Mind and Bodee is a natural supplements company focused on supporting wellness through food and gut health.
Nazia Begum never imagined she could have a business of her own. When she dared to dream of turning her beauty therapy knowledge into a makeup sales business, she started on a journey – although it was less smooth than she first imagined.
She recalled: “I decided I wanted a business at the age of 40, because I thought it was now or never. I naively thought that I would be able to start the business off with my own savings”
Very soon, Nazia realised she wasn’t fully prepared for all the potential costs of starting a business. She had chosen a product brand to distribute but explained: “As I started to do my research and get samples, I realised I would need a cash injection to get it started. To start up, I would need to buy 1000-2000 units up front to get them at a reasonable price – this was more than I had planned for.”
Her first step was her high street bank. She not only faced the issue of having no previous business history but realised that the language of finance and the detailed business information requests would be a challenge. She briefly considered a personal loan – but realised that these carried interest rates that would be far too expensive.
One good idea is enough
After a recommendation from one of Helen’s previous clients, Nazia got in touch with her. She was very pleased that she had. “When we reached out to Helen, she was absolutely fantastic. She talked us through our idea and vision and held our hand through the process.”
Nazia was delighted to find that Helen considered her a candidate for a Start Up Loan, with a viable business concept and a good credit history. It came as something of a surprise. “In my mind I was just a Mum of five and part time therapist who could probably never have a business of my own. After speaking to Helen, I realised you just need a good idea. And if you’ve got a good idea with the right support, you can actually become a businesswoman.”
Building proper foundations
Helen and Nazia began working together to improve the original business plan: “Helen helped rewrite my business plan in a language that the Start Up Loan company would understand and acknowledge – I couldn’t have done that on my own” she said.
Putting together a cashflow forecast was something about which Nazia had been particularly nervous. “The cashflow aspect was a minefield, but Helen walked us through it all. Because how do you know what to put in a cashflow forecast if you’ve never been in business? I didn’t know what numbers to put in, or the number of units to say that I could sell each day. It’s hard to know what to put in for a new business, and it is quite daunting.”
Helen handheld her through the process, ensuring that all the costs were considered – not just for inventory but for import duties, warehousing costs and customer post and packaging.
Within six weeks of the application, Nazia was delighted to receive approval for her Start Up Loan.
New concerns sowed seeds of change
The advent of COVID and the lockdowns that followed in April 2020 put things on hold as new concerns arose. Among these were Nazia’s husband’s health as a diabetic and asthmatic since both emerged as risk factors for COVID. Her response was to get proactive: “I became really interested in immunity. We helped boost my husband’s immune system with vitamins, minerals, and supplements. My kitchen cupboards were full of them! When he did get COVID he was able to recover quite easily.”
Nazia could also see that makeup wasn’t necessarily a smart market to get into at a time when people were wearing less of it than ever before. This, coupled with her new interest drove a change of direction. “I realised: I love this area of wellness. So instead of waiting until we could see what the economy was like after the pandemic, I would pivot the business and go into supplements.”
She realised the business model and plan created for the original business could easily pivot to one that focused on selling a natural supplement brand. Nazia did some further research, and by October 2020 had identified the brand ‘Love Your Gut’, bonding with an Australian influencer who was proving its success in that market. The die was cast, and she decided to bring it to the UK.
Facing the final hurdles as a family
All the business plans were still valid – but there were some extra costs to consider, such as meeting the requirements for UK food labelling standards and new marketing advice, branding and social setup, which took significant time.
The delays and additional costs were quickly absorbing the funds from the Start Up Loan. When Nazia asked Helen’s advice again, she learned that there could be additional loans for the company up to a total of £100,000 with the involvement of new directors.
Her adult daughters had already started to become involved and enthused about the business. So, armed with this new information the decision was made that Anisa and Anila would join as directors. Helen helped them build a clear case for additional Start Up Loan funding, which was granted.
Although the business has taken a little time to get off the starting blocks, Nazia believes Helen has played a pivotal role throughout the journey. When asked why, she said: “Helen is not just supportive, but empowering and empathic. She is knowledgeable and relatable, and always pushes your business not her own.”
She continued: “Helen understands that business finance can be scary, especially if it’s new – and that people with aspirations don’t always know business. So, she is always asking what you need, and where you are on your own journey, educating and helping you all the way.”
Mind and Bodee has now become a truly family business. Today, the products are in stock and ready to roll out into the UK market. It has a family management team on a mission to help improve the UK’s gut health through natural supplements and healthy living. Nazia is sure they have a good opportunity: “People who want to get healthier, even if they are diagnosed with illness, always have a choice – they can help themselves, improve their gut health, and have many options they can explore. Mind and Bodee plans to help them.”
Entrepreneur Hafsah Jamil has all the business vision she needs to succeed – but found the information demands of bank loan applications for funding a challenge. Helen Steel from Streamlion Consulting provides the ongoing financial advice, guidance, and practical support enabling her to secure the funding she needs to expand her portfolio.
Securing funding for an entrepreneurial business is often more complex than people expect. When Hafsah Jamil set out to invest in a workwear embroidery business opportunity in October 2018 her first stop was her high street bank.
Hafsah was already an experienced business owner, but she found she wasn’t fully prepared with all the information she would need to apply for an Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) Loan.
She explained “I already owned Janz Tailoring, which consists of two local tailoring businesses I purchased about five years ago. When I asked my bank about funding my next purchase, they referred to Helen because I needed a quality business plan and financial forecast to make an EFG loan application through NatWest.”
Helen provided both plan and forecast, but also conducted an Operational Due Diligence report on the workwear company – and Hafsah decided not to proceed with the purchase as a result.
Laying foundations for a successful purchase
The introduction was to prove a turning point, giving Hafsah support and a relationship that she would rely on again and again. She soon identified an even better business opportunity as her third acquisition target. Her uncle and aunt wanted to exit their successful newsagent and convenience store business in Witney, Oxfordshire.
She recalled “I turned my eye to this purchase because I have many years of experience in this type of business. Helen valued the business for me based on my uncle’s financials, and we agreed a purchase price. Helen then did the detailed business plan and financial forecast for an EFG loan, and it was approved by NatWest.”
Although she knows what she wants and has a clear determination to succeed, having Helen to turn to for advice and help gave Hafsah the extra financial confidence and capability she needed. She said: “Helen is such an expert in this area she took all the concerns and issues away from me, by working closely with the lenders for a successful result.”
Building a business portfolio step by step
Hafsah was glad to receive the funding to buy the convenience store, but she was already looking towards the future. She said “I also needed more capital for the business, which I had renamed Newzlink, in order to expand further. Helen helped secure me this funding through the Startup Loan Scheme.”
Hafsah used these funds to purchase a similar store nearby which she could incorporate neatly into her operation. She had already worked with Helen to explore whether Newzlink could offer Post Office services, but this wasn’t possible because a sub–Post Office was already operating in the Maham’s store nearby. Her response was direct “I approached Maham’s and asked if they were open to selling their business to me – and they said yes. It was a quick sale.” She purchased Maham’s from the McColl’s convenience store chain, marking her fourth business acquisition.
The secret of success lies in preparation…
In addition to clear business plans and detailed financials, strong and sustainable cashflow is one of the strongest assets in demonstrating fitness for further funding.
In preparation for the Startup Loan application, Hafsah knew that Newzlink needed to get in the best possible financial shape. She said that “One reason I bought Newzlink originally was its really strong news distribution and local delivery base. When I first bought it, too many customers were in arrears of 3 months or more. Helen had direct experience, having owned and managed a newspaper distribution business in South Africa. She knew exactly what to do to turn our cashflow positive. News distribution is still growing – though there’s a growing challenge from online news, so every part of the business needs to pull its weight.”
… and never being deterred from goals
With no personal assets or access to family funding, working with banks and financial service providers is often the only route to goal for aspiring entrepreneurs. It can seem particularly overwhelming to female and BME entrepreneurs who have ideas and determination but are a little uncertain of their financial ground or the barriers they may encounter.
Hafsah certainly didn’t always find this an easy process. “I could easily have been knocked back many times, dealing with various organisations and individuals. It is true that a female business owner has to work twice as hard at business relationships and arguments to get the outcomes they want. Helen helped me learn that anything is possible if you have the right advice and are backed up with the detailed, accurate, quality information and documents you need.”
With the experience of multiple funding cycles, Hafsah now has all the financial confidence she needs “I don’t need to be scared of the ‘red tape’ and prospect of complicated documents and numbers, because Helen handles it easily and efficiently.”
Her advice to other entrepreneurs who may experience similar feelings is very simple: “Don’t waste time – pick up the phone and call Helen. She’ll help if she can, but even if she can’t help, she’ll say so and suggest other avenues. It’s so worth having that conversation with her.”
On the team and part of the family
As Hafsah’s small empire has consolidated and grown she has continued to turn to Helen to support her efforts to invest in and expand her operations, treating her very much as part of her senior team. “Helen has become my ‘go to’ for all sorts of business and funding advice during the pandemic – if I needed any documents completed for CBILS or Recovery Loans, she was always there to help, and she also helped me get a BounceBack loan for Newzlink.”
As she continues her entrepreneurial journey Hafsah truly values having such deep financial knowledge and advice to call on. She stated: “I knew early on that Helen was a valuable advisor on finance and funding – but I did not expect her to become my friend – she is really now part of the family, highly respected and completely trustworthy.”
This family feeling was only reinforced when Helen was able to help Hafsah’s uncle find his own next step, after selling Newzlink to his niece. She helped him to apply for and gain his own Startup Loan to purchase a takeaway business in Birmingham, which is now doing extremely well.
Learnings pave the way for future success
Hafsah’s original convenience store is now not only serving customers and delivering strong profits but has become the foundation for a small chain within an expanding entrepreneurial business portfolio. She recognised the instrumental role that Helen has played: “I really don’t think I could have done all this without Helen – she has become my expert in this area, and we work very well together. I’ve learned that you don’t need to be an expert in every area to be successful.”
Asked about her biggest learning about how to create entrepreneurial success, she said: “Above all, you must be determined and persevere. I have succeeded because I trusted my gut instincts and believed in my own feel about different entrepreneurial situations – and I was never derailed by other people’s opinions.”
Hafsah’s clear business vision and sheer determination to succeed, along with having the right business backup, means that the future looks bright indeed. She hasn’t finished yet: “I am now looking to expand my tailoring business, so of course I have approached Helen for help with that too. And I am looking for my next business purchase!”
The first blog in our guest series has kindly been written by Dave Plunkett from Collaboration Junkie. Dave specialises in helping brands get high quality referral leads on a consistent basis by building a strategic partner programme. Today, Dave has focused his expertise on how collaboration can achieve this specifically within the hospitality sector.
Collaboration for the Hospitality Sector
It’s been tough times for many sectors over the last year or so, but one of the positives that I think we can take forward has been how much more collaboration between businesses we’ve seen – with new or improved services being offered that has enabled businesses to not only survive, but in many instances thrive, despite the climate.
That’s the great thing about collaboration and partnerships, you can create something far greater than the sum of its individual parts, meaning the long-term benefits are huge.
But one of the hardest hit sectors has clearly been hospitality, they’ve had to jump through more hoops then most, and yet have still had the harshest restrictions placed upon them.
And they’re not traditionally great collaborators.
So, whilst I’m doing my best to support my local (I’m sat in the beer garden while I write this actually), I thought there’s maybe more I could do, and so I thought I’d come up with a few practical tips for pubs, café’s, restaurants, and takeaways on how they can leverage collaborations and referral marketing.
So here goes
Refer a friend
So, this is one that everyone can take advantage of, but I’m always gob smacked by how few establishments do.
There’s nothing more powerful than a word-of-mouth referral, so why not encourage more of them into your business?
A simple way to do this without seeming overly salesy is to offer something to everyone involved.
How about giving out a raffle type ticket after your customers pay the bill. The prize can be whatever you wish – a free glass of wine with each main course ordered, or a free desert if 2 courses are ordered, whatever you choose and is right for your own business.
If the ticket’s redeemed by the friend of the customer who referred them then the customer in turn gets the same offer when they hand over their stub.
It means you’re not only attracting a new customer but encouraging repeat business from the original one as well – all at a cost you’ve been happy to cover.
It can be a really cost effective marketing strategy and one I’d encourage everyone to utilise in some form or another.
The drunken kebab
Who doesn’t love a cheeky takeaway after a couple of drinks?
So, if you’re a running a takeaway and there’s a pub local to you who doesn’t serve their own food (or even if they do but the kitchen closes early) why not see what you can do?
I’m not talking about just dumping some flyers on the bar though, that’s not really adding value to anyone.
Remember, the secret of any successful partnerships is value all round.
So, can you run a special offer for people who have come via the pub?
For those pubs that don’t offer food maybe even run a priority delivery service?
You could ask them to personally recommend, leave the special offer flyers on the bar or at table, or maybe even see if they could include your details on their receipts?
And of course, see what you can do in return.
Can you promote them in your premises or maybe include flyers when you bag up orders?
The customer gets some much-needed grub and feels special because of the offer. The pub looks good in their eyes because of this so builds customer loyalty, and you get extra business.
Especially relevant if you have the opportunity for a good amount of transient trade, your local taxi firms could be a rich source of customer referrals for you.
Again, a simple offer (think if it as a marketing cost, but one that guarantees you a paying customer) can be the reason why it’s relevant for the driver to mention your establishment by name when they’re asked, or maybe even have your materials displayed somewhere in their vehicle.
You might need to sweeten the deal with firm themselves on this on this one, be that in cash or a tab, so make sure there’s a way of tracking their referrals, it could be as simple as a bespoke flyer, card or code to quote to claim their offer.
Yes, there may be a cost to it, but it’s business that you may otherwise have never had had, so as long as it’s profitable for you why wouldn’t you explore this avenue?
Go where your audience goes
I’ve given a couple of specific examples, but the same principles apply to any business or organisation that has contact with your target market and is an appropriate match.
Offer something of value to the audience, and something of value to the organisation making the referrals and you’re well away.
Café owners – why not approach your local primary schools or nurseries? Most of them have some kind fund that requires donations so can you offer a small % of orders over a certain size for anyone that comes through their recommendation? They may be able to include you in their newsletter on social media channels – which is great exposure for you, without any upfront fee.
Time waits for no man
Any service where the customer has to wait for a period of time could also be a great source of new business.
I know I’d rather sit somewhere nice with some refreshments then in a garage waiting room while my tyres get changed.
Who is local to you where you can capitalise on their captive audience?
In it together
So, my final suggestion is to look at where you can collaborate with similar local businesses to take advantage of one or more of the above suggestions more fully.
It takes a bigger leap of faith sure, but people have different tastes and preferences on any given day, and by combining your efforts where you may lose out on an individual customer on a given day, the overall impact will almost certainly be a more positive one.
So, there we have it, my starting suggestions for how look to leverage word of mouth referrals for your business. I hope you find them useful, and I hope the summer is a successful one for you!
Founder | Chief Collaborator
Connect on LinkedIn
PS: If you’ve found this useful why not connect on LinkedIn. Or if you know someone who this might be useful for, do them a favour and let them know.
Creating sustainable growth for your business is a goal shared by all business owners. But sometimes we can lose sight as to how to achieve this. ‘Thinking Big’ is an incredibly powerful strategy, but only if it’s done in the right manner; with clarity and with quality.
Clarity is Key
One of the secrets to business success is to ensure that your audience knows and understands what you do. By picking a market or a skillset and sticking to it, you create a much stronger brand and you can then grow your business under that brand in such a way that the goodwill you generate will extend to everything you offer.
By moving between markets or offering random services that aren’t linked together by a common skillset, you risk confusing your target market and the confused mind always says ‘no’.
Think Quality, Not Quantity
If you find you get the biggest buzz from the ‘new’, you need to hear the story of Rand Fishkin, founder and former CEO of Moz. Today, Moz is one of the most successful SEO companies in the world but that wasn’t always the case.
Fishkin describes his obsession with ‘the new’ as “one of Moz’s most consistent, most pernicious failures” under his leadership of the business. Instead of continually improving and refining his offering by focusing on what Moz was good at, the entrepreneurial founder was continually chasing the next big discovery. He wanted to repeat his original experience of finding a problem, solving it and becoming a huge success.
However, this chase led to many new product or features being launched, marketing and then promptly forgotten about. There was no support, no upgrades (both of which are essential in the tech industry), until everything came to a head with severe product failures and what Fishkin describes as “nightmarishly bad customer feedback”.
It was at this point that Moz’s growth rate plummeted from 100% year-on-year to just 20%.
A Lesson Learned
In the end it took years to turn Moz around, something which happened under new leadership. But the lesson was learned by Fishkin, who says he plans to carry it with him for the rest of his career.
In my experience, a successful business is something which needs strategic thinking. Make time today to stop and consider why you are successful. Then plan to deliver more of the same rather than diversifying or over-expanding and risking the whole business. ‘Think big’ but with clarity and quality.
Your start-up is successful. Business is good. Another idea is brewing. The inkling to start your portfolio has begun …
But before you can launch yourself into that initial phase once again you need to know how to successfully scale your existing business so it can continue to fund your future adventures in business.
Scaling a business is about more than just growing your sales and employing more people. To successfully scale, your business needs to be based on the right foundations which ensure it is equipped to deal with a continued higher volume of transactions. It will undoubtedly involve further investment and a good amount of time invested in strategizing for future success.
At Streamlion, we work with clients at all stages of building and scaling businesses so we thought it would be useful to capture our top 5 tips on how to scale your business successfully.
Top Tip #1: Start at the beginning
It’s all too easy for excitable entrepreneurs to leap over the initial stages of scaling a business and move straight to the increase in marketing or selling. Before that, it’s essential to ensure your business is equipped to handle this extra throughput. Not doing so could result in disappointed customers which, in turn, could seriously damage your reputation and put paid to any future plans for growth. Premature scaling is cited as one of the leading causes of startup failure.
The beginning is planning. Scaling a business is not the same as growing it. Scaling involves innovating your business model as well as your product or service. You need to invest time in working out potential new markets, back-office automation and funding.
Top Tip #2: The price of growth
Scaling a business effectively is never cheap. In fact, one of the most common reasons that startups fail to scale is down to funding. And funding a scale-up is an entirely different prospect to funding a startup so it’s essential to work with experts who can help with creating a sustained growth plan as well as helping you understand the transformations that need to happen to set the business up for a successful future.
Like scaling, finding funding is down to putting in the right preparation and demonstrating that your business is ready for change and growth.
Top Tip #3: Optimisation is key to transformation
To quote Einstein “If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.” Scaling a business needs the same approach; success is all about understanding how things work and how they need improving to cope with a larger volume.
Achieving automation and integration, which are the likely outcomes of optimisation, will likely involve technology. The happy fact is, there’s no shortage of packages, apps and products that can help make things easier. However, finding the right one for your business is critical.
CRMs, automated marketing, accounting and your overall IT network all need to come under the microscope at this stage.
Top Tip #4: A change of pace
Your business goals might be clearer but it’s a well-documented fact that change management needs careful handling.
As well as any team members involved, it’s well worth getting under the skin of your customer experience journey. Plotting out every touchpoint between you and your clients will help to identify any areas that might need attention prior to scaling. We use Customer Journey Maps to help our clients to see any areas of friction which might cause problems when scaled. Additionally, you can identify areas for investment, which could be wrapped up with the other areas that need funding in order to create the very best version of your business.
Top Tip #5: It’s not all about you
Creating a business is a little like having a baby, you bring it into being, nurture and help it to grow and, inevitably, you eventually leave it to stand on its own two feet. This time is now.
For a business to scale, it needs to be able to operate consistently based on the policies and processes you’ve spent so long on assessing and improving. You have options as to whether you outsource some of the regular activities, or whether you hire a team to run things for you. Either way, taking a step back for the first time can be daunting.
The key thing to remember is that you’ve invested time in getting things right, so your business is ready for this, even if you aren’t. It’s also really important to hire the right people – people you know share your values and will continue to inject enthusiasm and innovation into the business.
Finally, as with most things in business, successful scaling is also a mindset. By working with a strong team of advisers and having faith in your own ideas, scalability becomes infinitely easier.