We asked Starling business customers, Deborah Ajaja and Marc Belle, to share their advice on how to build a successful business.

Deborah, 35, launched Colour Celebrations in 2018 to improve diversity representation amongst British children. She primarily sells milestone cards, featuring Black and mixed race babies, that can be used to celebrate and mark developmental events.

Marc, 40, runs Mr Blackman’s, which sells beard oil, shampoo bars, aftershave balm and moustache wax, designed for afro or mixed race hair. He founded the business in 2016.

Launching new products

Marc has recently launched two new products - a moisturiser and face scrub - both of which can be used by men with or without beards or moustaches. “The new launches have opened us up to new customers,” he says.

Colour Celebrations has also expanded its range to include height charts featuring illustrations of Black and mixed race children, tee-shirts for toddlers and a number of limited edition products.

Deborah says: “Limited edition items can be produced quickly and in short runs. If the product is genuinely sought after, it will often sell fast, producing lots of word of mouth recommendations and leaving your customer base wanting more.”

Her advice for launching new products is to plan ahead and listen to customers. “I often provide sneak peaks of upcoming products to my social media followers or email subscribers to heighten engagement. I sometimes ask them to choose their favourites, which helps me decide which items to push ahead with.”

Building a community

Both Mr Blackman’s and Colour Celebrations owe much of their success to word of mouth recommendations and their social media communities. “We’re rooted in our community,” says Marc.

Much of his content is either educational or inspirational, not purely promotional. “The whole ethos of the brand is around making people feel that they don’t have to be something else, they can be themselves.”

Instagram is also key for Deborah, who is running a campaign called Colourful Motherhood, for Black History Month. As part of this, she interviews fellow mothers and entrepreneurs and encourages everyone to ‘love the skin you’re in’.

“A strong Instagram post should always add value: you need to have a clear message, new information, insightful knowledge or helpful tip. And it should always have a call to action: follow, share or comment.”

Securing media coverage

Marc and Deborah manage their PR in-house. Colour Celebrations was recently featured by the BBC, who approached her after reading Deborah’s interview for the magazine My London.

“The BBC feature had a profound impact. Sales went up by 100% and we sold out of all our milestone card stock,” she says.

Mr Blackman’s has been featured in Metro, GQ and OK! Magazine. Marc says: “Not everything will turn into press, but keeping people informed about what you are doing can help keep you on their radar. Just don’t bombard them.”

Cutting down admin

Both Deborah and Marc have been Starling business customers since 2018. “There’s something about the way that I can jump around in the app that makes everything so easy,” says Marc. “Being able to ring-fence money with Spaces is great - it helps me save for tax or new products.”

Deborah adds: “I really love that the app notes how much I’ve paid each supplier and what the last invoice number was. And the Marketplace integration with QuickBooks has made bookkeeping super easy.”

At Starling, we want you to spend less time banking and more time growing your business. There are no monthly fees for our UK business accounts, which are packed with features to organise and track your money.

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