Galloway Glens ‘Business Academy’ – the story so far.

The Galloway Glens scheme has been running its Business Academy for 4 months now, in partnership with Business Gateway Dumfries & Galloway. In that time, it has hosted 3 events, all aimed at different sectors of the local economy. This is in line with one of the Galloway Glen’s two main aims, that of supporting sustainable rural economies. The other aim of course being to better connect people with our amazing local heritage.

68 people in total have attended the 3 free events, which were held in the Clachan Inn in Dalry, then in Kirkcudbright Galleries and lastly in Mr Pook’s Kitchen Castle Douglas. People who attended found them to be packed full of technical detail of specific relevance to their business or organisation, with a range of excellent speakers.

Maximising the income from your Accommodation Business.

At the first event in January, Ronnie Bradford of Brookford B&B, Jo Blaylock of SuperControl Booking systems and John King from Business Gateway D&G spoke to accommodation providers about maximising the income from their accommodation business.

Ronnie spoke about the importance of working together to increase the tourism potential of the area – he considers his competitors to be in the Lake District or the Highlands and Islands, not Dumfries and Galloway. He also emphasised the importance of going the extra mile in giving your guests the experience they are looking for. This includes doing research into the amazing area that we live in such as the Biosphere, the Forest Park or the Dark Sky Park, and both using these in your marketing and also being able to give advice about how to access them.

Jo then gave some fascinating insights into when and how people book their holidays now. 81% of people now book online, and 40% of those bookings are made between 6pm and midnight – so an easy-to-use booking system with real-time availability can make the difference between people booking with you or moving to the next property.

Lastly, John gave an excellent view on managing your accommodation business efficiently, with some advice on Making Tax Digital and how to make your life simpler with an effective accountancy software package. Sounds boring but is increasingly essential!

New Routes to Market for small Creative Businesses.

Next up in Kirkcudbright was an event aimed at small and micro Creative Businesses. This time we were joined by Morag MacPherson, an artist and one of the initial founders of PA Pop-Up, an artists’ collective which now has shops in Kirkcudbright, Castle Douglas and Gatehouse.

Morag spoke passionately about the ethos behind the Co-operative, where people work together to man and run the shops, giving small businesses a High Street outlet they would never be able to afford otherwise. Work is sold commission-free, in return for a monthly fee of between £25 – £35 and a time and effort contribution to the running of the shops of 1 or 2 days / month. The waiting lists for each shop are growing, so you may have to be patient, but if you like the idea of co-cooperative working, this is a great option. Morag spoke of the necessity of having smaller items such as greetings cards to turn over quickly while you wait for the larger pieces to sell, and of the importance of being realistic about your sales, especially in the early days.

Helen Keron, the Galloway Glens Education and Community Engagement Officer, then shared a number of tips about options for selling hand-made work online. It is critical to do your research and find the selling channel that works best for you, both in terms of audience reach and commission levels. Ebay is relatively cheap and cheerful but quite general. Esty and Folksy are more specifically for hand-made crafts. You could also choose to go for volume with the big players like Not On The High Street.com or Amazon Handmade, but be sure to read the Ts&Cs carefully! Photographing your work well is also critical, as it is all the buyers have to go on. Go for light, modern shots and plenty of them.

John King of Business Gateway D&G then spoke about the challenges of running a micro-business, and his theme was clear – Time is Money! You have to account for all of the time you spend on social media marketing, invoice generation, following up on leads and administration, not just the time you spend actually making your product. £20/hour of your creative time is a reasonable starting point for costing your work if you would like to earn above the minimum wage in reality.

Starting or growing a small Food Producing business

Lastly, we were joined in Castle Douglas by Louise Matheson, owner and manager of The Dumfries Larder, a high-quality delicatessen specialising in cheeses and many other fine foods.

Helen Keron firstly spoke from her previous experience about the regulatory compliance needed to start a food or drink business. There is a lot of support out there, but it is critical to get registered with Dumfries and Galloway Council Environmental Health team at least 28 days before you start, and to put in place all of the policies and practices necessary to ensure you are producing food that is safe as well as delicious. You will also need to understand the requirements for your produce labels, including highlighting allergens to your customers.

Helen then moved on to tips for selling at Farmers’ Markets. This included a summary of how to contact the Glenkens Community Market in Dalry, the new Castle Douglas Producers’ Market or Kirkcudbright Farmers’ and Producers’ Market, as well as some tips on effective presentation. It is critical to display your wares in an eye-catching way that is also safe and hygienic. Your approach behind the stall is also important – try not to sit down if you can, and always be prepared to tell your story.

Louise then gave a fascinating insight into the world of retail, highlighting that she will typically need a 40% margin for any product she buys. For VAT-rated goods, the picture is further complicated by the fact that she will have to pay VAT to HMRC on her sales, even if you are too small to pay on yours. For example, for a bar of chocolate that you sell at £5 at a Farmers’ market and might propose to sell to her for £4 so she can also sell it for £5 would incur an 83p VAT bill for her, leaving just 17p or 4% margin to cover her 40% overheads.

The main thing therefore when looking to sell to a retailer is to be practical about what both price points should be and what sales volumes you think will be achieved. A long shelf-life is a big bonus – if you also sell at Farmers’ Markets, consider swapping out shorter-life products to sell that weekend and replacing them for the retailer with longer-life items.

John then finished the evening with his now familiar tale of Time is Money, highlighting again how important it is to account for all your time, not just cooking time. He also had some great tips for selling to retailers who can deliver the volume you need to make a decent living, including making sure your processes makes you easy to work with.

Future Plans.

All of the slide packs from the above 3 presentations are available on http://www.gallowayglens.org/resources/ and look for ‘Business Academy’ – they’re well worth looking at if you have one of these 3 business types, as you’ll find much more detail than has been covered above.

Business Academy will continue throughout 2019, so look out for upcoming events. And remember that Business Gateway Dumfries & Galloway is always open to enquiries, no matter how small or large your business is. Contact 01387 808738 for an appointment or fill in a Planning to Start form at https://planningtostart.com

Latest Articles