Friday interview: The woman who created a club for solo business owners to belong and to thrive
We spoke to founder of the Mint Business Club, Nicola Jayne Little, to find out how she built a strong, vibrant community of North East businesses.
In partnership with Mint Business Club
What’s the story behind Mint Business Club?
I’ve always referred to myself as ‘the girl who doesn’t fit in’ because I’ve always struggled to work for other people. I was brought up in a culture of customer service. My parents had shops and I grew up learning how to serve people, how to help them.
When I was older, both of my parents moved into an education setting but they were still helping people for a living – that impacted on me, hugely.
I’ve worked in recruitment, sales, as a primary school teacher and have run my own businesses too, so my career has taught me all sorts (good and bad), which I now use to keep Mint relevant and helpful to our members.
My aim with Mint was to create a community of local businesses – from self-employed freelancers up to micro-business owners – that supports its members by providing training, education and an arena for entrepreneurs to bounce ideas off each other. A supportive, encouraging environment for people to feel comfortable enough to learn in. I believe in education until we die, but in my experience, people have to feel secure to be able to take new information on board and thrive.
How do you support your members?
Being self-employed can be a lonely, isolating business. My vision for Mint was to create a community that supported and challenged small business owners to grow and expand their own businesses. Initially, we provided digital training, but my members started to ask for other forms of business support such as financial training and business planning.
I wanted to help my members avoid the pitfalls I’d experienced over the years, both in employment and while running my own businesses. Running a business requires so much dedication and I’m a huge believer in the power of learning. We always have something to learn and every element of running a business needs to be addressed in order to survive and thrive.
Mint is the result of many years of experience, training, getting things wrong and learning from the mistakes I’ve made.
We currently have 150 members who come together on a regular basis to learn, share experiences and network. We all support each other, and Mint facilitates regular training sessions, support and advice on all aspects of running a business. The members create the community – we’re all like-minded individuals who buy off each other, shout each other out and come together to share experience and knowledge.
Due to the global Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve had to radically change the nature of our business from a face-to-face support network to being entirely online. The members have pulled together to train each other online and the training programme has exploded with new topics, more regular sessions and an incredible schedule of training moving through the next few weeks and months.
It’s a culture like no other business group in the North East and I’m incredibly proud of it.
How much does it cost to join?
For solo business owners, we offer membership from £25 per month and for micro-businesses, it’s from £40 per month.
We’ve been looking at an online membership option for a while, but the current situation has brought that forward. An Online Learning membership is also now available at £25 per month.
How has the Coronavirus crisis changed Mint Business Club?
From delivering all training and networking sessions face to face, we’ve had to pull everything online to continue our support. I’ve been doing a daily dose of positivity every day to keep the members’ spirits up – but to tell the truth, it’s helped me just as much as them, to keep in touch on a regular basis.
The training programme we’ve established, at very short notice, has been amazing. More than 20 members of the club stepped forward to provide online training sessions when we had to scrap the usual schedule and we’re posting recordings of the sessions on the membership website so everyone can benefit.
How many training sessions can members access as part of their membership?
Before the crisis, there was one official training session per month in each area (Durham and Consett, North Tyneside, and Morpeth) with additional opportunities for one-to-ones with our team of incredible mentors. But since the crisis, we’ve run more than 30 online training sessions with loads more lined up.
How can Mint help my business?
If you’re a small business owner who struggles with isolation, needs a team to ‘bounce ideas off’ or is looking for training on all aspects of running a small business then Mint can help you. Check out our website for testimonials from members and just some of the benefits of membership.
Sounds great, how do I get started?
If you’re thinking of joining, these are the four easy steps to being MINT …
Step 1 – Apply to join and pay the fee.
Step 2 – Get welcomed into our Members-only Facebook Group.
Step 3 – Join your new colleagues at some MINT training and we’ll arrange to show you around the website and undertake a marketing audit to give us a benchmark of how we can support you.
Step 4 – Become an active #MINTmember – attend your regular training and Time For You drop-in events, join the discussions in the group, read the blog posts, watch the training videos and contribute content to the website or lead a training session yourself.
We can’t wait to welcome you into Mint!
Testimonials from members
Excellent training for all levels. I’ve had a business 10 years and this membership still teaches me more and more every day. Great team. Teresa Peters
There is such a great community, everyone has each other’s back and you know when you pop into the group or go along to a meeting it’s not only going to be packed full of great stuff that gets you thinking but you’re going to leave feeling better than you did when you arrived. A fantastic place for solo business owners to belong and thrive in, if you’re reading this you should definitely join! Amy Purdie
Been with this amazing group from the start, can’t recommend enough. It makes a massive difference to be part of a strong likeminded group! Join, you won’t regret it. Ian Mc