Start-Up Masterclass: New Year – New Business!

“Starting your own business is like riding a roller coaster. There are highs and lows and every turn you take is another twist. The lows are really low, but the highs can be really high. You have to be strong, keep your stomach tight, and ride along with the roller coaster that you started.” Lindsay Manseau

Last month we held our first start-up masterclass for women wanting to start their own business and progress within their chosen field. “Women are natural-born leaders, so it’s no surprise that women have founded so many of today’s most interesting companies”, says Business News Daily. It is hard to disagree, as many reports show that women are starting and running businesses at unprecedented rates. According to Development Economics, “the businesses run by mothers with children is thriving in the UK, generating £7.2bn for the nation’s coffers and supporting 204,000 jobs last year.”

Our start-up masterclass was especially tailored for women entrepreneurs of all levels; aimed to teach them how to stop procrastinating, get their business up and running and have fun while doing it. Through lessons, our inspiring speakers shared some invaluable secrets of the trade that helped their companies rise above the competition and continue successful growth past the start-up stage.

Top tips from Vicki Devenport, The Pink Link

Vicki Devenport is the sales and commercial director of The Pink Link. The company is a specialist in the express distribution of small consignments of palletised freight throughout the UK and Europe.

Vicki talked about the fundamental things you need to know in order to set up a new business. She also emphasised the importance of knowing your competitors, always being innovative and doing lots of research. “You have to stand out from your competitors and know your unique selling point” – added Vicki.

  • You’ve got to be strong, you’ve got to stand your ground as customers will always challenge you.
  • Treat everybody like you want to be treated yourself and spend a lot of time on training your staff as they are representing your business.
  • Be prepared for unexpected challenges. You never know what is going to happen in the world that can affect your business.

Top tips from Joanna Stephenson – PHD Marketing & Strategy 

Joanna Stephenson is MD of PHD Marketing & Strategy, a marketing and communications agency. After a career in the chemical industry, followed by working as the marketing director at LINPAC group, Jo pitched to the Board of LINPAC Group to outsource their marketing depth. PHD now supplies a range of marketing and communications services to manufacturing and distribution businesses across the UK, Europe and the Middle East.

Joanna shared her expertise and offered us some amazing marketing and social media tricks that can be used to tap into those hard to reach markets and effectively promote your product. Joanna’s speech was powerful and informative and we managed to learn many important aspects of branding. “Brand consistency is vital as I truly believe in the power of branding. Branding can make you look bigger” – commented Jo.

Here are some great marketing tips from Joanna:

  • Brands get old quickly. You have to remember that every couple of years your brand has to evolve following current trends.
  • To learn more about your brand – ask your customers why they buy from you.
  • You have to relate to your customers greatly. Talking the language of your customers is critical.
  • Know the DNA of your business. The most important things are your vision, mission and values. 

Top tips from Katie Goulding – Trade Mark Attorney at HGF

Katie Goulding is a Chartered Trade Mark and Design Attorney and a member of the retail team at HGF. Her practice encompasses all aspects of trade mark law and designs, advising on domestic and international filing strategies, clearing, filing and prosecuting UK, European and International trade marks and advising on infringement and passing off. Katie has prosecuted numerous domain name disputes before Nominet and WIPO and has particular experience in monitoring e-commerce platforms for counterfeits and utilising notice and takedown procedures.

Katie offered us an insight into an unusual world where trademarks are tightly bound with copyright issues. These issues are usually left behind when starting a business but can cause some serious problems along the way. “You always have to make sure you don’t end up unintentionally stealing someone else’s idea and they don’t steal yours – you have to protect your brand from the very beginning.”

Top tips on financing and investment from Debbie Whitaker – Managing Director of Not Just Numbers & Jan Bisatt – Area Manager for Small Businesses in South & West Yorkshire at HSBC

Setting up Not Just Numbers in 2011 has given Debbie Whitaker the platform to create an accountancy firm that truly cares. It’s not about historic figures, tax returns and payroll. Debbie wants to speed you up, make you efficient and help plan your future financial growth.

Beginning her career in the construction industry in 1983, Debbie quickly rose from junior accounts clerk to FD, working with multiple companies within the portfolio and realising her love of working with SME’s. She loves to make a difference and help people streamline their processes. Systems geek doesn’t even come close!

Jan Bisatt has been with HSBC all her working life where she joined in 1973 and has held a variety of roles from Cashier to Senior Counsellor to Business Specialist to Retail Branch Manager but the one she enjoys the most is being in the Commercial sector. As a Business Specialist she was very passionate when talking to business customers and building relationships and helping and supporting them as their business grow for which she found very rewarding. Jan now runs a team of 10 Business Specialists in branch locations in the South & West Yorkshire area where she helps them to develop.

Both Debbie and Jan offered us an invaluable insight into financing and investment followed by an invaluable opportunity to pick the brains of an experienced finance gurus.

Jan focused on the ways to fund your new start up (even if you haven’t got any major savings) and explained the importance of consulting an expert before making any serious financial decisions. “At HSBC we always put the customer first and this is at the heart of everything we do; striving to give excellent customer service at all times.”

Debbie shared her experience whilst emphasising the importance of managing those all-important figures. To avoid any financial confusions Debbie suggested “Do what you do best and let professional accountants do what they do best – manage and protect your finances.”


Would you like your business and hard work to be recognised? Then apply or nominate someone for one of our prestigious National Women in Business awards, so we can celebrate your success and inspire other women to do the same. There’s nothing we love more than promoting incredible women in business! Apply/Nominate HERE.