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Posted on by natalieparker

Until 2010, Gavin Sargent was a member of the board at Panache Lingerie in Sheffield where he helped turn a loss-making business into a company making multi-million pound profits, supplying high-street retailers such as Debenhams and House of Fraser – and earning himself the nickname “The Bra Man”.

Having moved away from South Yorkshire for family reasons, Gavin made time to take part in a few voluntary projects including a “Dragons Den style” panel innovation with Norfolk Knowledge where he had the chance to meet with a number of fledgling businesses. And this early experience of informal mentoring gave Gavin a taste for meeting entrepreneurs from sectors that were entirely new to him. As a result he decided to enrol on the Get Mentoring scheme and complete the half-day Introduction to Enterprise Mentoring training.

Soon after the course Gavin was introduced to Boo Marshall who ran her own photography business. Boo has had her own share of previous business experience, having worked in both journalism and IT recruitment before spending nearly 10 years as a teacher in literacy. After being made redundant in 2010 she decided to take the plunge and turn a longstanding hobby into a profession. She says,

“I’d mainly gone into teaching as a job that would fit in with my children’s school hours, but facing redundancy I realised that those reasons had gone now that the children were grown up. A small redundancy package meant that I had money to invest in the professional equipment and software that I needed – so I decided to just go for it. I was determined to spend the next stage of my working life doing something I love. This is the first time I’ve been self-employed and I’ve enjoyed every minute of being my own boss, even though money is tighter at times.”

Having started trading under her new company, Eliza Boo Photography , Boo felt that the time was right to develop the business further:

“We met initially over coffee after exchanging a few emails and since then we’ve had other meetings together to discuss areas of the business in more depth. Having a sounding board there to give me a different view on things and help me to think about my work in a different way has been great. Gavin has helped me to look at ways of achieving through target setting and improving the admin side of the company. He’s also increased my understanding of networking, specifically in the local area, and made sure that I’ve met people who could be useful to my business. We’ve actually been to a couple of networking events together, one arranged by me and the other by Gavin.”

Gavin believes that it is important for a mentor to understand the struggles that small business owners face:

“Being self-employed can excite and develop but also frustrate and dishearten people. In the four or five times Boo and I have met since July we’ve discussed her background, her talents, hopes, fears and the obstacles she wants to overcome. Developing that sense of trust between the two of us has been a really enjoyable part of the process. I’ve also enjoyed being that fresh pair of eyes to help with organisation, motivation and confidence, and I hope that Boo thinks of me as someone she can call upon to be a critical friend whenever she needs me.”

Looking toward the future Boo says,

“The process has certainly given me a greater confidence in what I’m trying to achieve. I feel as if I have a business friend who’s on my side. My plan now is to step up my marketing and build on the help I’ve been given so far. I’ll be continuing to set targets and try to grow my business using the skills I’ve developed with Gavin’s help.”

As for Gavin, the former lingerie expert thinks that mentoring and building relationships could lead to new business opportunities down the line. He says,

“Mentoring has already helped me gain valuable knowledge and networking opportunities that I’ll be putting to good use in the future. And I’m always hoping to meet someone I could work alongside, be employed by or invest in.”

Posted on by natalieparker | Posted in Case Studies, Get Mentoring Monthly