Behind the scenes of the biggest expo in North East London

Karen FlintLisa Charles catches up with Karen Flint, founder of the North East London Business Expo ahead of this year’s event to find out some background on the entrepreneur who has set up the biggest expo in North East London.

People define success in many ways – what is your definition of success?

Success for me is the satisfaction of doing what I do best, working with others and helping to motivate them as they motivate me and having fun along the way.

The Expo is not your only business, you have your fingers in a few pies, tell me about your business portfolio.

My first business was in partnership with my ex husband. We opened up an ironing service, that was over 24 years ago and although we are now separated, our son now runs this and has done for the last 8 or 9 years.

Shortly after starting the ironing service I set up a domestic & commercial cleaning company.  This is now 18 years old and I employ approximately 10 staff.

In the last 6 years I have been running a networking group called New Direction Partnership, this was set up to network with other lone business owners and to help them showcase their product and services.

Nearly 4 years ago I founded the North East London Business Expo, which has been a great success and is the largest business expo in this area.  We attract up to 100 exhibitors and had over 700 visitors last year.

Dawn Gomes & Karen FlintTell me a bit about your team; how does it work (who does what?)

I have different teams, we have pressers and cleaners.  In the networking I have Dawn Gomes, who is a VA, but now co-directs on the Expo with me.

Describe your field to me (who are your clients / customers?)

Well for the cleaning and ironing service it is mostly people who don’t have time on their hands for their domestic chores. With the networking, the people that come to me are people looking to meet like minded people and to network, gain inspiration, ideas, knowledge, help and to be listened to!!

When you started out; did you see all of this?

No I never saw any of where I am today….. I never dreamed that far ahead, sometimes I wish I had as the cleaning and ironing businesses, although still going, could have been a lot more successful.

You have successfully launched and maintained multiple businesses. What do you think you did differently to those who have great business ideas but don’t ever get them off the ground?

I’m not sure exactly, I know I work hard and try to always help others.  I am very honest in business and try to be as open as possible for people to see what they are getting, I really think that helps.  If you are too closed, people don’t respond to you! Persevere and you will go a long way. Learn from your mistakes.

How do you juggle being a mum and being in business?

In the early days it was hard, my ex-husband looked after the children a lot in the evenings when I was always out on appointments, it got easier as they got older obviously.  But when I listen to my daughter sometimes now, she remembers that I wasn’t there…… it hurts but it was a sacrifice that I and so many others have to make when trying to grow a business.

I’m sure there were obstacles along the way; tell me about the biggest ones and how you overcame them.

Finance was an obstacle, but you have to cut back and budget and work it out.  My own fear of thinking I was not doing things right, but you learn from your mistakes and they actually make you stronger.

What would you say to someone who says that you are really lucky to have had this success so far?

I would say well Thank You but it didn’t come without hard work and determination.

Most of our readers want to make a transition from being employees to entrepreneurs; what prevents so many from doing so?

Money is one and the fear that it may fail.

What qualities do you think you need to make it as an entrepreneur?

Honesty, integrity, creative thinker, open to ideas.

Who are your heroes?

Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey!

What have been your greatest achievements to date in the business?

Having the Business Expo go into its 4th year

What insights have you gained?

Work hard, pat yourself on the back as no one else will, stay focused but enjoy it.

Tell me about your major event coming up?

The Expo is now going into its 4th year; we have some great speakers and many new exhibitors.  It’s a full day for anyone looking to grow their business. We have seminars throughout the day, plenty of networking, from breakfast networking, speed networking to our evening reception.  It’s a day full of potential for anyone in business!!

How will delegates benefit from attending?

They can meet potential new buyers, suppliers, grow their contact list, and gain new ideas and inspiration.

What are your plans for growth in 2014 – what’s next on your list?

Well to be honest after the expo I will be taking a break from events as the first half of the year is taken up with two major events for me, as I’m also involved in hosting International Women’s Day which takes place in March every year, so with two very big events the latter part of the year I concentrate on the cleaning business more.

If you had a time machine; would you go back in time and do anything differently?

No, I wouldn’t go back in time; I have enjoyed my journey it’s made me who I am today.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?

Make sure you plan well, research, get a mentor, be different, think outside the box and just go for it with the passion that drives you!!

What do you want your legacy to be?

To know that I have inspired and helped people along the way and done it with the passion that drives me every day!

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The North East London Expo is returning for its fourth year next month (May 2014) with even more exhibitors, inspiring speakers and opportunities to showcase your business. Come and network with other small businesses, meet some great suppliers, increase your contacts, build new alliances and get your business heard.

The North East London Business Expo takes place on Tuesday 20th May 2014 from 10am – 5pm.

Pre-book your ticket to register for free entry to avoid the £10 entrance charge on the day.

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