Ellen Cole, Owner
A reluctant business owner, I bit the bullet and started Little Seed Group after being made redundant with little notice. I never expected self-employment to last any longer than six months.
But here I am several years later continuing to help independent businesses and charities to grow, thrive, and blossom through award-winning Marketing, PR, and Social Media services.
“A lost cause”
Having been diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 22, I was told no help was available for me because of my age – that I was, I quote, “a lost cause”.
Of course, I didn’t let this set me back. I began my journey in marketing with a six-week internship which ended up with me landing a full-time job with the company. I worked in a few different roles in communications over the years, and although I loved my job, I was unhappy with how employed working cultures operated.
In 2015, I enrolled in a Dyslexic Entrepreneur Scheme as I was fascinated by how many business professionals with learning differences were thriving as sole-traders. Being full-time self-employed seemed like too much of a risk, so I secured a job with a local PR agency that I adored.
Starting with my last tenner
Unfortunately, after a few months the agency suddenly closed with little notice resulting in all the team being made redundant. It was this sudden stress and lack of stability that pushed me to set up on my own.
I always felt I had an entrepreneurial instinct, but really did not want to pursue self-employment out of fear. I’m not religious by any means, but I took this sudden redundancy as a sign that it was time to take the plunge into self-employment.
I spent my last tenner printing out personalised letters for businesses I wanted to work with and hand-delivered them across York. Within two weeks, I’d secured a full roster of clients.
The challenges I was facing
Setting up on my own meant that I was having to quickly take up new skills. I am my own bookkeeper, administrator, receptionist, and finance director, as well as being a Marketing, PR, and Social Media professional
Despite my strong marketing background, I needed to prove myself by producing results for my clients. Though I’d got my hands full with new clients, having a proven track record would be vital for keeping them on and attracting new clients.
I am pleased to say that I’ve now achieved amazing results for my clients. For one, I increased corporate fundraising initiatives for a charitable organisation by 18% in six months. This resulted in them being able to guarantee vital services for their users.
I also secured a slot on ITV’s This Morning for one of my food supplier clients and helped another client to increase their repeat custom by 14%, and interaction levels by 42%, by revamping their social media strategy.
More recently, I increased a client’s annual sales by 1566% through email and social media marketing which meant they were able to keep their business thriving despite the challenging circumstance of the pandemic.
Going the extra mile
Though I’d built this strong reputation for myself, I wanted to go further. I began building fully-vetted training programs to help SMEs and sole traders build the skills they needed to succeed. As part of this, I felt it was vital to get the backing of the companies whose services I wanted to train others to use.
I undertook MailChimp’s rigorous Partner Programme, with the hopes of becoming an Approved and Certified MailChimp Partner. Having seen how many businesses had been rejected, I was not expecting to hear anything back. When I hadn’t heard from them after eight weeks, I assumed I’d not been successful.
Then, the email came through telling me that I was the first Approved Mailchimp Partner in North Yorkshire – I was so shocked, I nearly dropped my hot chocolate!
Doing good through business
My core mission from the beginning was to make a difference in small, independent businesses and charities. I found this was a significant gap in the market, as agencies didn’t tend to offer accessible price points for smaller companies or those that were just starting out. Helping businesses and charities to succeed was, and is still so rewarding.
One of my clients was about to close their business down when they approached me. Having implemented a marketing strategy, their business is now thriving. It is so rewarding to help those who are struggling as I was all those years ago.
I have also mentored a few dyslexic entrepreneurs, to provide them with the support I accessed through the Dyslexic Entrepreneur Scheme, which unfortunately is no longer available. There is a long way to go for those with learning differences to have equal opportunities in the workplace, and it’s so important to me that I’m part of this change.
But more than this, I wanted to be able to support charitable causes through my business. I work with The Island, a York-based charity that supports vulnerable young people, and am currently part of their mentoring programme where I help a local child in need of support. As a keen wildlife enthusiast, I financially support several Yorkshire hedgehog rescues, recently purchasing an incubator for one of them.
What my journey has taught me
The Little Seed Group would not be where it is today without a lot of hard work, and I’ve learned so many things along the way that have contributed to my business’ success.
➤ Treat your clients like people. It’s important to show them that you really care about their business, to help build trust and a long-lasting relationship.
➤ When starting out, the most important thing you can do is research your industry.
➤ You can’t please everyone, so follow your own gut, but always be kind.
You can find out more about the Little Seed Group’s Marketing, PR, and Social Media services at littleseedgroup.co.uk.
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