From startup to being on the map

Did you miss Gillian Suggett’s seminar at Printwear & Promotion LIVE! in January? Here she provides an overview of her presentation, along with some useful information that you can take away.

I have been attending Printwear & Promotion LIVE! for many years under various guises, firstly with Wilcom and then with DecoNetwork as exhibitors, and for the past two years I have been an invited presenter in the Knowledge Centre.

I think I have missed only one P&P LIVE! since the late 90s, and that was to give birth to our daughter Martha, the child spent her first birthday in 2007 at the show the following year! Start ‘em early that’s what I say!

The Knowledge Centre provides visitors with the opportunity to hear from industry experts on a variety of topics relating to the garment decoration industry. Not normally more than 30 minutes long, the Knowledge Centre seminars dip into subjects that can provide invaluable take home information for visitors to the show.

My business, St Mawgan Embroidery Company, was established in 2016/17, and in 2018 I came to P&P LIVE! to present and share my experience as a business startup. I also came to the show to decide which embroidery machine to purchase as I was ready to expand my business. In this year’s presentation ‘From startup to being on the map’ I continued my business story about the choices I made, the systems I have put in place and the expansion of the business.

I am not really an academic, I have a practical hands on approach to business, I am more of a people person. Experience and practical knowledge have served me well, but I learnt some invaluable business theory when I studied for an MBA, and I really do feel this makes me a better more effective business woman.

If you were not able to make this year’s show, then here are a few take homes from my presentation:

  • Why your business needs a business plan

Most small businesses create a business plan when they need to borrow money. It is a great exercise but it is generally produced to satisfy an external body’s requirements and all too often it is never used again as a business tool.

A business plan should be your roadmap to get from here to wherever you want to be. Without that roadmap you could be going around in circles.

One size does not fit all; back of a beer mat or formal 30 page document, a business plan just needs to help you establish the why, the what and the how.

A business plan should be a living document, which is frequently referred to and updated as your business develops. Updating your plan can help you step back from the day-to-day running of your business and look at things more strategically – it can really help you ‘stick to the knitting’.

  • Identify what value your business offers

Part of your business plan should identify your Value Added Proposition, it is the primary reason a prospect should buy from you.

Think hard about what your business offers because if you cannot articulate it to yourself in simple terms then how can you expect to articulate it to potential customers.

Summarise why a prospect should buy your products or use your services. To help you do this, identify your market and potential customers, and look at your competition. Then describe what you are offering and why people need it. Once you have established your VAP you can identify the best way to get your products and services to market, so your marketing will be much easier because it will be based on substance.

  • Authenticity

As a small business my marketing budget is rather small, but I have learnt to be pretty effective with the limited resources I have. I use social media to promote my business, I am not from the generation that finds this easy but with practice and persistence it is starting to pay off. One major advantage small business has over large organisations is that it is easier to establish ‘authenticity’.

Your brand voice is the style and tone your business uses for communications and interactions. Establish your social media brand voice, refine it over time and it will be heard. I also believe that direct marketing, old school knocking on doors, is a must for any business hoping to service their local area.

Be authentic in everything you do; put that personal touch in your social media, website and all your communication with customers.

Never forget that all good business is based on relationships.

  • Using the resources available to you

No-one has all of the answers, we are all on a learning curve, so use the resources available to you to make your business better. One of the great things about our industry is that there are a lot of people who have been working in it and on it for a long time. Develop your contacts at shows like P&P LIVE!, draw on the experts available to you. No one person will have all the answers but there is a wealth of knowledge out there, so use it!

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