Michelle is the founder of her wearable tech brand, Made with Glove, developing heated gloves for women. Discover how she has built her business around her expertise in wearable tech, being a woman in small business, giving talks, lectures and educational programs for university students. She shares her tips on how you can diversify your business.
I became an entrepreneur after a six-hour walking tour in -21 degrees in Prague in 2013.
My hands became unbearably numb and painful, and I could only find relief from the cold by putting disposable hand warmers inside my gloves. When I returned to the UK, the only heated gloves I could find were big, black and bulky for motorcyclists or skiers, which was what convinced me of there being a gap in the market for fashionable versions that women like me would want to wear. This is how Made With Glove – fashionable ‘wearable-tech’ heated gloves for women – came about.
From there it was something of a whirlwind.
"I have made several moves to diversify my income-generating portfolio that are linked to, but still independent of, my primary business"
I resigned from my job as a property solicitor and entered and won a wearable tech hackathon in 2014, winning a grant from Lancaster University to start Made With Glove. Hackathons are a great way to quickly prototype and test ideas with a diverse group of people with different skills and I would highly recommend them to any tech entrepreneurs looking to kickstart their knowledge on the product development process.
And it’s through the course of my own journey that I’ve come to realise there are six important factors that can help us as entrepreneurs and small business owners, particularly when it comes to how you can diversify, and strengthen, your business:
1. You are an expert in your field
Know your business and or industry better than anyone else. Find creative ways to monetise your knowledge.
Get back time
We're building an app to help you save time and reduce your admin burden. Join the Asto beta to get early access to the app.
2. Digitise your products and services
Videos, podcasts and white papers are all digital products. Create a sales funnel, learn or use a digital marketing strategist to help you generate revenue online.
3. Try to negotiate when they ask you to do things for free
Some employed people and companies do not realise or appreciate the challenging financial journey an entrepreneur embarks on. Try to negotiate when they ask you to do things for free. Compensation for travel is the minimum plus your time spent on their project. Being a freelancer doesn’t mean you work for free. It means you are free to choose what work you will and won’t do.
4. It's ok to go back into paid employment for a fixed term contract
It will allow you to generate steady income and reduce financial stress. You will also gain a different perspective, fresh new ideas, contacts and networks to allow you to apply it to your business when you return.
5. Build your networks from the start
Build your networks early on in your journey and continue to maintain those relationships. Reach out to them and ask for advice, guidance or ask them to send business your way. Having a formal mentor or business coach can also prove to be invaluable.
6. Always be mindful of your health, both physical and mental
Remember to take holidays, short breaks and spend time with friends, family and in my case, my partner and our puppy, Miss Ellie.
The fact is this is what has helped me drive Made With Glove from strength to strength.
As a business, Made With Glove is currently on the exciting journey of product development and creating our third prototype. But as I continue working on Made With Glove, I have made several moves to diversify my income-generating portfolio that are linked to, but still independent of, my primary Made With Glove business. I have found this is key to not only surviving as an entrepreneur financially, but brings the added bonuses of constantly learning, meeting new people and finding new opportunities whilst working on a variety of interesting projects.
There are three core ways I have found to diversify my business: speaking opportunities, workshops and consultancy. I have always had a passion for teaching and inspiring others, so when a chance opportunity arose to be a speaker on a woman in technology panel, I took it. Whilst this wasn’t a strategic decision initially, I realised very quickly that I enjoyed public speaking because it gave me a platform to share my knowledge, inspire the next generation, promote my company and the wearable technology industry. I also realised I could generate income from it too.
I did my first speaking event in 2015 and now count dozens of presentations under my belt. I now speak regularly at conferences and universities to talk about various topics such as Wearable Technology, Fashion and Wearable Technology, Entrepreneurs and Start-ups, Inspiring Women in Technology and Women in Business.
In addition to speaker opportunities, I also deliver workshops for local communities and am contracted to deliver workshops for business schools, incubators and many more, however consultancy has also proved to be hugely financially and professionally rewarding. I now consult for companies on startups, co working spaces, accelerators and incubators, funding competitions, digital skills, judging competitions, pitching, presenting and have recently started consulting for highly skilled tech entrepreneurs wishing to come to the UK and start their business here.
Over my time as an entrepreneur, I have gained invaluable and practical experience, and I am rewarded with flexibility, travel (which I love) and independence.
That is not to say it is without its challenges – from being pulled in many different directions, to the time it takes to apply for funding and also not having a manager or a supervisor – to check into or tell me that I’m doing a good (or bad!) job.
However, for those who are starting out or looking to grow, perhaps my experience is one that can also help you.
Are you looking for ways to diversify and grow your business?
Discover the experiences of our featured business owners talk through their common challenges and how they overcome them.