Each week we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Anne Esson, managing director of Aberdeen firm Protect-Net UK.
How and why did you start in business?
After a few years off from full-time employment to bring up my two sons, I returned to work as a receptionist at Balgownie Technology Centre, Campus 3, Bridge of Don.
A couple of years later an opportunity arose to join one of the tenant companies, NSW Technology, within the centre, starting off as sales co-ordinator and working my way up to the position of office manager.
Fast forward 22 years and redundancy came calling after my employer was acquired by an Italian company. The new owner did not wish to continue with one of NSW’s product ranges as it did not fit its portfolio.
This left NSW with the dilemma of having no outlet in the UK for its Poly-Net protective and packaging range of products so, knowing I was on the lookout for a job, the firm approached me to see if I would care to take on the challenge. I’m now managing director of Protect-Net UK.
How did you get to where you are today?
I had quite a short period of time to make the decision to start the company, so it took a bit of courage and determination to take the plunge.
It was all a bit daunting, but with some good advice from ex-work colleagues and other Aberdeen business owners, we started trading on August 5 2019, having only signed the final distribution agreement with NSW in mid-June.
I now love being my own boss and being able to better plan my work-life balance.
Who helped you?
Good friends and family encouraged me greatly to push forward with the business plan. Friends who also own and run their own businesses have been invaluable and gone out of their way to assist with advice and guidance.
I have had some helpful assistance from Business Gateway and Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, while the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) continues to give support with legal and premises insurance advice. FSB networking events have also been very useful, particularly during lockdown.
What has been your biggest mistake?
Doubting myself, comparing myself to others and generally giving myself too much of a hard time. To anyone else thinking of starting up, be brave and have faith in yourself.
What is your greatest achievement?
Getting the company up and running in 2019 and navigating the 21 months since then. It has been a baptism I would never have expected, with Covid-19 hitting only six months after our launch.
If you were in power in government, what would you change?
I would like to see more emphasis on basic life skills, and there is a definite lack of respect for others and for authority.
What do you still hope to achieve?
I hope to be able to continue to grow the business in the coming few years after such a difficult start. I have recently expanded the operation in England and Ireland by appointing a southern UK agent.
I know I need to have a greater presence across the UK, and this is the first step in growing UK sales and expanding the business.
What do you do to relax?
I love to spend time with family and friends and have two young granddaughters who I am really enjoying watching grow up.
I’m also a big Aberdeen FC fan and have recently joined their By Official Appointment programme. It aims to bring together local firms and loyal fans in order to generate more business and boost the local economy. Hopefully, I’ll soon get back to attending matches too.
Holidays in the sun are a great means of relaxation for me but, unfortunately, I have not been able to get away for a couple of years for obvious reasons. When travel opens up again, the first place I’d love to visit is Marbella. Until then, I’m content with a nice glass of wine on a Friday evening.
What are you currently reading, listening to, or glued to on the TV?
I have not read much lately, but I enjoy listening to music and have become very partial to modern country. I tend to binge-watch box sets on TV – Line of Duty and The Crown have been the most recent series.
What do you waste your money on?
Clothes, handbags and shoes – I am a shopaholic.
How would your friends describe you?
Feedback from good friends and business associates was “dependable, caring, trustworthy, intelligent, interesting and always willing to help others”. Sociable was also mentioned a few times.
What would your enemies say about you?
I have not met any – well none who has given an opinion.
What do you drive and dream of driving?
I drive a VW T-Roc at present but my dream car is a White Range Rover Evoque.