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Business management

Finding the right business mentor for you

We hear from three female business owners to discover how connecting with a mentor transformed their digital strategy.

Digital Boost is a smart platform community that links small businesses with volunteer business professionals to provide personalised support including free one-to-one mentoring. Here, Thalia, Blanche and Sallyanne talk about their challenges and how digital mentoring helped them to take their next strategic step

Thalia focused on learning about digital marketing

For Thalia Shaw, her experience in international sales provided a solid background in PR, branding and marketing within both start-up and corporate environments. But as a mother of two young children, she found the balance of travel and working in an office hard to achieve. “I decided to look at my options.”

When doing up her own house, she’d shopped and trawled sites online to source decorative lighting, but without much luck. Inspiration hit at around Christmas time, when Thalia started to sell some pretty decorative lights online and was surprised at the positive response. “I realised this is what people wanted. It wasn’t the first idea but it was what customers reacted to.” She and her husband then moved on to lights for other occasions and for other areas of the house, such as gardens and bedrooms.

“I’d done SEO [search engine optimisation] and paid for some courses, but then a friend suggested Digital Boost.” She found clarity in one of the first mentoring sessions because “it really focuses on your particular business”. Her strategy improved and she was able to learn more about areas like Google Ads.

“It can be quite lonely and sometimes you get stuck, then you go on these calls and you start talking and by the end of it you get this real excitement. It really focused in on the digital side of things to grow a successful online store.”

She’s also been involved in the Striving to Thrive report. And her business, Sparkle Lighting, is now featured on Buy Women Built, which shines a light on women-owned brands in the UK.

Blanche realised her website needed to be updated

After studying at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, co-founded by the iconic Sir Paul McCartney, Blanche was pursuing an acting career when someone suggested voiceover recording as an extra source of income. Initially a side hustle that she grew alongside her part-time role of headhunter, the Scottish voiceover artist says this balance was invaluable while building her business: “I worked 14 days a month and I got to choose what days I wanted to work.”

After nearly 10 years of “hard slog” she decided to launch Blanche Anderson full-time, but admits she could have taken that step a few years earlier. “I ruminate about things before jumping in and I liked having both [incomes]; it worked having the head hunting at the same time.” But as it became busier, Blanche felt she was pulled in two different directions. “I realised I needed to make the leap and I’m glad I did.” However, all of her expertise was in the creative side of things, and although she had plenty of clients and work coming in, she wanted to learn more about how to market herself and her business online.

In the first mentoring session, she was looking for help with branding and a logo, but her mentor pointed out that her website needed refreshing because it didn’t showcase her expertise. He asked: “What do you actually do? And it took me the whole of that session to say, ‘I bring client scripts to life’. After that, we had a number of sessions concentrating on the website.”

She says that being in a mentoring session “provided a sounding board and it’s how I came up with this new strategy that I’m going to be following”.

Sallyanne improved her search engine optimisation (SEO) ranking

Based in Hampshire, Limisha Nails & Beauty Training academy founder Sallyanne Gibson faced tough times post-pandemic and, without any focused guidance, struggled to keep her business afloat. “The business was just not going anywhere and I’d worked so hard to keep it going. I felt as if I was going through a tunnel that was just getting darker and darker with no light at the end of it.”

She was searching for inspiration online when she discovered a link to a NatWest business account, which, as a partner, led her to its related resources, including Digital Boost. For Sallyanne, her mentoring session with Karen couldn’t have come at a better time.

“She’s my guardian angel. At the end of the hour that I’d spoken to her, there was a glimmer of light at the end of my tunnel; I thought there is someone out there who can help me and give me guidance on what I need to do.”

Having run her own hairdressing salon years before setting up the training academy, she felt she had a reasonable amount of business experience. But she needed extra guidance and in this instance her mentor talked about how to be more visible online, her SEO ranking and other ways to boost sales.

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