Natalie Blakeley was juggling working for a national chain of cosmetic clinics and two small children when it struck her that she wanted to set up her own business. “It seemed obvious to me,” says Natalie, 38, from Weybridge in Surrey. “I was a doctor specialising in cosmetic procedures having to travel the country a lot, working in an area where I knew I could set up by myself.”
Three years on from that moment in 2009, Natalie now runs the Light Touch Clinic in Guildford, specialising in a range of cosmetic procedures and employs four staff.
Natalie is also one of several women who benefitted from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme. Designed to provide the very best in both practical business education and support to owners of small business and social enterprises which are seeking to grow, the business growth programme is being delivered by experts at University College London’s centre for entrepreneurship, UCL Advances. UCL want to encourage more eligible women entrepreneurs and social enterprises to apply.
Women are more likely to take part in start-up training, but shy away from programmes for growth businesses. Whatever the reason, it’s a real shame. There’s no question that high quality training can make a difference to both the growth and sustainability of your business.
The Light Touch Clinic had been up and running for just over two years when Natalie decided to apply for the programme. “I’m a doctor, not a business person,” says Natalie, “and I thought if I could do some more formal training, rather than just middling along, it would help me massively with building my business.”
Natalie has already seen the benefits of the programme to maximise the growth of her business. “Starting the programme was really exciting – and now I’m beginning to realise why and how I should grow my business.
“I’m taking on new staff earlier than anticipated and have brought forward plans to buy new equipment, like a laser hair-removal machine, by nearly a year.”
Natalie’s advice for other entrepreneurs chomping at the bit to start their own businesses is to be realistic. “Not everyone is going to be as excited by your business idea as you are,” she says.
“You really need to think how an idea is going to work in reality, and sit down and write a business plan. Most important is having support from the people around you – I have two small kids and I’m lucky to have a husband who is really supportive.”
Finally, if you don’t understand something or need help, look for it, says Natalie. “I’m still astounded all the support I’ve got from the programme is totally free. I’m making friends with other businesspeople and growing my business beyond anything I could have imagined.”
There are a few places left at a preliminary 45-minute presentation and question session in London SE1 on Thursday 15 November (12.30 – 2pm). For full details see the web site at www.ucl.ac.uk/10ksb
The 25 to 30 small business leaders selected to participate in the programme-proper, will receive 100 hours of practical business and management education, delivered over 12 sessions.
Each small business owner will be helped to develop a customised Business Growth Plan to direct their organisation’s business strategy and expansion. The programme is not intended for start-ups.
Check out the Prowess 2.0 Business Support Map for organisations that may provide business training for women elsewhere in the UK.