Jon made a conscious decision to set up their business close to home, reducing travel and commuting time, to draw on local expertise and stay within their community to build the business.

“With good phone, broadband and delivery connections you can set up online businesses almost anywhere.” comments Jon, “And working near to home and using other local business services gives a feel-good factor that is hard to beat.”

Adam is pleased to announce that as of this week, the business has upgraded to International Deliveries to Europe (previously UK only) due to the already increasing demand for their products, and their first overseas order has just gone out to Sweden.

Read more Dorset start-up and success stories

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dorset mum and online retailer shares tips for success

Julia Odgers of KidsTravel2 demonstrates it is possible to start and grow a business during a recession with minimal capital. Here’s how she did it…

KidsTravel2 is an independent online retailer of children’s luggage, travel games & family travel accessories. We also share travel tips and free travel activities via our blog.

Before KidsTravel2 I had a senior role as a Marketing Communications Manager reporting into the board of directors & worked long hours. I knew when I had children I couldn't carry on like this or I would miss their childhoods. So, we relocated to Poole during my maternity leave and I set up as a freelance web design and marketing consultant helping business startups, including KidsTravel2.

KidsTravel2 was originally established in 2006 by Gervase Walton but I was heavily involved from the early days. I focused on improving the usability of the website and recommended a complete marketing strategy. Much of this I implemented resulting in page 1 positions on Google for strategic keywords like 'children's luggage'.

After the birth of my second child I started to mull over the idea of setting up my own online business as I wanted more involvement. This is when my path crossed with KidsTravel2 again. Turned out Gervase had decided that online retail wasn’t for her. A few conversations later and I became the new owner.

My 8 top tips for developing a business during a recession are:

    1.    Starting your own business doesn’t necessarily have to be about doing something different to everyone else. Doing it better is what's important. I spent a long time racking my brains trying to ‘invent’ a new product or service. I have since realised that striving to be the best at what you do is what will set you apart & bring you success.

    2.    Talk and listen to your customers so that you can grow the business to fulfil their needs.

    3.    Be realistic about the time you will need to grow the business. The biggest challenge to date has been maintaining a balance between a healthy family life and devoting the time necessary to grow the business during the early stages.

    4.    Keep overheads low.

    5.    Relieve yourself of the tactical tasks so you can focus on strategic growth. We outsourced the warehousing & fulfilment so we could concentrate on marketing and growing the business.

    6.    Grow organically – it is possible to develop a business with minimal investment and financial risk by choosing product wisely & growing organically. Build up trading accounts with new suppliers gradually, gain more credit flexibility & enable more growth.

    7.    Make the most of social media - you can build stronger links with customers, undertake cost effective PR, and network to build strategic partnerships.

And finally..

Have the courage of your own convictions & stay focused on your goal. This is what will keep you going through the tough times you will inevitably encounter.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Dorset college bridges gap between the classroom and the workplace

To help prepare school leavers for the world of work, Budmouth College, in Weymouth, has launched a unique Centre of Excellence for Industrial Liaison.

The Centre opened on 1 March 2012, when around 100 local business people were given the opportunity to tour the school’s new business facilities and meet students.

Representatives of the local business community were given a guided tour around the Centre’s different zones, each of which represents a different aspect of commercial thinking and activity. At each zone, they were given a short presentation by students involved with the Centre.

Many of the students are already involved in practical work experience programmes laid on by Budmouth College. Some are involved with the running of the College stationery kiosk while others help produce the internal magazine. Others have six week sponsored work placements with external firms.

The Centre of Excellence also offers meeting and training space for local businesses, and opportunities to involve students in these events. This has the potential for mutual benefit, with students getting insights into the workplace and firms gaining new perspectives from young minds.

In his opening address at the event, College Principal David Akers made it clear that he wanted Budmouth students to leave with both academic success and some commercial experience under their belts.

The driving force behind the establishment of the Centre of Excellence has been Marcel Ciantar, Budmouth’s Director of Enterprise, supported by Lynn Toman.

They have been sponsored by a number of local organisations and firms including: Battens Solicitors, Bournemouth University, Champagne Films, Dorset County Council, Lloyds TSB, Moonfleet Manor, Open 4 Business, Sirius Business Services, Swift Signs, Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce and WSX Enterprise.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Save yourself some money on PR and marketing

Guest post from Dorset Business Mum of the Year, Joanne Dewberry.

Now much of what I'm going to say isn't anything super out of the ordinary but on many occasions I meet so many business mums who are so busy working 'in' their business they don't have the opportunity to take time to step outside and reflect on what's working and what isn't.  So here are a few money saving tips!

Paid Adverts -
Paid adverts are expensive, end of, so lets see how we can do it the sensible way. 
  • Leave buying advertising to the last minute your bound to get some kind of discount.
  • Have a figure ££ in mind and try not to go over that.
  • Remember you need to be advertising all year round don't spend all your cash in January.
  • Make sure you have some way of tracking your advert either a special offer code, or free delivery or possibly a free item when placing order or buying your service.  You can then say I paid x amount for an advert in 5,000 magazines and I got a return of x amount of orders/clients = success rate of ??.   If you have no way of tracking it you never know if the advert was a success or not.
  • Or do a competition entering via email … this way you also get a contact email which you can then use to send out newsletters and special offers etc.
  • See if you can barter for them … if the adverts are online you maybe able to swap banner links on their site for yours.
Social Networking -
This can be whatever your vice is LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogging etc... Social Networking is FREE so you are a fool not to utilise it in some way shape or form. But here are a few tips to make it cost effective to you.
  • Ensure you limit your usage everyday.  Make a clear distinction between 'working' on Facebook/Twitter and 'socialising'.
  • If your using a blog to promote your business/services or products plan your blog posts for the month and then write and schedule as many in as possible.  This will also free up time which you can use more effectively in other areas of your business to make MONEY.
  • Use your own blog to highlight your strengths in business what you know a lot about, businesses that appear to be 'experts' in certain areas will very much be sort after.
  • Make sure your following local magazines, radio stations and newspapers they will all be on Twitter and Facebook looking for local scoops. 
  • Also find out if National Magazines are online many baby related ones use twitter to find items for stories they have coming up. 
  • Search hashtags on twitter #journorequest (I've had some success with this) and if you do contact a journalist this way make sure you save their email into your database.
Building a PR Contact Database -
You can buy one if you want.  But if your looking a reducing PR costs make your own. 
  • Give yourself an hour or so and pop into your local library pick up all the magazine relevant to your business and jot down the name and email of the editor.   You should do this also with all the local newspapers, community magazines. 
  • Check out media requests on free sites such as take note of the emails of journalists relevant to your business.
  • Use big companies contact forms … many moons ago I emailed BBC South via their online form about an event that I had going on. I was lucky enough to receive a reply from a reporter on BBC Radio Solent who is now one of my main contacts.  Recently she changed shows but thankfully her new presenter enjoys having me on too!
  • Send regular updates about what you have been up to and keep an eye on what's happening in the news might be that you can jump on the band wagon and contact one of your journalists with a relevant story. (i.e. VAT increase on small businesses at the moment)
Hope these little suggestion work and help save you some money!

Find out more about Joanne Dewberry and her business Charlie Moo's.