Help at hand for pandemic-fuelled entrepreneurs and businesses in Lancaster

Help and support is available for entrepreneurs who launched their business during the recent lockdowns, as well as for business owners who have made adaptations due to challenges posed by the pandemic.
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Lancaster-based Katie Jenkins has launched V2Pi, a virtual assistant service, undertaking tasks such as general administration, data entry, marketing and streamlining procedures to make offices and systems run more efficiently.

Katie can also help develop fundraising strategies and organise events and workshops.

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"The aim is to create much-needed headspace for the client who can then concentrate fully on their business or project," she said. "Businesses can use my services on an ongoing basis or as a one-off."

Katie Jenkins, Founder of V2Pi.Katie Jenkins, Founder of V2Pi.
Katie Jenkins, Founder of V2Pi.

Katie conceived the idea for her virtual assistant business of all round support during lockdown.

"I’ve been involved with several small businesses and I began to wonder where I could next use my skills," she said. "Once I mentioned that I was thinking about becoming a virtual assistant I immediately secured two great clients and more have come on board!

"It's been inspiring to see how brave entrepreneurs have turned their part-time passions into fully-fledged businesses during these challenging times.

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"As I know from my own experience as an entrepreneur – I created and launched and sell Dog Hair Day dog shampoo – it is easy to feel overwhelmed, particularly during those early days.

"Many ‘lockdown’ business owners will have put their heart and soul into their businesses, working 15 hour days, seven days a week.

"Some will now need to regain some work-life balance. Many tasks can be outsourced and that's where virtual assistants like me come in. The best tasks to outsource to a VA [virtual assistant] are those which will save the client the most time and that are repeatable."

The virtual assistant market itself has blossomed over the last two years. The Society of Virtual Assistants, of which V2Pi is a member, says there are around 3,500 virtual assistants in the UK and, according to a 2020 survey, the society had 3,300 active members who provide support to approximately 20,000 SMEs.

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Around 95 per cent of these virtual assistants work from home, although many, like Katie, can work on site by arrangement.

"I developed my business skills as a manager, marketing professional and also as a shop owner, over many years," Katie said. "I’ve worked for local authorities, in higher and further education and with private companies. Because I understand the problems SMEs and entrepreneurs face, my clients will always have me as someone to help them see the bigger picture and to bounce ideas off."

Katie also works with long-established businesses. Some have expanded during the pandemic while others have downsized and shed staff but still need administrative support.

"Outsourcing to a virtual assistant can help businesses save money," Katie said. "One of the biggest differences between an employee and virtual assistant is that we charge only for the hours we work. Built into an employee’s salary are things like desk space, office rental, heating, lighting, phones, pensions and holiday and sick pay."

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