Breakthrough Alumni – Naylor Signs
Mark Naylor, from Naylor Signs, talks to us about taking the leap into starting his own business with the support of the Unlocking Potential Breakthrough Programme, uncovering a new spin-off business idea and finding his first customers through the Breakthrough Alumni Group.
Breakthrough Alumni - Naylor Signs
Tell us about your business Naylor Signs:
“I design, make and install signs and graphics for businesses just like yours.” Elevator pitch!
Tell us about your Breakthrough journey so far?
I’m a little over a year on from my first introductory Saturday sessions back in December 2016. I attended the evening Breakthrough workshops during the first few months of 2017 and started trading as of April 2017.
What was the reason you decided to bite the bullet and get in touch with Breakthrough?
I’ve worked in the same industry for the best part of 20 years, had been scratching around for a new challenge, reflected a bit and decided I liked a lot of aspects of my day job and, rather than start in another industry, I’d launch my own business.
How has the transition been from being employed to running your own business?
Well, I am still employed full time. I have a young family too, so am developing the sign business during evenings and weekends, figure a little sacrifice now will pay dividends when I can bite the bullet for real when I’m more comfortable that I can sustain a good income. Come April I’ll have an idea of a year’s worth of outgoings and invoices to work out what to do next to hit that target.
What is the best bit about the support you’ve received from Breakthrough?
Everyone I’ve had contact with has been really supportive. The cohort sessions were very open and I felt I could ask daft questions but still get good answers. My mentor is Beckie Pascoe and she has been great at getting under the skin of what it is I’m doing and keeping me on the straight and narrow and focussing my attention – it’s been nice to have a sounding board in the early stages.
What did you do or change as a result of our support?
Developing the sign business did create an idea for another business that’s on the back burner for now!
Do you have any specific examples of how we made a positive impact on you and your business?
I just wouldn’t have made the jump if I’d not been able to ask questions of the people who run the programme. I found I was waiting for permission from someone to say it was OK for me to start a business! Sounds weird, but when you first start out and research what you ‘should’ do, it’s writing a business plan, do market research, approach a bank for a loan etc. In fact, if you have an idea and it’s just you, you can make a start (with as little funds as possible). You can start very small and build up, – It might not work for everyone but it worked for me.
I am at the point I’m at now, where I may need to invest in a piece of equipment. I have a years’ worth of figures that I can put into a business plan that are true and not estimated – this is much better for approaching a bank if I need to.
How did you introduce Naylor Signs to the public and ultimately find your first customer?
There’s only so much procrastinating you can do before you realise that you need jobs in to have a functioning business! Early on I identified the need for a website, but didn’t have any content or examples of work, I posted in the Breakthrough alumni Facebook group and offered to do projects for cost price, explained the idea was to help me get some hands-on experience and photos for my website, in exchange they got my time for free and only paid for materials I laid out for. Wild Tipi and Segway Lakeview, also alumni, were my first customers, who I’ve worked with a couple of times since word of mouth and almost no advertising have provided the rest.
How has Naylor Signs evolved in the past 12 months?
I’ve realised that some of the things I focussed on solidly in the first few months worked out to be not so important. I invested a lot of time on my website for example, but having recently reviewed some basic analytics, not very many people are visiting it! Having said that, I now have templates in place and processes for quickly adding things to my website.
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently looking at purchasing some equipment so I can produce more work in-house. A large amount of my profit is going to my main supplier, so the aim for the next six months is to rein that in a bit. A van would be good to; turns out signs can get quite big and don’t fit in my car!
If you’ve been trading for less than 12 months and would like to find out more about our start-up support, please tell us about your business by completing this short form and we’ll be in touch. Read more about our Breakthrough Programme or by giving us a call on 0845 600 3660