Starting a business is never easy, but with family and fun in mind Michelle Tait and Katie Barnett were determined to do just that. Here, Michelle tells their story…
I suppose there was just something in me that was determined to succeed at ‘something’ in my life as a business opportunity. Not sure if it’s just because of the stage of life I’m at or that it has just been in my genes all this time as my parents were both successful business partners. It had to be a business that wouldn’t interfere too much with the family life as I have 2 small children ( 6 & 3 1/2 years) so still being able to do the school and nursery runs, dance classes, football training, swimming lessons, looking after a pony, work part time as a dental nurse – not even mentioning the house work, keeping the husband happy and other daily chores was still my main priority.
Online businesses seemed to be the way forward and I was able to keep my start-up costs down as I already had my main tool – the Mac computer. Family life was the inspiration and we are very lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of the country and be able to enjoy endless opportunities from watersports to popular local tourist attractions.
Dorset is a tourist attraction especially Bournemouth and Poole (my home town) and so I wanted local families to have the chance to experience this as much as our tourists do. So a simple idea of a local family discount card was decided. The name ‘High Five’ was given as it’s a symbol of celebration and a feel good action all the family can imitate (especially when you save money). I was spoilt for choice of the many local family orientated establishments but getting through to them was the difficult bit. Having little time to meet the local business owners face to face to get an exclusive deal, I had to put up with making endless phone calls, leaving messages, sending emails (not knowing if they were going to be received or put in their spam folders) and using social networking sites.
It was initially hard to persuade the businesses to join us as we were so new and not knowing if it was going to be successful. Luckily our website was designed professionally and gave a great first impression. Mentioning that it is free to advertise with us was a great way to them interested. All we ask is that they can offer our card holders an exclusive deal in return. We have 7 categories; Family Days Out, Hobbies & Lessons, Sports & Leisure, Arts & Crafts, Eating Out, Holiday Clubs and Parties. Once I was happy we had enough places to offer, the launch began! Leaflets were distributed around local schools, nurseries and family events. Facebook and Twitter were a valuable platform for researching, networking and free advertising (even though it has caused endless headaches and problems along the way!)
Potential customers are able to purchase their family membership online and pay using PayPal (£10 a year or £5 for 6 months). Yes, there have been times when I have thought about giving it all up as everything seemed like an uphill battle. But with plenty of encouragement from my family and friends I can now look ahead and know from all that I have learnt along the way that the business will grow from strength to strength. With over 80 family establishments our favourite attractions to the card include; Farmer Palmers Farm Park, Snowtrax, Bowlplex Poole, Poole park attractions, Crazy golf, The Dorset Heavy Horse Centre, Little Kickers South Hants, Wareham Boat Hire, Diamond Faces plus many more! It is certainly not a business that I can just sit back and let happen as there is always updates to be made, communicating with the business owners and cardholders and keeping the website and social media fresh, up to date and maintained. I can’t believe my first year has passed by already and this article has given me the chance to reflect all of this!