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Helping businesses to be more sustainable

Twelve Futures are a sustainability consultancy who help organisations respond to the climate and ecological crisis that we face. They are based at Gather Round in the Cigar Factory on Raleigh Road in Southville, Bristol. Ellie Austin and Jessica Farrow, both Co-Founders and Co-Directors love being there and believe that it’s a fantastic, creative, and independent community full of wonderful businesses. 

Having moved to Bristol after University over a decade ago, Jessica also sits on a few different advisory boards, including the Bristol Green Capital Partnership Board as well as the One City Environment Board so is very embedded in the work that is happening at a city level in climate and ecological action. She is “really excited to bring more of their expertise of Twelve Futures into those conversations.” They also both sit as Mentors on an initiative ran by Catalyst to Change, which is all about helping young women into sustainability careers. Therefore, it’s safe to say that they live and breathe sustainability and contributing to the improvement of Bristol, as well as the natural world around us.

Through their business Twelve Futures, they help businesses create climate action plans and strong sustainability strategies that recognise the climate and ecological crisis. They believe that it “really reflects the ambition of Bristol as a city, as the first city to declare climate and ecological emergencies.” After launching their business in 2018, they look back on their journey in a positive light. They recognise the difficulties that everyone faced through the pandemic but feel as though they have come out the other end stronger. They state: 

“In some ways it’s really changed the way that we work and in other ways it’s meant that a lot of people have become even more aware of the agenda and the area that we work in. A lot of people have increased their appreciation of nature and green spaces and taken the time to dial away from their normal day to day life. Additionally, I think it’s been interesting because a lot of people really struggled in the beginning of the pandemic with working remotely and working from home. As sustainability consultants and freelancers, we’ve always advocated working remotely and we very much are used to working in that way.”

They also note that it’s positively impacted their business through reducing the amount of travel miles that they used to take for meetings via train and the Eurostar. They’ve supported their clients to grow more confident in video technology which they feel they’ve all seen the benefit of. 

Ellie and Jessica first encountered GetSet for Growth through South Bristol Enterprise Support with the hopes of figuring out how to grow and scale their business. They’ve always “had a clear sense of the long-term impact that they wanted to have both through the work that they do with their clients and as a company.” However, they were “trying to understand how to best grow their business and think about who else they can work with, who else they can bring on and how they can continue to be profitable in the future. Furthermore, how to grow in a way that feels natural and right to them.”

Through their support with GetSet for Growth, they have been able to shape the future of their business and gain clarity on what they want to do, and how they want to grow and scale their business. In addition, they state that it “has helped us explore lots of different models for doing that and really think about what works for us. It’s also helped us think clearly about how we can get more support and how we can bring other people into the business. We did a lot of resource planning during our sessions, and we’ve recently brought on our first new member of staff. We have a summer intern starting with us this year which is really exciting and gives us a lot of potential to grow our business and support our clients moving forward.” They have also benefited from advice surrounding task prioritisation and appropriate delegation and are “continuing the legacy of what they’ve learnt through their coaching through GetSet for Growth.”

Looking to the future, Ellie and Jessica are excited at the fact that they order book is full for the foreseeable. They’ve got some fantastic clients and project planned so are going to be very busy for the duration of 2021. They’re in the process of becoming B Corp certified which means they’re going to be a force for good, something that they support other businesses with on a regular basis as part of their service offering. This will enable them to go beyond the support they can offer businesses by “thinking about how they can use some of the profits that they make to give back to charity and local communities in Bristol too.”

They’re also really excited about welcoming the intern that they’re taking on through the Catalyse to Change network as a reinforcement for their ambitions to work “closely with those organisations to create more opportunities for young people. As well as work with local organisations to help action on the climate and ecological crisis given that we have such strong and ambitious climate and ecological targets here in Bristol.” They feel it’s the best place to be for them!

If you would like to hear more about Ellie, Jessica, or their joint venture in Twelve Futures, you can access their website here or follow them on Twitter or LinkedIn

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Mike Ethridge – The Design Print Distribution Group

Mike Ethridge

“GetSet For Growth helped to provide clarity to my ideas and put the structure in place to make the plans happen.”

It could be said that Mike Ethridge has a certain well known search engine to thank for his now successful company. Having been made redundant around six years ago, he turned to the internet to look for ideas for businesses that you could start without any outlay. Leaflet distribution was the suggested idea and so Mike set about researching the potential demand and what competition existed in the marketplace. 

What started as a part-time business for him, through his hard work and energy has turned into a very successful design, print and distribution company, with a HQ in Bristol employing six people, a team of forty self-employed staff and franchises in Reading and Sheffield. The company now focus principally on distribution and they work for a range of clients including estate agents, gyms, political parties on direct mail campaigns. “Many of our clients want to implement campaigns which are data driven and we can help them with that, locating good, reliable source data for them which can be targeted by their requirements,” said Mike. 

Mike describes the past year as “interesting” with many of his clients having to close their businesses and cease their marketing activity during the lockdowns. At the start of the first lockdown in March 2020, their client base disappeared almost immediately, and staff had to be furloughed until May. However, things did start to pick up as some businesses opened again and by August, all staff were back at work. “We used the time during lockdown to take a good look at our systems and processes and to try to improve everything that we did so that we would be in good shape to react when the country came out of lockdown,” explains Mike. 

One of the key changes that we made to the business was to set up contracts with clients rather than operate on an ad hoc basis as we had done previously. This gave the company more security and by adding new product offerings as well, they have managed to grow business despite the subsequent lockdowns which took place. They recently had their best month ever and demand is continuing to grow for their services, which Mike describes as “fantastic.”

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“It was Andy from the GetSet for Growth Business Resilience programme in South Bristol that helped us to get back on track when the situation was looking challenging,” said Mike, “He listened to my ideas and gave me feedback which we then worked on. Through 1:1 sessions, he helped me to focus on ways to improve the business strategy including the franchise model which we have now put in place.” Mike describes how Andy helped him to develop more structure to their growth plans and to introduce practices to the business which have had a really positive impact on the team. 

Mike stated, “I have started to carry out 1:1 sessions with each member of staff, which is a great way for them to provide input into the business growth through their ideas, but also helps to set targets for their own personal development within the company. By planning the schedule for these sessions for the whole year, the team realise the importance of their contribution to our success.”

Mike also spent time with Sally from the Bristol team who provided insight into their marketing plan as well as talking through ideas particularly around the support of the new franchisees. “I liked the coaching model that they used,” said Mike, “It helped to provide clarity to my ideas and put the structure in place to make the plans happen.” 

Going forward, Mike is continuing to put into practice what he learnt from the GetSet Business Resilience programme, looking at training and development for his team. He is also keen to focus on building the franchise programme he has across other regions but wants to take time to put the right model in place and to choose the right locations. He states, “selecting the right people to take on the franchises is key to our success but thanks to the GetSet for Growth team, I now feel in a better position to find them.”

Whilst many of their previous clients, such as restaurants are still not open to the public, other businesses have taken their place and Mike is optimistic that they will return in the coming months which will generate even more demand for their services. “We help businesses create targeted campaigns which integrate with their other marketing activity which in turn helps them to be more effective in their overall business promotion, and this is even more important as they return to trading following a period of closure,” stated Mike.

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His advice to any other entrepreneurs considering starting or growing a business is to realise that you don’t need to know everything and to get advice from others. He admits that in his enthusiasm, he has sometimes tackled tasks that in hindsight, he should have employed other professionals to do. This experience has taught him which areas of the business he excels in, and which he should leave to others, which he rates as invaluable. 

He encourages other entrepreneurs to network with other businesses and to surround yourself with people who can be mutually supportive to each other. He reflects on the business that he has created, stating that “I always did make a terrible employee, so it was inevitable that I would start my own business at some point.”

His advice to his younger self would be to access the coaching available such as the GetSet for Growth programme earlier in the development of the business but to maintain that enthusiasm for what he was doing. He comments, “As a business owner, you have to relish the rewards and tackle the challenges with resilience – you might not get everything right, but you should always be proud of what you have done!”

For more information about The Design Print Distribution Group, click here

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