Welcome to Stressfree Business!

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Blog featured image Stressfree Business Hub the launch of our Facebook group

Welcome to our first blog post!

We’ve just launched with our first “live” in the new Stressfree Business Hub – our Facebook community – but if you missed it, you can find out more about us below.

Read about who we are, what we do and why we set this company up.

Who are we?

So, we are Liz & Doug, small business owners for over 25 years.

As a little background, Liz is a chartered accountant, she qualified in 1994 and then worked as a consultant and project manager. Doug did a degree in design and teaching. He spent 13 years working in the IT industry in account development, ending up in sales as a specialist business consultant focussing on anti-fraud systems and year 2000 compliance.

Both of us worked globally for big companies and worked with big companies as clients. We therefore fully understand the big company mentality and the comfort that working for a big company brings. This of course changes completely when you work for yourselves. You can feel very much on your own and you are responsible for absolutely everything!

What do we do?

So what do we do? Our main business over the last 25 years is Alternative Occasions Ltd – known within the wedding and events industry as “Stressfree”. Our websites are Stressfreehire.com and Stressfreeevents.co.uk and we transform venues for events. So we are essentially a production company. We supply draping, lighting, prop hire, centrepieces and theming to make events look amazing.

Liz started the company in 1995. It’s evolved a lot over the past 25 years but every year has been different. For example, we set up a separate company organising corporate events. This was as a direct result of our wedding clients, generally CEOs or decision makers in their own companies, asking us to organise or style other events following on from their own weddings.

We have seen a lot of change over the years. 9/11 and 7/7 had a huge impact on us and our corporate business virtually died out as a result of these, with companies either ceasing to exist or removing their hospitality offerings. It was the wedding side that kept us going during the recession that followed.

By default rather than as a strategic move, we later found ourselves moving from planning into production. We spotted an opportunity as we were struggling to find what we wanted for our clients, so we ended up making or buying the items we needed ourselves. This also made sense strategically, as the planning market was becoming more competitive, with prices being driven down and a risk of the market becoming saturated.

Interestingly, the business was always dependent on Liz – she was the key person – but now it is very much Doug that is at the forefront with his engineering and technical skills. So we’ve come almost full circle as a couple and as business partners.

What is our secret?

A lot of couples say they could never work together and ask what our secret is?! There isn’t any secret although we do have very differing skill sets. Liz is organised and methodical and a bit of a geek, she loves a manual! If she hadn’t set up Alternative Occasions, she would probably have ended up specialising in something like tax as she love numbers and order. Doug is artistic, creative and an avid sketcher and designer. We’ve always respected each other’s skill sets and it seems to work well – it only goes horribly wrong if we try to do each others job!

We have had other companies as well, including in retail and flat management, and have learnt so so much over the years through all of our different roles.

And of course, our latest business is Stressfree Business, which is why we and you are here!

Introducing our new venture

Stressfree Business is a new venture, so we can share our business journey with you as you develop your own new business.

It is all about using our knowledge and experience to help other people set up and run their own small businesses. This isn’t about marketing (although this is important), or growth (also very important!), or making a quick buck. It’s about:
o helping you to know where to find the right information
o giving you the knowledge to know the right questions to ask
o knowing what order to do things in so you comply with the law
o understanding what accountants or lawyers are talking about, when they are trying to sell to you, or are giving you advice, and
o removing the jargon

We are quite unique – and this comes back to Liz’s geekiness! – in that we have always tried to do as much as we can ourselves. We’re not advocating not using professionals, or outsourcing, but we see so many people outsource and not really understand what the third party company is doing, or why.

On our own, we have handled:
o accounting (Liz being an accountant)
o legals (although we have used professionals when we’ve needed to)
o health and safety (Liz’s father was a health & safety consultant which helped us in the beginning, and health & safety is key in our roles working at heights and with electrics)
o employing people (employment law, payroll etc)
o legislative changes, such as most recently the workplace pension and making tax digital
o filing (meeting deadlines for companies house and tax for example)
o data protection and privacy laws

We’ve seen other companies grow too quickly and lose control and start to make mistakes. In our industry we can’t afford to make mistakes. Weddings – generally – take place once! It has to be right first time! So we’ve always endeavoured to maintain control and one of the ways we have done this is to run a tight ship.

We have a great deal of knowledge, and intend to help remove the overwhelm that having your own business can generate. Hopefully this post has given a little background as to what we are all about.

Our Facebook community

Our Facebook community launched today and you can join it here. We have a lot of content planned for this group which we really hope will be of interest to you. This is very much a community and we are all in this together, so please do introduce yourselves, let us know what you do and what you want to get out of the group, and ask any questions you may have. And if we don’t know the answer ourselves, the chances are we know someone who does.

We look forward to working with everyone.

Liz & Doug

Liz & Doug are a husband and wife team who have been running successful micro businesses for 25 years. With backgrounds as a “big 4” chartered accountant and as consultants, both have worked for large companies with clients worldwide. They believe that with the right know-how and support, starting a business can be made easy (or certainly easier!)

The contents of this blog are for general information purposes only and are correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of going to press. You may wish to seek professional advice in relation to specific circumstances.

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