Nikki Hesford is an award-winning entrepreneur, and featured on Dragons Den in 2011 to promote her fast fashion brand that she managed at the time. She now operates The Small Business Academy based in Blackpool, which provides small and start-up businesses with the tools, knowledge and the skills they need to make their new business a success. The Academy, which is a finalist in BIBAs 2023 Micro Business of the Year category, is also the delivery partner of Boost's Growth Mentoring Programme. Nikki shares her own inspirational Lancashire woman in business story.
The Small Business Academy provides a raft of support services for start-ups and SME’s – affordable office space and training room hire, mentoring, training and coaching. Our services are designed to be accessible even for the smallest of micro business both in terms of price, and also delivery – offering in-person support, live support via Zoom and on-demand training that can be accessed 24/7 within our Learning Management System.
Although I first went into business many years ago, The Small Business Academy was launched in 2018 from a frustration that there was a lack of much needed support for the smallest of businesses. This includes having an office space to go and being able work from, that doesn’t cost £300-400-500 a month, (ours is £55 a month for a hot desk), being able to find quality training, mentoring and coaching without needing to spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds. We have ensured that we have options for all budgets, so that even the micro business is not left out unable to find the support they need.
Breaking through the pandemic, and still being here to tell the tale is certainly a breakthrough! With in-person training coming to a standstill, no requirement for hot desking, we had a large premises that was obsolete for a long time but costing a lot of money. We had to adapt quickly – developing an online Learning Management System embedded into our own website and finding different ways to monetise our services. It was certainly tough but we managed to scrape through and have gone from strength to strength ever since!
Our Academy was recognised as the right business to provide essential mentoring support for Lancashire businesses which is a reflection of the quality of business support that we deliver, and was a very proud achievement. We have since been approved to deliver adult skills in the form of Skills Bootcamps in Lancashire.
My own mentor, John, helped to guide me towards this point providing invaluable support and guidance – being a sole director of a business can feel isolating at times, but having someone who you can call, discuss things with, thrash out a plan, sense check ideas, not only helps keep your business on the right path, but also stops you going insane!