Tag Archives: opportunity plus

The day to day reality of business start-up

5 May

Starting self-employment as a sole trader, whether it’s as a window cleaner or dog groomer is a long process but completely worth it! It can be hard to know what to expect in the early days so we have spoken to Ritchie, a self-employed car valeter to give us some tips.  

Raising funds:
Your new venture may require specific equipment or start-up essentials and you need to find a way to raise the funds. You might start off by selling unwanted personal goods (I’d recommend your games console as you’ll have less time to play it if you’re committed!) or by asking family and friends for support. There are always start-up loans and banks but I was pleasantly surprised by the help I received from those around me.

Gaining new custosprayingmers: No matter what kind of day you’re having or what mood you’re in you must remain polite and presentable with customers. Those first impressions are critical to spreading news of your business and building your customer base.  Never let a customer down by arriving late and remember there are always competitor’s ready to fill your place if you don’t give good service!

Constant commitment: When I’ve finished valeting a car I can’t just make my way down to the pub. I’ve got to think about completing my paper work, meeting new customers, replacing stock and cleaning my equipment. Then there are other duties that might not have been thought of such as visiting the bank, training, buying new equipment and keeping up with industry trends. Just stay on top of your tasks and you will see great reward.

Getting support: It’s ok to not know some aspects of business start-up and there is plenty of support available out there. There are sites such as the HMRC site or organisations like Opportunity Plus (www.opsw.co.uk) that can offer advice or guidance.

It may seem like a lot of work but I LOVE working for myself. I get to meet people from all walks of life, earn my own money and see my business grow. I’m constantly learning new skills and surprising myself without dreading Monday morning!

You get what you put in, persevere through the start-up phase and you will succeed!

Check out Ritchie’s website at http://www.carcareplus.co.uk/

Lauras work placement experience

26 Nov

Over the past 8 weeks we have had our work placement Laura with us in the office. On her last day we caught up with her for a quick chat to see how she found it…


Tell us a little about yourself

I have recently finished studying Forensic Science at Exeter College. I am currently taking a year out from Education to gain experience and work before (hopefully) going to University next September. When I’m not studying or working I enjoy geocaching and attend a local archery club.

If you want to know what Geocaching is check out the link – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocaching

Why did you decide to do a work placement?

I decided to do a work placement so that I could gain experience in a work environment to aid me in future job applications and with University. It’s a great chance to upgrade and improve on existing abilities which I wanted to do with my ICT and administrative skills.

What attracted you to Opportunity Plus?

I’m a very compassionate person so I liked the idea of working with other people and helping them into work or develop ideas into self-employment. I was also attracted to the fact it wasn’t a large overwhelming company and had a small close team.

Is there anything you have enjoyed about the placement?

Opportunity Day is a group session run for job seekers and I was invited to attend one to assist with the activities. It was definitely out of my comfort zone but actually when I was there I really enjoyed myself. It was great to be in a helpful environment and be helping others out. I also enjoyed organising the files in to an order as I like things to be organised!

What have you least enjoyed?

As the office is based centrally in town it can be a bit of a nightmare to drive there and park but as the Job Centre paid for my travel I can’t really complain. So over all it’s all been enjoyable!

What have your main tasks been?

I’ve had a variety of tasks during my time at Opportunity Plus. Often I was required to do job searches for customers and find appropriate positions for their needs. I would also research topics and collect data. I even found myself washing masks that had been used for a face painting activity, and buying items to practice furniture restoration. I wrote quiz questions and created a CV for an employability task. I was also given time to job search for myself and support with applications and interviews.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

I really enjoyed my work experience here and everyone was really nice!

She will be joining us in the future as a volunteer and as I am writing this Laura is at an interview for her ideal job – Good Luck Laura! 

OPSW Enterprise

2 Apr

“When you find an idea that you just can’t stop thinking about, that’s probably a good one to pursue.” – Josh James, Omniture CEO

Did You Know?

  • The South West ranks 2nd for the highest amount of self-employed workers.
  • 57,000 people in Devon are self-employed.
  • Nearly two-thirds of small business owners have no business or management experience.

Registering as a sole trader

Many of our customers ask how to register as a sole trader once they have decided to take the plunge and start their business.  This is done online here.  HMRC have a range of useful “webinars” available to teach you about a range of topics to do with tax, national insurance and Self Assessment.  You can even watch them live and ask questions.

Business Insurance

When you start trading, you will usually need some sort of business insurance, and if you are working from home or using your car, your house and car insurance may be affected too.  Simply Business is a good place to start, to find out exactly what insurance you will need and how much it will cost you. Call them on 0845 071 0270.

Start Your Own Business

We now run a range of Accredited Start Your Own Business courses at Level 1 and 2.  Visit www.opportunityplus.org.uk or call 0800 043 2440 for more information.

Case Study

Carole started a cupcake business, which she ran for four years on a mobile basis.  Following the success of the mobile business, she decided to open a cake shop in her home town of Teignmouth, allowing customers to see and sample her cakes.  She still caters for weddings and other events too.  Find out more at www.carolescupcakes.moonfruit.com

2 catercarole


Business profile: Gosling

8 Oct

Today brings the start of the third annual International Babywearing Week, so today’s business profile is about my own business, Gosling.  I started the business in August 2010 after trying out several baby slings and finally finding a combination that I thought was suitable for anyone, worked from baby to toddler, and was reasonably priced.  I want to be there to show parents how to get the most from a sling from the start.  The business has grown over time and I now also teach Mums to make their own slings, they learn a new skill and make something pretty and practical that helps make life easier with a baby.  Gosling is a micro-business that I love running as it has been a real confidence boost for me.  Whilst on maternity leave, it was great to have something aside from childcare to focus on and to challenge me.

I am hosting a sling walk on Friday 12th October 2012, meeting at 10.30am at Teignmouth Pier.  Please feel free to come along if you’d like to try out a sling with your baby!  (Pregnant ladies and pushchairs welcome too!)



This is the full story of how I got to this point:

After having my first child, Oscar – now three, I returned to my job as an Employment Coach, helping disabled people into work, for two days a week.  Unfortunately with my employer, two days amounted to 15 hours and meant I didn’t quite qualify for Tax Credits.  So I decided to take my newly discovered love of babywearing (or carrying your baby in a sling) and try and start a little business – Gosling – to top up my hours to 16.  My business started off with me making simple ring slings for friends, and I was quite happy plodding along making a couple of slings a week on top of my other job and looking after Oscar.

Then I got pregnant again, and then all of a sudden we found out that our office was going to be closing down and I would be made redundant!  This actually timed pretty well for me as I still qualified for Statutory Maternity Pay, and it meant I could start my maternity leave early and really relax and enjoy the last few weeks of pregnancy.  I was really glad to have Gosling though.  Although it was never going to make me huge amounts of money, I still had an answer when people asked me what I did, and I had something other than children to put my energy into.  I was also very aware of how hard it would be to find a job on a part time basis when I had small children, let alone one that was rewarding, well paid, interesting, and varied.

I got in touch with Opportunity Plus South West, and explained my situation, and that I wanted to look at turning Gosling into a bigger business.  Opportunity Plus South West helped me obtain funding from Unltd to run sling making classes, and they are more successful than I could ever have hoped for!  It is incredible seeing these Mums who have never sewn, and have never even thought about using a sling – after an hour or two with me they’ve made their own beautiful, unique sling that they’re immensly proud of, and they’re carrying their baby round, kissing and cuddling and chatting away with them.  I’ve also trained as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter and a Babywearing Peer Supporter.  My main aim was to help Mums to enjoy those early weeks, to remind them that there is more to life than milk, poo, and sleep!

Best of all, I have now started working at Opportunity Plus South West as well, so I have the security of a regular, predictable income and a job I love, alongside running Gosling.