FUSE Bristol organises events for singles in the South West. With a very tight budget, owner Kerry Hale set up the business in 2009. Here she explains how she saved money when starting up
“Why FUSE Bristol? FUSE stands for Fun and Unique Singles Events. I formed the business in 2009. Basically, I organise relaxed networking events for singles, which brings together people in Bristol, without the typical pressure of speed dating.
“There’s nothing wrong with being single. If you are, you should enjoy it. Therefore, I like my events to be fun and take place in a decent venue with live music. If people attend an event that has a relaxed atmosphere and they go with the intention of having a good night and meeting new people, they’ll be more likely to build lasting relationships than if they’re forced to speak to everyone in the room for three minutes.
“Why did I set it up on a shoestring? I had to – I had no budget. I’d already set up another business in 2008 and that had cost me lots of money, mainly because of mistakes I made.
“Despite that, I knew setting up a business didn’t have to cost the earth and so it proved with FUSE Bristol. The less you spend, the less you have to lose if things don’t work out. It also forces you to think very carefully before buying anything, so you’re less likely to buy things you don’t really need, which is a good habit for any business. You will also break even much sooner.
“Start with as little money as you can get away with. Because of the nature of my business, I was able to start up with minimal costs. I didn’t need premises, staff or stock, which made things easier.
“I already had the idea for my business, but it needed a name and website. I fully realised the importance of branding, marketing and publicity, but so little money, it was going to be a challenge.
“After some thought, I came up with the name. Why FUSE Bristol? It sums up what I’m trying to do – bring people together in Bristol. Getting your name right is important; it must pull people in and stick in their mind. Armed with my business name, I could check if the website domain name was available. It was [www.fusebristol.co.uk] and cost me just £5.99 for the year. Bargain.
“Good branding can really benefit your business. It’s a key consideration. However, I didn’t have a lot of money to spend. I had to be honest with the graphic designer. In the end, I was able to get a brand identity done for about £300 less than I could have paid. Sometimes you have to be a bit cheeky when you’re trying to save money.
“Without publicity, the whole thing would fail. OK, I’d hope to get word-of-mouth recommendations, but this would take time.
“Getting my website right was my biggest challenge – it would be key to attracting new customers. I hadn’t the desire, time or skill to build my own, but I knew from my first business that outsourcing can be very expensive. What to do?
“I created a business plan, one that would show my vision for the business, that it could be expanded rapidly. Potentially, my business could easily develop into a nationwide franchise.
“I came up with a proposal. In return for creating a free website, the developers would receive a portion of each franchise sold, as well as host each individual website. Instead of having to pay thousands, I ended up having to pay just £150. I was delighted.
“I’ve also taken a DIY approach to PR, which has saved a lot of money. In the run up, I wrote my own press release about the launch of FUSE Bristol. I sent it to local papers and radio stations and it got me three local radio interviews and a full-page spread in the Evening Post. Perfect coverage, because now a large proportion of my target audience could hear and read about my new venture.
“Paying a PR company would have cost me a few hundred quid. Since then, I’ve been interviewed on the radio four times and appeared in half a dozen publications. Gaining free publicity has meant I haven’t had to spend anything on advertising. My first event sold out and business has been very good ever since.
“Past experience has taught me that starting a business can be expensive, but now I know it doesn’t have to be. If you believe in your idea, you’re creative, resourceful, willing to compromise – are a little bit cheeky here and there – you can set up on shoestring.”