Stockport Content Writer supporting small businesses

More than ever, we should be supporting our local businesses. We are lucky to have so many thriving independent businesses to choose from. However, they have had a lot thrown at them over the last 6 months.

With this in mind, I wanted to give local businesses the opportunity to showcase themselves. Each month, I will be asking three local businesses to contribute to this guest blog.

It’s the perfect opportunity for businesses to discuss what they are doing and remind us of the fantastic shops and services that are on our doorstep.

If you are interested in contributing, click here to send me an email. And, if you like the blog, please feel free to share.

As osteopaths, our job is hands-on, so social distancing is not an option. Whereas we were never forcibly closed, we decided to close when lockdown was announced. It was a scary prospect, not knowing how long it would be for and what impact it would have on our livelihoods. We adjusted to our ‘new normal’ and made plans for life on the other side.

Opening up for business again after lockdown was like stepping into the unknown – what would our business look like now? Would we be busy enough? Would people have the confidence to have a physical treatment?

We have had to make lots of changes. We have implemented rigorous infection controls, use of PPE, and we treat fewer people. This ensure we can see people face to face at minimum risk.

From a business point of view, I think the most valuable things for us have been to put ourselves in the patient’s shoes. What would make us feel safe and secure to have treatment? How do we help them to feel relaxed and still find treatment enjoyable? How could we remain valuable to our patients and stay in their minds?

This led us to focus on:

  • Keeping in touch: During lockdown, we worked hard to stay in the minds of our patients through personalised emails/phone calls to see how individual patients were doing, social media interactions, free video consult support and videos on home desk set up, exercises, mindfulness techniques. Our priority always being on how we could remain valuable to our patients.
  • Communication: As well as keeping in touch during lockdown, it was important to let our patients know the steps, we were taking to ensure we could safely reopen for face to face appointments. A video explaining our policies and procedures was a great way to communicate a lot of valuable information. We also shared it through newsletters, social media and our website.
  • Reassurance: Patients want to know what to expect when they come for an appointment, now more than ever. By making that information easy to access it helps to address people’s concerns or obstacles to seeking our help.
  • Personality: People buy people. Now we are in PPE it can be difficult building that same rapport behind a mask. Social media has been a great resource for showing our personalities. We can build and maintain relationships with our patients this way. During treatments, conversation becomes even more important, and of course, don’t forget to smile, even behind a mask!

Lockdown has been invaluable too for enabling us to stop and get some headspace. In many ways, it was a much needed break to recharge the batteries and refocus in a more directed approach.

Since we have reopened, we have been busy (although we are physically seeing 30% fewer patients than we normally would due to infection control), and surprisingly new patient numbers have have grown.

This is all very encouraging, but now is not a time to be complacent. It’s tempting to cut costs when you’re worried about how your business will navigate this new world.

For us, we have decided to invest in a new website, managed social media ads and ad word campaigns as well as maximising our google business page and networking contacts.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help too. Many small business owners were not trained in running a business, and these are unprecedented times. Working with a business consultant/mentor would definitely still be on the table for us to help us continue to drive our business forwards and reach our goals.

Last year we worked with a business consultant and I’m so glad we did. I feel our business was in good shape going into this storm, and hopefully, we will emerge stronger too.

You can find Cheadle Osteopathy on Wilmslow Road in Cheadle village. For more information, click here.

As we gradually see lockdown easing and businesses start to open, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and a little apprehensive. For many weeks now, I have been urging my local MP to allow businesses like mine, a beauty salon, to be able to re-open. Finally, last week we were given the good news and opened our doors to our clients again.

Back in March, when we made the difficult collective decision to close (‘official’ lockdown didn’t begin until 3 days later), it was a feeling of pure devastation. I opened Love Beauty Gatley in 2015, and can honestly say I have never had a ‘proper’ day off. Anyone who owns their own business or is self-employed will understand the feeling that you always need to be working.

Complete, indefinite shut down was a hard pill to swallow, and I know I am not alone when I say that there have been some dark times over the last 4 months.

As someone who has often fantasised about not having to ‘worry’ about work for a week or two, I will never take being so busy for granted ever again! Being a company director, I was able to furlough. Nevertheless, I was unable to do any of my usual daily marketing, any treatments and could not visit the salon.

However, I was able to work freelance and that got my cogs turning. All the ideas that usually enter my head, which are quickly escorted out by lists of other things-to-do, were able to flow freely. I found myself creating mind maps of all of the ways I could bring these ideas to reality – having the one key ingredient which I am usually starved of: TIME!

I have always been passionate about skincare, and I was able to put together at-home facial kits & instructions on how to create a relaxing home spa experience. I built a website and began my new online venture. I also created gel soak-off kits and natural nail care while offering advice and online skin consultations. This kept me busy and enabled me to dip my toe into the world of online shopping and e-commerce. My clients have continued to keep up with their skincare routine at home and treat themselves and treat their friends to letterbox gifts from beautybykatiemillington.com. I am hoping to continue to grow this part of my business and enjoy sourcing new and exciting products to review, share and stock on the online beauty shop.

Creating online content, partnering with my fave skincare brand BeautyLab for live tutorials, and developing the website while posting out orders kept me positive. I soon realised that I enjoyed the process of hosting a business online.

A few weeks on, while refilling a bottle of wine at a local wine shop, I remembered the refill shops where you could refill all kinds of household and personal care products. I researched different brands that offer bulk refill products, and another spark then ignited in my head! Looking ahead to when I was to re-open the salon, with the new social distancing measures in place, I would have some spare space to fill. It was then Gatley Refillery became a firm idea.

Using the valuable Gatley Facebook page as a soundboard, I shared my idea with the local community, and the response was incredibly positive! I began to create the branding, order the refills, and think through the processes of a refill business. I suddenly had gone from having 1 closed business to having 2 other businesses to think about!

Gatley Refillery launched on the 7th July. I was blown away with the positive support it immediately received from the local community. The concept was understood straight away and I soon completely sold out of refill bottles!

The following week, I was finally able to open the doors of Love Beauty Gatley once again. With the huge help of the LBG team, we managed to get the salon ready to relaunch in line with our strict industry guidelines set by the government.

As we tread carefully into the future, we have realised, the ‘new normal’ looks very different. But after 4 months of closure, it is comforting to see our clients and perform treatments once again. Gatley Refillery is taking off at an incredible speed, and my clients who cannot make it to the salon are still treating themselves to products by delivery. Online shopping is now rapidly taking over the world. There are ways to embrace this while giving people a good reason to venture to the high street. At Love Beauty, we provide sustainable products and deliver services with integrity within a safe environment where clients feel comfortable.

Follow Katie and her businesses on Instagram.

@lovebeautygatley

@beautyby_katiemillington

@gatleyrefillery

Everyone has been through the mill these last few months, especially business owners. There has been so much stress, uncertainty and worry.

I like to maintain a reassuring presence for my clients and have stayed in communication throughout. My job involves regular contact, but I know that staying in touch and explaining all the financial announcements as they occur has been a reassuring help. I have spent a lot of time interpreting the government support packages to help my clients make informed decisions about the future.

Luckily, I have some wonderful clients who have all taken control of the situation and adapted quickly and smartly. It is fantastic to see that they all seem to be coming out the other side having survived the storm.

Supporting local businesses is important to me, and I have been in the fortunate position to offer some heavily discounted accounting packages. I always want to try to help where I can, and allowing businesses to have financial control is one way I can do this.

I want to continue to help local businesses. I have offered some free admin support to help get some companies ready to reopen. This has been particularly important as the notice periods from the government haven’t always been particularly helpful.

From a financial point of view, we need to keep supporting our local businesses. Every time you shop local, you are putting money back into the local economy. Independent shops and services also provide jobs for local people. This can’t be forgotten as we move into the next six months.

We are after all, in this together and it certainly isn’t over just yet

A note from Becky

Louise has been particularly modest in her post, so I am going to add something.

Louise, along with another Heatons resident, set up the Heatons Covid-19 Virus Self-Isolation Outreach Group on Facebook. They did this during the first week of March when talk of lockdowns were just rumours. Louise utilised her 15 years experience as a nurse to coordinate the volunteer group, which was a lifeline for many local people. She did this while caring for her own two children, both under 5, full-time and continuing to help her clients.

If you think Louise could help your business, click here to go to her website.