TO HELP Britain’s small-business owners get match fit for a brighter future, beyond the pandemic, Lloyds Bank and UK Times offered the chance to win online mentoring sessions with two of the country’s smartest entrepreneurs.
The winners went on to meet Steven Bartlett, founder of Social Chain and the BBC’s youngest ever Dragon, and Dominic Cools-Lartigue, founder of Street Feast.
In the sessions, Steven and Dominic shared the lessons they learned during lockdown with the ten Lloyds Bank Small Business of 2021 winners.
To gain their places, the business owners had revealed their own pandemic challenges in their competition entries and explained how they responded to them.
Winning in itself was a much-needed pat on the back for the mentees.
“Given the amount of work the team has put in over the past 18 months, we were delighted to be recognised by Lloyds Bank as a Small Business of 2021,” says Paul Griffiths, director of Aspire Sports, which makes physical activity fun for children.
The sessions were, by all accounts, lively and frank – with mentees leaving armed with the confidence and ideas to innovate and grow. Here, our ten winners share how Steven and Dominic inspired them.
The session with Steven Bartlett
Sarah Yorke, Stylebook Directory (online directory of hair industry professionals)
“It was amazing – Steven was very straightforward. I wanted to know about investment, but he told me that first I need a chief technology officer as I’m great on hairdressing but not on tech.
I asked him if he’d invest in my business and he said: ‘Yes, 100 per cent if the CTO proved, through the tech data, that the concept works.’ So I’m doing what Steven advised and going back in December to show him the results.”
Nicky Hoyland, Huler (bespoke software creators for business)
“So refreshing to hear content that’s not the same textbook advice we’ve all heard before. It was a fantastic session that felt informal and real. One thing I’m taking away with me, which is very easy to forget, is that success doesn’t and shouldn’t happen overnight. We’re in it for the long game.”
Yana Lapitskaya, Yay! Starter Marketing (digital marketing agency in South West London)
“The most useful piece of advice we got from Steven was around the importance of community building and media publishing. This is something we had already been thinking about but it was great to get validation from Steven – and now we’re clear about what we need to do. Watch this space!”
Wendy Harris, WAG Associates (telemarketing training provider)
“Steven agreeing to be a guest on my podcast’s one-year anniversary in November was the icing on the cake of a fantastic session. I also asked him about building additional services to encourage customers and he advised me to keep doing what I’ve already begun – ie with writing a book and the podcast.
His other piece of advice was to build a community. I’ve been focusing on LinkedIn but I need to get smarter on others.”
Shireen Morrison, Visions TV Online (digital platform to support and develop the UK gospel music industry)
“This was definitely a prize worth winning. Unexpectedly, Steven suggested our business should become more event-focused. With the decline of events during lockdown, we were sceptical.
However, we’re experienced in live and virtual events so will give our singers and rappers a regular platform to reach a wider audience. Thanks, Steven, for your invaluable mentorship.”
The session with Dominic Cools-Lartigue
Paul Griffiths, Aspire Sports (provider of sports training and resources for children and young people)
“The mentoring session with Dom was very insightful and full of pearls of wisdom. I scribbled away in my notebook and have already implemented a few ideas that will help us achieve our three-year plan.”
Rebecca Puttock, Wanderlux (ultra-luxury travel and concierge service)
“Running a business can be a challenge, especially a travel service in a global pandemic. Dom gave some open and honest insight into his own challenges and his motivations to keep going – these have reignited me to persevere, build and carry on believing in Wanderlux.”
Sam Petter, Children Inspired by Yoga (children’s yoga company)
“Being selected for the session did wonders for our self-belief and it was good to hear the other mentees’ experience of business in a pandemic. But the best bit was meeting Gareth Oakley, head of Lloyds Bank Business Banking!
His advice to get additional mentoring through Be the Business [an organisation set up to help small enterprise] was brilliant. As was the follow-up email he sent me with more detailed information.”
Sophie Douglas, Candy Works (online sweet shop that does pick ’n’ mix delivery)
“We were struck down with Covid so couldn’t attend the session. However, Dominic very kindly answered all the questions we emailed him afterwards.
I was concerned that we’re not planning ahead sufficiently but he reassured us that we’re going in the right direction. Set down long-term goals, he said, but also ride the wave and go with it.”
Dawn Richards, Soon Come Deliveries (Jamaican ready-to-cook meal box delivery service in Kent)
“Hearing how Dominic faced and overcame huge challenges in the recent past was encouraging, and I appreciated all of the great advice. Gareth Oakley of Lloyds Bank Business Banking directed the session perfectly, making me feel welcomed and comfortable. Lots to consider, moving forward. It was an honour to be part of the session.”
For more brilliant business advice from Steven and Dominic, take a look at the highlights from our recent live events here