Blue Orchid although quite large today is still a young company that remembers the exciting, challenging and at times tough days in getting the business off the ground. Those early experiences are why we’re so passionate about helping people achieve their goals — be it set up their own business, secure a job or gain training and qualifications. We enjoy seeing people learn and achieve things they thought were impossible and that’s why we do what we do.
It started with an idea. A bit confused at first but in speaking to friends and mentors, Blue Orchid began. Working initially from a kitchen table we worked for free for Community organisations so that people could see what we could do and that we were ethical and approachable.
Over time people began to hear of more of our name and ask if we could help. Moving to our own city centre offices at the time seemed a great gamble, the rent was £60 a week. Soon we began to feel like a proper business. We were always busy but reliant upon our overdraft, cash was always a worry, but the fun of being your own boss was liberating.
Over time we took on more people, that was a bit scary at first, we grew, invested and carried on working as hard as we could.
Today we work with many thousands of people a year from all walks of life who are going through the same challenges we once did.
There was always a plan — written down, consulted, amended and most importantly implemented. We told everyone we met about our plans - some people were inspired, wished us the best whilst others were incredulous and a bit dismissive. Sometimes you meet people like that.
Our plan, started with our goal in mind — “Within three years be a locally recognised provider of training and enterprise services”. To achieve this we had a lot to do, but this is what we did:
- Secured ISO 9000 (quality), ISO 14000 (environment) and Investors in People Standard. This proved to people we were in it for the long term, we had procedures and that we wished to develop our staff.
- Developed a range of services people wanted. Often we would say — “Our loyalty is to our client, not to any of our products”. It was a tough motto to adhere to as we all have our pet ideas and products.
- Talked to people. We had zero budget for marketing and besides, we’d much prefer to meet people than send them sales flyers.
- Invested in systems and IT. Wow, how expensive and time demanding was that! We spent masses of time getting the little details right (and we’ve got a long way still to go) and we believe in the old Japanese motto “It is one hundred small changes that makes a 100% improvement in quality”
- Only doing what we were good at and liked, ignoring those things that didn’t inspire us or we knew little about. Turning down work was hard to do, but we didn’t want to grow just for the sake of growing.
- Helped professionalise our industry – we always went to be seen as the best and to innovate and improve the overall offering available to funders.
- Shared our ideas with our funders, as we’re all in this together.
- Gave it straight — the good, bad and ugly. We like to be frank to our stakeholders and tell them what we can do, can’t do and the problems we face.
- Blue Orchid was born.
- We employed six people and had won our first "Big Contract".
- We secured IIP, ISO 9000 and 14000 and became LSC and Business Link accredited providers. We were identified as one of the top 5 fastest growing businesses on Merseyside.
- We hit a million in sales! Hooray. Our staff reached 20 people.
- We grew again and we once again were in the top 5 fastest growing businesses on Merseyside.
- We installed our super-duper IT system that runs every facet of our business. We were on the winning team for the prestigious NWDA Business Start programme. We set up an office in Manchester.
- Our Manchester office now employs as many people as our Liverpool office and we started delivering across Cheshire also.
- We launched our graduate development programmes in conjunction with our management programmes, in addition to our career advice & guidance services. Rachael — our first employee — got engaged.
- We secured ten of the available start-up contracts under the new NWDA ISUS programme. We opened our Gateway call centre — the team collectively speaks eight different languages.
- We opened more offices across the North West region to get closer to our clients. Thankfully our super duper IT system allows us to communicate easily with each office. We took on our 70th staff member — Sandra.
- Our first national contract secured which means we know deliver start-up as far as the Highlands and Cornwall. We are especially proud of this contract as it is working with ex-service personnel leaving the forces who wish to set up in business. We celebrated our tenth birthday.
We secured three of the four North West of England New Enterprise Allowance contracts helping unemployed people set up a successful business, providing advice and access to loans and a weekly allowance.
- We secured more long term contracts across the North West and the rest of the UK, which means we can continue to help many thousands of people who want to set up a business.
We began setting up regional offices in London, Bristol, Southampton, Sheffield, Hampshire and Chesterfield. We will soon have our 100th employee.
- Onwards – We have plans for setting up a new range of new services for new and growing businesses to help with access to premises, grants and loans.