A new ethical brand based in the heart of London has recently launched following enterprise mentoring support from Lloyds Banking Group.
Blue Patch, an ethical product directory, was created by Jane Langley and officially launched at the start of 2014. The business is an A to Z of eco-products and services, helping consumers to source a wide variety of ethical goods from fashion and homewares to food and drink.
Operating online, business leaders are invited to register their companies or products with the site and Blue Patch will then check against its criteria to ensure they meet the right standards before listing the company as a trusted retailer of eco goods. As well as generating new custom through the site, businesses also become part of a unique community of independent businesses and can share expertise, job opportunities and apprenticeship schemes.
In order to benefit from an objective opinion and learn from the skills and experience of someone else, Jane got in touch with Capital Enterprise, a business support service that aims to help small businesses, through which she was partnered with her mentor Carol Robinson, head of retail management information strategy and development at Lloyds Banking Group.
The mentoring scheme is a nationwide programme, set up by the five major high street banks, the British Bankers Association and the Business Finance Taskforce, with the overall aim of helping the economy return to sustainable growth by training industry professionals to share their own skills and experience with entrepreneurs.
Jane said: “Starting your own business can be a daunting process, especially in the current economic climate. You have to be extremely focused and single-minded but this means it’s often difficult to detach yourself and look at things from an objective point of view. This is where I knew I could really benefit from a mentor.
“I wanted to be able to talk to someone with a lot of knowledge and experience, but who isn’t directly involved with the business so they can provide a critical opinion and highlight any flaws in our ideas. Carol was brilliant at highlighting potential issues but she always made sure she did this in a way that didn’t damage my self-confidence.”
Through regular face-to-face meetings and phone calls, Carol was able to support Jane across a number of areas of the business, particularly with her financial planning and the development of new ideas.
Carol said: “One of the main reasons I wanted to become an enterprise mentor is because the scheme can have a significant impact on British entrepreneurship. Having lived in the USA for four years I wanted to see the same focus and success of its entrepreneur community here in the UK. The added bonus is that it is also an incredibly rewarding process that has helped me develop both personally and professionally, not least getting to know Jane as a trusted and valued friend.
“Throughout my career, I have gained a number of skills that I wanted to pass on to others, and mentoring was the prefect platform from which to do this. With Jane, I was able to act as a sounding board for her ideas and provide an impartial and objective opinion. My background in finance was also useful when it came to supporting her with her financial forecasting, cash flow planning and pricing points.”
Jane added, “I would definitely recommend that other entrepreneurs seek out mentoring support, particularly if they run their business alone. Having someone else to talk to can be very reassuring and it is always useful to hear a different point of view.”