Mum’s the Word for Business Success

It may only be in its first trimester, but 2019 is already a boom year for ex-radio presenter and mum-of-two, Kiesha Humphreys who is celebrating her fourth year at the helm of Icon Marketing Communications Ltd. In that time, Icon, a specialist marketing consultancy based in Wilmslow, has been responsible for a number of SME business success stories across Cheshire and Manchester.

Kiesha Humphreys  Photo credit: Senem Peace Photography

Kiesha Humphreys

Photo credit: Senem Peace Photography

Kiesha explains; “I set up the business after the birth of my first son, and Icon is an anagram of his name, Nico. I’d been working at a senior level at a large advertising agency in Manchester, and while I was on maternity leave it struck me that there is a gap in the market for a reasonably priced and flexible marketing resource, in the area.”

Kiesha has first-hand experience of smaller businesses approaching large agencies and being put off by the cost. She says, “Bigger organisations can be a bit intimidating to smaller businesses – especially when they only need a one-off marketing facility or a bespoke marketing service.”

While larger organisations often don’t see the immediate potential in helping businesses when they’re starting out or are at the ‘expansion phase’, Kiesha seizes the opportunity to put her big agency knowledge and international marketing expertise to the test.

“For the past 15 years I’ve worked in the UK and South East Asia. In this time, I’ve seen the communications climate change dramatically – and it still is changing, year on year”.

In tandem with her ‘day’ job as a Business Development Manager for upmarket restaurant chain, Gusto, Kiesha honed her communications skills as a regular Radio Presenter for Cheshire’s Silk 106.9, BBC Radio Manchester and Capital (formerly Galaxy 102). It meant she had her finger on the pulse of all kinds of media. “I’m a natural-born communicator,” she says, “I was increasingly drawn to digital channels and I could see that the major draw of digital is its level of accountability and significant ROI”.

Photo credit: Jonathan Farber

Photo credit: Jonathan Farber

As well as running Icon, Kiesha has spent the last year completing her Google Ads certifications and working on SEO projects with a number of clients.

Kiesha continues; “There is still a need for an integrated marketing communications strategy to support and strengthen the digital aspect, including PR, events and traditional print and radio advertising”.

Kiesha says; “While we’re based in Wilmslow, we often work from The Workspace in Handforth, a beautiful co-worker environment that has flexible terms – it’s great for businesses who want to collaborate. We work with businesses of all sizes to provide one-off support or ongoing marketing management (across the mix) in and around Manchester and Cheshire. We create tailor made packages in line with our clients’ budgets or we can offer bespoke solutions to suit their needs.”

The Workspace Handforth Meeting Room  Photo credit: Compton Harry Photography

The Workspace Handforth Meeting Room

Photo credit: Compton Harry Photography

It’s not every day a company can benefit from marketing experience of the kind Icon can deliver, without the international agency price tag. With so many success stories under her belt – and plenty more waiting to happen, Kiesha is more than happy to spread the good news.

For more information visit www.iconmarketingcommunications.co.uk .

To celebrate its fourth year. Icon Marketing Communications Ltd is offering all readers a 1 hour complimentary marketing consultation. For more details, please contact Kiesha on kiesha@iconmarketingcommunications.co.uk or call 07979940526.

The Workspace can be contacted on 01625 522209 or via email info@theworkspace.uk

For more information visit www.theworkspace.uk.

Working from home...

Make your space an Oasis

With the rise in the cost of living, individuals starting families later in life and the challenge of striking a work life balance many females are setting up their own businesses and opting to work from home. Companies still have reservations surrounding ‘telecommuting’. But for educated working Mums this presents an opportunity to ‘have it all’.

I set up my business after the arrival of my first son (Icon is an anagram of his name Nico). I looked into office space initially but decided that working from home would work best for me allowing me to keep my overheads low and pass these cost savings on to my clients.

As a working Mum being home-based has many advantages, popping a load of washing in whilst working, being home to receive deliveries, being home for ‘workmen’ not to mention fitting around my children’s school and nursery schedules. That said it does come with disadvantages. Working as a sole trader can be a lonely time (the prospect of cold-calling strikes fear in me to my very core). Although I have a team of freelancers that I can utilise it’s difficult to keep motivated when you don’t have a regular team around.

Over the last couple of years I have learnt a great deal about home-based working. Here are some helpful tips for fellow entrepreneurs;

1.       Make sure you have a designated space to work

It’s easy to lose focus when working from home and to become distracted by chores. Having an area set aside to work means you are entering into your office space just like going into work.

2.       Make a to do list

It may sound obvious but having a list of jobs that need to be completed each day and crossing them off is like giving yourself a pat on the back at the end of the day.

3.       Don’t forget to take a break

I tend to be at my desk each day by 8:45 and can easily become engrossed in a task. By making sure you take a break you can keep your productivity at a premium. I have a hula hoop at the side of my desk to use when work gets too much.

4.       Make your space an Oasis

Just like you would when going into the office it’s important to make sure that your workspace is inviting. I have a selection of photos on my desk and even a potted plant to ensure that my workspace is as appealing as possible.

5.       Find a good radio station

Listening to the radio is a friendly companion I have a selection of digital stations which I listen to which keep me focused depending on what work I have on. A dance station if I’m busy a bit of jazz if I’m feeling stressed music is a powerful medium.

6.       Make sure you network

Finding new business opportunities can be difficult when you’re home-based so it’s wise to broaden your network. Most towns have a networking organisation and the government business helplines can also provide details of networking events in your area. It’s good to have a reason to look business-like as working from home you can dictate your own dress code.

So there it is my tips on how to survive the home-working jungle. If you’ve recently established a new business and need some help to get it off the ground feel free to speak to me about your Business Development opportunities by calling 01625 533102.

Perception is deception…

What’s in a name?

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet “said Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. But what really is in a name? Well in Wilmslow the difference between an apartment and a flat could start at £100k.

That’s the thing as I was once told “perception is deception” it was on the first proper date with my now husband. This always sounded peculiar to me but as I’ve got older this saying really has gained huge significance.

You can gain a lot of wisdom from speaking to people young, old, black, white any creed or religion, footballers, hairdressers etc. everyone has a piece of wisdom which is useful. That was why I loved working at Gusto in Alderley Edge and Knutsford.

East Cheshire Hospice Fundraiser. Credit: Slice of Pie Designs

Meeting and mixing with people from lots of different backgrounds gave me a significant insight into life. This was a time pre-recession (and before the smoking ban) where people were much happier and relaxed. I’m yet to find any significant data on the effects of e-cigarettes but anecdotally I was told that doctors are saying they’re 95% less damaging to your health than a cigarette.

When you walk the streets many people do smoke them but I suspect there is some reluctance to smoking them until the full facts are presented. We don’t want to be told that things are safe and further down the line find out that they’re not, we’ve been there before.

The government’s policy of raising taxes on cigarettes has worked as people have started to look for cheaper alternatives.  So back to Gusto;

When I worked as a Business Development Manager for Living Ventures I once turned George Osbourne away for a table. There was a massive queue of people waiting and there was physically no tables free anywhere. The way he approached me suggested that he was in a rush so I thought there was no point lying as he’d get more agitated than he already was.  It was just before the General Election and I’ll never forget a customer approached me afterwards and asked me;

Suzanne Neville dresses. Credit: Slice of Pie Designs

“Do you know who that is? It’s the future Chancellor of the Exchequer!”

I knew exactly who he was, that was my job to be well informed but that didn’t mean I could magic up a table. That’s the thing even though I was only on the face of it a host there was a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make things happen as Tim Bacon (former Living Ventures Managing Director) always used to say it’s the ‘swan theory’.  Tim was great at making celebrities feel special and he built his empire up from exactly that. I’ll never forget the time that the 50% sale was on and Wayne Rooney came in for a meal. He used a 50% voucher and people didn’t stop talking about it there was even an article in a national paper (we got sent some fan-mail from his biggest fan!) But why should he pay more when everyone else is paying half price?

Many restaurants have cottoned on to the same idea and in January everyone expects to eat half price. It used to be busier than Christmas which is insane when you think about it.

Nowadays, lots of restaurants allow dogs in but at this time Tim always said “no dogs allowed”. Funny really one day Roberto Mancini former Man City manager came in with his whole family including his family dog. I spoke to them and apologised that they wouldn’t be able to have a table but they refused to leave the dog outside and so I set up a giant table outside for them and put the outside heaters on. It was a cold evening in fact I think it was winter if I remember rightly.

 The whole family ate happily outside including the dog, who I did some lamb chops for. Hilarious really when you think about it. As Orange once said in their marketing campaign “It’s good to talk”. “A problem shared is a problem halved”.  I could rattle out hundreds of other clichés but they are true. It was nice to make people feel they could talk sometimes that's all we need to feel better.

When did we stop being so caring? The pressure we put ourselves under now to succeed is unbearable. You want to do better than the generation previous but there is a whole generation of young people that this country has failed. It’s time we got back to basics. Walking our children to school rather than rushing around in expensive cars congesting the roads. Tim always used to say if you’re running late pull over make a phone call and carry on your journey. That’s the thing there’s nothing wrong with being late sometimes, safety should always come first.

I read in the Guardian on Friday that “The NHS prescribed a record number of antidepressants last year, fuelling an upward trend that has seen the number of pills given to patients more than double over the past decade” (Guardian, Friday 30 June 2017). The headline was “Antidepressant prescriptions on NHS at a record high” the whole country is stressed out and looking for someone to blame. Minimum wage staff having to deal with an irate customer who forgot to bring a carrier bag. I was told by a member of staff at a national supermarket that a woman left her entire weekly shop because she was so annoyed she had to pay for her carrier bags. It feels as though the whole country is angry and agitated but who do you blame?

This is when pack mentality kicks in and you pick someone different to yourself of course. It’s no good blaming one of your own kind that would be far too difficult. By blaming someone else we have failed to embrace our multi-culturalism in this country. People always thought I was the host “the hostess with the most-ess" but what they called me didn’t matter so long as I got the job done.

If you want to talk about your Business Development opportunities feel free to get in touch 01625 533102.

 

 

The Death of the High street – when is cheap too cheap!

The proliferation of the internet has meant you can buy almost everything you need online. This is an ideal scenario for time poor and inevitably cash rich individuals however it comes at a cost. I must admit I do my weekly food shop online and have done ever since the birth of my first son. However, in recent months I have become disillusioned by the poor-quality fruit and vegetables and the larger than desired portions which means high wastage. Not to mention heavily packaged items such as meat and some fruits.

If you pick your own fruit, vegetables and meats you’re likely to pick the best of the crop and exactly the right amount. I’ve recently stopped ordering my fruit, vegetables and meat from my online retailer and have decided to source them from a local greengrocer and a farm shop respectively. Here lies the problem though there are hardly any butchers or greengrocers near where I live. We’ve created a country where it is not profitable to operate these businesses as too many of us opt for convenience.

The growth of courier services has meant you can buy many items online and in some cases, receive it the next day. I’ve even received deliveries from Amazon on a Sunday (originally the day of rest).

**Updated**: I actually received a delivery today on Easter Sunday.

The possibilities are endless in my opinion Tim Berners-Lee has created a beast. But with development comes many complex issues the Royal Mail for example (the original delivery service) has seen a drop-in profit, in November 2017 BBC News reported; “Royal Mail shares have fallen after the company reported lower profits and increased its target for cost savings.

Its shares slid 7.6% to their lowest level since March, and the company was the biggest faller on the FTSE 100, the UK's main share index.” Source. The drop-in profits was blamed on fewer people sending letters and why would you when emails are far more convenient and instantaneous. But the service the Royal Mail provides is personal you often see the same postman ours even says hello when I see him on his rounds. What can be more personal than someone you don’t know who knows where you live?

In terms of advertising the Royal Mail leafleting remains the only way to ensure 100% penetration to any given area when leafleting. This can be crucial if you’re looking to target apartment owners or homes in rural locations.

Other courier services have often left my packages in unsecured places just so they can get to the next drop even when I’m in. The pressure to fit in several deliveries in a narrow time-slot means they often don’t have time for unnecessary small talk or at times even ensuring you've physically received your item. We’ve all heard stories of packages being left in a ‘safe place’ by a courier such as a wheelie bin. I recently received an expensive order of wine which was left in the porch of my block of apartments.

The same can be said for internet shopping yes, it is cheaper and more convenient but it does come at a cost. I recently bought a brand-new swimming costume from eBay it was much cheaper than other ones I’d seen and was exactly what I was looking for so I happily ordered it – what could possibly go wrong? It wasn’t until it arrived that I realised it was shipped from China. Unfortunately, it was far too big so I’ve ended up sending it back at a cost of £7.72! This is bad economics on an item which cost just over £10. If only I’d visited a local store they would be grateful for my business and I could physically see/try on the item with returning it if needed much more straightforward.

High street stores suffer from many setbacks expensive rents, business rates, poor parking for customers, out of town one stop shops to name a few. However, we should support local businesses. After all, if you don’t use it you’ll lose it. I am passionate about supporting local businesses and have a large toolkit of ideas to create the desired results for local ventures. If you’d like to have an informal chat, please feel free to get in touch kiesha@iconmarketingcommunications.co.uk or 01625 533102