Small Business Support Blog

If you are interested in reading about how to get your business visible online, with regular insights into being an entrepreneur and navigating your way through the business world, then this blog is for you!

We regularly post interesting articles on topics on leadership, management and visibility - with guest articles and features from experts in their field.

If you are interested in collaborating and would like to do a guest feature then please email [email protected] 

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  1. #ReasonsIstarted

    Always-Andri-Wedding-Planner-London-Photogrpaher-Amanda-Karen (1)

    Foreword from Pamela

    This series of amazing stories from fiercely feminine entrepreneurs documents the journey of some inspirational women who have founded and built incredible brands. These are stories of reinvention, stories of unlocking creativity and pivoting during the pandemic and managing adversity to demonstrate their passion and commitment to building a future legacy. 

    The next in the series is Andri Benson, creative entrepeneur and wedding planning genius who runs Always Andri Weddings in London...

    From the BBC to serial Wedding Entrepreneur...

    Hi I’m Andri Benson, I run Always Andri a boutique wedding planning business in London. My focus has always been in designing distinctive and creative weddings as individual as the couples I work with. I want my couples to feel supported during their wedding planning and I encourage them to really personalise their day to make it meaningful to them and not just another cookie cutter wedding day.

    Creativity in the family

    I’ve always enjoyed being creative, it must run in the family as my dad was an art teacher and my mum a seamstress. Growing up they owned a dress factory. I went to Central St Martins after school to do a foundation course and it was there my tutor suggested I do a degree in Theatre Design. It was the perfect combination of art, creativity and imagination.

    After 3 years at Nottingham Trent University I returned to London to attend drama school where I learnt stage management as well as putting into practise my theatre design degree. As part of the course put on plays from start to finish, getting first-hand experience of the process. It was here I met my now husband, he was there studying to be a Director.  I loved the theatre and enjoyed imagining new worlds to create a scene and character building through costume design. 

    After a few years freelancing as a Theatre Designer for London Fringe and Off-West End theatres I got a full-time job as a costumier for the BBC Costume Store. After growing up around my parents’ dress factory – playing dress up with fabrics during the summer holidays - working with costumes all day as a costumier was a fitting role to be in. It was a fabulous job that offered security and creativity! But it wasn’t to last unfortunately. The BBC was going through its major cuts phase and so after 8 years working there, we were all made redundant. It was a long drawn out process that lasted 7 months but during that time I was able to revaluate what I wanted to do.

     

    From wardrobes to weddings

    Around the time I had started to work at the BBC, my husband and I got married; I absolutely loved planning it! What struck me most about the planning process was just how similar it was to designing a Theatre production- from working with a budget, creating timelines, designing how the tablescape - like the set, and what you would wear- like the costumes would look. So, as were considering our futures and I was asked what I wanted to do, I jokingly said I’d love to be a wedding planner. I had briefly thought about pursuing event planning when we got married 7 years earlier but the BBC job came along so I never did. Now facing redundancy, I re-visited the idea and realised that wedding planning was actually a profession you could do. By this point we had a 4-year-old son, working a 9-5 job wasn’t necessarily going to work, so I dived head first into setting up my own business from home.  I immersed myself in weddings, taking a couple of courses and learning how to run a business. A year after being made redundant I launched my wedding planning business Always Andri

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    Diversifying the business

    The last 10 years have been a mix of highs and lows, it was a steep learning curve working out how to run a business. Around 5 years ago we did a major renovation at home so I wasn’t able to focus on the business and ended up having one of the worst years in the business after what had been one of my best planning a 100K+ wedding. I realised that relying on the one income stream realty wasn’t going to work so I started diversifying what I could do. I wrote an e-book on How to Plan Styled Shoot (a mock wedding suppliers use to promote their businesses), started mentoring other planners and then also set up a second business as a wedding celebrant,  Andri Benson Ceremonies.  In recent years I have also created a course for planners on Wedding Design that I loved putting together.

    Always-Andri-Wedding-Planner-London-Photogrpaher-Alistair-Freeman (2)

    I am now going back to one of my first loves, art and have introduced concept sketching and illustration as part my services.  I’m planning to do a sketching course using the Procreate app and an iPad for planners, stylists and florists too, after a successful digital cake drawing masterclass I put on this summer.  What with everything going on in the wedding industry this year and near halt in weddings due to the covid pandemic I’ve been grateful that I had diversified my business when I did. And with more plans in the pipeline too, this year hasn’t been as disastrous as it could’ve been.

     

    Find out more about Andri by visiting www.alwaysandri.co.uk 

    Photo Credit Amanda Karen 

  2. #ReasonsIStarted

     Visionary Veils

    Foreword from Pamela

    I wanted to create a series of articles which detail the journey of female entrepreneurs to demonstrate how amazing and tenacious these fearless women are, and how inspirational they are to other potential entrepreneurs. 

    This next in the series details wedding business owner Rebekah Mccann-Williams, founder of Visionary Veils - exquisite wedding veils handmade by her own two hands...

     

    From my own wedding, to a royal wedding, to a decade of luxury wedding veils...

    I am delighted to introduce myself and my business to you. My name is Rebekah and I am the owner and wedding veil designer at Visionary Veils.

    This year I am delighted to be celebrating 10 years of designing and creating wedding veils for Brides all over the world. As a wedding veil designer, I have made hundreds of handmade wedding veils - all hand cut and hand sewn to perfection in our Belfast Studio.

    So, where did it all start? When I was planning my own wedding, I was very lucky to be travelling for work and I had the opportunity to visit lots of different bridal stores all over the UK and Ireland.

    I found my wedding dress during the early stage of my wedding planning but I had fallen in love with the traditional lace wedding veil of  Grace Kelly and the embroidered silk tulle train of Queen Elizabeth’s gown – but  I could not find a wedding veil like this anywhere. Not willing to let go of this inspiration, I decided to source the lace and make my own veil – which in the end was my gorgeous wedding cloak.

    Luxury wedding veils

     

    I realised that many brides were probably experiencing the same difficulties I had in searching for their dream wedding veil. Encouraged by the positive reaction of my friends and wedding guests, the idea of a bespoke wedding veil design business was born. 

    Getting started was tough but fun... Seek support where you can!

    In every business there are always various elements that are required for it to succeed. I had the passion, the skill and the determination to make my business succeed but none of this would have become a reality without support. The Go For it NI business scheme provided step by step business advice and mentoring and this is where I began. Their training played a huge part in the development of my own business skills and knowledge and gave me the confidence to start my business.

    The resurgence of the Wedding Veil

    With any great business idea there is always an element of luck required and the royal wedding of the Kate and William was the  golden ticket that not only established myself as a wedding veil designer and put my business on the map.

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    The timing was just right for my business as the excitement of the royal wedding hit fever pitch - my business was already trading and my website live.  When Kate stepped out onto the steps of Westminster Abbey to reveal a beautiful silk and lace wedding veil it elevated the traditional tulle wedding veil into a fashion forward bridal accessory. Kate’s choice of wedding veil catapulted the sales of French silk tulle wedding veils.  Fortuitously for Visionary Veils, I had already created a silk tulle wedding veil and produced a similar veil to Kate’s within days. Sales of our Kate veil rocketed as I sold my handmade silk wedding veils all over the world.

     

    This was perhaps one of the first examples of the “Kate Effect”  which has boosted and increased sales in fashion houses all over the world.

     

    The Wedding veil had always been an important part of the wedding ensemble  but its popularity among modern fashion forward brides increased from this point on, and it is a trend that continues to flourish.

     

    I love being a wedding veil designer!

     

    I am passionate about creating the perfect wedding veil to complement my brides’ wedding gowns. I love sewing and I love the connection that develops between myself and my clients. It is very important to me that my brides have a relaxed and enjoyable experience when we collaborate on their wedding veil design and that our time together is a wedding experience that they will remember fondly.

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    Expertise and Guidance

    There is such a range of wedding dress styles now available to our brides that it can be difficult to find the bridal accessories that will work best with their dress. This can be a challenge as some Brides are not sure that a wedding veil will work with their chosen gown.

    I recognise that Brides need two things to help them choose their wedding veil - guidance and inspiration. They need a wedding veil designer with knowledge and expertise who can take them through their wedding veil options and this is how I see my role as a wedding veil designer - an expert with a high level of skill and craftsmanship who can make their wedding veil dreams a reality. I know that our Brides value the bespoke nature of our product and they appreciate their bespoke veil styling appointment.

    The Next Challenge

    My next business challenge is to establish my ready to wear veil collection. I love creating my bespoke wedding veils as every element can be tailored to create a design that complements the wedding dress – but it can be hard for some brides to visualise what that veil will be like. I wanted to design a wedding veil collection which was available to purchase as seen.

    ready to wear wedding veils

     

    This is a completely new direction for me as a wedding veil designer and my business, and I have to be honest, it is a bigger challenge than I anticipated .The launch of my collection coincided with the Coronavirus global lockdown which  triggered a decline in online searches for anything related to weddings - but I have stayed positive. I am delighted with the “Ready To Wear” veil collection and I know I can make this new element of my business a success.

    During Lockdown I decided that I would use the time to learn more about making my website visible. I had set time aside during the lockdown to research and learn as much as I could relating to SEO. There are many experts offering advice and courses and I participated in a number of challenges and it was during this time that I discovered the work of Pamela and Worsley creative.  I found her Visibility challenge packed full of content and knew I could learn loads from Pamela’s training. I am now working with Pamela in her VIP Privilege  group.

    My work with Pamela at Worsley Creative is focused on raising my online visibility in a saturated online veil market. My desire to combine a bespoke veil design service with a ready to wear veil collection will see my online profile and business grow.  Making my “Ready To Wear” collection more visible will also raise the awareness of my brand and my business. I understand now that this will not be a quick win - it will take time to elevate my online business profile, but I am delighted now to have the guidance of an SEO expert to help me meet this new challenge.

    If you would like to know more, connect with wedding veil designer Rebekah by visiting her website.