Posted: Wed 27th Apr 2022
We partnered with Vodafone to launch business.connected, helping 150,000 small and medium-sized businesses take their digital skills to the next level.
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 Kat Churchill, founder of Virtual Time Hustle, a virtual assistant (VA) business that specialises in organising admin tasks for busy business owners. Kat tells us how business.connected's online resources helped give her the grounding she needed to go into business for herself.
What events led to you setting up and running your own business?
My background is in admin. I worked my way up from receptionist to supporting an office manager to supporting a team of senior managers. And then I left that completely to become a dental nurse.
In September 2020, I was signed off with a bad back. I couldn't use my legs and I was on lots of different drugs. You know how you have a drink for courage? Well, I think it's those drugs that gave me the courage to start thinking about going into business for myself. I'd always wanted to do it, but I just never realised what I could offer to people.
A neighbour who was helping me out mentioned virtual assistants. I had time on my hands, so I looked into it and did loads of research. I found out that you can support people in whatever way you like. Build the business you need to support yourself and your family.
I started brainstorming business names right away. I was listening to a podcast and someone mentioned 'daily hustle and grind'. I loved the sound of it. I worked out what it was I was hustling, and Virtual Time Hustle was born.
What were those early days like?
Once I registered the company in October 2020, I gave myself around six weeks to launch. I built my website and started an Instagram account, began posting on there to get the ball rolling. I also started talking about the business to friends and family.
Initially, I didn't really know what I could offer people. I didn't think I was anyone special. But I came to realise that there is that element of me that's special, because many people can't organise the way that I organise. People can't sit and do the mundane things that I can sit and do for seven hours a day. Those things make a huge difference to business owners.
My first few clients came through word of mouth. My neighbour runs a recruitment company and she spread the word around her contacts. In the first week of launching, I got my first client.
After two weeks, I got my second client, who's still with me today, which is great. I've had eight clients in total so far, and six of them have come through word of mouth. So it really does pay to talk to everybody.
Starting a new business is often a period of trial and error. Were there people you went to for support and help?
My neighbour Michaela was a huge support in the beginning. I was bouncing ideas off her and asking her loads of questions. Questions about how I register a business, how I find clients. She runs her own business as a limited company and her partner is a sole trader, so I could go to both of them and learn what the differences are and what I should do myself.
I did a lot of research online. I sat for days, weeks. There were nights I didn't sleep because I got so engrossed in it. I wanted to know how to start a business, how to run it. Do I need an accreditation to run a business? Do I need a qualification to be a virtual assistant?
The legal side of it was the hardest part to find out. Things like what tax you need to pay and how to do your accounts. I knew I needed insurance, but I didn't know who to go with. Where do I find these insurance companies?
Through Facebook and Instagram I was searching for other virtual assistants (VAs) and I came across a few who were offering courses and support. They've been there and done it, and now they're helping other people get started too. It was really eye-opening to find there's a whole community of VAs.
With many businesses, it's about analysing your competitors and trying to emulate their successes. But in your field, it's more of a community.
There is still some of that – looking at your competitors and what they're offering. Working out how you can be different and what gap in the industry you can fill with the skills you have.
But as VAs, we all specialise in different areas. Saying you're a virtual assistant is vague because there are so many niches you can fill. For example, you can be a tech VA but you can do that in a specific industry like construction. You can be a VA who only does research. Every single business out there is different and they're all looking for different kinds of support.
What are your specialisms?
At the moment, I'm concentrating on what I do best. I call myself a 'vintage VA' as I offer a very traditional service. If you imagine yourself in an office, as someone who has a PA.
If you'd walk in and put a piece of work on your PA's desk, that's the kind of thing you can send it to me. I deal with lawyers, business reps, electricians, construction managers, accountant. People from all different walks of life.
But it isn't just the business part that I help with. Many business owners lose personal time because they're so focused on their work and it engulfs their whole being. You can push your business and get so engrossed in it that other plates drop. So I'm here to help balance all of those plates and keep them all spinning.
How did you find out about business.connected?
I invested in myself massively this year and got a business consultant. We have a three-hour planning session once every quarter. I was struggling with the online courses I'd been doing up to that point as they were so long and took up a huge part of my day. My consultant told me about Enterprise Nation and through your website I found the business.connected e-learning.
It's great! I can sit and eat a bowl of cereal while watching a webinar and taking notes. I can do that and still keep on top of my workload. And often the information and value I get from just a 30-minute session is far more than I was getting from a two-hour webinar.
But what I really love is that if I'm booked on a webinar but I have a meeting that runs over into that time, I still get the recording. And I can watch it back later. And if I missed something, or I couldn't take a note down quick enough, I have the option of going back. And because it isn't a two-hour session, it can take a matter of seconds to catch up.
What are your future plans for the business?
Short term, I want to get my name out there and become more of an authority within my area of expertise. And I want to narrow down what I offer. At the moment, it's just hours but I'd like to have a list of services you can choose from. You pick so many and that's the package, for such an amount every month.
Long term, I'd like to have a group of us. A team, but not necessarily doing all the same thing. A one-stop shop for all your business needs. Legal, marketing and branding, tech, admin support. A real strong foundation for any business.
Finally, what tips or advice would you give to someone who's considering going into business for themselves?
Do your research, but not too much. I found if you read everything, you'll get conflicting messages. If you find one individual or one website that you particularly like, stick with it. If it doesn't answer all of your questions, find the answer somewhere else. But try not to absorb too much.
And keep in mind that a business is like a working document. It'll never be finished and it'll never be perfect because you're constantly developing and constantly changing to the needs of who you're supplying to.
And be kind to yourself. If you make a mistake, learn from it. Don't beat yourself up over it – reflect on it and look at why it happened. Then consider what you can do differently next time. Because if you can do that, from the very beginning, you're going to have strong foundations on which you can scale and grow a business that will be incredible.
Enterprise Nation is partnering with Vodafone Business to equip 150,000 small and medium-sized businesses with the digital skills they need to take their operations to the next level.
The free training programme – delivered exclusively online, and consisting of workshops, webinars and e-learning modules – will empower businesses to kickstart digital change, adopt new technology, and stay safe online.
For more information, visit the business.connected support hub