“It can be lonely in business, but if you reach out for support, you will see that you are not alone and that the support on offer can help your business grow.” The words of Tina Duggan, co-owner of Oven Loving, are based on first-hand success having benefited from the multi-faceted support on offer from Buckinghamshire Business First.
Tina, who runs Aylesbury-based Oven Loving with her husband Ian, heard about Buckinghamshire Business First by word of mouth and after meeting with a Growth Adviser on Buckinghamshire Business First’s Growth Programme, soon entered a world of business support that began with a £150 training voucher.
Seeking better, faster growth
“We are not only trying to grow our business,” says Tina, “we are trying to grow it in a better, faster way.” That ambition led to Ian completing the Virtual Adviser tool on the Buckinghamshire Business First website that assesses strengths and weaknesses of a business and highlights available support, and to Oven Loving receiving a training voucher to put towards the cost of business coaching from local business ActionCoach.
“The coaching was a whole day of training that helped us to develop a fresh business plan and set realistic goals to keep us focused. It was really worthwhile,” Tina says of the support that comes via the Buckinghamshire Skills Brokerage – a partnership between Buckinghamshire Business First and Adviza.
It soon became clear to Tina that the team at Buckinghamshire Business First could help her join the dots with regards to all the support she needed: “We began our journey with our Growth Adviser and everything stemmed from there. Every step we made along the way made us realise that we needed another type of support, and when we needed it, Buckinghamshire Business First provided it.”
Support and more from the Growth Programme
Next on Tina’s list was support through the Growth Programme, which included networking, marketing training, finance advice, and one-to-one advice sessions with a Growth Adviser, something Tina found valuable: “This advice was really great and helped us put together a marketing plan to help us achieve our growth ambitions.”
As Oven Loving’s growth plans took positive steps forward, Tina engaged with another part of the Growth Programme: the Fit4Funding service which helps businesses get ‘finance ready’. This free business consultancy service further helped shape the Oven Loving business plan thanks to one-to-one support from advisers at Harwood Hutton.
"Meaningful business connections" made networking
As any business with growth ambitions comes to realise, networking is vital, whether to promote services or utilise others’, or to make connections that may prove useful months later. Tina explains: “Through the networking events I have attended, including the Business Leaders’ Dinners, Curry Club evenings, and ‘Focus on Networking’ event, I met the woman who now does our marketing, and met another woman who is now working on a project for us. These events really help you make meaningful business connections and are great for brand awareness.”
Tina sees further concrete proof that the support she has received is benefiting Oven Loving. Thanks to the support of a Growth Adviser, a Velocity Revenue Grant, delivered by Buckinghamshire Business First on behalf of SEMLEP, led to their social media and website activity getting a boost, with the business seeing a 30% increase in online bookings and a doubling of website traffic in the first three months of the grant-funded marketing project.
"I can't believe how much support Buckinghamshire Business First offers for free!"
“We are trying to grow further,” says Tina, “and want to develop certain aspects of our business, adding products and services. All of this support has helped us with our growth ambitions and further plans for the business.
“I can't believe how much support Buckinghamshire Business First offers for free! As a small business, cash flow can be an issue, you have to watch every penny and spend in the right places, but it’s often hard to know where to spend it. The training and mentoring we’ve had helps us identify the areas we need to invest in and work on, and keeps us going in the right direction.”
Supporting the local business community
Tina has also become engaged with the Buckinghamshire business community in other ways thanks to Buckinghamshire Business First and its partners. She found another business to work with on a project by using the member directory on the Buckinghamshire Business First website; delivered an inspiring talk to start-up businesses at a Be Your Own Boss event; and became an Enterprise Adviser at The Mandeville School, volunteering her time to help the school build its careers programme.
As an indication of success thus far, Oven Loving was named New Business of the Year in 2017 at the 5 Star Business Awards for Aylesbury Vale businesses. “It’s great to be recognised as an award-winning business,” says Tina.