Mark Chapman from Concept Fine Wines in Harrogate talks of how RedSky helped him set up his company and advised on finance and marketing.
RedSky were recommended
I’ve been in the wine trade for the last 10 years. I set up the business in 2008 with the aim to sell wine through our website, telephone and email. As a new business, we knew we needed help with certain aspects, such as opening up new markets, getting the products in front of more people and also with designing a new website. Martin and Claire from RedSky were recommended to me by mutual contact. Having had a chat with them, I knew pretty quickly that I was very happy to work with them. Martin helped us to obtain some funding for marketing and branding, and Claire advised us on the marketing.
It’s so useful to have independent feedback
The website was something of a priority and something I was keen to develop; you have an idea of how you think it should look, but it’s good to have someone looking at it from a different angle. Through Martin and Claire we got an independent, impartial review of the website; the feedback was invaluable and reinforced thoughts I had on what I wanted to do and how the new website should look. They came up with some options of web designers and helped in putting together a proposal for me. The process gave me an idea of the costs that people were charging for the work I wanted doing – there was a massive difference in what companies charge!
Postcards – a cost effective way of marketing
Claire also helped me with the design of a number of marketing materials including some postcard-sized leaflets that had basic information about the company that we could give out at trade shows and so on. We wanted to encourage people to know more about the business and go to our website, but we didn’t want to have to give out a full brochure every time – it gets very costly. The smaller postcards were a much more cost effective way of doing it. We’re still using them now.
RedSky really care about your business
I’d be very happy to work with RedSky again in the future. They were very helpful to me last year. They’re approachable, professional and reliable. I trusted what Martin and Claire told me. We had a small problem with some of the printing that we were doing. The printer had made an error – and Claire was on it straight away and got it sorted out for us very quickly.
I was most impressed with the fact that they cared about what I was doing and did everything they could to help. It’s much easier and more enjoyable to deal with someone who you feel genuinely cares about your business as much as you do, and who is passionate and enthusiastic. All too frequently you have to deal with people who don’t care – whether that’s in customer service or doing things in a professional way – RedSky’s approach is very refreshing.
Lewis Moss from the Wensleydale Heifer tells of obtaining grants with
RedSky’s help and advice.
Extending the Wensleydale Heifer
We had purchased a property next door to the Wensleydale Heifer which we wanted to develop into four en-suite bedrooms. In the Dales we have long seasons – it runs from Easter to the end of October – and at peak times, we are very often at full capacity. In fact our average is around 80% throughout the year. We only had nine rooms at the Heifer before and this extension has given us an extra four rooms (that’s around 40% increase) and that’s made a huge difference to us.
RedSky made it possible
Following a referral from my manager at Barclays, we spoke initially to Peter Beresford at RedSky who gave us information about possible grants. He introduced us to his colleague Steve Gledhill. Right from the first meeting, Steve was very prompt, efficient and helpful. We applied for two grants – a big grant and a smaller grant were both available to us. Although we would have qualified for the larger grant, the time scale didn’t fit in with what we wanted to do, so Steve suggested that we went for the smaller grant which we did. The money we received was invaluable – it enabled us to complete the work to the quality and the high standard that we wanted. We wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without it.
The process was simple
Although we qualified for the grant, of course there are never any guarantees that you’re going to get it. Working with Steve certainly simplified the process. He spent quite some time with us and did the majority of the application work on our behalf. As he was familiar with this type of work, I suppose it was relatively straightforward for him. Without his help, it would have been much, much more difficult and time-consuming for us – with no guarantee that we would have got any money at the end.
Help was always on hand for us
We met Steve on numerous occasions, in various places, here, his office, and even mid-way in Bedale in a coffee bar! We spent quite some time with him – and I know he spent a great deal more time on our behalf. The important thing is that he was always available for us – and that’s absolutely essential with a complicated project like this. And he achieved what we were looking to achieve – and that’s the measure of the success of the project. The way he approached the matter helped to speed up the process and helped us obtain the grant as well. If he hadn’t been so efficient, this would have just extended the period of application and made it far more complicated. And we may have missed the boat – everything is time-critical.
I know I must sound like I’m related to them (I’m not!) – but I can’t think of any way that RedSky could improve their services. I’m sure that Steve may be able to help us in the future and we’d be happy to take advantage of his expertise. Our priority at the moment is to complete the building work on the extension and have the rooms ready for occupation this summer.
We are sensitive to our clients’ need for confidentiality and in this case, as
the storytellers wanted to remain anonymous, we have omitted their names. This is the story of a couple who required funding to buy and expand a hotel and group of holiday cottages in the Yorkshire Dales.
We weren’t sure where to start
We were due to take over the hotel and holiday cottages at the end of June – and we couldn’t wait to get started! We’d been in business before but we hadn’t been in the situation of looking for funding for about 25 years, so we weren’t sure where to start. A contact had recommended Peter at RedSky because she thought he might be helpful for us in the business. He came to see us and explained what he could do. He helped us to prepare a case for the bank to get a commercial mortgage for the business. In doing that he looked at all our finances, explained to us all the ways in which we could ‘sell’ the business to the bank in order to get some funding, and the different ways in which we might get finance. He also discussed ways in which we might expand the business and the different things we might do with the land.
Sorted – within a week!
When we met Peter we liked him instantly. He’s very easy to talk to, very approachable and he doesn’t patronise you or talk down to you. And he works very quickly. If you’re doing something like this, you want it done quickly. You can’t afford to have someone lagging behind and saying ‘I’ll do it next week’. We answered everything that he wanted and he got the answer for us; and the whole process was all done and dusted within a week. We thought this was incredibly impressive.
The bank wanted an impartial financial assessment of our business and that’s what Peter did. Being an ex-bank employee, he knew exactly what format the bank wanted the information in and he got it spot-on. As a result of Peter’s efforts we were successful in getting a commercial mortgage. I think also maybe the fact that Peter is known and respected by the banks carried some weight.
Peter is very knowledgeable and grasped our business and what we wanted to do very quickly – and he came up with some of his own ideas as well, like what to do with some land that we’ve got, the people we should talk to and so on. He comes from the area, like we do, so he knows who to talk to which helps.
We couldn’t have achieved our goals without RedSky
We wouldn’t have got the mortgage that we wanted without Peter’s help – definitely not! And I’m sure we’ll go back to Peter again for advice – he’s the sort of chap that you can just pick the phone up and ring – and we were always very impressed with how quickly he got back to us. It didn’t make any difference if we had to ring him on a weekend – he was very flexible in that. When I sent him an email I got one straight back – most unusual! And he came over to see us; we didn’t have to go to him. I think that also helped him to get to know our business and what were trying to achieve. We would recommend Peter to anybody!
Based in new purpose-built premises in rural North Yorkshire, Aquarius are specialist providers of road-rail plant to the rail industry. Here Managing Director, James Platt tells how Aquarius benefited from services at RedSky
‘Tool box and taxi service’
Aquarius was primarily a ‘tool box and taxi’ sort of service for rail track maintenance, but now we’ve gone into a more specialist form of inspection, so it’s more like a taxi that carries an inspector round! More recently, we’ve also started to carry out data collection – the vehicles can collect data very quickly and efficiently as they go along the track.
The business starting ‘romping away’
In 2004, Aquarius was on a rapid expansion path – it was romping away – and I felt I just couldn’t look after it properly, particularly on the financial side. I’d considered other forms of business advice, but my perception was that you either got the flashy consultancy companies that dealt with the big corporates, or you got the ones helping small corner shops and sole traders – and there was nothing in between. I didn’t believe that either could offer me the close ‘shepherding’ I felt I needed, and I was concerned that we might only have an advisor for 6 months and then they move on.
RedSky keep us on track
With RedSky, we have the consistency and the closeness we need. I approached Peter initially – I had known a bit about Peter’s background previously. I knew I could run the business day-to-day, but I wanted somebody to interpret and keep a close eye on all of the accounts and the finance side of the business, help us make decisions about pricing and so on.
We see Peter every couple of weeks. We can be up to our neck with day-to-day problems and it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. He comes in and can immediately assess the situation. He really knows our business and keeps us on track. And he’s never ‘wishy-washy’; he’s quite straight to the point. He’ll say, ‘You should have done this 2 weeks ago – why haven’t you done it?’ And he’s helped to improve our efficiency – with issues like late payers. He’s not emotionally involved like we are; he has access to the correct documents and procedures and he brings an objectivity to the situation that is invaluable to us. We have exceeded our goals with RedSky’s help – I’m 100% sure that we wouldn’t be where we are today without that tight control and certainly not as profitable.
RedSky constantly goes the extra mile
I would say that Peter is efficient, knowledgeable and thorough – and he has enthusiasm which always helps! He has a broad scope of knowledge, which comes from having been involved in giving advice to many different businesses. He also has useful contacts with experts in other areas, which saves us so much time. Our business so far has just been in the UK, but with Peter’s ability to source assistance and government funding for us we’re hoping to branch out into Europe. He’s also helped with our website and marketing, for example suggesting we have a précis of the company translated on the website for the overseas market. He knows these sorts of jobs get pushed to the back when you’re working in the company every day. He constantly goes the extra mile – he’s always on the lookout for grants and so on for us. We don’t ask him but he does this on our behalf – he’s very proactive.
Claire Summerskill from Control House talks about RedSky’s help in business planning.
Who are Control House?
We specialise in electrical control systems – anything industrial we can automate it – right from the design stage to manufacturing, installation and commissioning. At the moment we’re doing work for the Olympic Games and Airbus – we have some pretty prestigious clients! We got to the stage where we were getting very frustrated with the banks – we’d get one account manager who thought we were doing well, had the right product and so on, but they would get a ‘no’ from their manager, who didn’t know you at all or what you were about and wouldn’t give us the lending for what we needed. As we were growing, our needs were growing in terms of the financing.
Just having the right product is not enough
We talked to Peter at RedSky; he got to know our business really well, knew what we were trying to achieve and equally what the banks would say to it. We learnt that it’s not just about whether you’ve got the right product, it’s how you communicate that to people who can help you.
Peter put together a business plan for us, which not only focused on our vision and where we were going, but was written in the right format for the banks to understand so that they could give us a decision very quickly. He took our proposals to a lot of different banks on our behalf. This would have been impossible for us to do as we had no relationship with them. Peter knows how to communicate with these people and talk their language. Thanks to him we got an offer through the loan guarantee scheme and some other non-traditional forms of lending – and we were able to get largely government secured money which helped us to consolidate what we were doing. This was a huge springboard to take us to the next level.
RedSky keeps us aware of funding opportunities
We’ve also had mentoring from Peter – in forward planning, sales, marketing, recruitment and employee relations. He obtained funding for us to have a financial heath check, and his colleague Martin is due to do a strategic business review shortly, which is looking at the business as whole. They continually keep us aware of any funding that’s out there that might be useful for us. It takes a long time to sift through information on funding – and it can be a bit of a lottery. If you’re not at the right place at the right time, you can miss opportunities.
Running a small business can be lonely
Peter is someone we trust – we know that he’s got our best interests at heart; he’s not just trying to sell us a product that he can make money out of. Running a small business can be lonely – and you need to know you’re talking to someone in confidence. We always find RedSky very approachable and responsive – they understand our business and, most importantly, they know what might be at stake. They know that if it needs to be handled ‘now’ it will be ‘now’! It might sound a bit dramatic but I don’t know that we could have carried on the business without the help from RedSky. We share intimate information with them – sometimes you’re sharing your joys and sometimes you’re sharing difficult times. It’s a real journey.
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