The ‘No’ Factor

Carrie Benn and Fran Stobart founders of Shoutpm.co.uk

Carrie Benn and Fran Stobart founders of Shoutpm.co.uk

Their turnover has increased by 150% in a double dip recession.

Shoutpm Directors Carrie Benn and Fran Stobart met at a play group 13 years ago.  They had both been made redundant – one from marketing and one from sales.

mugs

They knew they wanted to work, but they also knew they wanted to bring up their children.  Could they create a dream business which fitted in with family life?  Many people told them ‘no’ it would ‘never come off’, ‘it will never work.’

But it has. Almost 10 years on, they are this year’s winners of the Hertfordshire Enterprise Business Award 2012 and last week they were runners up in the East of England Business Champions Awards.

Shout is a promotional merchandising company which started ‘really, really small’ in a room in Fran’s house.   Their first step was to phone round with an old client list and then set about cold calling companies.

“It was extremely disheartening when you get all these rejections.  But when you get that first ‘yes’ there was total elation.”

After getting 2 or 3 requests for quotes in that first week.  Carrie and Fran decided to make a go of it, brain stormed the name of the company in a bar, followed up with quotes and went on to secure orders.

Award winners who love their job.

Award winners who love their job.

After almost a decade in business their turnover is half a million pounds and they’re on track for a turnover of £1 million next year.  They moved into new premises and have a staff of six.  Their clients include MTV, Global Radio, Microsoft, Deutsche Bank, Bank of Canada, the Hyatt and Marriott Hotels.   “Big clients are happy and confident using our small business.”

The 5 Most Important things for running your dream business:

Referrals

Social media

Having a mentor

Getting help when you need it

Getting on and doing it

“Referrals are a huge part of our business. We began with just one contact at Microsoft and MTV, but now have about 10 using us on a regular basis purely due to internal referrals. Our new marketing campaign will target other contacts within the companies as we believe they would benefit from our services.

We are also recommended externally too – a client recommended us to a friend of hers and they have just placed a huge order worth £9,000. Someone else recommended us  who then placed an order for merchandise worth over £13,000.

“Having a mentor has been absolutely vital.  We had one for free via businesslink and would meet every 6 months.  It just enabled us to talk through things.  When you’re so bogged down with home life and the company, you don’t have time to look at it from the outside.  So finding the time for this was essential.”

But there are no secrets to it, it’s about getting on and doing it.  As the children have got older we are able to spend more time on the business.    So it has taken time to get to where we are – but we wanted to be there for our children.”

Carrie and Fran’s dream job is in an extremely competitive market.  So how have they succeeded?

“We compete on service.  And we go to our clients to understand them and come up with ideas that will fit into their campaign.  We’re thinking for them.”

“We reduce the stress for our clients.  They don’t have to chase us for information.  We value our clients and let them know we appreciate them.  And we provide added value – which you have to do in this competitive climate.”

pens

“I’m good with people and networking.  And I have a background in marketing so I’m confident now of approaching marketing managers about our company.  But you can’t be good at everything so it’s ok to get help.  I’m not good with IT, but Fran is but also we’re getting help with our website.”

Best selling product?

“Pens.  Everybody needs pens!”

Advice to anyone wanting to set up their dream business?

“Don’t listen to anyone who says it won’t work. If you have the determination and drive to make it happen then it will.”

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