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Nicole Martin


Name: Nicole Martin BA (Hons) FIOS
Year of graduation: 2015
Company:  Core Aquatics Limited
Job Title: Business Owner


I have always wanted to become a business owner. Completing my business and management degree combined with my broader University and leisure industry experiences confirmed this aspiration. I obtained relevant knowledge, skills and confidence to pursue this aspiration.

I set up my own swimming school, Core Aquatics, immediately following degree completion. I spotted a gap in the swimming lesson market through identifying the need for the delivery of small group tuition combined with a strong focus upon delivering outstanding customer service.  This combination has evidenced that there is strong demand for this type and level of service and is proving to be highly successful.  The feedback from the way Core Aquatics deliver their lessons has been highly praised by clients.

To date I have had seven years’ experience in the leisure industry including teaching swimming, fitness classes and being a duty manager at a Leisure Centre. My teaching experience includes having worked for various swimming lesson service providers, which have all shaped and contributed to my knowledge and understanding.   I have always really enjoyed the diversity and challenges associated with the leisure industry.

Employment Experience

I have set up my business from scratch which has been a steep learning curve and has taken about a year to develop the operating infrastructure. No doubt that this infrastructure will continually develop with business growth. Knowledge acquisition since my degree, has been vital to creating a strong business infrastructure.

Before starting my own business, I carried out detailed financial analysis incorporating break even and different operating models to ensure that my business idea was viable and had the potential for a healthy profit. The research has proved accurate and has provided a fantastic framework for goal setting and knowing exactly the numbers required to start to generate a profit set against differing operating permutations.  Financial scenarios helped to shape my operating model and ensured that my business is run efficiently.

When running your own business, every day is different and there is no set pattern of work. I have learnt to juggle all business functions such as human resources, marketing, finance, operations, legal frameworks affecting my business and more. In essence, I have had to become a ‘Jill of all trades’! I have also learnt to use people around me and to outsource where particular expertise is required.  Examples of this include engaging a chartered accountant, purchase of a CRM system, use of a designer and web developer and ad-hoc HR advice. However, I go to other professionals with a clear view of what I need and expectations.  A clear approach has honed my negotiation skills from both a value for money point of view and in ensuring that I get what I need for my business from other experts.

I get great job satisfaction from running my own business, but it is hard work, long hours, and the buck stops with me; but it is both exciting and very rewarding. Responsibility is something that cannot be hidden from, especially where legal matters such as safeguarding and health and safety are concerned.  I had achieved break even within 5 weeks and profit at 6 weeks.  I have developed a quality team of ten (teachers and lifeguards).  My business is growing very fast and customer feedback has been fantastic.  I have sourced and will be trading from a second pool commencing September 2017; one year after opening at my first pool.  I have a clear understanding of the need to grow my business quickly and how to do this which gives me a great platform for further success.

Using University of Lincoln's Career Services

During my time at University I completed the Lincoln Award within my first year which added to my CV and gave me additional skills transferable to employment/business ownership. I had the opportunity to be part of a mentoring scheme in my second year which I found to be extremely valuable. This gave me the opportunity to be ‘exposed’ to real business people!  Students were paired with an external professional based on the student’s future aspirations. My mentor provided invaluable wisdom, advice and support throughout the year. In addition, I also participated in the University Business Challenge and joined the Lincoln Business Society committee.

Best Career Advice

Try to obtain a job, placement, volunteering, graduate scheme in an area in which you are interested and are possibly considering as a career option. This provides you with ‘taster’ experience and something to offer any potential future employer and also something to talk about at interview! Be open to all opportunities – it is better to have given something a go and fail, rather than thinking ‘what if?’.  You can learn as much from failure as success!

Continue to be open to learning and listen to others who have experience and knowledge. Employers will not expect you to be experts overnight but they do want to see your potential, commitment and willingness to the area of work you seeking. They will want to shape you in ‘their’ ways!

Know yourself and be able to relate your own skills and knowledge to the company that you are seeking employment with. If you can’t make this link, then you can’t sell yourself to a potential employer. Try to appear confident even if you have nerves (which are only natural).  Research the company to which you are applying.  Interview the interviewer as much as they are interviewing you through asking questions and demonstrate to the interviewer that you have done your research. Think about your answers, you do not need to jump straight into answering the question. Particularly in group interviews, consider what others are saying rather than always answering first - it is the quality of answer not speed of response.   Be clear on your own goals and what you want to achieve over the next few years as this view is often sought at interview, so be prepared.  Sell yourself positively and just be yourself.  If you aren’t right for the job, then the job isn’t right for you.  Finally, smile, look the interviewer in the eye and if appropriate, offer a firm (but not too firm), handshake.

If you are going to start up your own business, research is everything! Be as confident as you can that there is a demand for your product/service and do the numbers to determine if you have the potential of a viable business.  Work out what you need to do to make a profit and realistically how long this may take.  Think about how you are going to afford to ‘live’ whilst you are developing your business.  Is a blend of employment whilst developing your business a realistic option?  Then if you have the answers to the above – take courage and go for it!

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