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The power of collaboration in business



A man wearing a blue checked shirt and a woman with glasses wearing a green checked shirt sitting down

Three Starling business customers talk about how working collaboratively helps everyone involved.

Learn from fellow entrepreneurs

“Before I started running my business full-time, I created a WhatsApp group of five other friends running online businesses,” says Masibu Manima, founder of marketing agency Translate Culture. “I wanted to learn what their pain points were.”

Two years on, the group has grown to 80 business owners, some of which run multi-million pound companies. “Collaboration is the new competitive advantage, especially for people exploring entrepreneurship for the first time,” he says.

“My wife Natalie (pictured above with Masibu) is a good example of this. She’s a therapist and had a hobby of sewing. She sold what she made online and last year went full time with her sewing business, Bespoke Binny. While she found entrepreneur workshops intimidating, WhatsApp groups with other women entrepreneurs made her much more comfortable - they create a space where people can be more vulnerable and transparent on the challenges they’re facing.”

Masibu aims to combat entrepreneurs’ tendency to guard their ideas. “I encourage everyone in the group to share their ideas as much as they feel comfortable so that they can get feedback,” says Masibu, 34.

Stick to your niche and share the load

Masibu has rejected the notion that he should strive to get ahead of other agencies. “I collaborated with some of my competitors to build this community,” he says. “For most markets, there’s enough space for multiple people to win and deliver value to customers.”

Grow your audiences together

When the first UK lockdown began, many entrepreneurs were faced with tough decisions on how to adapt their business. “The uncertainty meant people weren’t shopping,” says Rachael Twumasi-Corson, co-founder of hair product brand Afrocenchix.

“We had a choice. Either we could increase our marketing spend. Or we could step back and look after our community.” Rachael, 30, and co-founder Joycelyn Mate went for option B, shifting their focus from sales to supporting the Black community. “We gave Black-owned businesses shout-outs on social media and set up strategy calls. We helped them reach more customers. But in turn, we found that people bought more hair products. It was a great lesson: look after your people and your people will look after you.”

Joycelyn Mate and Rachael Twumasi-Corson, co-founders of hair product company Afrocenchix
Joycelyn Mate and Rachael Twumasi-Corson, co-founders of hair product company Afrocenchix

Even though Afrocenchix shut down its digital adverts in March, their Instagram following grew from 18k to 24k during April and May, partly because of the reciprocal shout-outs between Black-owned brands.

Benefit from a sense of community

Entrepreneurship can be lonely. But that’s where building a community of customers, clients, and even competitors, can help. It can provide a sense of solidarity and inspire you to make bold decisions.

Nicki Capewell, founder of the creative market directory Pedddle, was inspired by her community of traders and small business owners to move from part-time to full-time entrepreneurship. “Seeing so many people being brave and stepping out of their comfort zones helped me to do the same,” she says.

Nicki Capewell, founder of creative market directory Pedddle
Nicki Capewell, founder of creative market directory Pedddle

“Pedddle offers stallholders a membership community, and market organisers a platform to share their events. It’s a place for customers and market lovers to discover local markets.” Nicki, 41, ran Pedddle alongside her job as a secondary teacher initially and began full time in January 2019.

Today, Pedddle showcases 500 stallholders and 1000+ markets, all over the UK. Last year, she hosted a number of virtual markets to boost exposure and sales for her members. “But it’s more than just sales, it’s about growing their audience, online presence and feeling less alone. Members give each other business tips and advice. It’s a strong community of forward thinking, creative entrepreneurs.”

All three business owners use Starling to manage their business finances. Masibu found out about us through his WhatsApp group, Nicki discovered us through a family member, and Rachael and Joycelyn through attending an event where Starling’s founder Anne Boden was speaking. Joycelyn says: “Her sheer determination really inspired me - I wanted to be part of what she had created.”