Earlier this year, in an attempt to dedicate more time to my start up business, I went from full-time employment to being lucky enough to land myself part-time work as the Leeds Enterprise Centre administrator; not only allowing for more time, but also surrounding myself with some very useful and helpful colleagues!
When I am not working as the Leeds Enterprise Centre Administrator, I am working towards getting my new business, Love Me Sew, off the ground. Working with my business partner, Sam Lowe, we run craft workshops for hen dos, baby showers, corporate events as well as general craft workshops. We also have an online shop selling fabric and are soon to be launching our new 'Make Your Own' craft packs which we will sell online and at events.
In September we applied to take part in Start Up Britain's 'Pitch Up' scheme (as part of their Start Up High Street Initiative) to get the opportunity to pitch our products to a John Lewis buying panel. Our application focused on Love Me Sew, working in partnership with John Lewis, to sell 'Make your Own' craft packs to customers but also run workshops in-store and in local communities.
From over 400 applicants, we made it through to the final 100...which was enough of a surprise. To make the final 12 applicants, lucky enough to pitch to the John Lewis head buyers, was unbelievable! Having only officially started trading in April this year, this was a pretty scary and unknown thing for us but, at the same time, an incredible opportunity.
From the moment we applied, to the actual day, we received so much help and support from people who's expertise and advice was invaluable, including Nigel Lockett, Director of the Leeds Enterprise Centre, who not only advised us on possible information the buyers might want to know but also really helped us to focus on the delivery, identifying areas where our passion for what we do really shows.
The main things (amongst others!) I will take away from the application and planning process are...
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Others experiences, expertise and knowledge is priceless. Although you are the expert of your own business, the people around you can contribute immensely (or may know someone who can!)...from advice from the experts (like Nigel) to a friend loaning you a book on public speaking, it all helps.
- Practice practice practice. This works for me anyway...speaking aloud to yourself, to the dog, or to others really helped; making sure the presentation fitted into the allocated time, that it was clear and made sense, and helped me to feel more prepared. Also, when you get nervous in the pitch itself, you can just pretend you are talking to your puppy!
- Get feedback. Similar to the first point, use colleagues, friends and family to listen to your pitch and product ideas - their feedback on both content and delivery will be honest and help to improve the clarity of what you are saying, they may even question something that had never crossed your mind! Especially practice on people who are less engaged with your work 'behind the scenes' - if it makes sense to them, and they like the ideas, then your heading in the right direction!
Find out about the pitch coming soon in Part 2 ...