Last year, we interviewed new mum Lindsey Fish about starting her own events management business. 12 months on, Little Fish is going from strength to strength – we find out what she’s learned along the way.
What has the first year been like for you?
My first year has been pretty full, I am sure I was on a high for the first nine months or so but more lately I have felt more challenged in terms of ensuring the fundamentals are right for the business.
I started life as a sole trader but am currently setting up as a Limited company, I am in the midst of submitting a trade mark and ensuring I have good solid accountancy and legal contacts to make sure that my business is set for growth and that it won’t hold itself back by lacking in those basic business areas.
I love events, marketing and working out the best ways to attain more customers those are things I have done before and for many years, but setting up a business is a first for me and I there will always be something new to learn. It’s exciting and challenging but also can be tricky at times and it’s knowing when to seek support.
I can’t actually believe it’s been a year the time has flown by but I have really enjoyed it and I have a better picture now of what I need to do to make Little Fish stand out in a crowded but growing market place.
What has gone according to plan?
I have met the objectives I set out to achieve in my first year which is great, I secured my first client (Skills Funding Agency) after only two months of trading. Since then I have delivered a second larger project for the agency, have delivered a few other smaller projects and am currently working on quite a big event for a tech group which is an exhibition, conference, gala dinner and awards – so lots to do there.
I was also right to start the business instead of returning to work, I honestly don’t see how women cope with a full time 9-5 I honestly bow down to them. I can totally understand why more and more women are getting the confidence to go it alone as it means so much to be able to manage your own time.
And what has surprised you?
The amount of research, reading and digging I have been doing to try and understand the current but also future state of the event industry as well as the future of business and marketing, everything just changes so quickly it’s tough to keep up, it would be awesome to be ahead of the curve.
It has surprised me to see just how much content there is out there, content marketing is key to marketing strategies but it takes so much time to sift the wheat from the grass and then you need to make a call on whether what you are reading is actually right for your business. Don’t even get me started on writing my own content, I am lucky I have a marketing background but that doesn’t mean I find it easy as I am trying to shape a new business.
Have you changed your direction or plans in any way, and why?
Indeed, I started out thinking that Little Fish would cater for small companies who don’t have the internal resources or know-how to organise their corporate events. Now after working with the clients I have I can see that those who outsource event support are already familiar with the benefits events bring, events are already a key element in their marketing strategies (and budgets).
So my target audience has changed to marketing and events teams as well as CEO’s and MD’s of medium to large sized organisations. These companies already organize events but need ad-hoc support regularly or from time to time when they have a number of other priorities where they would benefit from outsourcing event management so they can get on with other key business priorities.
I have also changed in the fact that I needed to step up my game it’s tough out there and I must admit the competition is good, I need to be better. I am currently in the process of re-writing my entire website and creating brand new campaigns which have taken me a while to think of.
Being a Little Fish in the big event pond isn’t enough, Little Fish must stand out and having the confidence to let your brand personality shine, not being afraid to do things differently takes courage but also time to figure out what your brand is. It’s like growing up from a teenager, it’s self discovery all over again and I have realized it’s a journey and as Little Fish gains in experience we will become more ourselves and unique, that’s exciting.
How are you juggling your business and childcare?
I still have the same child minder who has been nothing but awesome. I started the company putting my daughter in childcare for only eight hours a week, she now goes in around 25 hours a week, even more in the run up to an event.
A normal day would be a five hour working day, then Molly time and tea time then back to work often until quite late (or early). But saying that it isn’t often every week is the same and is why such a flexible child minder has been a so important, I submit my hours every Sunday to fit around my schedule for the following week and if I am ever delayed or meetings over run it isn’t a problem I simply let her know and arrange to pick molly up later than planned.
Is your family still supportive?
Yes my partner Andrew is great he just lets me get on with it and my folks are certain I will accomplish my dreams which is so lovely although I am sure my parents would be behind me no matter what I chose to do, they are good’uns. If ever I am feeling a little low or stressed my family give me the boost I need to get over myself and get going again.
What has been your proudest moment or biggest success so far?
I feel proud after delivering every event. Getting great feedback from both clients and event attendees is a proud moment because you think I did that, I launched Little Fish from nothing into something and have delivered an event and a service people were impressed by, that’s a pretty awesome feeling.
The biggest event to date was the tender we won to organize London’s launch event as part of National Apprenticeship Week 2015. It took place at the London Eye and Marriott County Hall, we worked with their PR team and were lucky to have Vince Cable Secretary of State and Tim Campbell winner of The Apprentice both speak, which attracted Sky News, Bloomberg and London Live. The event went really well (you can read the full case study here).
And your toughest moment?
It is tough not knowing where the next client is coming from I think acquisition is a problem for all companies’ not just startups but yep, that is a biggie.
Even with a marketing background I do find marketing tough because of what I mentioned earlier about being confident in your brand to be loud and proud to be different. My marketing needs to be spot on to create campaigns that generate leads so is essential, but of late I have found it really tough.
My head has been swamped with information from all the reading and researching I have been doing, and it took me some time to get clarity on what marketing I needed to do to get Little Fish noticed. I have come out the other side though and have some great ideas which I am working on now.
What’s your vision for the next year for Little Fish?
Well I have quite a few plans for this next year. First off I am very excited about event tech and how Little Fish can match innovative event tech to client events. Then there is the fact that events these days are so much more than the event day itself, events can last months in the run up.
There are also so many ways to increase engagement at the event itself, then there is still masses of opportunity post event in terms of continuing to engage the same audience. I am excited about how events are developing – Little Fish’s future is being an innovative, forward thinking event management company and I would love to work with clients who are not afraid to try new things.
I also am very pro-mums in that I very much see Little Fish leveraging skilled and expert women (or men) who chose not to return to their 9-5, but instead chose to be freelance or maybe haven’t found the right work solution for them yet.
I know that business can be done without conforming to the usual 9-5 and Little Fish will most certainly use what I feel is quite an under-utilised talent pool of parents. As Little Fish grows so will the need for event managers, marketers and event tech enthusiasts and so I very much will be seeking the support of other mums to fill those needs as and when the time comes.
I already have the support of one Event Manager who is a mum and supports me with event projects as and when I need extra support, and I have also sought the help of another mum who is helping me with my admin.
Not only it a flexible work option for these ladies but it is also cost effective for Little Fish, as they are self-employed and I can hire them on an ad-hoc/project basis. I very much expect to need an increasing amount of support over the next year and working with mums in this way is how Little Fish intends to grow.
Lastly I am very excited about an event idea I’m planning for mums that is just at research stage at the moment. When it’s ready to go, Talented Ladies Club will be the first to know about it, so watch this space!
And what learnings from the past year can you share with other business owners?
I have learnt plenty! Here are a few tips:
- Patience is a must – I am not a patient person but I have realised that my dreams won’t come true overnight. It will take time to build the business up to where I dream it to be, but that’s okay. So don’t expect miracles, just keep up the passion, determination and be in it for the long-haul.
- Get help with bookkeeping and accounting, and find an accountant sooner rather than later.
- You can’t be good at everything, so don’t be shy about seeking support as and when. There are loads of freelance skilled people out there, so if you need a hand with marketing campaigns, copywriting, etc you can pay somebody as and when to create things for you.
- Research and access business support. I myself have a mentor who I don’t pay for as it is through a local business support scheme, and I would very much recommend it. They keep you focused on what needs to be done to get where you want to be.
You can find out more about Little Fish on their website.