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The stellamedia spotlight..shines on Maxine Hayter, director of Bespoke Blinds & Poles

Anyone who meets Maxine Hayter – who provides informed and honest sales advice, as one half of the husband and wife director team behind leading Sheffield independent blinds specialists Bespoke Blinds & Poles Ltd – is left in no doubt about the passion and commitment herself and hubby Neil (who’s in charge of all fitting and installation) have for their business.

Launched in 2007, Bespoke Blinds & Poles Ltd have two showrooms in the city – one in Beauchief and the more spacious location in Hillsborough has just celebrated its 1st birthday. Time for a chat…

Happy Birthday to your Hillsborough showroom Maxine. What’s new?
Cheers, Stella. Loads of new stuff is going on here. The sunshine always brings our customers to us – either for blackout blinds, especially now the clocks have changed, or for advice on cutting down heat and glare in rooms, especially conservatories.
Awnings are this years’ must-have, and we’ve taken on a new supplier making our offer much broader (we get inundated with requests to open accounts with people, and it takes a while to meet them all, vet the quality of their products and make a decision!)

At this time of year we always get updated ranges in as well, so we start considering new display products. As you kindly mentioned, we’ve just completed our first year at our second showroom, and that’s been exciting for us as well. Our staff; Danielle and Emma; have really settled in, and are now an integral part of the team. As members of the BBSA (British Blinds & Shutters Association) we’re committed to raising awareness of Child Safety in the industry. One of our suppliers has brought out two new, innovative control mechanisms which sit superbly within our recommended ranges and safety product ranges, so we are busy promoting these to our customers old and new.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as an independent business?
One of the main things for us is finding time! Our customers come to us for quality products and quality advice, and our installation service is an integral part of this. This makes diary time, and appointments, very precious – luckily our customers understand and wait (and we always have a “cancellation” list on the go, although it’s rare we get any!)
Another one is footfall. The majority of our products are bespoke, and not something you would want to purchase over the internet. We try and get our presence out there in the virtual world by as many means possible so that our customer can glean as much info as possible (should they want to) before they visit us. We want our customers to see that we are worth the effort of a visit!

Here’s a magic wand. What three wishes will you make? (for business or pleasure)
Only three! Here goes…….
Business 1: I would like anyone considering dressing a window to think, before anything else “I wonder how Bespoke Blinds & Poles would handle this one?”
Business 2: I would like an eight-day week, so we can still open for six of them (as now), and have two days off work!
Pleasure: I would like more time to go hiking (our favourite pastime) especially in this lovely weather.

Pass it on. Your biggest business lesson?
Just because “experts” say it’s a great idea, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Stay focused on your core products – too much diversification will weaken your offer.

And the worst commercial mistake, you readily admit to?
Spending a fair amount of money on a marketing promotion from a cold call! This was when we first opened, and taught me very quickly to do your homework before committing to anything. I’m still mad with myself about that one!

Your favourite places in Sheffield (for business or pleasure)?
Definitely the open spaces and the pubs! We are so lucky as a city to have the space we have – most weekends were spent in Greno Woods, Longley Park (when they had the open air swimming pool – no comments on age, please ;-)) and Hillsborough Park. When I met Neil, we spent Sundays in Graves Park with his daughter Gemma.
Pubs – I love the Thornbridge Brewery atmosphere and our local is the Coach & Horses at Dronfield. There’s also a great pub at Holmesfield; the Rutland Arms; which was bought by a great couple just over a year ago. Both these pubs let dogs in, so we get to do a hike, and finish with a great, well-kept pint.
I don’t get to Sheffield City centre too much, but I enjoyed a lovely lunch in Henry’s on Cambridge Street the other week and in all three cases the staff and service is impeccable. I learnt a long time ago that service is as important as the product. It’s what we strive to provide in our business, and I am always appreciative of it when I enjoy it in other businesses.

Bespoke Blinds & Poles Ltd:
http://www.sheffieldblinds.co.uk/

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Mum’s The Boss talk: How businesses can harness the power of traditional print media

Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you can’t have not heard the increasing buzz over businesses building their public profile through engaging their existing customers and potential new ones through social media.

Underneath all this new-fangled noise and bluster though, if you listen very carefully you can still hear a constant older hum and it’s one which often provides the original content these digital channels so sorely need and consumers still rate surprisingly highly in terms of trust.

This older ‘hum’ was the subject of an informal talk – ‘How to harness the power of traditional media’ – I delivered to a 15-strong child-friendly networking group Mum’s The Boss, in Sheffield this Tuesday. As I explained to the group, even though social media is grabbing everyone’s attention, it’s the editorial content of traditional media, like magazines and newspapers, which still tend to set the news agenda and are likely to carry on doing so for some time to come.

I talked everyone through three simple steps towards gaining editorial coverage for their businesses: Step 1: Focus on your target media, Step 2: Uncracking the print media code (what makes titles tick & how consumers regard editorial) and in Step 3 I showed everyone a couple of articles I’d placed as a journalist and asked them to start thinking like editors…

Special mention goes to the ‘honourary’ female at the meeting, Jon Hilton, MD of Pulse Rate Training Ltd – and the first ever male attendee of Mum’s The Boss South Yorkshire!

Here’s 5 more top tips to help businesses create positive headlines:
• Great stories are media gold dust! Brands who understand the power of personal stories have more success connecting with their audience, being remembered and creating brand loyalty.
• If you don’t already know your target media, research it! Buy the title & study it or look at their online offer. If they have website, look on advertisers section as will have details about their audience demographic, official circulation figures and other useful info.
• When you’re ready to approach a title with your story, write a short, well-written and informative press release, include a photo & always email to a named journalist/section editor. Build connections with these journalists – you might not strike lucky at first but learn to understand what they’re looking for as they are the gatekeepers to unlocking great editorial coverage.
• In many national female consumer magazines (and some newspapers or trade titles) if you are talking about your personal story to highlight your business it’s often acceptable for your website details to be featured in the article. Many womens’ magazines also permit copy approval to interviewees (this will mean final version of the article will be read to you over the phone) – if in doubt, ask.
• Once your story is out in local press, be aware there is a good chance it will get picked up by national media – (this is how many national stories are still sourced by journalists).

So don’t believe the hype. Print isn’t dead (not quite yet anyway). And great editorial coverage still has immense value.

http://www.mumstheboss.co.uk/syorkshire/index

From Sheffield to China: Chengdu trade visit hailed a huge success

Sheffield delegation get a warm welcome at Chengdu Blades (Photo: Creativesheffield)

Sheffield businesses who took part in a recent trade mission to China have hailed the trip an “out and out success”

The trade visit was organised by Creativesheffield and South Yorkshire International Trade Centre and led by Cllr Paul Scriven, leader of Sheffield City Council. Paul’s participation in the visit to Chengdu came following an offer from the Chengdu Blades, the Sheffield United associated football club based in Chengdu, who strongly supported the trade mission.

The aim of the visit was to facilitate local businesses, with access to Chengdu’s business community through the links that Sheffield has built with Chengdu – Sheffield’s new partner city.

David Cross, Director of Coda Studios who took part in the trip, said: ”The Creativesheffield Trade Mission to Chengdu was an out and out success. What more can local businesses want when the Leader of the City attends to add weight and kudos to your trip? It is impossible to underestimate the importance of Cllr Scrivens attendance. He managed to open doors for us to businesses and organisations that would have taken many months to do alone. The fact that this trip was part funded and organised by Creativesheffield shows how dynamic and farsighted this city has become with regards to business and ambition.”

Another member of the delegation, Sheffield United’s group executive director Mike Farnan added: “This was probably the most important trip that representatives from Sheffield and Yorkshire have made since United’s chairman Kevin McCabe acquired the Chengdu Blades. It showcased the work that Kevin and the team have been doing in forging business opportunities for both regions.”

Joanna Lavan, International Manager at Creativesheffield who organised the mission, commented: “I am delighted that the businesses who took part in the trade mission have found it such a huge success. During the visit, Creativesheffield signed an MoU with EUPIC which will help support Sheffield businesses seeking to develop opportunities and cooperation in Chengdu. The attendance of Cllr Paul Scriven really helped to raise the profile of the delegation and the relationship between the sister cities.”

Councillor Paul Scriven, leader of Sheffield City Council, concluded: “The mission has also really helped us to raise the profile of Sheffield in China. I was invited to give the opening speech at the Biopharmaceutical Forum at the EU-China Business and Technology Fair where I was able talk about Sheffield’s achievements and the city signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Chengdu Municipal Foreign Affairs and the British Consulate General Chongqing on Chengdu’s Sustainable Development into a World Modern Garden City. These will hopefully lead to further jobs and business for Sheffield.”