As anyone who has spoken to me or seen my social media will know, I was recently honoured to tie for the silver Brand Amplifier award. Everyone has been congratulatory and then asked “what’s that then?” So this is an attempt to explain what I’ve been up to for the last couple of months, what Brand Amplifier is and why I’m so excited to have been part of it.

When I heard about Brand Amplifier I was intrigued. It promised free training in branding for female entrepreneurs, which sounded great to me as I try to establish myself in a pretty crowded marketplace. I was successful in the online application and didn’t really know what to expect next.

The first session at JPC studio in Brixton, was overwhelming – so much to take in and the terrifying task of giving our elevator pitch to a room full of strangers. But it was exciting. JP, the project founder, was infectiously enthusiastic about everything she said. The key points I took away were the importance of your business having values and not to be scared of taking risks. These have had a massive impact on my recent decisions. I was also in a room full of supportive women with a fantastically diverse range of businesses, a network which I soon realised was going to be one of the most valuable parts of the program.

Being cheered on by the always enthusiastic JP.

Being cheered on by the always enthusiastic JP.

Over the following three weeks we had sessions on PR, social media, viral video marketing, press releases and business survival. Each session was absolutely packed with information and we had homework every week. It was a challenge to manage it all alongside running my business, part time teaching and motherhood, but the more you put into the homework, the more you learned from it.

I got so much out of the course, including Sylvia Marshall helping me define my “sizzle”, Jasmine Birtles explaining how to approach journalists and Jeanette Whiting turning me on to Instagram. When the month was over I felt satisfied that I had been given an arsenal of tools that I could now put into practise to promote my business.

There was just the small matter of the pitch………

I just got involved in BA for the training. I never thought I had a chance of winning an award. I didn’t think I had the “right” type of business. To be honest, I wasn’t very confident about whether I was entrepreneur material. I’m confident about my photography skills – it’s my passion and what I have been doing since I was sixteen. I’m confident about interacting with the people I photograph – I know I can put people at ease and work with them well. But being a businesswoman? It’s just what I have to do to make a living out of this – or so I thought. I’d gradually come to realise how creative and exciting running your business and building your brand can be. Still, preparing a pitch for a Dragon’s Den style situation was very stressful, especially when I was so sure it was for nothing more than my own satisfaction of doing my best.

The nerve-wracking five minutes of presenting my pitch to the panel of Yolande Leroy, Georgie Bingham and Sarah Kohn.

The nerve-wracking five minutes of presenting my pitch to the panel of Yolande Leroy, Georgie Bingham and Sarah Kohn.

On the day the judges were much more friendly and smiley than any dragons and the pitch flew by in a blur – I did actually enjoy myself when I got going. I was amazed to tie for the silver award “given for a great brand story, a compelling pitch and renewed focus in your business growth” with Doriana of Mind the Flat. The seed funding that I received will enable me to carry out some creative promotional activities in 2015. I received lots of wonderful feedback on my images and brand identity. In addition to everything I have learned from the program the main reasons I’m so excited to have been involved are the increased opportunities to promote my business and the amazing network of people I have met. I now have people I can contact with whatever crazy need I have (including sourcing seaweed as a photo shoot prop – thanks Atlantic Kitchen) as well as a network of alumni that can partially take the place of colleagues, very valuable to a freelancer working on my own.

It has been an exciting, daunting, exhausting, reassuring, inspiring and surprising experience that I will be referring back to for a very long time. Mainly it has been a massive confidence boost. After the awards ceremony I sat on my own on the South Bank looking out at my favourite London view and thinking “I did it! Maybe I am good at this.”

Award winners

Many thanks to Elena Zlatanoska for the use of her pictures.