NEA Success Stories
My name is Sharon Brady and I am the owner of The Smael Company.
I was sick and claimed ESA for just over two years and was then transferred to Job Seekers Allowance for approximately four weeks before being referred to the NEA programme by my adviser Sue, from Long Eaton JCP.
My mentor’s name was Graham Howarth. I met Graham on several occasions to help me complete my business plan, strategy and financial planning. Invaluable business support was also received from Lottie Naylor and Ian Viles from Erewash Partnership Ltd. I also attended training days sponsored by RBS Inspiring women through Enterprise and attended networking meetings ran and organised by Erewash Partnership Ltd. I received a business loan of £2500 from GLE Start up Loans. Out of all the support received through NEA and Erewash Partnership came……
The Smael Company – The ‘Event Bar’ is the only one of its kind, selling exclusively non-alcoholic beers from various established breweries. The beers are now brewed using advanced methods which can help retain the flavour and integrity of the brew. There is barely a selection on the shelves in supermarkets as yet and many beers cannot be purchased online from retailers either. The bar offers people the opportunity to try a range of the best beers with us and seek advice to find beers to suit individual tastes and many dietary requirements.
Our mission for the last 6 months has been to find the very best Craft and Premium non-alcoholic beers available from the UK and abroad especially since the UK has finally started brewing them (4 were brewed this year ). Since taste preference is essentially subjective, we spend a lot of energy and time organising tastings to gather data about preference and offer beer for sale on the spot at a discounted price. We sell at Private Tastings and externally at local Food and Drink shows. We hope to begin selling online in the near future.
The business is based at The Gatehouse in Castle Donington, Derby, which is a large family home on a commercial street in the heart of the village. We also attend events and shows.
My career started well and was quite involved, interesting and promising having achieved a first class degree in Visual Arts back in the 90’s, then I spent 5 years working in a residential school for Autism producing a communication system for pupils.
Later I worked for Derby College for over 10 years as a fully qualified specialist lecturer in SEN and finally completed a Masters in Psychology in 2013. Unfortunately, I became ill with anxiety and depression and I requested and accepted voluntary severance. It took a couple of years to feel the slightest amount of confidence to get my life back again. I appeared completely all together and fine but I most certainly wasn’t, whilst literally begging the doctor in private to help me. It has probably taken three and a half years to be able to breathe without panicking and feel that I could do something worthwhile with my life.
As part of the Masters, I studied the effects of alcohol and dependence from a socio-psychological and biological perspective and psychological perceptions of taste in research. This, combined with current market trends inspired me to start this business which I feel not only is a worthwhile venture but has an incredibly serious and positive side to it for social and psychological health and wellbeing in an increasingly demanding culture of reward seeking behaviour.
I feel strongly that cultural change is required and has begun concerning attitudes to alcohol and hope to be part of this in the future whereby the availability of quality non-alcoholic is increased and the stigma surrounding poor quality and alcohol free beers is resolved.
I am now currently retailing Non-alcoholic beer but have had numerous queries to wholesale which may be a direction the company will take in the future. The Smael Company has been trading since September 2016 and attended some food and drink shows and held private tasting events. We would like to attend Motorbike events and events focusing on health in the future.
Our aim is to have an influence on a positive social movement and cultural change in drinking habits in the UK and offer individuals the choice without offering the tee-total lectures that tend to occur in this field. We offer a credible alternative for which those who are non- dependent on alcohol as well as for those who abstain. Our ultimate aim is to prove that these drinks should be enjoyed for pleasure, not a stigmatised or ‘tasteless’ option or indeed as a ‘stress-purchase’ exclusively because they are driving or pregnant. We believe that it should be a legitimate choice for enjoyment in its own right.
We feel the benefits are far wider......anything from, cutting calories to cutting alcohol units down for purposes of health and fitness. Intolerances to alcohol and severe hangover affects which are unpleasant may also be unnecessary for many. All who like beer can appreciate the art of a good beer; even gluten free and very low calorie beers are available.
Alcohol sales in the UK have declined by 24% since 2000 and drink driving laws are expected to be tightened. We feel strongly that anybody who doesn’t want to drink alcohol for whatever reason deserves a more complex, layered and refreshing drink and have fun too.....Nobody should be left out in any setting.
The main challenges have been….
With an incredibly tight budget and limited resources, it has been necessary to undertake almost all of the set up myself with the exception of my husband who constructed the bar from my design and my brother-in-law who advised on strategy and logistics.
Not having business experience was a huge challenge. I was clueless but had some ability with graphics and IT. I was able to do some branding, marketing, promotional literature etc and define what I wanted to do more fully through creating these visuals. I’m naturally quite an organised person but I’ve found that this has had to be carefully balanced as this need for full control can slow things down. Organising methods and practices in your business and not actually being that productive can be an avoidance behaviour I find. The need for perfectionism is also linked to the anxiety and I will find this an ongoing challenge particularly whilst working alone.
Not having any social media skills was a huge challenge also. I had never even seen facebook properly let alone have an account until June 2016. I now have a face book business page which I set up on a training day at Erewash Partnership, a twitter account with 70 followers and growing and active on Linked In. I have also been gathering folders of interesting snippets on Pin Interest and linked this to my facebook page, woo hoo! What is required now is a website, however it is expensive to set up commercially and therefore I will have to learn how to do this myself asap.
The design and development of the bar and taking it to events has been challenging. Making sure that it looks good (the perfectionist behaviour again) and that I have all of the appropriate and salient equipment to create a convincing bar atmosphere which is an important aspect of the business and its concept. To explain this briefly - It has been generally agreed within research that the perception of taste and consequentially the enjoyment or pleasure gained whilst having a drink (or food) may be heavily influenced by the context of the experience and the visual cues are therefore integral/essential to enhancing this.
Finding out what is necessary to be compliant with food and hygiene standards has not been as straight forward as expected. I also make and sell home-made welsh cakes and gingerbread to sell on the bar for the morning trade at the events and I prepare a range of low risk appetizers and snacks for the tasting events. Getting a hygiene grade and finding out the certification necessary was not easy due to being at home and at external events. I asked for a visit from the council and was told that I had a 5 rating for home but that they couldn’t give me a certificate until I was inspected at an event. I am told it can take months for inspectors to get to see you at an event. Hey ho still, waiting. This and the nature of the mobility of the business was also an issue for insurance at first until many calls were made and one was found to cover all eventualities.
Arranging reliable delivery of liquid and glass by couriers at a reasonable price is close to impossible. I found one company which unfortunately didn’t work out at all and therefore another must be found very very soon.
Having been a lecturer for so many years, I thought it would be a doddle to talk about the business in tastings and presentations plus selling at markets but apart from giving me the nudge of confidence I needed to start me doing this, it was nothing like lecturing at all. I have to be clear about the business concept, benefits etc and succinct; neither of which is natural to m, hence this lengthy bit of writing. I seem to keep missing opportunities to close sales or respond with commercial savoir faire when being offered a deal or positive lead. My lack of experience is a constant challenge. Being friendly, approachable, knowledgeable and professional are all skills I feel ok with but I am fully aware that my thought processing needs to be re-wired and automated for making sales, not just friendly discussions.
Again, due to limited budget, I found an accountant who has agreed to offer me the lowest price as long as I come forth with the relevant information in the appropriate format. I’ve yet to see if this will be a successful arrangement. It has been time consuming and I may have collected too much information (perfectionist ahhh) in the hope that I can use it to inform myself in the near future about the sales and expenses. It is equally possible that I may have missed something the accountant needs. This will be revealed very soon no doubt.
Ending with a positive - Customer feedback has been superb. I must take full advantage of this great feedback and find more ways to do this. Customers have said ‘It’s inspirational’, ‘Can’t believe it’s not got alcohol in it’, ‘the bar is fun’, ‘thank you so much for doing this I can have a drink and have fun, I can now enjoy myself too even though I’m expecting’.
Finally.....‘I feel tipsy’ (quite a few have said this which is very interesting).
I attended networking events for the first time and was able to present my business to other local businesses. I found my accountant through this networking and my tasters for the home tastings.
I was supported by staff members at Erewash Partnership (see photos below) by allowing me to set up my bar at their Winter Networking event and promote my business, I even received help with some photocopying and lots of encouragement.
They also kindly agreed to link with my company on social media. One member started a Facebook page which was very helpful for posting about the business.
Finally but essentially, if I had any individual queries no matter how bizarre, staff in the EPL office would do what they could to find the answers for me.
To explain the reasoning behind the name.....Smael, as in small, was derived from the intriguing, medieval period where heads may have been clearer but perhaps ‘chopped off’ at some point. The spelling used is Old English and refers to ‘small beer’ which was a low alcoholic drink back in the day. It was often brewed by ‘Alewives’, no less; as a measure against waterborne disease.
Shane Anthony Beaver – Your Ancestry Revealed
Shane had worked for the Royal Mail as a postman for 18 years but had to retire due to a back injury. He had been looking for work but the back injury prevented him for doing any physical work. He had therefore, been claiming ESA for two years, and was referred to the New Enterprise Allowance programme by his adviser Vivien at Ilkeston JCP.
For over 20 years he had studied his own family history during his spare time. This led him to believe he could turn this into a business that he could run from home. ‘Your Ancestry Revealed’ is a family history tracing service, offered throughout the East Midlands area.
Shane has been trading since October 2016 and all clients are extremely happy, impressed and satisfied with the work produced for them. Shane has just commenced work for his first client outside of Derbyshire, which is great as it means word of this fantastic new business is moving fast. Shane also has a huge task ahead of him – another client wants him to research the family name, which is…..Smith! He claims this will be a very daunting task as you can probably imagine!
Shane confirmed that he is extremely happy and impressed with the support he received and continues to receive from Erewash Partnership Ltd in all areas, including assistance with the development of his business plan and attendance at networking events etc.
Sally Aukland of My Personal VA Rocks
Sally was referred to NEA back in August 2016 by her adviser David Coates, of Alfreton JCP. Prior to joining the NEA programme, Sally was a full-time parent to her little boy, before this she worked as a legal secretary for 9 years at a law firm in Nottingham.
My Personal VA Rocks is a remote virtual assistant business. Sally provides secretarial services and office support remotely from home in Alfreton, Derbyshire, to businesses throughout the UK.
Sally worked with her mentor Graham Pidcock through Erewash Partnership Ltd to produce a business and financial plan for her new business idea over the course of 7 weeks. Sally commenced trading in October 2016, so has only been trading for 3 months.
The main challenge has been knowing that she has got enough work on and having to say no to people, she finds saying no very hard! Her main achievements have included being able to secure work easily through contacts, without having the need or expense of marketing/advertising.
The NEA programme gave her an easier route into self-employment ‘without it, I don’t think I would have taken the leap. Graham’s expertise and advice was invaluable during the business planning stage and working on the business plan really opened my eyes up to everything I need to consider to trade successfully’.
Linda Inglis Care
Linda was referred to the NEA programme by her advisers Emma and Laura at Alfreton Job Centre. She had been off work for a total of 20 months and had claimed ESA for 8 months and JSA for 3. Prior to her claim, she worked as a County Council Carer for 20 years, but had been off work through illness as she had broken a bone in her back and was unable to continue in her role so had to look for alternative employment.
Linda’s business idea was to continue with what she knew best and she has set up providing one to one care in the community. The objective of the business is to provide a more person centred approach on a one to one basis of care. She has over 25 years’ experience in this field and throughout this time has come to realise that some clients really do benefit from continuity of care with the same carer. She already has a few local clients and is now building a more solid customer base. Linda has now been trading for 7 weeks.
Linda really benefited from the support provided by Erewash Partnership Ltd, Roger Taylor who conducted the initial assessment put her completely at ease, Linda was then matched to her mentor Graham Pidcock who helped her over a period of 7 weeks to develop her business plan, sales forecast and cashflow etc ready for her to commence trading. Continuation of support will be offered to Linda by Erewash Partnership Ltd for a period up to 6 months.
The main challenges have been building up her client base, but his is now starting to come together nicely, and this is where the NEA allowance has been very useful and helpful allowing her to build her hours up gradually.
Katie Conroy – KD Collections
Katie Conroy was made redundant on 12th April 2016 and began claiming Jobseekers on 9th June 2016. It was at this point she learned of the NEA programme and an appointment was made for me to discuss it further with a colleague of my work coach, Julie Adkin at Long Eaton JCP, who knew more about it. John then asked Katie to go away and have a look at preparing a business plan, she was then referred to the NEA programme. She transitioned to the NEA on 30th October 2016 and so had claimed Jobseekers allowance for just over 20 weeks.
Prior to making her claim to JSA, Katie was working full time as a Senior Account Manager for the Middle East and Regional Director for the UK, Middle East, Africa and Asia at an Online Travel Company. She was home based in Long Eaton but travelled weekly to the head office in London along with a minimum of 8 international trips per year. The company Katie worked for was bought out by a competitor and they were all made redundant. There were jobs available if she was able to relocate to London or the Middle East. This unfortunately, was not an option for her as her husband had a stable job in Derbyshire. She was kept on for an extended period to aid in the transition period of the buyout. On completion of the transition period I she made redundant.
Katie is now the proud Owner and Creative Director at KD Collections, which is a Luxury Wedding and Event Planning service offering a wide range of tailored solutions for a wide variety of events, based from home in Long Eaton serving the East Midlands.
The business was launched on Monday 31st October 2016 and has now been trading for 12 weeks.
“Initial branding and market position were a key achievement to ensure that the image was right for the clientele we want to attract. Social Media marketing and web presence was also a priority and continues to be so. We have held a successful birthday party and are planning another one, we have also secured 1 bride on a consultancy contract and the priority is to continue focusing on lead generation”.
The support to put together and the Business Planning was fantastic and the meetings I had with Graham Howarth my mentor through Erewash Partnership were very interactive and helpful with some great ideas generated by us both whilst talking it all through. The Erewash Partnership have simply made it so I can focus my attention on really building my business.
Hipley Cottage Crafts
Jayne Elizabeth Henderson was claiming JSA for four months before she was referred to the NEA programme by her JCP adviser Jackie at Belper JCP. Prior to being made redundant in June 2016, she was a Field Sales Representative for Loss Management Group, who specialise in post loss assessment and replacement of jewellery. This involved visiting clients in their own homes to secure sales for replacement jewellery items. Jayne also has four step children from two relationships, aged between 8 and 25.
Jayne was mentored on the NEA programme by Graham Pidcock through Erewash Partnership Ltd, she set up Hipley Cottage Crafts from home in Belper, which is a bespoke supplier of costume and precious metal jewellery and also hand painted glassware and other gifts. Jayne has now been trading since 1st December 2016, and is doing well to date.
Jayne reports that the main challenge has been learning to find the right level of online promotion and suitable events at which to trade. She has also been working hard to learn new skills to expand her ranges to include precious metal items.
NEA and Erewash Partnership have given Jayne the focus and determination to succeed within a structured framework, which has been incredibly useful.
Helen Renshaw - Couture @ 24
Helen had claimed both JSA and ESA after giving up work in March 2014 after breaking two vertebrae in her back, she also suffered from depression and anxiety after her accident. Helen was referred to NEA by Claire Bedford, her adviser at Alfreton JCP but she had also been accessing support from Lor Bird from Remploy.
Helen worked hard with support from her mentor Graham Pidcock to develop her business plan. Helen started her business Couture @ 24, Ladies Boutique Clothing in November 2016, running it from home, and other local venues when hosting fashion evenings or craft shows etc. Helen states her main challenge has been her health.