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The Log Barn – A Modern, Environmentally Friendly Business

Mike Gillman, owner and founder of the Log Barn in Canterbury, is highly entrepreneurial and committed to improving customer experience with new technologies. He balances this modern approach with a passionate commitment to growing his business in the most environmentally friendly and sustainable ways possible. For over 30 years he has been supplying his customers in Canterbury, Thanet, Ashford and beyond, with high quality hardwood logs and kindling, sourced from local coppice woods, to provide fuel and kindling for their open fires and wood-burners.

Make or Break

Initially the business operated as a secondary income for Mike and his family and his productivity and profitability rose and fell depending on customer demand and his personal circumstances. In 2009 Mike realised it was make or break time and he either had to commit to growing his firewood business, or find employment locally and no longer be his own boss. He had always been resistant to public funding, believing that entrepreneurs should stand on their own two feet. However, he knew that others in the local firewood industry had successfully applied for funding and if he wanted to even up the playing field and gain a competitive advantage, he needed to make some changes and get some business support. He decided to apply to the Rural LEADER Funding Program to acquire the financial input he needed to modernise the equipment and premises of the Log Barn.

Cracking On

Mike was initially apprehensive about the application process. However, he was pleasantly surprised at the high level of support and encouragement he received from then Program Manager Matthew Hall, who helped Mike complete the forms, and whose mantra was always “crack on and get it done”! Mike admits the process was hard work, but says that Matthew helped lighten the load and that the end result made everything worthwhile, as he was granted £60k of funding in 2 tranches, £40k for the first phase and £20k for the second. He spent most of the first round of funding on equipment including a tractor and crane to move the timber; a telehandler for loading and handling; and a modern firewood processor.  to eliminate the need for painful manual lifting. The new equipment eliminated the need for painful manual lifting and sped up all the business processes for a better customer experience.  The second round of funding was used to build a huge log barn in which to dry the wood.

Supporting the Local Community

With the remaining money and the profit he was making as a result of the modernisation, Mike started employing local contractors to carry out his client work. He also hired a young man from Hadlow College, who he trained up for two years and who has now started his own local forestry business. Mike is passionate about forming partnerships and supporting other local businesses in the community and is delighted that the LEADER funding enabled him to increase his local spend from next to nothing to the £18k per quarter he now feeds back into the local business community. Mike says of the LEADER funding process, “It transformed my business and my life. There’s no doubt in my mind that without the LEADER funding I would have had to take a job driving a truck or in a local hardware store…”

A Smaller Carbon Footprint

It’s important to Mike to be accountable for his carbon footprint and take all possible steps to protect the environment. All of the Log Barn’s logs are sourced from local coppice with sustainable cropping plans to ensure regrowth and future supply. These methods provide sustainable fuel, benefit the environment and ensure that the flora, fauna and character of the North Downs are kept intact. After being logged, the wood is kiln-dried, using a process that uses waste woody material to provide the heat and solar panels to provide the power for the drying fans. The CO2 produced when the logs are burned, is combated by the vigorous regrowth of the coppice woodland. Mike is now waiting for vehicle technology to catch up, as he would like to source an electric or hydrogen cell powered van powerful enough to carry the 1400 tonnes of wood he transports each year. As soon as there is one available on the market he’ll be looking for funding to enable him to upgrade again to greener vehicles and machinery.

If you would like to buy your wood form the Log Barn or talk to Mike about potential business partnerships, then you can contact him via his website www.thelogbarn.co.uk or by email mike@thelogbarn.co.uk or phone 01227 709276.

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How A Master Craftsman Grew His Business with Rural Funding

Nick Waldron designs and creates beautifully crafted kitchens, free-standing and fitted furniture and specialist items, for private and commercial clients. He works closely with interior designers and architects who often seek his expertise in the early stages of a project, to capitalise on his traditional skills combined with modern manufacturing methods. This combination enables Nick to provide a cost-effective and creative solution that meets the client brief. Nick is a very commercially-minded person as well as a creative, which is a great combination for an entrepreneur.

Quality & Speed to Market

Prior to 2011, Nick says, his business was “successful but small-scale”. He was considering buying some second-hand machinery to modernise the business, but was concerned about the likelihood of the ongoing maintenance costs associated with equipment that had already been used commercially. Following a conversation with fellow local entrepreneur Mike Gillman, who had already received funding under the Rural LEADER Program, Nick decided to apply for the funding himself. His growth plan was to install a machine he didn’t already have in order to speed up the manufacturing process and make it more cost-effective for both himself and the client, getting his pieces to market faster while maintaining the quality, to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. He made an application to the LEADER Program for £16k to purchase a 4-sided wood moulding machine and an upgraded dust extraction system to support the new equipment.

Business Benefits

The business benefits of the new 4-sided moulder are clear as Nick says it now takes 1 hour to complete wood moulding processes that previously took 8 hours with 7 processes each carried out on different pieces of equipment. The machine also freed up his team from doing repetitive manual and machine work, enabling them to focus more on the creative process and client experience. He was also able to take on a larger quantity of jobs and much larger projects. By helping Nick to grow his business, the LEADER funding was also a catalyst for hiring more staff and his team has grown from 1 full time and 1 part time employee to 4 in the last few years.

Secrets to Success

Nick feels the secret to the success of his funding application was that he did a lot of groundwork and preparation supported by the LEADER Program Managers Huw Jarvis and Richard Hall and then took a full week off work to complete the form.

“I read the funding requirements really carefully and made sure I addressed every one of them and showed how my growth strategy matched each criterion. As my business is highly creative and the pieces we make are aesthetically pleasing, I included lots of images to illustrate the benefits of the proposed project. I demonstrated my passion for my work and made my application stand out from the crowd.”

If you are looking for high quality furniture and joinery skills you can contact Nick Waldron via his website www.nickwaldron.co.uk or by email at nick@nickwaldron.co.uk.

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More Cheese Please! How Rural LEADER Funding Helped Cheesemakers of Canterbury Grow

Cheesemakers of Canterbury is home to the award-winning Ashmore Farmhouse and Kelly’s Canterbury Goat cheese, and a wide selection of other delicious unpasteurised and pasteurised cheeses. Their glorious array of cheeses is much loved by the local community, visitors and tourists alike.

The Need for Cheese

Before she started Cheesemakers of Canterbury in 2007, owner and founder, Jane Bowyer, already had over 20 years’ experience in the dairy business and a vast wealth of knowledge of both the industry and the local market. Jane was aware that Kent was producing excellent quality milk, cream and butter, but no cheesemakers were fully capitalising on this wonderful produce to create truly local, naturally-rinded, unpasteurised cheeses. Spotting this gap in the market, and armed with the equipment, Ashmore cheese recipe and goodwill she purchased from a Wiltshire cheesemaking business, Jane created Cheesemakers of Canterbury. Six months later they were selling their first produce.

Funding for Growth

In 2010 Jane was presented with an opportunity to grow her business when the lease of a local farm’s soft cheese room became available with all the necessary equipment, cheese vats and client list included in the deal. Jane was keen to learn new skills in soft cheesemaking and open up a whole new product line for Cheesemakers of Canterbury. She decided to apply to the Rural LEADER funding Program for the £18,000 she needed to develop the soft cheese product line.

The Extra Mile

Part of Jane’s plan was to partner with Debbie Vernon from Ellie’s Dairy, who was keen to supply the goat’s cheese to make the soft cheese, and the pair decided to work together to complete the LEADER funding application.  The most daunting part of the process for Jane and Debbie, as for so many people when applying for funding, was not the hard work associated with growing her business but the prospect of the unfamiliar task of completing all the funding application paperwork. Fortunately, the LEADER Program Manager, Huw Jarvis, was on hand to advise them on how to fill out the paperwork properly and, when disaster struck, he really went the extra mile to make sure Jane’s application was filed on time.  

“In the weeks leading up to the deadline we had been working so hard on the application, often late at night, after a long day of cheesemaking,” Jane told us. “It was Christmas time and it was snowing on the day of the deadline. We were so happy to be at the end of the process and looking forward to handing in the forms. All of a sudden, my partner was taken seriously ill with a heart attack and of course that took precedence over everything else. Not wanting us to fall at the final hurdle, our LEADER Program Manager Huw Jarvis, came all the way down to our farm in the snow and picked up the application for us by hand, so it was within the time limit.”

The Good Shed

Jane, her team of cheesemakers and her partners were delighted when they found out that their funding application was successful. In addition to benefiting her business hugely she was pleased that she would now be able to partner up with Ellie’s Dairy. Jane grew her team by using some of the grant money to employ one full them and one part-time member of staff. She describes the first year after funding as “wonderful but chaotic”, as everyone was learning on the job how to make the soft cheese and initially they were making small batches by hand, while they discovered other better ways using modern equipment.

Just 6 months later in the summer of 2011, Jane was invited to join The Goods Shed Farmers Market, Food Hall and Restaurant in Canterbury, as their cheese concession. Jane has been selling both their original hard cheese and the new soft cheese they are making as a result of the LEADER funding, at The Good Shed, ever since.

Strong-Minded and Passionate

Successfully applying for the funding was such as positive experience that Jane and her team are applying again in this round of funding for a new project to grow the business. Her advice to anyone wishing to apply for funding under the Rural LEADER Program is, “be strong minded, committed and passionate and stick with it. Be sure to ask for help from your Program Manager. You will know if it’s the right path as soon as you start the process. You can’t go at it half-heartedly.  Be determined and listen to your gut and you could be on your way to growing your rural business!”

You can find out more about Cheesemakers of Canterbury on their website here: http://www.cheesemakersofcanterbury.co.uk/

Or on Social Media here: Twitter @cheesesofkent Facebook @cheesesmakersofcanterbury

To find out if you are eligible for funding under the Rural LEADER Program click here.


Successful Marketing Strategies in a Split Second

Your Living, Thriving Business

Natasha Sutton, Creative Director of marketing agency Split Second, describes her role in her clients‘ businesses as a “creative architect”. She works with them to design and implement business development and social media strategies that “make the difference between a clever idea on paper and a living, thriving business”.

Mentors & Inspiration

Entrepreneurial inspiration came from a wide variety of different sources for Natasha. Raised in a family who all love to think on their feet, and growing up in both the UK and Canada, she found her independence and self-belief at an early age.

Sir Richard Branson’s career has been a lifelong influence on her work ethos and business strategy and she was delighted when she eventually got to work with him on an event and experience his entrepreneurial genius face to face. Brief encounters with Dragon’s Den favourites James Khan, Deborah Meaden and Duncan Ballantyne, also fuelled her determination to succeed. As we often tell our members at GrowMyBiz and StartMyBiz, the world’s most successful entrepreneurs always have mentors.  Usually this means a combination of people who inspire them from afar, and others who they actively pursue a face to face relationship with, to share business ideas and get first hand advice.

The other secret to Natasha’s success, is her willing ness to get stuck in whether the job for the day is getting dressed up as an iPad to promote a client or taking photographs in a crowd of 85,000 people. Like all good entrepreneurs she embraces the challenge and relishes the variety in her working life.

Working with Local & International Brands

Things are going really well for Split Second. Working with one of the largest Apple Resellers in the UK lead to a campaign with Sonos, the agency was then entered into the Kent Digital Awards 2017 and currently Natasha has a professional video in the Sci-Fi by the Sea event alongside Bay Promo. Natasha is also really pleased that the Herne Bay Pier campaign she worked on has raised just over £5,000. Next up Natasha says she is keen to grow her team and get a permanent office space in the Canterbury District.

Rising to the Challenge

Natasha says the biggest challenges as an entrepreneur are finding and employing the right people to grow your business, and realising that agency work will never be a routine 9-5 job, which can be both a blessing and a bane. As she puts it in her quirky, upbeat way, “Find me someone who has got a perfect work-life balance and I will buy them a drink!”

StartMyBiz & GrowMyBiz

Following a couple of campaigns that involved local councillors and MPs, Natasha met Chris West from Canterbury City Council. This led to her becoming involved with the StartMyBiz and GrowMyBiz projects both as a member receiving support, and in her professional capacity, providing her expertise on some great business projects.

Entrepreneurial Advice

Natasha’s personal advice to up and coming entrepreneurs is, “Take your time to get everything in place, from creating your website to planning your social media and marketing strategies. Be patient in the preparation, be honest and always be yourself”. From an expert perspective her advice is, “Word of mouth is such a powerful tool, getting as many video testimonials is the best form of advertising and a great and quick way to gain trust and loyalty. Always think outside of the box, analyse and research what is going on in the world and the sectors you are targeting. Take a notebook and pen everywhere with you; ideas and advice can happen when you least expect it.”

You can contact Split Second events on Natasha@splitsecond.biz @Split2ndEvents Facebook @Splitsecondevents telephone 07806501802

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Campaign Films – How Movies Can Be Worth More Than A Million Words (Local Business)

Anton French is a self-employed film maker and Brighton Film School alumni, who runs his two film production companies Curious Films and Campaign Films from his home in Kent. Curious Films makes films for and with the local community and other arts professionals, Campaign Films is an independent production company that creates promotional films and other commercial work for businesses, local authorities and charities, supporting people of all ages and abilities in the community.

Research, Script, Lights, Camera, Action

Anton discovered his passion for film whilst working as an advertising account manager. He began to realise that he no longer wanted to administer other people’s work; he wanted to unleash his own artistic capabilities and create his own films! His highly-experienced team includes a BAFTA award winning writer; a business strategist with expertise in disability, community, local authority and health; and a marketing and research expert with a keen interest in philosophy. Their creative talents combine to enable them to create excellent, broadcast-standard, high-definition films with the right cast and location and great catering, even for clients on a low budget.

Anton and his team always go the extra mile to provide a great customer experience, developing the full potential of their clients’ campaign films by thoroughly researching their target audience and ensuring that the creative piece will engage the right people, in the right place, at the right time. For both promotional and informational films Campaign Films creates imaginative, innovative and accurate scripts in-house and works closely with every client to develop their ideas for the screen. As a local business man himself, Anton says he, “Understands the needs of local businesses. Whether you’re just starting out in a new venture or if you’re established and looking to expand, your potential clients need to find you and engage with you. Film allows you to grab the attention of your clients straight away and to involve them in a way that a body of text just can’t accomplish.”

Creative Gifts

As a hugely creative person Anton admits that one of the hardest aspects of being an entrepreneur is that he is not financially motivated and only wants to make money so that he can continue to produce excellent work that his clients love. There is also a fair amount of competition locally. This is true for a lot of creative professionals and the key to success lies in forging relationships with clients who offer interesting opportunities and value your unique creative gifts and working on your motivation and self-discipline. Business workshops and regularly seeing a mentor are great for keeping a strong business focus.

Growth Planning

Anton first heard of GrowMyBiz by word-of-mouth through a client. He says that the Project has provided him with invaluable information about business support groups in the area and connected him to people who have helped him make decisions on how to grow Campaign Films. He says “It has been inspiring find out that Canterbury City Council is focused on growing the business community through helping individuals such as myself. It has certainly helped grow my confidence too. I have also been able to develop the marketing for the business further due to the contacts GrowMyBiz has given me –  it’s an excellent advisory service that is readily accessible.”

If pictures say a thousand words, then films say a million more! Film is proven to be the most popular and successful form of online communication that gets the highest engagement and most social media shares, so take a look at Anton’s website here (http://www.campaignfilms.co.uk/) and give him a call to see what he can create for your business.

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Enamellist Kate Samuels Can Brighten Up Your Home and Your Day (Local Business)

It’s clear from talking to talented enamel artist Kate Samuels, that she is truly passionate about her art. She gets her inspiration she says, from her children, the sea and “my surroundings, life adventures and sunshine moments; I like things that make me smile.” This happy, upbeat attitude is wonderfully apparent in her brightly coloured, bold, artworks, sculptures, mugs, bowls and plates all bearing uplifting words to brighten your day.

Kate’s process is evolutionary, every piece of work beginning with a moment or several images she has collected from her own experiences on day trips in and around the Kent area and sometimes further field. The beauty of her work and the reason for its popularity with both locals and visitors, is that every piece is a handmade, signed original and every collection reflects a local story. They are created with British steel and enamel from China. Enamel is a great medium for customers as all Kate’s creations are hygiene standard tested, durable and dishwasher proof.

As we so often hear, particularly with successful creative entrepreneurs, enamelling was Kate’s hobby for many years. Once she had children she decided to turn her love for enamelled art into a business so she could create a better work-life balance while also doing a job she loves.

The converted Victorian coach house where she lives with her family houses Kate’s studio and her kiln so she can conveniently work from home. To reach out to the local community Kate runs an open studio once a year, during which people can come to her house and watch her work, enamelling and hand-firing in her kiln. As the Director of Made in Herne Bay she also brings local artists together giving them a platform to discuss their lives and their work and how to market and sell it.  

Below is a video that shows what Made in Herne Bay is all about:

Big trade shows in venues like Olympia have proved a very successful way for Kate raise brand awareness and sell her creations. She has made some great connections through networking and you can find her designs in 20 galleries and shops in the UK and Australia and in many local Kent galleries. Next she is set to conquer New York.  

Kate says she is looking forward to the StartMyBiz, GrowMyBiz and Herne Bay Shop Local projects helping her grow by managing her time more effectively, planning for the future, and finding the funds to take on a new employee. Her advice to entrepreneurs is to stay true to your individuality, as this has always worked so well for her. To see Kate’s designs visit her website at: http://www.katesamuelsdesign.co.uk/

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Canterbury is a Creative Centre for Photographer Tim Stubbings

If you’re looking for creative and commercial photographs of the local area or your business look no further than the wonderful creative talent of StartMyBiz and GrowMyBiz Sponsor, Tim Stubbings. Here’s what he has to say about his photography work:

Opening his commercial photography studio in Canterbury was the natural location for Tim Stubbings.

“Although my work took me from Scotland to Sweden last year, my creative home is in Canterbury.

I arrived there as a student in 1989 and despite periods of infidelity (living and working in Eastbourne, Nottingham, and London) I came back in 1998 and set up the commercial studio in 2014.

The campaign, advertising and other commercial photography I do is still 50% rooted in Kent with strong links with Canterbury. The University of Kent was my first ever paying client (they still are!) and Canterbury City Council were kind enough in the early years to entrust me with some of their tourism and cultural marketing campaigns.

The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury Festival and Shepherd Neame are all valued relationships and sources of ongoing interesting types of work. Porchlight has been a nominated charity since 2008 and I’ve been happy to support them with annual report and marketing pictures to promote their campaigns.

I shoot mostly for businesses (headshots, marketing images, advertising – anything that businesses and organisations require really) but also work with models, stylists and portrait customers.

Although I’d not a landscape photographer, the coastline and countryside we have in the region has always been a source of interest, inspiration and relaxation and I know I can take it for granted. It’s also formed the backdrop for some of our campaign work for agencies and local businesses.

If you had to sum up what I do either on location or at the studio, it’s to make what you do, what you make or what you are look better tomorrow than it does today.”

Visit http://timstubbings.com/

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Made in Herne Bay

Made in Herne Bay is a community group of makers and designers living and working in Herne Bay, Kent, UK. Products include enamelware, ceramics, prints, photography, needlework, fabrics, pottery and more.

This video is about how StartMyBiz and GrowMyBiz Canterbury have helped the Made in Herne Bay group.

In the video Kate Samuels of Kate Samuels Designs explains how Canterbury City Council helped her own business and the Made in Herne Bay group. This included friendly, informal business workshops and free business advice about setting up a new business. They also supported Made in Herne Bay at the Herne Bay Makers Market and the Expo 16 business and community exhibition at the Kings Hall, Herne Bay, Kent.

StartMyBiz and GrowMyBiz provide free advice, business workshops and free networking events for people who are starting a business and people who want to grow an existing business, in the East Kent, Canterbury District.

This video is a Smugshot Video Production: http://www.smugshot.co.uk

John Adams of Careerz

Which project are you a member of, Start My Biz or Grow My Biz?

I started out as a StartMyBiz member and have now moved on to GrowMyBiz.


Tell us about your business.

Careerz offers a range of specialist recruitment services for SMBs based mainly in London, Kent and the South East and also throughout the UK. Our aim is to be a trusted partner and a “one stop recruitment solution” for technology, sales & marketing, finance, HR and support.


What and who inspired you to start up your own business?

With 20+ years recruitment experience I developed a passion to create a customer-focused and competitively priced hybrid service that takes inspiration from best practices in agency, in-house and onsite teams.


How are things going at the moment and is there anything you need help with?

I’ve spent the last few months preparing to grow Careerz in Kent, as there’s a gap in the market. Our target market is Kent businesses looking for a competitively priced, off-site, outsourced recruitment solution that works as an extension of their business. It would be great if GrowMyBiz could help us to expand in Kent through marketing and promotional activity.


What is the most challenging aspect of running your own business?

Having to get involved in all aspects of the business from business development, marketing, IT systems, process design, finance, HR etc. It is also what makes running your own business exciting.


What areas of setting up and running a business do you wish you had known more about before starting up your own business?

Support with online marketing and ecommerce would have been useful, particularly Google Adwords.


Do you have any plans to recruit or offer internships in the next 6-12 months?

Yes, I’m currently recruiting an apprentice and we’re dedicated to properly training and integrating them to offer them a great working experience and provide our customers with an excellent service.


To discover more about Careerz and contact John Adams visit the Careerz website HERE

(Photo by: Holly Skinner, Rabbits in Waistcoats)


Catharine – Espression Arts – GrowMyBiz

1. Tell me about your business.
Espression Arts is a family run creative arts shop in Canterbury specialising in ceramic painting, mosaics and glass painting. We run clubs and activity groups for all the community for example, Saturday morning arts clubs for 5 – 12 year olds and ‘crafty kids’ our toddler and messy play groups. We also deliver fun filled birthday parties and focus lots of our work on creating memories and personalised gifts for others. Our service is both at our shop base and also out in the community on our mobile service! Customers can also come in just to sit in our walled garden drinking coffee taking in the creative atmosphere!

Catherine and Espression Arts can be found on their:

2. What inspired you to start up your own business?
My partner and I were working in Youth Work in London. I was working with an Environmental NGO as a youth work manager, organising creative participation projects for young people in harder to reach areas. The role grew and developed into something I found more and more stressful when I saw Espression for sale and I felt that this would be a great platform for myself and my partner to move communities and apply our skills to a different challenge.

3. How are things going at the moment? Is there anything you would need help with?
Currently work is picking up and our trade is getting better all the time. In the past we have had help with marketing, through intern support to design posters and fliers. This was a great help and one we would like to use again, marketing our up and coming summer programme is an area we could do with some help with. I would also like some help to input data into ‘Mail Chimp’ to develop regular mail outs to our contacts, this is a big job which I don’t have time to get on top of but which I feel would benefit our return business.

4. What is the hardest part of being in business?
Balancing my family (I have an 8 month old and a 4 year old) and having enough regular business to commit to having part time staff. I always feel that my partner and I will be able to work the shifts ourselves instead of paying others but this then has an impact on my children who spend lots of messy creative time in the shop.

5. What is the hardest part of operating in your area?
Getting more and more people to come in and book our service. A big part of our previous business has been schools and community/youth groups, this has declined with funding cuts and lack of resources in this area.

6. Is there anything you wish you knew more about before starting up your business?
Not really, we knew starting a business would be hard so we prepared well.

7. Do you offer placements etc..?
We offer work placements to work experience school students, university students and participants of Skill Net. We have been giving consideration to an apprenticeship placement.

8. How did you first hear about the SMB/GMB projects?
We heard about them through their pages on Facebook

9. How has the programme helped you and your business?
The main help our business received help and time from a university intern who designed me some posters, fliers and material which has made our business more professional looking. Meeting with a business mentor helped me to set some targets and helped me to keep to the goals set.

10. What would you have done without this help?
We would have had less professional publicity which wouldn’t have been as attractive to others, we wouldn’t have achieved as much without structure and without someone who was helping me to be more focused.

11. What connections have you made since being involved with this programme?
We have made other links to businesses also linked to the scheme.
12. What opportunities have presented themselves to you since becoming a beneficiary of SMB/GMB?
The main opportunity has been mentoring and intern time and help around Marketing.

13. Is there anything you would recommend to anyone wanting to start up or expand their business?
I would recommend that people starting up in business should ensure they find time to structure the business plan and keep a live document to be stuck to and followed, without focus you can really lead yourself astray. If you can find a mentor like we had through the business scheme it really helps!

14. What types of communication do you think are most effective between you and the help you received?
Facebook, email, sometimes twitter but less often, but face to face meetings too are always best.

15. Would you be prepared to act as an ambassador for SMB at some point if we were to pursue this?