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Finding the sparkle in hidden gems

Blog post   •   May 29, 2012 14:43 BST

A free advice day diary by Karen Waugh: 

It was a blistering sunny Thursday morning. We hit the road at 8.30am, 24 degrees and rising. On the way to our first meeting, Guy and I stopped off to buy croissants, and put on our CD choice of the day in the car: A lively creative debate on the soundtrack for the day followed, but as I was driving my decision was final. So on went the complete soundtrack from the film “Drive” and we were off and on the way to meet Olive.

Olive has created a sanctuary of peace and calm providing beauty treatments in a stunning location. We felt like we had walked into an exclusive private members club – and my first thought was, wow! I want to join! An oasis of style, no conveyor belt of hoards waiting to have the latest treatment. Olive was full of enthusiasm for her new venture and had put together an offer that was highly distinctive from the local competition. Drawing on her 20 years of experience within the industry, Olive recognised it was the right time to start out on her own and was not phased by the dreary context of austerity and recession.

Well, our one-hour meeting turned into two hours and we could have stayed longer. We listened to Olive’s story and we shared a number of thoughts on launching the business, engaging local media, targeting audiences and using photography. The one challenge we discussed was that the Olive Room was such a find that clients may want to keep it a guarded secret. This allure has to be balanced with the need to market the business.

We talked about some launch ideas and agreed to work with Olive in helping her to prepare a launch press release for her business.

We also met with a recruitment firm and then went on to meet with Helen Morris-Clarke Designs. Helen makes jewellery and chandeliers - all beautiful, stunning pieces. She sources jewels and pearls from the Far East. I wanted to get my wallet out and buy something, thinking this might become an expensive free advice day for elephant communications. I had already decided I wanted to be a client of The Olive Room and now looking at Helen’s work I was quietly prepared to relinquish some hard earned cash to have that special piece to wear – a piece that shouted Helen Morris-Clarke.

Listening to Helen’s story, we all discussed options that would make her business less reliant on the middle-man or intermediary. A website review was a priority and there was enormous potential to make more out of the workshops she runs. We also talked about developing her own personal brand and agreed to go back to her with some ideas for her to consider.

We were both blown away by the talent, passion and skill we saw in Helen’s work. Yet again, an hour became two hours.  At the end of the session we agreed to help Helen with some key messages to help her define what makes the business special. We also put an order in for an elephant chandelier for the office.

Looking back on the day, a number of themes emerged, which we will be exploring in more depth in our next round of national research this summer. It was a delight to meet and give some help to the business owners we met and we will be following up with some tips later this week.

Following the recent coverage in The Times on our small business advice days, we have had further interest and our next free advice day for small businesses will be 26 July. For more information or to book a slot, email us at