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Flashback to 2001: Catching up with Erika Harman

Thu, 22 November 2012

In 2001, Erika Harman of Hungry Henry’s was a runner up in the UK Shell LiveWIRE Finals.
The business is now an established catering company whose ethos supports the local economy, so we caught up with Managing Director Erika to find out more about her entrepreneurial journey…

What can you remember about your involvement with Shell LiveWIRE?
We entered the Shell LiveWIRE awards in 2001 and got through the regional finals to the national finals in London. It was a great experience meeting lots of business entrepreneurs and hearing about what they did and how they were getting on. I was placed as a runner up for the national award and in 2004 I won the Most Significant Progress Award.

How have things changed for you since?
The publicity I received from entering and being placed in the first award was really good for the business and got our company name recognised. It helped that when we were going after new business people recognised the company name and had read about our achievements in the newspaper. The award in 2004 helped us again with publicity and recognition. We have gone from it being myself and Grant running the company on our own to having 65 employees and a great turnover and profit every year.  We are now recognised as a serious catering contractor and have won many contracts recently from nationally recognised catering companies. We have a very 'local' ethos and only operate within our region, only employ local people and only use local suppliers. Companies like the local ethos we have as it helps the local economy.

How have you had to adapt as an entrepreneur over the years?
I enjoy what I do so I haven't really changed, just got busier, which I like! It is nice when people ask me for advice as an entrepreneur and we have since won many other awards for the company. In 2004 we won the East Riding of Yorkshire Chairman's Award for Enhancing the Local Economy, in 2007 we won the Sun Newspaper’s ‘Graftas Award’ and in 2012 we won the Chairman's Award for the Best Business. I enjoy representing the business, especially being a female entrepreneur. I get asked many questions about running a business in a 'man’s world’, to which I reply......'is it really a man’s world now?!' The question is usually being asked by a man who doesn't run his own company!

What has been the biggest obstacle you have overcome in business?
Being taken seriously as a small business when starting up, especially when trying for public contracts. The Government says they want to use SMEs and keep business local wherever possible, yet in my experience they are never prepared to take a chance on the SME even though we, as a business, have proved ourselves. Organisations still end up opting for the national suppliers/contractors, who cost them more money?! It is still frustrating!

What are your top tips for a young entrepreneur about to set up in business?
Accept that you will make many mistakes that will no doubt cost you money. But pick yourself up, learn from those mistakes and build a stronger business. Mistakes can be positive as it refocuses you on where you are going and how to get there effectively.

Don't take no for an answer, eventually they (potential clients) will listen!
Enjoy yourself too! I spent at least 8 years completely revolving my life around work. I remember filling in a questionnaire about what I enjoyed/did for fun, and in every section I wrote 'work’! In the end I realised that actually taking time out from work and having other interests makes you a more effective entrepreneur. You meet different people and do different things, which in my experience opens up doors too. It also gives you time away from the business to recharge your batteries. I had run myself out a few years ago and started doubting what I did, now that I have a life outside work I actually put more into work during the day.

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