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A new venture in lockdown secures Fern’s future

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Published on 18 August 2021

Fern Snailham
Fern Snailham

Diversifying her business offer during lockdown proved key to protecting a young entrepreneur's profits and securing her brand’s future.

Within four years of launching a promotional staffing agency with help from the University of Sunderland, graduate Fern Snailham was named one of the UK’s leading female entrepreneurs, picked up a royal business award and grew her staff and client base to over 4,000 from football clubs to festivals.

But when the pandemic hit, and requests for services from Durham-based UNEEK Staffing dwindled due to the national lockdown, Fern knew she had to take action in a bid to protect the future of the business she’d worked hard to build.

She secured funding through her local authority helping businesses impacted by the pandemic to find alternative revenue streams and purchased a host of entertainment equipment from bell tents and clear bubble dome tents alongside the gadgets to go inside, including cinema projectors, popcorn-making machines, decorations and furniture. Fern then hired out the equipment, under her UNEEK Entertainment brand, to individuals and organisations interested in hosting all kinds of outdoor activities such as date nights, hen do’s and birthday parties.

“It’s taken off in a way I could never have imagined,” says Fern, 27. “I knew I had to take action in lockdown and diversify what I was offering. The entertainment side of what I was already offering seemed to fit perfectly.

“The equipment is now booked every weekend until the end of the year, and I’m in the process of buying more equipment and expanding on what we already have. UNEEK Staffing is back up and running since the country opened up after the second lockdown, which has been fantastic, and those clients are now starting to book our promotions staff once again.”

She added: “Our staff are in huge demand from the hospitality sector especially right now as many businesses opening their doors again are facing staff shortages due to the spread of the Delta variant and getting “pinged” on the NHS app.”

As well as setting up UNEEK Entertainment, Fern also began offering online marketing services to her established clients - another area which has seen growth for the First-Class Business Management graduate who was named a Duke of York Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018 and last year listed as one Business Leader’s 32 UK female entrepreneurs to ‘look out for’.

The decision to change direction for her business has led to her surpassing her projected turnover of £500k this year, and she plans to move to bigger premises later this year and recruit more staff.

It’s a huge transformation since Fern first started out with just £800 in her pocket and a burning ambition to grow her business. She turned to the Enterprise Place, the University of Sunderland’s business support facility which gave her access to their co-working office space in Hope Street Xchange, Sunderland’s centre for enterprise and innovation.

Laura Foster, Enterprise Place Manager, said: “Since joining the Enterprise Place in 2017, we’ve seen Fern go from strength-to-strength. Her latest venture is just another example of her determination and passion, and she is an inspirational example of a graduate entrepreneur.”

Fern also applied for and won a £2,500 University DOSH (Development Office Scholarships) Futures Fund award to support and enhance her business in order to maximise and open new opportunities to enable growth and stability.

Asked what the key to success is in such uncertain times, Fern says: “Be resilient and if challenges come your way, try to be as innovative as possible, always be positive and problem-solve as to how you can operate on some level, even if it’s not your first choice of business.

“I may never have moved into the entertainment or marketing side of this industry had I not been forced down this path, but it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made.”

To find out more about UNEEK Staffing go to: www.uneekstaffing.co.uk

To find out more about UNEEK Entertainment go to: www.uneekentertainment.co.uk

For more information about the Enterprise Place, go to: https://www.sunderland.ac.uk/more/services-for-business/start-a-business/

The project is receiving up to £3,326,399.02 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.

The Northern Powerhouse is a key aspect of this Government’s approach to addressing the productivity gap in the North and ensuring a stronger, more sustainable economy for all parts of the UK. Alongside over €1.5 billion of European Regional Development Fund support for businesses and communities across the North, the government has awarded £3.4 billion in three rounds of Growth Deals across the Northern Powerhouse.

 

 

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