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Navigating a new business through the pandemic

Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications for Capital Space by Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications for Capital Space
Owner/Director - Sharp Minds Communications Ltd

It goes without saying that all businesses have had to adapt and restructure to meet their clients ever-changing wants and needs during the pandemic. But what if you’re a new business without the infrastructure and safety mechanisms that develop over time? Well, this happens to be the situation that one of our customers at Churchill Square Business Centre has found herself in. Luckily, despite the closure of her sector during lockdown, she has found new opportunity in setting up a business during these uncertain times. 

The right time to set up a business

For many business owners, the decision to start their own company is a gradual development over time as they build up the confidence to go it solo. This was not the case, however, for our Churchill Square Business Centre customer, Kelly Knopp. Kelly first started out as a surgical dental nurse and later turned to recruitment, specialising in education for the final six years of her career. In February of 2020, Kelly was excited to start a new role, however, like so many other sectors hit, she found herself made redundant after just 6 weeks.

Unsure of what to do next, Kelly turned to her husband Carl, a forensic psychiatric nurse: “He was my reassuring rock. I realised that I had built up a solid reputation and had good clients. This was a unique opportunity, so I decided to look at the positive.” With her confidence restored, Kelly took the decision to start her own education recruitment company, Southern Education Recruitment, specialising in recruiting special needs educators.

And Kelly is not alone in her decision to turn the turmoil created by pandemic into an opportunity to setup a new business, with the Office for National Statistics reporting a 1.2% rise in the number of businesses in the UK in 2020 – despite countless firms closing.

Creating a work-life balance

From the outset, Kelly was keen to ensure that she maintained a healthy balance between her new business venture and her personal life. With this in mind, she decided to move into our offices at Churchill Square Business Centre in Kings Hill last October. “I was able to afford an office big enough to take on extra people when the time comes to expand, in addition to also seeing candidates with social distancing,” Kelly explains. “There is free parking. The shared facilities, like the toilets and kitchen, are clean and feel like an extension of my actual office space. It’s secure; the door entry system means I can buzz visitors in accordingly, especially as I sometimes have to work late.”

A new challenge appears

Kelly’s new venture into business ownership was going well but unfortunately, in January, a third national lockdown was announced, devastating the progress she had made. Most significantly, as part of the so-called ‘Lockdown 3.0’, schools were forced to close their doors to all but the children of key workers and vulnerable children and, despite online learning still being promoted, the government’s funding for recruiting special needs teachers pretty much stopped overnight.

Luckily, Kelly benefitted from the referral scheme at Capital Space, where qualifying friends of the centre can receive up to £500 for successfully referring another business to us  “It’s been an absolute godsend. It’s effectively a month’s free rent and it’s enabled me to keep ticking over. I would recommend Churchill Square to everyone – even more so, for £500.”

Fortunately for Kelly and the sector she operates in, schools did start to return as planned from the 8th March 2021, hopefully signalling the return of new business opportunities for her.

Post-lockdown plans

Despite not having one of the easiest starts as a business owner, Kelly has big aspirations for her company, including wanting to hire two extra consultants and expand to be able to offer recruitment into the nursery sector as well. Kelly argues that the key to her positive relationship with both her candidates and clients is her honesty. She also attributes her success to the fact that, despite being in recruitment, her emphasis is not on sales, but in supporting schools to get the right person for the job and in enabling her candidates to reach the next milestone in their career.

The pandemic chaos hasn’t put Kelly off the idea of running her own business either: “The key is to do the research. You need to understand the industry you are in, know who your competitors are, but do not let having competitors put you off. The most important element is to have self-belief.”

If you’d like to find out more about our flexible, adaptable office space located throughout the South East, then please get in touch.

To find out how Capital Space could benefit your growing business, call 0800 107 4667.