Digital Garage makes running a business a piece of cake for Cheshire confectioner

23 Mar 2017

Alison O’Grady, 50, is a fully qualified confectioner with her own business. Being dyslexic, she lacked the confidence she needed to use computers and the internet, but after attending local Digital Garage classes, she has completely changed her perspective - and her business.

Starting in her 20s, Alison, from Sale, Cheshire, worked for various companies, baking beautiful cakes for weddings, birthdays and more. Then, about four years ago, she decided to go it alone and set up her own company - Alison’s Bespoke Cakes and Balloons.

“I’m a lot happier when I work on my own,” says Alison. “I like my own company and I like working from home, so it just made sense.

“When I started, my business was just with friends, family and other people who know me. But I really wanted to push it and get a bit further with it.”

Alison’s friend Sue Burgess, Community Librarian at Eccles Library in Salford, suggested she pop along to The Digital Garage classes they run as part of a joint project between Good Things Foundation and Google.

Learners who attend the classes are helped to use The Digital Garage - a free online marketing training service, provided by Google, for business owners, employees or students who want to sharpen their digital marketing skills to grow their business or career. Topics include social media, online basics and websites and mobile marketing - everything Alison needed to develop her skills for her business.

“Sue had people come along and talk about running their businesses,” explains Alison. “That was the start of it. Afterwards, Sue suggested I come along and start The Digital Garage classes - she was very good at promoting it.

“I wasn’t sure at first. I’m dyslexic and I hated anything to do with computers, phones, you name it! But Sue convinced me to go and since then, it’s changed my perspective. I’ve learnt so much.”

Alison finds the resources on The Digital Garage website to be very user-friendly and if she struggles, a tutor is always on-hand to help.

“It’s so easy to understand,” Alison says. “And my tutor Paul Jones is there too. He’s so mild-mannered and doesn’t make you feel stupid. Sometimes when I’m on the computer I get myself all worked up and I’ll think that I don’t know what I’m doing. But the resources are so easy to use and having Paul there just brings it all together and helps me to learn. I know so much more now.”

The main aim for Alison is promotion - she wants to reach a wider audience with her business and that’s exactly what The Digital Garage is helping her to do.

“I love making cakes - it’s my passion and I can turn my hand to any design that my customers ask for,” says Alison. “It’s the other side of running a business that lets me down. Now, I have a Facebook page and I’m working on a website and a logo with a professional designer. I know so much more about what I want from these two things and I understand how they work.

“I’ve also learned that my website has to be mobile optimised, so people can look at it on their phones. The Digital Garage means that I’ve been able to tell the designer exactly what I want - and I’ve even learned a bit about how to edit the website myself when it’s finished. It’s all about building up the business.”

Since starting the classes, Alison’s knowledge and perspective on computers and the internet has come a long way - and she plans to keep on learning.

Alison says: “Anything new is hard but if you go to classes at a local Online Centre, you’ll be made to relax and have fun. I want to thank Eccles Library for putting the classes on and making people aware of The Digital Garage, and Paul and Sue in particular for all their hard work helping people like me to get started.

“I’m not a confident person and I’m not one of these people that is a go-getter, so for me this has benefitted my confidence as well. I now know I can go out and do more advertising - I’m even having advertising designed to take to markets and wedding fairs.

“I’m very happy, proud and confident, and more aware of what I have to do to get my business running. There’s a lot more to it than just waiting for people to come and talk to me. I am now taking positive action by getting out there.

“For those who are just starting up, I’d highly recommend The Digital Garage. It’s brilliant.”