You’ve finished university and are at a crossroads in your life. For many, the tendency is to apply for as many jobs as possible in order to start making inroads into that thumping great debt you’ve racked up. Cue the shotgun CV, fired out to as many companies and agencies as possible.
Not so Kelly Gilmour-Grassam. The Yorkshire-bred entrepreneur, now 25, had other ideas when she graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2014. Kelly wanted to take her time before deciding on a career path. Having made a modest income during her university days doing freelance writing work, she elected instead to travel South America, making ends meet by wordsmithing along the way.
Kelly found her client base growing, and on returning to the UK, things gathered pace. She explains: “I’d got a few freelance gigs at university, and had started to think, ‘I wonder where I could take this?’
“At the time I’d thought I would get a graduate job, but I was soon wondering whether self-employment might be a better route for me. Eventually I thought, ‘why not give it a try?’”
And so she did, setting up her business, Making You Content, and moving to Manchester for networking opportunities, using her initial freelance work as a foundation.
This was around the time Kelly joined the FSB.
“I’d met the local membership advisor on several occasions at various networking events, and thought it might be a good idea to join,” she says. “I really knew nothing about starting a business, so I felt it was important to have some backup. When I look back now, it was the best decision I could have made.”
As the months went by, more work came in, and Kelly’s thoughts turned to bringing in someone else to ease the workload – making the ‘leap’ from self-employed to employer.
This is seen as the biggest barrier by many self-employed people, bringing new responsibilities, with pensions, contracts and payroll systems to consider.
Again, Kelly was pleased with the support she had from FSB. “The legal hub was brilliant, particularly when I took on my first member of staff,” she says. “It gave me a clear knowledge of my responsibilities as an employer, and they were very helpful – it was a godsend. There was lots of information, and these days you can’t afford to take any chances when it comes to employment law.”
Four years on, Kelly has moved to larger offices, employs five people and is planning to add a sixth later this year. She has just returned from a business trip to New York, where she has won her first overseas client, and is now thinking about future plans.
Kelly has also engaged locally as an FSB volunteer, which led to her involvement with FSB’s Women In Enterprise Taskforce – a policy group that meets in London to look at issues affecting female entrepreneurs. Volunteering has seen her appear on BBC Breakfast and visit Downing Street and the Treasury, as well as hosting FSB events in Manchester.
What’s her standout memory of volunteering for FSB? “Probably meeting Maria Contreras-Sweet, the Administrator of the US Small Business Administration,” she says.
“We heard about the US model for business support for small firms. They’ve got a really great system there.
“Being an FSB volunteer is great for your profile,” she adds. “Go to local meetings, keep speaking with the FSB team locally, and don’t be afraid to have a go. FSB does so much advocacy work for small businesses; most people don’t realise just how much. It’s made me feel I’ve been able to make a difference.”