I am Libby Hill aged 47; single parent of 2 boys Tom aged 10 and George 8. Prior to starting this business I had a business with my ex husband. When we split up I decided to return to my previous career as a speech and language therapist but as there were no jobs locally, I decided to pursue independent therapy by setting up Small Talk Ltd. By the time I was ready to practise there was little market for private therapy as we were in the midst of a recession and parents preferred to wait for free NHS appointments than pay. In the first 6 months, despite my best efforts in terms of advertising and marketing, I had just 2 referrals!
In many ways this was a good thing because I had to pursue other ways of making money while waiting for the phone to ring. I did telesales, telemarketing, cleaning and set up a security business for a friend. I also found that people came to me for practical help with their small businesses because running a business depends on the same business drivers as another, whatever field you’re in.
However, I was determined to develop Small Talk and decided to widen our potential client market, the pool of children with speech, language and communication problems is growing but nonetheless small but the numbers of preschoolers is significant. I decided, therefore, to set up pre-school groups which concentrated on communication issues for all children, Smart Talkers were launched in January 2009.
I really enjoy the balance of running my own business, being a therapist and running the groups, I have the best of both worlds as I love working with children but need the mental challenge involved in working for myself and growing a business to its potential.
I funded the business start up myself. My marketing plan therefore had to be good but cheap. I used my website to full advantage accessing all the free ways to promote it and working on SEO. I also highly recommend the power of social media marketing as I’ve had great results here. I was aiming for national coverage but with the launch of the blog came an international audience. This has been marvelous! Consequently, we now have group franchises in Singapore and India with others coming up in New York and China. The world wide interest in what I was writing on the blog has lead to the launch of an international magazine for professionals in speech therapy SL World: The bulletin for Speech and Language therapy/pathology. The first issue came out in January and I’m delighted with it.
I plan to keep building the speech & language therapy practice throughout Staffordshire and franchise this model to other parts of the UK and to and develop a national network of Smart Talkers Pre-School Communication Group franchisees.
The advice I’d give to someone else wanting to work in this area is ‘Just have the confidence to do it’. I don’t know any other job with the opportunity to have fun, make a real difference and make money.