A group of London's universities are launching a new collaboration – OpenSME – that seeks to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access the expertise and knowledge they offer.
Helping hand of SMILE programme prepares Fulham Clinic for next stage of expansion
11 February 2013
As mentoring requests go, it wasn’t the usual type of request which Ruth Hou, business support manager at UCL Advances, deals with in her role of overseeing mentoring for small business in London – a trichologist, or hair and scalp care specialist, looking to expand her London clinic.
Yet this business, along with the hundreds of others UCL Advances provides support to each year, has benefitted from specialised advice through the division’s programme of matching businesses looking to expand – or which have encountered a specific problem which they are finding it difficult to overcome – with experienced mentors.
Teresa Richardson, who set up the Fulham Hair and Scalp Clinic two years ago following a four year training as a Trichologist, had seen her business grow thanks to word-of-mouth referrals from her main customer base of expatriate Angolans and black British women – ranging from their twenties to fifties – but hit a stumbling block in trying to grow her business beyond this base.
“People will search long and hard for someone who can really help them with hair and scalp problems,” says Teresa. “There is still a stigma around women who are suffering problems such as traction alopecia, where tight weaves and extensions pull natural hair out over several years, leaving areas of baldness and scarring. I wanted to raise the profile of my business so more people who need help can find it easily, and begin treatment which will really enhance their quality of life.”
Following contact with UCL Advances through her daughter, Eleanore, who is a student at UCL, Teresa was paired with a business mentor who immediately provided practical advice on moving her business forward.
The support that UCL Advances offers is being streamlined over the next few months, with those approaching or referred to the division for support being taken through a one-stop shop of business development to better offer tailored support to businesses at different stages of development.
“The support I received was just fantastic,” says Teresa. “I’m now looking at overhauling my website as a way to attract new customers, as well as improving visibility of the clinic on web searches so people can find us more easily. It has really changed the way I am looking at the future.”