Tag Archives: getting support

Happy at home #7 – community connections

Are you, like me, slightly confused by the messages coming out through the mass media about what we should/ shouldn’t be doing to keep safe? If so, I suspect we’re not alone.

To avoid adding to the confusion, I want to make clear that, while the theme for this week’s mailing is ‘community connections’ this DOESN’T mean you rush out and hug your neighbour. But it does mean thinking about creating, renewing, building and sustaining contact with people around you, in safe ways, not just for now but also for after the pandemic is contained.

I do feel that lockdown is an opportunity/ excuse to do things we would never have considered even three months ago. For me, this is watching the natural world at close quarters online via live webcams around the world (even the universe) and sharing recipes.

Face coverings

Talking of confusion, I’m sure we’ll all going to get confused about whether we should wear face coverings and if so, what kind. Luckily those fine folk at the Institute of Making have come up with some answers to ‘frequently asked questions’ about face masks here https://www.instituteofmaking.org.uk/blog/2020/05/face-coverings-faqs.

The Institute have calculated that if mask wearing was enforced for a year in the UK and everyone wore one disposable mask a day, that would create 66,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste. A good reason to make your own and, if you decide to give that a go, you may remember I sent two instructional tutorials in my 27.4.20 mailing (and here’s a link to one that doesn’t involve sewing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MaorozC4Tk)

Helping others

We’re all in this together, but we’re not all in the same boat… which means giving and taking according to our needs.  This is a link to an article with 10 ways to help others https://www.positive.news/society/10-ways-to-help-others-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak You’ll see the suggestions are for both on and offline connections.

Getting support

This is about staying safe – by making the most of legitimate sources of support and avoiding the multitude of online scams doing the rounds.

For local support to meet more general needs, don’t forget the NextDoor neighbourhood hub https://nextdoor.co.uk. It’s an online social platform – so not everyone can get access – but if you have IT you can register for free and it’s quite straightforward.

Sharing: get or give free items in your community (I can’t remember the last time I bought a TV) by signing up online for free with a local Freegle Group. https://www.ilovefreegle.org – there will be a Freegle group near you. Note: you’ll be expected to pick up an item if you’re receiving it – so you may need transport and do observe safe distancing on the doorstep.

Recipe of the week: Talking of sharing, you won’t want to share this Tea Loaf when it comes straight out of the oven – it’s very tasty!


12oz / 350g sultanas or currants (or a mix of both)                                                   8oz / 225g light brown sugar                    ½ pint / 300ml strong hot black tea  10oz / 275g self-raising flour                    1 egg (beaten)


Measure the fruit and sugar into a bowl. Pour over the hot tea, cover and leave overnight.      Stir in the flour and egg into the fruit mixture and mix thoroughly.                                             Turn into a lined tin and level the surface.                                                                                             Bake in a pre-heated oven gas 2/ 150C for approx 1 ½ hours or until well-risen and a skewer comes out clean.                                                                                                                                    Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out and leave to cool on a wire rack [you are allowed to enjoy a slice or two while it’s still warm…]

 Connecting online:

If you want to use video calls for free, many people are now using Zoom and WhatsApp. See page 20 in the Shoulder to Shoulder magazine here https://menssheds.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/April-Newsletter-Small-.pdf for more on this.

Connecting with nature, living sustainably

Lots of lovely things you can do here https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/actions to keep in touch with the nature on your doorstep.

You can enjoy presentations and discussions from a free online festival to help you live more sustainably https://www.asustainablelife.co.uk/the-sustainableish-online-festival It was organised by my friend Jen Gale – her website is a brilliant sources of simple things you can do to help tackle the climate crisis.

Communities of interest

People talk not just about ‘physical communities’ but also communities of interest… Technology means we can link with people anywhere (the younger generation have been playing online games with people on the other side of the world for years…) to pursue our interests and passions.

As you may know, one of my passions is books – reading and sharing (through my Little Library and reviews on my blogsite) … I came across this piece about how to set up an online book group and thought I’d share it with you. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4d2tfP38MXzZ8bgM7KZ4Wyb/novel-connections-how-to-set-up-your-own-online-book-group

Happy reading!

See other posts in this “Happy at home” series here https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/category/happy-at-home

What makes a great business plan?

There’s no right and wrong way to write a business plan. It’s about getting the job done – which is probably to make the best case to readers (investors, collaborators, potential customers) to persuade them to support you and your business idea.

Below are 10 questions that most business plans should aim to answer…

  1. Why are you the right person to be setting up in business? What’s your personal and professional situation – relevant life experience/ relevant training and work experience. What are your interests outside of work but relevant to your business success? 
  1. Why is this business particularly attractive to you? What’s the source of your passion – personal and professional? Why you will put in the extra effort and time to succeed when the going gets tough?
  1. Who will buy your products or services? Define your target market/s in a meaningful way (their demographics, attitudes, behaviours)
  1. Why will people want to buy your products/services? What ‘needs’ do your product/ service meet? And what ‘wants’ will you satisfy such that people will buy from you rather than your competitors?  
  1. How do you know that there is demand for your products and services? Explain your market research – show real, meaningful evidence of there being enough people willing to pay for your product/service. The views of your friends and family don’t count! The best market research is test-trading
  1. How will your business plan show the figures add up (with more income than expenditure)? This is your best estimate to show there are enough people willing to spend enough money to allow you to pay your bills (use your market research and cost/sales estimates to make the case ) 
  1. What is ‘plan B’ if things don’t turn out as planned? Will you … Scale down? Slow down? Do something slightly different? Do something completely different?  
  1. How do you know the overall business idea is realistic? Can you point to others doing the same thing successfully? How self-aware are you about your strengths and ways to compensate for your weaknesses? 
  1. How will you monitor the performance of your business? How will you know how well you’re doing? This is about more than just money – the ‘bottom line’. Will you set targets and milestones, identify relevant measures – outputs and outcomes – over the short/medium/long term.
  1. What will success look like? Imagine yourself in 12 months – what will a typical day / week look like? What‘s your vision for the period covered by your business plan?

 General advice:

  • Show development stages in your business plan. Targets for month 3, month 6, and month 12 perhaps
  • Make your plan sound certain (be positive but realistic and honest) even if some elements are not very fixed
  • Keep it simple – write for a 12 year old with no knowledge of you/ your business Quality is more important than quantity
  • Know where your figures come from (and explain the main assumptions in your plan)
  • Add other materials, such as photos, at the end if it helps the reader get a better grasp of you and your business idea.

Further reading:  https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/the-business-plan-paradox/

Learning about Earning: lessons 7 and 8 from a social enterprise start-up

Top down vs bottom up

I have a problem with reconciling the character of many entrepreneurs (energetic, impatient and confident, even to the point of arrogance) with the idea of a social enterprise as a cooperative and collaborative enterprise. To my mind, users should be involved, as far as possible, in the design of the business (co-production) but this, of course, takes time and patience.

But I also accept that the entrepreneur is the one with the vision to mobilise resources and take the idea to a stage where (hopefully) others can take over – leading from behind. This frees up the entrepreneur to move on with a new idea (or new location if replication is the name of the game). Starters are not always good finishers…

Further related reading: 20 social enterprise leadership tips http://bit.ly/1rpFhQD Do you have the character of a social entrepreneur? http://bit.ly/ZdJ1hH Can you take people with you/ sell the vision? http://bit.ly/1BkU9qJ Are you accountable to others – even when you’re spending your own money? http://bit.ly/1nAA8Yx

 Cash in hand vs gifts in kind

“In year 1 you pay the business, in year 2 the business pays itself, in year 3 the business pays you”

 Whatever kind of business you’re starting (unless you’ve got a ready-made cohort of paying customers from day one) you’re likely to need a couple of year’s support before the business takes off. The social enterprise model is not an easy route to go down so you may need longer.

Traditionally, start-up support comes from ‘family, friends and fools’ and in the social enterprise sector there’s a growing supply of social investment (although there currently seems to be a mismatch between supply and demand). But alongside the need for some cash (you can’t run a business entirely on fresh air and goodwill) there’s a generous supply of free, non-cash support.

Alongside what’s available online…

  • Social Enterprise Start-up support – School for Social Entrepreneurs in Ipswich, Wenta Business Incubation in Herts and Beds (free for first three months), Social Incubator East in Cambridge, Inspire 2 Enterprise, and UnLtd.
  • Partners that are willing to help if there’s minimal direct cost to the organisation (Community Action Dacorum and Sunnyside Rural Trust in the case of The Repair Shed)
  • Company sponsorship – Triton Tools as official supplier of tools to the UK Men’s Sheds Association. More on The Repair Shed funding mix at http://bit.ly/1wdmgp3

If you’re interested in exploring ways to turn ideas into action, join Chris Lee for a day-long workshop on December 4 in Chelmsford Details at www.voluntarysectortraining.org.uk/courses/event/70/Ideas-Into-Action


Enterprise essential – Sell the ‘why’

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” says marketing consultant Simon Sinek. When you want to get people on board at an early stage in developing your business, it’s more important to ‘sell the vision’ as people’s feelings about the enterprise are likely to influence their behaviour much more than the details (which come later).