Striding out London Big leap Winner 2011!

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An inspiring night was had at the Big Leap Striding Out Awards on Tuesday 29th March.

The Big Leap competition, now in its fifth year, helps young entrepreneurs aged 18-30 take the 'big leap' into self-employment!

One lucky (and hard-working) winner received a start up grant and business support package from Striding Out. Striding out is a Community Interest Company and a leading provider of leadership, business and career coaching services, supported by training, networking and work placement services.

 All applicants were between 18-30, with a company ready to launch now or a newly launched business (under 1 year of trading).

 Entries were been judged on:

 •          Originality and creativity

•           Readiness and commitment to start the business

•           Skills and experience

•           Ambition and drive

 and the winner was... 

Olga Olsson a fantastic ethical swimwear line, with fans all over the fashion world from Elle Macpherson to Kate Moss. The label unites craftsmanship and contemporary style supporting seamstresses from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Check out the collection here:

There were some amazing entries, and some very commended ideas and overall it was a brilliant night for social enterprise with some great companies on the horizon.

The awards were presented by Paul Wright of who gave attendees some great advice.

The event, held at a London Bridge Waterfront location was a great networking success at the same time.

And finally, Paul Wright’s tips on growing a successful business:

1. Don’t put your eggs all in one basket

Sooner or later a small business will quite likely win a big contract which is excellent, but can also put a business in a dangerous position. If you expand your resources to deal with a larger client (by taking on more staff for example) and focus all your time and effort on that client, you may eventually find yourself in a bad situation. If that client suddenly no longer uses your services you could be left with a big void and larger over heads which can be devastating for any business, large or small.

2. Know your enemy!

Get to know your competitors. Find out who they are and what they’re doing. There is an old saying: “keep your friends close and your enemies even closer!”. Ok we’re exaggerating a little but if you can keep in the loop with your competitors you may find you can collaborate on projects or they may be able to pass work your way. Knowing what they are doing can also put you one step ahead of the game!

3. Don’t be afraid to fire clients or associates

If you have a client that pays late, always cuts you down on price, takes to much of your time and never appreciates what you do for them, then it’s probably worth telling them that your working relationship isn’t working for you. It’s not the type of business that anyone wants, so why should you put up with it?

4. Immerse yourself in your market sector

To be successful in your chosen market sector you need gain as much knowledge about it as possible. This can be a daunting task as things move and change so quickly. The best way to do this is by letting the information flow to you. This is how:

Follow market leaders on Twitter - see what/who they are talking about
Sign up for specialist website’s newsletters
Use RSS feeds
Subscribe to industry magazines

5. Watch your cash flow

Always invoice quickly once a job is finished, don’t wait till the end of the month.

Try to use a 3rd party for chasing payments. If you’ve built a good relationship with a client the last thing you want to do is start chasing them for money if they’ve paid a bit late. It could be a family member like your Mum for instance . If they have no existing relationship with the client then this makes things much easier for both of you.

6. Get your personality across in your marketing materials

Get your message right and tie-in your personality within that message. Personality builds emotional engagement with your clients. Make sure you are consistent and persistent with that message in everything you do including emails, business cards, websites, brochures and even the way that you answer the phone.

7. Do what you do best!

Find your niche market and become the best at it. If you try and be the best at everything you’ll dilute your offering and your clients will suffer because of it.

8. Collaborate

Collaborate with other businesses that offer something that compliments your products or services. This will make you much more desirable to your clients. You should only collaborate with businesses that have the same values and standards as your business - make sure this is right from the start.

9. Learn to say sorry!

We are all human and humans make mistakes. So when you do make a mistake and it affects your client, apologise and rectify what you did wrong, by putting it right, with no fuss and as quickly as possible. Go that extra mile to make it right. If you do you are likely to have a client forever.

10. Enjoy what you do

Most of us will work for 8+ hours a day, 5+ days a week. That is a huge chunk of your life. So why not enjoy it!? A good and happy working environment is likely to be more productive and proactive.