Karen Nichol and Sarah-Jane Dale met for lunch in Perth last October. By the end of the meal, the friends’ business plan was written on a napkin.
The pair from Perth and Fife previously worked together at the University of Stirling.
The pandemic led them both to think about the future and the possibility of being self-employed.
They both took the leap and quit their jobs at the same time, but it was never the intention to start a business together.
Karen did a communications job for a charity that also needed someone to do training. Sarah-Jane was a perfect fit.
Karen says: “I think that planted a little seed in our heads.
“Last October we met for lunch in Perth and by the end of that lunch we had literally written our values and started our brand actually on a napkin.
“We were that cliché, doing things on napkins.”
The Skills Collective seized an opportunity
By the end of the lunch, The Skills Collective name was decided and within three weeks they started looking for clients.
Karen and Sarah-Jane describe The Skills Collective as a virtual head office.
It offers professional services for businesses who have limited access to or don’t have their own senior management office.
The Skills Collective’s five key areas are sales, marketing, training, business development and business planning services.
Karen says: “A lot of people made the same decisions as we did and jumped in at the deep end in the middle of a pandemic.
“We just seized an opportunity, everyone’s now comfortable talking online, everyone’s comfortable working in their house, and they’re comfortable with other people working in their house for them.
“That’s what our motivation was, it was born out of the situation and the fact that we couldn’t see people.
“If Covid hadn’t happened, The Skills Collective wouldn’t have happened.”
One business where everyone is an expert
While The Skills Collective can take on clients based anywhere, the majority are Tayside businesses.
Karen and Sarah-Jane currently have 22 clients, including an air sports business, a gallery and a joiner.
Working with a wide variety of businesses is one of their favourite aspects of the job.
“The small local businesses, the individual people, I admire them so much,” says Karen.
“They have a passion for their thing and we are trying to help them along.
“They can’t do it all and it’s nice to let them do what they’re passionate about, and we help them with the things that they don’t enjoy.”
The plan for The Skills Collective is to grow to a one-stop head office, with an expert on every topic.
Karen and Sarah-Jane cover many areas, but are already planning to make the collective even bigger.
They say: “The ideal is one business where everybody is an expert.
“One month a client might be concentrating on health safety, another month they are concentrating on marketing.
“Whatever it might be, we are there for them instead of having multiple suppliers.
“Our plan is to keep making that bigger and bigger so we’ve got a full offer.”
There’s a 20-year age difference between the duo, but they see it as another reason they work so well together.
Coming from different backgrounds and industries, they believe they can inspire every business along their journey.
The 48-year-old and 28-year-old are looking forward to aid the small and independent businesses of Tayside and Fife out of the pandemic.
Karen says: “It’s never been more important to have a network around you, and they are all there to help you.
“I think that’s we all just need to give each other a little bit of a helping hand at the moment.”