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We catch up with business management alumna Kate Gregory about her company, Little Ankle-Biters, and the value of good marketing when getting started.

29th January 2021
Business and financeBusinessCreative enterprise

Solent business management alumna Kate Gregory started her own business, Little Ankle-biters, in 2017 – offering trusted reviews for families on days out, child friendly restaurants, what’s on in the local area, and more.

Initially operating in Berkshire and Oxfordshire with just Kate and her co-founder Michelle, the company now offers suggestions in six counties, with local editors in Warwickshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Hampshire.

We caught up with Kate to find out how her journey took her from Solent to where she is today.

Why did you pick Solent?

I actually did a HND in business finance first at Solent before my degree. I loved the location and the fact that the university was in the city centre.

Do you feel like your studies helped you prepare for a career in the industry?

Absolutely – it gave me the theory that I could then put into practice. When we started Little Ankle Biters, the first thing we did was write a business strategy incorporating a SWOT analysis which I remember vividly from my days at Solent.

The facilities were good, the lecturers were great and really engaging, and I liked how broad the course was. When I first went to university, I didn’t know what career I wanted to pursue but the course gave me an insight into a wide variety of modules.

I absolutely loved marketing, which is the career path I took – I worked as a Marketing Manager for Build A Bear Workshop and a Brand Manager for Vodafone before we launched the business.

On the marketing module at Solent, we had to create a product and a marketing campaign to launch it – this was the assignment that really caught my interest and demonstrated how powerful and fascinating marketing is. It’s vital to generating sales and ensuring your business is a success.

After setting up Little Ankle-Biters, one of the first things we did was brief a creative agency to develop our brand and creative assets to really bring it to life.

What’s your favourite Solent memory?

Definitely the social life – I made lots of really great friends and it was just an incredible experience. My first year especially was probably one of the best years of my life.

How did you get the idea for Little Ankle Biters?

I met my business partner, Michelle Cairncross, at Vodafone; we worked together there for nine years. But then our department was relocating, and we both took voluntary redundancy as we couldn’t make it work as we both had young children at home.

I always thought that there was a gap in the market when it came to local information for families – you would have to trawl the internet looking for ideas on days out, what’s on etc – so I thought, what if there was something that brought all that together?

I spoke to Michelle and she was interested in running Berkshire; I took on Oxfordshire, and it has grown from there with a local editor in six counties now.

Can you give some detail of how you went about turning your idea into a reality, and into a business? Walk me through the journey.

When we made the decision to go into business together, the first thing we did was write the business strategy, come up with a name and brief a local designer to create a brand book which included our logo, tone of voice and other creative assets.

Once we had all of that we had to teach ourselves how to design a website using Wordpress – and then write content for it! After about three months we were happy with the amount of content, and we launched the website via social media.

It was always our plan to make it into a business, however that first year it felt like a hobby as we were bringing in very little revenue. Fortunately our voluntary redundancy allowed us the funds to be able to work on it full time from the start, and once we started to book advertisers in it started to feel real.

What were your biggest challenges?

At the start it was really hard, and you can understand why so many businesses fail in the first year. Having a business partner kept me motivated to carry on.

Our biggest challenges, though, were the sales side of things. We are both from a marketing background and didn’t feel comfortable selling, but our business simply didn’t work if we couldn’t sell!

2020 has been incredible, too. Despite the challenges around Covid, we’ve managed to double in size from 3 counties to 6. 

Any particular high points?

We launched our Little Ankle Biters’ Awards back in 2018 where we recognise local businesses for doing a fantastic job for families – this has been great as the level of engagement from local businesses and our readers was incredible. 2021 will be our fourth awards.

What’s a typical working day?

My typical working day is extremely varied but it’s a mixture of social media, writing content, contacting local businesses... and this year supporting our local editors.

During the school holidays I spend a lot of time out and about with my children, generating reviews which can then be used as content for the site. It’s great to have a job where I can spend time with my family and work flexibly.

Currently we’re working on the Little Ankle Biters Awards for 2021 and our roll out plans. The plan is to start rolling out across the UK from January next year.

What tips would you give to someone wanting a career in your industry, or looking to start their own business?

Starting a business has been fantastic – but the experience I had from being employed has definitely helped, so I would advise to go into employment first.

If you’re looking to go into marketing, try and work in an industry you love! It can be really hard to market something when you don’t believe in it.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re struggling with something. The chances are, there will be someone who has gone through the same thing.

To find out more about our business courses, visit www.solent.ac.uk/courses/business-marketing-and-finance