Cake making has been my absolute passion since I was a child, so after creating my own wedding cake I knew it was time to take the plunge and start my own business. Setting up ‘Tiers of Happiness’ was an incredibly daunting task – I was cast into a world of ‘unknown’s’ – accounting, marketing, price calculations, supplier sourcing, time management, and more. I learnt very quickly though that becoming a successful business takes more than just talent and having a good offering, you need the right technology to help you at every stage.
Getting the right tools for the job
Back then, I used an email package which came with my PC and a personal email address. I saved my documents and files on the hard drives of 2 different laptops, all my portfolio picture were on USB keys and it was impossible to move files across my PC and SmartPhone. I wanted to create a good brand and I knew that as a small business I had to become very efficient with my time! I needed hardware and software that would help me run every aspect of the business, synchronising files across all my devices, but without hefty upfront costs.
With easy-to-use, trustworthy products and low set-up costs, Microsoft was without doubt the best value for money for a small business like mine starting up. I chose the Office 365 Business Premium package which gives me Microsoft Office applications, business email, cloud document storage and online conferencing, accompanied by a Windows SmartPhone and a Windows 10 touch screen, lightweight laptop.
An office without boundaries
I literally now have no restrictions to where or how I work – everything I need is at my fingertips through my Windows phone, laptop, or in fact any internet point. Outlook email and calendar functions run my life! I can send emails from my Windows Phone wherever I happen to be. My calendars are all colour coded to help me separate different aspects of my life and I can even add locations to meeting entries so when I am delivering cakes Outlook connects to the maps on my phone and tells me where to go! I can be confident that I’m never missing enquiries or leaving customers waiting.
My fears about losing documents or photos are history. OneDrive for Business gives me a huge amount of cloud storage space for all my files which again I can easily access from any of my devices, wherever I am.
The integration between my Windows 10 laptop and my Windows Smartphone is simple and so effective. Everything I do on my phone automatically replicates back into the corresponding apps in my desktop environment – it saves me so much time!
Building a brand
Every small business knows that creating a strong brand is a big part of business success. All emails now have a professional email address and signature. I can keep up to date with social media at all times, taking pictures on my Windows Phone to upload and reply immediately to follower comments. I can share OneDrive for Business document folders with partners who are helping me promote the business. In fact, I am just about to launch a new website and the entire project has been managed from within OneDrive for Business where I have shared photos, copy documents, logos and testimonials with the web developer.
Great customer communication
I have absolute confidence now that I can respond instantly to customers wherever I am and keep their projects moving forward at pace. I often order materials and ingredients online with my Windows Phone as soon as I leave a customer meeting and if I don’t, a handy reminder in Cortana ensures I place the order before the end of the day! OneNote has completely replaced my old pad and pencil; I capture notes when I meet with customers and have dedicated notebooks for customer meetings, supplier lists and recipe ideas – all securely stored in the cloud so I can access them at any time.
Skype for Business has opened up new ways to connect. Increasingly customers are restricted by when they can meet face to face to discuss plans, but a quick online meeting ensures we can still connect and video is a lovely way to keep that face to face experience, albeit virtually. I was recently commissioned by a customer in the USA who was getting married in the UK. Without Skype for Business we would have had no way to meet and discuss her wedding cake dreams before the big day.
Information securely taken care of
As a small business owner, I am not deeply technical and I don’t have the time to worry about keeping my data secure. Microsoft technologies take care of it at every level. With all my documents in the cloud, I am automatically backed-up and should my laptop break or get lost, I can access that information from any other machine. In Windows 10, I have integrated anti-virus and malware protection with Windows Defender and in the inbuilt firewall. Everything I need is there working away behind the scenes so I don’t have to worry about it, and I don’t have to pay for additional software applications.
Flourishing and growing
My business has grown faster over the last year than I could have ever dreamed! A scalable and cost-effective set of business applications in Office 365 coupled with my Windows Phone and my Windows 10 laptop gives me everything I need to keep growing. Looking back to when I first started Tiers of Happiness, I probably didn’t realise how much of a difference the RIGHT technology could make. It keeps me in control, makes me look professional, lets me get on with my business and focus on what I love - creating beautiful cakes that make my customers dream come true.
Here’s my top 5 applications no small business should live without!
Cortana - Windows 10 and Windows Phone
Cortana is both intuitive and addictive! I use it to quickly find information and set reminders for when I get back to the office. It saves me time and means I don’t always need to pre-plan.
Live Tiles and Social Media integration
All the things that are important are right there in my live tiles including my social media engines. I am more in control because I can see instantly when new notifications come in so I’m confident I’m not missing enquires.
Skype for Business
Skype for Business gives me a cost-effective way to keep close face-to-face contact with my customers and a way to engage customers overseas. It will be a vital service as I scale out my business and enable me to branch out in new markets with additional services.
OneNote runs my life as much as Outlook. I keep all my ‘to do’ lists there and have separate notebooks for different aspects of the business including client notes, supplier lists, recipe ideas, and so on.
Outlook just gives me real peace of mind that all my emails and my calendar are in one place. It helps me keep on top of my work and plan ahead.