Posted: Thu 29th Jun 2023
We partnered with Vodafone to launch business.connected, helping 800,000 small and medium-sized businesses take their digital skills to the next level over the next three years.
Business owners can take part in e-learning modules, digital workshops delivered by business.connected advisers and Lunch and Learn webinars, and have a free consultation with a Vodafone V-Hub adviser.
The business.connected programme covers a range of core digital topics, from SEO and e-commerce to cyber-security and connectivity.
We're catching up with some of the business owners who have been taking part in the initiative to find out about how it's benefited them so far.
Here, we talk to Ewan Buck, founder of Contingent Works, a co-working space in Bromley, London.
How did you learn of business.connected? And what resources have you used so far?
I'm a mentor on the Help to Grow: Management Course that Enterprise Nation is involved with, and I found business.connected through that.
Being a one-man band means you're often too busy to stand back and take stock or look at areas of your business you need to address. The business.connected programme looked professional, and I needed help getting my marketing campaign together.
So, with a little digging around, I found all the learning resources. Instantly, I knew that because the subjects were split into modules, I'd be able to follow and finish the course. I could see how it was all broken down, just like a good recipe book.
I used the marketing modules and while not all were of direct use, they helped me get my plan off the ground and running. Part of the overwhelm was sorted and I ended up with more customers.
This has all fed into Contingent Works, my co-working space. There is now a small community of members using the programme, especially the modules on e-commerce and accounting.
How did you come up with your idea and turn it into a business?
I've been a magazine designer for 30 years. Back in 2017, I was looking to bring a freelance team together to produce an annual report for a cancer charity I often work for. I thought that rather than go to London each day, there may be a resource in Bromley, where I live, that I could use.
After a day or two of looking around beige and uninspiring 80s-built spaces, I wondered why not build my own perfect creative office? So my best friend Stephen and I started a side hustle and got researching.
We realised that with 2019 being the worst-ever year for high-street retail, there was an opportunity to make high streets a destination in a different way. At the time, the council were reluctant to let go of retail space but then COVID hit and everything changed.
I was made redundant and furloughed in March 2020 and I recognised that this was the most time I'd ever have. So Stephen and I renegotiated terms with our future landlord and opened our doors that November.
I spent lockdown on calls with co-work specialists in the US and London. We slowly built a community of potential members and we started to engage with the council and local networking groups. As most of these things had gone online, it meant we could cover a lot of ground.
Watch this e-learning module to find out how to create an effective marketing campaign:
What are some of the key challenges you've faced on your business journey?
The same as everyone else – Brexit, a pandemic, war in Europe. But personally it's fighting overwhelm with all the hats a business owner has to wear.
My friend Stephen was always going to be my strategy partner, but I'm the day-to-day manager and what I wasn't prepared for was how lonely that can be. Running a co-work means you're surrounded by people but I had to make it work and still don't sleep all night! The 4am wake up where you have to grab a pencil and make notes happens less but hasn't totally gone away.
What's the best advice you've received while taking part in business.connected?
The programme has a lot of information, but more generally it just feels like there's someone there who has your back.
Finally, what advice would you give to anyone who's considering starting a business?
Jumping into a completely different industry is exciting and scary in equal measure. Identifying and then researching each challenge is part of your job and we now have 170 members that I feel responsibility for.
It's ironic that the first course I did with business.connected was in my comfort zone from my work in design and communications, but for some reason that was also the easiest to ignore. Now I've started on the programme I look forward to tackling the things I really am trying to ignore, like the accounting.
Free video training, exclusive offers and workshops
The business.connected hub is a free online training programme of workshops, webinars and e-learning modules designed to help businesses go digital, adopt new technology, and stay safe online. Take me to the hub now