The Self-Employment Diaries: Day 3 – New BOKAC HQ!

Morning all,

Yesterday was my first day at the new BOKAC HQ – the IoD on Pall Mall (http://www.iod.com/). Almost as soon as I made the decision to go full-time on BOKAC, I started looking into ‘office’ options as I knew working from home would drive me mad and I need to have that feeling of going to work and then leaving the office behind at the end of the day.

Startups are a pretty trendy thing in London at the moment and as such there are masses of co-working spaces to choose from. The problem is that the word ‘startup’ seems to have the same effect as ‘wedding’ in that it doubles the price of anything on offer. Most of the places I came across were asking for £200-300 per month and some of those came with restrictions on how many times their facilities could be used and weren’t even that nice.

I also often find that co-working spaces are the definition of ‘networking/not working’ in that people mill around looking stylish and talking about their various ventures but aren’t being all that productive. I’m a head down kind of person when I’m at work and just wanted somewhere quiet, with fast wi-fi where I can power through my to-do lists.

I learnt of the IoD from my NEF coach who is also a member. Membership is charged yearly and is a quarter of the price of most co-working spaces (especially if you’re under 30). They have a large Directors’ room where members can work from – it is pretty noisy but not so much so that you can’t hear yourself think and the room is spacious with high ceilings, lots of natural light and the location is perfect for me.It’s also great to finally have a place to meet babysitter applicants and other local businesses that isn’t a coffee chain.

The IoD Directors' Room - the booth table closest to you is where i'm typing from now!

The IoD Directors’ Room – the booth table closest to you is where I’m typing from now! (image from http://www.iod.com)

As a member, I  can take advantage of various benefits which are here: http://www.iod.com/membership/benefits-of-membership (by the way, this isn’t sponsored by the IoD, I just want to share my findings!) and I’m looking forward to the events in particular.

Where do you work from and are there any reasonably priced co-working spaces that I might have overlooked?

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The Self-Employment Diaries: Day 2

Don’t worry, this post won’t be quite as long as Day 1!

I spent the morning updating the theme and layout of this blog. Turns out WordPress is just as frustrating to use as everyone says. I changed the title of the url from babysittersofkensingtonandchelsea (which was way too long) to babysittersofkc (which matches our twitter handle) but it now seems I can’t share anything directly to social media so i’m not sure if anyone will be able to read this. Perhaps that’s a good thing.

Having simmered down I cracked on with some of the actions from yesterday:

  1. I got in contact with our biggest competitor to see if they would be willing to share some advice on how to grow BOKAC – I’ll let you know if I hear back!
  2. I have been researching PR and how to write a press release. Rather than buying a book, I have come across some interesting online resources such as: http://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2014/jul/14/how-to-write-press-release
  3. I also started thinking about investment and the types of investment I could look for. As part of the NEF (http://newentrepreneursfoundation.com/) I attended a workshop led by the fantastic Itxaso del Palacio (who works for a VC, teaches Entrepreneurial Finance at UCL and teaches spinning classes – what a woman) so I have a good overview of my options in terms of crowd funding, angel investors, VC’s, private investors etc. I am trying to work out exactly how much I would be looking for which I hope will then lead me to who to approach

In the late afternoon I interviewed a babysitter applicant. I always enjoy meeting babysitters as, aside from the events we hold for parents (which aren’t all that regular yet), it is one of the small bits of face-to-face contact I get from BOKAC directly. The applicants are always really lovely and interesting people who are either studying, part-time/full-time employed or starting off as self-employed (those are my favourite both because they are often the most available to babysit and I love hearing about new business ideas!). I usually meet about 5 babysitters a month as the ‘lifespan’ of each babysitter tends to vary between 6 months – 1 year although we have one who has been registered since 2011. Usually by the time I meet each applicant I have a pretty good idea of what they will be like as we will have been communicating back and forth for a month or so while I collect and verify their references and various other bits of information.

This evening I’m off to meet up with a friend here: http://www.lebeaujolais.london/ for a well deserved glass of wine!

BOKAC MANTRA

The Self-Employment Diaries: Day 1

I launched BOKAC in 2011 whilst working in Financial Recruitment and have since always run it on the side of ‘full-time’ work. Running a business outside of another job is hard. You sacrifice lie-ins, evenings and weekends but it’s worth it for the satisfaction that growing and providing a service that people enjoy brings.

I’ve always had the ‘what if?’ question of whether BOKAC could be my full-time focus running in the back of my mind but the fear of not earning a salary or what might go wrong has held me back.

In 2014 I was accepted on to the New Entrepreneurs Foundation (NEF), a 12-month programme which equips budding entrepreneurs with training workshops, career coaching, business mentoring and a network of incredible contacts. Largely due to my time on NEF so far, my confidence has grown enough to ‘take the plunge’ and give working on BOKAC full-time a go. If it works and I can support myself through the business, it will be a dream come true. If it doesn’t, well then at least I tried and I could always go back to other work.

My self employment began yesterday, Monday 2nd February, 2015. I have decided to blog about this year partly because I don’t have a co-founder (and therefore need someone to talk to!) and partly to motivate me to make enough happen so that I have something interesting to write about on a weekly or perhaps even daily basis. I am now sitting at my desk in full blogger mode (apple laptop, scented candle burning and a pretty notebook with ‘make it happen’ embossed on the front) – ready to do this!

BOKAC HQ

This isn’t actually from today but it looks very similar!

As Day 1’s go I would say yesterday was a success. I am an early riser so managed to get a lot done by way of admin in the morning and then spent the afternoon with my website developer which is always a pleasure because he is a lovely person (I would say we’re friends now as well as business acquaintances – James would you agree?!) and he is also fantastic at what he does and knows BOKAC just as well, if not better than I do. We’re having problems with the website framework at the moment and it turns out it needs a complete overhaul which isn’t going to come cheap. It’s a bit of a blow to start off with even less money than I thought I had but it’s got to be done and it will just mean juggling some other plans around for now (I launched BOKAC with savings and have always invested whatever money is made back into the business).

In the evening, I met a business mentor who I was introduced to through NEF. He is not officially my mentor but kindly said he would meet me to share some wisdom. I came away with some great action points including:

  • Master the art of PR: I will learn how to craft a press release and how to approach journalists in the hope of generating some press around me/BOKAC
  • Seek advice from our biggest competitor: Not something I would have automatically thought to do for fear of them telling me to take a hike. However, I can now see that to them, BOKAC is pretty insignificant and they can hopefully offer me some valuable advice on pitfalls to avoid or what worked for them when they were starting out
  • Tips on digital content marketing: Creating a tone of voice and personality around BOKAC to market the business in a consistent way that speaks to our customer segments
  • Consider seeking investment: This is a sticking point for me as I am nervous about parting with my hard-earned equity but I am beginning to realise that I am never going to be able to grow the business at the rate I want to without funding. The way he put it is that in 9 months time when the business is going through a tough stage and my pot of savings is rapidly dwindling, I will probably kick myself for not having some money behind me whereas if I do secure investment and the business experiences real growth, I probably won’t regret giving away 15-20% in order to get there.

I am often amazed at how helpful people are willing to be to virtual strangers and with no sign of ‘what’s in it for me?’. I left the meeting feeling positive and full of ideas to implement. As this wise man said – You’re going to have to learn all of this stuff at some point, you might as well start now.

Hot desking in Kensington

Running BOKAC means I spend a lot of time in coffee shops as i’m not nearly as productive working from home.

Spending a lot of time in coffee shops (I rotate for fear of being charged rent) means I have become somewhat of a connoisseur of the Kensington coffee shop offering. Below are some of my favourites:

Caffe Phillies

Wonderfully strong coffee, chunky wooden tables big enough for a laptop and notebook and a lively but not too noisy atmosphere make Cafe Phillies a strong contender for the top spot. Their breakfasts are delicious for when I want to treat myself and it’s tucked just enough out of the way to keep it tourist free. http://www.cafephillies.co.uk/

Nouvelle Delicatessen

I usually go to Nouvelle in the mornings or on weekends as they do the most delicious vegetable juices – perfect when i’m in need of a pick me up. I recommend anything with beetroot which gives you the same energy boost as a cup of coffee and is delicious (my favourite is beetroot, broccoli and apple). Making beetroot juice at home is extremely messy and much better left to the professionals. They don’t have wifi so I go when I have to do something creative and don’t want to be distracted by emails. https://plus.google.com/114682258426625677573/about?gl=uk&hl=en

Cafe le Monde

Bright, breezy and full of locals, Cafe le Monde lets you browse the papers on Sunday morning and churn through your workload on Monday. Their coffee and sandwiches are delicious and it’s a favourite with dog walkers on their way to Holland Park (a definite plus point for me). The staff are always incredibly friendly and it’s lovely to sit outside on that one day a year when you can. http://www.yelp.co.uk/biz/cafe-le-monde-london

Down to Earth

Don’t tell Nouvelle Delicatessen but I used to got to Down to Earth for their vegetable juices but they have recently stopped doing them (it’s now just fruit on offer) which I have told them is a real shame. The vegan and gluten free food is surprisingly tasty (vegetable juices aside, I am more than happy to fill up on wheat and sugar). The room is light and airy and the staff are always very friendly. http://www.downtoearth.co.uk/

I feel lucky to have such great, independent cafes close by. If you need to get some work done, where do you go?