How to Start a Small Business for Yourself in 5 Steps (During Coronavirus – and any other time)

By Colin Crooks, CEO, Tree Shepherd

You may be reading this during lockdown and thinking, “why would I want to even think about how to start my own business?”

Firstly, if you have an idea and a passion for doing things in a particular way, this could be the best decision you will make. Whether it’s making face masks, becoming a florist, running a fashion business, selling cakes or teaching crafts online, there’s never been a better time to take the plunge. If you’re currently furloughed, you’ve recently become unemployed or you’ve been out of work for some time, this could be the ideal moment to become your own boss. If you’re caring for children or others, starting your own business gives you the chance to earn money from the things you like doing but in a more flexible way.

So…here’s 5 top tips on starting a business from home and getting ahead once lockdown is lifted:

Will Kerr, Blooming Brixton

Will Kerr, Blooming Brixton, graduate of Tree Shepherd business course who supplies flowers at top events and weddings across London.

1. Love what you do

What’s in your heart? What makes you laugh? What do you most love doing whenever you get the chance? What would make you want to work til midnight or get up early in the morning?  Find out where your heart lies. Plenty of people think about starting businesses from home because they think it could make them some money but without belief it soon grinds to a halt. Unless you have that belief it’s hard to keep going at 3am when the order has fallen through.

2. Talk to people who you think will buy your idea

If you love doing something and other people love paying for it then you have a business in the making. The trick is to find those people who like your thing so much they’re willing to pay for it. Try looking at your idea from their point of view. Find out what they think. Do some test marketing and talk to the people who you think are most likely to buy your idea. Who are they? What do they do? Where do they spend their money? What’s different about your product that will appeal to them?

3. Save your money until you really know what people will pay for

Keep your expenses really low! I’ve seen so many people waste their money on things they thought they’d need but turned out to be useless, so while you’re trying things out, spend the absolute minimum – borrow, rent, share instead.

Colette Thomas, Colster bags, selling at the Tree Shepherd Lambeth Country Show tent after graduation.

4. Get out there – carefully

Take the plunge – or put your little toe in. Find a place where you potential customers go and have a go. Don’t give away those bars of soap – SELL them – see how much they’re worth. Get honest feedback. Look at your pricing, try again, think of new ways to reach those customers. Is this still the right business idea? Do you need to tweak it?

5. Turn it into a business and get support.

Once you’ve tried your idea a few times you’ll know so much more about your customers, your products and your pricing. With that real-life knowledge you can do some proper planning and take the idea to the next level.

Colin Crooks (CEO of Tree Shepherd) and Jason (Tutor) with course graduate Maria Adestoye – Children’s Learning Advocate & Eye Brow Artist

Throughout this whole process every entrepreneur needs support. Tree Shepherd has been offering guidance and support for over 8 years to budding entrepreneurs from all walks of life who are looking at starting a small business.  930 people have now kick-started their own business with us.  We offer free expert training courses, mentoring, advice, not just on a one-off, but for months and years. No question is too small, too silly or too scary. If you’re wondering what our inspiration is for doing this – check out this video  where we explain all!

We’re now running a Free 8 week Employ Yourself course where we will take your through every part of starting a small business, focusing on the essential entrepreneurial skills; cashflow, test trading, marketing, developing your USP, dealing with what to do when things go wrong.

This ‘how to start a small business’ programme will offer you the insights and tools to launch your own idea within a classroom setting of other like-minded prospective business entrepreneurs. This is followed by 6 months of mentoring and support with experienced professionals. All free. Following that, we will trade together, you can join our network of businesses and we will support you for as long as it takes and benefit from leveraging the Tree Shepherd network to promote yourself and your idea effectively. If you haven’t yet had a chance to – please sign up and come and join us.

Need some inspiration? Hear from some of the fantastic traders who have graduated from our courses or take a look at our impact reports  which feature more stories from our network.

Share this:

Turning stress into success – Employ Yourself course is here!

Second Enrolment Day! 19 May 3 – 5:15pm

Confusion, anger, frustration, sadness, worry, cashflow stress? We are all feeling it,  especially since coronavirus descended on us all those weeks ago. And for many of us it started a long time before that. Many of us have been unemployed for a long time, unhappy in jobs, coping with illness, caring for others, making difficult decisions and not knowing where to go next.

Whether you have been recently laid off, your business has suddenly stopped, or you have been struggling to find work for several years, one thing is for certain – it can be hard to see the wood for the trees – but there is always hope and there is always opportunity. And most importantly – we’re all in it together.

We are harnessing the power of our community, our experts, our friends and neighbours, to bring you a brand new course which can help you turn this around, to build your confidence,  help you start a profitable business, and turn the stress into success. Our new Employ Yourself course comprises 8 weeks of 2 hour sessions with a tutor in a classroom environment, free, meeting you at whatever stage you are at – whether you have an initial business idea or need to take a difficult look at a failing business and get it thriving again. We will help you move into test trading, registering, becoming profitable and seeing opportunities in this difficult time. We are covering every aspect of business from identifying audiences, managing finances, finding your USP, getting online, marketing, and much more. Most importantly – we have  a lot of fun and you will have stories that will last a lifetime!

Our wonderful trainer Georgina has worked with us for many years and as well as running several successful businesses she has also had enormous success in building confidence, releasing potential and facilitating hundreds of successful entrepreneurs.

We have an enrolment day on 19 May, come and join us! Register now at

For more information email or call 0203 948 3020.

Now for the legal bit- we are funded by the European Social Fund and Paddington Development Trust. To be eligible you must be:

  • are aged over 18
  • currently or recently unemployed
  • live within the London Borough of Southwark or Lambeth or Westminster

The course will be delivered over 8 weeks starting on 13 May over Zoom, so access to a computer and wifi / data is important.

Please spread the word. Let’s turn this COVID nightmare into the best decision you ever made…. why not give it a go?



Share this:

Connecting Tulse Hill: Help our crowdfunding campaign

Connecting Tulse Hill

Please support the crowdfunding campaign being led by High Trees, Tree Shepherd and Jubilee Primary School.

Find out more here:

What are we trying to achieve?

The global COVID-19 pandemic has created a very uncertain landscape for many Lambeth residents. The move to remote delivery of many key services has left certain individuals isolated and excluded during this time. Many individuals and families in Tulse Hill are particularly hard hit with 1 in 6 households without either wifi or digital devices to stay connected. The digital world we live in means that wifi access is no longer a luxury, it is a basic utility, with many households still excluded.


Connecting Tulse Hill

The Connecting Tulse Hill Partnership want to make sure that individuals and families are able to access the remote support and services they need during this time. Through Crowdfunder we aim to raise enough funding to allow us to purchase and distribute over 200 wifi-connected laptops to vulnerable households in Tulse Hill. Equipment will be used so that:

  • Individuals can access and apply for welfare support they may be entitled to
  • Individuals can take part in online courses that are being delivered by High Trees
  • Children and young people can engage in their remote school- support
  • Individuals and families can stay connected to each other via video-calls

Every donation counts!

  • £10 will allow an individual or family to get connected to the internet for 1 month
  • £30 will allow an individual or family to get connected to the internet for 3 months
  • £100 will allow us to purchase a 3g connected tablet so they can complete welfare applications
  • £250 will allow us to purchase a laptop for individuals to engage in on-line learning and support

For every £1 raised, we hope a further £1 will be further matched by Lambeth Council!

Who are the Connecting Tulse Hill Partnership?

This project is a collaborative effort of 3 organisations, with the support of our Tulse Hill Ward Councillors, comprised of:

  • High Trees Community Development Trust- who are based in Upper Tulse Hill,  and who have been working in the local community for the past 22 years. High Trees run a range of community adult education courses, employment support, community action initiatives from St. Martins Learning Centre, and we also run youth and play services from Tulse Hill Adventure Playground. High Trees will be the project managers in this initiative!
  • Tree Shepherd- who run the GLOWS Maker Space and co-working hub for small enterprises on Tulse Hill Estate (that wonderful brightly coloured set of porta-cabins). They also run a range of start your own business courses and skills-based workshops.
  • Jubilee Primary School- who serve hundreds of children and families from the Tulse Hill community, making sure that their development, happiness and well-being is at the heart of everything they do.

The pupils from Jubilee have created the fantastic image for our campaign and are very excited about what the project can potentially achieve!

A few words from us all…

‘Councillors frequently see the results of lack of connection in Tulse Hill, the stress of applying for jobs online is enormous when using a phone. There are difficulties as well, accessing  council services such as paying rent or council tax or even online library services in an area where there is no physical library. Coronavirus has only exacerbated the difficulties that people were facing – widening inequality and making it more difficult for people to use essential  services. Enabling better connectivity will allow individuals and families to contribute to  and benefit from wider resources’- Cllrs. Mary Atkins, Marcia Cameron, Ben Kind

‘This fund looks to meet the urgent needs of Tulse Hill parents who have lost their income through this crisis and cannot afford the data or the equipment to stay on line to teach their children or access vital services and we are very pleased to be able to play a role in helping them.’ – Colin Crooks, CEO, Tree Shepherd

‘Staff from Jubilee, as with so many schools across the country, are working really hard to ensure that a wide range of high quality work is set for pupils whilst they are unable to come into school. It is vital that all pupils have the opportunity to access this work so that gaps do not open up between those able to access their learning online and those who can’t. Through this fund we will be able to support our families to reconnect with the children’s online learning.’-Tom Prestwich, Headteacher, Jubilee Primary School

‘Working together, we can make sure that individuals and families affected by digital exclusion across Tulse Hill, get the vital equipment and connectivity they need in order to access the remote services available during this time” –Grace English & Anna Coffey,Co-CEOs, High Trees


Share this:

Coronavirus update

A note from our CEO Colin Crooks: Coronavirus

Hello everyone,

We hope you are all keeping as well and safe as possible as Covid-19 takes hold. It’s a surreal and worrying time, and we are here to help as much as we can in these difficult times. Here’s an update on our plans as the Coronavirus situation develops. Please note this is liable to change so please keep an eye on the website and Events calendar for the latest:


GLOWS and THRIVE are now closed visitors, shared use or hot-desk workers and for upcoming events and workshops.  We will continue to allow access to all our office renters who have their own key and are communicating with them about our new plans at the moment.


Our aim is to deliver as many workshops as possible through live-streaming. We have an exciting programme ahead, with several courses in conjunction with LondonSouth Bank Uni in Elephant & Castle, British Land in Church Street and Awards for All at GLOWS. We hope to bring as many as possible online and who knows, we may discover a whole new way to engage with you by the end of this difficult chapter! Please check our Events calendar to see the latest on what is on and how to connect with us.


Our staff are mainly going to be working from as home as much as possible, but we are still here!  Please call us on  07803 097 532 to find out the latest, we are aiming to be available as much as possible but this depends on how the situation evolves.  We are also on email at

Traders and Makers

We hope to use this time to profile as many of our makers and traders as possible, to get people new business and keep things afloat as the situation is so uncertain. Please take a look at our page here to see how you can support local business.

Thanks again for staying with us and we’ll be back in touch soon.

Take care of yourselves,

Best wishes,



Share this:

Church Street courses cancelled

Unfortunately a number of our upcoming Church Street courses have been cancelled. Please refer to our Events page to find out which courses are still running in our sites across London. If you have any concerns please email or call 020 3948 3020.

Share this:

GLOWS free spring workshops now up!

The raft of GLOWS workshops, most of which are free, are now online! Check out our events page and email us at or call 020 3948 3020 to book your place now. Photography, T-Shirt printing, mosaics, Excel and many more. Hurry and book your place while there’s still space!

Upcoming GLOWS events

Share this:

Church Street Westminster: Instagram + finance courses open!

Tree Shepherd has been working with the community in Church Street since January 2019, offering network events, courses and clinics to advise and work with existing traders and those aspiring to set up their own businesses.

We are excited to launch our new courses, including Instagram, finance, cashflow, and the latest technologies which help you manage your finances. Please contact Rhona in the Tree Shepherd Team on or 0203 948 3023 to find out more or enrol.

Instagram workshops

Tuesday 18th February and Friday 21st February 2020, Community Space, Church Street Library, 67 Church Street, London NW8 8EU

Our trainer Charlotte has a wealth of experience in the world of digital marketing, with many years of experience looking after the social media for brands such as Colgate, Nivea, TFL and Iceland Foods.

10.00am – 12.30pm  The essentials of Instagram

Just getting started with using Instagram for you business? You will learn the essentials of creating great posts that get seen, including how to use hashtags and tips for creating engaging content. We explain the importance of Instagram Stories, and show you how to use them for your business.

1:30pm- 4.00pm How to Use Instagram to Grow Your Business

Already using Instagram but find it overwhelming and not sure you are using it to it’s fullest potential? We show you how to use the platform to attract your ideal customers, and generate sales.  We explain the algorithm and the tricks you need to know to get your posts seen, and give you an introduction to running paid ads on Facebook and Instagram.


Finance workshops

Thursday 30th April 2020, Community Space, Church Street Library, 67 Church Street, London NW8 8EU

Come to one, two or all the sessions. Our trainer Lisa has a wealth of experience of running fascinating workshops and has won many awards! 2019 – WINNER – Bookkeeping Service of the Year – Nottingham and  2017 – WINNER – Best Bookkeeping Service London, AI awards

11:00am -1:00pm Cashflow and how to manage money – how a cashflow forecast works, how to manage your money so that you don’t run out before the end of the month, the importance of forecasting in business

1:30pm – 3:30pm Bookkeeping – how to keep records and how to keep track of how your business is performing, the legal requirements (what is a ‘business expense’ and what can you claim? and what should you be keeping records of? and deadlines

4:00pm -6:00pm Smart technologies – what is available on the market to make our lives easier? We’ll look at bookkeeping software, software that can keep receipts for us – costs vs benefits

To book a place please email or call 0203 948 3023

Business Clinics for Businesses and Residents in and around Church Street

Do you have an Enterprise Idea? Do you need help growing your business? Speak to an experienced business mentor. We are here to help you realise your idea, help your business adapt and grow, and to introduce you to a network of businesses in your neighbourhood

Free and confidential support available, timeslots of up to one hour, days are varied. Venue – Vital, 382 – 386 Edgware Road, W2 1EB (entrance on Church Street) – please contact us for more information and to reserve your slot at or call on 020 3948





Share this:

Loughborough Junction: Sign up to our February Cashflow, Legal and Tax workshops

It’s not too late to sign up for our cashflow, legal and tax workshops at The Platform in Loughborough Junction, SW9 7AH.

It’s open to everyone in Lambeth and our fantastic trainer can shed light on complex areas of cashflow, legalities and tax through some practical tasks. It’s one not to be missed!

Get in touch with us on or call 0203 948 3023 to book your place. February courses for Tree Shepherd in Loughborough Junction




Share this:

Success at Westminster Enterprise Course

Is it really possible to think up a brand new business idea and develop a business plan in one day?

Well 33 WAES students proved that you can when they joined our CEO Colin Crooks MBE for an action-packed Enterprise Masterclass.

The enthusiastic WAES students came from a wide range of study areas, learning skills from Graphic Design and Fashion to Hair & Beauty.

Their challenge was to create a business plan for tackling an important social issue from scratch using Tree Shepherd’s 3M© concept

Motivation         your vision and personal driver

Market                your customers

Mechanics          how you deliver to your customers

Very quickly the students grouped around some of the most important challenges that we face as a   society: healthy eating in schools, activities for young people, services for disabled people, well-being for people in poverty and environmentally friendly packaging.

The 5 groups had to develop a business plan for their idea and justify how they would run a sustainable social enterprise.  The day culminated in a series of group presentations to a panel of judges, just like Dragon’s Den! The panel was made up of senior staff from WAES and Westminster Council as well as a  local business owner.

After a gruelling Q&A by the Dragons the winning team was Angel Hair Salon whose plan was to create a salon that specialised in catering for people with disabilities!

The feedback from the day was excellent:

“Colin was inspiring and has single-handedly motivated and encouraged me to try harder and succeed”

“Extremely interesting and informative”

“Well delivered, easy to focus on each section”

“The whole room was engaged in the activities – very professional”

We thank the WAES staff for their impeccable organisation of the event and due to it’s success we plan to run more in the new year!















WAES Enterprise Masterclass workshop attendees
















The Dragons!
















Colin Crooks MBE in Action



















The Organisers


Share this:

Glitzy Body Art

Glitzy Body Art was created by local mother of two Vikki Walters in the summer of 2018. With a love of glitter, quirky artwork and the desire to make people feel good, Vikki started the business which would work around her young family.

The company’s “pop up glitter bar” is a professional body artist service, including glitter tattoos, festival glitter and creative hair styling. The company has introduced a new biodegradable glitter range, giving you all the “glitz” without the guilt.

All staff are covered by public liability insurance. Vikki and her team can cater for private parties, corporate/school/charity events, weddings and larger events including festivals.

Affordable party packages and personalised quotes available on request.

Services available for adults and children:

  • Temporary glitter tattoos
  • Temporary ink tattoos
  • Festival glitter including glitter lips, glitter beards, glitter hair roots
  • Creative hair staying including braiding.

Contact Vikki

Mobile: 07944 628767
Facebook: @glitzybodyart 
Instagram: @glitzybodyart
Twitter: @Artglitzy

Share this: