OliveBlue: Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta

Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta has started a business helping other people do the same

Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta always knew she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps and start her own business. And all those years watching mum weren’t wasted, as Yvonne has started a business helping other people do just the same. She tells Startups.co.uk all about it.

Startup profiles go straight to the hub of the action by speaking to entrepreneurs who have literally just started up. We find out what made them decide to start their own business, how they got it off the ground, the obstacles they’ve overcome and the barriers they still face. We’ll look at their hopes and aspirations for the future, and then, in six months time, we’ll go back and find out how they’re getting on.

Name: Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta Age: 27 Business: OliveBlue Ltd – www.oliveblue.com Type of business: Business Coaching & Consultancy Start date: May 2002

When did you first decide you wanting start your own business? Right from when I was at college choosing my A-Level subjects I always visualised having my own consultancy and freelancing.

Tell us about your business OliveBlue is a business coaching & consultancy company focused on working with SMEs, especially small businesses, to support them in developing a clear and definite path towards greater productivity and success.

We work with them in starting their business, writing their business plans and raising finance successfully. We then help them grow their businesses, supporting their development and business processes. We also run workshops and seminars tailored to suit the needs of the organisations we work with.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from? I have had loads of businesses ideas and still continue to have loads of viable business ideas. This made me realise that my skills, education and experience in the business field, especially as a visionary, were better suited working with people to start and grow their businesses.

Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals?I’d have to say it was inspired by my mother, who has her own business, but more by my desire to have a flexible lifestyle and most especially by my passion to help people to succeed. Also, I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit in me; even while I was at college, I had a little side business going to bring in additional income.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business?The SME market is huge and every day businesses are failing due, partly, to a lack of or inappropriate advice and support. Everyday somebody new is starting or at least thinking of starting a business, so I don’t think, I know there is a market for my business. I believe that there is a particular need for affordable coaching that is empowering for small businesses.

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first? Quite honestly, I thought of a name. I visualised where I wanted to be and how I wanted to be perceived. It made the whole idea more real to me by having a name.

What research did you do? I went to the business library to research on business consultancies, researched on the internet about starting a business, on similar businesses to what I was intending to do and about the SME market. Also, researched both direct and indirect competitors. Till today I continue to research, as it is a never-ending activity.

What advice did you seek? I only approached banks, as they usually have a lot of information they provide to businesses just starting out, and as I already had a business and marketing background it was much easier for me to proceed. Saying that, I would still advise everyone to seek some type of help especially if you don’t have the business education and experience background I had.

What other help did you get? From family and friends; advising and reviewing my business name and logo, support in developing and reviewing my website, mentoring and advice from a business adviser who was also a friend, and most importantly, encouragement.

Does the government need to provide more help to people trying to start a business? If so, what should they do? I think they are already doing a lot (this does not mean they can’t do more), however people need to be more educated about what is out there, else they won’t know it even exists.

Talk us through the process of writing your business plan.I found it quite easy as it’s what I specialise in doing as a business. I found looking at various business templates from the banks and even on the internet was very helpful. In the process of actually writing my plan I developed a business plan template that I often give out freely to clients and non-clients. Once you have done the groundwork, you will find it much easier to write the plan.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow?I’ve found the business plan useful in giving me direction for what I’m meant to be doing it’ll also help to grow the business. I also find it useful for benchmarking and keeping me grounded when I get distracted. Remember, I said I’m constantly thinking of new businesses ideas. So it really helps to keep me focused. One advice I’d give to anybody is that they should not feel limited by their business plan: it is a flexible tool that can be revised as you learn more about your market and your business grows.

How much did it cost to start the business?Not much, I’d have to approximate it to just under £1000 pounds. The reason being I am very industrious and did a couple of things myself such as stationery design and also did some trade by barter.

How did you fund this? From my own savings.

Similarly, how are you funding your running costs until the business takes off?Thanks to God the business is already paying for its running costs.

Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected? I have savings to fall back on for my expenses.

How did you find the transition from full-time employment to self-employment? I was contracting before starting, so the idea of being self-employed was not new to me, and I also ensured I had one steady client from my previous job to start with a steady income.

Are you working from home or from premises?No, I work from home and on client’s sites. But I find as I’m beginning to see more clients who are just starting out, it is becoming necessary to have premises or a location I can meet clients for meetings.

The whole point of me starting a business was to have a flexible lifestyle such as working from home, so it is something I’d like to continue doing even when I get premises. And it is quite easy to maintain a professional approach if you have all the right equipment: separate phone line, fax machine etc.

How many hours are you working at the moment? Sometimes 15 hours a day, sometimes four hours a day. But always seven days 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’m learning time management and prioritising.

What about staff, is it just you? At the moment it’s just me, and I work with associates when required and take on the services of an accountant, solicitor, web designer and graphic designer when needed. This is easier for me to manage.

Is the amount of red tape that comes with taking on an employee something that concerns you?It is, however I know where there is a will, there is a way. So I’ll work around it, by employing the services of an expert. I’m no expert in this area.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far?Word of mouth, a bit of targeted direct marketing, networking and complimentary seminars.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months’ time? Still enjoying what I do, helping more people get started in business or grow their business. And have some more money in the bank.

What are the main obstacles to growth? Taking risks.

How do you plan to overcome these? Calculate risks, be bold and take the leap of faith

Tell us about your website.I love my website, I believe that a website has to be done properly and it is part of your branding as a business. These days it is the first impression people get of you as a business: as to how professional or not you are; really it tells a story. So for me, despite fact that I knew how to design a website (amateur), I also knew I wanted something to project a very professional image, so I got a professional to do it. Have a look for yourselves: www.oliveblue.co.uk

What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do? To first enjoy what I do, all other things follow.

What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently? Getting a foot in door, If I could do it all over again, I’d network more to make useful contacts.

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? Focus, determination, motivation and resilience

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business? Carry out market research, build a proper foundation for your business and get help where required or unsure.

Thanks a lot and the very best of luck. Will you come back and tell us how you’re getting on in six months’ time?I would love to.

If you’ve just started up and would like to feature in one of our profiles email matthewt@crimsonpublishing.co.uk

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