Smarta – Five business tips from Paris Hilton

29 October 2010

Five business tips from Paris HiltonSmarta are great at finding engaging ways to talk about entrepreneurship.

This example using Paris Hilton is an excellent case in point.

Go to the Smarta website to see the full story Five business tips from Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton: heiress, celebrity, porn star, entrepreneur and permanent resident of the brat pack. Love her or hate her, Paris Hilton is one of the most successful celebrity brands of the past decade. She may be famous only for being famous, but she has made some canny business decisions to market herself. In February 2007, the Associated Press tried to curb Hilton’s fame by refusing to report her name for a whole week. Needless to say, the experiment failed. Here’s what business owners can learn from Paris Hilton.

Cash in on your connections

All publicity is good publicity

Create lucrative partnerships

Be seen on the scene

Get political

Growing Knowledge the Evolution of Research – the garden is open

29 October 2010

Our Growing Knowledge – the Evolution of Research was officially opened by Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee last week.

Over the next nine months, we will be using a dedicated exhibition to explore what technological tools will shape the library’s future research facilities.

The exhibition aims to challenge visitors on how research is changing and ask what you want to experience from the library of the future.

I have volunteered to be a guide to the exhibition so do drop by and say hello.

Working with hardware partner HP and software partner Microsoft, the library is showcasing a range of research tools, including a prototype of Sony’s RayModeler 360-degree Autostereoscopic Display that uses gesture control to view static and moving 3D images and video.

At the end of the Growing Knowledge exhibition, the British Library will evaluate the tools and decide which have been most useful for researchers – a term the library uses to describe anyone using its resources.

Richard Boulderstone, CIO at the British Library, explained: “It’s about trying to explore what tools and services we should provide for researchers in future. What is the future of the library? What tools, spaces, technologies should we provide for researchers?”

Clive Izard, head of creative services at the British Library, added: “We are evaluating the way researchers will work in an area that is not hushed and quiet – where people will be more collaborative physically.

“At the end [of the exhibition] we will produce a report. JISC [independent advisory body providing advice on ICT use to higher education] is going to take the findings and incorporate them into our services.”

The exhibition, which is running on a thin client solution, is testing everything from monitor set-up – from a single touch screen monitor to four standard monitors – to audio search software developed by Microsoft.

These tools, which include map rectification software that reshapes old maps over current maps, and a Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts tool that enables users to digitally delve into Austen’s handwritten manuscripts, will be alternated with other ones in the British Library’s portfolio over the nine months.

Researchers can also experiment with a Microsoft Surface Table, on which the British Library is showing an interactive, digital version of the world’s longest painting, the 19th century Garibaldi Panorama. A set of dials, developed with (University College London (UCL), also measures Twitter activity across nine capital cities.

The Growing Knowledge exhibition will run until 16 July 2011.

Growing Knowledge – the Evolution of Research is open

Growing Knowledge – the Evolution of Research has been officially opened by Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee.

Showcasing some never-seen-before research tools, thought-provoking content and futuristic design in a fully interactive research environment, the exhibition aims to challenge our audiences on how research is changing and ask what they want to experience from the library of the future.

For more information watch this You Tube video for interviews with Library staff and further details about the exhibition.

Reuters have also produced a video piece on the exhibition.

Are you a Chicken Entrepreneur?

18 October 2010



Once again EnterQuest have come up with a great angle on business start-up.

Although many business start-ups come from enforced redundancies or a choice to start afresh, the more cautious approach of starting with just a toe in the water is becoming increasingly popular.

I don’t think Chicken Entrepreneur is a particularly flattering name, for what can be the most sensible way to start a business, and one recommended by Jason Fried and David Hansson in Reworking, which I reviewed in  A radical Reworking of business.

Chicken entrepreneurship

No, we’re not referring to the number of people taking up KFC franchises, or householders keeping poultry and selling the eggs.

We’re talking about people who start up a business but are too ‘chicken’ to give up their current employment. They’re being entrepreneurial because they have a reasonably firm idea or vision for their little venture, but are afraid to risk everything by going the whole hog and quitting work completely, not for a while anyway.

These are ‘spare-time’ start ups and side-businesses, and are very often second, third or even fourth-income enterprises whose objective is simply to make ends meet and pay the bills.

And there are a heck of a lot of people doing this.

(article continues with comments)

How to become a cutting-edge retailer

14 October 2010

Last week I attending an absolutely fascinating workshop on future trends in retailing.

Cate Trotter the founder and Head of Trends at Insider Trends was the speaker, and had an impressive knowledge of the key issues affecting on-line and off-line retail business.

Here are my notes from the information packed two hour session:

What are the main trends that will affect retailers over next two to five years?

Trends are like ocean tides an cannot be controlled, but if you recognise them you can ride them to success.

There is now a more sophisticated and more connected customer base than ever before.

Segmentation for individuals – more tailored products and stores

* Alton Towers’ Sleepover Suite (sponsored by Superdrug) for teenage girls
* Blends for Friends – an online tailored tea store – unique flavours and labels
* Elemis Skinlab – technology to assess skin leading to tailored products

Co-creation such as product modification.

* Nokia phone covers – an early example
* Nike iD range of shoes (choose from 60 shoes and select design of each element) – not a new service, but sales up 20% in last year
* Zazzle – uploaded designs printed on thousands of different products – recent sales surge
* and

Concept development and product development

* BMW – asking for ideas for new cars with online voting for favourites
* Denham – store designed around what the customer wants

Use SurveyMonkey – to find out what your customers want, or how about a coffee morning discussion. Much more than just a focus group asking for opinions.

Changing family structure leads to convenience trend

–          more singles than married in the UK by 2020
–          more single person households in the UK – impacts how people shop – from weekly shop to convenience shopping.  Growth from 19bn 2000 to 41bn 2015
–          Asda have bough Netto
–          Easier payment – Visa PayWave system
–          Debenhams – mini-wok is most popular item
–          Dinner for one packages
–          Waitrose – small stores with fresh food, warm bread, deli
–          Reprise of the milkman – –


Two types of retail – Online vs Offline

–          strong advantages
–          price and value
–          convenience – to your door

–          needs to compete with online success by expanding on…
–          experience
–          relationships

Don’t get caught in the middle – if you are on the high street, don’t try and compete on price or you will fail

Online Retail
–          Moving onto portable devices and digital television
–          Growing at 20% a year – more people online – more confidence shopping online
–          Brand loyalty reducing online – one click away from a competitor + price comparison engines
–          Small business shouldn’t not be drawn into price competition – e.g. with Amazon
–          Make shopping easier for your customers – one click shopping – PayPal – and (for Facebook shopping).
–          Move to ‘right first time’ e.g. Levis curve fit
–          Problem of home delivery – 10% of deliveries fail first time
–          Example of can deliver to home or to a local store (later hours than local Post Office). Makes returns easy with label and convenience store, with post paid if wanted.

The more unique your business the more loyalty you will get from your customers.

– online personal shopper who makes a commission on clothes bought.
–          Plan B Salon – Skype interviewing
– – create a paper watch which generates facsimile of their designs.

– – watches on your wrist
– – Portobello Road market in her house – a new photo each week. Also collaborates with designers

Growth of mobile retailing
–          Expected to double in next four years, but is still a tiny fraction of sales
–          Will use phones to find out about products so website must include phone capability
–          Phone apps will grow, but might be out of the reach of small business.

Offline Retail

–          Abercrombie and Fitch – more of an experience than shopping – all five sense are covered – loud music – A&F scents –
–          The Brand Showroom – e.g. Disney Stores – putting the experience before the product
–          J Crew (share of life retailing) – a range of products for a particular segment of the market / customer
–          Monocle Stores – London, New York, Tokyo, Zurich – sell their magazine plus accessories for readers of the mag
–          Mellow Johnny’s in Texas – bicycles, café and related
–          Lomography Gallery, London – retail and support services

Lomography Gallery London

Competition now comes from other experiences instead of other retailers

e.g. kids, shopping, theme parks

ROBO shopping – Research Offline – Buy Online

Maximise sales by
–          selling closer to the time of need –
–          selling closer to time of consumption
–          exclusives
–          charge for stocking goods – in the East End
–          own label products – e.g. Apple – use stores to promote products – don’t mind if customers buy online
–          Own label – – Dyson have tried a pop-up store


13% of stores are now empty – lower rate in the South East

Increasing demand for accessible / high street stores

People losing trust in big name brands – moving to local stores and farmer’s markets

Authenticity and localness – you don’t want to be located in a mall

Choose you neighbours carefully – think about pairing up with a like minded business.

Example of A Gold (UK produce) and Verde’s (European produce) in Brushfield street in Spitalfields.

Attention spans on the web are shortening over time.

Store payback time 5-7 years on average

Example – using trolleys to keep store fresh use projected displays in store – others use LCD displays

Liberty change signage fonts and colours

Could use posters

Fast moving stock – Zara has 11,000 new products a year

Temporary retail spaces – pop-up-stores – now hitting the mainstream

Toys R Us open up 200 pop-up-stores for seasonal sales

The Secret Restaurant and now The Secret Market (food fair) –

Retail trucks – Adidas pop-up truck – can use Twitter to announce where you are

New mobile app and widget to take credit card payments – – 3% charge

How? (including marketing)

Less brand loyalty than in the past

Customers more inclined to listen to each other than conventional advertising – people buy goods and post comments online – leads to discussion

High satisfaction leads to word of mouth and social media

So concentrate on quality delivery rather than low price

Happy customer vs unhappy customer – £600 vs -£400 – Research by a mobile phone company

Nudging customers to promote your products or services

Example: - customers get points for registering in store  and – social media element
–          Be interesting –
–          Tell stories – your customer might want to share – newsletter in every pack
–          Educate customers – Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle – sealed chambers
Apple store free workshops
–          Make business more interactive – – furniture designed by members of the public with votes to decide
– in New York, customers design their own burgers online and save recipe, with 25cents for each one sold
– – records purchases and shares online
–          Uniqlo’s Lucky Line for every 26th customer who joined the line – massive social media coverage


Growth rates predicted for next 18 months

Offline 1% – existing £263bn

Online 39% – existing £11bn

The future is customer centric so think P2P Retail – human interactions

–          Be human!

–          Celebrate your smallness

–          Who is your service going to be tailored to?

–          What do they like?

–          How will you adapt to them?

–          How will they change and how will you move with them.

–          Be authentic – with innovations which will benefit your customers – connect with your local community

–          Be conversational – put the relationship before the sale

–          Finding out  what your customers think and how to trigger them to promote you.

On a personal note I would strongly recommend signing up to the Springwise newsletter and looking at the Trendwatching website.

My first ride on a ‘Boris Bike’

13 October 2010

My shiny new Barclays Cycle Hire key arrived last night, so today at lunch time I rushed out to give it a try.

The experience was a mixed one, but mainly positive. The thrill of whizzing along quiet London back-streets, and arriving at my destination far quicker than walking were the main benefits.

The downsides are other traffic and pedestrians. Within minutes of setting off, I had been nudged by an impatient taxi driver, and nearly run over a couple of pedestrians who stepped out in front of me (a case of saved by the bell). Also the three gears are a bit limiting. First is fine for a quick get away from the traffic lights, but it could really do with another couple further up to slow down the legs on the flat or downhill sections. Probably the biggest disappointment was the poor state of repair our roads are in. I had to swerve around a couple of enormous potholes, and was glad the bikes are such a sturdy construction.

The other current snag is the lack of locations to pick up and leave the bikes. My nearest docking station is a good five minutes walk away, and I had the same problem at my Holborn destination. Although thanks to the computerised system I was able to ensure the parked bikes were properly registered (Boris warns of teething problems).

Despite all of the above, I’m already looking forward to my next adventure on a Boris Bike.

Drink Shop & Do – a new kind of consumer experience

4 October 2010

Many thanks to a colleague for recommending this newly opened venue, located just around the corner from my office. I popped over last week for a nose around and ended up buying lunch and having a long chat with co-founder Kristie.

She explained how the idea for Drink Shop & Do came from wanting a place like this for Kristie and Coralie and their friends. As with so many entrepreneurs when confronted with the frustration of the lack of a product or service, the light-bulb went on in their heads and they saw a business opportunity.

The potential they spotted was for a destination for what I would describe as maturing mid-twenties young people. Those who have become bored by the late nights, heavy-drinking and loud music –  nightclub lifestyle. As the father of a 20 year old young woman, I am very much looking forward to the time she reaches this calmer stage of life.

Kristie and Coralie have chosen a beautifully light and airy building, which was a Victorian bathhouse in a former life. This is a delightfully surprising find, located close to what was previously one of the grottier part of Kings Cross.

The founders can explain their thinking better than I can:

We are Kristie and Coralie. We met 13 years ago on our first day of secondary school and have been friends ever since. About a year ago we discussed what would really make us happy…

Kristie hoped for a place where tea was served in beautiful teapots, cakes were sticky, and where if she felt like it she could play a game of scrabble!

Coralie wished for all of those things too, but she also wanted to be able to display local designers crafts and products so that people coming into the shop had the chance to see not only pieces of art but handmade designs that they could buy there and then to take home.

We wanted to create a fantastical looking place, that was open to the community where everyone could feel free to come and make crafty things at any time of the day, and perhaps drink a delicious cocktail at the same time!

After having been open for only eight weeks they are still on a steep learning curve, and suffering from the traditional startup’s lack of sleep. They have a long to do list they are starting to work through, including putting a location map on their website and starting a blog. Although they do have a presence on Facebook with over 500 friends. And have had some excellent reviews from bloggers (Drink, Shop and Do Reviewhandnamade)

More importantly, they are both relishing the experience of developing a unique service.

It was interesting to hear the positive impact of their idea to make everything in the shop for sale. On a slow day recently for food and drinks sales, a customer wandered in and ended up buying a £600 sofa, which made for a good day’s income overall.

I like the way they are having fun with what they do. Kristie explained how she had always wanted to run a traditional sweetshop as a child (in common with many), and had created something of a mini sweet emporium in her bedroom at home. Needless to say the opening of Drink Shop & Do gave her the opportunity to fulfil this dream, with a corner of the building dedicated to Flying Saucers and the like.

On a final note I want to say how delicious the Salmon, Dill & Creme Fraiche tart  I bought was, and to wish Kristie and Coralie the best of luck with their innovative  venture.

Update 12 October
Great to see an excellent article on the shop in last night’s Evening Standard.

Electronic Christmas greetings card images from Rachel Piper

4 October 2010

Although I am in daily in contact with existing and aspiring entrepreneurs, and hopefully have helped in some small way on to success, I wasn’t aware of inspiring a new venture until today.

Some time ago I wrote a post about Rachel Piper a librarian and an amazing nature photographer, and her brave decision to blog about her experience of living with Obsessive–compulsive disorder (To Blog or not to Blog? That is the question).

I asked her permission to use one of her amazing winter photos in an electronic Season’s Greetings card. And in exchange offered to give a sum of money to charity.

This has inspired Rachel to create a Christmas 2010 web page for electronic Christmas greetings, encouraging people who use the images to donate to either their own charity, or to one Rachel’s choices.

Christmas 2010

Please feel free to use any of the following photographs for your electronic Christmas greetings. They can be saved by right-clicking on an image.

A voluntary donation to one of the charities below would be very much appreciated, although it is not essential.

If you are able to give (or if you prefer to donate to your own favourite charity), don’t forget to tell your family and friends who their Christmas greeting has helped.

Please remember that gift aid can be claimed for freewill gifts.

Keech Hospice Care for Children supports families from across Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes with a child or young person diagnosed with a life-limiting condition. Its staff offers medical and social care, emotional support and friendship to the whole family, throughout the child’s illness and after their death, for as long as it is needed. This care is available in-house at the charity’s bright and comfortable children’s hospice near Luton, or via their community nursing team at the family home. Their aim is to help families make the most of the precious time they have left with their child. While many of the children will have only a short life, they all still have plenty of living to do.
To donate please visit

The World Land Trust works to preserve the world’s most biologically important and threatened lands, and has helped purchase and protect over 400,000 acres of habitats rich in wildlife. In many of their project areas a donation of £50 is enough to save one acre of rainforest, and the many trees and endangered species that live there. Remember, we can only take beautiful photographs if we look after our beautiful world.
To donate please visit

Thank you for your donation; I hope you enjoy the photographs.