Secrets of my success: Yuliana Topazly, Phase 1 Enterprise Training

What’s your company called and who is behind it?
Phase 1 Enterprise Training Ltd. Founded in February 2012 by Yuliana Topazly and Selwyn Seymour.

What sector(s) do you operate?
Enterprise, Innovation and employability Training solutions, business mentoring and coaching.

What is your start-up story?
My passion was always for entrepreneurship and supporting others to start and run their own successful businesses. In September 2011, I was diagnosed with postnatal depression after the birth of my daughter, Jessica. Uncomfortable with the idea of anti-depressants, I decided to take on a new challenge, starting Phase 1 Enterprise Training Ltd. thinking it would be the best therapy – and it has worked!

Talking to many mums, I have realised that self-employment doesn’t feature as a ‘real’ option in much of the advice given out to parents [about work], but with rising childcare costs, running a business that fits around your family could be the answer.

How did you seize the opportunity you saw and what barriers did you have to overcome?
Talking with other mums, I realised that there was a ‘gap’ in employability services in the area. There are many mums who either have been made redundant or decided to end their employment or take part-time work.

Most employability support is directed at getting them back into work, which is not the best option for everyone. It would be more useful if mums could be offered advice on all possible employability options, including self-employment. Instead of looking for a job they could create jobs in their own area, while enjoying being a mum.

What products or services to you provide?
Phase 1 is a London based consultancy and training services provider of customised advice and guidance to individuals seeking to explore career options and enhance their employability; ’pre-ventures’ unsure about the mechanics of starting up; new ventures/start-ups seeking to establish themselves amongst the competition.

We are currently primarily working with women and women-owned companies, however we would welcome any other clients.

What are your sales and marketing strategies? What do you think about using newer platforms such as social media etc to reach customers
We work a lot with children centres’, nurseries and other organisation which support parents. We also work with local business support agencies and organisations. Technology is always moving forward and a constantly expanding phenomenon of social media is certainly an important element of our brand awareness and sales strategy. Lots of parents nowadays are online searching for useful information and events on line, so we try to reach to them through established social media platforms, such as: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

There are also other ones specifically targeting women which we use quite widely, such as: Enterprise4Women and SistaTalk.
We also run free local taster sessions which have proven to be very successful.

What is your attitude towards your competitors?
We respect our competitors and in fact we work in partnership with some of them. We believe there are enough customers for everyone and you can always provide a similar service but better than others.

Do you have any other thoughts about your market and how you operate in it?
We are currently working to identify further gaps in the market, but this is frustrated by low barriers to entry, high customer buying power, occasional high supplier power, sometimes intense rivalry and a high threat of substitutes.

How important to success are repeatable business processes?
I think it is very important as it helps to concentrate on new things and innovate. Process help businesses to save time and money and be consistent in the products and/or services business provide.

What have you done to make sure you get the right people with the right skills in place?
A good, competent and professional team is extremely important to any business. We primarily rely on personal and professional networks, however we also find that universities and colleges are a great source of talent and enthusiasm.

Do you have any tips for managing suppliers, customers and other business relationships effectively?
We treat all stakeholders with the utmost respect by being professional, using best business practices and being consistent in our dealings with them.

What about tips on the legal side of running a company?
Make sure you have all policies in place and regularly update them, according to changes in regulations which are relevant to your business.

And finance and cash-flow tips?
My main tip will be – make sure you ALWAYS have some cash in the bank account!

Any thoughts on the future of your company?
Currently we run most of our activities in the Boroughs of Croydon and Sutton, however our inspirations are to expand to all 32 Boroughs in London and make a bigger impact London-wide.

What are the most important things to remember when starting and running a company?
For me it is not giving up because you face different challenges every single day and setting up a business is not easy. You need to remember that it does get better and can be very rewarding on the end!

What new Government policies would help you run a business?
The two biggest problems faced by SMEs are access to finance and access to customers. The Government has proposed to assist with problem number one but can do little to facilitate number two.