Posted: Sat 1st Oct 2011
I've spent a good part of the last week interviewing the first recipients of money from Fund101 and writing short profiles about their businesses and what they plan to spend the money on. Kay Welsh of Invitation Only, for example, plans to buy an electric cutter to speed up production of her wedding stationery; Emma Maudsley of Sock Monkey Emporium needs a decent camera to take better product shots for online marketplaces; Francesca Geens Â of Digital Dragonfly wants to create a promotional goody bag to hand out at a business conference. There are promotional banners being bought with Fund101 money, website improvements, tactile business cards, an Android tablet for games development - and more. These aren't massive purchases. But it's easy to overlook the significance of small things - particularly as a journalist where you can fall into the trap of believing it's only the big stories about what well-known people get up to that matter. We really shouldn't. The electric cutter, the camera, the goody bag - for the business-owner, these are small stepping stones towards something else, something bigger. Kay's electric cutter means she can increase her output; Emma's camera means she can compete with bigger organisations in a competitive market; Francesca's goody bag will help her attract the attention of potential customers for her IT consultancy. These aren't just 'things', they're the catalysts for turning a small enterprise into something a little larger - a full-time concern, perhaps, rather than a part-time one; a business that has the resources to employ people, maybe; one that moves out of the home and into fit-for-purpose premises. For me, as a writer, the 'things' are clues to something else, too. They're the tangible evidence of personal ambitions that are bound up with the business. There's nothing small about the jump into the unknown each of our Fund101 recipients has taken when setting up a venture that takes them away from the world of 'regular' work and into a place where they have to survive on their own wit and resources. There's nothing small about the unique story that each of them has to tell or the aspirations they carry with them on their adventure in the world of small enterprise. Every one of the business-owners that I'm interviewing has a resourcefulness and a sense of possibility that I admire greatly. This, in a sense, is what defines us as 'entrepreneurs' - you take a risk, you step away from what others say you should be doing, you follow your own path, wherever that happens to take you. That's a big deal, believe me. And it's what Fund101 is all about at its core - enabling enterprising people to take the next small step on the path less travelled. It's small, but it's big - if you see what I mean.
On Monday, we've got the release of our annual Small Business Report. I've followed this for a few years in a previous role, and it always makes fascinating reading. It's another big deal. Next week, we'll also have more Fund101 profiles, more handy tips for business and the first stirrings of Go Global, our big venture to take the UK's small businesses to the world. Keep reading, folks. Simon Image: Colin Dunn