Posted: Thu 15th Jul 2021
Enterprise Nation has teamed up with Vodafone on business.connected – an online initiative that will help 150,000 small and medium-sized businesses boost their digital skills.
Small and medium-sized businesses signed up to the programme are supported via e-learning modules, digital workshops delivered by business.connected advisers, fortnightly Lunch and Learn webinars and a free consultation with a Vodafone V-Hub adviser.
The initiative covers core digital topics like collaborating with others online, website building and e-commerce, cyber-security and connectivity.
With the programme now firmly underway, we wanted to hear how the small and medium-sized businesses taking part have been getting on.
First up is Natalie Hodgins, the co-founder and head of production at video production company Visionary Pictures. Natalie was recently shortlisted in the Young Entrepreneur category at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, alongside her business partner Brock Elwick, and used the programme to brush up on her digital sales and marketing techniques.
Natalie, how did you hear about business.connected?
I try to learn something new every day, so that’s why business.connected jumped out at me. I saw the Vodafone partnership announced in Enterprise Nation’s weekly newsletter and thought it sounded really interesting – largely because it brings together so many experts from the digital space.
I attended the boosting digital skills Lunch and Learn session with Vodafone’s director for small and medium-sized business, Andrew Stevens. All the advice really fitted together and it’s easy to see why it would be so beneficial for people less knowledgeable about the digital space.
As a business owner only just starting on my journey, I needed to hear not only advice like this but also how other people in my position are getting on. So I love going to practical sessions like this - they’re so valuable for me and my business partner.
Is digital marketing an area where you’re looking for specific support?
When I set up Visionary Pictures, I took on the role of sales and had to very quickly learn about marketing, and how to approach digital content in a way that ensured the messaging was right.
That’s why the business.connected sessions are so great, because they help me to absorb as much as possible. Now I’m looking at spending more time with experts to really understand the discipline more.
It’s a resource that I know I can keep going back to help move my business forward. Knowing that Vodafone and Enterprise Nation offer this service means I can keep going back when I need extra support, whether that be for digital skills, marketing or networking with other founders.
Tell me a little bit more about your journey to founding Visionary Pictures?
I graduated from university and was immediately thrown into an unpaid internship that built a lot of my resilience and confidence. However, it wasn’t until I was promoted from junior producer to producer at a video agency that I realised my job was costing me my mental health.
I endured long hours, found myself working outside of my job role, and had been belittled in front of colleagues. It was the first time that I lost my passion for who I was and knew it was time to do something about it.
What did you do?
I began to host small networking events to bring women in the industry together during the weekends, to create a safe environment for everyone to share their project ideas, talk about their achievements and collaborate with each other.
This gave me a chance to build my confidence and sell myself as more than just an employee, but also a creative woman who could make it in the industry as her own boss.
The main thing for me was creating that safe environment within own business. We do a lot with mental health and taking care of our crew – even though we outsource to freelancers, we think of them as our employees and feel we have a responsibility to their welfare and wellbeing.
This care that we have for the industry doesn’t stop at the creators of content; we believe in the power of storytelling and treat our process with clients differently too.
We approach pitches as though they’re conversations and champion an equal playing field to make clear that we aren’t for sale. We invest our time to support those who can make a difference if given the chance to find their fans.
It’s important for us that the audiences who watch the videos we make for brands think: ‘This actually means something.’
Does this approach resonate with your clients?
It really does. They’re really engaged in it. You only have to look at LinkedIn at the moment – a lot of people are talking about brands’ messaging and their values, and actually being honest with their audiences.
This is the world I want to be in, and so I’m glad I separated myself from that traditional agency model.
Tell me about your plans for the future…
At the moment, we’re focused on branded content and have some really exciting opportunities in the pipeline. Working with clients shows people what we can do and how we tell stories.
The pandemic has actually helped with this a little, because it’s given us time to talk about our plans for growth and next steps. Brock Elwick, our head of story, is working to prepare and develop projects which we’re looking to pitch to funding boards and broadcasters in the next year.
We’ve also been talking about ways to bring in someone else to the team, possibly on the sales side. It’s not my world and I’ve been having to learn things very quickly! This would help myself and my business partner focus on the stories we’re telling.
Part of the reason we set up Visionary Pictures is that the pandemic hit people’s livelihoods hard. We know that emotional, engaging storytelling is the best way to connect people back with their audience and we wanted to be in a position to help anyone who needed it.
Free video training, exclusive offers and workshops
The business.connected hub is a free online training programme of workshops, webinars and e-learning modules designed to help businesses go digital, adopt new technology, and stay safe online. Take me to the hub now