Chris Heirani – The Creative Den

Before starting his Outset journey, Chris was working part-time in a pizza takeaway as well as studying for a degree in web design.On completion of his degree, he knew the job market was bleak. However, after hearing about Outset through a friend, he was motivated to take matters into his own hands.

“Outset was the inspiration I needed for me to take that big step forward and actually get the ball rolling and get my business off the ground,” says Chris. “While many people are finding it hard to get jobs I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get my business started. I knew that I had found the help and support I needed to succeed.”

Chris attended Business Start Up workshops, delivered in his local community at the Anglo-Iranian Society headquarters. He also received one-to-one coaching with an Outset Enterprise Advisor.

“The advisors who taught me during my time at Outset Bristol have done a fantastic job at getting the information across in a non-complicated way that was understood by everyone, even the people whose first language wasn’t English.”

The free support Chris received from Outset meant that he could be confident that he was launching his business from a firm footing, armed with the tools he needed to make his business a success.

“I’d like to thank the whole Outset team for helping me establish my company and myself. It feels so good to own my own company and it’s now become my little baby who I hope to see grow and grow.”

Now in 2014, some 6 years since conceiving the business, Chris has amassed an impressive portfolio of work for a number of multinational business. These include LGV Transport Training, Transparency Solutions and Personal Best.

Chris has also returned to Outset on a number of occasions to ‘give back’ to other budding business owners. Giving up his own time, Chris has run an ‘Ask the Expert’ event for other clients who are already trading, giving them the opportunity to learn more about the importance of web design for their businesses.

As for the future, Chris says: “I still have a dream of getting my own premises set up but it has to be at the right time – when the business really needs it!”

Alison Gardner – Poppys Vintage Tearooms

Living and working in the same area for a long period can be a great advantage when exploring the possibility of starting a new business. Without much effort, the people who attend our workshops are able to draw on their knowledge of local services, shops and leisure facilities available. It only takes a bit more research to identify the potential gaps in the market.

Alison Gardner worked as the Tourist Information Officer in St Neots for 11 years before becoming redundant. During this period she had built up an intimate knowledge of the town she loved and so decided to focus her efforts on starting a new business in the area.

“It became my mission to start looking for a space that would suit a Tearoom.” She said. “The search took a number of years – it had to be in the perfect location away from the hustle and bustle of the high street with outside space.”

In April 2013, a long standing local business moved premises and a unit became available just off the high street in the shadow of St Mary’s Church and a WW2 memorial. After her first viewing, Alison knew she had found the right spot.

“I wanted to respect the history of the location and the sacrifice that many local people made for our country. I decided to call our new place Poppy’s Vintage Tearoom.”

Alison realised that she needed some guidance to set up her business and contacted Outset Huntingdonshire.

Funded by Huntingdonshire District Council, the programme provides free-to-use business start-up support to anyone in Huntingdonshire who is looking to start a business. Alison met with Outset advisor Stacey Pike for one-to-one mentoring sessions while attending the programme’s Business start-up workshops.

“I found the courses and sessions with Stacey very useful.” She said. “Outset Huntingdonshire gave me an insight in to how to set up a business and the hurdles you may need to overcome.”

Her hard work and perseverance paid off with Alison opening her new business in June 2013. Visitors to Poppy’s Tearooms are greeted with an original vintage decor and plenty of tasty treats including a wide range of teas, cream teas, an afternoon tea service and a selection of light lunches and snacks.

Now in 2014, Alison’s business employs 5 staff and has links with many of the local shops who she helped support in her previous role. She has also created a new summer menu, a new website and has started to offer gift vouchers as a periphery product.

“The feedback so far has been amazing, I have been incredibly busy with customers returning” Alison said. “Poppy’s will be a place where all ages can come together to share that great British past-time: a good cuppa!”

Stu Williams – Redruth Community Radio

Stu Williams lost his sight when an operation left him unexpectedly visually impaired. Outset Cornwall helped him to launch a community radio station, creating new employment opportunities and improving community integration.

After struggling with unemployment for five years, Stu came to terms with the new challenges posed by his impairment: “Living with a visual impairment means that paper work and things like that, especially figures, are very difficult to deal with.”

As a keen DJ, Stu wanted to explore the idea of becoming self-employed but didn’t know whether it was possible:

“I had previously gained some experience working in community radio, having done some volunteering with Source FM in Falmouth. This enabled me to experience firsthand how volunteering on community radio really could change someone’s life, so I decided to replicate the model in my home town of Redruth.”

After speaking to Outset’s Enterprise Coach Pam Sekula, Stu began to explore the idea of using his skills to launch a social enterprise. Pam said: “We looked at entrepreneurial skills; we started discussing the viability of becoming a DJ and [the] feasibility of how he was going to become mobile and overcome his disability.”

With Pam’s encouragement, Stu enrolled on Outset’s Introduction to Enterprise programme. The course is designed to help beginners get to grips with the challenges of starting a business from scratch and build the individual’s self confidence.

With an emphasis on inclusion, Outset staff are equipped to deal with clients that have an impairment. As Pam explained: “If someone has a barrier to participating, you have to find some solutions. We had to make sure the equipment he had was able to decipher what was in the session.”

Stu found the team’s approach vital to helping him succeed: “Outset are absolutely brilliant at dealing with [my impairment]. They email me all the information prior to the sessions so that I had all the information to hand. I was then in the same position as everyone else on the course.”

As the course progressed, Stu found himself growing in confidence with the new skill set he had accumulated among a group of like-minded entrepreneurs:

“Coming from a background of somebody who had never been in business before, joining the program was brilliant. There was a big mix of people on the program – building that team, being with other people and learning those skills about how to develop a business was very important to me.”

In late 2010, Pam sent Stu information about securing a licence from Ofcom. Fast forward two years and the station hit the airwaves after being granted an FM licence. (Until Feb 2013, the station had only been available online).

Now in 2014, Redruth Community Radio station has grown exponentially and now boasts thirty live shows involving over fifty volunteers with their youngest member being an eleven year old presenter. Stu also has the support of a central business unit including his day-to-day manager and an administration team.

Stu really valued the one-to-one mentoring that he had received from Pam: “Spending time with Pam, my development worker, she saw the potential in me to be a social entrepreneur, and that my business idea should go down the route of a social enterprise rather than a self-employed business.”

Whatever your business idea is, Outset has the knowledge and experience to make it a reality.