The business.connected programme covers a range of core digital topics covered, from SEO and e-commerce to cyber-security and connectivity.
We’re catching up with some of the business owners who have been taking part in the initiative to find out about how it’s benefited them so far.
Here we talk to Karis Gill, co-founder of Social Stories Club, an online shop where you can buy gifts that support a social cause. Karis tells us how the SEO workshops have inspired her team to understand the customer journey and improve website content.
Karis, tell us how the idea for Social Stories Club came about…
“A lot of little things connected together. I used to volunteer with different charities, from refugee support to mental health. I started being frustrated with the lack of financial security in the charity sector; it was a panic every week to get funding and they relied heavily on donations.
“I went to the freshers' fair at university and learnt about social enterprises and how they’re solving some of the biggest problems through trade. I couldn't understand why everyone wasn’t doing this and was surprised I didn’t know about it before.
“I started talking to social enterprises to learn more about them, then on my 21st birthday in the same year, I realised I had to tell the world about it. I came up with this idea of giving gifts that introduced you to social enterprises. I could visualise this new world where every transaction created a positive impact and boosted employment.”
And how did you and your co-founder, Aayush, meet?
“We’d been friends for three years and met through university. He was top of the class but wasn’t getting call backs for jobs, so I asked him if he wanted to join me and he said yes immediately.
“Luckily for us, we have opposite skillsets. He’s strong in operations and my strengths are in branding, marketing and sales.”
How did you go about building the business?
“We started in 2017 and we’ve been building the business together since. I spent the next year talking to people and doing market research. In hindsight, I was talking to the wrong people and asking the wrong questions.
“I talked to students and they all said ‘yes’, but, in reality, we would be selling to an older demographic with higher disposable income.
“Our first sale didn’t come until the following year when we were on a cold market stall in Glasgow in the middle of winter. A lady in her fifties came up who was buying for her niece and I was ready to give her a long pitch, but she just bought it. After she turned the corner, we were high fiving each other – it was a very exciting moment!”
What skills and training did you bring to the business?
“My degree is in marketing, so most of my training is linked to my degree. I used to be head of marketing for a charity and learned a lot through the role, but I knew a fraction of what I know now.
“I was also a holiday rep over the summer holidays when I was younger and that taught me basic sales and customer service skills.”
What’s your approach to upskilling and personal development?
“With marketing, it feels like an infinite challenge so I’m constantly upskilling myself. I read all the time, I listen to a lot of podcasts and I subscribe to Masterclass and Skill Share to help keep my knowledge up to date.
“I also learnt through helping others. I run a university summer start-up programme, teaching students how to launch businesses and make an impact. As part of this, I also get to sit in on the other sessions, which is helpful for personal development.”
Tell us about your experience on business.connected and what aspects of the business it has helped you address...
“There are lots of useful topics covered on the business.connected programme, but for us, the ‘blogging to increase your SEO’ workshop really stood out.
“I’ve heard so many positive things about how SEO can transform companies and boost how many people reach your landing page. We wanted to really understand the basics and how we can best create an SEO strategy and find more DIY ways we can do it ourselves.
“The session was useful as it helped us break down the statistical side of SEO, like how long articles should be and how to research and use keywords. These things aren’t always difficult, you just need to be told – they made it easy to follow.
“We’re already putting everything we learned in the business.connected workshop into practice. We took lots of notes and after the session we had a team meeting to come up with blog ideas. Since then, we’ve written some new blog posts for our website and created a customer journey with automated emails including requests for reviews and testimonials.”
How are you feeling about the future of the business?
“We’ve been going for three years now. In that time, we’ve introduced 10,000 people to social enterprise and supported 30 social enterprises. We now have so much demand that we had to move into a warehouse, which feels incredible. I’m so excited to see where we will be in three more years.”
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