The Savvy Club: Kim McAusland

Startup profile: Kim McAusland has started a business for other people's pleasure

Kim McAusland is the second Startup profile of 2003. She’s started her internet business while still working full-time. Kim talks to us about her experiences.

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: Kim McAusland Age: 34 yrs Business: The Savvy Club Limited Type of business: Upmarket Social Events Organisation Start date: May 2002

When did you first decide you wanted to start your own business?I had toyed with the idea for about five years, but had never plucked up the courage to go it alone. I woke up in on New Year’s day 2002 and decided that I needed to do something worthwhile with my life, so I made a conscious decision to get on with it and launched the website in May.

Tell us about your businessSavvy Club is a concept of bringing together people with similar interests through a variety of social occasions and activities.

We provide top quality social events and holidays for people who want no hassle social interaction and enjoyment. Savvy Club is particularly suited to professional people who find they’re missing out on an active social life because they can’t find the time or energy to organise it for themselves.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from?Originally, I thought about starting a business offering secretarial services. However, while living in London over the past 3 years, I have noticed that there is a lack of really good quality social events and activities. This is where the idea has come from.

Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals?About two years ago, I organised an event for the PricewaterhouseCoopers panto group and at the time someone commented that I should do it permanently, and, for myself.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business?I’ve worked for several years at board level and witnessed the lifestyle of busy executives.

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first?Firstly, I had to decide on a name. I tossed loads of ideas in the air, then my father came up with the word ‘savvy’. From then on, Savvy Club it was! Being a professional marketeer, I asked my father to design the logo. He churned out about eight, at which point I whittled it down to three and then I made the final choice. It was enormously exciting having a name and logo!

What research did you do?Initially, plenty of internet research. I attended lots of networking events to see how they were run and I continually attend social and networking occasions to keep an eye on the competition. I also designed and distributed questionnaire which was helpful to determine the market need.

What help and advice did you seek?I sought advice from my Godmother who is a very successful businesswoman and I have also been very lucky to find help and advice from supportive friends. There are also several web sites that are useful for small businesses starting up – like this one of course!

Talk us through the process of writing your business plan. I have been fortunate to have the assistance of a business adviser I met through a friend. He has been helping me to develop business and marketing plans and keep me on track. This is invaluable for independent advice and to keep on track with goals and objectives.

How much did it cost to start the business? About £6,000, maybe a little less.

How did you fund this?I loaned the company £10,000 of my own funds.

Similarly, how are you funding your running costs until the business takes off and have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected?This is tricky at times, especially when I have to book venues in advance and assess how many people I need to attend events. However I am learning as I go along and my overall objective is to give a high quality service with value for money. This will hopefully get people coming back for more!

When did you stop working and how did you find the transition from full-time employment to self-employment?I haven’t stopped working yet!! I still have a day job to pay my bills and I work on Savvy Club in the evenings and at weekends. This situation is becoming slightly frustrating as well as tiring, so I’m looking forward to making the transition.

Are you working from home or from premises?I work from the confines of my bedroom with my desk, filing cabinets and laptop. I find that I’m able to maintain a professional approach when working from home, but I think I will look for premises in the future.

How many hours are you working at the moment? Too many….35 hours in my day job and the same again with Savvy Club.

What about staff, is it just you? Up until recently, it has been just me. However, I have recently acquired some help in the field of marketing, PR and event management. I was fortunate, through networking, to enlist the help of two ladies with their own businesses to provide this expert advice and guidance. They are Ginette Gower of Liberate Marketing and Mangla Sachdev of The Publicity Workshop. I’ve also got a very old ‘good’ friend, Nicole who has been keen to get involved. I’ll be looking to take somebody else on in the future.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far? I have had a small brochure designed as promotional material which I have been distributing. I’ve tried some online marketing with Google and various websites. And then there’s my own self-PR, just talking about Savvy Club to anyone who is willing to listen.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months’ time? I hope in 12 months time that I will have made the transition, and be working on Savvy Club full time.

What are the main obstacles to growth and how do you plan to overcome these?At the moment I am working on raising awareness of Savvy Club and this is vital to future growth. Once people start to attend events and spread the word things will grow naturally and then I can become even more adventurous with the events I organise. Tell us about your website – I employed the services of a company to design the template and layout but I try to maintain the website myself now, only asking for help when I get into technical difficulties. The idea was to have a web site that looks smart and is uncomplicated and easy to navigate around.

What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do? It would be lovely to retire before I’m 50, but my short-term ambition is to build a good reputation and build a solid client-base. Most of all I want to work on something I have a passion for… and get paid for it!

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business?I believe one needs to be determined, forward-thinking, have courage and passion.

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business?If you believe in yourself, then go for it. Follow your ambitions and don’t forget to leave time for yourself too!

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? Of course, I would be delighted.

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