In my first blog post last year, I talked about how I found myself in business and what drives me to succeed and today I’m going to tell you about a fantastic mentoring programme that I have been a part of since last November that is helping me on my way.
Setting up tiddlerandfox.com was a huge vertical learning curve for me, I had a brilliant web developer helping me (thanks Scott!) but once the website was up and running, I was in the dark when it came to marketing the business online.
During 2015 I had attended some free business courses locally run by Cosmic UK (find out about them here: http://www.cosmic.org.uk ) and had been told about a new mentoring programme they were launching called LOVE Digital. I applied immediately knowing that this could be just what I needed to get my business off the ground.
I was one of 30 business women from across Somerset and Devon chosen and in November 2015 (I was amazed at the time that I was chosen) we all embarked on a 5 month long programme of one to one mentoring sessions (via Google Hangout), live workshops across the region and a conference held on International Women's Day in Exeter, (I was asked to speak at the conference about my experience) all backed up by a brilliant Facebook group and heaps of information on the LOVE Digital website - in fact mountains of info!
(Me braving public speaking at the Love Digital Conference in Exeter, March 2016)
So when I launched the business I had 2 followers on Twitter - with no idea of how to gain more or how this could benefit the business. I now have 399 followers and it's growing daily. Likewise Instagram, a platform that I already used personally, I now have 176 followers, over 120 Likes on my new business Facebook page and a growing following on Pinterest. Hopefully in time this loyal following will become my loyal customers, fingers crossed!
With still so much to learn, I am so much more confident in how to utilise these channels for my business than I was and not only that, I am enjoying the process so much more than I could have imagined.
Being part of a mentoring programme, I expected to have one to one meetings but my time with my mentor, Helen Bottrill has been so important and Helen is incredibly knowledgable, encouraging and supportive of my journey. We have covered so many topics from email newsletters, to Twitter to video and one of Helen’s best pieces of advice has just been to give it a go and to enjoy it. Right from the start I found that a great way to get to know whatever platform I had previously been petrified of! It's been great to be able to ask questions and sanity check along the way with someone who has run their own successful creative business.
Helen knows exactly what I am going through; the highs of a sale and the lows of wondering when the next sale is going to come through. And there are plenty of times when its been far too easy to wonder what on earth I thought I was doing when I went into business but perseverance is the name of this game and knowing when its time to just walk away from a project or the laptop and have that glass of wine is actually really important. It is very early days for me and for Tiddler & Fox and there will be many more moments like those I'm sure!
(the lovely Helen, my amazing mentor)
I know I will miss those sessions with Helen enormously. #sadface….5 months ago I didn't even know what a hashtag was! I'm over 40....thats allowed...
I have some tall ambitions for my business and I know that with my newly found confidence in digital this will be achievable. I’m pushing my business in lots of different directions. I have taken on space at two local emporiums and sales are starting to take off, I'm attending local fairs and markets and have many planned for this year. I am also looking for more online sales channels that I can utilise throughout 2016. To be honest, I probably wouldn't have been so far ahead with all this if I didn't have the confidence that has grown out of this programme.
What’s also been great about this programme has been the useful, informative and enjoyable workshops. Each one has left me with plenty of information, facts figures and so on, but also a really good understanding of how to translate each topic to what I am doing, making it easy to go home and make it a reality.
Meeting up with all the other mentees at the workshops has been great, being able to share our knowledge (or lack of!) and being able to support and help each other. The free biscuits have been pretty good too…lets face it you can’t beat a good chocolate biscuit to get you through a learning session! There has been so much opportunity to learn from each other and plenty of laughs too, so enjoyable and a delight to be a part of.
I've appreciated being able to talk to all the other wonderful ladies on this programme via the Facebook group. Giving us that platform to share information and ask questions was genius and has been a valuable resource. I gain a lot of strength from knowing that the support is there. I know that we all aim to keep in touch and to meet up regularly as well as carry on using the Facebook page once the programme has finished.
And the programme does have to finish, in fact we only have two weeks left to go….A sad thought, I think that all the mentees agree that we don’t want this programme to end. Testament to what a great job Cosmic UK (and their partners Peninsula Enterprise) have done.
But its not all about me, this programme has opened my eyes to just how many hard working, dedicated and talented business women there are out there, slogging away to make their dreams a reality and they are successful and happy to share their knowledge with a novice like me. I’ve met some amazing people, made some new friends too and I’m looking forward to continuing my journey with them....it doesn't get much better than that.