Since August this year, our business has benefited from the free business support, advice, mentoring and collaboration that Entrepreneurial Spark has offered.
Although we have our warehouse and fulfillment centre in Edinburgh for all our personalised bottle and Scottish hamper orders, we saw an opportunity to grow the business by moving our marketing and administration side of things to the E-Spark hatchery in Edinburgh.
To briefly explain, E-spark is a not for profit organisation that exists to help small businesses with the potential and desire to grow and expand the opportunity to do so. There are currently 3 hatcheries in Edinburgh (that is what the centres are called) and there will be a roll out of a further 8 throughout the whole of the UK over the next year.
In Edinburgh there are about 50 small businesses who call ESpark their home. (Our MD is there most of the day but comes to oversee the orders being dispatched later in the afternoon)
The benefits of being in the hatchery are quite frankly amazing. Stuart Ebdy our MD tells us more.
"I spend the majority of each day surrounded by many like minded individuals who too are running a small business. There are people from all sectors. From food and beauty to technology, tours and even importing Sisal from Africa to the UK. Some businesses are still at the idea stage, and a couple are turning over £100k's a year.
I have a mentor, Amy, who I meet on a weekly basis. She is exactly what I need. I have so many ideas, and my brain wanders all over the place. Amy helps me to identify what I need to focus on, and quite rightly reminds me to keep on track. My productivity has rocketed over the last couple of months, yet my creativity has not been suppressed"
Stuart continues.. "One thing I hated when I came in here was the absolute focus on being able to do a 1 minute pitch. They drilled it into us that we had to be able to deliver a 1 minute overview of our company at a moments notice. I hated this!!! I have a history of anxiety and panic attacks, and felt that it wasn't relevant to me as we are an ecommerce business, who rarely meets customers face to face. Forget about the dread of standing in front of people with all eyes staring at you as you talk.
However, I was wrong.... Last week I was asked to set a business challenge for some students at Edinburgh College. They have to create a new product or process for my business, and pitch it back to me in a few months time. This is a real world learning experience for them, and as an ambassador for Young Enterprise Scotland, is something that I care deeply about.
Like usual, I hadn't written any notes, or planned what I was going to say. I was told I would be there for 15/20 mins. When I stood in front of 50 students, plus their lecturers, I decided to do my 1 minute pitch that Espark had forced me to learn. Next thing I knew, the time was up, and I finished to a round of applause.
It wasn't until afterwards, that I realised that I had no anxiety or stress in the run up to or during this process. And I 100% put this down to having my 1 minute pitch perfected. I believe it subconciously put me in a calm and safe place, as I was confident with my delivery and content. This relaxation led me to roll through the rest of my presentation, and Q & A in a relaxed and confident way."
I will always remember the day last year when I was unsure of the direction of the business or what exactly we were doing and I was asked to do my pitch to Jim Duffy, the CEO of Entrepreneurial Spark. I argued with him that I didn't have one as I didn't know what I was doing. I was so frustrated at the time, yet now I look back and realise the value. If one can't explain in 1 minute who they are and what they do (in an engaging and interesting way) then they actually discredit themselves and their business.
I attended the Tuesday afternoon "pitch practice" class every week, where a small group of entrepreneurs would practice their pitch in a safe environment and give and receive constructive feedback. It is no fluke that those who put the most practice in were the ones who improved the most."
Thank you to Espark for teaching me this important lesson.