03 Oct The British Library Interview – SiLL Programme
Here’s a snapshot of that interview in December 2021:
Amaze Associates, founded by Fiona Wedderburn-Graham and Jennifer McLean, is a transformational coaching company that empowers individuals and businesses to achieve their goals and to navigate work and life challenges. We spoke to Fiona and Jennifer to find out more about their business and experience with the Start-ups in London Libraries programme.
‘Our coaching provides clients with a safe and confidential space in which to explore the issue at hand; discover potential solutions and to develop a growth mindset so they are confident to take action and move forward. We are their cheerleaders, however we also challenge as well as support our clients to understand that they have the power to make the choices that will lead them to achieve the results they want; whether that is for their business, career or life.
Our business idea had been marinating for a long time. Both of us were really fortunate to have received the most dynamic personal and professional development from amazing mentors and coaches throughout our careers. This really influenced our leadership styles and led us to coaching staff and leaders inside and external to our organisations. We always said we would go into business together, but never knew when; given that we were both busy working in very demanding jobs. When Covid hit we could see that a coaching service would be of real benefit to others; because of the emerging impact on job security, well-being and the just the sheer force of unrelenting change. So the spark was lit and it was time to make a start.
Why did you want to start up a business?
To be honest it has always been a dream of ours and that sounds very cliche. We had both spent years contributing to someone else’s business, vision or mission and whilst we learnt a lot we wanted to be the CEO’s of our own, articulating our vision, deciding on how we wanted to work and to provide a coaching service where people would feel listened to and inspired to take action. We are driven by our deep belief in the power of coaching and mentoring to transform and help someone’s performance at work, success in a new role, develop resilience, manage change, become a better leader and shed imposter syndrome. Another element that drives us is working with people, particularly women some of whom have reported that they did not feel seen or heard in the workplace and often-times in wider society; leaving them feeling invisible. Lockdown was a bit like the quiet before the storm. We could see that the pandemic was having a negative impact on the confidence levels of individuals and business. We’re not valiant doctors, nurses or carers but we were not going to just sit there and not help in the best way we knew how.
How did the SiLL project help you in setting up your business?
Although we are seasoned professionals we wanted to refresh our business skills, so that we took the right steps that would help us to position ourselves for success. The SiLL project helped us do just that through the fantastic workshops it offers.
The workshops SiLL provides were great, particularly the get ready for business, marketing and finance workshops. SiLL also provided excellent networking opportunities.
However the most helpful were the 121’s with our SME Champion (Mark Berbeck). Our 121’s helped us to consolidate the learning and gave us more business insight. Our champion connected us with other businesses, funding sources and helped us to think about how to scale the business. What came across quite strongly was our Champion’s belief in our business and our capacity to do well.
Can you tell us a bit about business community that is developing as a part of SiLL
As a business we have connected with the library’s Instagram and the SiLL group on Facebook. This has produced opportunities for networking and potential collaboration.
What was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your business/plans to start up a business?
We started our business in during the COVID-19 pandemic; but we weren’t hugely impacted like other businesses. However, we did slow our wider plans until lockdown lifted. This gave us a chance to continue to shape the business and create a website. We also reviewed the needs of our clients, so we could align this with our coaching offer, plus we moved our coaching sessions online, temporarily halting all face to face coaching. Because we saw this as an opportunity to help we also delivered several webinars; our first was on the subject of the impact of Covid; which was well attended and provided an opportunity for people to share what they were experiencing and to feel supported.
What advice would you give anyone looking to start up a business?
Our advice would be to firstly work out what you want to do and the problem you’re going to be solving with your business idea. Plan, do your research, get skilled up on how to run and market your business to give yourself the best chance of success. Understand your service or product. Find your niche; you can always add new elements later. Know your worth by pricing appropriately. Finally, you need staying power and a dash of passion for what you do. Remember even if you fail, that doesn’t signal the end, you can learn from the experience and begin again, so throw your hat in the ring; because you’ll never know if you don’t try. If you’re struggling and require some coaching Amaze Associates are here to help.
What are the key things you have learnt while starting up your business?
We have learnt the importance of visibility; scary as it seems we understood that if people were going to find out about your business and become clients; we had to put ourselves out there. In addition, feedback is healthy. We may not like hearing it, but if you take the emotion out of any negative feedback and use it to improve your business; the results will surprise you. Doing your due diligence pays off. Don’t waste time comparing your business to another as this can disable you, its important to stay focused and have confidence in what you do. Know when is a deal is not a deal. We are always willing to review what we have done and celebrate our achievements no matter how small. Getting paid on time can be a challenge but it pays to have clear payment terms and a process for chasing unpaid invoices.
What would you say to anyone looking to go to a SiLL workshop/talk to their local SME Champion?
There is something incredibly rewarding about creating a business from scratch and being central to its growth. So just sign up. We realise that if you haven’t fully formulated your business idea or you’ve just started up, you may feel a bit fearful. But you’ll be in good hands with the SiLL team and in the same room as people who are in a similar position. The workshops provide a solid learning platform on which to build your business. Plus you can have one-to-one sessions with one of the brilliant SME champions. Your SME champion will be your cheerleader and critical friend.
The SiLL Project acts as an anchor and stops you feeling buffeted around, pointing you in the right direction with great workshops that are delivered in a motivational and fun way.’
Credits: Images by Luca Sage