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Karen Oliver: 'Make a Plan helped me figure out where to look for help, what to prioritise and my focus for each working day.'

Karen Oliver: 'Make a Plan helped me figure out where to look for help, what to prioritise and my focus for each working day.'

Posted: Thu 17th Mar 2022

Enterprise Nation partnered with Mastercard and Strive to deliver an online ‘One Stop Shop’ for entrepreneurs.

An initiative of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, the Strive programme will 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.

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 Karen Oliver, whose business Beyond the Bathroom Scale provides a self-help resource for women who want to heal from disordered eating and body image.

Karen is a specialist in coaching based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and bases her work on clinical research into the areas of intuitive eating, body image and eating disorders.

Karen, could you tell us when and how you made the move into business ownership?

I'm a former social worker, but had to leave that role – in which I was working 60 to 80-hour weeks –to look after my late father, who had vascular dementia. I also had a baby during this time, so I needed work that would allow me to work from home and fit my job around my caring and parenting responsibilities.

This was long before the pandemic, so flexible and remote working wasn't as commonplace. As a result, I decided to set up my own online business, as I knew that would give me the flexibility I needed.

What support, if any, did you seek when setting up your new business?

I joined a few business groups online – including Enterprise Nation – and leant on the support of various mentors for advice around topics such as managing business finance, legal considerations, and marketing strategies.

What specifically did the Make a Plan tool help with?

The Make a Plan tool helped me figure out where to look for help and advice first, and what to prioritise. I liked that everything is categorised for me, so I can choose a focus for each day that I set aside to work on my business, rather than working in it.

Can you paint a picture of those early weeks and months of your new business? What went well? What didn’t? How did you overcome any problems?

I remember feeling very overwhelmed! I was doing many different jobs all at the same time. Some days I was in accounting mode, other days I had to think like a marketing manager, then I'd spend a portion of my time creating and designing content or building my website and app.

In the early days of business, it feels like everything is competing for your attention.

My way of coping with this now is to use project management software, Asana. I set up different projects in there, which I think of as separate 'departments' in my business.

I plan every task out for each of these 'departments' and schedule it, then look at my overall calendar to see which tasks I can delegate to a freelancer, which I can automate, and what I need to prioritise for each day.

Now you’re established and looking to grow, what do you see as the next steps for your business?

After a year of testing my app and its content with customers, I'd like to scale my offering to include organisational licences that health trusts and education providers can buy and offer as part of their support packages to patients or students.

What are your more longer-term plans?

I'm currently retraining as a psychologist and hope to open a private practice online, specialising in eating disorders. I'd also like to offer accredited CPD courses in eating disorders to other allied medical professionals and clinical supervision services.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned from going into business for yourself?

Ask other people for help! This was something I struggled with before I set up my business, and I started out thinking I had to do everything by myself and solve issues alone.

It's much easier when you reach out to other people in business and bounce ideas around and share knowledge. Business is a collaborative project. I'm so grateful for all the mentors and advisers who have supported me.

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About Strive 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

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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