Set up your own champions’ league

Hannah Jordan
Thursday, September 26, 2019

Ink is in the blood,” says Essential Print Services founder and owner Yvonne Gorman.

Daughter of a printer and a graphic designer by trade herself, Gorman launched the Derby-based print management business in 2011, and with the initial support of a few clients from her previous job and a lot of hard graft she’s making some noise. 

The challenge 

Starting and running a small business alone, Gorman credits her success today to the network of clients and local business people that she already had back in 2011, which she says has fuelled a drive to “pay it forward”.

“Those first 12 months, before I made my first hire, were crazy and the support from those first clients was phenomenal,” she says. “Without that support network, I really don’t know where I’d be. Those relationships are still there today and we’re creating new ones all the time which is vital to small business – we don’t have marketing or HR departments so having access to experts who you can call any time for help and ideas is absolutely invaluable.” 

This drive means that Gorman is a busy woman. Not only does she head her Derby-based team of four, supplying a range of printed products and services from business cards, flyers and brochures, through to signage and exhibition graphics, but she spends much of her time connecting business leaders, mentoring new businesses and charities, the latter of which she provides discounted or free print where possible, and generally flying the flag for local business in Derby. 

She wears a lot of other hats too: from helping run the Derby Hub business networking group she helped found in 2011 to holding various monthly round tables with local business leaders. She also sits on the board of inward investment group Marketing Derby and has recently been crowned Small Business Saturday UK Champion, a nationwide initiative that supports small businesses, with which she is heavily involved. 

And if that weren’t enough she somehow found time in 2012 to devise and launch an online directory,, listing many of the 250 local business that surround Essential Print Services on Derby’s prestigious Pride Park. Of course, that comes with its own networking events too, hosted by Gorman. 

The motivation for all this, she says is a desire to see small businesses and indeed organisations that exist solely for the benefit of others, such as charities and not-for-profit organisationss, succeed. 

The pay-off is two-fold: Gorman is getting the business name out there and making new connections whilet satisfying her desire to support others. “It ticks all of my boxes to help people that need it and help our local economy and community,” she says.

The method 

Local growth hubs, Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Business are all good starting points if you’re looking to develop a networking group and want to research local business leaders, Gorman says, but it’s vital to look at those around you.

“Your relationships are with people not with the business. There’s no harm in going along to networking groups asking for ideas and suggestions, particularly if you have your own business or want to start one, and if there isn’t a networking group that suits you, start your own,” she says. 

Gorman stresses the importance of being broad-minded when creating a networking event or regular business leader’s group and surrounding yourself with people who are not like-minded and who will pose questions and see issues from a different perspective.

“If you surround yourself with people just like you, you might find that you miss something,” she points out. “I run a mastermind group every month with a dozen or so local business owners from all different sizes and types of business and sectors. We’ve been meeting for years and have become very good friends; we get around the table and can speak freely because we trust each other. 

“Although we are from different business backgrounds many of the challenges we face are very similar, just on different scales, so it’s interesting and useful to see how big business will cope with the same problem.

When creating an event and looking for a venue, Gorman says she’s very resourceful and always looks up her contacts to whom a bunch of new business faces may be useful – I’ll scratch yours if you’ll scratch mine, so to speak. Of course, this has the added benefit of keeping the organising costs down, she states. 

Creating compelling content for a networking event is a must, says Gorman, or people simply won’t take the time out of their day to support it. 

“Sometimes it can be an uphill struggle because you want to have enough people in the room. But equally some of the best events I have been to have been the smallest attended, so that can also be a good thing – it means you are able to talk to people at length rather than just small talk for a few minutes.”

The result

Gorman points out that her extra-curricular endeavours are certainly not a get-rich-quick game. “It’s more of a slow burn,” she says. 

“The business has taken eight years to get to where it is. We’re at £400,000 and four staff now. 

“I enjoy bringing people together and having the opportunity to present my business in front of a number of people. But you definitely have to enjoy doing it otherwise you be exhausted very quickly,” she admits. 

Ultimately, she says, the key point is to educate the businesses and organisations that she puts together to get better at what they do and to make the most of what’s at their fingertips. 

“Often people feel there is no help out there but there really is, it’s just about knowing where that help can be found and the more of us that can get out there making these networks and connections, the better.” 

Her efforts have earned Gorman numerous nominations, gongs and appointments on top of the aforementioned, including the Inspirational Derby Business leader award in 2018 for the fourth year running and the youngest person and only woman, at the time of appointment, to be on the board of Marketing Derby – and that is because, she explains, she was the only person to have actually asked for the privilege. 

“I’m privileged to be invited onto some of these things and I look around sometimes at who else is sitting in the same room and ask myself how an earth have I got here. 

“Just me, a 37-year old, female, small business owner. But clearly making a big impact. So I’ve learned that if you don’t ask you don’t get,” she states. 

“There’s nothing better than being in a room full of people you’ve put together and seeing them go on to do business with each other. That is adding value, not just to me but to business. It’s that simple.” 

Essential Print Services

Business location Pride Park, Derby

Inspection host Yvonne Gorman, business owner

Size Turnover: £400,000+; Staff: 4

Products A huge range of printed products including flyers, business cards, brochures, handbooks, letterheads, deskpads, notepads and promotional items

Inspection focus Becoming a local business champion


Research people that you admire as a business leaders and when you have 20 or 30 names contact them and arrange a roundtable event. Look at what help you need such as HR or legal and make sure those seats are filled. If you’re going to put in the work to help others then you also need to help yourself

Gorman says: “I’m lucky enough to have a fantastic team behind me that keep the cogs turning while I’m working on these things, so that is crucial. Make sure you manage your time and energy carefully and that what you’re doing is balanced, otherwise you’ll end up exhausted and things will fall apart” 

Most small businesses won’t have access to resources like their own marketing department, so unless you shout about yourself, no one else will 

If you wake up in the morning and you don’t feel confident that day you still have to do it regardless

Make sure the people that you speak to you in business know that you’re in the market to attend events and be involved with them

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to be involved with things. If you can’t find a business group or networking activity that suits you then create your own. It doesn’t have to be formal and it can be like therapy – you leave your problems on the table! 


© MA Business Limited 2020. Published by MA Business Limited, St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road, London, SE24 0PB, a company registered in England and Wales no. 06779864. MA Business is part of the Mark Allen Group .