This case study is the personal business account of Sandy Banfield, who owns auka business services ltd, a virtual business and support company based in London. Sandy discusses her personal history, professional background and business-building journey to help other entrepreneurs work out their own path.

My business was born from 12 years’ experience working in the music industry and charity sector working in administration and in PA roles and later progressing to business operations and managerial roles. I was Head of Department in my last job, running the business operations and the human resources departments for a music therapy charity. I was working long days with a three-hour commute to match and it got to the point where the stress was really beginning to take its toll and affect my health, I realised something had to change!

I had completed a property investment training that year and met a lot of inspirational likeminded people and met a man called Mark Dalton, a successful entrepreneur and property investor. He was running a workshop on how to start a business using your existing skills and told me I should come along. I had no funds – just an idea for a business which had been buzzing round my head for months. My idea was to create a one-stop shop whereby clients could have all their administrative and business support services catered for all in one place.

Sandy's top tips for starting up without funds
  • Use your existing skills and experience. Don’t spend time and money re-training as something else.
  • Use guerrilla marketing tactics to spread the word. Use social media and blogs, etc. Get out there and get yourself heard.
  • Offer free products/services to people you already know to trial your business, gain testimonials and spread the word.
  • Network. Find some local groups on sites like and mix with your business community.
  • Consider keeping a part-time job or a few months’ worth of salary as a buffer to cover you. This can help to keep the pressure off financially and stop you going crazy while you’re getting things going.

I came away from Mark’s workshop in March 2010 with a list of five key strategies all based on using guerrilla marketing in order to not spend money and to focus on finding work and clients.

I started working on my business following that workshop in the evenings and at weekends, working it around my full-time job. I left my full-time job two months later to concentrate more time on my business. Luckily, I was offered some part-time work from my old employer which worked brilliantly as it gave me some security and income in the early stages but I didn’t actually start paying myself a salary from my business until six months in. This left me in good position for the next financial year where I knew my expenses more clearly and I could plan for contingency costs and invest more in developing the business.

Starting a business with limited funds means you have to think outside the box. I’m a big fan of cloud computing systems which helped a lot – these systems are available for free or at very low cost. I love cloud computing systems as they are cheap to use, flexible and versatile.

I was determined to not get into debt and to invest in the business as and when it was needed. By
Starting a business with limited funds means you have to think outside the box.
planning and having a strategy in place I was able to assess funds and prioritise when the time was right to invest in things or to hold back on spending.

I approached contacts that had their own businesses and offered them some free services in return for a testimonial; I did this with a few contacts, then set up my temporary Twitter and Facebook pages and I asked them to post their testimonials on these social media sites. This created initial interest and from there I began to get paying clients. With my initial non-paying clients I made sure that what I was exchanging was for a limited time only in order to not cause confusion, and funnily enough, some of those have since become paying clients. I began to work with some clients in order to cross refer work and gain referrals from them which I also found worked well. Working in collaboration with people really does work. People buy from people, and a trusted referral is the best introduction someone can give you.

Once I had a few clients on board and a temporary Facebook and Twitter page set up, I approached a very talented friend of mine who is an Art Director for a marketing agency in London who agreed to work on my business branding, name etc. I think they felt it would be interesting as they were used to working with such large established companies that working with a start-up from scratch would be different and fun. I also called on my other talented marketing friends in London who are established in their careers and in exchange for a few drinks we headed to a local pub and ran through a marketing brainstorming session. That marketing meeting was so valuable to my marketing development and following that process auka business services ltd was born.

One of the key things that helped me to drive my business forward was having a business coach. It makes you accountable and you have someone to bounce ideas off and talk to about your concerns and issues. They keep you on track and without one you can lose sight of what you are doing. My coach has been invaluable to my business and I would not be here without him.

Running a business can be isolating at times, and making decisions on your own is tough. Networking has been really important to me as it allows me to surround myself with other likeminded people who are in the same situation, dealing with the same issues and it makes me realise that I am not alone and that what I am experiencing is what every entrepreneur experiences. It’s also a great place to build relationships and get new clients.

I eventually gave up my part-time role in January 2011 to work on my business full-time and I haven’t looked back since. My business is established and I have had a successful first year.
I have made some lovely new business relationships with positive likeminded people and I’ve had the pleasure to work with some wonderful clients and I’ve learnt a lot along the way. I really enjoy what I do and I’m having fun too. When I reflect on how I was in my previous job, leaving and setting up my own business, I am a completely different person now; it was definitely the best thing I ever did!