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JULY TORBAY BUSINESS MUM OF THE MONTH - VANESSA LEWIS

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I am delighted to hear I have been chosen as the Networking Mummies ‘Business Mum of the Month’, and am very pleased to have been asked to tell you all a little bit about what I do, and how my business came about.

SCATAPULTSocial Catapult provides social media and internet marketing services, together with professionally designed websites – basically a ‘one stop shop’ with everything you need to catapult your business online! Rather than tell you everything about it here, please do take a look at my website to see what we can offer: www.socialcatapult.co.uk

Now a bit of background to tell you how the business came together...!

Being a newly single mum of twoVL;EWIS gorgeous young boys Max & Henry (and a dog called Bentley!), I needed to find a job to fit in around school hours, and preferably one that would also make use of the skills and experience I have acquired throughout my working life. This was not an easy task as any Mum will know! Part time jobs, especially those that would fit in around school hours, are like gold dust! It just wasn’t going to happen.

As such, I then started to seriously consider setting up my own business. One which I could run from home, and that would allow me to work flexible hours to fit in with all my childcare commitments! Earlier in my career I worked as a Public Relations Manager in London for British Airways, and then when we moved down to Devon my husband and I owned and ran a group of 8 holiday letting cottages near Totnes. I therefore had built up a wealth of experience in how to successfully market and promote businesses, both online and offline, so it made sense to draw on this experience and go back into marketing.

So, I had an idea of what type of work I could do, but I also knew that if I was going to go back into marketing, I would need to update my skills with more specific training in the rapidly growing area of social media marketing (marketing your business through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc). Social media marketing is far more effective in reaching targeted customers or clients than traditional marketing - such as advertising - as these people have effectively chosen to take an interest in your business because they already like, or are interested in, what you do. So instead of putting your message out there to lots of people who wouldn’t find it relevant, you are actually reaching the ones that would! Although its not free, in terms of the time involved, it can give amazing results if done properly, and is very cost effective.

The next step therefore was to get some intensive training in advanced social media marketing techniques, and SEO (search engine optimisation – to get your website seen by search engines), to improve my skills base. As it happens, the world of social media and SEO is ever changing, so I continue to learn new things and strategies on an almost daily basis - but certainly the initial training gave me a good starting platform on which to build! Having marketed websites before using link building, directory listings and adwords, I felt I now had most of the skills needed to really help businesses of all sizes get up and running online. The only thing missing that I wanted to add was websites – if you have a business and want to get online you do need a website!

Not being a developer myself, and not having the time for a few years of training in this area, I needed to find a business to join forces with in order to be able to offer this service. Fortunately I had made a few web designer contacts through networking events, and was lucky enough to make an arrangement to work with the very successful web and graphic design company Formoda. This working relationship enables me to supply businesses with professionally designed, fully content managed websites at hugely competitive prices. I’m such a fan of the websites! - they are so quick and easy to update yourself and they look very professional (Take a peek at mine and the other examples on my website!).

Now I knew the services I could offer and had all the skills and resources in place, I was nearly ready to get going with my new business! The next step was to enrol with Outset Torbay, a local government funded initiative put in place to help people set up their own business. I enrolled on an intensive programme and some extra courses which I found really helpful, and made some great new friends too! With Outset I learnt how to put my business plan together, how to keep proper records for my accounts, plus lots of other relevant and useful skills. I would highly recommend other mums thinking of starting a business to look into their free courses or similar schemes, even if at the moment you only have a fledgling idea!

At last Social Catapult was ready to catapult out there!!! (Lots of nail biting at this point!)...

The website was launched, all my social media was in place, and as the work started to come in I realised that yes (phew), I do have a good business which ticks all the boxes I was looking to tick! I have been very lucky to work on some exciting promotional projects with all sorts of businesses, and for some truly lovely (and business savvy!) clients, who I would now also class as friends. I’m delighted to say that the majority of my work comes through client recommendations and referrals, and I am very pleased with how the business is continually growing and developing.

...At this point I think I should also say that it hasn’t all been plain sailing! Starting up your own business is quite a steep learning curve if you’ve never run one before, and I have come across quite a few hurdles along the way, as well as many very late nights spent working! Ultimately though, I think that if you have the necessary skills, knowledge, dedication and  - I think most importantly – the enthusiasm, the odds for success are in your favour!

If you are thinking about starting up, or are already running your own business, I would of course also recommend you join up with networking groups in your area. I would like to thank the Networking Mummies group in Torbay for their invaluable support and friendship – a lovely group of like minded ladies who entertain and inspire!

Finally, if you have a business you would like to catapult online – or if you would just like a little advice - please get in touch! I would be very happy to help .

Vanessa Lewis, Director, Social Catapult.

www.socialcatapult.com

Please Like me on Facebook! (You can give me the thumbs up here!):
http://www.facebook.com/SocialCatapult

And follow me on Twitter! (Tweet! Tweet!):
https://twitter.com/SocialCatapult

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