An array of business management techniques acquired at the Lancashire Forum Creative Programme has helped a furniture maker to change her approach and double her sales. And it didn’t cost her a penny.
Lancashire Forum Creative is a part-funded ERDF project based at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and forms part of the Lancashire Forum ERDF project.
Leona Marsh, who owns Marsh Mill Interiors, creates high-end handmade furniture made from reclaimed wood and supplies to a range of bars, cafes and offices. From her workshop in Preston, Leona builds rustic tables, benches and desks using restored planks of scaffolding and metalwork. All her products have an emphasis on recycling and sustainability.
From new business owner to award winner in two years
Two years after starting the company, the business is performing well and growing, with Leona’s sales doubling in 2019 and Marsh Mill Interiors being highly commended at the Enterprise Vision Awards.
After setting out on her own after leaving her job in 2017, Leona was able to partner her business acumen with a creative flair to set up her own company. Operating as a sole trader, Leona was keen to find business mentors in similar positions who could offer guidance and advice as she attempted to grow her company from scratch. Initially, Leona found herself constantly working flat out on creating her furniture, unable to step back and properly administrate and market the business, but also unable to relinquish control to other people.
Leona said: “I think many small business owners have a similar mindset. I felt that because it was my company I should do everything, from dealing with sales and accounts through to writing all the content for the website. At the same time, choosing to spend money on marketing or professional development became more difficult when that money came directly out of my revenue.
“As a new business, it’s fair to say I could never have afforded the level of support that I have received from UCLan, which has been really important in helping me to develop the company.”
New mindset helps Leona be more strategic
After finding out about UCLan’s fully funded business courses, Leona joined the Lancashire Forum Creative’s Think Tank events in order to learn new skills about running her company, as well as to meet business owners in similar situations. She also undertook the Lancashire Forum Creative Extra six-month programme, aimed to help businesses to grow and develop new products and services for customers.
“The Lancashire Forum Creative course I did helped me to step back and change my mindset on how I spend my time with the business,” Leona continues.
“I’ve learnt techniques that mean I can split my days better between creating the product and growing the brand. In the past I would try to do both at the same time and fail – but now I have a process to focus on one thing at a time. I am also starting to accept that asking for help is not a failure and I’m outsourcing work to people who are experts – such as copywriters or photographers – and using freelancers when I need some extra help creating the furniture.
“Working on your own constantly can also be tough, so having a network of similar-minded business owners who can challenge you by asking simple questions around growth and business goals also helps me to focus on where I want the company to develop.”
Elena Vasilieva, Project Manager at Lancashire Forum Creative, said: “Every company has different aims, from start-up businesses like Leona’s, through to established SMEs. The Lancashire Forum Creative offers a supportive peer-to-peer learning network, which enables you to engage and learn from other business leaders.
“For some companies, that might mean sharing ideas about business growth or new products, through to recommendations of sub-contractors or even just somebody to hold you to account so you stick to your goals.”
The Lancashire Forum Creative is a University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) project, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund and supported by Boost; Lancashire’s business growth hub. To start your growth conversation, call 0800 488 0057 or fill out our contact form.