Our YouTube channel is now up to 341 thousand hits

22 August 2012

youtube-logo

Back in October 2011 I wrote Our YouTube channel gets 250 thousand hits.

This has proved to be a very popular topic on my blog recently, so I feel obliged to point out that the number is increasing rapidly, and today stands at 341,492.

Our BIPCTV channel has been going since the Centre opened in 2006, when we began posting recordings of our Inspiring Entrepreneurs events, and our success stories.

The most recent upload was From Battlefield to Business, and run in partnership with Heropreneurs, Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, British Legion, Franchising Works and Help for Heroes.

The wonderful Levi Roots and his Reggae Reggae Sauce still tops the charts with 25,541 views, but he has stiff competition from Success Stories Guy Jeremiah of Aquatina Ltd, and William de Lucy from  Amplify Trading.

However my favourite remains Sam Roddick, founder of the ‘erotic emporium’ Coco De Mer, and daughter of Body Shop legend Dame Anita Roddick. She describes herself as an activist first and accidental entrepreneur second.

http://www.youtube.com/bipctv

Levi Roots


Calling all dyslexic entrepreneurs

12 July 2012

The Business & IP Centre is hosting a research placement for Sally Ann Clarke, an MA student from the University of Brighton. She is looking to find entrepreneurs and business people who are dyslexic. Below is her blog post about the project:

Sally Ann ClarkeMany thanks to the British Library for agreeing to host my research project.

First of all, something about me. I started my career as a qualified librarian in Manchester Public Libraries, and since then I have had a variety of roles including managing an independent bookshop. This gave me retail and business experience but also an interest in business information. I decided to return to the library profession and I am now studying for an MA in Information Studies at the University of Brighton.

For my dissertation I am researching dyslexic entrepreneurs and business information. My choice of research topic came from bringing various ideas together. I read the Cass Business School’s research by Dr Logan that entrepreneurs have a significantly higher incidence of dyslexia than in corporate management and the general population. I also visited the Business and IP Centre and noticed that many of their services are aimed at entrepreneurs. I then wondered if dyslexic entrepreneurs had specific business information needs.

I also have an insight into some of the issues dyslexic entrepreneurs have, as I am dyslexic myself. I understand that many people do not realize they are dyslexic although they may have an inkling that they are ‘different’. I didn’t find out myself until I studied for a part-time University Certificate in Creative Writing eight years ago. I am now aware of the difficulties I have, and have learnt some strategies to try and overcome them, but now I am becoming aware of some of the ‘advantages’ such as good verbal communication, lateral thinking and creativity. These ‘advantages’ are perhaps why someone with dyslexia becomes an entrepreneur in the first place.

Richard_Branson

And there are many examples of successful dyslexic entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Kelly Hoppen,  Duncan Bannatyne from Dragon’s Den and Tom Pellereau, winner of last year’s The Apprentice.

However, I need your help! If you are dyslexic and have used the Business and IP Centre, if you think you may be dyslexic or if you know a dyslexic entrepreneur please do get in touch. I would love to hear from you. My email is SallyAnne.Clarke@bl.uk


Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Forward-thinking Fashion

12 June 2012

Tonight’s excellent Inspiring Entrepreneurs event looked at different approaches to ethical, environmentally-friendly and sustainable fashion.

Rather than seeing ethical fashion as an add-on, our speakers are taking advantage of new technology and practical innovative business models to make them more creative and also sustainable in the long-term.

Tonight was run in partnership with  London College of Fashion’s Centre for Fashion Enterprise (CFE) and Designer-Manufacturer Innovation Support Centre (DISC).

DISC-image

Christian Smith is Corporate Responsibility Manager at ASOS, and has an MSc in Environment and Sustainable Development from UCL. His work at ASOS includes measurement of greenhouse gas emissions, helping the company to understand its impacts and opportunities for improvement.

Annegret Affolderbach is designer and founder of Choolips, who revive  ancient textile traditions. She is passionate about sustainable fashion, and the exciting and potent future it presents for global fashion. Her range is now sold through the ASOS Green Room.

Annegret spent a year and a half after graduating collecting ideas on Post-It notes trying to work out how she could use her talent to make a positive difference to fashion in the world. She also felt the need to be inspired for her whole business career, rather than a short term goal.

Annegret spent another year travelling and listening, visiting the Gambia to learn about Batik, and how the local producers thought about their lives and impact on their local environment.

She was determined to create a product that would be harmonious to both the producers and consumers of the products, and started with just two simple dresses.

Electrobloom flowerMark Bloomfield with a background experience of designing wearable accessories for brands such as Vivienne Westwood, Matthew Williamson and Asprey, talked about developing his own jewellery business, Electrobloom.

This has been inspired by how the worlds of nature, art, technology and science collide, he produces unique jewellery designs using 3D printing technology.

Eleanor Dorrien-Smith is the founder of PARTIMI, and graduated from Central Saint Martins with a BA in Fashion and Print. She has worked for Mary Katrantzou, Tata Naka, John Galliano and Eley Kishimoto before setting up PARTIMI. After creating a capsule collection for US retailer Anthropologie, the PARTIMI ready-to-wear collection was launched in 2010. The PARTIMI collections are defined by striking prints, a distinctive personal narrative and an environmental edge.

The evening was chaired by Melanie Frame, Sustainability Manufacturing Developer at London College of Fashion (DISC). Melanie is part of the DISC project to support fashion manufacturers and designers to innovate their production process. Melanie has been involved in various sustainability projects helping small businesses to set up sustainable and ethical practices.

A question about the concentration on sustainable supply lines led to a fascinating discussion about the speaker’s views on what sustainable fashion means to them.

For Mark it was about recreating a made-to-order type of personalised shopping experience, which gives a more engaged experience for customers.

For Christian improving the welfare of the environment and fashion producers are an important new additional part of the business model, from the traditional success measures of company share price and market share.

He talked about how the Green Room at ASOS helps breakdown the enormous challenges of sustainable fashion into bite sized chunks, making it more manageable. Also telling the story behind the product is another way of engaging customers and staff.

He gave several examples of innovation and change:

The discussion ended with a transparent discussion of producer pricing and markups that are common in sustainable fashion.

My colleague Fran Taylor who organised the event has written an excellent review of the evening on her Creative Industries blog .


Another great Inspiring Entrepreneurs with Mothers of Invention

19 March 2012

Another fantastic event this evening with a range of inspiring women entrepreneurs and their stories.

Jones_EmmaThe event was chaired with great warmth, energy and humour by Emma Jones  who launched her first business at age 27, and successfully sold it two years later. In 2006 she launched Enterprise Nation as a website to help anyone start and grow a business from home. The company has since expanded to offer online services, publications, events and finance to small businesses across the UK. Emma is also co-founder of StartUp Britain, and currently acting as the campaign’s chief executive.

Sophie_CornishAs co-founder of shopping website notonthehighstreet.com, Sophie Cornish has won many prestigious awards including the ECMOD Direct Commerce Award for the last three consecutive years and the Online Retail Award Prix D’or 2010. They now host over 2,500 businesses on notonthehighstreet selling 40,000 different products.

They came to the British Library Business & IP Centre early on to look at trends in Internet retailing. And worked hard on their business plan to the extent that they new their numbers inside out. Sohpie emphasised that creating a brand is the key challenge for any business.

Her tips were:

  • Own your mistakes
  • There is no silver bullet
  • Hard work is your unique selling point
  • Cash is king

Kamal_BasranFrom helping her parents prepare samosas for the English pub they ran, to setting up her own food business The Authentic Food Company in 1985, Kamal Basran indulged her passion for cooking authentic Indian food and opened a small business supplying local catering establishments with hand-made samosas and other Indian snack food.

Today, the company has over 240 employees and has a turnover of over £31 million. The company are supplying many of the UK’s top hotels, pub chains, restaurants and retail outlets with the range of quality international cuisine.

When Kamal started out in business, she was a full-time teacher, settled in a comfortable lifestyle, married with two children. While out shopping she saw some ready made samosas, but once home discovered they tasted horrible and threw them into the dustbin. This was the trigger for starting her own business. She had no idea how to start, but wonders in retrospect if this is perhaps the best way.

She began making 600 samosas a week, and grew the business to over a million meals a week.

Her tips were:

Number one priority was to organise her children.
Then, learn how to do everything yourself (nothing is too menial).
Finally, don’t listen to other people (especially your parents!)

Her reasons for success were:

  1. Target your market
  2. Grow gradually
  3. People – 25 nationalities
  4. Products – are the best quality
  5. Customers – we love our customers

Rosie_WolfendenRosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine are the founders of Tatty Devine whose distinctive fashion designs have made them brand leaders. In 2011 they had a boom year, with a £1 million turnover and kick started 2012 with opening a Selfridges pop up shop which launched their new silver label. The two London Tatty Devine boutiques are located in Brick Lane and Covent Garden.

Harriet_VineThey are independently run and design every piece, 99% of the jewellery is made by hand in their workshops (based in London and Kent). Their custom-made jewellery has been worn by everyone from Claudia Schiffer to Jessie J.

They are very proud of producing their own book on How to Make Jewellery.

In the last two years they have started letting others in to their business, such as developing a new website, to enable them to concentrate on the jewellery.

Christina_RichardsonChristina Richardson is founder of The Nurture Network the UK’s first on-demand marketing department for start-ups and entrepreneurial growth businesses. Christina has spent much of her career managing and growing FMCG brands worth in excess of £100 million.

Now she and her blue-chip trained team, work flexibly across multiple businesses – being their marketing expertise, part time or for specific projects – calling in creative specialists from their network as and when they are needed.

Her tips for new businesses:

  1. You need to give yourself the strongest foundations you can. Be distinctly different by playing a different game.
  2. Define your brand by being clear on your ‘onlyness’. Think about who your brand would be if it were a person.
  3. Test your brand out with real people.
  4. Have a vision, but with numbers. Know the future you want to create.

And for existing businesses:

  1. Marketing is everything that touches your consumer.
  2. Always think consumer first. Choose which group will be your most valuable customers. This will inform your marketing chooses.
  3. Plan with the end in mind and be objectives driven.
  4. Use everything you can do to spread your brand
  5. Bootstrap and collaborate

The evening closed with a lively question and answer session followed by some serious networking until closing time.


Take part in our ‘Seven Up Census’ and win £100 worth of Amazon vouchers

3 February 2012

866529_feedback_form_excellent by Dominik Gwarek - kilashiAs we approach our seventh birthday, we are trying to conduct a census of all our customers – past and present.

We need your help if you are one of the 50,000 people who have used our services, we would like to hear from you about the difference we have made to you and your business.

Your participation is crucial in helping to secure future funding and ensuring that we continue to meet your future needs.

I would be grateful if you would spend five to seven minutes to complete this questionnaire.

The information you supply will be kept strictly confidential and will only be used for this purpose.

As an incentive, and to celebrate our seventh birthday, your name will be entered into a prize draw and you could be one of three people to win £100 worth of Amazon vouchers.

Please complete the survey before Wednesday 29 February 2012

 


The Web in Feb 2012 – coming soon

19 January 2012

WebinFeb logoLast year we had a great Web in Feb month (The Power of Social Media – an Inspiring Entrepreneurs evening and What is the Business & IP Centre doing with social media?)

And we are anticipating another excellent month of events for 2012 to help you reach and grow your online audience.

Join us this February for our special workshops and events in the Business & IP Centre. Regardless of what stage of business, this will be your chance to interact with experts, entrepreneurs and potential clients.

During Web in Feb you can learn how to:

  • Protect your online and mobile technology
  • Get your site noticed on search engines
  • Sell your products effectively over the Internet
  • Manage your business on the web
  • Chose the right channels of communication through social media

Here is a summary what’s going on this February:

David_WarrilowAsk an Expert

Throughout February IP Lawyer, David Warrilow, will be running free, confidential, one-to-one advice clinics to help entrepreneurs and inventors understand the different options available when protecting a new online or mobile technology.

Use our hashtag #webinfeb to see what people are saying on Twitter?


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


Inspiring Entrepreneurs Media Maestros – 12 October

13 October 2011

Matthew_RockJust back from a great Inspiring Entrepreneurs event, Media Maestros chaired by Real Business magazine founder Mathew Rock.

He kicked off the evening by talking about his own experience of building a successful media business.

He listed six key points he has learnt over the years:

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1. You are you own brand. So make sure you have a point of view you can express to the media.
2. As much as possible, tell your story yourself. Be your own PR person.
3. Don’t worry if you’re shy, just tell your story with your passion.
4. Digital dialogue, means you don’t have to depend on broadcast media.
5. Understand the new media hierarchy – chatter,  promotion, influence
6. Influence still matters, be ready for that first, serious article to build your reputation.

Shazia_AwanShazia Awan the founder of Peachy Pink and Max Core, kindly returned to the British Library following her succesful talk at our Mothers of Invention evening  in March.

This time, as well as sharing her amazing success story, she also included some practical advice for getting media coverage.

She had five years experience of working in Press Relations, but wanted to go into the fashion industry.

She argued that advertising is often too expensive for a small business. But that the media are open to entrepreneurs making contact with them directly.

­In order to maximise the impact of the initial launch of her Peachy Pink brand, she organised for 50 underwear models to walk down Bond Street on a very nippy day in December, wearing Peachy Pink underwear. By spending three days ringing every newspaper,  magazine and media outlet she could find (with a follow-up reminder the evening before), Shazia ensured her story appeared in every red-top newspaper. As a result the store sold out within two days, and she received contact calls from 15 countries.

She­ talked about the danger of entrepreneurs trying to keep control of every aspect of their business, as it grows you have to learn to let go a bit. And you need to be clear in your own mind how using PR will help grow your business.

When asked for examples of mistakes she had made along the way, she said she prefers to think of them as learning curves. Viral marketing can be effective, but you can get carried away with it. As Peachy Pink becomes an international brand, they are beginning to capitalise on their London and British connections.
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Next came a panel discussion with Jonathan Moules, Louise Third, and Rob Pittam:

Louise Third is a director of Integra Communications
–    Plan media work
–    Do quality research
–    Top tips
o    Plan ahead – only a few have a marketing and PR plan within their business plan
o    Identify your key audience
o    What is news – look at your press release and say ‘so what’.
o    Be realistic about the coverage you can expect

Jonathan Moules is enterprise correspondent at the Financial Times
–    Read the newspapers you are going to pitch to
–    Understand the kinds of stories they are looking for
–    Your story pitch should be like your elevator pitch – short and simple
–    Test it out on friends first
–    Learn how to build a relationship with a journalist – have an opinion on a subject
–    FT readers can see through marketing bullshit

Rob Pittam is a television and radio correspondent, he was also broadcast presenter for the BBC Working Lunch programme.
–    Don’t be afraid to ring newsrooms, they appreciate how hard it is to cold call.
–    It is passion that gets people on to television.
–    Sex sells – although journalists won’t admit it.
–    Journalists will give feedback – email first then follow up with a phone call
–    If something has already happened, it is too late for broadcast media to cover
–    The story is always about people not things
–    Think about the audience, so you will need to let a bit of control go to the journalists.

The evening ended with a busy Question and answer session:

Q – Do you need different PR for different life stages of your business?
A – Identify your key messages for the long term, then identify the key ways of getting these messages across. Start local, then regional, then national. For Business to Business services, start speaking at events to raise your professional profile.

Q – Can you use historical stories?
A – Good stories from the past can work in the print media, but not for broadcast. But the bottom line is that there needs to be a great story.

Q – How to get into professional journals?
A – Be prepared to write your own articles.

A – PR is a drip-drip process, you may not get any mention of your company name each time.

Q – How can you benefit from an important story in the media?
A – Develop your role as an expert / commentator.

Q – How do you leverage a personal brand?
A – Planning is key. The media need to be involved before your launch.

Q – How do you find time for PR?
A – Make sure you block out a couple of hours a week in your diary.

Q – How do you get celebrity endorsement?
A – By getting your product into their (or their agents) hands to try out. Even celebrities love a freebie.

Q – What kind of PR works for service businesses?
A – Look for specialist publications. They will often have a lower threshold for news and articles.

A – Patience is essential. You have to wait for the right hook to hang you news item on. Set up a Google alert to track opportunities.


Our YouTube channel gets 250 thousand hits

7 October 2011

youtube-logoWe are constantly telling our clients about the power of using video to market their product or service, as do our workshop presenters (Our Marketing Masterclass with Alasdair Inglis of Grow).

So it is wonderful to be able to show how our use of videos on YouTube has gained us nearly 250,000 hits over the last three years or so.

Very early on we created our own channel BIPCTV, and began posting recordings of our Inspiring Entrepreneurs events, and our success stories.

Having attended almost all of our events over the years, I am really pleased to see that my favourite speaker is also the most popular with nearly 23,000 views. I have to admit that having already seen Levi Roots and his Reggae Reggae Sauce on BBCs Dragons Den I was prepared to be disappointed. However, as a live performer with no script or PowerPoint slides, he was witty, charming and inspiring.

Another popular speaker is Sam Roddick, founder of the ‘erotic emporium’ Coco De Mer, and daughter of Body Shop legend Dame Anita Roddick. She describes herself as an activist first and accidental entrepreneur second.

http://www.youtube.com/bipctv

YouTube_BIPC


Media maestros: Innovative strategies for small businesses – next Wednesday

7 October 2011

Shazia AwanI’m really looking forward to our next Inspiring Entrepreneurs event, Media Maestros next Wednesday 12 October from 6pm here in the British Library.

We have an impressive panel of industry experts, including: Matthew Rock, Jonathan Moules, Louise Third and Rob Pittam. We also have a special guest speaker Shazia Awan, founder of body enhancing underwear Peachy Pink and Max-Core.

Publicity is the key to getting new customers and a mention in the right newspaper, magazine or online social network can make all the difference. Getting noticed by the press can also sometimes help to reduce the costs in your marketing budgets.

Matthew Rock is founder & editor of Real Business magazine. He will lead the discussion and also give a summary of the latest media trends.

peter_Andre_inspeach pink pantsShazia Awan is the founder of Peachy Pink and Max-Core. Her products are firm favourites with stylists and celebrities and she will talk about her experiences of gaining press attention.

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Jonathan Moules, enterprise correspondent at the Financial Times

Louise Third, director of Integra Communications

Rob Pittam, television and radio correspondent, he was also broadcast presenter for the BBC Working Lunch programme


Business & IP Centre is five years old today

9 March 2011

BIPC logoWhile I am on the subject of birthdays (Escape the City is one year old), I would like to note that the Business & IP Centre is five years old today.

My colleague Isabel Oswell, who heads up our marketing activities, has come up with some helpful numbers to give an indication of what we have achieved in the last five years.

I should acknowledge the match-funding by the London Development Agency (LDA), which has enabled us to achieve so much.

I am proud to have been involved with something that has helped so many, and want to thank everyone who has helped to contribute to our success.

To date we have helped 200,000 entrepreneurs and small businesses, and given direct advice and guidance to over 30,000 people.

Fifty percent of these have been pre-start up, and 50 per cent have been post-start up and owners of growth businesses.

They come from a diverse range of backgrounds, with fifty percent women, and 37 percent from black and Asian minority ethnic groups, and 4% with disabilities.

Over a quarter of the Centre’s visitors are from the creative industries.

An independent evaluation by Adroit Economics, revealed that, between 2007 and 2009, the we helped to create 829 new businesses for London, and a further 786 new jobs for Londoners. The combined turnover for these businesses was £32 million and 89 percent of their founders say this success could not have been achieved without the Library’s help.

For every £1 that the LDA invested over the period, the businesses saw a £22 increase in turnover. Further, these businesses, supported by the Centre, have contributed £5.5 million to the public purse.

In addition, owing to its reputation and brand, the Library has also managed to leverage its funding through sponsorship, discounts, pro bono work, positive press coverage and other in-kind benefits at an estimated value of over £10 million.

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Enterprising women entrepreneurs

23 February 2011

I have to admit that I am not a big fan of the way our lovely language so often gets mangled to create handy marketing terms. The latest to come to my attention in the business start-up world is ‘mumpreneurs’.

However, putting those misgivings aside, these enterprising women are particularly impressive in the way they are able to combine the demands of looking after their  children, as well as what can be a much more demanding dependant – their business.

Just recently they have been getting a lot of attention in the media, with a whole week of coverage on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

mumsnet logoAlso we had Justine Roberts the co-founder of Mumsnet, speaking at our Power of Social Media evening.

Even my local paper The Mid-Susssex Times had a feature article with one of their traditionally feeble headlines – ‘After the school run we network!’

The article is about the one year old Brighton based Mumpreneurs Networking Club, founded by Nicky Chisholm and Sarah Guiel. According to Debbie Mann who now organises the Burgess Hill and Crawley areas, sharing the experience of being mums is important.

‘It doesn’t matter if little Jack is running around screaming for a biscuit because everyone is in the same situation.’

It was nice to read that the club is not exclusive and allows non-mums and ‘even the odd man’, to go along.

As Debbie points out, ‘networking is an important part of any small or medium enterprises, but especially to sole traders who are often the head of sales, PR, marketing, accounts, admin, IT, social media, manufacturing and so on.’

I’m not sure they have necessarily picked the best web address for the group if they are wanting to reverse some of the stereotypes of women networking. However, it certainly is memorable, which is important from a marketing perspective – http://www.agoodgossip.co.uk

Mumpreneurs Club

The Power of Social Media – an Inspiring Entrepreneurs evening

The Power of Social Media – an Inspiring Entrepreneurs evening

10 February 2011

Web in Feb logoAs part of the Inspiring Entrepreneurs series and in conjunction with Social Media Week, the British Library hosted The Power of Social Media last night, to show how small businesses can enhance social media to engage with their customers and reach new markets.

I am grateful to my colleague Michael Pattinson for writing this report on the evening:

The event was sold out and also streamed live at Southampton University and New York Public Library.  As befitting an event about social media, there was also a live blog at www.businesszone.co.uk as well as a live Twitter feed.

The guest speakers included Fraser Docherty, founder of Superjam, Ian Hogarth, CEO and co-founder of Songkick.com, Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC technology correspondent and Justine Roberts, co-founder of Mumsnet.

The event was hosted by Matthew Rock of Real Business magazine.  He began by telling the audience how useful social media has been for his own business, Caspian Publishing.

FraserFirst up was Fraser Docherty of Superjam.  Fraser proved to be a very engaging and funny speaker.  He told us how he started making jam, based on his grandmother’s recipes when he was fourteen, selling it door to door and at farmers markets before securing a deal with Waitrose.  Social media and blogging provided him with a cheap and easy way to publicise his brand and communicate with his customers.

According to Fraser, one of his proudest achievements has been setting up a charity which runs tea parties for the elderly.  So far, there have been tea parties so far but he believes social media can help him create thousands of similar events around the country.

IanThe next speaker was Ian Hogarth who set up the website Songkick.com, which allows members of the public to match their music interests to the site and then receive alerts when their favourite bands are playing.  The site uses a “robot” which scours the Internet for concert and gig information.

Ian made the point that everything on the web is media and everything good on the web is social.  He said: “Good ideas spread faster than ever before – that’s an amazing thing for entrepreneurs, how the barriers of entry are changing.”

Ian talked of the importance of motivating and exciting your audience by emphasising the value of your product or service.  He also talked about how the internet had blurred the lines between product and marketing and how his product manager is effectively his marketing manager thanks to social media.

Ian had recently returned from a trip to LA and recommended that any start-ups using social media needed to spend some time in Silicon Valley because their ideas about social media were so advanced.

RoryNext up was the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.  Rory has witnessed first hand how social media, especially Twitter, has revolutionised news reporting.  He used an example of the earthquake in Qinghai province in China last year which was reported on Twitter before it appeared on any other news media.

Rory had some amusing anecdotes of the pitfalls of using social media – his advice:  don’t say anything on Twitter you wouldn’t say in normal conversation!  However, he brushed aside criticisms that social media is killing the art of conversation and social interaction saying that these same criticisms were made about the telephone and email.

Justine RobertsThe last speaker was Justine Roberts from Mumsnet, the massively popular website for mums (and the occasional dad) with a phenomenal 1.2 million visitors each month.

She emphasised how social media was so effective in providing a discussion forum which can be so much more effective in selling a product than traditional advertising.  She also talked of the potential dangers of going viral with silly publicity stunts which have a habit of backfiring but her main message was listen and engage, don’t stifle debate.  She also said that you should relinquish control and let yourself go!

A Q&A session followed and some interesting issues were raised by members of the audience such as online privacy and how do you protect your intellectual property.  The speakers all agreed that you can’t expect privacy as social media is a public space.  As far as Intellectual Property is concerned, you can’t stop people from copying your ideas, you just have to provide the best forum and the most recognisable brand.  As Justine Roberts said: “this is the internet, you can’t put up walls. We don’t stop our users recommending competitor websites.”

Other issues raised by questions included how social media can be used to help B2B companies and where social media is going in the future.  Rory Cellan-Jones felt that despite the dominance of Facebook, there was still room for vertical specialist social networks and that social media was blurring the lines between B2C and B2B.

You can read the live blog replay at http://www.businesszone.co.uk/topic/marketing-pr/live-blog-power-social-media/32776

The event was also filmed and highlights will be appearing on the BIPCTV YouTube channel shortly.


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 (lastminute.com and mydeco.com) 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 Lastminute.com Brent Hoberman +Enterprise UKs CEO Tom Bewick.”


And the winners of the 2010 PRECIOUS Awards are…

16 November 2010

I blogged recently about my role in Judging the 2010 PRECIOUS Awards. And last week was the big awards ceremony itself, held in the Conference Centre at the British Library.

Rasheed Ogunlaru and Jessica Huie the CEO of Colorblind Cards were excellent hosts, and the evening was great fun.

The Precious Entrepreneur of the Year Geeta Sidhu, founder of Nosh Detox, gave an inspiring speech highlighting her ‘riches – to rags – to award-winning business’, story.

Congratulations to the winners below, and to Foluke Akinlose MBE, the founder of the awards.

The Precious Awards 2010 | The WINNERS!

Start-Up Business of the Year
Janet M Banks – The Art of Cake – janetmohapibanks.com/

Service Business of the Year
Geeta Sidhu – Nosh Detox – www.noshdetoxdelivery.com

Creative Business of the Year
Ola Amoako – Urbantopia – www.urbantopia.co.uk/

Social Enterprise Business of the Year
Marcia Hutchinson MBE – Primary Colours – www.primarycolours.net

Leadership within the Workplace
Lydia Frempong – Business Development Manager- Media Trust –
www.mediatrust.org

Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Bunmi Olaye, Bunmi Koko

Blogger of the Year
Alice Gbelia – Catch a Vibe – www.catchavibe.co.uk

The Precious Entrepreneur of the Year
Geeta Sidhu – Nosh Detox – www.noshdetoxdelivery.com

Rasheed Ogunlaru and Jessica Huie get a helping hand from Jessica's daughter


Ingenious Britons: Personal journeys in invention and design

23 September 2010

Last night’s Inspiring Entrepreneurs featured successful inventors and was organised in conjunction with our wonderful Inventing the 21st Century exhibition.

Our five speakers gave us their very different stories, but with common themes and lessons learnt.

Natalie Ellis, inventor of the Road Refresher non-spill dog travel bowl.

Natalie Tried for many years to get into the pet market. She came to The British Library about eight years ago and immersed herself in our market research reports and pet related industry  information. This gave her the knowledge to understand the market and be able to sell effectively to supermarkets like Sainsbury’s.

This is a message I repeat to all of my clients in advice sessions. If your background is not from the sector you plan to launch your product or service, you must first gain in-depth industry knowledge by reading relevant publications, and even gaining some work experience where possible.

The idea for Road Refresher came from nearly being arrested by the police, for trying to let her dog drink water while driving her car. Natalie built a very basic prototype in her kitchen in the evenings while waiting for her daughter’s dinner to cook. As is almost always the case, her initial prototype didn’t work.

She displayed her final product at a trade show and generated interest there. This encouraged her to enter a women’s invention awards competition, where she won three awards, which led to BBC news coverage. Next came the fateful invite to appear on Dragons Den. Apparently the unusual chairs the Dragons sit in, make them look small and insignificant, which inspired (misplaced) confidence in Natalie. As anyone who has seen the clip will know, the experience turned out to be awful, with personal attacks from the Dragons due to Natalie’s lack of knowledge of the size of her market.

James Caan’s reaction to her plan to take the bowl to America, was to warn Natalie that America was the graveyard of British business. All successful inventors and entrepreneurs have ‘bounce back ability’, and so a few days later when she had stopped crying, and realised she believed in her product, she decided to ignore the Dragon’s advice.

She flew to America and took a stand at a trade show, and had initial difficulties selling the product, but by the time the Dragons Den show appeared on television, it had become the fastest selling dog bowl in America on Amazon.com.

Q&A

Q. Did anyone offer to licence the product?

A. She was offered a 3% licence and turned it down. The moulds are made in China, but by a company recommended by a personal contact.

Q. How to present your product to potential buyers?

A. Natalie demonstrates her product by waving a full bowl in front of potential buyers faces, and watches their reaction when no water spills onto them.

Mike Spindle, inventor of the revolutionary Trekinetic Wheelchair

Mike has a Formula 1 racing car background, but despite a lack of knowledge of the wheelchair sector or disability background he developed all aspects of the Trekinetic. He said the key is noticing the problem, and the poor current solutions in the market to address it. He thinks his lack of industry knowledge and decision not to review existing solutions or patents helped him find a truly  innovative solution.

The initial trigger was seeing a trendily dressed young man stuck in a terribly old fashioned wheelchair, painted purple in a failed attempt to jazz it up.

Mike’s advice was first check existing solutions in the market place. Then sketchyou’re your solution, and build at prototype or test concepts using Meccano. Concentrate on function first, looks come second. Ultimately the product must sell itself. A big marketing budget will only take a mediocre product so far.

Don’t spend a fortune on prototypes, you can do a lot with MDF. Try and keep what you are doing as private and secret as possible.

Ask yourself if anyone will buy it. Mike gave the example of collapsible paper basket invention. Ingenious, but not ultimately not that useful.

Can you patent your idea? Use non disclosure agreements (NDA’s) to test out invention. They found a set of wheelchair users and gave them a questionnaire to fill out.

Beware of patent agents as their time is so expensive, and they want to write your application straight away, before searching the databases to see if you qualify.

You only have one chance to get it right, so make use of help from Business & IP Centre  and the UK IPO.

If you believe in your idea, don’t give up – make it happen.

Mike’s crunch point was when he discovered the chair wouldn’t run in a straight line. It took a year to fix, but is now the best on the market and can be used one handed wheelchair occupants.

The wheelchair took six years of his life, but was worth it, and now the demand is greater than they can produce.

The key is to find customers that love your product and competitors who can’t copy it.

Michael Pritchard, inventor of the Lifesaver bottle

Michael started off by agreeing with the Natalie and Mike that it does feel very lonely at times when you are inventing.

He told us the story by the Lifesaver, which came about because he got angry during Boxing Day 2005 watching images of the Tsunami on television. People were dying due to a lack of clean water, so he decided to do something about it. But as is so often the way, work and life took over, and he didn’t pursue the idea. Then came hurricane Katrina, and the same problems again with lack of drinking water. He was appalled that it took five days to get water to the thousands of people stranded in the Superdome in New Orleans.

Needed a solution that did not require chemicals or power.

Michael then gave a very polished demonstration of the Lifesaver bottle, using very murky and smelly water from the bottom of his pond.

He talked passionately about his recent visit to Pakistan and used his own photos to show the extent of the flooding and its impact on the people there.

He said how great it felt to realise that giving them a Lifesaver jerry can took the place of a dependency on a regular supply of bottled water.

His motivation was a vision of his gravestone with nothing written on it. Also his wife told him to go for it.

Q. You on the stage tonight are the lucky ones.

A. Michael disagreed, the invention must meet and unmet need, but must also be commercial.

Jim Shaikh, the inventor of  Yoomi, self heating baby bottle

Jim was the father of a three and half month weight premature baby. Jim’s job was to feed the baby at night, but kept getting the temperature wrong. Ended up with crying baby and crying wife upstairs.

It took a year to develop the concept, a bit like a combi-boiler and a gel-pack hand warmer, re-packaged into the top of a baby feeding bottle.

It has taken six years from original idea to get into Boots and soon into Europe.

Marketing tag line ‘Inspired by Mum, Designed by Dad’.

Wants to build a brand as it is more valuable than individual products.

Jim learnt about IP in the Business & IP Centre, and raised £140,000 from Angel investors. He made the very important point that a patent is an asset that helps convince investors of value of product.

It took a year to get funding for the product.

Prototyping is expensive. Jim used it to prove to investors that his product was a worthwhile investment. Took 3-4 prototypes to get the product right.

You need a support network to help you out.

You will hit low points, but part of being an entrepreneur is being able to deal with problems.

You need to be aware that competitors will respond, in Jim’s case with price cuts. How will you respond back? Do you have the flexibility?

Mark Sheahan, the Business & IP Centre’s Inventor in Residence

Mark used his immense experience of inventing and advising inventors to come up with a list of Do’s and Don’ts of inventing:

Keep your idea secret

Has to be better and or cheaper than the rest of the market

Have a professional patent search done

Review the prior-art, and carry on searching

Do your market research – players, size, prices

Is the market I am going into worth the time money and effort

Can you make the invention, and for the right price?

Look at how you can add value with your product

What is your USP? Why kill one rat when you can kill a hundred?

Helps to be optimistic

WIT – Whatever It Takes

Your enthusiasm will become infectious

Has to become the most important thing in your life

You need to become good at business

Understand the role of IP and patents

Secrets have a role to play

Don’t write your own patent – it is a false economy

Avoid sharks – not just the rogue Patent Promotion Agents

Listen to your gut feelings when dealing with people

Take on a business mentor with a couple of percentage of your business.

Create a SWAT analysis

Choose the right business model – draw up a partnership agreement

Don’t expect money from banks or government grants.

Make yourself investable – develop your marketing line

Understand contracts and letter writing

Get good at negotiating

Be realistic about the time scales – 15 years in the case of Dyson

Experience is rewarding even if you fail

Have fun with it

Questions

Q. When should one extend a British patent to a wider market?

A. Jim S – A difficult question as it is expensive to go wider. Need to think about where your market will be. Babies are born across the world. Strategy was to nationalise their patents in their biggest markets (USA and Europe).

Michael P – Find out where your competitors are manufacturing and patent there.

Q. How can you use a patent as collateral?

A. Jim S – I put in my patent into the business in exchange for investors money.

Q. Why not licence your product?

A. Mark S – I prefer to licence my technologies.

A. Michael P – Increase the value, decrease the risk by outsourcing the manufacture, but keeping control of selling and marketing of product as it is so new in the market. Wanted to build the value first.

Q. How did you foster partnerships and collaboration to get your invention market?

A. Natalie E – all self done

A. Jim S – used friends and family as focus groups, but using NDA’ and CDA’s. Balance between protecting what you have but getting valuable feedback from potential customers.

Q. The difference between being an inventor and an entrepreneur.

A. Natalie E – work to your strengths – go to trade shows to find the right

A. Mark S – licensing is a quicker and cheaper route

A. Michael P – get product into market as early as possible – don’t show a picture, have a prototype

A. Mike S – if you are going to licence your invention, make sure you get a serious amount of money up front to ensure they are committed.


Our exhibition: Inventing the 21st century

1 September 2010

From next Monday our new exhibition Inventing the 21st century, opens here at the British Library in our Folio Society Gallery, and runs until 28 November 2010.

It is a celebration of wonderful British ingenuity, and contains a wide range of inventions from sport to tackling climate change to the weekly nightmare of changing your duvet cover. It also includes President Obama’s favourite dog bowl (as seen – and rejected – on Dragons Den), and Dyson’s revolutionary bladeless fan.

My colleague Steve van Dulken is the curator of the exhibition and has already covered several of the inventions on show in his excellent Patent Search blog.

We are also running an Ingenious Britons evening event, where you will be able to hear from and put questions to some of the inventors.

In conjunction with the exhibition we also have an Invent it! campaign. We want to inspire the next generation of ingenious Britons to develop products to make your lives easier, from a mug of tea that never goes cold, to a smart phone battery that can last all week. Personally, I would like to have a stretchy keyboard for my Blackberry, as I can touch type, but my clunking fingers are far too big for the standard BB keys.

What would you like to see an invention for? Have your say on our Facebook fan page and Twitter using the hashtag #bipcinvent

We’ll be announcing the top ten ideas during Global Entrepreneurship Week (15 – 19 November).


Judging the 2010 PRECIOUS Awards

30 July 2010

I am greatly honoured to have been asked to be a judge for the 2010 PRECIOUS Awards, which celebrate the achievements of inspirational entrepreneurial women of colour who are running businesses in the UK.

The Awards evening will take place on  Monday 8 November here at The British Library with Rasheed Ogunlaru presenting.

It only costs £1.00 to enter for one of the awards below, using either the Main Entry Form or the Leadership Form:

Start-Up Business of the Year:
Are you a business woman who has just started out? Do you want the business world to know how well you are doing? Then this category is for you! Nominees in this category can be from any business sector and must have been in business at least six months*.

Social Enterprise Business of the Year:
Sponsored by The Social Enterprise Coalition
Do you run a business that’s based on sound ethical principles? Are you a community interest or social enterprise company that gives back to the community? This is your chance to shine. Nominees must have been trading for at least 12 months*.

Service Business of the Year:
Is your business in the service sector. Do you run a shop or mobile business? Nominees in this category can be from any business sector. They must have been in business for more than 12 months*.

Creative Business of the Year:
Do you run a cultural and/or creative business? Is it based in an industry such as PR, design, fashion, music, advertising, marketing, or film? If you have been trading for at least 12 months then enter now*.

Online Business of the Year:
Are you committed to the online business model? Have you built an online brand you want to shout about? Is 55% of your turnover gained from online transactions? Yes? Then you could become the PRECIOUS Online business of 2010.   you must have been in business for more than 12 months*.

Inspiring Leader within the Workplace:
Are you, or do you know someone working within a business or organisation who has taken on an entrepreneurial role within the company? Do their commitment and actions influence those within and extend beyond their workplace? Get recognition and nominate now.

Young Entrepreneur of The Year:
We’re looking for a PRECIOUS star of the future! If you are running a business and aged under 26 then this award is for you. It’s a special category designed to help find the best young business woman who is just starting out on her entrepreneurial journey. To enter this category you need to have been trading for at least six months *.

The Precious Entrepreneur of the Year:
This award awarded by the judges, recognises the most passionate and dedicated woman business owner who the judges feel has overcome significant challenges to achieve outstanding business success.


The secret ingredient: the recipe for success as a food and drink entrepreneur

28 July 2010

Once again Matthew Rock from Real Business ably chaired our panel of food entrepreneurs in front of a full conference centre audience.

First up was Eric Lanlard, otherwise known as Cake Boy, and famous for having baked Madonna’s wedding cake.

Having given him a lightning tour of the Business & IP Centre a few minutes earlier, I can safely say that he is a charming man.

As is often the way with successful entrepreneurs (and in fact many other success stories), his passion for baking had started early. In his case from the age of six. With encouragement from his mother he began to sell his produce from outside their house. And was beginning to do well… until his mother started charging him for the ingredients.

The next stage was to take up an apprenticeship at the age of 18, after having identified the best place for him to learn his craft. From day one he knew that this was what he would want to do for the rest of his life. Subsequently he was taken on the by famous Roux Brothers who revolutionised British Cuisine in the UK, and eventually became a ‘Roux Boy’.

He finally broke away and set up in business on his own, managing to bag Fortnum & Mason as an early client.

Here are some of his business tips:
•    You have to work bloody hard to make a success in business.
•    Always refuse to take the cheaper option when pressured. Stay with quality.
•    Tight finance is important.
•    Look after your suppliers too.
•    Without your staff you are nothing. Invest in them as much as you can afford.

‘Five am tomorrow morning (like every day) you will find me in my kitchen.’

Next came Jennifer Irvine who is the founder of  The Pure Package, the gourmet food service offering carefully tailored, freshly prepared and healthily balanced meals and snacks delivered daily to customers.

I had also given her a whistle-stop tour of the Centre earlier on in the evening, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that she had been using our information at the beginning of her business eight years ago. She was very complimentary about the library enquiry staff who helped her at that time.

She said she started her business because she enjoyed food, and was upset that so many of us now associate eating with weight gain and poor health.

From the beginning she was averse to taking on loans or even outside investors, and literally started her business from her kitchen.

Her toilet became research her study, as it was the only quiet place away from her young children.

She contacted journalists who wrote about healthy eating. This resulted in a story in the Evening Standard which led to a big increase in demand for her products.

She needed finance to grow to meet this upsurge in customers, but was still against going to the bank. Instead she offered her customers the opportunity to get a discount in exchange for paying in advance. This generated enough cash to buy the new equipment she needed.

In the early days she had to do everything in the business including the classic of answering her phone as receptionist and then passing it on to herself as manager. Her response to curious customers was that ‘we all sound the same here’.
She also drove the delivery runs for the food between 12 midnight and six in the morning.

Having such a deep understanding of the business means she can still help her staff, even when away from work for a while.

Last, but by no means least came Richard Reed, a co-founder of Innocent, the No.1 smoothie brand in Europe. The business was started in 1999 with and two college friends and has grown to a turnover of over £100m today.

Richard also started in business at a young age, when he began washing windows for his neighbours at the age of eight. However, a summer job picking up dog biscuits in a pet food factory soon reminded him of the joys of working for himself, and led him to set up a summer gardening business called Two Men Went to Mow, employing his school friends.

He met the co-founders of Innocent at college. After discussing the idea of starting their own business on many occasions, they finally gave themselves one weekend to agree an idea. The objective was to make life a little bit easier and a little bit better.

They came up with the concept of ‘The Amazing Electric Bath’. However, there was a slight problem relating to combining water and electricity in one product. There was a real danger they would end up making their customers lives quite a bit shorter, instead of little bit easier and a little bit better!

When looking to develop a new product or service he said you should make sure you know your target audience well. They looked to themselves for inspiration. Their need was for healthy fast food and snacks, to replace their unhealthy pizza and beer habits. The best test is to ask if you would spend your own money on the product or service. They brought £500 of fruit and hired a stall at a music festival. Next to the stall was a Yes bin and No bin. They promised themselves that if the Yes bin was full at the end of the day, they would give up their day jobs and concentrate on the business. In the end there were only a few empty bottles in the No bin, which their parents later admitted they had put there to put them off. Even that wasn’t enough, so they spun a coin which came up tails three times in a row to convince them.

Consequently the last 12 years have been much more difficult than expected. But also the most rewarding time of his life.

Here are few of Richard’s business truisms:
•    The product is king, and has to be better than anyone else’s on the market.
•    You have to decide when to move from making yourself to outsourcing the product. Started themselves, but found a supplier eventually. Running a factory is a very demanding activity in its own right, and might not give you enough time for developing your brand.
•    Make sure you understand your numbers, in particular your gross margin and where it will be spent.
•    You have to get lucky, but you also have to be tenacious.
•    If your team share the same values (but have complementary skills), you will help each other through the tough times that will inevitably come along.

After the panel sessions Matthew managed a lengthy question and answer session due to the sheer level of demand from the audience.

How did Innocent get funding?
Richard revealed that after months of trying to get funding for Innocent they reached a last chance saloon, which resulted in a desperate email titled ‘Does anyone know anyone rich?’
There were working on the theory Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon would apply.
The email generated two responses in total, one didn’t go anywhere , and one which ended up giving them the money to get the business started.

How did Innocent get into supermarkets?
Supermarkets are generally interested in new products on their shelves.
Innocent started with a ten store listing in Waitrose. But it took seven years to reach blanket supermarket coverage by organic growth.

Can you talk about supplier relationships?
Don’t rely on one supplier. Have a plan B ready and warmed up. The Innocent bottle supplier switched to Coke at short notice which caused much grief.

Two instrumental business books recommended by Richard Reed:
Eating the Big Fish
: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders
by Adam Morgan.
Good to Great
: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
by Jim Collins

How did you communicate your brand?
Eric Lanlard started with Laboratoire 2000, but due to pronunciation problems (including abattoir)  it ended up as Lab 2000.
His new joint venture with Patrick Cox will be called Cox, Cookies and Cakes, partly  because it will be based in an old sex shop in London’s Soho district.

The Innocent name was designed to communicate natural, pure and unadulterated.
Simplification and exaggeration are key to branding.

Richard defended the sale of share to Coca Cola. Although they now own the majority of the shares, the Innocent founders have maintained control of the business. Selling their products through McDonald’s stores caused ten times more bad press.

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The secret ingredient: the recipe for success as a food and drink entrepreneur

Once again Matthew Rock from Real Business ably chaired our panel of food entrepreneurs in front of a full conference centre audience.

First up was Eric Lanlard, otherwise known as Cake Boy, and famous for having baked Madonna’s wedding cake.

Having given him a lightening tour of the Business & IP Centre a few minutes earlier I can safely say that he is a charming man.

As is often the way with successful entrepreneurs (and in fact many other success stories), his passion for baking had started early. In his case from the age of six. With encouragement from his mother he began to sell his improving products outside their house. And was beginning to do well… until his mother started charging him for the ingredients.

The next stage was to take up an apprenticeship at the age of 18, after having identified the best place for him to learn. From day one he knew that this was what he would want to do for the rest of his life. Subsequently he was taken on the by famous Roux Brothers ??? in the UK, and eventually became a ‘Roux Boy’ ???

Eventually he set up in business on his own and managed to bag Fortnum and Mason as an early client.

Here are some of his business tips:

· You have to work bloody hard to make it a success in business.

· Refused to take the cheaper option when pressured. Stayed with quality.

· Tight finance is important.

· Look after your suppliers too.

· Without your staff you are nothing. Invest in them.

· 42 years old in a happy place.

· Partnership with Patrick Cox to open a chain.

· Five am (like every day) you will find me in my kitchen.

Next came Jennifer Irvine who is the founder of The Pure Package, the gourmet food service offering carefully tailored, freshly prepared and healthily balanced meals and snacks delivered daily to customers.

I had also given her a whistle-stop tour of the Centre earlier on in the evening, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that she had been using our information at the beginning of her business eight years ago. She was very complimentary about the library enquiry staff who helped her at that time.

She said she started her business because she enjoyed food, and was upset that so many of us now associate eating with weight gain and bad health.

From the beginning she was averse to taking on loans or even outside investors and literally started her business from her kitchen.

Her toilet became research her study as it was the only quiet place away from her young children.

She contacted journalists who wrote about healthy eating. This resulted in a story in the Evening Standard which led to a big increase in demand for her products.

She needed finance to grow to meet this upsurge in customers, but was still against going to the bank. Instead she offered her customers the opportunity to get a discount in exchange for paying in advance. This generated enough cash to buy the new equipment she needed.

In the early days she had to do everything in the business including classic of answering of answering the phone as receptionist and then passing it on to herself as manager. Her response to curious customers was that ‘we all sound the same here’.

She also drove the delivery runs for the food between 12 midnight and six in the morning.

Having such a deep understanding of the business means she can still help her staff even when away from work for a while.

Last, but by no means least came Richard Reed a co-founder of Innocent, the No.1 smoothie brand in Europe. The business was started in 1999 with and two college friends and has grown to a turnover of over £100m today.

Richard also started in business at a young age, when he began washing windows for his neighbours at the age of eight. However, a summer job picking up dog biscuits in a pet food factory soon reminded him of the joys of working for himself, and led him to set up a summer gardening business called Two Men Went to Mow, employing his school friends.

He met the co-founders of Innocent at college. After discussing the idea of starting their own business on many occasions, they finally gave themselves one weekend to agree an idea. The objective was to make life a little bit easier and a little bit better.

They came up with the concept of ‘The Amazing Electric Bath’. However, there was a slight problem relating to combining water and electricity in one product. There was a real danger they would end up making their customers lives quite a bit shorter!

When looking to develop a new product or service he said you should make sure you know your target audience well. They looked to themselves for inspiration.

Their need was for healthy fast food and snacks, to replace their unhealthy pizza and beer habits.

The best test is to ask if you would spend your own money on the product or service.

They brought £500 of fruit and hired a stall at a music festival. Next to the stall was a Yes bin and No bin. They promised themselves that if the Yes bin was full at the end of the day, they would give up their day jobs and concentrate on the business. In the end there were only a few empty bottles in the No bin, which their parents later admitted they had put there to put them off.

Even that wasn’t enough, so they spun a coin which came up tails three times in a row to convince them.

Consequently the last 12 years have been much more difficult than expected. But also the most rewarding time of his life.

Here are few of Richard’s business truisms:

· The product is king, and has to be better than anyone else’s on the market.

· You have to decide when to move from making yourself to outsourcing the product. Started themselves, but found a supplier eventually. Running a factory is a very demanding activity in its own right, and might not give you enough time for developing your brand.

· Make sure you understand your numbers, in particular your gross margin and where it will be spent.

· You have to get lucky, but you also have to be tenacious.

· If your team share the same values (but have complementary skills), you will help each other through the tough times that will inevitably come along.

After the panel sessions Mathew managed a lengthy question and answer session due to the sheer demand from the audience.

How did Innocent get funding?

Richard revealed that after months of trying to get funding for Innocent they reached a last chance saloon, which resulted in a desperate email with titled ‘Does anyone know anyone rich?’

There were working on the theory that the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon would apply.

The email generated two responses in total, one didn’t go anywhere , and one which ended up giving them the money to get the business started.

How did Innocent get into supermarkets?

Supermarkets are generally interested in new products on their shelves.

Innocent started with a ten store listing in Waitrose. But it took seven years to reach blanket supermarket coverage by organic growth.

Can you talk about supplier relationships?

Don’t rely on one supplier. Have a plan B ready and warmed up. The Innocent bottle supplier switched to Coke at short notice.

Instrumental business books recommended by Richard Reed;

Eating the big fish ???

Good to great ???

How did you communicate your brand?

Eric Lanlard started with Laboratoire 2000, but due to pronunciation problems (including abattoir) it ended up as Lab 2000.

His new joint venture with Patrick Cox will be called Cox, Cookies and Cakes, partly because it will be based in an old sex shop in London’s Soho district.

The Innocent name was designed to communicate natural, pure and unadulterated.

Simplification and exaggeration are key to branding.

Richard defended the sale of share to Coca Cola. Although they now own the majority of the shares, the Innocent founders have maintained control of the business. Selling their products through McDonalds stores caused ten times more bad press.


Still some tickets left for the Power of Social Media event

29 June 2010

Our rescheduled event on Thursday, The power of social media still still has a few tickets left if you are quick.

The age of the social-media entrepreneur has arrived. So whether you have a business idea for a new online community or want practical advice on deploying Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to access your target market, this will be an invaluable evening.

Speakers
Sarah Beeny is a Channel 4 television presenter and entrepreneur. As well as being a well established property mogul Sarah also owns social dating website Mysinglefriend.com, has written numerous books, and has recently launched Tepilo.com, her new free-to-use property website.

Will King, founder of shaving brand King of Shaves,, went from a career in sales and marketing to starting his own business. The King of Shaves brand has overtaken Wilkinson Sword and Nivea to become number two to Gillette in the shaving prep market in the UK, and the products are also taking off in the USA where they are now being sold in over 20,000 stores.

Shaa Wasmund launched Smarta.com in 2009: an innovative business platform providing free advice, networking and tools for entrepreneurs and business owners. Bringing business people together for support and inspiration, Smarta has hundreds of entrepreneur videos and bite-size guides on overcoming business challenges.

Moderator: Guy Levine is founder and CEO of Return On Digital, a leading digital marketing agency. With a history of successful dot com start-ups and an impressive global client list, he has digital running through his veins.
Event details

Who should attend? Entrepreneurs and small businesses
Place: British Library Conference Centre
Cost: £10.00 (concessions £7.50)
How to Book: To book, contact our Box Office on tel: 01937 546546 or book your tickets online
Event dates Thu 01 July 2010, 18.15 – 21.00