So that’s our second year in business together complete and we’ve survived this strange, unexpected year. We’ve had lots of ups and downs but never take our foot off the gas! When client work has been slow, we’ve worked hard on our own business and resisted sitting around in the sun and used this time to develop our business offerings further, to make our packages (hopefully) easier to understand with our 4 ninjas…. Here are some of our highlights.
Clients from 2019
We were lucky to start the year with client work carried over from the previous year, so 2020 started very much like any other. Remember the million-dollar proposal from 2019? Well, our client got their approval! A great achievement from many hours of work, meetings, budget re-writes so that was a great start to the year and the end of that project. This meant they had a framework and structure in place along with a reliable resource to take them forward. A complex and challenging piece of work but we were happy with the result.
We signed up new clients but unfortunately some of this work had to be scaled back when the pandemic hit. This included the 3-day London event we’d supported last year, it was postponed and then turned around as an online event in a short timeframe with systems that didn’t easily connect to each other. The event landed well, the (very) long days were tough as we were no longer working European hours but also US hours due to the accessibility of the online event, but we were committed to support our longest running client to make it a success.
Live event run online – done
How do we explain Blue Ninja in our second year?
2019 was the year of ‘your process warriors’, but we do much more than that! Trying to get our elevator pitch right depended on who you were talking to. A chance meeting at the monthly coffee break at our registered business address, World Trade Center (WTC) The Hague and we had ourselves a Dutch government funded business coach. So, the journey of discovery began.
So, the hot summer months was filled with Blue Ninjas self-development, developing our business strategy, branding review, lots of post-it notes, creating a marketing brand proposition, investment in a CRM as well as offering a summer internship. All this while our business coach helped us come up with a robust action plan of how to develop our business.
We also had assistance from a local Leiden marketing group who helped us develop our 4 ninjas & our new tagline ‘every business needs a ninja’. It was a lightbulb moment for us to cut down on the blurb to target messages via our 4 ninjas and our new and improved website was launched.
Since then, we’ve diversified further as opportunities have arisen with Ninja Me, video editing for a Leiden University lecturer and helping individuals with their CV and LinkedIn profiles.
Identity – explained
The benefits of the pandemic
Blue Ninja is an online company, but all of a sudden lots of things had to change from face to face to online. This has meant we’ve upskilled on lots more tools and software than ever before! There have been less opportunities to meet people face to face, however, it has opened the doors to what would have been physical networking events in other countries to be online, so we are now able to join in. Whether that was with groups from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leicester, Tamworth or closer to home in Rotterdam we were participating from our own home workspaces.
The opportunities were amazing, we’ve made some really useful contacts via networking which have resulted in; Youtube interviews, vlogging courses, presentations at events and started some fruitful collaborations which have resulted in monthly Facebook lives.
Networking online – done
How has the pandemic affected us personally?
As with all of us, travel is effectively off the table, we’ve stayed in our respective homes with our partners more than we ever expected to. We’ve missed out on having family get–togethers and special trips but we’re healthy and we appreciate what we have. When we have managed to get out, we’ve been exercising outside, kayaking and visiting our beautiful home country.
Being at home has meant we’ve probably worked more hours than ever before, worked more weekends than we would have liked to and not taken all the leave we should have done. Although, we’ve not allowed the pandemic to make us retreat back into our shell and we’ve pushed on through and been accountable to each other to keep moving forward.
We have invested in our own wellbeing by buying a standing desk for Louisa to ease her back pain and purchased a new laptop for Julie that doesn’t crash every time she tries to join a video call. These are necessary investments in us and in the business and have greatly benefited our work-from-home health.
Time off – to be improved on in 2021
Even before the pandemic hit, we had been talking to local small business owners here in Leiden about creating a professional network of small businesses to connect, support and grow. We had to postpone our very first event due to the timing (the first week of ‘lockdown’) but we’ve managed one or two socially distanced meetings when the situation allowed and we’ve grown our small business community of nearly 150 members to date.
We’ve also been helping a social enterprise Inspire Alpine, in inspiring business that we support as ‘Automation Wizards’ to help them with their myriad of tools and software to help navigate, evaluate and streamline processes.
More recently we’ve collected for our local food bank Voedselbanken which we hope to do each Christmas moving forward.
Giving something back – feels good
Our great achievements of 2020
We’ve weathered the storm and come out the other side ready for the next challenge, we’ve managed to flex with existing clients and gained new ones. We’ve put ourselves out there, outside our comfort zones and networked like crazy.
We’ve managed to transfer from Gsuite to Microsoft Office365, invested in our business’s infrastructure and improved ways of working to make our lives easier online. We’ve learned more about ourselves, our strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and outsourced some work that was too time consuming and got specialists in to help with particular areas that were outside of our expertise.
But our greatest achievement of the year has to be being nominated for the Netherlands British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) Entrepreneur of the Year Award! Such an honour to be nominated and considered alongside other amazing entrepreneurs and businesses such as Tonys Chocolonely & Kelly’s Expat Shopping. The winners Double Dutch are also founded by two women so we are in good company. It’s given our small but mighty partnership a tremendous boost.
Personally, we have had a housewarming, bought a cat, continued with singing online, continued personal training, had Dutch classes online, had more family video calls than we ever expected to, bought company bikes and managed to work with partners at home constantly.
This year has been like a game of snakes and ladders, we’ve sped up, slowed down and changed direction. As a partnership we’ve communicated better and divided up our preferred roles. 2020 wasn’t what we expected it to be but we’re ready for whatever 2021 throws at us.
Bring it on.