Posted: Thu 11th Aug 2022
Minal Patel was born to be a marketer. From finding her way into a marketing role early in her career to starting her very own business, Minal is on a mission to share her knowledge with as many small businesses as possible.
She thrives on providing best-in-class support to those who truly need it, through both her work with Enterprise Nation and Marketing by Minal - the company she founded.
For Enterprise Nation's latest showcase, Minal takes us through the highs and lows of her journey to becoming one of the platform's most popular marketing advisers.
Much of the Enterprise Nation community will be aware of you, but fewer will know about your background! How did you start out in the world of marketing?
“I think I fell into it! It was early 2001 or 2002, and the company that I worked for was having a massive reorganisation, and at the time I was a career PA, so I'd worked for a number of execs – organising their lives! But I’d always get so far and then have itchy feet.
“At that point, I was working for the finance director, and when the opportunity came up for the reorganisation, I suggested if a role comes up that might fit me would you consider me for it? And bless him he did, even though he lost his PA!
"So, I ended up in another department where 40% of my role was admin and 60% was marketing, and that 60% just grew and grew until the department hired a full-time administrator and I became a full-time marketer.
“I then started doing things like my marketing qualifications, learning about theory, as well as working in a busy department; I started at junior level and worked my way up.”
What brought about the decision to start your own business?
“It's a funny story. It was 2016 and my husband and I were looking to buy a house, but those who we kept trying to buy from were seeing their own houses fall through, so we got to the point where we decided to renew our mortgage; my husband had spent less than a year working for a start-up, self-employed, so he did he didn't have a year's worth of accounts, and so I was the lead applicant on the mortgage.
“A week later we got our mortgage renewed - full steam ahead! A week after that, I got made redundant. I'm quite risk averse, so I said to my husband "oh, let's not buy a house".
He disagreed, saying we’ve got this far, we’re buying a house. I eventually agreed and said I’ll start up with some agencies and look for another job and he said I shouldn’t do that either.
“He told me: “I never see you happier than when you're talking to small businesses, giving them advice.” I had a fairly decent redundancy package, and I thought I had enough to try and do this for a little while to see if it works out.
“For the first four years, I kept saying to my husband, if next year is not better I'll just get a job, and the first year I didn't say that was 2020 when the pandemic started. By that time I was five years in and I didn’t want to lose it!
“It really focused my mind at the start of the first lockdown, because I realised I really didn’t want to work for somebody else. I wanted to do this. I thought how I was going to make this actually work and come out the other side – and thankfully I did!”
What’s the main piece of advice you’d give to those hoping to follow in your footsteps?
“I would say to really think about your target audience before you start, and have some marketing lined up before you get going because, by the time you get to sell whatever it is that you’re selling, you’ll want to have built up an audience that will buy from you.
“A lot of start-ups leave marketing quite late in the day, but I’d say get going as soon as you can, and share your journey with people as that’s something they like a lot, especially with small businesses – they love to look behind the scenes at what’s going on. It makes them feel more involved. It makes them feel more invested in the business. So don't leave marketing last.”
What are the major pitfalls you've experienced?
“When I started my business, everyone said to me you'll be great because I already knew about marketing, therefore things will happen really quickly.
"At the beginning that was good because so many of my friends and all of my family were behind me, but then the support slowed a little bit, not because they don't support you, but just because the excitement kind of fizzles out!
“I guess the biggest pitfall is to think that overnight successes really can happen because it doesn’t - there's a lot of work that goes into what looks like an overnight success. It took me quite a long time to realise this myself.
“So, I cut myself a bit of slack, as I knew what I was doing for the first six months in business was slowly but steadily building an audience. Marketing takes time, it's not something that works overnight. You have to be consistent, and you have to show up every day.
“I guess for me, it was sort of dampening down everyone else's hype around me and realistically looking at what was happening and then telling myself what I tell other businesses: this isn't going to happen overnight, and you just have to keep at it and it’ll happen.”
What’s the most rewarding thing about building and running a business essentially based around helping people just like yourself?
“The most rewarding thing is helping people because I work exclusively with small businesses, particularly businesses that have under five people involved.
“To me, it’s about making that material difference to somebody's life. You’re potentially helping somebody take their kids on holiday or afford to employ someone and take on a team, so you're really making that big material difference.
“Given how many small businesses there are in the UK, you're actually impacting the local economy, which I think is really important.”
How did you first become aware of Enterprise Nation and what led you to become an adviser?
“In my last job, I actually was head of marketing for a company, and I did quite a few sponsorship events with Enterprise Nation. It was a voucher programme that was one of the big things that I sponsored as head of marketing, so that's how I became aware of Enterprise Nation.
“I then stayed in touch with a couple of people. I knew Dan Martin through him working at Business Zone and then he joined as a freelancer, so I've kept in touch with him and he kept nudging me to ask when I was joining Enterprise Nation!
“I've also known Emma Jones since about 2014. I know Emma's drive, and I know how much she wants small businesses to succeed, so when I was on the other side of things, it was a no-brainer, really.
“Whenever you look at marketing your business, you always want to go to the places where your target audiences are – again, a no-brainer. Enterprise Nation is where my target audience is, and it means I can reach that audience, as you guys have got bigger pulling power than I have.
“I couldn’t get 500 people onto a webinar, but Enterprise Nation can, and from a purely selfish point of view I want to get in front of as many small businesses as I can, and that means teaming up with organisations that are bigger than me who also want to help small businesses.”
“It’s given me the opportunity to work with brands much bigger than me. On my own, I would never be able to work with Vodafone and with that comes quite a lot of credibility for me, to be able to say, if I'm pitching my training service to other organisations, that I've done training for Vodafone. This gives me some credibility as someone that can deliver good training.
“If Vodafone trusts me, I then know Enterprise Nation trusts me, as you wouldn't put me forward if you didn't feel that I could do a good job. I have had business from Enterprise Nation every year I’ve had my membership, so it’s been very much worth it.
Want to become an adviser on Enterprise Nation and follow in Minal's footsteps? You can sign up today.
Finally, be sure to connect with Minal on Enterprise Nation today for any further marketing support.