By James Elliott, Inspire2Enterprise Enterprise and Information Adviser

A little bit about me

I did a degree in Business Management and Entrepreneurship at The University of Northampton and graduated with a 2:1. I guess this is where my route to Inspire2Enterprise technically started!

Following my graduation, I started my own pet shop business, but unfortunately chose to do so in the middle of the recession, during 2009. Despite this, the business prospered, and it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable periods of my life so far.

The business was profitable from day one and I even expanded it to offer a full grooming service. It was a case of spotting a gap in Stamford (where I was based at the time), and simply going for it.

Addressing my work-life balance

I ran the pet shop during my early twenties, and despite its success, it soon became clear that the work-life balance wasn’t quite right for me at that age. The business ran for around five years, but I decided to close it and move onto the next challenge.

I had enjoyed being financially stable and watching the business grow, but I didn’t want to reach my deathbed and realise I hadn’t seen the world or gained any experience outside of the retail trade.

This led to me taking a year out, during which I ran a small online business, did some agency work and readdressed my work-life balance. I worked across a range of sectors, from a small family company to the NHS and even within the stock control department of a billion-pound investment group.

So, I’ve experienced small, medium and large enterprises, and public sector organisations since my retail days, and it has been the perfect grounding for the work I do at Inspire2Enterprise.

The first port of call

I love my role as an Enterprise and Information Adviser at Inspire2Enterprise, where I’m normally the first port of call for new enquiries. I still prefer to speak to people in person because I find that people generally open up over the phone and we can more easily identify their needs.

I’ve experienced a lot of the challenges people face during the start-up phase, and some of it is still quite raw for me. I often hear about an issue faced by one of our clients and my heart sinks as I a remember what I went through! This is great, because it means I can empathise with the entrepreneurs I talk to and help them open up by sharing my own experiences.

My main role is to gain a good understanding of the issues faced by the people who contact us. We want to find out more about their social enterprise, along with any experiences they might have within the sector and the goals they have for a business where society ultimately profits. This helps us connect the dots and either get them underway or give them the tools and knowledge they need to take the enterprise to the next level.

What to expect when calling Inspire2Enterprise

You don’t need to be too prepared when calling Inspire2Enterprise for the first time, but the more information you can give us, the more supportive we can be in return.

Some social entrepreneurs just have a one-off question, which we’re more than happy to try and answer. Otherwise, we’re often contacted by people who are keen to tell us their story and provide insight into where they are now and what they’re hoping to achieve. This requires longer term assistance, but we’re here to help people define their next steps.

If you need more in-depth assistance, having a business plan or even some facts and figures to hand is always useful, but if you don’t have them, we can still help you get underway.

Call us – whatever stage you’re at!

A social enterprise begins its life as an idea, and we’d always encourage people to contact us if that’s all they currently have, because we can help bring that idea to life. We can also send some useful templates for business plans, cash flow forecasts and offer support as those are being compiled.

It’s also important to bear in mind that our assistance doesn’t have to stop once you’re up and running. We’re here to support you along the journey, and share with you the good, the bad and the unexpected. Businesses meet new challenges as they grow; an enterprise with a turnover of £10,000 per year is going to have a completely different set of challenges to one that generates millions in revenue. Whatever stage our clients are at, we’ll do our best to help them make the next leap. This is why so many of our clients continue to keep in touch.

If you’d like to talk to us about your social enterprise idea, or need assistance growing your business, please do not hesitate to get in touch!