19 June 2012

How to Grow Your Business!

Peter Lovell, from the North London Credit Union and myself!
Something incredible has happened for My Coffee Stop and it took just 4 weeks and a change of attitude.

Despite the recession, we have secured a loan in order to help us to open up a *2nd My Coffee Stop unit, enabling us to have the chance to grow our business and increase our profits.

Yes, times are really difficult economically out there, one business after another is folding but it is still possible to nurture and build your business.

These are the steps you can take to help grow your business.

1/ Get involved with your local community.

An easy way to do this is by becoming a member of relevant local groups on Facebook such as Enfield's Fit, or Your London, places where you can post for free and be welcomed as an individual and a business person.

In fact if you are the owner of an independent food business in the Enfield area, you are invited to join my Foodies Enfield Group, where you can exchange tips and collaborate with other independent food businesses.

By becoming involved, as a person, in your community, others are more interested and open to hearing about your business and you too will find out more about the amazing independent businesses, in your local area.

2/ Join a strong networking group that places value on a support network, inspiration and business education.

I'm lucky enough to belong to We Network, they are based in North London and arrange events, where you can sell and shop and hear talks and monthly meet-ups, where you get support, create friendships and listen to a business speaker.

At one of their meetings, I listened to speaker Mark Rhodes, who just happened to be a millionaire but I'm not money motivated, so that didn't impress me and I sat near the front noshing on delicious Thai food and then listening to Mark but with my arms folded right across myself!

It was when Mark explained the way that he challenged his negative thoughts about a situation and consciously imagined positive outcomes and described how these positive thoughts actually effected the final outcome, that I found myself concentrating on every word he said. 

Mark used to hate public speaking, he kept imagining all the things that could go wrong but when he challenged himself to imagine all the things that could go right, it started to go right in reality! 

It was then I realised that I was really scared of employing anyone, I was worried about them letting me down, or me letting them down, or not being able to pay them, or them having an accident, so this is why I couldn't employ anyone! I challenged myself to think about the positives of employing someone like, a new job would be created, we could grow our business, generate more income and be able to contribute even more to our community and we'd be once again able to change an empty, unused space into a vibing, thriving, inspirational hub!

Oh! What a turnaround in my thinking. I went home that night and told my partner Gunter, that I wanted to open another coffee shop. He said, 'I've been saying that for ages.' I told him that I'd been really concerned about the responsibility of employing someone but now I had overcome the negative thoughts that had held me back. Gunter was delighted.

3/ Get in contact with your local business support agency.

That night I couldn't sleep, imaginations of a wonderful, vibing little place enriching the platform of another railway station, creating a new job and enabling us to increase our profit, to provide for our family, were very exciting things to be thinking about. So, I looked up stuff on my phone about growing your business and getting funding to do it. That's when I came across The Investing for Success Programme at Enterprise Enfield. I quickly sent off an email. Next day, I received an email with some forms to fill in. I filled them in, sent them off and a meeting was arranged for me to meet with Business Advisor, Liz Gjoni, who will always in my mind, from now on, be known as the financial fairy-godmother!

At one of the meetings I asked Liz Gjoni how many people that came to her for help with funding were successful in getting it, she replied, '1 in 3 people, get it.' I said that I didn't feel that was very high, Liz looked me right in the eyes and told me that included the people that didn't follow through the steps they were told to take, such as presenting the correct documents and helping with the figures. I knew then that if I could just concentrate on fulfilling the steps, I'd be in with a pretty good chance of being one of the successful ones.

Liz Gjoni was just as focused as I and supported me throughout the whole process, not only that but she created my everyday working figures into a proper 5 year forecast and presented projections 10% above and 10% below the expected forecast. Just brilliant. She was encouraging and confident and the perfect person to guide and support me through this process.

5/ Follow the advice you are given, still keeping true to yourself.

Everything Liz told me to put into action, I did. I knew that her business experience was extremely valuable but I just could not bring myself to wear a business suit! For me, it is really important for me to wear clothes that I feel comfortable in and let my personality and integrity do the talking. Luckily for me, the meeting was going to be taking place in My Coffee Stop and I felt it would be just about ok to wear my most favourite woolly coat/jacket type thing. Although, I must say that if we wouldn't have got to a 'Yes', I would have blamed that woolly thing!

6/ Use social media as part of your marketing strategy. Particularly Twitter and Facebook. 

Our business has raised it's profile in the local Enfield area and across the UK because of our social media activity. There are people that walk into the shop and say, 'I saw you on Twitter, I just had to come and visit in real life.'

Knowing how to use social media effectively is cheap, especially if you are focused and use your time wisely.

If you don't know how to do this come to The Ideas Station, on every 2nd Thursday with a session available in the morning, or in the evening.

If you're just beginning to get into social media, then go to the morning sessions and if you need more ideas and challenges, go to the evening sessions. 

7/ Keep supporting and sharing the advice you have learnt with other businesses around you!

We need to keep supporting each other as a community. yes, I will share my suppliers with you, yes, I will share my tips on how to get into the paper with you, I love to share our success and feed it into the community around us. Yes, I'm even telling you how you can grow your business in the recession!

Most of us need to change our attitude and change our twisted-up thinking! Did you know when your business is profitable and sustainable you are contributing in a really positive way to our hyper-local economy!

I love that.

8/ Stick to your ethics!

We've changed our trading style to a limited company, we're still in the process of that change. I got a shock when I phoned up my bank to change the name to My Coffee Stop Ltd and they said I would have to change the whole account and pay more fees and so on. This has given me the needed push to actually choose an ethical bank to do my business with instead, which is actually in keeping with our whole attitude to business anyway. 

Not only that but the first organisation we were introduced to, to arrange funding with was The North London Credit Union, when I read about their ethics on their website, I knew that I wanted them to be the ones to say 'Yes'.

Although it might seem counter-intuitive to stick to ethics and morals in the recession, I see that the successful businesses are the little ones that are filled with soul and care, the ones where the customers get more than they physically paid for, they leave with a smile on their face and a good feeling in their heart.

9/ Appreciate the Power of Love and Money in combination.

Money is a powerful energy, if you use the energy fairly and with integrity, your business's energy will stay vibrant. Give to your community, live your passion and share your wealth on every level, financial and emotional, a truly good business needs to be run with your heart and your head!

10/ Say Thank You.

I hope in a small way, through the writing of this blog and sharing these steps, that I'm giving something back to the community around me. I want you to be successful, as much as you do.

This is my way of thanking the supportive community around us. I hope that you take these steps if you feel they are right for you and focus on what you have to do to follow through to completion.

Thanks for voting for us in the EN Magazine Awards, as the Best Local Coffee Shop and may our success be your success and vice versa.

I'd love to hear what you feel, how inspired are you?

What are the next steps that you will take to grow your business and support your local community?

Please let me know through commenting here, on this blog. xxx

Wishing you focus, energy and a strong heart,

Karen, xxx

*Update: 26/10/2012
Another opportunity has arisen and we are using the loan to help us capitalise on the unit we already have by working with First Capital Connect, to make extend into the Waiting Room and make the space into a shared community space, cosy, comfortable, warm and inviting and grow our business that way!

You should see building works start in the next few months.

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