Starting a business...when you've already got one

Some of us are entrepreneurs - and then some of us are serial entrepreneurs. Why stop at just one business if you're overflowing with ideas? Well, if only things were that simple. Running one business is a huge undertaking, so making the decision to start up a new one can be a daunting prospect. But with passion, mad time management skills, and a healthy dose of optimism there are entrepreneurs proving it can be done - and in the case of the two entrepreneurs in this feature, running their second startup actually has big benefits for their existing business and vice versa.

Hannah Devine is the founder of Something Blue, a bridal boutique based in Bolton, and recently started up Pearlarose - her own bridal label. Liam Swift is the founder of Attract, a Doncaster-based branding and design agency - and recently founded Helm, a co-working space and creative hub. We asked them a few questions about how to run a startup alongside your original business.

When – and why - did you decide to start up a second business?

Liam: “Six years ago. When I started my first business, Attract, my five-year goal was to create a space where creatives could work together and help each other. Helm was always a vision - I just knew I had to work hard to get there and also get the right people involved. Along my journey I met PR managers, designers, photographers, copywriters, formed a relationship with them and found the ideal place in 2015 to make it happen.”

Hannah “I’ve always known I will own many businesses as I’m so passionate about being my own boss, so coming up with ideas for my second business came naturally. At first it was a nagging in the back of my head, but I didn't think I was ready or that I would get the funding to start up. But after another year went by full of constant researching, planning and making sure I knew where I wanted to go next, I set upon making it happen. That’s when I rang Bolton Business Ventures and was asked to apply for a Virgin StartUp loan.”

2. Are your businesses very different or do they complement each other?

Liam: “They complement each other in a huge way. Helm is attracting start-ups and other creatives and they naturally expand Attract’s services and offerings. We have started to bid for work as a creative collective rather than individuals. Helm has developed into a full service marketing department, and I aim to build more communities within the community, for example health and wellness; personal trainers, nutritionists, coaches. Similar business types all working together and cross-pollinating.”

Hannah: “The businesses complement each other very well as they’re both in the wedding industry, so I knew one would help the other along. My first one is a bridal boutique - Something Blue - and the new one is my own bridal designer brand which I’ll stock in the boutique. I hope to see it get it stocked in other retailers across the country too.”

3. What things will you do differently?

Liam: “The reason I chose Virgin StartUp was for the support and mentoring I would receive over 12 months. You can’t underestimate having the right people with you when you start. So that’s something I’m doing differently - I'm being mentored. Also, Attract is very much dependent on me, where I want Helm to be a model that can be replicated in other parts of the country without me. Starting from scratch enables me to put everything in place from the beginning and build something that could work elsewhere, almost like a franchise model.”

Hannah: “I'm a lot wiser now and will do things with more of a professional head, due to the experience that running my first business has given me. Having many more contacts within the industry allows me to branch out more easily. I’ll have to be more organised and more time-efficient as this is a larger business model than my first venture.”

4. What’s the most important lesson you learnt from your first startup?

Liam: “Surround yourself with the right people. I’ve had relationships come and go, and I’ve got relationships that are still going strong. It’s hard but you have to look at the closest people around you and decide if they are on the same page. Are they fighting for the same cause or are they draining your energy? Such a difficult lesson, but one I feel is the most important.”

Hannah: “I’ve learnt through opening branches in my current business, such as our seamstress service and a professional in-house florist Bluebelles (run by my mother!), that it only gets harder the more you grow.

“But I’m open to learning - you have to be to make it big. To save on costs I learnt everything I needed by myself, including designing business cards, our logo and our website. I have a degree in textiles so this was really helpful when it came to design. Knowledge is key, and there’s nothing more inspiring than listening to business professionals talking about their journey or sharing advice - it keeps my fire alive.”

5. How do you balance the time between both businesses?

Liam: “I try and book my time out, much like a school time table. It’s flexible because Attract is based in Helm too, so that makes it much easier. But with a diary, you have a clear vision for the day – to-do lists are important too. You have to feel like you have achieved something that day, a list with loads of ticks or cross outs is a great way to look back on a successful day. Always time table a “playtime” too! Something as simple as a coffee and chat about ideas for an hour with a Helm co-worker keeps you sane.”

Hannah: “When it comes to time management, I just do it the best I can – making sure my children are where they need to be in the morning, getting to the shop, and working on the new business every spare moment.

“Starting a business is very hard, and it took me nearly three months being instore every day to make and mould what I wanted the shop to look and be like. I sometimes never felt like it would open or get started, and the amount of times I wanted to just give up was unreal, but I’d already taken the leap of faith – the only way was up in my mind, so up I went. I still keep this momentum in my mind to this day, and apply this positive attitude to my new venture.”

6. What’s your top  tip for balancing two ventures?

Liam: “Get an A4 note pad. Write down everything you need to do that week. I separate by project - Client 1. Task 1. Task 2. Task 3. Task 4 - and draw a little square next to the tasks. Once complete, I tick the box. I also put a star next to the three most important that need doing that day. I do use a to-do list app too to share jobs and assign tasks, but nothing beats paper and pen for your own personal day.”

Hannah: “My biggest tip is to create to-do lists of the most important tasks for both businesses. Make sure these are completed first, and do the others that can wait accordingly - then you won’t feel as much pressure. The hardest tasks or the ones I’m dreading make me feel like nothing can get done, so tackle them first.

“Also, don't stress too much. This is harder said than done, but through experience I know know you can get really ill if you don't step back sometimes and just breathe. This helps you see where you are going wrong, as well as where you’re going right!”

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