Interview: Nancy Dykins, Business Link North West

Business Link acts as a way to sign post business owners through the maze of starting up and running a successful business. Image credit to Mark Sardella.

Business Link acts as a way to sign post business owners through the maze of starting up and running a successful business. Image credit to Mark Sardella.

With the recession in full swing, jobs being lost, the pound losing value, and the ‘green shoots’ of recovery just a twinkle in Darling’s eye we thought it would be a good time to find out what Business Link are up to.

The government has been pumping money into services that promote and help businesses to grow, particularly new start-ups. So, with one eye on our own ambitions here on Preston Blog it was interesting to speak to Nancy Dykins who is a broker for the digital and creative industries in the North West with Business Link.

Nancy Dykins says that planning is where most businesses have problems

Nancy Dykins says that planning is where most businesses have problems

“We’re a free to use, impartial and confidential business support service”, says Dykins, “we want to give people that help to start a business or to grow an existing one.”

Business Link North West helps around 9,600 clients a year and each broker has around 70-80 clients they will deal with on a regular basis.

The brokers work as a team to provide support to a wide range of businesses and this is a big challenge for them according to Dykins.

She said: “We work to signpost people to the right information, training and potentially funding. It’s a hard challenge as you can be dealing with so many different sized business’ at one time.

“I can be working with an advertising agency in the morning on a human resources issue to a small greetings card one-man-band operation in the afternoon who wants to boost sales.”

Brokers have to keep on top of a deluge of information as laws, rules and funding opportunities change daily in the business world.

“Part of my role is taking all the information that flows into my inbox and picking out the bits that are useful”, says Dykins, “I will then try to pass this on to my clients wherever I can.”

One of the key positives of Business Link is that it is free to use. Anyone who is starting up a business, or thinking of starting one up, can ask for help.

Dykins said: “We’re impartial which is important, we like it when people come to us at the very earliest stages of setting up a business and we can be there right from the start.

“But, we can do a lot to help established businesses as well.”

You might think that Business Link brokers may have all the theory and no practical experience, but this isn’t the case. Get Nancy as an advisor and she’s set up and run two successful companies, selling one of them, Orchard Suits recruitment agency in Manchester, to become a Business Link advisor.

“We don’t want people who have just sat behind desks”, says Dykins, “the aim of Business Link is that you get an advisor who has real business experience, has been there and done it – so that they understand what you’ll be going through when setting up your business. You don’t want someone just talking a load of management and business theory at you.”

When setting up a business there are many challenges to overcome, but becoming a victim of your own passion is what Dykins feels is the biggest threat to any entreprenuer.

She said: “It’s very easy to get the blinkers on and just do what you want, and not make the best decision for the business.

“Plus we find that after the first year, while the business is doing well they are struggling to keep themselves organise and think beyond the next batch of orders, the next job or the next delivery. They lack the strategic stuff and we can really help people with this.”

Speed Networking in Preston

Speed Networking is a chance to meet other businesses and organisations in Preston

Speed Networking is a chance to meet other businesses and organisations in Preston

No, not speed dating – but speed networking for businesses. If you run, own or manage a business then this is a great chance to meet other business owners and find out what other people are up to, bounce ideas and make some contacts.

This is how it works:

People are arranged seated at tables facing each other. A whistle blows and a three-minute networking session begins.

One person begins by talking about who they are; what they do; and what they are looking for. Then it is the other person’s turn to do the same. The conversation can then turn to exploring any potential business opportunities between you.

The whistle blows again when three minutes has passed, one-person remains seated while the other moves one place up the row and a new three-minute meeting begins.

If you are serious about growing your business then this is a must attend event. It is the quickest way to make lots of new business contacts and meet potential clients.

It’s £25. Due to be held at Preston North End’s Deepdale Stadium on Thursday 9th July 2009.

Find out more and book a place

Nominations announced for 2009 Lancashire Business Oscars

Downtown Preston in Business has unveiled the shortlist for its 2009 Lancashire Business Oscars.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday 9th July 2009 at Stanley House, Mellor, near Preston.

You can vote via the Downtown Preston in Business website.

Sexy Networker – Male:
Michael Gregory, Freshfield;
Stephen Bolton, Lancashire Business View;
Michael Conlon, Conlons Construction.

Sexy Networker – Female:
Michelle Guest, Mentor Corporate Coaching;
Helen Hulme, St John’s Building;
Angela Smith, The Write Angle;
Juliet Cort, Freshfield.

Business Journalist of the Year:
Peter Butterfield, Lancashire Business View;
David Coates, Lancashire Evening Post;
Chris Barry, The Business Desk.

Best Downtown Bar/Restaurant:
Marvin Baldwin, The Forum;
Danny Jackson, Vintage;
Trish Brockbank, The Honey Lounge.

Professional of the Year:
Richard Garratt, Garratts Insurance;
Sean Williams, Yorkshire Bank;
Kathryn Harwood, Napthens;
Gillian Bardin, Taylor Patterson.

Best Business Advisor:

Rob Kenmare, Moore & Smalley;
Jonathan Diggines, Enterprise Ventures;
Daniel Milnes, Forbes;
Damian Walmesley, Moore & Smalley.

Property Professional of the Year:
Andrew Taylorson, Eckersley;
Mick Goode, Croft Goode;
Joe Assalone, Pinkus & Co.

Property Advisor of the Year:

Mike Fetherstone, Napthens;
Diana Robertson, Forbes;
Chris Scott, DWF LLP.

140 Coffee, a true social media cafe in Preston?

The view inside 140 Coffee on Friargate

The view inside 140 Coffee on Friargate

Had a meeting on Thursday night about covering the Preston Tringe Festival and we met in 140 Coffee on Friargate.

It used to be called Harbls, and probably numerous other names before that, but it’s been taken over by a new owner and we got chatting with him before we left and he’s got interesting plans for the place.

Instead of just selling you coffee, it also plans to host a range of events and be a true social media cafe – using tools such as twitter, flickr, last fm and wordpress to reach out to the Preston community and create a community around the cafe.

It’s also stocking Orangina (remember that!), selling handmade cards, has a rather relaxed approach to being a library and the owner controls the music playing via a Last FM application on his iPhone.

Franky, the owner, has put a lot of time into doing the place up and establishing a good (free for customers) wireless connection. The place has the feel of a real independent coffee store and the ethos to match in its aims and hopes.

If you fancy a coffee and a place to surf the web, 140 Coffee is the place to go – especially if you’re sick of Cafe Nero, Costa and Starbucks.

How to ‘survive and thrive’ for Preston businesses during the recession

Don't ignore it, find out how you can get through the recession

Don't ignore it, find out how you can get through the recession

If you run, manage or own a Preston based business then there’s an event you may just want to take a look at in June. Put on by Business Link North West with a whole host of partners, it’s a chance to get some advice and discuss how the recession is affecting your business and how you can beat it.

Find out more information on the events mini-site. It’s being held in the Marriott Hotel on Tuesday 30th June 2009 and runs from 8.30 AM – 5 PM. It looks like there’s a load of different workshops and seminars, so you can pick what you go to.

The official blurb says:

These events are designed to help your business through the economic downturn – with help from a team of experts to guide you on your journey.

Hear from members of The Directors’ Centre – some of the UK’s leading speakers on entrepreneurship, who will explain how to make it through the current economic climate. Our experts will provide tips on how to manage your business in the credit crunch and make money at the same time!

If you’re not in Preston, or can’t make that date, the same event is happening across loads of different places in the North West throughout June.

Mapping job losses and gains in Preston, Lancashire and surrounding area

Join in to help map the impact of the current economic situation in terms of job losses and gains in Preston, plus also the surrounding area.

I’ve added a few that I’ve seen in the last few days. We’re using pink markers for confirmed job losses, green for new jobs being created and yellow for where jobs are under threat but have not been confirmed losses.

This will help build up a picture of what the employment market is like in Preston.

You can see a national picture of how the job market is changing across the UK on the BBC website.

Interview: Cartmel Photography

Emma Cartmel - owner of Cartmel Photography

Emma Cartmel - owner of Cartmel Photography

With a passion and flare for photography, it’s easy to see why Emma Cartmel is becoming one of the new, hotly tipped North West photographers in 2009.

Gazing around her apartment it is easy to see why she has succeeded where others have failed. Each photograph has, at some point, had Emma’s undivided attention to enable her to capture everything important to Emma and her clients.

Unbelievably, Cartmel photography was only established last year but with Emma’s lifestyle changes she decided to take her hobby further and hasn’t looked back since.

Working as a Field based account manager in the telecom industry, Emma, 27, was working long hours and found it extremely stressful.

She realised after giving birth to her first child in 2006 that her work and life balance wasn’t right and Emma felt that she was on the road too much.

She said:

Having Christopher changed everything. There is more to life than the corporate world – and it’s more important to do something you enjoy.

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Delving into her hobby of photography, she decided to bite the bullet and persevered to become recognised for her talents.

I realised it could grow to be a lot more than a hobby, so started researching into it. Changing career during the recession was a huge worry as we have a mortgage and family to support, but then again there would always be some barriers to overcome and you have to believe in yourself.

Emma, from Clayton le Woods, Chorley, realised she was turning a corner in life after her first paid portrait session and the customer’s delight spurred her on to go further.

Now, with an ever increasing client base, Emma is trying to maintain that the work and life balance is in order so she can enjoy spending time with her partner, Chris, of ten years and their son Christopher, who is three.

It’s not easy, you have to remember where your priorities are and you need an understanding partner. Chris would always tell me if the balance wasn’t right. I do feel guilty for not being a stay at home Mum and when I’m away I feel that I’m missing out on special time with my son.

Despite the current recession, Emma is building her business successfully and her photography name is now well known in the wedding industry. Her diary is booked up for months on end already – proving that her unique eye to detail is an instant hit throughout Lancashire.

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Emma’s day to day life varies so much now and that it what she loves – the change.

She said:

There just isn’t a typical day (in Cartmel Photography). I do weddings, portraits and Christenings so it can be shooting on the day, editing the images, answering emails and keeping track of finances. It’s especially important to keep an eye on developments in the industry and within the wedding market.

The budding photographer relishes in building excellent relationships with customers because she insists that her photography is personal; something between herself and whomever she is working with.

In ten years time I’d still like to be doing it and feel inspired, like I do now. I love being creative and if I lost that it would be mundane and I don’t want that from life.

So, it just goes to show that if you set your mind to something – you can do it and Emma Cartmel is the perfect example, both in her professional and in her personal life. An amazing example of a yummy Mummy who juggles the best of everything!