Tell us about yourself and your business journey.
After spending 18 years working as an engineer, I took the opportunity to start my own business in 2005 when I had the choice between relocating or taking a redundancy package. My partner already had his own business here, so I decided to jump from corporate life to self-employment. I started freelancing as an engineer but gradually made the shift to website development after I’d been asked by people I knew to build websites for them.
Over the years, I’ve gained most of my business through networking. I joined FSB and quickly became involved in the branch committee, and now I volunteer as a Regional Chair. FSB is a great environment for networking and I’ve found it very effective, there’s a real bond between FSB members.
What has your experience of the FSB LGBT+ networking events been like?
The move to have FSB LGBT+ networking is great because it creates visibility that encourages other LGBT+ people to be more open about who they are and makes us more visible as part of the overall business community. It also encourages people to go into small business. If you can see it, then you can be it.
We all want to be one big small business family, but I think if you do have individual groups it spotlights examples of people who are thriving in business. I think that’s a win-win for both the individuals and the organisation.
I’ve always been impressed by the level of acceptance within FSB and the wider small business community generally. People just want to get on and do business with you.
As an experienced networker, what are your top tips for networking?
Go into networking events to build connections, not to sell people things. It took me many months to gain my first serious amount of work through networking, but now I get work all the time through referrals from previous clients. Get out there, take an interest in people, understand what their needs are, and participate as a fellow networker.
What advice do you have for LGBT+ people looking to start a business?
My advice is to just do it – and I would double up the strength of that emphasis for LGBT+ people who have often come through a difficult experience of being told they’re different or not worthy. Build yourself a network of supportive friends within the LGBT community and the small business community to mentor you and help you when the going gets tough.
What are your top tips for LGBT+ workplace inclusion?
My main business is just me and a couple of freelancers but I am a trustee of a charity that runs our local community centre where we have a small team. We’ve employed LGBT+ staff and I’ve always worked hard to make sure everyone is treated equally. I think inclusivity is, as the name suggests, making people feel included and not doing anything that leaves people out. I feel it blends quite naturally with the way of doing business and managing a small organisation.