Jo Schutt runs a small business Bloom Networking & Event Management, based in the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.
Bloom Networking offers a way for female entrepreneurs to connect, form beneficial relationships, strategic alliances and support one another
Jo answers the following interview questions, sharing her small business experience with Business Boss readers.
Describe your business and products/services you offer
As well as offering a network building network, Bloom Networking also promotes the businesses who become members through the website and social media. Our Morning Teas and Business Focus Days (monthly meetings) have informative guest speakers who help the members develop personal and professional skills to grow their business. We also have an online forum where we ask questions, post our latest news and stay connected between meetings. This year I am introducing Mastermind sessions (small intimate groups) for those who are ready to take things another step further.
What made you decide to start this business?
I had a previous business (resource website) and would do a lot of networking online & would then organise to meet in person with other local small business owners if I thought we had something to offer each other (cross promotions etc.). I met with one particular women who was also a Work at Home Mum. After discovering we’d had some previous networking experience we loved the idea of starting something for women like us so we began Bloom Networking (2 years ago). The co-founder decided to focus on her primary business after one year so now I run Bloom Networking as a solo venture
What kind of online and offline marketing do you do and which is working for you?
Facebook is a fantastic tool because it’s where my target market spend a considerable amount of time & I can send people through to the website where I write blogs & business-related articles.
Email marketing is a great tool for staying in touch with people about upcoming events and share the blogs (so Facebook, Wordpress, Eventbrite and Mailchimp all play a part in my online marketing).
Word of Mouth is up there as one of the best marketing tools, my business is only as good as the experience that members have being part of Bloom Networking, I’m grateful they are such vocal advocates and love that they want others to be part of the community we have created.
Then there’s the traditional printed material (business cards and post cards) that I leave at local businesses and take with me everywhere, including other networking meetings run by larger organisations.
I’m currently in the process of brainstorming some other ‘outside the square’ marketing ideas that will help me reach the target audience
What mistakes have you made in running your business and what lessons have you learnt from those?
Many! Although Bloom Networking may not have gotten off the ground without the partner I started it with, I definitely wouldn’t say that having a partner was a mistake, but I definitely learned that I work best on my own with advisors and mentors around me to help make the big decisions, but essentially I like to have control over the direction of my business and prefer to not have to consult with someone when it comes to the small day to day decisions.
In the beginning I had a ‘small’ mentality and tried to save money on things that really needed some investment, which has meant that it's cost me more time or money in the long run. I guess this has been part of the journey and now has resulted in a huge shift in mindset and me taking my business a lot more seriously.
What obstacles or challenges are you facing at the moment?
Membership numbers haven’t grown considerably in the last two years & I think that’s because I’ve been quite relaxed about it & a current challenge is converting interested people into paying Bloom Networking members – as I mentioned earlier, being an experience-based business it’s quite difficult to understand the feeling of motivation and inspiration that the attendees walk away with after a meeting and the benefits of forming positive business relationships, until you’re actually doing it.
My goal is to have 100 members by the end of the 2013-14 financial year.
Low cash flow means I can’t do a lot of the things I’d like to, like outsource more of the time-consuming tasks, which would enable me to work more ON the business. It also means I have to be more creative with the marketing tools I use so it feels like a catch 22 at the moment, wanting to attract more people to the meetings, and then converting them to paid members, but I possibly need to put more money into marketing to help make that happen!!
Of course being a Mum of two young children (6 & 4) and needing to divide my time between family, myself, home & business definitely tests my organisational & time management skills. After this year both my kids will be in primary school and I think (hope) things will get a lot easier.
Did you have any business training before you started your business?
No! This has been a steep learning curve, I learnt a lot from managing retail stores but most of my knowledge comes from attending seminars, being part of online forums and finding successful people to be mentored by
Do you use social media as part of your marketing mix?
Yes, I have profiles on facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Instagram & Google but I really only utilise facebook properly and don’t use the others to their full potential
Any other comments / points you would like to share about running your business?
The main thing that keeps me motivated is having belief that Bloom Networking is so beneficial for women, for their families and for their businesses. I know that my vision has the purpose of making life more enriched & fulfilling for those involved. I’m a big believer in being excited by what you do, finding your passion and genuinely loving your customers. With these in place it’s obvious that you’re doing what you do for all the right reasons & the profit will flow as a side-effect.
Obviously working smart/hard & being good at what you do are essential factors (I’m not naive), but these come naturally when the passion and excitement are there!