Name: Zoe Harvey
Company: Party Inspirations
Position: Balloon Artist
Celebrations are the punctuation points that highlight our everyday lives. Many of us look forward to Birthdays, Easter, Christmas, Weddings, Anniversaries, the list is seemingly endless. Why? Ultimately it is because we care about the people close to us. Zoe Harvey, qualified balloon artist extraordinaire, set up her Party Inspirations business in 2013 and after some text book steady growth is now helping to make many of Braintree and beyond’s residents’ celebrations extra special.
Zoe’s choice to start her own business was quite a departure from her previous career working for Royal Mail. Having been forced to leave her position there due to ill health following an accident, Zoe decided to study for an NVQ Level 1 & 2 in Balloon Artistry while also working part time and full time in various catering jobs.
After qualifying in something she clearly enjoys she wanted to take the next steps for using her new skills as part of a business, something she had always wanted to run. This began with a spell on a market stall in Braintree, which was so successful that she took the initiative when Ignite’s Pop Up Shop scheme was launched at Corner House in Braintree town centre. The scheme gave her three months to trial her business idea in a shop setting for the first time and to test the potential in Braintree:
Zoe said: “We did ok and learned a lot in a whirlwind amount of time. Financially I was challenged. I had a small amount of money to start the business into a shop. If it were my market stall and things got difficult then I could just reduce my pitch size, but a shop is a big fixed layout, especially at first, not only with deposits and utilities, but with shop fittings and stock.”
After the Pop Up shop they moved into their first shop of their own on Fairfield Road, in Braintree. They were there for a year before returning to Ignite’s Corner House building as a longer term tenant once the trial scheme finished. Here they have enjoyed building their business to a new level.
The shops were the start of what has been an ongoing relationship with Ignite. Zoe’s first encounter was due to seeing the Enterprise Agency’s presence in the town centre and it has developed and grown to include regular friendly ‘health check’ meetings that have monitored and helped steer her business into successful territory.
Speaking about Ignite never being far away, Zoe said: “Ignite have never stopped helping us. They are there for us constantly. They are also so informative. They make you do your homework and know your business a lot more.”
Zoe’s business is growing steadily and she continues to work on building the product lines and Unique Selling Point. She reviews her performance regularly and makes new plans year on year on which services and stock to provide and which to avoid, keeping a keen eye on market developments.
It is this research message that Zoe wants to drum home to people wanting to start their own business. She said: “Know what you are doing, open your eyes and ears. Listen and work hard. Source help from Ignite, your bank and friends and family.”
While she has no regrets and would do things the same if she was starting out again, she philosophically says that she would take a different perspective on things. But I guess that just comes with experience and perhaps some initial insight from Ignite.
From the initial sit-down discussion about starting a business, to following her growth from shop to shop, Zoe is thankful for her Ignite advisors’ advice. This advice has enabled her to develop as a businesswoman while freeing up some time and headspace to concentrate on what she loves, making balloons and inspiring people’s good times.
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