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Irma Gilbert

Irma Gilbert was working freelance when she decided she wanted to propel her digital marketing business forward, which she was running from home. Discovering the University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) business support initiative the MORE programme, Irma got in touch to see how it could help. As a result, she has now grown the business on an international level, with clients around the world relying on her services. 

The background

Irma was running her digital marketing company, Canaan Marketing, from her home in Blackpool. While this offered benefits like reduced overhead costs, she was keen to establish a more professional base for her business, which she wanted to expand. The Media Factory at UCLan seemed the ideal place, providing a business incubation facility with the tools and support required for growth. 

The journey 

The MORE programme provides a combination of advice, guidance, business support and facilities to help the growth of creative, digital and media sector companies in the North West of England. 

MORE programme mentor Steve Simm signed Irma up, spotting her potential and identifying her business could really benefit from the support on offer. Irma had clear aims about what she wanted to achieve from working with the programme. “I wanted to concentrate on developing the operational side of the business, focusing on innovation, funding and developing strategy,” she says.

Working with Andrew Greenyer, a digital marketing and social media adviser at Raise the Roof Marketing and mentor of the MORE programme, Irma gained an understanding of the strategies required to achieve growth. “Andrew provided me with a range of support, advising me on business strategy, marketing and ensuring attention to detail. Having a direct source of support helped me to clearly define aims and strategies, and increased my confidence.” 

Irma also made use of facilities provided by the MORE programme. The business incubation unit within the Media Factory provides office space units, IT facilities with the latest software, broadband and meeting space, which is where she established her base to work from and which continues to act as the base for the business.

Irma increased her business knowledge from the workshops run by the MORE programme. These cover key topics for starting in business, providing information and guidance on skills and practices required. “I attended several workshops, including freelance, finance and creative thinking. They’re great opportunities to engage with experts, as well as a chance to network. They really helped me to gain a better understanding of areas I didn’t know much about.”

The benefits to Irma’s business have been huge, and helped her to overcome what were previously barriers to success. “Thanks to the MORE programme, I had a website built from scratch - – and was able to establish a base from which to run everything from. I’ve been able to strengthen my business in every way, which has enabled me to develop relationships with businesses and clients overseas. It’s really provided me with a platform for international growth.” Irma has also strengthened her knowledge of the UK business market, gaining a better understanding of the economy and market trends.

The business

Canaan Marketing offers a range of services, combining digital knowledge with marketing strategy to create digital marketing programmes which give clients the edge. Aimed at small and medium sized businesses, clients receive advice and support with strategy and innovation, brand marketing and evaluation.  

Though she’s based in the UK, Irma’s business operates internationally, with clients in her home country of Portugal, as well as China, Brazil, India, Angola and Mozambique, and employs a team of associate designers. She’s also attracted the attention of international investors, with an offer to sell to a Polish company, keen to access the South American market Irma is working in. “I now use my experience to help companies that may have good strategies for entering and growing in new markets, but perhaps struggle with the execution.”