Sunnyside Business Services: Karen Caile

After gaining experience on the intranet of her employer, Karen Caile decided to ditch the nine to five grind and set up her own web design and hosting company from her own home.

After gaining experience on the intranet of her employer, Karen Caile decided to ditch the nine to five grind and set up her own web design and hosting company, Sunnyside Business Services, from her own home. She tells Startups.co.uk how she’s getting on.

Name: Karen Caile Age: 36 Business: Sunnyside Business Services Type of business: Web design, web hosting, Search engine optimisation and submission, office and bookkeeping services Start date: May 2004

When did you first decide you wanting start your own business? Starting my own business was always in the back of my mind. When I had my first child, I arranged with my employer to reduce my working hours to fit in with the family.

After I had my second child, it was going to be so difficult arranging childcare and travelling to work etc that I decided to give my business a chance. I have a wide range of skills to complement the main web design service that I offer.

Tell us about your business The main activity of my business is web and logo design. I offer design packages to small and medium sized companies and have currently concentrated my work on other parents working from home.

My business is based at my home as the work involves Internet communications. For companies who have no Internet skills, I offer a fully managed service or I can guide more knowledgeable enterprises to achieve the results they want.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from? Yes this was my first business idea. I have 5 years experience working on a large company Intranet and enjoyed the work so decided that I might as well do something I like.

Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals? My family are very supportive and gave me the encouragement to start up in business. I was given the opportunity to build a web site for a Steam and Craft Show and thought this would be a good start to my portfolio.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? Following research of the market, I realised there was potential for a female web design company as I found that there were quite a lot of other parents working from home who needed a website and a female approach would suit them.

Also, as I am able offer flexible payment plans; this is very favourable to small and newly formed companies who may not have a large budget for advertising.

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first? Contacted Business Link and went on a Women into Business programme to learn how to form my business and write my business plan

What research did you do? I compiled a questionnaire and sent to a parenting forum where other wahp’s hang out.

I also researched many other web designers, large and small to study their portfolios and pricing methods

Talk us through the process of writing your business plan. I wrote my business plan after attending the Women into Business Programme. I started with my marketing strategy and have developed it from there. I didn’t use any specific software, just Word, and Excel for my cashflow and sales forecasts.

How much did it cost to start the business? I invested around £400 for some initial advertising and PR help. I also purchased a new PC and software to cope with the amount of work, which cost £1700

Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected? No, my husband supports the family anyway. If it doesn’t succeed, I will go back to employment, but at the moment I can’t see why it shouldn’t do well.

When did you stop working?June 2004. I had already been spending time at home on maternity leave so the transition was a relief more than anything.

Are you working from home or from premises? I am working from home, just because I can’t justify having business premises for something I can do just as well here. I have set days that I work and I ignore all housework etc on those days.

I have a very professional approach as I communicate mostly over the Internet, so there isn’t much face-to-face contact. The only thing is, I have to visit clients’ premises for meetings because I cannot allow them to come here, but that’s OK.

If in the future I decide to outsource work, I will start to look for premises, which will probably be a couple of rooms in a business park or an office somewhere close to home.

How many hours are you working at the moment? Around 20-25 hours a week

How are you managing your day and what steps have you taking to ensure you’re able to get everything done without working around the clock? I write to do lists and prioritise urgent work so that I am not still working into the night.

Is the amount of red tape that comes with taking on an employee something that concerns you? Yes, it is something that concerns me. You don’t really know if the person you are taking on is suitable until they have worked for you.

Then it is very difficult to let them go if you decide you don’t want them working for you. Also holiday entitlements, NI contributions etc make employees a lot more expensive that outsourcing.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far? Adverts in local papers, Internet advertising, Press release. Being an active member of some discussion forums.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months time? Making a profit, have up to 20 happy clients. Expanding the business to include design for print services.

What are the main obstacles to growth? Competition from other web design companies

How do you plan to overcome these? By offering the flexible payment options on Ecommerce solutions, something not many offer.

Tell us about your website. I wrote my own website, of course. Although I built in rather quickly so it is very basic but serves its purpose. I am I the process of redesigning it to accommodate the ecommerce solutions and update my portfolio.

What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do? Both really, I’d be silly to say the money wasn’t important but I also want to enjoy my work otherwise there’s no point doing it.

What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently? Learning how to market my business. I began by marketing the office and bookkeeping, but I wish I had kept that as a backup service, which I do now.

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? Determination and motivation. Skills relevant to your business activity. Accounting skills or where to find someone to do them for you. Marketing skills. Self-confidence.

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business? Contact Business Link as I did and attend one of their awareness events. Make sure you have a business plan so you can see where your business is going.

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