No Business without a Plan

Business Planning at the Centre for Creativity and Enterprise

Business Plan

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So you really think you can run a business without a plan, well that’s what I thought.  But boy was I mistaken.

Running a business without a plan is like playing ball in heels, which maybe possible, but not without disastrous consequences. And there’s plenty of help available out there, no matter which industry you are starting in.

When I was starting up I know what I wanted to do but had no idea how to put a plan together, especially the financial forecasts.  How could you put a price on a service, especially if the organisation is not for profit. That’s when I had advice from Business Link, an extremely valuable service for self starters, and then the Enterprise Hub at the University of Kent.  I remember how encouraged I felt after speaking to the team.  They also helped me apply for funding, which I did get as well as the opportunity to pitch my idea in front of judges – and I won the second prize of £2000 for Joining Hands, and that was an amazing feeling. Five years later, here I am, I do understand what Social Return on Investment is (SRI) and how important it is to be able to measure it, even if not without difficulty. So now that I know a little about business planning, I would like to help you in much the same way I was helped.

I am running a Business Planning for Beginners workshop on Thursday this week, so the 30th January from 1pm to 5pm.  A business plan is a framework of your activities which is flexible and responsive to opportunities. The aims of the afternoon are: to come up with some long term and short term objectives, to do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in case you wonder what that means) analysis but not before we work together to set your mission, your purpose and goals.

Too many small businesses think that strategic planning is for big business but businesses that survive and prosper are those who meet their customers’ needs and you cannot meet customers’ needs if you haven’t thought about who you are selling to, what are your prices based on, who is your competition and what is your USP (unique selling point). Of course, you also need a marketing strategy, financial forecasts and I will suggest a few places where you can get that help.  There is plenty of advice available from Enterprise hubs, your business bank, mentors, Chambers of Commerce and business academies around the County.  You could also test your product at pop up shops if there are any in your area.  We are fortunate enough to have Pop Up Ashford which has helped a number of business start-ups since it started last year.  So it may be useful to book a space if you are unsure about starting up or would like to test your product. There is also a vast selection of free Business Plan templates available online.  You just need to see which tickles your fancy and is more suited to your business needs and your industry.

So the 30th January from 1pm to 5pm at the Community Crafts Centre.  There is tea/coffee of course and plenty of biscuits.

See you then

Crocheting happy

I learnt to crochet from my grandmother and, some nights when my mind is racing but I want to take time off thinking about work, I take my wool and make hats for my friends and relatives.  I find it most relaxing and productive.  So I say ‘less TV more crochet’, and it’s so much easier than you think.

I met Emma Jane some months ago and she ran a few workshops at the Centre for Creativity and Enterprise.  She is extremely passionate about what she does, is really creative, and is also a great teacher.  Today she tells you all about herself:

Hi I’m Emma Jane – I teach crochet workshops at Centre for Creativity and Enterprise and Emporia Fabric & Craft in Ashford. At the moment I have a couple of beginners’ crochet workshops running and will be scheduling more advanced and project-based sessions for later this year. I’ve been crocheting for around 10 years now; I spent ages trying to teach myself (unsuccessfully) from books, before meeting a lovely lady in her 80s who sat with me patiently – suddenly it all made sense!

There’s something really rewarding about being able to make useful and beautiful things with your hands – we become so reliant on technology that it’s easy to forget the importance and accessibility of handcrafts. It can be a daunting thing to learn a new skill in adulthood too – we tend to do a lot of convincing ourselves that we’re ‘good’ at some things and ‘bad’ at others; in my experience, this is nothing more than a mindset. I’ve had many students in the past inform me that they’re ‘really bad at things like this’ before we’ve even started – but by the end of the course they’re just as confident as the rest of the group. Anyone can crochet, it’s easier to learn than most people think – but before you’ve been shown the basics, it can seem intimidating. As a tutor, it’s really important to me that my workshops are accessible, that I have a good rapport with my students – and that everyone feels comfortable and able to learn at their own pace.

 Once you get your head around the basics, crochet can be a really relaxing experience too – I’ve spoken to many people who tell me their crochet time really is ‘down time’ – you’re using your hands, so you’re not on your smart phone, or doing chores. Taking time out for craft is taking time out for yourself – and if you happen to crochet a few cushion covers, blankets or accessories at the same time – all the better!

I think of crochet as the ultimate portable craft, I usually have a ball of yarn and a crochet hook in my handbag on train journeys – for me, it makes commuting bearable – and turns it into productive relaxation time.

Betsy at CCE has invited me to take part in a top-secret crochet project for ArtiGras (Ashford’s first art themed street-festival, 16th-17th May 2014). I can’t reveal too much yet, but we will be looking for crochet enthusiasts across Kent to help us create some colourful pieces for an installation soon. If you help out we’ll send you a few free patterns as inspiration – and after the festival all pieces will be donated to the Children’s ward at the William Harvey Hospital – so the crochet you send us will get to become art at the festival and help bring a little fun to local children too. Keep an eye on this blog for more news on the project and how to get involved!

My next CCE session is a two-day beginners’ workshop on 14th – 15th February. Perfect for total beginners (or those looking to refresh), you’ll learn how to cast on and off, make basic crochet stitches, change yarn colour, shaping and joining – then use all of these skills to create your own traditional crochet squares. These can then be joined to make a blanket, cushion cover, bunting, placemats and more…. There will of course be cake (made by me) and tea provided throughout the workshop as well! I hope to see you there.

 For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Fore more details about Emma Jane, visit her website on www.cakesandcatwalks.com.