Aina Gomez is Managing Director and Lead Photographer at Family Memento, a photography business based in Cowley, Oxford. Aina also runs Razzamatazz Theatre schools and has recently relocated to Oxford from Cambridgeshire.
Family Memento was born from Aina’s desire to ensure that families had the opportunity to capture precious memories and challenge the perception that family portrait photography was a luxury not a necessity. “We need photography more than we think. You only get one chance to capture a moment and we don’t give family photography the importance it needs. Children especially need and want to see photos of themselves, and their families, and I wanted to make sure as many families as possible have their memories captured,” commented Aina.
When in Cambridge Aina was part of a group of small business owners that researched and shared local opportunities for business support and was aware of Enterprise Partnerships before coming to Oxford. So, it was no surprise that when she moved her businesses to Oxford, Aina contacted OxLEP Business to find out what support they could offer.
“When I moved to Oxford, Family Memento was three years old and had started to expand into headshot and corporate photography. Although I work with collaborators the business has always been a one-woman-band, but the goal was always to grow the business so that we could reach as many people as possible. I want the business to be able to offer shoots to families with limited budgets, but that can’t come without growth. We were headed that way before Covid hit in 2020.
Getting in touch with OxLEP Business was originally part of working out a survival plan for Covid, but I also believe that just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes support and community to build a business. I am very sociable and like interaction so I was also looking for something that I could get involved with that would not only support my business but provide some social interaction.”
“Initially I couldn’t see that there was anything OxLEP Business had running that was relevant for me but I signed up to their newsletter so I would know when a programme arose. The first opportunity that I thought was a good fit was the Foundations to Growth programme, a 6-week structured programme that met every Monday for two hours.
Bookending the programme were two expert speakers who gave their insight into specific areas of business. As a group we then applied action-learning and accountability. It was great because we got to know the different businesses within the cohort, the issues they faced and the options available for them to ‘grow out’ of that challenge and move towards their goal.”
“It was a small cohort of six diverse businesses, and everyone had the opportunity to talk about their business, their challenges and how they wanted to grow. We were a real mix; some B2C, some B2B, some product led, and some service led yet we all benefited from the experts and the programme of broad topics and big picture stuff that we could tailor to our individual needs. It’s expert support that’s customised for you delivered in a supportive group.
Every week we were focusing on one of the group so there was a lot of listening, asking questions and then if prompted we’d offer advice and possible solutions to help people with their problems. A big part of this programme’s learning is in looking at someone else’s business and collectively helping them with the group’s combined knowledge and expertise.”
“When the programme finished we have the opportunity for one-to-one time with the experts for further support on implementing what you’ve learned or achieving your goals. My intention is to use this time to learn more about how funding might be part of the equation for my business growth and exploring the next steps, something I never thought to look at before.
One of the advantages of this one-to-one advice is that you know the experts you’re working with have gone through a sieve or a filter, the fact that they come through OxLEPs ensures they will be good. There are lots of business and growth coaches out there, but you know that this is curated expert advice and you can trust it."
“With the Foundation to Growth group’s advice I came to the realisation that I couldn’t continue to operate as a sole trader but that the business model I am aiming towards is working and that going limited is the right thing to do. It was the reassurance and confidence I needed to move forward and make that kind of change, to be sure it was a good idea and needed to be done! In going limited I am also now forced to think longer term.
Now the programme has ended we are all still in touch and I hope we will continue to support each other - working with similar people who’ve been in similar situations certainly helps future proof your business."
“My next step with OxLEP Business is to look at Razzamataz, my other business, which is also at the gateway to growth. I think this business will benefit from the Peer Support Network programme as it is a more established business and will benefit from the support of more experience businesspeople facing a different level of challenge. Even though this is a very creative business I am confident, that like Foundations to Growth, we will still be able to learn and support from each other regardless of the sectors in industries we’re in.
The place to go and the place to start is the Business Support Tool and the assessment that follows. It is tailored advice generated by a person behind that email, not a robot. Once you engage with OxLEP Business and speak to someone it is truly a personalised service. They are looking for your success, it’s what they’re there to do. Small businesses are a huge part of the UK’s economy and it’s in everyone’s best interest that we succeed and grow."
“I don’t understand the scepticism around free business support. There is a lot of great stuff that is free at the point of use, like the NHS. Why take the risk and pay privately for coaching support to grow your business when it’s free from OxLEP? It’s free, so just give it a try!"
For more information and to get started with OxLEP Business simply complete our Business Support Tool here.