Describe a small company in your hometown that you think is successful.
You should say:
How you know it?
What they produce?
Why you think it is successful?
And explain how you think it became successful.

Possible answer the above speaking cue card:

This is an interesting question because I think the answer I’ll give reflects what I think of as ‘success’ to me being a successful business isn’t necessarily about making the owner rich, or growing the company bigger each year, it can be about other things too.

I’m going to tell you about a small company I know, how I know it, what they produce and why I I would call it successful. As to how it became successful, well I suppose I’ll have to just offer my best guess – if it was possible to explain why a company does well I think we would all be entrepreneurs in the making!

The company I am thinking of is run by a friend of mine. We met through a running club. She makes very high quality bespoke cookies. The biscuits themselves are delicious, but actually, it isn’t really so much about the food, it’s about the way she designs and presents them. She will do any design or theme and create special shaped and decorated biscuits to order. So, for example, if you have a friend who is celebrating a special birthday, and they love cycling and rock climbing, she might make up a box of biscuits including one in the shape of a bike, some mountains and ropes to represent abseiling equipment. She does a lot of wedding favours – small biscuits with a personal design incorporating the initials of the bride and groom on e.g. the number plate of a classic car perhaps. She even did a special order for me. A friend of mine had a riding accident and broke her arm very badly. To cheer her up I asked my biscuit making friends to make a very special box. It featured a cartoon version of the horse she had been riding; the back of an ambulance; a syringe – to represent the morphine injections the paramedics had issued, and a representation of my friend with her arm in plaster.  It was brilliant!

As to why the business is successful, I think it’s for a number of reasons. The actual cost of ingredients is quite modest so the overheads aren’t huge, so my friend is able to add value through her artwork. She meets a niche need, I don’t know of any similar businesses in the region so there is not too much competition. She can also send her biscuits through the post, and they both travel and keep well, so she can supply all over the world – in theory at least, a limitless market. It helps that she is good at what she does so repeat orders keep on coming. However, whilst that explains how she keeps in profit, for me what makes the business a success, is that she has found a way of working for herself that generates an income, but gives her a really good work life balance. She can work flexibility and take time off when she needs to. If she wants to go for a run in the morning before work and start late she can; if she thinks the lovely weather means she’d be better off working on her allotment she can do that too – although, of course, the work has to be done later. It is fantastic that she has made a success of her business idea, and the company has grown enough that she is also able to employ a part-time assistant to help her in busy spells as well.

Setting up the business was an act of faith, there were no guarantees when she started out, but she has worked hard, built up and retained a good reputation, and her products always raise a smile of delight in the recipient. Her main problem is that customers complain her biscuits look too good to eat. This frustrates her, they are made for eating,’ keep a photo eat the biscuits’ is her advice, and she should know, she baked them herself!

[Written by - Lucy Marris | Careers Adviser (UK), TEFL teacher (Vietnam)]

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