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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Category: Branding

  1. Guest Blog - Small business, big message - my business journey

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    Small Business, Big Message. My Business Journey

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    A Guest Blog about being a mum in business by Nicola James, founder of

    Iris Dares Designs

     Hi. I own a small business. I’m also a single mum to two little girls, a Geordie(ish), and all year Christmas Lover.  I started Iris Dares designs, a feminist childrenswear brand in 2019, and I’m proud to say it’s very much a passion project of mine. How did it begin?

    I have very feminine daughters (3 and 5 years), strong willed, clever, thoughtful, kind and tenacious. I wanted them to dress in a certain way to reflect this, and I believed they should wear less traditionally ‘feminine’ and pink clothes and wear bold, bright, gender neutral clothes. My mother kept buying dress after dress and I kept putting them to the back of the wardrobe…then my eldest turned 2. I don’t know your experience of 2-year olds but all of a sudden Isabelle wanted to dress for Isabelle. Goodbye dungarees and bright orange jumper, helllllo all things that have glitter, sparkle, are pink and have a unicorn. My mother was thrilled and immediately began her dress buying mission fiercely.

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    I was disappointed and felt somehow I had let her down. Was I not feminist enough for her? Was I not a good enough role model? Wait, what?  What was I thinking? I had a light bulb moment – who CARES if they want to dress in pink? If they want to roll in glitter and ride unicorns all day long? That’s THEM. Dressing in sparkles makes them happy, confident – and no less clever or strong.  From this my mission became clear! 

     

    I wanted to get the message out there that femininity is a superpower – not a weakness, and why the hell should little girls be made to feel silly or delicate because they liked beautiful dresses (I have not met a delicate little girl yet!!). Why can’t they climb a tree in tulle? Be a flower girl and stomp around a forest? I wanted my girls to be able to wear dresses for weddings with wellies, parties and playdates, summer holidays and supermarkets.

    My idea developed to the point of I wanted to close down my old gifting business and pursue this for ALL girls, not just my own, and relaunch my business with a line of girl’s dresses and the message that girls can kick ass in a dress. It’s been a long journey. Being a mum and wanting to spend time and raise my children whilst also wanting to calve out a brand and begin a new business was daunting, and no easy task. Establishing a brand is tough. It takes money and time – and knowhow. I had a lot to learn, regarding the technical stuff like website maintenance but also social media management, financial issues, sourcing suppliers, material, seamstresses for our own brand dresses. How to be more visible. How to get customers.

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    I didn’t want to take time away from raising the kids, they are the most important thing in my life, and deserve 1-1 time. So I spent every nap, every second they were in nursery or school, every minute after they went to bed – on doing what I could and can to make the business a success. This is to varying degrees, I’m slowly building a good following, getting sales and getting to grips with SEO, but every day my ‘to-do’ list grows, and many things just don’t get done. Running a small business really is a full-time job, and balls are dropped. It’s also a shame I can’t spend more time on it – because financially I have two children to provide for, and without a paying job I can’t get 30 hours childcare. So it now looks like I’ll be going back to work AND doing the business. Being a women in business is made harder because we don’t ‘just’ do the business (which would be 24/7 if I let it!), I have the children, the house to take care of and bills to pay. Self-care can go by the way-side. I also do weekend markets a few times a month and that means no rest for the wicked! 

    On the plus side, I absolutely adore it. I am happy to spend hours researching new lines, discovering new ideas, tweaking the website, writing blogs about the business, interacting with customers. It’s mine and I love it. I also want to show my girls that they will have to work hard to succeed in life, and that if they want to be entrepreneurs they can.

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    Meeting other female businesses and women in business has helped me tremendously. There is a real and supportive community of like-minded women working their butts off in their own businesses, with the same financial issues, with children, with other jobs to help supplement. I adore the lot of them, and the support they give just when you need it. I was lucky enough to find the Facebook group ‘SEO Beautiful’ which was instrumental in helping me develop. Not only do you get support – it also helps me understand my ideal client, how to use Google My Business, how to market myself and get myself SEEN. Pamela regularly sends me content inspiration for social media, and recently gave her time for advice and honest feedback which has spurned me on! There are other networking and supportive groups but I would highly recommend you join if you want to start or improve your own small business. Good luck!

    I feel really confident moving forward – I love my message, what I stand for and the brand values. Pamela – high five for helping me with crafting my branding design!

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    Nicola lives in the North East with her 2 little girls, 4 fish and 2 guinea pigs. She owns www.irisdaresdesigns.co.uk and continues to spread her message that girls CAN in a dress. She has featured in www.shecan365.co.uk and written guest blogs for www.thefemalelead.co.uk and www.thefeministshop.com.

  2. What credibility means to a brand - and your business

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    What credibility means to a brand - and your small business 

    The internet has a lot to answer for. Infinite knowledge and wisdom awaits just at the touch of a search bar. Whatever you want to know - Google can answer it, and typically in less than 0.00000001 seconds (why do they think it’s important to tell us that? I’m like Jeez Google chill out, I got my answer, no need to brag!) 

    With the internet came user generated content - the rise of social media (and no before you click away this is not one of those posts that admonishes social media - Sacha Baron Cohen has done a decent enough job of that this week - rightly so in my opinion) and the rise of the freepreneur. The person who sets up their business pretty much for free, with a smart phone, a prayer of some sort and the use of a favourable algorithm. 

    When Instagram launched it was an amazing platform for sharing visuals like Facebook never really was - it was the chance to curate a beautiful looking grid of well composed, staged photos which could be used by small businesses to build their empires; and the only credentials you needed were the ability to take a good iPhone pic and a decent filter. The cake making industry for example exploded - suddenly everyone was Mary Berry and they all believed they could make money out of it. 

    The wedding industry has seen a complete resurgence fuelled by the social media FOMO effect - every bride wants the most likes on their posts and will stop at nothing to achieve the jaw drop effect; and there are lots of wedding suppliers willing to help them with that pursuit. What you feel for are the artisans. Those that have spent years honing their skills, gaining relevant qualifications and putting the visibility miles in to become the artisans and professionals they are today. The cake makers, the photographers and the dress makers. The lace makers, the florists and the stationers. Do not get me wrong, the likes of Pinterest and Instagram have been the protagonist to some incredible innovation in an industry which needed an injection of enterprise, but there is a watch out for the freepreneur who masquerades as the seasoned pro. They typically undercut the professional, and sometimes even worse - they provide sub-standard products that they’ve just been able to photo well. Which can undermine the industry in general.  

    It’s not just the wedding industry either. When Canva launched suddenly a whole host of “graphic designers” arrived in the marketplace  - people with well meaning intentions and a good imagination, but more often than not producing work which isn’t really fit for purpose and is charged for at an achingly low rate. I recently saw an advert on a popular networking site for logo design for £5! 

    In the last few years the spirits industry has gone wild for “kitchen distilleries” with new entrants coming into the market on a daily basis. These well meaning ambitious people want to make money from something they love - but it can have dangerous consequences when you don’t know how to do it properly and when it’s not effectively regulated. In this instance, the empowering platform of social media can have significant repercussions - but consumers may be blindly unaware because a good digital marketing strategy can be very misleading.

    What I suppose business in this day and age comes down to is knowing your ideal client, being comfortable that the world is big enough for all entrepreneurs whatever size, experience or skill level and continuing to invest in your craft to be the best, or be the innovator or be the disruptor. What is also important though is to be proud of your credibility; and what credibility can do for your brand. 

    When looking at any business I try to look through my (pardon my language) bullshit-o-meter to try and cut through the filters and the finery to see what is underneath. For me, knowing who I am buying from, the provenance of the product and the knowledge and experience of the service provider are so important.

    The next big thing pops up often on social media, and the lack of being able to demonstrate credibility can be a limiting factor - particularly for large or luxury purchases. This is where demonstrating credibility through your brand story becomes so important for creating longevity and sustainability as a business.

    In 2020 your brand story is going to be so important - engaging your audience and letting them know what your brand stands for and is built upon will be a distinguishing factor for purchasing decisions as markets become more and more saturated (and let’s not even get into the turbulent economic conditions which may affect small businesses). Establishing what your identity believes in, making sure that your brand appeals to your ideal client so they wouldn’t think twice about choosing you, will be what sets you apart - because they know, like and most importantly, trust in you. 

    So here’s to proudly displaying those qualifications, those feature badges, awards and recognitions. Here’s to shouting about the years of experience, the investment into equipment, the quality of workmanship and the little details that go into making your brand unique. 

    Brand story is so important in 2020 (check out my previous blog post on marketing trends for next year here) - make sure you weave your credibility into it as much as possible. 

     

     

     

     

     

    Pamela Rae-Welsh runs a successful online visibility consultancy in Manchester. Having helped over 100 businesses with brand design, web styling and visibility services, Pamela has become a specialist in SEO, Digital Marketing and General Consultancy. Based between Worsley in Manchester and Oxfordshire, she uses her 15+ years of experience in the retail and education sector to support small businesses with achieving their entrepreneurial goals.