How Small Business Sunday Changed My Life
In 2013 my life looked a lot different to what it does now, I was a Clinical Nurse Specialist nursing children with severe mental health issues and I had my purpose in life along with a healthy work/family balance. However that all changed when I became very unwell with chronic illnesses and my son was diagnosed with autism. I became housebound and the internet became my only connection to the outside world. My life hit an all time low when I had to give up the career that I loved a year later which I had worked so hard for and my son was struggling at school, placed on risk of permanent exclusion and his sleep patterns were almost non-existent.
Everything happens for a reason
My Cuddle Bed business was born out of helping my son get some sleep (along with the rest of the family) and it gave me a purpose in life again. I started making Cuddle Beds for family and friends who loved them and at some point I set up a Facebook page. My memory has been affected by my illnesses and I can’t really remember the proper transition between creating my Cuddle Beds as a hobby to actually deciding to set up as a business. I did however have a great mentor through the Government Enterprise Scheme and then everything changed!
Going from a nurse specialist to a business owner has been quite a roller coaster journey with some real highs and lows but I have learned so much, made some amazing friends and I have a real purpose in life again. Although I created the Cuddle Bed for sleep solutions, they were now being used for sleepovers, relaxing in the garden, gaming and camping! I have five children and threee grandsons so they came in very handy for when they came to stay too!
Small Business Sunday
When I discovered Twitter which I really didn’t fully understand until last year when I came across Small Business Sunday, SBS is an amazing opportunity that Theo Paphitis created to help business owners. Every Sunday I tweeted Theo about my business and last July Theo chose me as one of his winners. It was so exciting and it really opened my world up to the support of Small Business Sunday and the SBS Family! The win itself gave my business a huge boost and I can honestly say my whole perspective on business then changed.
I used to watch Dragon’s Den with my brother Steve who also has his own business (he has taught me so much) and I absolutely loved it and looking back I think I have always had the entrepreneurial bug. I actually applied for Dragon’s Den when my business was in its infancy and I had an audition even before I had started trading but I did not get into the Den. During this time I binged watched all of the episodes and Theo was definitely my favourite dragon!
In February of this year I attended the Small Business Event and I got to meet Theo and a lot of the other winners, it was such an amazing day where I met my online SBS Family and from that day my whole mindset changed. I listened to Theo’s and his guest speakers talks and I pitched to Ryman Stationery and Robert Dyas. At the end of the event I even managed a selfie with Theo which was an wonderful end to such an amazing day! Theo’s help and support has been invaluable and something all small businesses would benefit from immensely. The SBS family have a group which is another invaluable resource and everyone in there will support and advice each other. Dylan Moore from The Aqua Design Group has also been incredibly helpful, advising me through not only the SBS event but giving me so much of his time for my stand requirements too!
The Spring and Autumn Fair
The Autumn Fair is held in Birmingham NEC and it takes place twice a year and it is the main event for traders to either link up with existing buyers or build on new ones. It is a great way to not only find suppliers but to connect with other business owners too, there is a lot of potential opportunities to grow your businesses and make great new contacts.
Small Business Sunday and the Autumn Fair
In our amazing SBS group we were all invited to apply to win a SBS stand at the Autumn Fair, Theo selected a short list of thirty-six SBS winners which was announced on Twitter and through the Autumn Fair. After what seemed like forever, the lucky twelve were announced and I was incredibly fortunate to be one of those twelve.
We then had just six weeks to prepare and organise our stands and fellow winner Nikki from the fabulous business https://www.facebook.com/borderinabox was my absolute rock! We had met atthe SBS event in February and have stayed in touch, there was a considerable amount of work to get done in preparation for the fair and having her sound advice and knowledge got me through those chaotic six weeks!
I was also assigned a brilliant Autumn Fair Manager, Gareth who talked me through the process several times and even visited me during the fair. Without his calming influence and his sound advice, along with all of the logistics I don’t think I would of been ready or prepared for the big day.
2nd – 5th September – Birmingham NEC
My daughter Mollie also helped me so much, not only on “build up and break down” of my stand but with all of my design work too. On the day before the fair we entered the fair to set up and found the SBS pavilion which situated in the Lighting Section. The stands surrounding us was so very impressive and I must admit I had quite a wobble right there and then, thinking that was just not good enough. Theo’s opening words for the Small Business Sunday event back in February resonated in my head, “shut the **** up!” So I pulled up my big girl pants and my daughter and I made it work, on the very first day buyers visited my stand telling me it looked amazing and it drew them in and from then on I really found my feet. Both my daughter Mollie and I loved our first day, sharing it with our fellow winners on the pavilion was amazing, we all quickly formed relationships and supported each other.
It was such an incredible experience and it totally changed my outlook of my business, my confidence and what I could achieve. I spoke to other stand holders who gave me some excellent advice along with everyone who visited my stand, whether they were the press, The SBS Crew, The Autumn Fair team or traders. I have never felt so supported and valued as a small business owner as I did at the fair and I would like to thank everyone who visited me. This includes Rob; The Key Account Director, Jules White; my sales coach and also a good friend from Live It, Love it, Sell it, Vicki a Madmin of my other business Heartizan, followers of my page who visited my stand to introduce themselves to me, Lloyd from Robert Dyas and of course the man himself Theo!
The rest of the week was just as incredible, there was fabulous guest speakers from Not On the High Street and John Lewis but the most exciting day had to be Theo’s visit! He visited each and every winners stand, he really listened to us, allowed us many photo opportunities and showed just how much he supported us!
On the third day my twins came to demonstrate my products on my stand, Theo visited and they were so excited to meet him! All of my children know about Dragons Den and Small Business Sunday and who Theo Paphitis is! My twins haven’t stopped talking about his visit to me and everyone else that will listen!
Theo also was guest speaker and as always he spoke in his grounded manner and gave the audience a lot to think about, I can relate to his business model, work ethics and I whole heartedly agree with that “you have to do your homework”, “put in the work” and to “be persistent”.
I have now got big plans for 2019, I am unsure of all the logistics however thanks to Theo and The Autumn fair I have a goal for Cuddle Beds and a direction that I had not considered before.
My Business Crush!
I have developed quite a business crush over the years and I love the golden nuggets and words of wisdom that Theo shares with his SBS winners. He is such an ambassador for people like me and the support I have received though Small Business Sunday, the crew, the SBS family, new friends and Theo himself has been incredible and life changing. I would highly recommend for all Small Businesses to tweet Theo on a Sunday between 5pm – 7.30pm as it could change your life too!