I started micro-business which over time failed. What were my reasons for starting it – and what did I learn which I can share with you?
I had always had a burning ambition to start my own business and then one day, the timing just seemed right.
I had quit my job and was disatisfied with traditional employment finding it very limiting, narrow and narrow-minded and ultimately a bit spirit-crushing.
Whilst I was still working for someone else however, I was working on my website during the evening and weekends. When I quit my job I had more time on my hands and could fully focus.
I commissioned a website agency, an SEO agency and an analytics agency to undertake some online marketing optimisation for me. That cost me a small subscription and a few hundred pounds.
I had a business plan in my backpocket and I knew my breakeven point and when I was expected to breakeven during the course of the tax year. I needed a certain number of bookings a month just to stay afloat.
In hindsight the portents didn’t look good. I had zero marketing budget. The customers I gained were through a combination of referrals and just being lucky by being found online. Work was sporadic and so therefore was the cash. The business month after month was in negative territory, and whilst this is normal for a small start-up it means you have to hold your nerve whilst your business becomes profitable. The horizon for doing so varies according to the director’s confidence, available resources and ambition.
As a director I was in control and I loved the autonomy. I was learning new things all the time and challenged daily to use the best of my smarts. I guess a lack of marketing firepower, hardly any marketing budget and going after the wrong customer, and giving away some of my most valuable ideas and heavily discounting others – were my key mistakes. They literally cost me.
Operating alone as sole director and having no-one to turn to for advice made me seriously question my faith in the longevity of the business and if I could stay the course.
Ultimately, with cash going out each month and very little coming in there comes a point where you think is this worth it? It’s a diffcult call to make because you are walking away from your creation, and walking away from a lifestyle you enjoy. After a few years I chose to walk away. It simply wasnt paying me my time and being in negative territory each month with outgoings and commitments to pay for was very discouraging.
The key thing for me would be if I were to do it again I’d try and get a mentor. Someone experienced in entreprenuership and has been round the block a few times. A go to person, a confidente, an advisor. Secondly, I’d rethink the whole conversion funnel.
Mindlessly creating social media posts just for the sake of it isn’t going to win you any business, and you can spend hours optimising your online presence for little return. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that 98% of your website visitors never convert and it takes many emails off a back of an organic list before a micro percentage are ready to buy from you.
So you can see already, that you’re spending a lot of overhead in terms of time spent – your time – with no cash is coming in – if anything it’s going in the other direction.
If I were to start another micro-business I’d rethink conversion entirely, and try to short-cut the process from initial lead to close. I’d try to run more test and learn experiments and learn from fails and iterate forward for succcess. I’d also try and have at least a small but reasonably sized budget behind me for marketing and promotion purposes to buy the initial attention. Secondly, I’d seek out affiliate businesses who could recommend my services to others. Thirdly, finance.
Personally I’d be reluctant to have an investor on board as I’d like to own 100% of the business and the kind of business I am thinking meets two needs – income and lifestyle. For me, it’s not necessarily about scalability on a massive level but should have the expansion potential.
In place of finance I’d go with a mentor, preferably somesort of small business veteran. Lastly, I’d join an enterprise hub or real-life entreprenuership network to promote the brand, acquire customers and stay cutting-edge. I found I was a member of the wrong kind of networks which didn’t drive referals and I think one of the single biggest other factors I underestimated was the competition.
In the digital space it can be quite saturated with substitute providers on a global scale so I would try and reconsider my niche and proposition to make it stand out from the rest. Looking back I think the differentiation was there however the established competition in my space just had more marketing firepower, slick branding, more customer support and simply more people and money at their disposal.
On reflection, I’ve enjoyed the experience and would recommend anyone to have a go but if you can, have a go the “right” way and make sure you have plenty of support – both business and emotionally to succeed. You’ll need all you can get.
Green campaigner Sarah Green explains what HS2 is doing at Harvil Road in Harefield, New Year’s Green Bourne river within the Colne Valley region of northwest Middlesex and nearby Bucks where HS2 propose to drive several hundred piles into the chalk aquifer that supplies 22% of London northwest’s drinking water.
Sarah stands accused of alleged aggravated trespass and breaking the Highways injunction for demanding legal documentation that our drinking water will be safe from a nearby known pollution area at the site of HS2’s activities.
£55 million has been earmarked for mitigation against water loss however it will not be local water and will not be of equitable quality says Sarah.
Her case is being heard on April 1st 2019 at Uxbridge Magistrates court. Please support her Crowd Justice campaign here.
Prepare a bed of rocket lettuce on a plate. Scatter the remaining ingredients over the bed of rocket. Splash some balsmic vinegar and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil with a few grinds of seasoning. Prep time about 7 minutes and voila! Sumptous nutritious brainfood to keep you going through your working day.
I have been to some dark dark places in my mind. I have travelled to the centre of a black hole of depression right into the heart of its singularity from which no light escapes. If it wasn’t a phonecall to my friend Steve at the critical time then it could have been oh so different. He saved my life (and I had saved his – a few years back).
It’s a different experience for different people and affects people in differing degrees and profundity. The medical protocols can have quite an impact but the aim of any practitioner is to support independence and freedom of living, management of the condition and functional wellbeing.
Often, those who have a mental health issue have accompanying challenges. It is known amongst this cohort they have the highest levels of wanting to work but the lowest levels of in work rates. Issues such as employment, making work work for them, substance abuse, complex family issues and housing needs all burn at the same time in somesort of crucible.
It is added pressure to those who are already stressed and in need. Needless to say a lot of the services have been cut. A lot of the support that exists beyond your GP – who isn’t a specialist – can be hard to travel to, and costly to get there. Across London, there are a patchwork of services and organisations – charities or otherwise doing the best they can to mitigate the problem but provision needs to have more concerted thinking and delivery.
I am fortunate, that in my part of the Borough, services are joined up to a greater degree but when you walk out that door, you walk out alone – and then it hits you. You’re on your own, trying to survive and this is a test of your own leadership to solve. You have to be leader to lead yourself out of what can be a quagmire. And if you can make it, anyone can.
You probably saw the Channel 4 Dispatches programme by Liam Halligan into HS2 and how much it is costing and overrunning the government – and us as taxpayers!
We, locally are affected by this and it’s time to #WAKEUP! As a resident of northwest Middlesex, HS2 impacts many of our local areas and some of which you may be surprised are quite close to home.
Works are on-going in Ruislip; by West Ruislip station – the Fairway Golf Club, as well as precious areas of the Colne Valley, River Colne and the area of land around Moorhall Road, the Grand Union canal as well as south-easterly over in Harefield, Harvil Road. More work will soon start in Eastcote. Nearly all this work will involve long term road closures, much HGV traffic, noise, pollution and disruption.
The Harvil Road site has a major stake in the HS2 project. There are a number of sites along Harvil Road used by HS2. It has heavy, visible and what I would describe at times as intimidating looking security staff.
Right here, at this place in London, we are about to witness the wiping out of 3 nature reserves, a site of scientific and special interest, and the last remnant of wet woodland (highly protected in UK/European law) in London; 370 acres of woodland in total, 60 acres of wetland, all home to an amazing 2400 species (12 species of bat, otter, water vole, eels, glow worms, barn owls, tawny owls, kestrel, hobby, even osprey!). We are about to witness the desecration of the natural aquifer that freely cleans and provides 22% of London’s drinking water. We are about to witness the crumbling of the last village in London.
Green Party campaigner Sarah Green has made a stand for us all at the Harvil Road site to protect our drinking water against the HS2 programme.
HS2 contractors plan to pile drive into the Chalk Aquifer in Hillingdon in multiple places, one of which is New Year’s Green Bourne, off Harvil Rd, Harefield, which is a known pollution pathway from a contaminated site.
Without adequate protections this will contaminate the water which supplies 22% of London’s drinking water, negatively impact on the natural filter of the chalk aquifer and reduce the volume of water.
Pollution is already so high in this area, Ickenham pumping station had to be permanently closed as a public water supply. Affinity Water warned HS2 in 2014, in their petition to the Houses of Parliament, that planned activities could entirely jeopardise public drinking water in our area.
Nature protectors, Sarah Green and Lora Hughes, stand accused of obstructing this ‘legal’ work. They challenge the charge on the grounds that the planned work is not legal. HS2 have failed to demonstrate that they have any protective provisions in place which they are required to do by law.
Already, lack of planning that is a direct product of the hybrid bill process is throwing up mistakes after mistake and vast unforeseen costs. Our environment is being experimented on aimlessly by people who have never set foot here.
Locals are losing their homes, losing businesses, being bankrupted and suffering immeasurable stress for a project being driven by the most blunder-ridden minister ever seen in British Government.
This is all happening in Hillingdon; we need to step up to safeguard our green environment as places of special interest for ourselves, our families, and future generations.
Your support is urgently needed. Join the call for environmental protection laws to be enforced for our Public Water Supplies by the courts, Local Authorities and the Police.
Drop-in to visit the Harvil Road camp, you’ll be made very welcome for a chat and a cuppa. The camp is on Harvil Rd, near the Harefield Dog’s Trust. Easiest by public transport, U9 (15 min journey every 20 min most of day) from Uxbridge tube.
“HS2 is government taking on the mantle of corporation, HS2 is a complete dismantling of democracy and all the protections that should afford us, and HS2’s hopeless lack of planning and forethought can only carry a narrative of blunder after blunder and utter desecration of so much that we all hold dear, and all for so little if any gain at all” Mark Keir, Hillingdon Green Party
It’s hard. Damn hard to keep loving someone with dementia. My mum was placed into a residential care home suffering from early-stage dementia.
The antecendents were plain to see. A long gradual spiritless decline. A protracted surrender into dependency and regression into infancy. She became a child but a child who had forgotten how to speak English. She would communicate in Italian dialect but it made no sense. I would sit there and try to converse with her. I knew ~I could change the way she felt when she saw me. I’d hug and kiss her and she would chuckle sweetly. Physically, she presented well. Some of the staff would comment on how young she looked. Her skin was white milk chocolate with few lines but her grey hair which soon turned white betrayed her.
I had been told the bad news in advance. Few residents last more than two years in such an institution before they pass away. She managed seven. They were seven long sad years of unfailing visits, cups of tea and biscuits and brought in chocolate. My mum always managed a smile. I remember one-day she fell ill and was taken to hospital. I drove up to see her to see if she was alright. And then whilst she was supine on a hospital trolley she said in an Italian-English accent: “You been busy?” and with those words I felt she was momentarily cured and that God existed.
Over time my mum lost the power of speech. She would sit there bemused in front of me and I would be exasperated at the futility of trying to make conversation but I carried on telling her what I had been up to – to pass the time and really make myself feel better but I knew I had lost her in a new, profound way. The saving grace was that she seemed to still recognise me momentarily. There was a glimmer in her eyes as if something silent was communicated.
I’d always introduce myself to her in Italian as her son; as if this might jog a long term memory in the hope she could reach that far. Eventually the dementia worsened and she lost the ability to swallow. She had to be fed food specially prepared by one of the staff. That was another blow.
In the end she succumbed after what was a painful admittance to hospital. I witnessed her with laboured breathing and beads of sweat across her brow. The medical team said: “It’s in the lap of the Gods”. She was discharged to a palliative care unit back at the residential home.
I remember a phonecall being made at 4.15am. I had to come quickly. My mother was not well. I knew. I arrived 2 minutes too late. The staff said she was gasping, waiting for me. There was nothing I could do. A doctor was called and I observed her perform checks around her heart with a stethoscope. I knew. There were no signs of a beat. And that was it.
My mum was told she had challenging behaviour. In reality she didn’t want to go into a residential care home. If you’re in the position of placing a loved one into care think long and hard. It may actually be good thing – you can’t cope, it’s causing arguements with your partner, you’re worn out juggling looking after a loved one, a partner and your children.
Do your due diligence on the said home or homes, chat to the staff, look at their care record and rating. Sadly, somebody stole my mum’s wedding ring off her finger and the answer I got did not satisfy. You want to be sure that the manager, the staff and the care home are doing all they can for your loved one.
At the home my mum was at; there was an alleged case of abuse which made the local papers. That’s not meant to scare you – it’s pretty rare but the home has a responsibility and is monitored by an inspectorate. There is no place for abuse in the system. Period.
Italians have a reputation for family first, and I personally know of friends and relatives who do their utmost to accommodate their elderly loved ones at home or in a specific abode for them to keep them under a watchful eye as well as keep a strong family bond. It’s not for everyone, and doesn’t work for everyone nor does it mean you have the finances to do so but my advice is do your due diligence and ask questions of the proposed options. Do not slavishly follow the advice of the State.
Looking back, I can see my mum was well looked after 99% of the time.
The care system needs a radical overhaul as it is – and will be big big business for private operators but the safeguards need to be in place and the care profession needs a image makeover as well as proper continued professional development in place to make it an attractive career choice.
My mum was well liked. She had a lot of fight in her and was fiercely independent – an attitude that should be supported in the community until she was no longer able to.
In Italian hospitals – there is a concept of ‘#assistenza‘ which means a family member or next of kin should be present. There may be only so much you can humanly do but do what you can for your loved one. You’ll be glad you did for your own sense of peace and theirs.
If you’re recently made single, or have gone through divorce or are older and cut-off from your friends you may find yourself lonely at times.
Loneliness eats away at you, it gnaws at your psyche, it can almost be palapable. It aches, it pains, it makes you vunerable.
So what is the solution? Time is a healer to use a cliche. Patience. Suffering passes. You’ll find a recovery path, you will redeem yourself and emerge.
This time is a bit akin to the #metamorphosis a catepillar goes through into becoming a butterly. You have to have a certain #faith and accept and embrace the unknown.
If you’re an older person you may be widowed and the pain of that lasts. You committed your life to someone. You have memories whilst you still have your health. I’d say hold on to those memories but when you’re ready to reach out to others. You can easily isolate yourself during this time – and during this time it is a kind of #grief.
Friends in your life, relationships, work and all these things are transient. Impermance is the only constant.
Whilst on your journey – there are opportunities to get involved in your local community and beyond. Attempt to #engage. If you feel, these groups are not to your taste then of course you could always start your own, or look further afield.
As a #Time to #Change champion the role of social contact is paramount and I recommend getting out there when you can if you can, and if you can’t or are less able then you could join an online group or engage in your hobby. When your engaged in a hobby, time takes on a new meaning and you find a #flowstate and a hobby or interest takes on a therapeutic quality.
Loneliness is an absence of love, and the last thing you can do is look for love in all the wrong places in trying to find #wholeness.
You may have heard the concept of an addictive personality.
In my experience – I don’t think it exists. To pin responsibility of
your behaviour down to an addictive personality is a quasi-fallacy in my opinion.
I think there are individuals who have a spectrum of attitudes towards risk. At either end of the scale is risk averse through to risk-taking. Personally, I am towards a risk-taking end of the spectrum but then I’m enthusiastic about individuals who seek to create autonomy, freedom and an enterprise for themselves and I feel an affinity for those individuals as like-minded.
However, I will say that an attitude to risk opens the pool of opportunities towards mis-use combined with influences from those opportunities. Once you find a substance and it contains certain chemicals – it could be sugar or nicotine, it may become compulsive. Alcohol is known to be bi-phasic. After a certain dose it is a depressant, and the nullifying effects are rewarding and habit forming.
If you’re wanting to overcome an “addictive personality” then probably, in my opinion, I would support the abstince approach as advocated by Russell Brand – although he was talking in the context of drug-use. As we know substitutes or alternatives ease the pain of withdrawal however this can create a sub-dependency. I’d favour a clean break – however easier said than done.