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​Small business success stories shine on Meridian drive time

Blog post   •   Feb 28, 2015 15:50 GMT

A look back on a couple of February’s small business interviews which the elephant team conducted on Meridian business drive time. Charlotte Wright told her story of achieving a better work life balance when she set up her photography business - and Liz Leatherdale discussed her brave switch in classical music from big business marketer to small business award-winner.

These were two of five small business interviews in February – all exclusives on Meridian 107, as part of the elephant in the room show. Each Monday a small business tells their story on air, sharing experiences, offering tips, reviewing learnings - and perhaps even inspiring the next small business start up in the region. The interviews form part of a shared commitment by the elephant team and Meridian 107 to support small businesses in the region and give them a voice.

A full audio library of the small business interviews will be coming soon!

Family pictures

Charlotte Wright appeared on air and talked with Sophia from elephant about setting up her family photography business that specialises in family and child photography. Charlotte left a London career in TV five years ago, wanting to enjoy a better quality of life and run a business that worked around her family commitments. “I wanted to make a change that would work around my family, allow me to enjoy the wonderful environment I live in and get out and about. I also wanted to keep some of my TV skills in the mix, so photography seemed a natural choice.”

Striking the right work-life balance took some time, Charlotte talked about the discipline required to succeed at both, saying “you need to redefine your successes and what matters. I’m definitely happier and healthier, but I’ve had to learn to be flexible” to balance a career and home commitments. She adds: “The physicality of working at home can be a challenge but I am still at the school run on time.”

When it comes to one of the keys to her success, Charlotte talked about the importance of focus and discipline: “It’s important to focus on an area of specialism. My main aim as a photographer is to truly capture the character of the person or people I'm photographing. Together we will create images, which are full of personality, lit with beautiful, natural light. You have to believe in yourself and be strong. A mistake is to try to be all things to all people. At the beginning, it’s important to have a vision on where you’re going. If you don’t know who you are and what you’re aiming for, it makes it like a needle in a haystack narrowing down who your client is, what they’re aiming for and where to find them.”

Focus also applies to targeting your marketing Charlotte says. “It’s important to ask the right questions. What does my customer look like? Where do I find them? Where to they go, shop, live? You need to understand your customer and where to find them if you want to effectively market to them. With hindsight, in my early years I wasted some time marketing in the wrong places, sometimes putting lot of time and effort into things that weren’t right for me. For example, I was asked to write for magazines in areas where I don’t work. A nice opportunity but if the readership is not focused where I work, there’s not much point to it.”

Charlotte has created a unique character to her work and has adopted an approach to making everyone in the family comfortable with her shoots, so she captures everyone at their best. She moves beyond the usual boundaries of a studio shoot to capture innovative family pictures in compelling environments.

To discover more about Charlotte’s business visit her website:

Classically personal

Liz Leatherdale gave the elephant team an interview for Meridian 107, which was broadcast in February. Liz spoke with Ellie about her career in the classical music business and nine years ago took the brave step to set up on her own. A multiple award-winning small business blossomed, specialising in mail order classical CDs – a brave alternative in a retail music industry, where so many rely on music downloading or Internet purchases.

Liz’s business is based in Essex, although she has a strong customer base in Sussex, Surrey and Kent – as well as markets overseas. Her business success captures a music buying audience that still looks for the personal touch, whether online or on the phone. She says: “The crucial thing is knowing how your customer wants likes communicating. I have a certain demographic of customers that want the personal touch and want be treated in a certain way by post or phone. Other customers like talking to me through my website or social media. However they choose to talk with me, they always get a personal service.”

The inspiration for Liz’s business Colchester Classics, named after her hometown, came from her son who asked Liz to describe what her perfect job looked like. It dawned on Liz it was a future that involved her being her own boss and doing things a better way – her way. Employing her innovative approach, Liz supplies CDs to her exclusive database and she also separately targets local choirs, festivals and music groups with suitable CDs as a post-concert rehearsal aid. Armed with the information on concerts in the region, she is able to provide regular Classical Music columns to local newspapers, providing concert previews and CD reviews.

Liz’s first steps were to build solid foundations. She says: “My first step was to get a database - and I managed to get an international one - and then to establish deals with major distributors. Starting with the right scale and distribution was important.” Following this, diversification was key. She adds “my next big milestone was to realise I couldn’t just sell CDs to my public, I had to do more. So I engaged with music groups and choirs to open more doors.”

Liz also stresses the importance to doing your homework and being well prepared. “I talked to business agencies and went on a number of business courses. Starting a business can be a daunting task and it’s only when you start you realise how hard it is.” That said, Liz has created a strong niche in the market, but she points to the cast-iron self-belief you need to make a venture work in a competitive market. She says: “the person who’s got to do it is yourself, you’ve got to want to do it and believe in yourself - and not listen to those that may discourage you.”

Charlotte and Liz both spoke of the importance of identifying a business you can benchmark your business by. Charlotte spoke of some photographers in the USA that she found inspiration from and whose story she used as a rough guide to direct her own path forward. Liz also spoke of the value of studying similar businesses to get a feel of how they structured and worked to inform her own strategy.

Do discover new horizons on classical music CDs visit Liz’s website