Last week was crazy here at Labels4Kids. Not only are we working on perfecting our new website and trying to make it even better for our customers but we were also in the midst of our busiest packing week of the year. In the middle of all that I (Ann-Maree) was invited down to London as a guest of Nectar Small Business to take part in a business panel with Karren Brady of the Apprentice and West Ham fame, and Mike Southon, business journalist from Birmingham. This was part of winning the Nectar Small Business Entrepreneur Awards 2013 last week. Two days later I was to attend the international Online Retail Awards at Kensington Gardens Hotel for a black tie event.
Nectar Small Business Awards Enterpreneur of the Year
Off I flew to meet Karren Brady and the Nectar team at Kettners in Soho, well known for fashion launches and celebrity events but unknown to me until now! We were judged by a panel of business experts, including Karren Brady, Nectar Marketing Director, James Frost, Brakes Marketing Director, David Hughes and Chris Li, founder of Luxury For Less and winner of the Nectar Business Small Business of the Year Award 2012. The business panel was about Entrepreneurship and starting and running a business during a recession, which was attended by a number of business journalists from London and Karren, Mike and James took part in this also.
Labels4Kids and myself were awarded Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 as Karren Brady stated: “Ann-Maree is a textbook entrepreneur; she spotted a problem and created a business to fix it. Labels4Kids was born out of a simple but great idea that has fantastic potential to develop into a very successful global business.” As a result of winning the prize was £2,000 cash, 50,000 Nectar points and to meet and have lunch with Karren Brady over a business panel discussion. James Frost, Marketing Director at Nectar said: “This year we’ve seen a real increase in entry quality and diversity. Businesses vying for a Nectar Business Small Business Award have been more competitive than ever before. The Entrepreneur of the Year prize was awarded to Ann-Maree because she is an exceptional individual that is able to demonstrate excellence in her field and has a clear vision for the Labels4Kids Ltd’s future. We congratulate Ann-Maree on her success.” (Photo credit to Geoff Caddick/PA).
Kettners was an amazing place to go. Of course the weather was 30c in London that day so it was a bit hot and sweaty but there were plenty of cold drinks and an unbelievable array of food was put out for buffet lunch with a massive salmon covered cucumber scales! It was great to meet Karren Brady in particular who I love watching on the Apprentice, and whose book “Strong Woman” is really interesting to read. I felt a lot in common with Karren reading the book and I think anyone who works and runs around a family will relate to it. Well worth a read. She is very nice, very down to earth and very straight forward, as we all can imagine. So am I (of course) so we really enjoyed the business panel discussion and with the other winners it was so nice to hear that we all have many similar issues, and similar ideas on running a business and the challenges and how to deal with them.
One thing that I felt a bit strange about was knowing that you are being filmed, but you forget during business discussions and then you get sent a copy of the video and the photos and you think “oh my goodness, I didn’t see them take that being filmed. Ahhh!” Must happen to Karren all the time I’m sure but it certainly doesn’t happen to me on a regular basis so that was quite a shock. Thank fully most of the photos are OK so that was a relief, after virtually no sleep the night before.
I was asked by Mike Southon to kick off the first answer in the business panel which was about whether starting a business in a recession was a good thing. I raised the point that if you cannot run a business in a recession then you will not be able to run a successful business out of recession so there is not a better time to start. I really believe that a recession means you have to be focused on costs, margins and growing sales, and you have to have very high quality service and products. Too many businesses scrape by with poor customer service and passable quality but not great quality. That is not acceptable. Quality and service should be EXPECTED not demanded by the customer in my view and a patient listening ear is what is required to help resolve issues. Customers don’t want war and peace on why you made an error. They want to know what are you going to do to fix it or how are you going to help them. It’s the old adage WIIFM (“What’s in it for me”). Every customer should be treated like your first and only customer, even the angry ones 🙂 And on that topic, I really believe in making it easy for the customer to contact you to, contact details, feedback forms, contact forms, live chat, phone number prominent and email prominent. We try to answer all our queries within an hour but in busy times it can be 24 hours due to the volume of orders, packing and queries. That’s just part of running a small and efficient team as much as we would like to get back to everyone in an hour all year around, and we try to do so.
Click the link below to see more on the business panel video of Labels4Kids below courtesy of Nectar Small Business Awards:
Karren Brady presenting Labels4Kids with Nectar Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2013
Other tips that came up from Karren, and we all agreed, were the need to be committed, hard working, seek out advice, start lean with minimal costs, take a risk and start a business, communicate well, and be determined to succeed. It’s not going to help you starting a business as a techie for example but not wanting to talk to anyone to grow the business and seek out advice.
I managed to catch Karren for some social chat and gave her some vinyl labels for the family so she can use them at the football on her water bottle or whatever they need them for. She was delighted and I even got a thank you kiss and a mention by Karren on Daybreak TV the next morning 🙂 That was lovely as she didn’t need to do that for us but she wanted to. You know sometimes you meet someone and you just know you “click”. Well that was how I felt with Karren. What an amazing lady. Having kids the same age and a similar attitude to business helps of course. I really wish her well at West Ham, in her non-executive roles (something I would also like to take on in future) and in continuing to encourage women into business. The latter I also feel passsionate about and in fact, am off to give a talk to a group of women in Dunblane on the topic on Friday.
As part of the Nectar Small Business Awards I made an official comment: “I’m delighted to have won a Nectar Business Small Business Award and have met Karren Brady. We’ve been really keen to expand the business into new territories and Karren’s advice at the round table has given us a lot of inspiration and guidance, especially for setting up premises in our target regions.” I mean it!
Online Retail Awards Winner of Children and Babies Category (fourth year running)
A few hours off and I met up with my husband to head to the Online Retail Awards sponsored by ORA and MyRetail. Having won Online Retailer of the Year Independent, and Children and Babies category for the past 3 years I did not think we had much chance of a win this year. I was mistaken. We won for our fourth year running so another trophy to take back to the Labels4Kids team in Scotland on the plane!
The awards were held at the Kensington Gardens’ Hotel in London and again the food was fabulous. Well done to the hotel. We had a great time talking to the guys from Harveys Furniture World, Qubit and My World Stores who were also up for awards and sitting with us at the table and I had time to chat to Steph McGovern from BBC Business News team, who was the award presenter. Our Award was the first up and presented by Birgir Sigfusson, Business Development Director of My-Retail Media. My-Retail Media are the international media partner for Online Retail Events, shown in the photo below.
The overall winner of the Prix d’Or was Virgin Travel for the travel website. Well done Virgin. Can I have a first class ticket somewhere, anywhere, not fussy ?!?!
Anyway, after a really busy week back to reality of kids, cooking, packing, printing, and running my business and family at home. Wouldn’t swap it for the world but sometimes it’s nice to get a bit of recognition after all the long hours and hard work. A big thank you to all our customers for all your orders this year and your patience during the launch our our new website and the busy period. Also without our really hard working and dedicated team, who do take some abuse this time of year with school going back and people ordering too late sometimes, then none of our Awards would be possible.
If you have any ideas on making your ordering process easier or on new products we can introduce for you, do drop us a line at [email protected] and we will look into it for you or use our feedback form on the site, our live chat or just phone us on 0845 644 0258. We WANT to hear from you.