Monday, August 19, 2013

Selling Weymouth harbour until the boats come in

Every year, thousands of people pause to enjoy the maritime ambience of Weymouth’s often busy but always good looking harbour.

Very few, if any, of both visitors and locals, realise that the harbour is a small business, operating under similar pressures to the local restaurants, fishing boats and tourist attractions that line the quaysides.

The head of this £2m a year operation is Harbour Master Keith Howorth, who recently took over following a long career in the Royal Navy. Keith, and his team of up to 15 people, ensure that both the inner and outer harbour remain fit for purpose and generate the revenue needed to cover the substantial running costs.

Keith and his team work for Weymouth & Portland Borough Council.

In the business of berthing

Just a few years ago, the marina business, a primary source of revenue for the harbour, was booming nationally. But the recent recession, combined with rising fuel prices, have driven boat owners out of the water. Along the entire south coast, one out of every five berths now stands empty.

Weymouth has three marinas - two operated by the Harbour Master and one in private ownership. These two marinas have capacity for 450 boats. The harbour can also provide temporary berths for 200 visiting craft, along with housing Weymouth’s 80 commercial vessels.

Filling these berths, and managing the administration of collecting payments and offering advice, is a 7 day a week job for the Harbour Master’s team. They are also responsible for the operation of the town’s lifting bridge.

Attracting income to pay for infrastructure

The recent reconstruction of the quayside for Condor Ferries has highlighted the Harbour Master’s biggest headache - maintenance of the port’s infrastructure. New walls, pontoons and walkways don’t come cheap, but they’re vital to the successful and safe operation of the business.

This hardware is also essential for drawing in more boats, short and long-term. This in turn attracts visitors, both from the water and the quayside tourists, who admire the nautical scene while perhaps aspiring to a boat of their own one day.

It’s with this in mind that Keith, the Harbour Master, is considering how to improve the marketing of the business he operates on behalf of the town. By selling the attractions of Weymouth  harbour to south coast sailors, he’s also raising the profile of Weymouth itself, which should in turn benefit local businesses who depend on a steady stream of visitors with money to spend.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How to build your business with renewed confidence

Do your legs turn to jelly and your stomach tie itself in knots when you stand up to address an audience?

Despite being skilled in our chosen line of work, many of us lack the confidence to speak in public, even to a very small group. Part of this is down to nerves, but our reluctance can also spring from a sense of low self-esteem.

Unfortunately, this shortage of self-confidence can also feed through to other aspects of our lives. It can hold us, or our staff, back from achieving our full potential. The good news is that self-confidence can be built, or if it’s been knocked down in the past, re-built, with the right training.

Toastmasters provides a low cost training option

Around 100 years ago, people like Dale Carnegie realised that the ability to speak in public could open the door to better self-confidence. One organisation that grew in order to help people develop these skills was Toastmasters, a set of local clubs that has spread to become a worldwide non-profit operation.

Toastmasters International gives its members a safe, friendly environment in which to practice and refine the art of public speaking. At every meeting, everyone has an opportunity to give a short presentation, even if it’s just a few seconds long.

Through a process of supportive and constructive feedback, speakers can learn what others perceive to be their strengths and weaknesses, giving them the opportunity to work on improvement.
Toastmasters offers both a speaking and leadership development programme that has made a real difference in the lives of thousands of members, and it’s all available for a modest fee and time commitment.

More businesses should make use of Toastmasters

With training budgets squeezed, often out of existence, Toastmasters offers an inexpensive leadership and confidence-boosting training programme that organisations of any kind can choose to get involved with.

It can also help sole traders and other small business owners to overcome their fears of networking and giving presentations. These are barriers which, if not overcome, can hold back growth and lead to missed opportunities.

Today, four Toastmasters clubs operate in Dorset: in Dorchester, Ferndown and two in Bournemouth. Many of their current members can testify to how the speaking and leadership coaching they have received through their peers has made a real difference to their professional and personal lives.

To find out more about Toastmasters in Dorset, visit  or for the Dorchester branch, visit

Monday, August 5, 2013

Wendy transforms walls into wonderlands

With the arrival of her second child, Wendy Stead of Blandford Forum decided to lay down her sales career and start her own business. At the same time, she was having difficulty locating the accessories she wanted to transform her daughter’s new room into a special place.

These twin challenges led to the formation of Enchanted Interiors, a home-based business creating magical themes for the spaces where children live and play.

But as Wendy discovered, the fairytale dream of earning an income from home, doing something you love while having the time needed to raise a family, doesn’t come easily.

Finding the right product in the right place

When the business began in early 2012, Wendy started by selling products online on a drop shipping basis. That is, she did not carry any stock as her suppliers shipped directly to her customers.

She soon discovered this to be an ineffective business model, as the supplier took the majority of the income, leaving her with very little. The solution seemed to come in the form of an artist she met in the USA, who designed and sold giant wall stickers.

Unfortunately, this approach produced equally dissatisfying results, with every order taking far too long to deliver and proving too expensive to be viable.

However, Wendy loved the idea of the huge stickers. Unable to find suitable suppliers, the logical next step was to consider making them herself.

Solving the problem with home-based manufacturing

The raw materials for Wendy’s business are attractive, imaginative images and high quality fabrics. She sought out UK designers to create the attractive artwork which she then converted, with the aid of a newly purchased printing and cutting machine, into giant fabric pictures.

After months of hard work, Wendy had finally discovered a business model that delivered the results she was looking for. This has allowed her to concentrate on growing the business, by adding to her range of images and raising awareness of the stickers, largely by working with Mummy bloggers.

Producing the images at home also allows Wendy to offer custom designs, based on pictures submitted by customers. Mastering the image conversion process has led to her becoming an expert on Adobe Illustrator, an application she hadn’t heard of six months ago.

This is just one of the many skills Wendy has learned on her journey to achieving her ambition of owning a small but successful business, with plenty of potential for growth.

To find out more about the high quality fabric wall art available from Enchanted Interiors, visit their website.