In the first of our new series, Small Business Stars, Vicky Matthews talks to us about setting up and growing her personal assistant company, Pink Spaghetti.

Vicky started Pink Spaghetti in 2009 with her friend Caroline Gowing. The Cheshire-based company provides personal and business services to small business owners and was set up when the friends both reached pivotal moments in their careers, explains Vicky.

Vicky talks to us about why they set up the business and reflects on some the challenges they’ve faced and the successes they’ve achieved, along the way.

“We’d talked the idea over for a few years, but the time hadn’t been right. But then we both reached a time in our careers when we wanted to take the plunge. For me, that was when I had the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy, for Caroline, when she came to the end of a large project. As well as looking for a change for our corporate jobs, we both wanted to find something that would fit around our family commitments. So Pink Spaghetti was born.

“We now have three employees, who wanted a role that would fit around their family lives. And we set up our first franchises in 2012 and now have franchises in five regions across the country.”

1. We’ll give it a go as long as it’s moral and legal

“We provide PA services to small businesses. Typical tasks include social media, book-keeping researching new product suppliers, researching holidays, planning parties. In fact, anything business owners don’t have time to do themselves. We’ll give it a go as long as it’s legal and moral.

“Our target audience are micro-businesses, mainly run by women as they tend have the most to juggle. We find that women business owners often run a home, look after a family as well as run a business.

“Our clients come to us following networking or word of mouth recommendations. We find this more effective than advertising.

“We often use social media as a way of networking, but we also attend female-only networking groups and then arrange for follow-up one-on-one meetings.”

2. There’s a lot of trust involved in our working relationships

“We’ve made lots of mistakes. Spending money on expensive advertising when we started out was one of them. We found that advertising didn’t work as people didn’t really understand our offering when we put it in an advert.

“There’s a lot of trust involved in our working relationships so it helps to meet people face-to-face so that we can explain what our services involve.”

3. I wanted to be able to do the school run and go to sports’ day

“We do have an office now that there are four of us and we manage the franchises, but we also work from home. And the franchisees all work from home.

“Flexibility was one of the reasons we started the business in the first place. I wanted to be able to do the school run or go to sports’ day without having to negotiate time off. There’s no commute, either, which saves a lot of time.”

4. We want to grow slowly and steadily

“We’re quite risk averse and have grown steadily and organically without borrowing money. But I suppose the risks we have taken are employing staff and starting the franchises. Luckily these have both paid off.

“We have plans to grow the franchises over the next few years, but at a comfortable level. We hope to open two more in September and have plans to open four or five next year. We want to grow slowly and steadily.”

5. Make an effort to keep your business and home life separate

“When you run a business it can be very hard to separate home and work life. It’s crucial that you give the business your attention and technology enables you to do that, even outside of working hours. But this makes it very hard to switch off, too.

“I would suggest that anyone starting their own business does make an effort to keep business and home life separate. When you’re working, give your business attention, when you’re not, then you should try and give your family attention.”