The co-founder of marketing and design firm Shake It Up Creative told Business Advice why her business is offering 50 hours of free marketing services to another new firm – despite only having just launched herself.
Last year, Rachael Dines and Meg Fenn decided to combine their freelance skill sets with the set up of Shake It Up Creative, a marketing and design company. Despite being in the very early stages of business themselves – they officially started trading in September – the duo have created a competition to offer 50 hours of free marketing and design services to a new business.
Dines and Fenn have 18 years of business management experience between them, so know the ins and outs of both building and growing a fledgling firm. Both were made redundant whilst pregnant, Dines added wryly that “it happens more than people think”, and ended up running their own businesses after that. “Once we knew we were good at the business side as well as as our own professions, we both developed the desire to one day create a company with more serious growth potential.”
Dines’ previous position was as a freelance chartered marketer, while Fenn sold design and web services, first freelance and then as a limited company, so they felt lucky to “essentially be transitioning to owner-directors without much risk”. Despite this, they were aware competition would be fierce and began to brainstorm both how they could make Shake It Up Creative stand out and offer help to businesses just getting started.
Shake to Create was the result – a competition where young businesses will pitch to them by video in an attempt to win 50 hours of marketing and design services “at no cost to them”.
For Dines, it seemed a win-win situation, saying that “we get to showcase our skills and they get to save money on an essential element of building a business”. She thinks too many companies “end up with poor marketing and design at the outset, due to restricted time and budget, only to have to spend out and get it redone later on”. From their perspective, if they could prevent something like that occurring and “help at least one business succeed, we’ll be happy”.
She adds that “funding cuts have diminished local business support services” which has meant it is tough for new businesses at the moment, though networks like Enterprise Nation “are doing a great job”. While there is a wealth of information online, Dines said every new firm will have some questions that “need to be answered in a professional and reliable way”.
She feels if experienced business consultants who possess a wide skill could reduce their fees to startups “through the provision of funding” more small businesses could get the “one-stop-shop advice they seek”. This would help avoid shelling out on separate experts for HR, finance and marketing, which they just don’t have enough money for so end up starting up “equipped with only half the knowledge they ideally need”.
Dines and Fenn hope to turn Shake to Create into an annual opportunity if it proves popular, enthusiastic about the idea of making elements of starting up that much easier for other new businesses. Their firm may be new, but they have an existing client base, and have outlined an aim to “have tripled our first year turnover by the end of year four whilst remaining self-funded”.
Dines said their own experience with setting up Shake It Up Creative has also made her even more sympathetic to the plight of early-stage firms – a particular trouble for them involved banking.
“I researched what each of the banks offered to startups, I even considered where government backing was present – we thought we’d chosen well,” she explained. The process though, “has been long and tedious” and she later found another bank was “far more supportive to women in business”. She is matter-of-fact about the setbacks though and said if they don’t feel served well by the current bank they have no qualms about switching within the next couple of years.
The other obstacle Dines and Fenn have encountered in the early stages revolves around the change in perception regarding them going from freelancers to company directors. “SMEs use freelancers to keep human resource costs low and don’t always view freelance service agreements as formal business contracts,” she explained. “We still provide the same flexible services that we did, but some small businesses seem to be put off by the “limited” and perceive our rates to be high before even enquiring.” They hope the Shake to Create competition will provide an opportunity to showcase that.
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