I’d spent 20 years advising entrepreneurs (including those of the social variety) in the East of England on setting up and running businesses. Five years previously I’d helped create what might loosely be described as a social enterprise – the Repair Shed in Hemel Hempstead.
What had I learned and where could that knowledge take me?
I learnt that I don’t like the buck stopping with me when it comes to decision-making (I like to sleep soundly at night!) It confirmed what I’d known for a while – that there’s a big difference between working on a business and working in it (you do more toilet-cleaning than deal-making). Having business start-up ideas is not enough – however good they may be, you need the energy and determination to turn them into action – it’s hard work! And maybe two heads are better (or at least more fun) than one.
Most recently I learned about the concept of the ‘side hustle’ – a new name rather than a new idea – but one that’s significant enough to command the attention of the Henley Business School that researched the growth of the phenomenon in summer 2018. Essentially a side hustle is a business venture to supplement income from regular job. Its growth has been largely born out of flexible working practices and growing insecurity in the jobs market. At its best, a side hustle is the creative low-risk development of a potentially good business idea, at its worst it’s self-indulgence at someone else’s (ie your employer) expense. Some also see it as a sign that the jobs market is in a poor state with low pay and part-time becoming the norm. For me it was something else – an opportunity to try to turn a hobby into a small business (nothing new there) alongside a new part-time job, working with someone else.
Green & Grey is the enterprise I’m developing in Royston near Cambridge with a new-found partner-in-wood; we’re exploring creative ways to cut waste – mainly by making items for homes and gardens using reclaimed materials. After meeting at a community breakfast (full English breakfasts are a shared passion) David and I discovered another common interest – making products from pallet wood. It got us thinking… David likes creating (he’s the arty one) and my background is in marketing, so it seemed like a good combination. We agreed to make and market our products and, as important in my opinion, tell the story behind the enterprise, to see what would happen.
Four weeks after our very soft launch, our online presence is largely our WordPress web pages and Facebook (see links below). We recently met up in a local pub – no trouble finding time for a pint in our otherwise busy weeks – to review our progress and plan our next move. These are some of our reflections:
- We’re happy with the brand-building, but not the sales. We’ve had a commission to make kids jousting equipment for a summer pageant, but we think we need to be more direct on the sales front
- We’re expecting that one-off commissions will make up an important part of our work, but for now we plan to push summer items (for the garden) that can be made to order quickly
- We’ll focus us online promotion through local social media platforms, highlighting our own local connections and our personal and professional values
- With summer and craft markets in mind, we’ll be researching the market for smaller items that we can make and transport relatively easily
- Above all, we’re agreed that we won’t compromise on the quality of our work and will price our products accordingly
The conversation goes on – between the two of us, but also with our followers. You can keep in touch by liking our Facebook page and we’ll be updating our journey (we’re all on a journey apparently) through future blog posts. Watch this space and tell your friends – because there is no planet B.
Further information: on Green & Grey www.facebook.com/GreenAndGreyRecreations and https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/green-and-grey-store