The female entrepreneur tells us about her company’s journey from part-time bedroom start-up to nationwide business success

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About your business

Founder name: Sunny Sandwell
Company name: Sunshine Events
Company age: 11 years old 
Company location: Preston
Staff numbers: 40
Date started: 2004

Tell us what your business does:

Sunshine Events are the largest fun equipment hire company in the UK. We own and stock over 300 exciting items for you to hire for your corporate event.

Where did the idea for your business come from? What motivated you to start it?

Sunshine Events was founded over 12 years ago by our directors of fun, Sunny and James Sandwell. What started out as a weekend business that operated out of a spare bedroom has now grown into a successful and innovative events company that has regional offices all over the UK.

What did you do before?

After a brief spell in public relations I moved to the charity sector and worked as North West Special events manager for the NSPCC. This involved organising some high profile events including Howard Keel Golf Classic and overseeing all the charity shops.

What did you have to overcome (if anything) to start it and get it off the ground?

We had to overcome the stereotype of a bouncy castle operator to prove to people that, although more expensive, we are worth it as we are here to provide a different level of service.

What makes your business stand out from others like it?

We’ve built a reputation for being creative, reliable and fun. We pride ourselves in offering excitement, laughter and fantastic memories for people.

What was your first big breakthrough?

Despite only having giant games at the beginning, one of my clients asked to co-ordinate a large event and bring other suppliers.

This was the turning point as we realised the potential of the business was a lot bigger than we initially thought. Customers didn’t want to have to co-ordinate lots of suppliers. They wanted one who they could trust to bring the right suppliers in and do a good job.

Your business tips

You’re prime minister for a day. What would you change for small businesses?

Financial education should be a compulsory part of the curriculum to ensure that people are commercially aware and also manage their personal finances.

What’s your best customer service tip?

Don’t be a faceless company who hides behind a website. Make sure you have face-to-face meetings and talk on the phone to build good customer relationships.

What would you do differently? What have you learnt?

Stay focused on what you are good at and don’t get distracted by trying to have your finger in too many pies. Decide on your customer’s profile and don’t presume they are all like you and think like you.

What one piece of advice would you give to people who want to start their own business?

Go for it. Listen to advice but if you believe in what you are doing then don’t let anybody put you off.