Made in Britain: The Small Business Handbook

Olivia Crabtree talks to us about how her comprehensive guide is supporting small businesses all around the country.

What is your business all about?

The Small Business Handbook offers affordable, yet high-value, support for product-based businesses – typically creatives, handmade sellers, Etsy sellers and start-ups. I aim to help as many people as possible, regardless of how much or little money they have, as I believe every small business deserves the chance to pursue their dreams with valuable help. I offer a range of masterclasses on specific topics, such as ‘The Instagram Content Strategy Masterclass’ which teaches people how to create a strategy that allows them to both grow and sell on Instagram simultaneously. I also offer 1-1 coaching and mentoring for individuals who need further help with their business. As well as this, I have a range of planners designed specifically for product-based business owners. Each one is focused on helping a specific topic, for example The Launch Planner guides people through the necessary steps needed to have a successful product launch.

The story behind your business?

I owned another business prior to The Small Business Handbook. I was a full-time student at the University of York studying Ecology, Economics and Environment when I hit a wall, realising I didn’t have enough money to live on. I did have a part-time job too, but the hours weren’t enough to fund my shared house rent costs. So, I decided to start selling handmade gifts on Etsy, which later extended to personalised candles too. This business was a smashing success, unexpectedly. So much so, I dropped out of university after a few months to pursue it full time. As the first business was started with financial motivation, I had no real passion for it, so I lost my love for it when it picked up and required lots of work.

As it was so successful in such a short space of time, I was handing out advice and tips to other Etsy sellers, who were coming back to me saying that my help had massively increased their sales. It was 11pm on a Friday night when I spontaneously decided to set up a small business tips Instagram page to help others out. After approx. one month of sharing free tips, someone suggested I write an Etsy eBook – which I did. I launched the eBook and earned more in that first 24 hours than I ever had from any other job before.

I had only recently moved in with my boyfriend in Hull, who was financially stable, and that night I decided to shut my Etsy shop and turn my small business tips page into a business. I started writing more and more eBooks and was growing at rate I couldn’t comprehend.

The Small Business Handbook – now with a combined audience of over 50,000 small business owners on social media – flourished into a beautiful community where people felt as though they could discuss things, they were finding difficult, and seek help for those issues. I started this business just 6 months ago and am already very close to reaching 6-figures. This community I’ve created is wonderful in the respect that I’ve grown my own business whilst others have grown theirs alongside me. Still, I am very appreciative for my customers and followers and give a lot back to them – posting free tips on my social media every day, and regular giveaways.

I know people now look up to me, but I hope they always remember that I was once in their position, so it’s very much possible for them to reach their business goals too. With my first business, I spent most of my profits on courses to learn all about business – but these were costing me £100s, if not £1,000+. I know this is completely inaccessible for so many small businesses, so I will always strive to provide help and guidance that can be afforded by all who need it.

How do you spread the word about your business?

Reels are my main source of traffic, as well as TikTok, SEO, YouTube, PPC Facebook ads, influencers, referrals and Pinterest. My followers often act as ambassadors by voluntarily sharing images of my masterclasses and planners on social media.

How has your business been during the COVID-19 pandemic?

My first business thrived during the pandemic as people were unable to go out and buy gifts, meaning more people were shopping for them online. The Small Business Handbook hasn’t really seen any impacts from the pandemic as it was started when the rules were relaxed. As everything I do is online, I don’t think any changes would have a major impact, although, if the pandemic was to impact my customer’s businesses, that would of course have a knock-on effect to mine.

What’s the hardest thing about running a business?

Too much to do, too little time! I used to find myself working stupidly long hours which I’m not an advocate of, and have since changed. But even now, I still feel as though there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done! I have recently started outsourcing which has been a huge help!

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

Out of the blue, I developed severe health anxiety throughout the summer of 2021. I have always felt uncomfortable in the heat and warm weather, but that coupled with the stress appeared to send me into a state of panic. I was encountering daily panic attacks for 3 months, and it put my business on hold for some time. I had to stop offering 1-1 coaching as sitting on a zoom call sent me into a panicked state. I was far less productive as I spent the majority of my days worrying, or distracted by this anxiety. I was constantly self diagnosing myself meaning I didn’t seek proper help for some time, but I came to a realisation that it was in fact just anxiety. I booked in with a doctor – Dr Kirren – who I found on Instagram, and after my treatment with her, life went back to normal and business resumed. At this point, I had no employees, so with me not working as normal, no work was getting done.

If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?

I would have outsourced much earlier. I was clearly stressed and overwhelmed, and needed extra help on board. I feel as though the 3 month period of being unproductive could’ve been avoided if I had asked for help. It was only after reading a book that taught me “invest more money than time” when I was inspired to start outsourcing.

What has been your proudest achievement so far?

It’s hard to pinpoint one. I’m flooded with messages on Instagram every day, and sent gifts in the post, from people explaining how much their business has grown since watching my classes. If I had to pick one, I’d say I’m proudest of helping 7 small business owners go full-time on their business within 6 months.

What are your hopes for the next five years?

I’d like to continue growing a community of small business owners who feel as though The Small Business Handbook is a safe space for them. I aim to publish my first book within the next few months, and aim to have my book, and planners sold in large retailers such as Waterstones and Paperchase.