Case Studies – Written


Nicky Kay – FitKid
Mentor: Joe Windsor
Location: Poole

Most kids are bundles of energy and they need to need to work that off. Kids also need exercise for their personal development and good health. So there needs to be someone who can provide kids with suitable exercise and related activities in a sensible and safely managed way. FitKid started 18 years ago to meet those needs and became a very successful children’s activity business catering for children from 18 months to 16 years of age.

Run by Nicky Kay since 2001 and based in Poole she has taken it from strength to strength running parties, classes and events as part of a school curriculum or with other groups in various sites. But Nicky can only do so much. So how can the business grow?

The business model was proven over the years. The financial plan was sensible. Nicky’s solution? Franchise FitKid across the UK. With a well founded reputation, any Franchisee would feel secure. The proposition would be attractive to women. A child-centred business that can be run at times to fit into a woman’s needs and bring in extra money would be a good idea especially when money is tight.

Convincing people to sign up for a Franchise with up-front costs for training, materials and a licence was a new challenge. Trying to win Franchisees was a real struggle. Nicky sought help from DorMen and was matched with Joe Windsor as her Mentor.

The need was clear. How do you sell a great business idea with a sound track record to potential Franchisees? DorMen Mentors have a wide range of knowledge and skills available to their Clients. Joe’s skills in marketing and selling were just what Nicky needed. An intensive development session about how to sell the Franchise coupled with joint work identifying FitKid values and creating new promotional material gave Nicky the understanding and the tools to influence potential Franchisees. She promptly signed up four in a fortnight.

Nicky then needed to run a training course for them and asked for support in training new people how to make presentations to potential users – parents, teachers, church groups. Joe shared his PowerPoint materials with her and coached her through the key issues.

Nicky said “Joe has been a great inspiration to me. I needed the confidence to sell the franchise package and Joe gave me just that. It’s great to have a Mentor as they are there as a sounding board to offer support and suggestions to move the business forward”. Joe says Nicky is a very responsive business person and a pleasure to work with.

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Roger Brisley – Timber Intent
Mentor: Geoff Mullis
Location: Lyme Regis

Hi, my name in Roger Brisley, my business, Timber Intent Ltd. consults, designs, builds and installs eco-friendly timber and fabric tensile structures, that’s Tents, Canopies and Garden Sails. We work in the Architectural, Event or Exhibition and the Private garden markets, whilst I know that now, I can only be so certain of it as a direct result of having a mentor. Previously, I wouldn’t have been quite as confident or positive of this.

Over the years, I’ve attended various business development seminars, some better than others, although all rather vague and not directed precisely at me. I’d been told I have great prospects, one guy said “oooh you’ve got a 2 million quid company there.” Bearing in mind I turned over about £150k that year I was quite excited. I went back to the office with a new financial business plan, it's still on my computer somewhere. I was though, left to my own devices. Of course I waited for it all to happen, obviously it didn’t, no matter how much I bragged to my friends and relations, it just didn’t happen.

A couple of years ago I was introduced to a fellow Alumni, (I’m an ex Parnham Trust's Hooke Park student) a business Angel or Mentor. Rather perplexingly to me at the time, he had no direct experience of my friend’s business. It took me some time to realise the merit of having somebody around who actually knows about business generally and with real experience, no matter that it may be in a different area. I’ve been trying for some time to find one through the usual suspects, The Prince's Trust, no too old, Business Link, nope, friends, all hopeless. My bank did find me a chap 2 hours away, who although very busy developing his own business offered to meet. He was actually rather good, suggesting avenues I could take, ways we could work together and various opportunities, all great except really he’s too busy servicing his loans from the bank to talk regularly. I suspect he’s interested as he makes garden furniture and saw an opportunity for himself. That’s ok of course and although he’s very successful I now think he could probably benefit from a proper mentor himself.

Eventually Mick Waite called me suggesting I meet someone who turned out to be a very straight talking yet considerate gentleman who not only lives very locally, but who is obviously successful, and despite being busy with his own companies appears to have time for Me. I very quickly felt serious respect for him. He doesn’t force his opinions on me but draws out answers, answers to questions I propose, that I didn’t even know I had. When you are describing your dreams and ideas to someone who is genuinely successful you very quickly realise the good ones from the bad ones. I know what’s good and bad, so even on the most basic level as a sounding board my own mentor has been a great asset. When looking for one I could have spoken to various associates of course, others more successful in similar businesses, but I was far too nervous about being ripped off. As a result of being advised to network I’m now talking to everyone, people and companies I thought were competition are now actually referring enquiries to me, asking me to do consulting work for them, some even doing R and D for prospective joint ventures. I had no idea I was so good or popular. The life coaching, I can only call it that, has given me much clearer vision and completely sorted out motivational and confidence issues I had. On the now rare occasions I take time off to socialise with my friends, they get bored with me rattling on about it. I make no apologies for it; I don’t think there are many people out there who wouldn’t benefit from this process. It’s certainly rubbed off on my long-suffering partner, now she knows she needs to do decide what she wants out of life. Hopefully it’ll still be me and not just because I’m going to be successful!

When I first spoke to Mick I had simple project in mind. My mentor said ok but had me write down; What do I want? What am I good at? What do I do? Just writing down the answers to those questions was a revelation, lots of brainstorming, lateral thinking, networking, looking at all sorts of ideas, then the shuffling of SWOT sheets, don’t know what they are? Get a mentor! Suddenly a month ago “decision day”. Now I have a mission statement, an action plan, a business plan, even plans A, B and C and actually they’re not so different from my previous ideas, yet I’m encouraged to expand and grow within a sensible framework that allows flexibility. And my goodness I believe in them, I think I really stand a chance of achieving the goals. The money has even started coming in, I had a cheque recently I wouldn’t have had if not for the mentoring, I simply wouldn’t have followed up that perfectly decent, but not what I thought was my line, enquiry.

So to conclude, I’ve got money coming in, I’ve got flexible plans and I’ve got a mission statement. I’ve got someone I can talk to who I not only like but respect and who is frank and honest with me. I hope I can continue to meet and discuss things with him, I guess that’s down to him and Dormen, but even if I’m left to my own devices now (please don’t) I’d feel much better armed to go ahead and develop my business. Thanks Dormen you are the best business help I’ve had. Oh and should I ever have my £2m company. I promise I’ll be a mentor myself, whether you like it or not. I consider myself extremely lucky to have a business mentor and wonder how anyone working on their own manages without one.

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Forest Paget – Solomon Associates Ltd – Theatre Company
Mentor: Bill Cain
Location: Cripplestyle, East Dorset


After graduating in engineering, Forest spent 10 years working for a German electronics company ending up as Director in the UK and Germany. A postgraduate degree in business helped make the transition to the world of the arts.

Forest founded Solomon in May 2003 to satisfy the demand for powerful theatrical and musical pieces that tackle difficult issues, such as distraction burglary, drugs education, alcohol and sexual health education and environmental issues. The main target audience has been the elderly and school children, and the shows have been sponsored by local education authorities, local councils, banks and the police.

In 2005 Solomon Associates presented nearly 200 shows to a combined audience of over 25,000 people.

Forest found out about Dormen when Mick Waite attended a performance of “Einstein’s Pants” which was being sponsored by Lloyds TSB.

The Role of Dormen

After three years, the business had survived! For two of those years the business had generated a modest profit, but in between the loss from one particular project had dragged the business down.In the current year turnover is likely to grow by 25%, year on year. The business has taken on new administrative support, and will need more actors in the New Year.

As Forest says, “I didn’t realise that the first two years would be that hard! However, having a mentor has given me the focus to do the right things at the right time. I am much more structured in the way that I go about running the business, and much more critical in the way I review the business issues. I am more commercial in my outlook – a simple example is the fact that I have reviewed the terms and conditions around which I operate. I have reviewed my pricing structure and have introduced a cancellation clause which I did not used to have.

I have changed the way I run the business. My staff are much more involved in the decision making process, and as a result far more motivated. I also have the confidence now to be more adventurous. Bill has “taught me how to farm, not just given me the seed and told me to get on with it!” It has been a huge benefit to have support from someone who has been there and done it, who has a track record in business and who is able to give me a different perspective because they are further down that track. I think that I will look back in ten years time and say that having a mentor was the defining moment in the history of this business.”

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Alan Jenkins – Windows, Stairs and Doors Ltd –
Manufacture of fire doors, supply of wooden staircases and window frames
Mentor: John Mitchell
Location: Blandford Forum


Alan started his own business in 2003 having previously worked for a range of builders’ merchants and joinery companies. He identified a gap in the market and had steadily built up the business to a point where he needed to decide how he was going to continue to grow the business and move to the next level. He approached Business Link Wessex for support who identified that Alan might benefit from mentoring, so they referred him to the Dormen programme.

The Role of Dormen

“After setting up the business and developing what I believed to be the focus of my company, I found myself suddenly at a point where I was unsure of what I was doing, doubting my direction and needing to find a sounding board with someone who knew at what point I was at, and who would talk me through the next step in developing my business.

Business Link were very useful in providing seminars which helped in honing my sales and administration skills but I still felt very isolated and at arms length from anyone understanding my direct needs and uncertainties, however I did pick up a leaflet from one of the Business Link seminars telling me about the Dormen scheme. Following a telephone conversation and meeting with Mick, I was assigned a mentor who has successfully guided me, listened to me and generally given me the confidence to take the next step forward with my company. He is not there to dictate what I am to do, rather he listens to my tales of woe and together, breaks down the issues letting me see for myself what needs to be done whilst illustrating what possible issues may or may not arise.

Mentoring has not meant a fixed time at a fixed place on a fixed day, rather an "as and when" situation when I need it, be it a five minute phone call or a 2 hour meeting at the office.

One particular thing that my mentor has helped me achieve is ISO 9000 accreditation. My mentor had achieved this standard with other businesses, and his specific experience has helped me enormously. I can now use this standard to meet the needs of the Certifire Door and Doorset Scheme, which will then enable me to manufacture Fire Door frames and glazed apertures, thus opening up the potential for new business.

I wholeheartedly endorse this scheme, it has been invaluable to me and I will continue to call upon its services for many years to come."

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Yvonne Hellier – Interior Design
Mentor: Carol Butter
Location: Wimborne


Yvonne started off with a career as a sales representative, but then decided that she wanted to pursue her interest in interior design. She began a degree course but after a year she was offered a job and decided to take up the position.

Five years later she decided it was time for her work for herself, and she founded the business five years ago. She had successfully developed the business over this period but found that she was growing the sales line but making no more profit. She heard about the Dormen programme through a friend who was also using the service, and decided that she needed someone to help focus on how the business should develop.

The role of Dormen

Yvonne takes up the story. “I had previously paid for business advice on an ad hoc basis, but found that I was really being asked to pay for other services that I did not feel I needed. What I really wanted was to get a better handle on things myself.

Carol, my mentor, has made me do the things I needed to do, many of which I knew I had to do but never got round to. As an example, I had been an associate member of the British Design Association for the past five years, but had never got around to becoming a full member. I have put together a portfolio of my work, updated my CV and now applied for full membership.

Carol has always been there to bounce ideas off. She has stabilised my approach to the business, and helped me focus on my goals. In the past I was likely to go off in all directions. Now, I have to do things that I agreed I would within the timescales that I said I could meet.

I have a much more positive attitude towards my business. I am putting in more hours, I have more incentive to work and I will reap the benefits in the future from this more focused approach.

Carol has also been able to introduce me to another member of the mentoring team who has been able to help with new ideas to build the sales line of the business. I have been able to recommend two other businesses to the benefits of the mentoring scheme."

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Stephen Burden and Nichola Reeve – Farmhouse Furniture –
Hand made kitchens, and furniture
Mentor: Chris Boddington
Location: Wimborne


Musician and historian Stephen Burden discovered a rare medieval hunting lodge rich in archaeology more than 20 years ago. Stephen developed the business from repairing this ancient fabric and later furnishing it. The key element of the business now is to make hand made kitchens and furniture and restore pine furniture. Kitchens made by Farmhouse Furniture are totally hand built using only quality wood and materials. Wooden worktops are cut and planed in house and no laminates or pre-made panels are used.

The role of Dormen

Stephen read about the Dormen programme from a copy of the East Dorset Newsletter, a quarterly publication from East Dorset District Council. What caught his interest was that the business featured in the article was one that he knew, so he rang up the owner and asked him if the Dormen programme was really as good as he had made out. He was told it was so he rang up and asked to get involved!

Stephen and Nichola meet regularly with their mentor. As Nichola says, “I worked for 10 years for the National Trust at Corfe Castle. After a break to raise our children, I got involved in the business. Our mentor has raised my confidence, much of it was lost after my break from full time working. He has helped greatly to improve our book–keeping processes, and we now produce cash flow forecasts which we never used to do."

For Stephen the attraction of Dormen has been that it meets the individual’s requirements because the focus is on one-to-one meetings rather than group workshops. “Before I met our mentor, the business was running me! He has made me think about the business more, has made me focus on what are the important things to drive the business forward and I am now running the business rather than the other way round. We know have a long term strategy in place to grow the business further. We are currently recruiting for new administrative staff to support the business, which will enable Nicola to focus more on marketing activity.

We have introduced weekly staff meetings. We now have a weekly production schedule which the whole team is aware of. We have focused much more on the needs of our customer, and everyone knows what we need to do to make them happy. We even know who are customers our. We have built up a database of our customers. Quite simply we did not know who they were before.

I was nervous before I got involved in the Dormen programme. Previous experience with business support organisations had failed and in some cases had cost us a lot of money. They all seemed to be focused on helping bigger businesses than ourselves, perhaps with more business knowledge than us too. I can honestly say that the mentoring support is the best thing that has happened to us ever”

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Michael and Frances Williams – A1 Transport
Mentor: Carol Butter
Location: Wimborne


Michael set up the business in August 2005. He had previously worked in light haulage and removal businesses, but decided it was time to run his own company.

The role of Dormen

Frances saw a feature on Dormen in the East Dorset Newsletter, a quarterly publication from East Dorset District Council. The main thrust of the article was a search for new mentors, but Frances decided to ring up anyway.

“The business had been running for four or five months and we were muddling through. I was desperate for help with the financial side of the business. I had no experience and was really struggling with the paperwork. I had jars of money in the safe, which when we counted it turned out to be almost £700, but we had no money in the bank!”

Our mentor has helped to give us a platform to work from. The books are now in order, we have resolved the issues we had on the accounting front, we have produced terms and conditions for the business, and even bought a new computer.

By being involved with Dormen, we have also had support from one of the other business owners in the scheme who had 20 years experience working for international removal companies. That help was invaluable when we were thinking of ways to grow the business.

The mentoring scheme is good for me because I need to be shown how to do things. I need a hands-on approach. My mentor has been fantastic. She is always there for me and I can discuss anything with her

The business is growing. We have one full time employee now, and we are now in the process of getting an operator’s licence which will enable us to grow the business further. The jars in the safe are now empty, but we have money in the bank!”

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Des Simmons – Bournecoast Property Agents
Mentor: Peter Reid
Location: Bournemouth


Bournecoast has been family run for over 40 years. The business was established in 1960 by Major W. G. Webb. Keith Simmons MBE, the Managing Director and Major Webb's son-in-law, has now been joined by his son and daughters, Des Simmons, Veronica Strongman and Anita Smith, who are all directors of the company.

The business has three trading arms

Bournecoast Holidays – an established holiday rental organisation, being one of Bournemouth's largest self-catering holiday accommodation specialists that has become a household name throughout the country.
Bournecoast Residential – short, long term or seasonal lettings
Bournecoast Property – selling properties and holiday accommodation in Bournemouth and the surrounding areas

The Role of Dormen

Des Simmons is a Director of Bournecoast. He first became aware of the Dormen programme after reading an article in a publication by Bournemouth Tourism

As he says, “all businesses need external help. In the case of a family run business this is especially important when all members of the family come from the same background and share the same ideals and philosophies. The Dormen mentor has given good, solid support and help, and opened the family up to new ideas. He has helped with a full review of the business from management and staff to an analysis of our customer base. In addition, he has helped to challenge us and ask the difficult questions as the family grapple with their roles and responsibilities within the business”

He has been friendly, approachable and a good sounding board to help us to decide on the best ways to grow our business further, and we are confident that the decisions we will make in the future will be the right ones. Mentoring has provided us with exactly what we needed to develop the business further.”

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