Date with a Dragon!

Travel With Jules are proud winners of the Theo Paphitis ‘Small Business Sunday’ award, here is a blog from Jules about how she got to meet the main man!

In March 2015 Travel With Jules ‘pitched’ to ex Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis on Twitter as part of his ‘Small Business Sunday’ initiative and won! Offering our bespoke safari and dream holiday services, to receive the endorsement of Theo and have our business re-tweeted to his half a million followers was indeed an honour.

As the ‘winners event’ is in February, we had nearly a year to wait until Jules finally met Theo on 12th February 2016! Following on from this win, we became members of the ‘SBS winners’ community which has it’s own private facebook page, weekly Twitter hours and a unique business page on Theo’s own website. We proudly display our winners badge on our website.

Like everything in life the more you put in the more you get out, winning alone was proof of the power of social media, Twitter in particular, but not to rest on our laurels, we continued to work hard on Twitter and take advantage of the Dragon endorsement! Some winners have managed to secure major financial deals or supply their products to massive companies or celebrities over the years. From a business point of view, Travel With Jules has now booked many holidays for other SBS winners who themselves offer very different small businesses, ranging from arts and crafts inventors to Landscape Gardeners! We have also found the SBS winners network valuable when asking for advice or help in any area of our business. Jules-outside-ICC

Once a year at the ICC in Birmingham, Theo Paphitis hosts an event which is free for all SBS winners to attend. I travelled to Birmingham the night before with David Burke, owner of Alpha Executive Transfers, fellow Suffolk business owner and who had won the award a week or so before we did (in fact I was on my way to Heathrow in the back of Dave’s car when I sent my winning tweet to Theo last March and only found out 24 hours later with minimal phone signal in the bush of Tanzania!). Theo then re-tweeted my business to his now HALF A MILLION followers and the next week or so was a bit of a whirlwind with us gaining many new followers and joining in all the networking buzz of SBS … 

theo-julesBack to Birmingham … The anticipation as hundreds of winning independent companies gathered the next morning at the ICC was palpable … excitement and a bit of nerves kicked in as we waited to meet the man himself…. Networking around the room were a massive diversity of people from smartly dressed suited and booted to more casual arrangements!

Finally, Theo took to the stage …. As an introduction to us ‘newbies’ Theo told of how ‘Small Business Sunday’ came to be …. Not long after Theo had joined Twitter he was sat at ‘Mrs P’s’ kitchen table one Sunday evening and said that it would have been great if Twitter had existed when he started is career as a shop keeper – all this is FREE MARKETING! So he decided to tweet to his then already growing list of followers that the first 6 people to ‘tweet’ him their business model would receive his RE-TWEET to his many followers …. He really didn’t think anyone would reply but around a 100 tweets came back so he picked 6 to RT….. the following Sunday, having thought it was just a one off thing to do, followers started asking if he was going to do it again!

And so, Small Business Sunday was born.

Theo-stage-2

Theo really does believe that if you work hard and have a passion for your product, you should succeed. Luck might play some part in things but, as he reminded us that something like 50% (or more) of small businesses fail in the first two years, it is apparent that success follows you if are prepared to put the work in (I must keep telling myself that as I’ve not had a day off in about 6 months and can’t remember the last time I finished work before midnight!).

theo-the-room

theo-agenda

Now, SBS has grown into a hugely supportive networking group nationwide. Theo still picks his six favourites every week….. An exciting announcement from Theo was the launch of the SBS shopping site. Soon to be ready to be launched, the shopping site will allow all winners to sell their goods on-line to the general public. Services will also be added as a large number of SBS winners don’t have a ‘shop’ or sell goods and crafts but we offer services (such as our bespoke holidays or Dave’s executive chauffeur services!). This will be searchable by postcode as well and will provide links through to our own websites. Powered by Theo and his companies it’s guaranteed that the SEO will be great and yet again, shows the benefit of social media.

theo-shop-screen-shot

In the afternoon of the SBS Event there was a Q&A session with Theo and Holly Tucker (Not on the High Street) and Mike Pickles from Really Useful Box. SBS winners had chance to pose their questions to the panel which involved much hilarity and wit, especially when Mike mentioned STAPLES in front of Theo, who nearly choked! (Theo of course owns Rymans Stationers!) . Many questions were posed and very valuable answers came from the stage, including advice on ‘how to turn a complaint into a compliment’ and ‘how to keep good staff’. For myself and Dave this was particularly relevant as we both currently have amazing ‘right hand’ staff (Mags and Andy!) and are both wanting to expand our businesses further (Dave has ordered more luxury cars and I’m having an office built as we speak!).

Theo-panel

Theo-on-stage

After the session, more time for networking and for those who were staying another night, time to party! As recent winners, we waited to all have our individual photos taken with Theo and received our personally signed certificates. A group of Suffolk winners also managed to quickly photo bomb the stage!

Theo-group 

Theo-certificate

 

 

 

So, was attending the event and winning the award worth it? 100% YES! There are many winners who never interact on Twitter or Facebook and don’t attend events but the many more who do have all benefited and overall, it’s so lovely to have the ‘backing’ of a friendly Dragon who believes in your business and has given us valuable business advice.  I’m already looking forward to next year’s reunion with Theo and the networking group. 

Find out more about Small Business Sunday here.