A singular vision and a network of freelancers: Avocado Social

Avocado Social's Alison Battisby was pushing social media before it became the norm. Here's how she made social training mainstream.

One-woman band Avocado Social began when founder Alison Battisby realised the untapped potential of social media for lesser known up-and-coming brands.

She speaks with GrowthBusiness on her business journey, moving from being ‘Alison the freelancer’ to a social media training agency in its own right.

Name of entrepreneur: Alison Battisby

Location: London, with clients across the UK (and one in Abu Dhabi)

Date launched: November 2014

What does your business do?

Avocado Social provides practical social media advice and proven strategies to startups, growing businesses and big brands.

We coach businesses on the most important tactics for growing their online communities, without complicated jargon or vague theories. We also hold public workshops and offer bespoke in-house training and one to one coaching.

Our latest project, “The Busy Entrepreneur’s Guide to Social Media“, is an online programme for solo entrepreneurs and small businesses looking to harness the power of social media. The course is a multi-part webinar offering interactive tasks and engaging advice and launches on 12th September.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I was working in digital marketing at a Soho agency in 2009 when Facebook was still relatively new to big brands such as Tesco, Pringles and Nokia, let alone SMEs and entrepreneurs.

It was a task in itself convincing the business to join the social media boom, yet I loved showing clients how they could grow their businesses and online presence with social media.

After returning from travelling through South America, I became freelance, focusing on the relatively niche area of empowering small businesses who wanted to embrace social media, but had no idea how to do it. During my trip I became addicted to avocados and it felt like a fun, memorable name for my business!

Through a lot of hard work, I steadily built up my client base and reputation and began being invited to speak at industry events. In 2013 I started feeling that I wanted to make my business more credible, rather than being known as ‘Alison the freelancer’, and in 2014 Avocado Social was born! It has grown from strength to strength ever since.

How did you know there was a market for it?

When I was at agencies I had lot of people coming to me outside of work asking for tips and advice with Facebook and Twitter and I noticed that there was a real need for social training and consultancy, particularly for SMEs and startups.

How did you raise funding, and why?

The business is 100% self-funded – the great thing is, is that there aren’t any huge expenses – all I need is a laptop and WiFi.

Describe your business model in brief.

I do the majority of consultancy and training and I use a trusted, expert network of freelancers to assist with community management, and content creation.

They are people that I have personally trained up or worked with previously and with who whom I have a great relationship. I’ve considered taking people on full time but I’ve enjoyed the flexibility and freedom of plugging in freelancers when the business needs it

What was your first big milestone and when did you cross it?

In my first year of business I ran my very first Avocado Social public workshop. It was the first workshop run independently and not with a partner or bigger organisation. It was fully booked and included employees from Cancer Research and Cabana restaurants amongst others – it was a huge success! I received fantastic feedback which really boosted my confidence and led me to plan many more training workshops.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Surround yourself with a good network of people –other people’s feedback is going to be so important to the growth of your business.

I’ve kept in touch with many of my old agency colleagues and regularly ask them for their opinion on products and services I’m looking to offer. I’m also in a number of networking groups such as Enterprise Nation and Blooming Founders – it was someone I met through one of these groups that first asked me if I had an online course, the idea then went from there.

Also – don’t give up at the first hurdle there could be a way that you pivot your business or make a small tweak so that its more relevant for your target audience.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

I see the business moving more online and I’d like to develop some more online training programmes which will give me not only more flexibility in life, but also reach a wider audience, abroad or in more remote places in the UK. I’m very aware that my workshops are London-centric at the moment, and interestingly I seem to be getting more and more business from outside the capital.

If you weren’t an entrepreneur, you would be…

I trained as a journalist however in the recession the industry was very badly affected and it became hugely competitive. Luckily, I was able to harness elements of journalism in social media, skills such as writing and editing are translatable and in hindsight, I don’t feel that I would have thrived as a journalist on a national newspaper especially given the current climate.

That said, I dream about being a cheese farmer in the Alps!

What is your philosophy on business or life, in a nutshell?

Keep working hard and everything will come.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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