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Inspiring story: Melanie of Start-Bee

Posted by JournoLink in Inspiring Stories on 23 February 2018 at 10:00

Tell us about you and about your business

Start-Bee is an e-learning system designed in conjunction with primary schools to radically improve schools’ handwriting standards. Increasing numbers of research studies show school children who can write legibly and fluently are able to access the entire education curriculum more efficiently than those who cannot. Those who can write are also better behaved, more confident and more academically enabled than those who struggle to write fluently and legibly. 

What is the story behind the business? What inspired you to start your business?

Start-Bee was created by myself (and ‘mumpreneur’), Melanie Harwood, to teach my own daughter, Hannah-Jane, how to write. Developed from five years of research, working in conjunction with experts. In developing the Start-Bee handwriting method, I spent the past five years examining and evaluating methods of handwriting instruction that have been used over the past hundred years, as well as working with the very top educators and handwriting experts in the world.

How did JournoLink help you? What did you achieve?

JournoLink opened up the way that I see our business communicating our message to a wider audience. It was quite by chance that I attended a WENTA event in Enfield in 2017 and l listened to a short talk about PR delivered by one of the founders of JournoLink, Tetteh Kofi, which got me to thinking I would like to try out the service. I signed Start-Bee up to a free 30 day trial and wrote my own press release about Start-Bee’s secret weapon.

Within hours I could see that it had been opened by,, the Express and other news outlets.  The very next day I received an email from the Southend and Basildon Echo, asking for more information and a few more photos.

I also received a journalist request interesting for me and responded to it.  The lady phoned me, we had a brief chat, she called me back and asked if I would like to be interviewed on BBC5Live the next morning.  I was up at 3am as the start was 5am in Cambridge.  I loved every minute of it!  The very large SUPER POWER corporation that had set up the entire interview, they were launching a new Artificial Intelligence Tech product, had their own full time PR team who told me they had worked on this one radio interview for two weeks.  Me? I had simply answered a JournoLink request and I was in there with the big guns.  I had two opportunities to talk about my own tech start up and I am in the process of creating a press release all about the interesting morning with the BBC5Live Production Team.  JounoLink made that possible for me and I cannot recommend your services enough!

I feel that JournoLink showed me that absolutely anybody can write a press release if they know their own subject well enough and they can use this very organised but inexpensive outlet to deliver it to hundreds, if not thousands of journalists who may just decide to take it that next step and print it in their newspapers, magazines or online media portals. It’s great!  I feel empowered by being able to do these things myself too.  

Do you think PR is important for a business?

PR is extremely important but there must be a balance to ensure that a business drives Sales that can justify the spend on PR and vice versa.  In a start-up, which is essentially what Start-Bee still is at the moment, there is so much to build and develop that PR can be considered a luxury but it is imperative to get one’s message out to a wider audience.  PR may not always affect our Sales margins positively but I have seen firsthand how our PR has helped us attract a large corporate sponsor to our business, which helped us considerably when we were first setting out.

PR helps a business to open doors and make connections with distributors, potential licensees, potential partners and to drive sales to your brand because it gives you that all-important back story to support all that you have achieved thus far.  

What advice would you give to other businesses/startups like yours?

Get yourself trained up to do your entry-level PR yourself.  Learn how to write your own Press Releases and subscribe to resources like JournoLink to help you get your message out to a wider public.  You know your business and your product best, it is so much easier for you to explain what you do, to your key audience, than it is to pay a freelance PR to write out your plan.  

Do as much as you can in-house as this will save you money, which is always an issue when you are first starting out, and it will also save you time later when journalists start asking you for more information (you need it all in one place and ready for any potential press requests).  

Partnering with a bigger and more well-known brand can have its pros and cons, so be very sure what you want to gain from working with another brand because you could find yourself and your team put in a lot of work which could potentially only benefit the more well-known brand.  

Be clear about your message and your company’s mission statement.  Do not be afraid! Everything is a learning curve and sometimes we have to learn from the good as well as the not so good experiences but these will actually give you more material for future PR initiatives. 

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