The business.connected programme covers a range of core digital topics, 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 Natacha Maillard, a modern calligrapher and hand lettering artist based in Fife, Scotland, whose business Crafty Nib sells a range of creative products and offers calligraphy, engraving and other services.
You recently turned to business.connected for support. What aspects of your business did it help you address?
Attending the webinars and doing the e-learning courses made me realise how "scattered" my offering was, and that I wasn't clear about it – which makes it difficult for my audience.
The Lunch and Learn session on creating a digital strategy helped me realise why having a digital strategy is so important, and gave me tips on how to create one, then put it into action.
I understood then the importance of "niching" and to focus directly on my ideal client rather than an audience of everyone. It also made me realise how important it is to have a clear marketing strategy in place, which I'm still working on.
Can you talk a little about your background and what led to you setting up your business?
I've been passionate about paper crafts since childhood. But I mainly pursued it as a hobby, then later on as a side hustle selling handmade cards and hosting workshops while working full-time as a learning and development officer who designed and delivered training.
I'm also passionate about wellbeing. Having practised yoga for 15 years, I gained qualifications in different massage therapies and also completed my yoga teacher training.
In September 2019, I was made redundant and felt so disappointed that I didn't want to go back to an "office job" right away. Then COVID came along and I had to stop my wellbeing activities too. That's when I decided to go back to my first love of paper crafts, and perfected my calligraphy skills.
How did the idea of Crafty Nib form?
During that time, I realised just how much calligraphy and paper crafts were such a powerful and relaxing activity, which complemented my wellbeing journey perfectly.
I decided to combine my passion for wellbeing and calligraphy and started designing my yoga calligraphy series, which gained popularity among my fellow wellbeing practitioners. And that's when I decided to start a new business venture, Crafty Nib.
Once you made that decision, was there anyone you went to for support?
When I decided to start this new venture, I soon realised that despite being confident in my creative skills, I had very limited knowledge in business and marketing and that I'd need help in these areas if I wanted to have a profitable success.
I contacted my local Business Gateway group and joined almost every one of their workshops, which were very helpful to get me started. I felt I needed more, so I checked online for other small business starters' support and came across Enterprise Nation's website.
How do you approach personal development and learning new skills?
With my background in learning and development, I'm always looking to learn new things. Though I'm not the type to learn for the sake of learning – I have a more practical approach.
I identify what I need, research the available options and select the ones I feel will correspond to my requirements. I think I'm good at that, but what I find more difficult is to put everything into practice, especially when it comes to advertising the business.
What's a typical day like for you?
No two days are identical, and it depends whether I have commissions to work on, workshops to organise or orders to send. I still try to have a bit of a morning routine; I tend to begin with some yoga and meditation to start with a clear head, followed by breakfast.
Then I sit at my desk to check and answer emails, do other admin, process orders and then move on to what I have on that week. I also recently took on a part-time job at the gift shop of my local museum, for which I have a fixed rota, and that makes it easier to organise my time.
How are you feeling about the future?
I have mixed feelings to be honest. On most days, I feel very excited and confident that my business will grow and be a successful one; starting wholesale and doing more corporate calligraphy workshops, adding a bit of positivity to other people's life.
And other days, I feel bad and even guilty when I look at the material investment that may not be used, and with the cost of living rising and what's going on in the world (climate change, wars and so on).
Finally, what advice would you give to anyone who's considering starting a business?
Think thoroughly and be clear about your offering and what you want to achieve. Do your research (about your market, about marketing, admin etc.). You don't have to do this alone, so ask for help and contact your (local) business support group(s). Be patient. Understand that building a (successful) business takes time.
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