25 November 2010

Many good people in the world

So the waiting is over....I can officially have the name 'Eat-n-Mess'! So happy and relieved. After a bit of chasing up from my husband we got the good news that there are no problems with us having the same name as another business. My husband received this email from the partner of the owner of the other Eat 'n' Mess'- "As discussed I have no objection to you registering company / domain names
that you wish however I will retain the company registration and domain
names that have been registered. Should this change I will let you know.
Many thanks for your mail and best of luck with your new business."

But, and here's the but, we still aren't really official as it is not yet registered with Companies House. This is a scary and long form to fill in. I've quickly learnt its best to take your time with the big things before you do anything hasty. But hopefully very soon I can report that we really are a proper limited company. Also then I can register a domain name which I'm unexplainably excited about!

I went on my last business planning course on Monday through Business Link again. I was taught, inspired, instructed but I learnt the most valuable things from one man who was there to learn too. He was an ex-British Army serviceman who had been injured from serving on the front line in Afghanistan in 2008. He had one of his legs blown to pieces by shrapnel but amazingly it wasn't bad enough to be amputated. So he has to live with unbearable pain and the leg is always super stiff. He can just about manage stairs but is in a lot of pain and told us how he wakes up screaming EVERY night in agony because the knee locks and theres nothing he can do. He has been unable to work ever since. He was 2 years off of completing a full Army career. He was devastated. He told his story quietly and softly and I could tell he didn't want or expect pity. He was there to make his life and his families lives better by embarking on a total career change. He is in the process of training to become a solicitor and is aiming to own his own practise and specialise in family law. He was the only solider that has been injured through fighting in Afghanistan that I have had the honour in meeting. I've watched many programmes about them on TV, but meeting one made it so much more real and truly made me appreciate what those remarkable men and women do every day and the sacrifices they make. I didn't actually learn a great deal from this course as I'd been taught most of it through the PT course but the experience of meeting this gentleman and the impression it left on me was well worth the time and effort.

It really is that time now. I have been on courses, I have read numerous books, sought advice from various sources and searched MANY different websites with hints, tips and advice for writing a business plan so now I just have to DO IT!!

But first I'll just have a quick browse for more recipes of edible homemade gifts.....because Christmas is coming......and FAST!

15 November 2010

Sitting, waiting, hoping

I'm sure by now you've all assumed that the name 'Eat-n-Mess' was all official, and presumed it was a registered company. Well, I wish it was, but sadly it looks like it may not be easy to secure that actual name. When I decided upon Eat-n-Mess I thought it was an original name until I did what I should have done in the first place and check with Companies House if it is in use already. Which it is. I felt so gutted. Truthfully, I was so upset I actually cried. A lot. I felt like everything was then going to go wrong and I wouldn't be able to handle things. Yes, I do generally overreact! Luckily my husband was around and took control of the situation and obtained the phone number for this other 'Eat 'n' Mess' company and called them to see what they were. He was very calm and polite and got the answers we needed: They are a small dormant company, who have never actually traded. They aim to make the dessert Eton Mess and take it to Festivals to sell. They thought of the name 'Eat 'n' Mess' a while ago and decided to register it with Companies House just in case they do get around to doing it in the future and they have the domain name too. But the lady my husband spoke to said it was her boyfriend's business idea and she doesn't even know if he still wants to pursue it. So was very nice and liked my business idea, so she said she'll have a chat with her boyfriend about us wanting the name 'Eat-n-Mess' and see if he would be willing to let us have it and then inform Companies house of the situation. She said it shouldn't be a problem as we are two very different companies. She also confirmed what I had already thought and hoped; that I could register the company as 'Eat-n-Mess Craft Cafe' but trade under 'Eat-n-Mess'. So I'm just waiting on her to call me back with an answer. Hence the sitting, waiting and hoping. I really love the name Eat-n-Mess so will be really sad if we have to give it up and go with something else. I just want to be able to make things official with Companies House and purchase a domain name. So keep your fingers crossed for me!

On a more positive note I suddenly had a brainwave when I was lying in bed in the early hours of this morning......... Netmums! So I posted a short notice about the business together with the blog address. If you're reading this and you're a mum and haven't heard of netmums.com, check it out because it's full of local info; from school lists to activity play centres for children to fun recipe ideas. Brilliant website. I've already had five really positive responses to my notice from local mums who are excited for Eat-n-Mess to open. Thank you to those that have replied! So reassuring to know that other parents think this would work.

11 November 2010

The power of text messaging

So I've been a fan of text messaging for over 11 years now but never have I received such a motivating and complimentary message as this from a good friend. I hope she doesn't mind me sharing it- "Hi Kelly I read your blog and think your idea is fantastic! I wish I had business ideas like yours, since working in London is too far once I give birth but working in Chelmsford won't even cover child care costs, the perfect solution is your idea, at least H**** can be with you and you will make other people's lives better and more fulfilled! If you need someone to make good hot chocolates let me know, I trained at Costa." 
I've never really done anything where people have said these kind of things to me, which is one of the reasons I decided to try this whole project in the first place. It really meant a lot to me, especially today as I was tired from the minute I got out of bed and was having one of those days where I just felt like I was trying to achieve the impossible. So friend; you know who you are-Thank you!!! Right I'm off to bed to try and get an early night for once. Because since this business idea took off I've been going to bed far later than what I used to and when I do try and sleep I generally can't switch off for at least an hour! 

10 November 2010

How do you eat an elephant?...

Today I met with an advisor from the Mid Essex Enterprise Agency (MEEA). I had to cancel the first two appointments due to not having child care for the Hud-man. I'd heard good things about the MEEA, mainly that they give grants to new businesses. After an hour I realised I do actually know a thing or two now about whats involved in setting-up in business, because roughly 80% of what MEEA told me today I already knew. MEEA asked me if I'd heard of 'Business Information Service' (which is accessed through libraries) I said "yes" and he replied -"I see you've done your homework". I smiled to myself because then I figured he would be taking me seriously, which is something I'm slightly paranoid about. One thing MEEA made me understand better and decide upon was what type of business the cafe should be. It will have to be a limited company as opposed to a sole trader. But my goodness, a limited company is more difficult to set up!

Unfortunately there are no grants available at the moment. Hard times! So if you know anyone wanting to invest in a new small business then point them in my direction! Overall, I felt it was a positive meeting though. I feel like I have another professional on my side, rooting for me. He said that my business idea was in the middle of the small business start-ups scale; in size, cost and timeframe. It confirmed what I have been thinking; I have a huge task ahead of me, and there is MUCH TO DO now, and once the cafe is up and running.

I still feel overwhelmed at how much research I still have to do, just to put a sound business plan together. In the words of my mother "How do you eat an elephant?.....One bite at a time". She said this to me a while ago, and I have thought about it everyday since. It keeps me sane. If I just tick off one thing from my ridiculously long 'to-do' list then thats fine, however big or small that may be. Each time I do, I feel like I'm getting a tiny step closer to seeing Eat-n-Mess open it's doors.

I have a meeting set up with a man named Bob (who just reminds me of my Granddad Reg) from The Prince's Trust (TPT) on Friday, he is one of their retired mentors and speakers and knows all about renting business properties so he is going to go over all the nitty gritty and fun things in detail with me and another girl who attended the course at TPT. Again this is free of charge. I am continually amazed at how much free help there is out there!

9 November 2010

Starting the 'start-up' process

So after many many months of just quietly contemplating if I could start and run my own business, and questioning whether or not I had it in me, my husband and I were driving home from a friend's house. It was a long journey and after chatting to my husband about my little dream, I suddenly realised that I was passionate about something and felt a fire in my belly that I had never felt before. My husband made me see that I needed to just try, plain and simple. A case of 'if I don't try it now I may never' and always be wondering what if? And well, who wants to live with regrets.

I already had the business idea firmly in my mind and, as I've realised, that's one of the biggest things a successful business needs - just a good, sound idea that can be built on.

I plan to open an arts and crafts cafe aimed at children under 12 and their parents/carers in Chelmsford (Essex) town centre. It will be a fun, relaxing and different sort of cafe where adults can enjoy good quality fresh food and drink, whilst their children are engaged in something creative and constructive. It will be a great place to socialise with other parents/carers, whilst the children are busy creating a master piece or just making a mess! Thats fine though because at 'Eat-n-Mess' children are allowed to be children. They can "make a mess without any of the stress" (for the parents). The staff will be happy to set up and clear away all the mess, serve food and drinks and assist in the crafts. There will be a safe and secure space just for babies too so parents can have their hands free if needed.

In early Sept '10 I got to work on my little dream. I am not business minded in any way shape or form, so I really have my work cut out. That's actually been a positive thing thus far because I've already gained so much knowledge and confidence. The reason I have not tried to bring my business idea to life before now was purely a self-doubt issue, but again its been my husband's gentle but persistent nudges that have made me start this project.

I really was clueless about EVERYTHING business related up until two months ago. I feel I've come a long way in a relatively short space of time. I have been greatly helped already by two organisations: Business Link and The Prince's Trust (TPT). I have been on a few courses (all free of charge!) courtesy of both organisations, and have really enjoyed them. More importantly I have been inspired to continue pursuing this very daunting task. I have to mention one of the workshops I attended through Business Link called 'Women and Enterprise'. I left feeling like I was on cloud nine, buzzing from it for hours! The leader was an inspirational woman called Mandie Holgate (founder of The Business Womans Network) she really treated us all with respect, no matter what our ideas were. She gave me so many fresh ideas and avenues to think about and research, together with the encouragement and added motivation I needed.

I feel really blessed to have the support of my friends and family, and now The Prince's Trust is also behind me. I approached them because i'd heard they give low interest business loans to people under 30 who are unemployed, or working less than 16 hours a week. They told me I had to attend a 4 day course called 'Exploring Enterprise'. It was so useful, I would recommend it to anyone thinking of starting their own business from scratch. They even provide a business mentor for us, who will be a retired business person, willing to give up time each month to meet with me and offer help and advice for the next two years! This is free too! If your circumstances are similar to mine and you're from Essex, and want to do a similar thing as me but don't know how to, then contact Anne Gredley from TPT. She's a little gem, full of business advice, and will be more than willing to help. I cannot praise TPT highly enough, they really do fabulous work and most of their staff are unpaid.

I have a meeting with the Mid Essex Enterprise Agency (MEEA) on Wednesday, so hopefully they will be another useful tool that can help 'Eat-n-Mess' become a reality.

I have much more to share, but it's getting late....