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Norfolk virtual PA service widens its scope

15:35 28 February 2013

Juliet Allen, founder of Olive Branch Services

Juliet Allen, founder of Olive Branch Services

Archant

Norfolk businesswoman Juliet Allen, who founded a virtual PA company from her home, is eyeing further opportunities within the fishing and marine industry after securing a new contract.

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Miss Allen set up Olive Branch Services two years ago to provide PA support to small businesses in need of administrative support.

The 39-year-old, who runs the business from her home in North Creake, near Fakenham, made the switch to go it alone after working as a PA at City College Norwich.

Shortly afterwards she was taken on by the North Norfolk Business Forum (NNBF) to help administer the £2.4m FLAG programme (Fisheries Local Action Group) project, which secured EU funding to help support the local fishing industry.

“My work with the NNBF is really me tied up at the moment,” she said. “I do between 15 and 20 hours a week for each project.

“It’s a large project and I do all the administrative work and I am working with all sorts of people from fishermen, restaurants, to the Marine Management Organisation in Newcastle. They really are linking nicely together. One of the things with the fisheries work is that there is a nice link with offshore wind.”

Olive Branch Services, which was a finalist in the recent local finals of the Local Business Accelerators Competition, has been built up largely through word of mouth and also using social media, particularly Twitter.

During her time at City College Norwich she also worked with Keiran Miles, its entrepreneur-in-residence, who helped develop some graphic design work for the new venture.

Recently Miss Allen has secured work with Steve Chadd at Kiss Works Ltd, a boat-building and marine engineering company to provide office support for the growing business.

She has also linked up with a Holt-based business to provide project management work, and is also due to take up a new post as a director for Cromer Past, Present and Future in April.

“I just thought there was something in the market where I could help and I haven’t looked back,” she said. “It’s been fantastic. It’s such a big industry and I am excited to be here.”

Local MP Norman Lamb also gave her an idea at a procurement conference to create a consortium of PAs so that potential work could be shared

“I have done that with a couple of other PAs and said that if it got to the point where I had too much work, instead of turning it away, I would sub-contract it,” she added. “When I started out, I really thought I would be doing little bits and bobs for different people. But it’s really evolved – it’s much more than secretarial.

“I really wanted to focus on small companies where they couldn’t afford to employ somebody. Kiss Works is a fast-expanding company doing all the support work for the offshore wind farm, but he [Steve Chadd] hasn’t got any administrative support.

“I work from home but I think that going into the workplace is good for the soul, so I do go in.

“He has got some fantastic ideas for expanding his business, and also has an apprentice from West Anglia College he has taken on. I am putting the systems in place and trying to get him using social media.”

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