Thursday, 10 November 2011

Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur

I am delighted to post this e-interview with Sue Reeves, co-founder of the hugely successful 'Business Biscotti' business networking site and service.

Sue is a top marketer and serial entrepreneur.

I caught up with her and asked for some of her secrets for success.

Sue Reeves - Marketing Director 'Business Biscotti'

I am a serial entrepreneur. Having set up from scratch 5 businesses which have employed staff, had premises, traded profitably and then been sold successfully.  I now run 2 businesses!

I have also been a freelance photographer since February 2004. I have City and Guilds level 3 qualification,  in Photography as well as an HND in Hotel Management!

I am also the Marketing Director for Business Biscotti Ltd.

My new blog site for SuePIx goes live late November 2011.

Question 1: You have developed a lot of expertise as a ‘serial entrepreneur’ – what attracted you to this rather unusual approach to business life? What businesses have you developed?

I just like setting up new businesses and creating something from scratch.  My first business at the age of 24 was an Outside Catering business based in Stainland, Halifax, West Yorks.

I have run an import business (lowgrade recycled paper products), Printing and Graphic Design House, Web development Agency, Below the Line promotions business, Online Training, and now I run SuePix photography and Business Biscotti Ltd!

Question 2: To what extent has a marketing orientation helped in these ventures?

I have always been the marketing Director for each of the companies that I have run, and taken a very hands-on approach to marketing.  I believe that people buy products and services from people that they like.  With that in mind a marketing strategy needs to involve face to face enagagement with people.  The implementation of my marketing plans has always involved attending and running networking events.  The specific objective of attending these events has been to become the prefered supplier in that network for my product or service offering and moreover to build a NETWORK of trusted advocates of my services.  
In many instances I have been involved on committees to get profile and become noticed within the higher reaches of the networking organisation.  Being involved in charity work is also key to being accessable in a community.
The network that I have built over the last 25 years has been pivotal in securing business over the long term.
My current network is UK wide, as Business Biscotti becomes known and trusted as a National brand.  To reach these businesses requires time to be spent researching key players in certain organisations who can help to promote our brand.

Question 3: What advice would you give to others thinking of setting up new entrepreneurial business ventures?

You need to have very clear goals from the outset.  You don’t need a lot of money to set up in business – even today its possible to start on a low capital base.  I have never borrowed from the bank.  You need tenacity, and self belief.  You also require lots of energy and postivitity especially when setting up in a recession.  

I have set 3 businesses up in recession and it's the best time.  Costs are lower, and providing you market yourself effectively you will flourish.

Question 4: What is your view of the strengths and weaknesses with new ‘Digital Marketing’ techniques in business development?

Its easy to do – however you need a Strategy.  You also need clear guidelines on how to use social/digital media for your business.  Do something well and don’t try to take it all on. Employ a specialist – even part-time to do it for you.

Remember – digital marketing is a part of your Marketing Mix – its not the only marketing you need to do.

Moreover, be consistent in your messages, your delivery, your approach, the use of your digital channels.  Its also easy to get it very wrong.

Question 5: You latest venture ‘Business Biscotti’ seems to be growing enormously fast! To what do you attribute it’s huge success and where is it going?

Business Biscotti  -  is a Business Community experiencing exponential growth


Business Biscotti provides Free Business Networking, both offline and through an online Community Portal.

What makes Business Biscotti really different from any other networing organisation is that we are a COMMUNITY of business people.    Who meet to network in neighbourhood groups across the UK - and then continue to network online with others. 
And Its all FREE.  There is no membership fee, no committment to attend meetings, its flexible - you can turn up without booking in advance, for 1 hour or 2, and simple pay for your tea or coffee to the VENUE.  Its also open to anyone to attend, men and women, new to business and experienced entreprenuers of any profession (as long as its legal)!  
There are no speakers, no formalities and you can join the online community and never go to a meeting.  We have many people who are happy to interact online only.
Everyone in the organisation seems to give a small amount of their time to help one another in some way, whether thats by running a group, offering their business premises free for networking, or providing tips and advice to other members.
People are now building long last business relationships and these are manifesting in sales.  Someone posted yesterday    
" just ask me about doing business with Business Biscotti ---- I am snowed in!"  Peter Morris Pinewood Asset Finance (November 8th 2012) 
This is one example of many comments posted everyday in the community.
This community is growing daily without any advertising or PR -  purely from an exceptional Digital Marketing strategy. That is being implemented continuously.

The web site provides a dual function that:
  • Provides a community platform for those members wishing to continue networking online.  
  • It is a resource and information portal for members who wish to access information about all the events, meeting times, dates, directions etc.
Communication from Head Office to the membership is undertaken through 3 channels:
  • Website notices and information   
  • Monthly e-newsletter
  • Ambassadors who run each of the monthly group events
Currently Business Biscotti has an audience in excess of 20,000 members through the online membership and the 80 physical groups across the UK.

Where we are going
Growth will continue through the opening of more physical groups in targeted areas of the UK and the organic growth that brings to the online community.  

The business model for Business Biscotti does not rely on 'paid for' membership or sponsors.  In order to facilitate the growth of Business Biscotti, the directors have explored several options; including advertising, charging members to attend meetings and sponsorship. 

The most commercially sound option is from commercial sales.

We have identified that there is currently no vehicle on the internet that provides a comprehensive set of products and services aimed specifically at the SME market.

We conducted a survey of our community members to establish if this is something that they would use.  The overwhelming response was positive, and furthermore a significant number would welcome some sort of ‘buyers club’, where members could collaborate to achieve better pricing on products and services.

 Business Biscotti has grown organically – through a viral campaign via the physical groups and the online community.  Last month (October 2011) we had 30,000 uniquevisitors.

Its greatest strength is that people stay on the site for an average of 9 minures per visite and view an average of 6-7 pages each time.


Resources and links:

The new blog site for SuePix is now live at:

Follow us on Twitter @biscottier


How to open a Business Biscotti group

Reading Central Business Biscotti first birthday

Welcome to Wentworth Business Biscotti

Suepix wedding photogrpahy video