/ News / Personal PA service trebles client base after funded business startup support

A Lancashire woman who set up a personal assistant business just as lockdown hit is now in the process of recruiting her own team after gaining more than 30 clients with the help of Boost; Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub.

Quality Time PA Services, a virtual assistant service, is the brainchild of former project co-ordinator and office manager Catherine Cocklin. It offers a wide range of online business support services from invoicing and expense management, email and diary management to copy writing, file management, document creation and proofreading.

Catherine first considered the idea of running her own business in early 2019, while still in employment. She Googled ‘business support’, contacted Boost and received guidance with her prestart plans.

Catherine needed help with planning and marketing as well as reassurance that her business idea could actually work.

She sought further support from Boost later that year and was introduced to growth explorer Tony Roberts, at Enterprise4All, a delivery partner for the Flying Start Programme on behalf of Boost.

Tony said “Catherine contacted Boost about the Flying Start Programme once she had set up her business. She was lacking a clear direction and, by her own admission, a little short on confidence.

“I helped Catherine to secure her first client. She then went on to gain several more clients before deciding to commit full time to her business and leave her employment.”

Catherine said: “The Boost workshops gave me many practical tools to help set up my business. It was also great to meet other businesses in a similar position to me. The planning tools which were provided during the programme were particularly helpful resources.

“My one-to-one sessions with Tony helped my confidence immensely. The sessions also gave me ideas to consider about planning my business. In addition, the speakers on the Flying Start programme were very informative, some even helped me many months after I had attended their workshops.”

Boost is Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub and is led by the Lancashire LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and Lancashire County Council and supported by funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

As a funded business support service, Boost helps Lancashire business owners and leaders navigate the local, regional and national public and private sector business support landscape, to find the right support for their business. Boost also delivers a number of funded programmes for start-up, established and fast-growing businesses.

Boost’s fully funded Flying Start Programme is designed to support individuals and SMEs in Lancashire achieve their growth aspirations and be better equipped to deal with challenges in areas such as sales, marketing, finance, business planning and recruitment.

It took nine months for Catherine’s business to begin to recover after several setbacks during lockdown, but she has now grown from earning zero income from the business, to matching her salary from her previous employment, working fewer hours.

After starting in 2019 with one client she now has 33. They include business coaches, tradesmen, recruitment consultants, marketing professionals and personal trainers.

Catherine is now looking to engage a team of virtual assistants to expand her business.

She added: “My plan for the next three to five years is to grow a team of reliable virtual assistants to work with me. I want to be so busy I can help them grow too. This will also increase the number of virtual assistant services I can offer.

“The support from Boost has been invaluable. People looking to set up a business should get in touch with Boost not only to seek professional guidance but to gain confidence. You also have access to a network of like-minded people all starting on the same business journey.

“The support is fully funded which is very helpful for start-ups. I must say, without Boost, and Tony, I may never have got going.”

Boost has received £3.65m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for ERDF. Established by the European Union, ERDF funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.  For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.

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