The time-saving tech that helps us run our businesses

Running your own business usually makes you head of operations and finance, as well as CEO of reception and tea bags. With so much on your plate, it’s vitally important you spend time on the parts that matter most to your start-up. So how do new business owners keep themselves across everything and still manage to run a successful business? 

They do it using awesome new technology that allows them to hack their way through. We caught up with six entrepreneurs funded by Virgin StartUp to find out the one piece of technology that they would recommend to other entrepreneurs to help them run their business more efficiently.

Tech for storing online assets

Andrea Mascaro is the founder of My Italian Cook, a start-up that sells Italian food using carefully sourced ingredients. It’s sold through market stalls, retail outlets and catering events. Andrea took out an £18,000 Virgin StartUp loan to set up his business.

“Like most of food-focused business, My Italian Cook has more to do with hand-work and kitchen equipment rather than high-tech pieces. But like any other business, time and documents management are a vital part of the day-to-day activity, and we have found a couple of Google tools really helpful: Google Calendar and Google Drive.

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The first one is a powerful and easy-to-use tool that helps us panning our schedule: we have different calendars for different areas of our business – one for the markets, one for the deliveries to the stores, one for the kitchen, one for the sales and marketing activity and one for each team member. Having the App on the mobile allows me to check and update the events, and all the staff can see the changes live.

The second, Drive, is a 15GB Cloud service and documents sharing tool: I have a copy of all the docs on my laptop, which are automatically synchronized with the Cloud as soon as I get WiFi access. With the App also installed on my phone, I always have access to what I need no matter where I am. No needs to say that having them both for free is another good point!”

Tech for managing stock-flow

Zara Neild is the founder of Zara’s Cakes, a cake shop based in Prestwich, Manchester. It makes cakes for every occasion and has a cake making school opening soon. Zara took out a £9,000 Virgin StartUp loan to get her business started.

“At Zara Cakes we use data collection software Launchcloud to run our business. I met Matt the founder almost a year ago (we’re both Virgin Start Up entrepreneurs), he was super passionate about his business and was gob-smacked at the fact that I solely used pen and paper to manage everything! Matt and I chatted all day, I’m completely non-technical and he managed to persuade me to give his idea ago.

Read more: Can you run a business purely from a smartphone?

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For £15 a month (I‘m using the highest package) it’s changed the structure of the whole company, it’s literally amazing! Zara Cakes has rapidly expanded and so has the workload, we use Launchcloud for all aspects of the business from taking orders to staff administration, stock keeping to end of day reports. We’re saving a small fortune on duplicate order pads and the biggest advantage is the amount of time we’re saving.

I now have every Sunday and most Mondays off work. It’s allowing me to concentrate on my next ventures…a cake school & writing a book.”

Tech for managing invoicing

Ashley Read is the founder of PostReach, an app that gives you insight into how far your online content is spreading online and showcasing the people on Twitter who are amplifying the reach. Ashley took out a £10,000 Virgin StartUp loan to get started.

“Even though it's essential, accounting is often one of the most overlooked parts of starting a business. QuickBooks Online has been a real life-saver for me. My accounting used to take hours each week, and it was something I'd always put off until the last minute. QuickBooks Online has changed that completely, saving me valuable time that I can now spend on my business.

QuickBooks connects directly with my bank account and automatically syncs my transactions so I can easily assign expenses, bills and income. This process alone saves me at least an hour a week. I can also send invoices directly from QuickBooks and it feels great to have everything I need in one, safe place. 

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Quickbooks Online also has great reporting features so I can easily see my income breakdowns or review where I'm spending the most on bills. This is really useful and something I probably wouldn't have been able to do without using this app. 

I pay around £15 a month for Quickbooks Online and it's worth every penny.”

Tech for project management

Mitesh Bhimjiyani is the founder of Success At School – a careers website aimed at 13-19 year olds. Mitesh took out a £500 Virgin StartUp Loan to get started.

“We create great content for our audience and work to ensure it performs well in search engines. This means we need a place to store content ideas, and keep a record of the edits we have made to improve search performance.

Trello is great because you can create a separate list for each group of tasks. We have a list of content ideas, a list of edits we want to monitor, and many more besides. You can set a review date that triggers a reminder when a task falls due.

Read more: Technology is changing business but some things must stay the same

Trello is very intuitive to use and you can drag tasks from one list to another – useful if, for example, you need “to do”, “in progress” and “done” lists. Another great feature is being able to add people to tasks. This means that while we can collaborate as a team, clutter is reduced because we each see what’s going on only on the boards we are members of.”

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Tech for packaging

Caroline Langton is the founder of Ro Co, a start-up that creates indoor urban gardener kits. Caroline took out a £2,000 Virgin StartUp loan to get her business started.

“When we started looking into packaging, we were keen to find a finish which reflected the nature of our products, which were inspired by combining textures in an unexpected way. 

Our graphic designer, suggested we try a Risograph printing process, which uses a device similar to a photocopying machine to print layers of flat colour, a little bit like screen printing but with less set-up time. The results were spot on: the overlapping textures, depth of colour, and occasional marks of imperfection seemed to radiate authenticity, and our customers often comment on how unique and eye-catching the packaging is.”

Tech for accounts and bookkeeping

Sophia Ferguson is the founder of Tickle Tots. A start-up that designs and manufactures reusable cloth nappies and baby accessories. Sarah took out a £15,000 Virgin StartUp loan.

“The secret I want to share with you is Wave. This is a free accounting programme that allows you to manage your accounts from anywhere you have Internet access.

Keeping on top of the figures and being able to process sales invoices from anywhere has been a key tool for my business, which I have to fit in around two young children! The app also has some great features that allow you to get a clear picture of how your business is doing financially. 

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Many people worry about the bookkeeping of their business and pass it off to an accountant, however this app allows you to keep a constant eye on the accounts and makes the process simple. It will also save money at the year end when the accountant has less to process!”

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