Freelance Training & Consultancy: Jessica Grosvenor

The founder on redundancy and being named Young Entrepreneur of the Year

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Company name: Freelance Training & Consultancy
Founder: Jessica Grosvenor
Age: 25
Based: Wolverhampton
Staff Numbers: 25 (freelancers)
Date started: April 2010
Turnover: £1.4m in first 6 months

Tell us what your business does.
Freelance Training & Consultancy provides vocational and skills training and return-to-work employment. In particular it aims to help people who have been made redundant, who are out of work, or who are unhappy in their employment, by giving them the necessary skills and qualifications for a new career.

Where did the idea for your business come from?
I was made redundant from my job and so I used this time to improve my skills and become better qualified. I did a teaching qualification, which enabled me to teach and assess various qualifications. I decided to start the business to help people who had also been made redundant, to help boost their confidence and skill set. I started off focussing on health and social care, but then moved into other sectors.

How did you know there was a market for it? What’s your USP (unique selling point)? How will you differentiate yourself from the competition?
In our area there are a lot of 16-30 year old who are unemployed. We focus on the individual and cover their whole learning process. We can fit the training around their work life, or we can find them a work placement in their chosen sector. Freelance Training & Consultancy is unique in that it offers training for so many different sectors.

What were you doing before starting up? (Previous job; education; experience in and knowledge of the area) Was it hard to leave your job?
I worked in a bank, from where I was made redundant. Prior to that I have worked in many jobs, including a hair salon and a jewellers’ shop.

Have you always wanted to run your own business? What appealed most about being your own boss?
Yes definitely! The business represents everything I’ve done in the past, its like all the fruits of my labour coming together. And it’s great to think that I’ve done it all myself.

What planning did you do before you started up – did you do market research, put together a business plan etc.? What advice did you seek?
From my laptop at home I spent ages on Google researching the industry. I used Business Link for business information and also asked my parents for their advice.

How did you raise the money? How easy was it? Did anyone reject you?
Initially the business was funded entirely through my own personal money. The running costs were fairly low, as all the employees are freelancers. I managed to find an office that I could rent for £300 a month. More recently, I have been awarded a cash injection of £10,000, as a result of being named Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2010, which is great.

How have you promoted your business? What has proved successful and what won’t you do again?
I was quite sceptical of using social media and digital marketing initially, but now I use twitter and Facebook regularly, and it has really helped to boost the business’ reputation. The power of social marketing is amazing. Wolverhampton Council allows me to use their PR agency, which is great. We’ve actually been voted the best business in Wolverhampton. Our local paper, Express and Star have asked me to do a weekly business and events blog, so that’s also good for publicity.

How much do you charge? How did you decide this?
We charge 50% less than other training companies in our geographical area. The aim is to make our service available to everyone, so it’s important that we’re not greedy with how much we charge.

What has your growth been like? What is your turnover? Are you profitable? When do you expect to be profitable? Are you where your business plan said you’d be?
Growth has been incredible. We have definitely exceeded our expectations and we are now profitable. In the last couple of months I have finally been able to take a wage from the business.

What’s the impact on your home life been like?
Fantastic. Everyone has been really supportive and involved in the business which is great. I always try to incorporate the business into my own life, in pretty much everything I do.

What was your first big breakthrough?
The first big breakthrough was in June when we secured our first major contract with a local council. I met them through a networking event and got the ball rolling from there.

What would you do differently? ie what have you learnt?
I wouldn’t do anything differently, but I have learnt to believe in the business and to talk about it all the time with as many people as possible.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Just do it. If you get that gut feeling, go for it. Make sure you have the financial backing, and always be yourself.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time? Do you have an exit plan?
I want to keep building up the company. We’re hoping to build a community activity centre in Wolverhampton, for the elderly and for people with learning difficulties. I’m also looking to expand the business nationally, and so am always looking for people who are interested.

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