Posted: Fri 9th Nov 2018
Enterprise Nation member Catherine Robson from Big Pip Marketing, who joined via our partnership with Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, discusses her business journey, lessons from burning out while running a previous company and why you need to look after yourself as well as your business.
Describe your business in one sentence.
We're a small marketing agency, based in the South East of England, and we spend our days helping SMEs and independent professionals take their business to the next level through effective and consistent marketing.
How did you come up with your idea and turn it into an actual business?
There are some businesses that you engineer before you start, and others that appear as shoots that grow organically. This one was the sprouting kind.
I started my first business (not this one) when I was 19 years old and the start of my real-world schooling in sales and marketing coincided with the rapid evolution of digital marketing.
A cautionary tale, I threw everything I had into those prior businesses, and didn't look after myself, so I burnt out after a few years.
I needed a break to work out what I was going to do next and a friend was just about to open a pub with a wine shop and a deli. A wine and cheese sabbatical suited me just fine. So, I put myself back behind the bar; pouring pints, carving wheels of Brie and earning just enough to pay the bills.
All around me I could see businesses and freelancers struggle to market themselves and use the internet to its full potential. I had the knowledge, the experience and I shared what I knew and helped businesses get results. Word of mouth spread, and Big Pip was born.
What start-up challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
A very real start-up challenge was "how do I get home in time to wash the residual chip-fat out of my hair and make it to a meeting?" Anyone who has worked in a pub or kitchen will know exactly what that feels like. And, further still, anyone with curly hair will empathise!
I had relatively low overheads (although I invested a lot in training and my own development) and it was all self-funded as I grew the business gradually.
But, in the beginning, the business was 'me' and I worked all hours of the day to be there for clients and earn the money to reinvest in the business.
It took a lot out of me, and as I see time and time again that one of the greatest universal challenges for all business owners is: how do you launch and run your business and maintain your health and sanity. I did it better the second time around.
What has been your biggest achievement with your business so far?
It's nothing glamorous. It's the fact that we've been able to get to year six and maintain a consistent business with longstanding clients who have seen their businesses transform.
What is your next big business goal?
We want to help more people, whether they're a decade in and looking to take their business to the next level, or just starting out.
We're just trialling a new concept which aims to help small businesses, freelancers and independent professionals be more consistent and improve their social media presence, under our guidance as marketing mentors.
People in the trial reported back that they had achieved more in the time with us, than they had in the previous two years so the first signs are positive!
What do you think will be your biggest challenge getting there?
As ever, it's the question of how do you test an idea and launch a new service with the resources you have available. But as I did in the beginning, we're taking it one step at a time.
The specific challenge with this concept is how do we deliver enough value and support to help people get real results for themselves whilst creating a product at the right price point.
How has Enterprise Nation helped your business?
Reigate and Banstead Borough Council sponsored our membership along with a small business grant we were awarded this summer whilst I was on maternity leave, so I've only just scratched the surface with what's on offer!
I've tapped into the database of members to seek experts and specialists and the articles I've delved into are written by people with real experience in business, which I greatly appreciate.
We're also supporting Adrià Tarrida with the Enterprise Nation Equity Crowdfunding Accelerator programme.
Which other entrepreneur inspires you and why?
There are so many entrepreneurs who I come across in my work who have yet to write autobiographies but show inspiring levels of tenacity and perseverance, whilst staying connected to what they set out to do and to what really matters in life.
Whether you're running a business or you're self-employed, it's not an easy path.
An entrepreneur who has written an autobiography? I always come back to Ed Catmull who co-founded Pixar. His story (detailed in Creativity Inc.) is one of resilience and imagination; a much underutilised resource in most adults!
Perhaps all apart from artists and those purpose-driven entrepreneurs who imagine a better world.
What are your three tips for business success based on your experiences so far?
Sleep, eat well and exercise. You need your energy and a clear head.
Don't wait around for anyone to give you permission or assurance to create or try something. They're not going to. Test it out and find out for yourself.
This might sound odd coming from someone who runs a marketing company but really consider what marketing you must have in place in the first phase to make your first sales, and what you can leave until the next phase when you're looking to scale or grow.
I say this because we regularly meet people who focus so much on building an audience and getting every single aspect of their marketing in place before they begin, they haven't sat with potential customers or sold their products or services in person (or over the phone).
There may be some companies who have to launch with a 'bang' but even before you do so, if you can, go out there and try and sell it. You learn so much by doing so including whether you have a viable business!
Anything else you would like to share?
Well, here are some (almost) pithy quotes of things I've learnt that you can pinch and publish in your inspirational toilet-book of entrepreneurship or on your Instagram feed...
Entrepreneurship is an art and a science. Take (some) advice and use proven processes (where it makes sense).
Use your creativity and your wisdom (always).
Use your strengths and find others to help you with your weaknesses (especially if that's bookkeeping).
Learn about human nature. Learn how the robots work.
And know that some days you'll do better than others, but it's ok; there are hundreds of thousands of us out there experiencing the same.
We're proud to have people like Catherine as members of Enterprise Nation. Join Enterprise Nation today and become part of an amazing community of small business owners.