Posted: Mon 4th Dec 2023
We've partnered with Mastercard and Strive to give 650,000 British micro and small enterprises the support they need to thrive in the digital economy over the next three years and beyond.
One way we're doing this is through our online Make a Plan tool. Simply create an account, answer some quick questions about your business, then receive personalised feedback. You then use those recommendations to build an action plan designed to speed up your growth.
We're catching up with business owners who have benefited from using the tool and creating their own action plans. Here, Emma Read of Hampshire-based Make Your Mark Events, which offers live painting entertainment for large celebrations including weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and team events.
Emma, tell us how you started your business.
I was due to go back to work after maternity leave, but things were made quite difficult for me. Plus, I had no real passion for the business I was in. I'd studied textile design at university and I always felt in my heart that one day I'd do something creative again.
So after deciding not to return to that job, I began to explore starting a business. I had no idea what that new world looked like or how I would get there. But I had a fire in me to try.
I spent quite a lot of time in the early days jotting down ideas and trialling things. While picking up various part-time jobs, I slowly started to sell my art and do workshops and fairs. I was establishing what worked for me and made financial sense.
In the summer of 2019, I came up with the idea of an interactive painting that the guests at a wedding would complete. It wasn't something I'd ever seen before. The concept of "Your Guest Canvas" was born, trialled and met with appreciation and bookings!
When COVID hit, fortunately my self employment gave me enough to tick by. It was only after the wedding bans lifted in 2021 that my concept really took off. It took me until the middle 2022 to name it as its own business separate to my art, and in early 2023 I gave up all other paid work to solely focus on Make Your Mark Events.
What challenges were you facing before you found Make a Plan?
If I look at when I turned my concept Make Your Mark Events into a business, I knew I needed support with my website and SEO, and I was able to find a website designer. I also wanted some finance, so I took out a start-up business loan and got an accountant.
Why did you decide to use Make a Plan to address those challenges?
Initially, I was interested in the questions it was asking. I've never had a business coach or an adviser, so it was good to see what questions were considered important for me and for my business, and if there was anything that hadn't even crossed my radar. Fortunately, nothing really surprised me!
What do you see as the next steps for your business?
This year, I scaled my business a fair bit. But other than getting a bit of support from some self-employed artists doing the odd event for me, I'm very much a one-woman band!
So outsourcing more is going to be key to growth. Figuring out what I want to do in the business, looking at how and if it's possible to grow further in the UK, and developing my corporate offer more. The winter months are my quiet times, so that's when I'll be tackling these kinds of questions.
What are your more longer-term plans?
I constantly battle with the desire to make this a global offer and the option to keep it more or less as it is now. One thing I have enjoyed though is being able to offer other artists an income. Being an artist is a tough career choice and I feel options for a steady and predictable income are limited.
Studio hire, shows and materials are expensive and galleries take an average of 50% from artists. I'd like to be able to open a big studio from which I can run Make Your Mark Events. There would then be affordable studio space to rent out and an option to work for me at events. I would love to see a few of these over the UK.
Finally, what are the most important lessons you've learned from going into business for yourself?
They might sound like cliches but they're all true!
Have faith and confidence to be able to put yourself out there. Show up!
It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Done is better than never done.
Be careful who you take advice from. Trust your gut.
Don't feel bad about saying no if something doesn't align with your business or values.
Make time to take time off.
About Make a Plan
Create an account, answer some quick questions about your business, get personalised feedback, then build an action plan that will help accelerate your business's growth. Take the Make a Plan tool today