Posted: Thu 30th Sep 2021
In May, Enterprise Nation teamed up with Vodafone to launch business.connected – an online initiative that will help 800,000 small and medium-sized businesses boost their digital skills.
Business owners can take part in e-learning modules, digital workshops delivered by business.connected advisers and Lunch and Learn webinars, and have a free consultation with a Vodafone V-Hub adviser.
The business.connected programme covers a range of core digital topics, from SEO and e-commerce to cyber-security and connectivity.
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.
This month, we spoke to Love a Little founder Susan McLaughlin about how she started the dessert sauce brand and what she’s learnt since.
Susan, how did you hear about business.connected?
I love doing courses and learning new things! I found the business.connected programme on Enterprise Nation when I was looking for a course that was going to help me with social media.
I started from scratch as I’d never used social media in my life, so starting to use Instagram for my business was a huge challenge. At first, I didn’t really like it, which is why I never started my own account. But I’ve learned to like it because it can help you get a better impact, it has a big audience and the pictures on there are great.
What did you get from taking part in business.connected?
They were great sessions and I learned a lot. I learnt about the Instagram ads and promotions.
I've started sharing competitions that relate to big days like Christmas or St. Patrick's Day. You get a great response from promoting posts in terms of getting new followers. They’re well worth it.
Can you tell us more about your journey with Love a Little?
I set the business up a year and a bit ago. Everything was put on hold when the pandemic started, but I did loads of courses during that time which was great. They help to keep you motivated when you’re not able to go to meetings.
I experimented with the flavours and textures of my sauces, then had to check out the jars and labelling. It’s hard to get that all right, especially the branding.
I did a lot of research, which helped me make sure I knew the steps I was going to take with the business. For me, it’s been about moving slowly but surely – each of these decisions I made worked, which meant I could move onto the next steps.
You have to really want it and you have to believe in your product 100%. I never once doubted the product I had, because I learned so much from my research.
The sauce works well with so many aspects, from coffee to ice cream, so they appeal to a lot of people. The most important thing is it’s all natural and high-quality. It’s also recyclable, gluten free and it works with Slimming World’s guidance – it ticks a lot of boxes.
I’m selling quite a lot to cafes and restaurants. I’ve also approached chefs and people in the food industry. I just plucked up the courage to say ‘Hi’ to them. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!
What's your support system like?
My family had a retail business and my two brothers are both in business. I come from a family where business isn’t alien and I’m used to dealing with customers and suppliers.
There are a lot of groups I’ve joined, like Donegal Women in Business. It’s great to see that women do support other women. We also have a Local Enterprise Office, who put me in contact with the supermarket SuperValu.
SuperValu runs a programme called Food Academy, which includes mentoring and support. It’s a great opportunity and you get so much publicity.
Otherwise, I’m a one-woman show! It’s just me, so everything’s in my head. You think, if one ball drops, please let it be one I can pick up.
What about the future?
I’m planning to take on someone to help with the Christmas season. After that, I want to export my products to the US. Hopefully I can get everything organised this year in time for next year.
I’m also thinking about getting my products included in hampers, so next year we’ll be able to supply to hamper companies in the US.
It’s important for us to remain a high-quality brand. People have said you can get the cost down by using lower-cost ingredients, but we aren’t willing to compromise and use ingredients like Derry’s Gold Butter. It’s a high-quality ingredient and chefs use it around the world.
Any last tips for other founders?
You have to follow your passion! With me, it was baking. And I would say take as much help as you can, especially if you’re running your business on your own.
You need someone you can go to with problems, so look at organisations and courses that are available to provide help and support. Even if I came out of a training course learning one new thing, it’s a huge advantage for my business.
“Sometimes it can be tough going, especially if you’re running the business on your own. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.
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