Six months ago, I went along to The Business Factory for an appointment with an Adviser Janice Ross, feeling pretty clueless if I’m honest. All I knew was I wanted to use my writing skills to generate an income, and I also had hopes to set up support for mums in the area who are battling with PND. As through my experience, it just isn’t there.
These were ideas I’d had for quite some time, but with no knowledge or understanding of how to go about putting plans into action. I’ve been blogging and freelance writing for around 6 years. I started training with the NCTJ, but over time realised distance learning and travelling to London for exams and workshops was proving too costly and news reporting wasn’t for me.
Overtime, I found I could use my skills in areas which don’t require a qualification in Journalism. And I’ve gone on to have articles printed in a variety of magazines, newspapers and blogged for local businesses, and campaigns.
Since October I’ve attended a number of workshops and seminars at The Business Factory, and receiving advice and support with both my ideas. I’ve had a lot of Social Media training, and help with PR, branding and marketing.
I liked the idea of attending ‘Boost Your Business’ as I knew I could potentially get so much from the course, but I was slightly worried it would take me well out my comfort zone. However, I said 2018 is going to be my year of just going for it, so I decided to enrol.
To enrol, all I had to do was register as self-employed which I’d already done with support from my adviser, fill in the necessary paperwork and do two basic maths and English tests. This is where I must confess that I was slightly gutted I didn’t get 100% in the English test, think I got 4 wrong answers.
The course is fully funded, by the European Social Fund and the UK’s Skills Funding Agency. Meaning not only the training you receive, but accommodation, meals and hotel room are all paid for. I only took money for drinks. After 10 hours of training, Friday night drinks were well deserved.
As the morning arrived I probably felt more excited than nervous. Over the last few years, my confidence has grown and I knew I’d be fine away from my family for a weekend, and hopefully able to make connections.
I spotted a familiar face as soon as I arrived at the Novotel, Newcastle, and took a seat in the lobby. I recognised Keely of Keely Watson Makeup Artistry from Amanda Dixons Social Media Courses. We got talking, I got excited that we both have a thing for gory Halloween make-up (nobody else seems to ‘get’ it), then we went along to the conference room and took our seat at a table.
The first thing I noticed was everyone in the room was chatting. Usually you’d expect to just walk into a silent room bearing in mind non of us had met before. But the room felt so welcoming.
Our first task was then to find out a little about each other. One willing participant on each table then took it in turns to introduce each member to the room. We had a few laughs at this point as we all learned one fact about each other. This was the perfect ice breaker and we all soon realised there was great potential to team up and make connections.
Our task over the weekend, was to pick one new route to market. I decided on Social Media Mentoring. With more and more businesses using Social Media to increase brand awareness, sales and profit, I knew there was a gap in the market for mentoring Business Owners how to do this effectively. It was actually one of the other girls on the table who suggested this service, so within the first half hour we were already sharing ideas.
Our trainers Nic Calvert and Carole Metcalfe were just amazing. Happy to answer any questions and offer support. I think we all applauded their patience with one of our group members, John. John liked to talk, a lot. We found they’d talk above John on Friday, but by Sunday it was a case of ‘John. Be quiet’! as we all laughed. This just showed how well we got on as a group, and I know John and the others who were on the course will laugh if they read this.
We had one hour lunch breaks on all three days, which I spent outside on the friday making the most of the sun with some of the others on the course. I must also mention the catering was superb. I loved the evenings as we all sat in the hotel restaurant, then Friday night a few of us sat outside. Not afraid to admit it kind of felt like I was on Big Brother, only without the cameras. Or some kind of Big Brother, The Apprentice mash up. Guilty secret, I would love to go on The Apprentice.
The days were long, but went by so quick. We started 9.00 on the Friday, working through until 7pm when we finished for dinner. Then again starting at 9.00 after breakfast the next day, working till 7 then another hour after dinner till 9pm. The last hour on the Saturday was an optional workshop, but I knew it was one I needed to attend. But that extra hour must have took it out of me. I went to my room to dump my laptop and ring home, with plans to go back down to the bar. But fell asleep and saw on Facebook when I woke around midnight, I’d missed saturday night drinks with the girls.
I was slightly worried I’d struggle with the early start (8.00 is early for a weekend, right?) but think I was up around 5.30 both mornings excited to get going.
Over the three days we covered a whole range of topics including Understanding Social Media, Producing Digital Content, Measuring the Success of Digital Promotion, as well as Enterprise Techniques.
I think my favourite part of the course was when our task was to make an advert in our groups, for a chocolate bar. We chose a Twix. This is where Robert in our group skills really came into play. Working in media production he had an app for that. We understandably got some rather strange looks whilst making this.
We had some issues adding music, but when shown to the whole class, we stuck on a rather raunchy number for full affect.
One point which sticks in my mind the most is on Sunday afternoon, we were shown this short video. A powerful message of diversity and how we all share something in common. You could feel (and hear. You’ll need a hanky) the emotion in the room. We all met as strangers just two days earlier, but we were all there for the same reason. To learn new skills which would take us forward and closer to where we want to be, and a reminder that great things happen when we all come together
But the thing which I feel I got the most from the course, was I left Sunday afternoon feeling motivated and inspired, with lots of new ideas.
As the course came to an end, I left excited to see my husband and children, but sad the weekend was over. I feel I got so much more from Boost Your Business, than I ever expected. I didn’t only leave with Level 2 in Business and Enterprise Skills and Digital Production, but felt like I had grown as a person. It isn’t only a weekend of training, but an opportunity for personal growth. I’m attending the Boost Your Business reunion in June where I’ll gain another qualification over two days, and I can not wait.
As a little update, on the Monday morning I met up with a lady who I’d come across on Facebook a few weeks earlier. I’ve helped her promote a Fundraising event she has coming up. The event which you can find out more about here is to break the Guinness World Record for the most number of participants of ‘Ooops upside your head’. She want’s to break this record as the track has meaning to her, and her friend who is sadly battling cancer. She’s hoping to bring a community together, smash the record, and I like so many others want that for her too.
But we found we both share a passion for planning and hosting events. Particularly for issues close to us. We realised that with our experience and skills, we could come together start-up a joint venture, which we’re both very excited about.
If you’re a business owner, I can not recommend this course enough.