Thursday, 10 September 2020
As Head of Acquisition, Christen Dali, helps small businesses discover the benefits of NatWest’s digital HR and employment platform Path, and health and safety platform MentorLive – alongside running her own business, cold brew CBD coffee company My Lifeline. She shares her eight ways to maximise people, product timing and ‘pain points’ as a small business owner.
When a small business hires its first employee it's not necessarily an HR person, so managing records can become a bit ad hoc and patchy. We can help with all of that, from the day-to-day management of employees and absences, which is what Path does, to advice and guidance around HR issues or health and safety issues on the Mentor Live side. It takes time to research and read through the hundreds of pages of regulations that are published and updated constantly, for example around Covid-19 safety — and we can do that legwork for you. We also have the benefit of seeing what others in the market do and understanding what practices are commonplace or not.
No one sets up to become ‘big on HR’ — it's something that we want businesses to be doing correctly, which then, in turn, frees up entrepreneurs to move forward, develop their product and focus on their customers. Staying compliant is level one. Optimising internal thinking and thinking more strategically around your workforce is the next phase.
Launching my own product during lockdown was a gamble. I discovered CBD in 2018 and thought it was intriguing, although I didn’t like the taste of the drops. I found that by combining coffee and CBD though you get the benefits of caffeine — the focus and sharpness of mind — without the side effects. In other words, you’re calm but ready to be productive. I’d had a meeting with buyers from Planet Organic in March, who asked for my product to be on the shelves by April 1st, but we went to lockdown before then and the company closed half of their stores. I still launched in May though, because I thought it was the kind of product that people needed now.
I think there's a tendency as women for us to overthink and the reality was that it was just me in the business and I didn't have any fixed costs or a shop rent to pay. So, I went for it — and the product is selling well at Planet Organic and a few independent stores across London. I couldn’t do any sampling in store though, which is normally a good marketing technique for a new product line — and standing there telling people about my products was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, when they couldn’t taste it.
I thought it was important to just celebrate trying rather than winning when I launched, because I was terrified. When I thought about why I was scared I found it was around what other people would think and what public failure would look like, so reframing that gave me some peace of mind.
I haven’t started with a marketing budget, but with the customer instead, and if you listen to your customer you can build from the ground up. My Lifeline can’t use some traditional advertising routes such as Google ads or Facebook ads because the business is CBD (cannabidiol), which means I have to be more creative in the way I build an audience and brand awareness.
Part of ‘untraditional’ growth is about being clever around solving pain points. I read recently about a platform that wasn't selling a lot of its premium subscriptions. Instead of doing more advertising, which you could do if you had a big marketing budget, it looked into why people weren’t becoming premiums and realised that many just weren't aware of the fact that there was a premium feature. So, they made a bigger and more appealing upgrade button within the platform, without much effort or money, and that alone led to a big increase in subscriptions.
The best way to really understand something is to live it and having set up my own business, I now understand more about the process, which in turn relates back to my job as well. As professionals, most of us aspire to be lifelong learners — that's what keeps our job interesting. And setting up your own business is a really active way of continuing to learn things as well as diversify your source of income.