Posted: Wed 6th Sep 2023
Enterprise Nation is on a mission to take the loneliness out of entrepreneurship. Through our online local meet-ups, we're offering a ready-made support network to small business owners across the UK and Ireland.
These monthly meet-ups wouldn’t exist without our army of Local Leaders – amazing individuals who are passionate about supporting small businesses and are committed to their local communities. Here, we meet Jarmila Yu, your Surrey Local Leader.
Tell us about your business.
I've spent over 25 years in senior marketing roles with businesses ranging from start-ups to some of the world's largest brands. I know what it takes to develop successful marketing strategies and how to get the best performance out of teams.
All the businesses I've worked in have had one thing in common: they've needed to grow. And business growth is what I've helped them with.
I'm the founder and CEO of YUnique Marketing Ltd. It's an award-winning Surrey-based marketing consultancy that works with ambitious founders and CEOs in start-ups and SMEs to give them access to strategic marketing excellence and a full spectrum of marketing project expertise. This is all led from a chief marketing officer's perspective.
The big picture is to provide the 'CMO Advantage' – traditionally only enjoyed by large corporates – to pioneering, purpose-driven entrepreneurs and SMEs that are the backbone of UK business. This will enable them to prosper as it will create more rewarding jobs, drive economic growth, and ultimately deliver a better world.
How long have you been an Enterprise Nation member and Local Leader?
I came across Enterprise Nation years ago when I was working for an SME. I thought it was an interesting organisation. When I started my own business in 2016, I knew I needed to get closer to Enterprise Nation to benefit from its membership and resources.
Meeting other Local Leaders was the initial inspiration. Hosting the meet-ups and meeting other members inspired me further to shape the format for our Surrey meetings.
What can entrepreneurs attending a meet-up for the first time expect?
Each month, I host an online evening meet-up for Enterprise Nation. We start with 60-second introductions and then an icebreaker question, which gets the free-flowing conversation going.
We then discuss challenges and opportunities. Through sharing our thoughts and ideas, we learn from each other and inspire each other. Sometimes we all have the same problem, so by helping someone else, we might just resolve our own problems too!
There's usually the chance to discuss a business-related issue one of us is facing. Here’s where the magic happens as we each offer our own perspective on it. Potential approaches or solutions then start to appear.
Why should small business owners in and around Surrey consider joining your monthly meet-up?
If you need a dose of camaraderie, a bit of a boost, and a connection with like-minded business owners, come along to the monthly meet-up.
If small business owners need a reminder about how good Surrey can be, I'm on hand to fly the Surrey flag. Living, raising a family, and building a business here, I've had the opportunity to explore the county.
Entrepreneurship can be lonely stressful, and overwhelming, but it can also be exhilarating, fulfilling and satisfying. There's more support available than ever and there's also a massive community of like-minded entrepreneurs and business cheerleaders keen to provide encouragement, inspiration and advice out there.
If you had to start a business all over again, what would you do differently?
My top tip, if I started a business again, would be to reach out, seek experienced support, and think of business as a team sport.
A coach I encountered at the start of my entrepreneurship journey introduced me to the concept that environment dictates performance.
This principle has guided me to ensure I keep the right company, joining communities and surrounding myself with people who can share best practices, offer key resources, provide accountability, and supply inspiration for the excellent standards needed for success.
What's the small business scene like in Surrey?
Just as Surrey is a special place, the business scene is special too. It's the second-biggest contributor to the UK economy after London.
Surrey has fantastic communications with 4G and 5G coverage, easy access to central London and surrounding counties, as well as motorways and airports for national and international reach.
It has a vibrant mix of businesses – types, sizes and sectors – some new emerging high-growth sectors, traditional businesses, innovative R&D, and world-leading academic institutions. Some large enterprises and corporations are headquartered here too. Most industry sectors are present.
Surrey also has a range of membership organisations supporting the business community, and I collaborate with most if not all of them. My view is that we should put ourselves in the shoes of the business community to do the right thing and help them start, grow and thrive.
What major challenges are businesses in Surrey facing right now?
Surrey is not without its challenges. The pandemic disrupted the local economy and many businesses struggled and suffered severely, and the recovery continues for many.
Here are some of the key challenges that local businesses often raise at meet-ups:
Access to skills and talent
As you move from concept to start-up, you need to skill up fast. Thankfully, Enterprise Nation’s platform and adviser community are of great support to those setting up a business for the first time. You need to find trusted partners to help you get established and see critical growth in those early years.
As you set your sights on growth, you may need to bring staff on board. I often hear business leaders say: "Where have all the people gone?" For various reasons, we seem to have a skills and talent shortage.
We need to find 'creative' ways to bring people back into the talent pool. It could be by adding virtual, part-time consultants, freelancers, recent school- or college leavers, or taking on undergraduates for a placement year. This can deliver much of the support we need without feeling too restricted by the lack of talent in the market.
But we do need to fix the talent shortage. If I had the opportunity to pass a message directly to the PM, I'd say:
"In order for UK companies' productivity to increase and for businesses to achieve growth, we need the innovation you constantly talk about to be supported by investment in people. We need a concerted collective effort between education, business, industry professions and government to collaborate to fix the skills shortage.
"For instance, creating a pool of talented people, but not affording them the opportunity to gain experience, means they could fall at the first hurdle when job descriptions then call for 'x years of experience'.
"We need to find better ways to support businesses, so they can take on inexperienced yet valuable talent. I kindly urge you to consider collaborating with talent/people/HR experts to devise experience-creating initiatives, employment policies and tax incentives to sit alongside the existing skills-development initiatives. And then of course deploy the right marketing, PR, and comms to support you in getting the valuable message out."
2. Access to finance
Post proof of concept and start-up, there will no doubt be a need to invest in the business to drive growth. Once initial internal funding sources are consumed, attention will turn to external finance.
Finding out what funding sources are available and what are the right options to pursue can be a daunting task. Just as we now have the SME Climate Hub for guidance on sustainability, it would be great for small businesses to have trusted sources of information as regards access to finance.
3. Access to space
Business rates and location costs are crippling some businesses. If there could be support available for the first five years of a business, in terms of office space/retail unit support, that would be much appreciated. This may even help improve the negative statistic of how so few businesses continue after the first five years.
Tell us about two small business successes that you've heard about in your area (or at your meet-ups).
The first one is that Surrey is home to the Top Town for UK Business. Camberley in Surrey Heath won the title in Enterprise Nation's and Dell's Top Towns national competition in 2022. This was an awesome boost to businesses not only in Camberley but across Surrey.
Secondly, as the meet-ups have been going on for a while, we’re starting to see some regular attendees. It's lovely to see attendees also meeting up with each other at several different local leader region meet-ups. We must be doing something right!
Small business local meet-ups with Enterprise Nation
Local meet-ups take place every month. Find your nearest and reserve your place