Inspiring Entrepreneurs event – Going for Gold – report

28 May 2012

Stephen_FearMany thanks to my colleagues Michael Pattinson and Gail Mitchell for reporting on this successful event.

Last Wednesday evening the British Library hosted the latest in the series of Inspiring Entrepreneurs events called Going for Gold which featured an audience with the Business & IP Centre’s new entrepreneur in residence Stephen Fear.

Stephen has 50 years of business experience and is involved in our new Innovating for Growth Programme which nurtures existing businesses and helps them grow over a 12 month period. He was joined on stage by two of the participants in the programme, Mandy Haberman, inventor of the Anywayup Cup and Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at Insider Trends.

Following a brief introduction from Frances Brindle, Head of Marketing at the British Library, chair Matthew Rock started proceedings by asking Stephen about the origins of his entrepreneurial spirit. He talked candidly about his early childhood spoke about his first business venture as a teenager which involved sourcing the formula for an oven cleaning solution from the US and enlisting the help of friends on the estate where he grew up to make up the product. He famously used a telephone box as his office and managed to charm the telephone operator to pose as his secretary.

After much deliberation about which job title to award himself on his business cards, he finally decided that trainee salesman was more appropriate than president or chairman considering he was so young, he set out to make his first sale. After being ejected by the receptionist at Hovis he managed to convince one of the managers who was outside having a cigarette to see a demonstration of the product. He was duly impressed and placed an order. How did he convince him? He told him that he would lose his job if he didn’t get to demonstrate it to someone.

There were several lessons to the story. Always believe in your product and make sure it works; use whatever ‘guerrilla’ tactics you can to market the product; and make sure you approach the decision makers, don’t waste your time trying to sell to the receptionist.

Stephen proved to be a very engaging speaker, down-to-earth and keen to share his entrepreneurial know-how with the audience.

Mandy_HabermanMandy Haberman joined Stephen on stage and spoke about the initial success of her Anywayup cup. She has some new products in the pipeline which she is going to manufacture herself with the help of funding including a baby feeder which emulates breast feeding. After talking about how difficult it was to secure funding Stephen told the audience that businesses will always face such challenges but it’s how you react to those challenges that matters. Matthew Rock asked him if he had any tips for businesses looking for funding. He recommended the British Bankers Association’s Business Finance for You website as a good starting point.

Cate TrotterCate Trotter from Insider Trends was up next. Cate runs a trend spotting service which includes trend tours and talks for clients ranging from large corporations like Marks & Spencer to SMEs. She is currently expanding from being a sole trader. Stephen made the point that this can be a dangerous time as you need to entrust parts of the business to other people who may not share your passion and commitment.

Stephen urged the audience to spend carefully when you are building up a business and to avoid what he called unnecessary fixed overheads such as an expensive office space or a company car. If you put a set of BMW keys on the table people assume you have a BMW, so just get a set of keys!

Mandy pointed out that you can mock up packaging to save money. Stephen came up with a very useful tip called “tacking on.” Some packaging companies may be prepared to package your products cheaply at the end of a run for another client, especially if they think you might be putting more business their way in the future.

Matthew Rock thanked the guests for their insight and then asked the audience if they had any questions. Somebody asked if having a limited company was preferable to operating as a sole trader. Stephen felt that aside from the issue of liability, the legal status of the business was not that important because it was the individuals involved that were important.

Someone else asked for advice about trading overseas. Pick an English speaking country or at least a country where you are familiar with the language and culture, said Stephen. Mandy suggested using international distributors who know the market and have the infrastructure in place already.

Nick Nair at the back of the auditorium told Stephen that if he didn’t use this opportunity to give him a bottle of his product, Flavour Dash, his boss, (ie his wife) would give him the sack. To applause from the audience, he ran down the steps and presented Stephen with a free sample, employing the very same guerilla marketing tactics that Stephen had recommended earlier in the evening.

Make it, Sell it in the Business & IP Centre at the British Library

23 November 2011

Many thanks to Fran Taylor for this report on Make it, Sell it:

On Friday we ran the very first of our ‘Make it, Sell it’ events, designed to help jewellery and crafts makers to commercialise their designs.

Around 90 makers came to the Business & IP Centre networking area during the day.  In a ‘speed dating’ style format, they got to meet some great names from brands such as Etsy, Real Business, Tatty Devine, Folksy, Artquest, the Design Trust and Wolf & Badger.

In what was described by Time Out as “an Antiques Roadshow-esque” show and tell, attendees could also bring along their work. I loved all the products on show, but here were some of the ones that caught my eye:

Camilla Smith-Westergaard from Butterscotch & Beesting has designed an amazing range of circus and magic inspired confectionery. She has created a really distinct and strong brand through her own illustrations.

Butterscotch & Beesting Circus

Laura Brannon produces unusual, fine-art style pieces of jewellery under the theme of ‘Dead lights’.   She reuses household materials from shower heads to rubber and foam.

Laura Brannon lucy

Belinda from Bels Art World produces fantastic illustrations in the form of calendars, bags, cards and zines.

Bels Art World

Last but not least, Jo Cameron of Wild Fowl Designs makes contemporary earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets.  This was one of my favourite designs from her range, which Jo also wore on the day. It’s always good to wear your own products…

Wild Fowl Designs

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time for Entrepreneurs 2011

14 November 2011

GEW_logoTonight as night as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week we held another great Inspiring Entrepreneurs. This time the topic was Question Time for Entrepreneurs, and was a chance to grill our assembled panel of experts.

Emma Bridgewater, Chairman and Founder of Emma Bridgewater Ltd, Vernon W. Hill II, Co-founder and Vice Chairman of Metro Bank, Lara Morgan, Founder of Pacific Direct Group Ltd and Company Shortcuts Ltd and Tim Campbell, Founder of the Bright Ideas Trust.

Jonathan Moules, enterprise correspondent at The Financial Times, was in charge of moderating the team.

Emma BridgewaterEmma Bridgewater admitted her business was more home counties than ‘wild west’.

You will have to go through tough times. So even if you don’t feel strong enough, when it is your company, you feel differently about it.

You will surprised how creative you can be in business when you first start out and have no money.

Having to think about accounts was something unpleasant, but necessary.

Her value add, was to make modern dishwater friendly pottery.

‘We have spent ‘shed loads’ of money trying to protect our designs. I don’t think it is possible to protect them.’ The next new design is the key to success. And your brand.

Vernon W Hill IIVernon W. Hill II managed to extend his five minute introduction into an impassioned 15 minute talk about the amazing success of his banking ventures.

Be aware of the brand hierarchy: Basic brands,
Emotional Brands and Legendary Brands. When you reach the top stage you have fans not customers.

You need a clear business model that differentiates you from the competition. The culture of your company must be unique but matched to your business model. Your business execution must be fanatatical

In the US they gave away 28 million pens, and they were trying to get the number up. They let dogs in on the theory that if you love my dog, you must love me.

Metro Bank have 90 percent customer satisfaction rate, Barlcays has minus 35 percent.

Emotional brands create massive value. Look at the example of Apple who grew from a five percent market share less than 10 years ago.

Are you really emotionally and equipped to go down the entrepreneurial road? Ask yourselves does your product or service add value? What is different about you? Successful entrepreneurs start with the end result, not the process of getting there. In the UK we concentrate too much on the technicalities.

He went through 15 years of the press saying ‘this won’t work’, so having a thick skin is essential.

Ninety percent of people they see looking for investment don’t have a business plan, they just have hope. Not good enough! If you don’t have convincing numbers to raise money you will fail.

‘My problem is dealing with the government every day!’

In the US they were recruiting 6,000 jobs a year, most came from existing staff contacts. If they didn’t smile in the first interview then they were out.

Lara MorganLara Morgan.

The ability to just keep going is vitally important. Jack of all trades and a master of one, where you recruit others to fill in the other roles required.

She worked on her own for two years, morning, noon and night. Her first recruit was a ‘gobby’ hocky player who had the ability, and could be taught the skill required.

Be aware that you can recruit people if you are creative as employers, find out what will lure someone in other than money.

You can actually learn lots of good stuff from books. This is a solution Lara has applied on many occasions.

Understanding finance was a painful part of becoming a successful business. You don’t need to to do the numbers, you do need to understand them.

Finding the right staff, means being utterly rigorous in you recruitment process. Make sure you test skills, because there is a lot of flannel from candidates. Check with your receptionist for their behaviour. Maths, English and culture tests are key. Invest time in this and you will be rewarded.

It took several years to work out what our USP was. It became representing the best products to the best hotels. A key to this was understanding the market place and the competition better than anyone else.

There are very few new ideas, so you just need be aware of how you are different and better.

Tim CampbellTim Campbell

There is a huge value in mentors and advisors. Having a wise head behind you will help solve some of your issues. Having a loyal team with you on your journey will be a key to your success.

Entrepreneurs need to learn to rely on others to deliver the expertise required for the business.

You may need to extend your sales technique to family and friends in order to raise capital for your business. However, business angels are sitting there waiting to find ideas to invest in. There needs to be a better way to bring these two together.

You can’t expect people to invest in your idea if you aren’t prepared to stand by the loan, or put in your own money.

Employing people who don’t have the same passion as you do, is the biggest problem. Managing them out is incredibly difficult. You need to be incredibly clear about what you want from your recruits.

Don’t compete on price, there will always be someone cheaper.

Intellectual protection can be a very costly route to protect something that may not be unique enough. Speed to market is your best protection.

You can learn from other first mover’s mistakes.

The time to pull the plug on his business, was when he realised he could not get the 2,000 outlets needed to reach the minimum size. There is an inner voice you can hear when you go to sleep at night. Listen to it, and to advisers you trust.

There is nothing wrong with a lifestyle business (small scale).


Video now live here, Question Time for Entrepreneurs 2011 by BIPCTV’s channel

Question Time for Entrepreneurs 2011

by BIPCTV’s channe

Global Entrepreneurship Week 2011 is on its way

24 October 2011

GEW logo We have had some excellent events during Global Entrepreneurship Weeks over the past few years (Global Entrepreneurship Week 2010).

And it looks like this year will be just as good. It will run from 14 to 18 November, and includes Speed mentoring sessions and Question Time for Entrepreneurs.

Speed mentoring

Each day we’ll be running informal half-day networking sessions. The Centre will be full of business experts and successful entrepreneurs who you can talk with informally and get advice.

The themes for this year are:

Monday – Absolute Beginners

Tuesday – IP & Innovation

Wednesday – Women in Business

Thursday – Marketing Maestros

Friday – Make It, Sell It!

The speed mentoring sessions run from 10.00am – 13.00pm and 14.00pm – 17.00pm and are free.

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time for Entrepreneurs


Photos: Tim Campbell,  Lara Morgan and Vernon W. Hill II

Our special evening event will give you the opportunity to question some of the most successful and influential people in British business today. Speakers include Emma Bridgewater, Lara Morgan, Vernon W. Hill II and former Apprentice winner Tim Campbell. A networking reception will follow the event.

Business Startup Show

Join us on stand 412 at the Business Startup Show in Earls Court on Thursday 17 and Friday 18 November! Along with our partners, Business Plan Services, Trademark Direct and Grow, members of the Business & IP Centre team will be on hand to explain how we can help kick-start your business.

Find out more about Global Entrepreneurship Week.

‘Absolute Beginners’ day

The essentials you’ll need to get going in business – finance, market research and business planning.

‘IP & Innovation’ day

Meet experts who can help you innovate and stay creative as well as protecting your ideas

‘Women in business’ day

Meet a whole host of female entrepreneurs, from the big names to women that are just getting started.

‘Marketing Maestros’ day

Find out how to improve your brand and marketing strategy on the Marketing Maestros day in Global Entrepreneurship Week.

‘Make It, Sell It!’ day

Meet craft experts to help you grow and develop your business.

Question Time for Entrepreneurs

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time for Entrepreneurs

Global Entrepreneurship Week 2010

18 November 2010

We are now coming towards the end of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2010, and for the Business & IP Centre it has been a great success.

Each day we have been running informal half-day networking sessions. The Centre has been full of business experts and successful entrepreneurs advising aspiring entrepreneurs.

Our two special evening events, which I attended were also excellent.

On Tuesday our Creative Networking Evening provided an opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs and advisors.

Last night’s Question Time for Entrepreneurs offered inspiring speakers, including Deborah Meaden (Dragon’s Den), Brent Hoberman ( and and Cath Kidston.

There has been lots of twitter activity about us over the last few days, and Dan Martin’s live blog led to lots of other tweeters getting involved.

We’ve also had some nice comments about our events:

“Just got back from massively inspiring business mentoring workshop at the British Library as part of entrepreneur week. Fully pumped!”

“Enjoyed speed mentoring at Enterprise Week at British Library. Met several amazing creatives at the first steps of their business.”

“It was a great event! Interesting & challenging debate” (from Women Unlimited about Inspiring Entrepreneurs)

“Thanks for a great panel session. An interesting mix of views and media”

“Great line up for Question Time: Deborah Meaden +co-founder of Brent Hoberman +Enterprise UKs CEO Tom Bewick.”

He stole my idea – what can I do about it? – Workshop

21 November 2009

HaleburyI’m still catching up on my notes from some of the events I attended during a manic Global Entrepreneurship Week  (GEW) at The British Library.

Although somewhat sexist in tone, He stole my idea – what can I do about it? really caught my attention. It was presented by Denise Nurse, the co-founder of Halebury one of our partners providing legal advice.  They aim to make law more accessible to everyone, in particular start-ups and medium sized companies.

Here are my notes from the workshop:

1.      What is Intellectual Property?

  1. Ideas are not protected until you do something with it. It has to turned into something tangible.
  2. Often compared to physical property. You wouldn’t buy a house without research and professional advice. Once purchased you need to maintain and develop it in order to protect or increase its value.
  3. You need to identify the various aspects of IP in the manifestation of your idea:

–       Copyright – automatically covers any creative output, but you need to prove you did it first.

–       Trademarks – your unique identifier for you business. Can be registered for ten years with the Intellectual Property Office or the EU for a Community Mark. Start with business name, might want to include your strap line. Need to develop a strategy, but budgetary restrictions are often a factor. If you have an established brand which can not be registered as it is descriptive you can use the ‘passing off’ laws to gain some protection.

–       Patents – a long, complicated and expensive process. Covers an inventive process. Must be completely new and secret, but if successful gives you a monopoly for 20 years. Can be licensed to others.

–       Designs – often overlooked, but relatively cheap and easy to register. Covers the shape of something and how it fits with something else. Does not have to be registered, but this gives more protection.

–       Database rights – relate to the organisation of information. Protection from staff walking away with customer lists etc.

–       Confidential information – take time to ensure you have the correct confidentiality agreement. How long will it need to last? Who does it cover? Be careful using standard agreements found on the internet.

2.      How is IP Infringed?

  1. Copy, publish, distribute
  2. Sell, rent, lend
  3. Produce, manufacture
  4. Perform, broadcast
  5. Adapt

3.      What is the Damage?

  1. Music industry claims 20% lost income due to piracy.
  2. Your reputation can be damaged – e.g. counterfeit goods which are poor quality
  3. Money – loss of IP eats into your income.
  4. Dilution of rights – e.g. by allowing its use to become generic you lose the value of your rights such as a trade mark.
  5. Weakened commercial position – will have an impact on potential partners, licence agreements.

4.      Protection = Preparation and Perception

  1. Mark and / or register – e.g. use copyright symbol.
  2. Insure – a growing field, especially in the field of products and patenting. Can cover legal fees to attack or defend from attack. Can help when going for investment.
  3. Monitor use – the IPO do not act as IP police. You have to check. Not difficult these days with the internet and search engines. Some trade mark attorneys offer this service.
  4. Take swift action – very important not to hang about, but don’t act rashly, get legal advice.
  5. Follow through – do you have the resources to follow up on original letter? Nine times out ten the initial letter and demands within it will work. In some cases your trade association can provide support.
  6. Make an example of someone who is blatantly abusing your IP.
  7. Get warranties from third parties you are working with.

5.      What if someone is infringing your IP?

  1. Identify
  2. Gather evidence – such as witness statements.
  3. Get insurance – can be bought after the event.
  4. Call a lawyer – better if you already have a relationship and they know you IP situation.
  5. Contact the infringer
  6. Make a claim
  7. Notify the authorities – some acts are illegal in addition to civil. E.g. counterfeiting goods.
  8. Settlement agreement – you may be able to work out a licensing deal.

6.      Defences – anticipating

  1. Dispute ownership or title – prove the IP is yours. E.g. in the film world need to ensure all aspects are covered.
  2. License to use – check the small print of original documentation.
  3. Lack of knowledge – if your work is not widely available it is possible the infringers have not copied your work, although they will still be in breach of your IP.
  4. Rights have expired or have been exhausted – can be a geographical factor.
  5. Jurisdiction – disputes may be taking place in other locations.
  6. Acquiescence – you haven’t used your registered trade mark for too long.

7.      What will you win?

  1. Stop infringement
  2. Seize copies
  3. Account for profits – example of Brats dolls dispute with Matel – $100 damages.
  4. Damages
  5. Criminal sanctions – e.g. Pirate Bay founders

8.      Practical steps

  1. Set up processes
  2. Keep an up to date record of your IP – don’t forget to renew trademarks
  3. Document your agreements
  4. Monitor the market place – be aware of IP use and trends in your market area.
  5. Build an aggressive reputation – lessons learnt from working for Rupert Murdoch.
  6. Publicising your success – e.g. when you make an example of an infringer.
  7. Research and take advice – sometimes you will need professional advice, build this into your plan.
  8. Have a strategy – always worth going through your IP assets even at a late stage.

 Audience comment: “For most companies ethics is a small county in the south east of England.”

Sustainable Supply Chains workshop

20 November 2009

Today I attended an excellent workshop on Sustainable Supply Chains. It was presented by Stephen Taiwo, who was the sustainable policy adviser and architect of the Government Office for London and Defra’s Sustainable Food Procurement project. He now works for Supply London – an LDA and European funded initiative, provides advice and support.

Here are my notes from the workshop:

Definition of sustainability – Bruntland 1987 – “Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” 

  1. Resources consumed in line with nature’s patterns
  2. Consider long term impact
  3. Minimise risk and cost
  4. Not just about environmental impacts, includes social and economic.

Current practice

Figures from One World – currently consume the equivalent of 1.3 planets to provide the resource we use and absorb our waste. 

At current trends UN predicts 2030 will require equivalent of 2 earths.

Supply Chain

A linked set of resources and processes that begins with the sourcing of raw materials and extends through to delivery of end items to the consumer. 

Cradle to grave for products.

Development – identification & buying – manufacturing – sale & dist – consumption – end of life & disposal

Sustainability Issues

  • impact on air quality
  • water consumption & pollution
  • loss of biodiversity e.g. land clearance – mono-crops
  • impact on limited resources – is it resource intensive
  • impact on greenhouse gases – climate
  • waste production
  • health & safety
  • quality of life – wages for producers

 Examples of cotton production in India with negative impact on the soil and water supply. Intensive tomato production in southern Portugal.

 Why a sustainable Supply Chain

  • reduce costs and improve productivity
  • reduce risk – includes brand damage resulting from negative press
  • reduce absenteeism through better staff welfare
  • creates healthier environments
  • to be a market leader – public sector suppliers now ask questions related to sustainability

Drawbacks to Sustainable Supply Chains (less true than in the past)

  • no motivation other than complying with the law.
  • Consumers often go for cheapest option rather than sustainable products.
  • Short term focus of government, business and consumers – relates to 12 month business budgeting – government departments have individual targets which weren’t linked up.

Help from:

Soil association –

Sustain –

Ten Ten Campaign –

Greenworks –

How to implement a sustainable supply chain

  1. Analyse your internal process & impacts
  2. Identify your supply chain and at which point you sit. Also the suppliers of your suppliers.
  3. Make sustainability part of your organisational strategy – must have top level buy-in – need to develop KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) – develop an action plan for delivery.
  4. Implement practical measures suited to your organisation – SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely).
    1. Written policies
    2. Communication materials
    3. Evaluate suppliers.
    4. Purchasing guidelines
    5. Supplier partnerships
  5. Get all internal and external stakeholders involved
    1. Driven from the top, but must involve everyone.
    2. Supplier engagement
    3. Use relationships with customer.

Support from Supply London

–          ISO 9001 help and support which can save consultants fees.

The workshop ended first with the quote below from Mahatma Gandhi, and then a screening of the Story of Stuff (a 20-minute animation of the consumerist society, narrated by Anne Leonard).

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed” Mahatma Gandhi

Launch of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) at The British Library

18 November 2009
Peter Jones and Priya Lakhani from Masala Masala discuss enterprise education by Enterprise_UK.

Peter Jones and Priya Lakhani from Masala Masala discuss enterprise education

I spent Monday morning at the launch of GEW from the comfort of The British Library conference centre.

The event was well chaired by Simon Jack from the BBC, and included some light-hearted banter between him and Peter Jones (of BBC’s Dragon’s Den fame). Peter persuaded Simon to spend a day with him in order to experience the world of the entrepreneur from the inside. He also got him to agree to give a plug for GEW one morning during the BBC Breakfast Show this week, so watch this space.

1. Our Chief Executive Lynne Brindley gave the welcome speech and included the intriguing concept that The British Library has more good ideas inside it than any other building in the world. I think it is a line I can see myself using in future.

2. The opening words were from Miles Templeman Director General at the Institute of Directors. Who felt that talent is not enough to ensure success in business – inspiration is necessary to start things off. But what unless potential talent is developed and nurtured business survival and growth is unlikely.

3. Next we watched a short video from Peter Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

4. Then we had a fascinating panel session with Carl Schramm the Chief Executive of the Kauffman Foundation and Jim O’Neill the Head of Global Economic Research at Goldman Sachs.

Schramm acknowledged Prime Minister Gordon Brown as the key driver behind turning the original UK Enterprise Week into Global Entrepreneurship Week, which now includes 88 countries. In order to learn how to teach people to become entrepreneurs to start high growth businesses they have created the Kauffman Laboratories for Enterprise Creation –

Their research shows that entrepreneurship has been the key to recovery of the last seven economic declines. In recessions economists and governments turn back to Keynesian economics and decide that government intervention is the key to economic recovery. Schramm believes government industrial policy is antithetical to entrepreneurship. Instead what we need is government policy and pragmatic coaching skills to support creation of new entrepreneurs. He believes there is a  sea-change occurring, so we now see enterprise as the key to economic growth, and gave the economies of China and India as proof of this.

Libraries and support – Andrew Carnegie created the US public library system – the Kauffman Foundation are looking very closely at libraries as incubators for business.

5. O’Neill who’s claim to fame is having coined the term BRIC nations (Brazil, India and China), stated that entrepreneurship is the future of our and the world economy.

  • He thought it unfortunate that economists have proved why they are known at the miserable profession.
  • The consensus forecast for world economy is 3.7%, down from 5% over the last five years. This is due to continued progress in BRIC economies. The assumption that our recession is reflected elsewhere is not true.
  • Economically speaking China has created the equivalent of 2 UK’s in the last eight years.
  • Brazil is due to overtake Italy in terms of GDP (gross domestic product).
  • In China 13 million a month taking mobile phone contracts
  • Twice as many cars will be sold in China this year than the United States.
  • The expansion of BRIC economies provides opportunities for British entrepreneurs. He gave example of UK football league as an example of world business success.

6. Question time:

The British know how to invent, but not how to market themselves.

Rod Aldrich Foundation –

What is the secret to growing economies entrepreneurship success. Awareness that they have been given the chance to become wealthy. People in Britain like to be regarded as creative, but following it through to economic wealth is a cultural issue.

Over half of the US fasted growing 500 companies never wrote a business plan.

Business academies can’t spark entrepreneurial attitudes, although they can help with best practice.

7. Video from Karen Kanaan the Global Entrepreneurship Week host in Brazil. Their goal was for 1% of the population to become involved (2 million people), but actually ended up with 4.5 million people registered.

8. Panel Session:

Matt Brittin the Managing the Director of Google UK.

  • Google perspective – The Internet allows business to be global. The world has gone digital, so there is a big opportunity for entrepreneurs.
  • Example of purely gadgets digital business. Example of, used internet searching keyword targeting to bring their service to their intention.

David Wei the Chief Executive of, China’s biggest internet business.

  • Entrepreneurship cannot be educated, trained or supported by Government, it can be inspired. We need to take away comfortable safety net to create a culture of entrepreneurship.
  • Who is the new idol for entrepreneurship, why do we still see a video of Richard Branson twenty years on.
  • PowerPoint leaves your power and point on the screen. You end up with no power and no point.
  • The internet is the equivalent of the railways and highways of the last century.

Emma Harrison the founder A4E

  • Started an illegal tuck-shop at school.
  • Elected as a school governor at 15, but was still truanting from school.
  • Failed her A –levels, so went back to college to get engineering qualifications, put learner plates on a motorbike and drove to Universities to get places.
  • Joined her dad in business who left after 18 days and learnt how to survive in business.
  • Advice – find your own path, find a mentor, every day find four ways to market your business.

9. Panel discussion

  • Intro from Lord Davies, Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Small Business.
  • 4.8 million SME’s – we are a nation of entrepreneurs – appealed to the press to celebrate our success, not to concentrate on failures.
  • Peter Jones wants to introduce entrepreneurship into every school in the UK. He believes entrepreneurship can be taught.
  • Julie Meyer – entrepreneur country . net – We need to become a nation of believers (not a religious belief). A surprising lack given this country produced Winston Churchill. Business success is a like a drug, once successful they will want to help others build their success.

Panel Discussion by Enterprise_UK.

In conversation with Lord Sugar

18 November 2009

Lord SugarTonight was definitely one of the highlights of Global Entrepreneurship Week for me. Our event in the British Library conference centre In conversation with Lord Sugar was full to bursting.

As time is short and it is now after midnight, I am going to post my notes of his gems and leave it at that.

Is now a good time to be setting up a new business?
Lord Sugar’s route into business was by learning business skills by working in a company and then applying these to his new business.

He is concerned that people wake up one day and decide to start a business, but don’t have the relevant skills or experience to make a go of it.

Opportunities currently exist in the property market if you have the money, but the banks will not be interested in lending.

His move into computers was a natural development of his business selling transistor radios, rather than a revolutionary move.

What is the best piece of business advice he has ever taken?
He used his bank as a barometer in his early days in the 1960’s to find out how fast he could and should develop. This is in contrast to more recent times when the banks give too easily and freely.

He encourages youngsters to start small with their own money and grow from there.

I have not been very successful in investing in the property market. I took all the money I earned from technology and put it into safe and boring properties. There was no rocket science in what I did.

What do you think about MBA’s in entrepreneurship
You can’t train entrepreneurs, you either have the spirit or you don’t. Business training is important but not a substitute for an entrepreneurial spirit.

Has reading business books been useful?
No, not really, I last used one for a wobbly table.

How important is a business plan?
The key point is the business idea any good. For instance if it is a service it is all about the quality of the person providing the service. No excel spreadsheet is magically going to make it work.

There is no point of any business support unless the idea is any good.

How important are work teams?
The team found Lord Sugar rather than vice versa.

Tell us about challenging periods and mistakes made.
Over 40 years in business made less mistakes than good decisions. You learn by your mistakes. He encourages young business to do a weekly health check. What has gone right this week and what has gone wrong?

How do you use sweat equity?
I’m a thick bloke from Hackney, so keep it simple. I don’t understand what you are talking about.

Advice on partnerships
When you need to add a level of expertise to your business you can either add a partner or find a suitable employee.

Can government employees give help to small business when they read them from a computer screen?
Business Links centres have the tools to take some of the burden away from business people with practical advice on employment law, tax regulations etc. They are not giving business advice, but practical help.

Common attributes for entrepreneurial spirit?
(Exasperated) I wish someone would give me an answer to this one.

Have you had a mentor?
Yes. In my business career my mentors were people I aspired to. In my family there was only my uncle. Later on my supplier of electrical equipment became my mentor. Grew beyond them on to the likes of Lord Weinstock at GEC and Rupert Murdoch. Looked, listened and tried to replicate what they were doing.

The role of PR
Differentiates the role of business PR and personal PR. Editorial on a product or service is worth more than advertising. Has a lot to do with connections with media. PR companies who don’t specialise are not as successful as the ones that don’t.

Selling and the art of closing a deal
I the person running the business is not a good sales person then why are they in business. This is another art that can’t really be taught. If you can’t do it, employ someone who is.

How do you like people to communicate in Business?
Very openly in my place, everybody shares the story and knows what is going on.

I admire people who have reached contentment with their lives and know how to enjoy themselves.

How challenging have you found this new Business Champion role?
This is not a challenge, I’m not looking for a headache. I won’t don’t it if I didn’t enjoy it. I wanted to give something back to young people

Do you invest outside of the UK?
We have in the past with electronics. I don’t have any at the moment. There are problems with investing in Africa. It is a difficult market. It needs some African entrepreneurs to create the new markets and some business traffic.

What is the main cause of the 95% of business start-up failures.
Should do a weekly health check. Immediately you know where you business is going. Do not lose track of the basics. Do the simple maths every week.

How do we encourage an enterprise culture in the UK? Rachel Elnaugh – ex Dragons Den
Programmes like Dragons Den and The Apprentice have provided a great service to this country to spread the message that there are no free gifts or free lunches. That you actually have to do it yourself. There is too much of a culture that expects to be spoon fed.

If someone could invent a positive journalist then this would encourage people. Get away from this blame culture.

I don’t like the way we have changed to a knocking culture in recent years.

What could schools do to improve things for business?
We need to make plumbing cool again.

Do you set yourself goals?
Right at the beginning it was just to earn more money than in the job I had just left. If by Wednesday I had achieve £60 of net profit then I had achieved my goal.

I never had a five year plan. In the electronics business this is bullshit. You can’t see that far ahead.

Ideas have to be endorsed by a third party, it is no good getting your friends and family to say how great it is. You need a wake call.

You make people believe in your potential by your past successes.

Global Entrepreneurship Week 2009

5 October 2009

global_entreprenuership_weekIn just over a months time it will be Global Entrepreneurship Week 2009. To be precise, it will run from 16 to 20 November and consists of thousands of events around the world, promoting and celebrating entrepreneurship.

This year we are holding a week of special events and workshops, covering essential skills, getting inspiration and confidence, and chances to meet great contacts.

Each day has a different theme, focusing on a particular area of business.

Here is a summary of our activities, with more information on our website pages:

Monday 16 November: Business basics day -The essentials you’ll need to get going in business – finance, market research and business planning.

Tuesday 17 November: Innovation day – Learn how to protect your ideas and make money from them, plus an evening with Lord Sugar.

Wednesday 16 November: Women’s enterprise day – Meet a whole host of female entrepreneurs, from the big names to women that are just getting started.

Thursday 18 November: Social enterprise day – Start thinking about how you could make your business more ethical or take the plunge and set up a social enterprise.

Friday 20 November: Home enterprise day – Find out more about working from home, watch our free online seminar, and meet other home workers.

The Wattson goes global

21 November 2008

wattsonIt was great to hear from Richard Woods (one of the co-founders of DIY Kyoto) last night at our Going Global event on the continuing success of the Wattson energy monitor. I first mentioned their product back in February of this year, soon after it had beaten the iPod nano into 10th place in the Stuff Magazine cool gadgets of the year awards.

They are now moving into the global market place with the help of ethically manufactured Wattsons from China. This has enabled them to reduce the price to a very attractive £99.95, which means they now have a three week waiting list.

It was interesting to hear how some of their customers have become addicted to the product with a couple of weeks, and become devoted to getting a blue glow (indicating a less than average use of electricity). Some use it to check to see if they have left any unnecessary appliances switched on as they leave the house.

One surprising change they had to introduce to their marketing was to include a light bulb in their photos for scale. It seems some some customers wanted to order a Wattson to replace their coffee table. Perhaps this could be a niche expansion of their product line.

Although Richard explained that the key to their success was to design a product that would be so desirable people would want to buy it, and then find out what it would be used for (the Apple iPod approach), I like the way they have very simply spelt out what this new product has to offer for the customer.

* I can save you up to 25% on your electricity bill
* I’m good for the environment
* I’m quick and easy to install
* I measure electricity in the whole house
* I can go anywhere in the home
* I use up to four watts and cost £4 a year to run

Bravely Going Global at the British Library

20 November 2008

global_entrepreneurship_weekI’m just back from our ‘Inspiring Entrepreneurs’ event Small companies, global ambitions with Brent Hoberman,, co-founder of, launched online interiors site mydeco; Asif Rangoonwala, founder of baked good suppliers Eurobuns; Dawn Gibbins, founder of Flowcrete flooring and the Barefoot lifestyle brands, and Richard Woods a co-founder of DIY Kyoto. who sell the ‘wattson’ energy monitor.

Once again the chair Matthew Rock managed the tricky task of giving everyone a say and finding time for lots of good questions from the audience.

Highlights of the evening were:

  • Noticing how punctual the audience was tonight compared to our event on Ethical Fashion. Something to do with the credit crunch or the nature of those attending.
  • Meeting both existing clients and entrepreneurs such as Ed Wray, designer of the BarbeSkew who had some revealing insights into the entertainment that is Dragon’s Den.
  • Hearing how important it is to understand how your product benefits your customer and also their customers.
  • Thinking of sections of a larger company as kingdoms, and giving the ‘kings’ freedom to manage without interference.
  • Employing mavericks as managers (that one came from Dawn Gibbins, who was an amazing speaker. So much enthusiasm, energy and honesty.
  • Meeting an entrepreneurial librarian, Jennifer Smith the co-founder of OneIS.

Are you ready to start your own business?

18 November 2008

starting_a_businessWell, according to the new Enterprise Readiness quiz on the SFEDI web site I am, as I scored 9 out of 10.

Your score is: 9 points out of 10
Looks like you really do have what it takes to be an entrepreneur… you’ve considered what’s involved in running your own business and you’re ready to take the leap. Contact your nearest SFEDI Centre of Excellence to find out how we can help you achieve your goals.

Enterprise week 2009 preview

10 November 2008

enterprise-week-logoNext week will be the third Enterprise Week the Business & IP Centre has been involved with.The first coincided with the my first blogging activities (Enterprise Week 2006).

And it is going to be another busy week in the Centre with lots of events going on as you can see below:

Monday 17 November
10.00 – 12.00 Going Global
13.00 – 17.00 Knowing your Market
14.30 – 16.30 A Beginner’s Guide to Intellectual Property

Tuesday 18 November
9.30 – 13.30 Business Plan Services – the Perfect Business Plan
10.00 – 12.00 Rasheed Ogunlaru – Making it as an Entrepreneur
10.00 – 16.00 ideas21 – Advice clinics on intellectual property
13.00 – 17.00 CENTA – Let’s Start Talking in Business
18.00 – 21.00 Striding Out – Celebrating Successful Social Entrepreneurs

Wednesday 19 November – Women’s Enterprise Day
10.30 – 13.30 Invention Intelligence – Female Inventors Rising to the Challenge
10.00 – 16.00 London Business Support Service – One-to-one advice sessions
14.00 – 17.00 Looking to go International?
18.15 – 21.00 Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Small Business, Global Ambitions

Thursday 20 November – Social Enterprise Day
10.00 – 13.00 Red Ochre: Starting a Social Enterprise
14.00 – 17.00 Red Ochre: Plugging the skills gap

Friday 21 November
10.00 – 12.00 Going Global
13.00 – 17.00 Knowing your Market
14.30 – 16.30 A Beginner’s Guide to Intellectual Property

I am particularly looking forward to hearing Brent Hoberman and Dawn Gibbins at our Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Small Business, Global Ambitions event on the Wednesday evening.

Brent Hoberman is one of Britain’s best-known entrepreneurs who, with co-founder Martha Lane Fox, built the iconic online travel site,, into an internationally successful business that was sold in 2005 to a US travel giant. In 2007, Brent launched interiors website

Dawn Gibbins MBE is one of the UK’s most flamboyant and inspirational entrepreneurs, who built Flowcrete into a global business with offices in 30 countries. She is a former Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year.