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 .


Could you be our new Jewellery Designer in Residence?

11 May 2012

artquest-on-whiteWe have had our wonderful Inventor in Residence Mark Sheahan pretty much since we opened in 2006, and he has personally helped over 400 inventors.

More recently we have had our Entrepreneur in Residence Stephen Fear.

And now we are looking for a Jewellery Designer in Residence.

TattyDevine_Crystal_Crown_Necklace

Tatty Devine Crystal Crown Necklace

Together with Artquest we have just announced a new research residency for a mid-career London-based jeweller with at least five years’ practice.

This paid opportunity will help a designer take their work in a new direction, be inspired by the Library’s collections and gain business support.

The successful applicant will receive:

  • A bursary of £3,000 to develop (and potentially commercialise) a new body of work using material from the British Library collections.
  • Access to British Library collections and curators.
  • Access to business and intellectual property advice in the Library’s Business & IP Centre, which helps people to set up, run and grow their own business.
  • Marketing support in relation to their activity undertaken on the residency.

The deadline for applications is Monday 9 July 2012.

Maybe you could be the next Tatty Devine?

You can also contact Frances Taylor if you want to be involved in this, or our other projects targeting the library’s creative audiences.


The Apprentice hits the mark with gourmet street food

25 April 2012

Lucky_ChipThis evening’s Apprentice shows the show’s researchers have their ears to the ground with regard to the latest trend in street food retailing.

Pop-up shops selling gourmet fast food is all the rage in the trendier parts of London these days.

Luckily the Kings Cross development area is just one such place, with its Eat Street, just up the road from the updated eponymous station, and literally across the road from the recently opened University of the Arts.

I have been lured over to this new venture on numerous occasions, despite the relatively high prices compared to traditional fast food outlets. But the food has always been worth it, with a notable spicy burger which had a real bite to it.

As was pointed out during this weeks Apprentice episode, branding is a key element of any enterprise, and some of the stalls in Eat Street certainly have memorable names. My favourites are Daddy Donkey, Well Kneaded Ltd, Yum Bun, Hardcore Prawn, and Eat my Pies.

tongue-n-cheekHowever, I think that Tongue ‘n Cheek needs to find a way make its delicious sounding underrated meat cuts and Italian inspired street food treats, such as Ox cheek with caramelized onions and polenta, a bit more accessible given the queue size I observed the other day.

These names certainly compare favourably to the Apprentice team’s choices of Gourmet Scot Pot and Utterly delicious Meatballs.

Update: August 2012: I’m now a regular at Eat Street as their days and stalls expand all the time. I’ve just had probably the best burger I’ve ever tasted from Tongue ‘n Cheek. It was their Heartbreacker Original burger, made from Ox heart and dry aged beef burger, spicy chimichurri sauce, water cress, cheddar and sour cream. And it tasted amazing.


An Aga Saga blog – to write home about

19 April 2012

aga-ladyI last blogged about Aga cookers way back in June 2008 (Aga goes Web 2.0). Well, they have finally seen the social media light (Blogging for fun and profit) and started a blog.

Rather painfully it is called The World According to Lady Aga, I’m guessing Lady Gaga is unlikely to take action, as she has against Moshi Monsters (Lady Gaga wins injunction against Lady Goo Goo) and the Icecreamists (Milking a story for all it’s worth). After all the AGA brand is nearly 60 years older than Lady G.

On the positive side, it does publish some interesting facts about the expensive cookers (AGA inventor was a Nobel Prize winner), as well as some tasty recipes. And, more importantly, it has a sense of humour, with AGA Characters: Retired Rock Chick, and AGA Characters: Yummy Mummy just two examples.

So the occasional post about new product launches or expansion into new territories can be easily forgiven.


The law of unintended consequences and e-books – Fifty Shades of Grey

18 April 2012

50_shades_of_greyThe law of unintended consequences is an interesting topic in its own right, with perhaps the most well known example being the unexpected use of text messaging on mobile telephones.

The latest example according to David Sexton in the Evening Standard is the way e-book readers have allowed more women to read adult fiction. Apparently the lack of a racy cover and give-away title when reading a discretely packaged Amazon Kindle or Apple iPad, allows more and more women to indulge their tastes in public. No longer do they need to fear the snorts of derision or disapproving looks as they plough their way through the latest Bodice ripper.

Apparently the growth in e-books (one in eight of adult fiction books is now purchased digitally) has allowed for a rapid growth in what some call ‘Mommy porn‘, or literotica.

The UK market leader in this genre is E L James and her début adult romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey. According to her official website;

E_L_JamesE L James is a TV executive, wife and mother-of-two based in West London. Since early childhood she dreamed of writing stories that readers would fall in love with, but put those dreams on hold to focus on her family and her career. She finally plucked up the courage to put pen to paper with her first novel, Fifty Shades of Grey.

It is claimed 250,000 copies have already been sold in different formats, and has topped the New York Times Bestseller list.

So, the next time you see a fellow commuter looking a bit hot and bothered, it may not be due to the faulty heating system on the train, but caused by something hot and steamy in her e-book reader.


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.


The Key Trends for 2012 from Cate Trotter – Insider Trends

25 January 2012

logo_insider_trendsI have been covering sessions from  founder and Head of Trends at Insider Trends Cate Trotter for a while now: Insider Trends – The Future of Online Marketing, The growing grey market in the UK and How to become a cutting-edge retailer.

As previously, Cate showed an impressive grasp of the trends that new and existing businesses need to know about, to keep ahead of the competitive curve.

Tonight’s topic proved even more popular than before, requiring a move to a larger room, and an overflow event last-night.

Here are my notes from the event:

Cate started the evening by identifying three headline trends for 2012 of Doom and Gloom, Ubiquitous Digital and Humanness.

Doom and Gloom (aka – the economic recession is killing business opportunities – or is it?)

  • If you only read the papers or watched TV you would think the end is nigh.
  • Unemployment is at a 17 year high in the UK, with over 1 million young people out of work.
  • The UK economy is predicted to grow by 0.2% in 2012 (i.e. no growth to speak of).
  • But…
  • Interest in entrepreneurship is at an all-time high, and barriers to entry are at an all-time low, thanks to technology and the internet, with the likes of Facebook, PayPal and on-demand printing.
  • Slowly we are shifting to become a nation of entrepreneurs.
  • There are plenty of opportunities for person-to-person (P2P) businesses thanks to the likes of Kickstarter and SellAnApp. Or how about MinuteBox which allows you sell your expertise by the minute.
  • Opportunities also exist in the off-line world too, such as ‘cheap and cheerful’ offices for start-ups like The Ugli Campus, or how about opening the first cafe for entrepreneurs.
  • Too many business websites use ‘me too’ branding with stock photography and unclear messages – Cate gave the example of BubbleWebs  as one that ‘shows what it does on the tin’.

BubbleWebs_home_page

Ubiquitous digital (it really is everywhere now)

  • 65% of adult internet users now use a social networking site of some kind.
  • By the summer of 2012 over 50% of Brits will be using a smartphone.
  • So:
  • Cate’s tip no.1 – Mark your location on Google Places to boost traffic to your website.
  • Cate’s tip no.2 – Make sure you website is mobile friendly using 11 Excellent Solutions for Making Your Website Mobile Friendly.
  • Need to think beyond using social media just for marketing and PR – add customer support roles (e.g. Hippo Munchies in India using twitter prompts from customers to re-fill their vending machines).
  • Companies will develop intelligent and selective strategies for social media channels. No more scatter-gun approach to digital marketing.
  • Digital data will give commercial insights. E.g Klout score to measure your online influence.
  • A/B test your website your website using Optimizely to maximise visitors.

Humanness (the importance of trust in a digital commercial world)

  • Ask yourself how is your digital strategy enhancing the lives of your customers?
  • More targeted communications and email lists – less scatter-gun.
  • Google is starting to highlight more human related content, so you need to have people talking about your business in social media.
  • Which means you have to do stuff that people think is worth talking about.
  • Results in a move away from novelty campaigns to real customer value. E.g. Zappos.com have a 24 hour staffed phone line, and up to a year to return products.

Zappos_logo

  • Inspirational brands talk about why they do what they do, not what they do, or how they do it – read Start with why by Simon Sinek or watch him speak at TED.
  • The need to stay human, once you grow beyond a single person business, think of your brand as a personality or celebrity.

2012 is all about being connected – individuals, networks and businesses
Use customer value to cut through the ubiquitous social media noise. Connections through honest communication is key.

Cate ended her talk by encouraging us to go away and start experimenting with some of the ideas covered. We now had 11 months lead on our competitors.

She really wants to hear from us how we a get on, so please get in touch with her at cate@insider-trends.com


Digital Strategies for Heritage – DISH 2011 Rotterdam

23 December 2011

Dish_logoThe Digital Strategies for Heritage 2011 conference (DISH 2011) was a new name to me until quite recently.

This could be explained by the fact that my job is all about helping aspiring entrepreneurs with their information needs, rather than digitising parts of the enormous British Library collection.

However, one of the four strands of DISH 2011, held from 7 December in Rotterdam, was Business for Heritage, and I was asked to speak at session on Organisations that Redesigned their Business  Models.

I certainly believe the Business & IP Centre is an excellent example of how a library can deliver a different kind of service, to support its community and economy. As well as giving a talk about the development of the Centre and the services we deliver, I was also asked to offer myself up as a trained business advisor.

Quite a few conference attendees applied for these one to one advice sessions, and I selected four I felt I could help the most. It was fascinating to hear first hand about some of the projects my clients were undertaking, and the challenges they were facing. In most cases it involved persuading staff with somewhat traditional and cautious attitudes to adopt new technologies and new ways of working. These were issues we had faced in developing the Business & IP Centre.

Overall I found the conference to be extremely well organised with fascinating speakers and interesting and engaged attendees. I would thoroughly recommend attending any future DISH conferences.

Here are my notes from the two days of the event:

I got off to an excellent start when I found myself sitting next to the conference chair Chris Batt and his charming wife Adie, who also happens to be his business partner, on the flight out to Schiphol airport. So I was able to get the inside track even before arriving in Rotterdam.

Chris has been a key figure in the information world for many years including  Chief Executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). However, this was the first time I had had the opportunity to speak to him.

Chris_BattWednesday 7th December – Introduction from Chris Batt, Conference Chair

DISH has now seven years experience, and aims to be a toolbox with practical solutions, rather than just keep on saying it is a ‘good thing’.

The four themes for the conference are:

  • ­    Business for heritage
  • ­    Crowdsourcing and co-creation
  • ­    Institutional change
  • ­    Building a New Public Space
DISH_2011_introduction

Image by DEN (Digitaal Erfgoed Nederland)

We are living in a time of uncertainty, complexity and change, but more than ever a need for us to think strategically.

In the private sector it is a case of ‘a thousand flowers blooming’, but each one is aiming for market domination. And how can you tell which will be the success story?

We are moving from Evolution to Revolution (look at the recent changes in the music industry), also in some cases Extinction.

There are big differences between the public and private sectors, but both are serving the same customers.

In the public sector how does the weeding of the ‘thousand flowers’ take place, when there isn’t the private sector market control elements.

Do we undertake cost benefit analysis for our digitisation projects?

When looking at the UK government departmental strategies and cooperation, it is a case of ‘the whole being less than the sum of the parts’.

Chris asked the audience what ‘being ahead of the wave’ meant to them.
Is it the Institution, the Project, the Sector, or Public knowledge institutions?

To make progress we need to move from being technicians to strategists, and from an institutional focus to a consumer focus.

Katherine_WatsonLiving the Digital Shift – Katherine Watson – Director, European Cultural Foundation

  • We need to start with the person not with the technical tool.
  • We should look into the future, and ask ourselves how will the current six year old in school be wanting to use your services when they are ready?
  • Looking to the past is not helpful.
  • The economic crisis means that our funding landscape is crumbling around us.
  • In the future it will not be ‘back to business as normal’.
  • Rapid change means that it is not possible to predict the future with risk free certainty.

Amber_CaseCyborg anthropology and the future of interfaces – Amber Case

Although something of a surprising presence at a conference on digital strategies, Amber’s talk was absolutely fascinating, and I am still pondering on the implications of what she said. You can catch some of the same points in her TED Women talk.

The traditional tools that humans use have changed very little over thousands of years. Whereas computers have changed beyond recognition in less than 50 years.

The idea of Cyborg Anthropology first came about in 1941, when a group of scientists and technologists first met to review impact of computer technology on people. In 1992 it became a formal academic subject.

Becoming a cyborg
When you first go online, you have to start making decisions about how you will present your virtual self, and how closely related this will be to your ‘real’ self. You are likely to adjust this version of you based on feedback from your contacts.

The future

  • We will see more Calm Technology, which appears when you need it, and disappears when you don’t.
  • Technologists try to digitise old technology and nearly always fail. For example trying to ‘grab’ a virtual page and turn it, instead of pressing a button.
  • We need to have technologies which give us superhuman powers, eg Flipboard
  • There will be an increasing merging of tech with real life. E.g. body implants.
  • Real-time gaming eg MapAttack
  • Home automation that actually works.
  • The interface will begin to disappear, so that actions are reduced, queries are eliminated. E.g. Kinect for Xbox®
  • The best technology is invisible… like a book.

Q&A
Q. How do you cope with the way technology negatively impacts available time and the ability to concentrate?
A. Amber recommended moderation in all things includes technology. She recently took 3 weeks away from her email and social media to read a book a day. The government in Singapore has proposed its citizens should turn off technology an hour before bed-time to give their brains time to settle down so their sleep is effective.

Charles_LeadbetterCulture and Social Media – Charles Leadbetter

The answer lies in ‘creative muddling through’, using skill-full incompleteness.

Charles used an excellent analogy of the development of the wine industry over the last 50 years to illustrate different models of customer service that relate to the Cultural Heritage sector.

French wine is elitist, their bottles (with just a front label) give almost no clue to an amateur wine drinker as to the nature of the wine they will find inside. You need to know their language, geography, horticulture and coding systems.
The message is, ‘keep away, unless you know what you are dealing with’.

In contrast Australian wines are consumer friendly. They have colourful modern labels on the front and lots of helpful information on the back, explaining the grapes that make up the contents, and what the wine will smell and taste like. They a have a handy screw top, so you don’t even need to drink the whole bottle in one go.
The message is, ‘I go very well with your Chicken Korma’.

Because of these changes New World wines are now the largest selling in the world.

Then there is the rapidly expanding area of home made wine. People are planting their own garden vineyards and buying the wine making kit from the web. Needless to say the quality of wine produced ranges from the undrinkable to excellent.
The message here is, ‘anyone can have a go’.

Next Charles looked at four distribution models and the challenges they present for the cultural sector.

1. How we communicate

Communication

2. Where ideas come from.

Contributors

Compare this to what he called the evil genius of Simon Cowel managed to operate in three out of four sectors.

Contributors X Factor

He was particularly impressed by how Apple have been so successful, by creating a ‘guild’ of followers (customers) who believe their Apple products are helping them to live better, more modern lives.

3. How has society changed?

change

In the future to grow big with small investment will require seeing yourself as a movement, or networks with values and ideologies, not institutions, with opening hours, collections and catalogues. Social media and the web gives an opportunity to do this.

He gave the example of Barcelona football club as the kind of organisation which exemplifies this approach.

The English, who invented football, developed a game in which defenders never went beyond the half-way line. They repelled attacks with physicality and generally ‘booted’ the ball up the pitch to their attackers who had the skill to put the ball in to their opponents net.

The ball only ever went straight up and down the pitch. The occasional creative player would attempt to move the ball across the pitch instead.

However, Barcelona developed ‘total football’, where everyone is a key player with skill. The ball always moves across the pitch, never along it, the team aim is to never lose possession, and everyone has to contribute.

This has made them into the most successful football team in the world.

For Charles cultural institutions must learn that the way to win is, not to be brilliant and individualistic, but to remain part of the network, to pass, to constantly move, look for space and find interesting angles, to always remain linked. If you are not open to people passing the ‘ball’ to you, no one will be interested in playing with you.

In other words, play culture, like Barcelona play football.

Thursday 8 December

Michael_EdsonCome let us go boldly into the Future – Michael Edson

Michael gave the closing keynote talk, which was more a call to arms than an academic treatise.

He spent some time talking about future predictions from the last 50 years. He pointed out that even those ideas we think of as new, such as The Long Tail, Joy’s Law, Cognitive Surplus, Network Effects, Moores’s Law & Mobile, and Every user a Hero are no longer really new.

He built towards his message that the ‘future is now’. So we should stop worrying about what may or may not be coming down the wire, and start engaging with our present future.

He summed up with three key questions we should all be asking ourselves:
1.    What world am I living in?
2.    What impact do I want to have?
3.    What should I do today?

He also strongly recommended The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun.

I have been attending keynote talks at library and information conferences for over 20 years now, and in all that time I have only seen two genuinely evangelical speakers from an information background.

The first was Eugenie Prime at SLA Conference in Seattle in 1997, when she called on all librarians to quit whining about image and begin walking the walk. And to earn respect by forgetting about our negative image and doing our jobs better than anyone else could.

Michael Edson qualifies as the second. The audience left his session inspired to tackle this particular professional challenge. No more whinging about all the problems we face, but to focus on the solutions.

You can watch his talk on Vimeo.


Our Success Story Flubit is growing fast

29 September 2011

Flubit_logoHaving met Bertie Stephens (Chief Flubitron) in a workshop last May, and signing up as Honourable Manlius Buggerflub (I’ve joined the fun Flubitron club), I wanted to keep in touch with their progress.

The good news is that they are growing at an impressively rapid pace, and have recently exceeded 14,000 Flubitrons. With four new demands every minute, their members have already demanded over 3,000 products and services.

I had a chat to their Online Marketing Rep Steph Fiala to find out more:

So what exactly is Flubit?

The idea of Flubit is incredibly simple but revolutionary. In an age of social media and online shopping, we have found a way to empower our consumers, through using our very simple platform. By grouping together and ‘demanding’ products they actually want to buy, we can get them great bulk discounts. Essentially, you tell us what you want and we do all the leg work and get you a discount, all because if you want something, chances are there are others online who also want it.

Bertie_Stephens_FlubitBertie Stephens came up with the idea for a consumer-lead social marketplace at the end of last year, but it wasn’t until spring this year when he really decided to go along with his idea. In April, he met with the first investors and by May Flubit was sitting on a $1M investment and was valued at $4M.

But the successes run deeper, we managed to create a great team here at flubit. We have a group of really experienced, goal oriented leaders – Adel Louertatani, making sure we are in touch with all the right investors, Ricardo Gomez-Ulmke who makes sure all our ideas are plausible and ensures we do everything with structure, Patrick Perez, our non-executive advisor, the man who brought Apple Mac to Europe giving us needed council and of course our CEO Bertie Stephens challenging and directing us – and a group of younger, enthusiastic employees who know our market and make sure we get it right.

And how did the Business & IP Centre help?

The British Library offered founders Bertie Stephens and Adel Louertatani not only a meeting ground & research tool from it’s wide array of resources, but an important learning arena too via the IP Centre.

Partaking in a multitude of courses gave Bertie & Adel an ability to gain a further foothold into the world of small business marketing, financing, pitching to investors and even intellectual property protection.

From here Flubit have been in regular contact with a selection of speakers who have since become consultants who offer a reliable, experianced source of knowledge. It was only from the learnings of the IP Centre that Bertie was able to learn the correct and (more importantly) required steps to correctly copyright & protect the Flubit brand.

If you want to keep up with Flubit, you can join their facebook page, or become a Flubitron yourself.

Flubit_com_screen_shot

flubit_celebration

The Flubit team celebrating their success Flubit style

Update October 2012: Flubit is now live.

Flubit_Screenshot_1


Dee Dee’s Vintage, another Business & IP Centre Success Story

27 September 2011

Dee_Dees_Vintage_logoI received a lovely surprise tweet recently. ” Hi Neil! I had a one-to-one with you  couple of years ago. Still implementing your advice – it was great!

It was from Dee Dee O’Connell, the founder of Dee Dee’s Vintage.  And after my blushes died down, I recalled the information advice clinic where we met. In particular I remember being impressed about how much thought Dee Dee had already given to her business idea, and how resourceful she had been.

Dee Dee didn’t have the delightful logo above at the time, or her partner Ian White.  But I was confident she would be successful, with her enthusiasm and expert knowledge of the vintage clothing market place, and her entrepreneurial spirit.

I get a lovely warm glow from being a small part of our success stories.

Below is the blurb from their website www.deedeesvintage.com:

Dee Dee’s Vintage is a brand new online shop, specialising in Americana and classic British vintage clothing. We began life back in June ‘09 as a stall at the Vintage Pop-Up Market at Brick Lane, East London. We can now be found at selected vintage fairs, markets and festivals all over the UK. Check out our blog for the latest updates on our events.

We’re based at The Print House in Dalston, East London – home of Dalston Roof Park and Café Oto.

They are also on Facebook and Twitter: www.facebook.com/deedeesvintage
twitter.com/deedeesvintage

Dee Dee O'Connell and Ian White

Dee Dee's Vintage with Dee Dee O'Connell and Ian White


Effective Writing And Communications with Kimberly Davies and Steve Trister

15 September 2011

Kimberly_DavisYesterday I attended another of Kimberly DaviesMarketing Masters days. This time the topic was Effective Writing And Communications and featured guest speaker Steve Trister the creator of Performance Dynamite.

I not sure if Kimberly is a geographer at heart, but the four days I have attended have been located in south, east, north and now west London. I’m not sure where she will go next now we have covered all four compass points.

One of the consequences of moving to a new location each time, is that the rooms often have technical glitches with the sound or vision, or in yesterdays case, both.

Kimberly copes with these challenging starts to the day with an impressive level of  professionalism and humour.

steve_TristerKimberly spoke for most of the day and was excellent, however the highlight of the day for me was actor and business coach Steve Trister the from Performance Dynamite..

He walked to front of the room wearing a doctors mask and mumbled something to. That got our attention. He then asked us to name the number one disease in business. We came up with a range of suggestions, but failed to give the correct answer; Vomiticus Contentinaatum – otherwise known as puking content, or verbal diarrhoea.

I have to admit that working in one of the largest libraries in the world with over 150 million items in our collection, this is a disease I am all too well aware of falling prey to.

The cure to this disease is to make an emotional connection with your audience (of one or more). This of course is much easier to say than to do. So you need to prepare, by building the right mindset.

You need to tell yourself every day that you are already connected to your audience, then you need to mentally rehearse by visualising the event in advance (some of which will be scripted, and some not). This is similar to the way professional athletes prepare for a competition.

You need to be clear on the emotion you want to conjure up, be in state (or in the moment with no distractions), and to commit 100% to the performance.

Steve had investigated the famous research by Albert Mehrabian on non-verbal communication. He found the commonly quoted result, that clues from spoken words, from the voice tone, and from the facial expression, contribute 7 %, 38 %, and 55 % respectively to the total meaning, is wrong, as it it relates only to the communication of positive versus negative emotions.

Our voice is critical to how we communicate to our audience, changes in vocal emphasis (the stress we put on specific words) can completely change the meaning of what we saying. He asked how often do we take note of how we are actually speaking. He explained that our tongues are muscles, so we should exercise them using tongue twisters.

He also covered body language and the use of gestures, and how these can be used to reinforce or undermine our verbal messages. He said we should practice expressing our business activity in the form of charades. This made my mind boggle at how I could show the British Library through mime.

Steve illustrated each of these points with victims (sorry volunteers) from the audience, and guided them through. For the final example he had a professional photographer give an excellent and clear mime of his business.

Finally he said we should find an emotional story that will relate to your audience.

Needless to say Steve used all of these techniques during one of the most engaging and memorable presentations I have ever seen.

You can see a YouTube video of Steve in action, and an interview with Smarta.com.

Here are my notes from the rest of the excellent day:

Learn the 20 rules of communication that should never be broken

Kimberly’s no. 1 life lesson;
“You can reach anyone in the world with, seven phone calls or less, saying the right thing.”

Statistics show that 50% of marketing spend is wasted.

Led to the idea for Sarsaparilla – to detox your marketing – Marketing Purification

Definition of marketing
Anything that affects the perception of your company. From logos to staff behaviour.

You are exposed to 4,000 brands every day. So how does your business stand out?

Know your audience
–    Who is your target market?
–    Who is your idea client / decision maker?
–    What motivates them?
–    Profile (gender, age, health, wealth, culture, interests, position, salary, budget, etc)

Then put yourself into their shoes.
–    How can you make their life easier?
–    What is in it for them?

Then find your voice (written language).
–    Who would narrate your content?
–    Think of a character of personality best suited – perhaps Steven Fry for the British Library
–    Who would your audience relate to and want to hear? Admire? Look up to? Believe
–    Imagine their voice each time you create marketing content

Keywords
–    Ten words that best describe your business – For the Business & IP Centre: innovation, inventions, information, support, advice, help, entrepreneurs, business-startup,
–    One word that best describe your business – knowledge

Unique Selling Point
–    What truly makes your business unique – For the Business & IP Centre: The largest free collection of free market research and business information in the world, with expert guidance.

USP
–    You need to be the only…
–    Everyone says, great staff, customer service etc. That is not unique
–    Sarsaparilla – the only marketing purification agency
–    Try to be everything to everyone and you will be nothing to no one.

Misconceptions
–    Write down misconceptions about your company and industry
o    The British Library is a only accessible to senior academics and authors.
o    The British Library is a very big public library.
o    The British Library only has books.

Testimonials
–    Stronger to have others say it for you
–    One to address each misconception – a maximum of five
–    Keep them really short
–    Use white papers and case studies

Focus on the benefits for your customers
–    List them – information, advice, contacts, training
–    What problem can you solve?
–    How can you make their life easier? – a clearer view of what they need to do to start their business

Key Messages
–    What are the three key things you want people to remember about your business?
o    Business & IP Centre at the British Library at St Pancras central London
o    Free workshops and advice
o    Free access to market research and business information.

Branding
–    The trust people have in your company
–    Consistency – with the rest of your business
–    People will judge you from how you look

Professional photos
–    Stock photos are too common – better to use your own commissioned ones

KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid
–    You have two seconds to make an impression
–    8 year old level reading age for printed materials
–    Get straight to the point
–    Bulleted lists are good, with verbs to start
–    Every word competes

Formula for success and to avoid writers block
–    I’ve got all this information, now how do I organise it?
–    Reverse pyramid order – most important to least important
–    Start with the ‘lead’ – who, what, where, when, how

Navigate
–    Map out where you want them to go
–    Tell them what you want them to do

Incentives
–    Free downloads
–    Upgrades
–    Gifts
–    Discounts
–    Occasion
–    Expiration date
–    First 10 receive
–    Etc

Call to Action
–    Create urgency
–    Why should I stop what I’m doing and buy NOW?
–    Now or lose your audience

Ask questions – keep the dialogue going
–    Show a sincere interest
–    Surveys, feedback, phone
–    What questions would you want to know for market research?

Relevance
–    How can you connect your business to current news?
–    Have an opinion
–    Share your views – become an expert

The Elevator Pitch
–    What is it?
–    The most important tool
–    People decide whether to file or forget you
–    Get everyone in the company to memorise
–    Use it everywhere – keep it consistent – brochures, home page, flyers etc

The who, what, where, when and how of your business

I still think Sarsaparilla’s elevator pitch is the best I have come across;

50% of marketing is wasted. Sarsaparilla is a marketing consulting and training agency that specialises in marketing purification – the process of detoxing your marketing, protecting you from The Flash, Fluff, and Fakers, and helping you make more money with less.


A Land Rover for all seasons

24 August 2011

The actual Defender that took us through the Serengeti

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am interested in niche products and markets. Previous examples include A cake slice with a musical difference and Luxury foods in terribly bad taste.

Driving to my parents house the other day, I notice an unusual garage by the side of the road in shape of a thatched house (The Thatched Garage). Even more surprising was the extent of the niche of their shiny objects filling the forecourt. Not just off road vehicles, or even just Land Rovers… they only sell the Defender model of Land Rover.

However, they have been doing very well thank you occupying this tiny niche for over twenty years.

Having recently spent two weeks on safari in Tanzania, I have new found admiration for the sturdiness and off-road capability of this particular product of the Land Rover factory. After hours of pummeling on corrugated and rocky roads, I fully expected the vehicle to start shaking itself to pieces. But our driver had spent ten years driving the same car, and explained that all it needed was a thorough service after each adventure to be as good as new.


Seeing red over the Red Shoes

12 August 2011

	AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by pixieclipxI’m no fashion expert, but there seems to be something about red shoes.

They feature in a typically grim Hans Christian Andersen fairly tale, in which a vain girl is punished by a pair of red shoes which refuse to stop dancing, even after she has her feet amputated.

This inspired one of my favourite films from the 1940’s by the great Powell and Pressburger, and more recently an album by singer songwriter Kate Bush.

Now they are featuring in a trademark dispute between two haute couture fashion houses, Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent. Christian Louboutin loses round one of red sole battle with Yves Saint Laurent.

Christian Louboutin’s whose shoes have a distinctive red sole, was suing Yves Saint Laurent for using the same colour on the bottom of its footwear.

US judge, Victor Marrero, has denied Louboutin’s request to block sales of  ‘copycat’ red soled shoes from YSL’s 2011 collection.

Marrero wrote in his ruling:

‘Because in the fashion industry colour serves ornamental and aesthetic functions vital to robust competition, the court finds that Louboutin is unlikely to be able to prove that its red outsole brand is entitled to trademark protection, even if it has gained enough public recognition in the market to have acquired secondary meaning.’

Mr Louboutin is seeking more than $1million damages for alleged infringement of his ‘Red Sole’ trademark, claiming that he was the first designer to develop the idea of having red soles on women’s shoes.

YSL hit back, with their court papers stating ‘Red outsoles are a commonly used ornamental design feature in footwear, dating as far back as the red shoes worn by King Louis XIV in the 1600s and the ruby red shoes that carried Dorothy home in The Wizard of Oz.’


I’ve joined the fun Flubitron club

26 May 2011

flubitlogotaglinewhitebackgroundI was delighted to meet Bertie Stephens (Chief Flubitron) from group buying website Flubit during Tuesdays excellent Marketing Masterclass from Grow.

Their pitch is; For any product you want to buy online, tell Flubit, and we’ll work our little socks off to get you some wonderful bespoke discounts… for free!

And they already have 17,000 fans on facebook so are off to a great ‘pre-start’.

It was great to hear from Bertie how useful they have found the Business & IP Centre in developing their business and protecting their brand. I look forward to them joining the growing ranks of our Success Stories.

Having become disillusioned by Groupon, after too many 75% offers for the Ultimate Facial Using Microdermabrasion, I was happy to sign up to Flubit.

And this was the fun email I received in response:

The Flubitask Force to Manlius

To Balcombe’s newest and most wonderful Flubitron,

Honourable Manlius Buggerflub

Welcome to our world.

Now you are officially a Flubitron (an exclusive club we must add), you are one step closer to being part of a new revolution in internet buying. Soon, whenever you want something, you’ll be able to get it cheaper, just by using Flubit – how cool is that?! If you haven’t already, why not follow us on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with what’s new?

Over the next few months we’ll be finishing off some bits and bobs, polishing the knobs and preparing to launch this Summer. Hurrah!

So what happens now?

In 2 – 3 weeks you’ll receive your official Flubitron membership card (Flubicard – don’t worry you’ll get used to the terms). With this card you’ll have access to a whole range of offline and online benefits. We’ll let you know more about this with our introductory letter, or you can have a read here:

http://www.flubitron.com/

OK, so now we’re going to go and tell our Flubitask Force to start making your membership card, and we’ll be in touch in a week or so to let you know how they’re getting on!

Speak soon Honourable Manlius,

Flubregards,

Bertie & Dan
Chief & Head of Internal Imagination


Kate Middleton to marry Prince Harry

17 March 2011

The most important activity for any start-up (or existing business come to that) is research. If you don’t understand your customers, your market, or your products properly, you will make mistakes. And these could cost your business.

With this in mind, it looks like Guandong Enterprises ltd failed to do their research when producing a piece of memorabilia to celebrate our forthcoming royal nuptials. Although the names are correct on the ‘Royal mug’, the image is of red-haired Harry, instead of his older brother, less colourful brother Will.

Ironically although this mug is not likely to be a best seller, its value is going to go sky-high due to the mistake.

Kate Middleton ‘marries Prince Harry’ on souvenir mug


An innocent clash of trademarks?

8 March 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about branding and trademarks recently (Logos with customer appeal – Apples and Marmite).

So this story in yesterday’s Evening Standard caught my eye (I’m innocent over trademark clash, says children’s vitamins maker).

Innocent Vitamins was started by Dawn Reid in July 2010, based in the tiny village of Ashurst Wood in East Sussex, close to where I grew up. According to the Standard article, Mrs Reid claims that her brand was not inspired by Innocent Drinks, and that her customers do not get the two brands mixed up.

However, the smoothie company, founded in 1999, and now with a turnover of £128 million, sees things differently. They say their customers are confused by this new brand, and that using such a distinctive name in a similar category is not an appropriate thing for another company to do.

“We have given the company a way out by respectfully asking them to stop using the brand name, which we believe is more than reasonable, and doubt that most other companies would be so tolerant. We have to protect our brand and everything we have stood for over the past 12 years.”

It seems that Mrs Reid is planing to fight to keep the Innocent Vitamins brand, so this one could run and run.

“I genuinely believe that my company can peacefully coexist with Innocent smoothies, and I would be delighted to meet up with them as we have already offered.”
http://innocentvitamins.blogspot.com/2011/03/innocent-vitamins-refutes-innocent.html

My limited knowledge of trademark law includes the topic of passing-off, and the deciding factor in many court cases is whether a reasonable person would get the two brands confused side by side on a supermarket shelf.

However, as the Intellectual Property Office IPO points out, it can be very difficult, and as a result, expensive to prove a passing off action. http://www.ipo.gov.uk/t-protect-passingoff

If you register your mark, it is easier to take legal action. This allows you to take legal action against infringement of your trade mark, rather than using passing off. Further information is available under Benefits of registered trade mark protection.

I know what I think, but have a look at the photos below and decide for yourself.

innocent_smoothieInnocent_Vitamins

The IPO have a nice summary page on Trademarks on their website.

In summary:

  • A trade mark is a sign which can distinguish your goods and services from those of your competitors. It can be for example words, logos or a combination of both.
  • You can use your trade mark as a marketing tool so that customers can recognise your products or services.
  • A trade mark must be distinctive for the goods and services you provide. In other words it can be recognised as a sign that differentiates your goods or service as different from someone else’s.
  • A registered trade mark must be renewed every 10 years to keep it in force.

Fortunately the IPO make it very simple to search their database of registered here http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/tm/t-os/t-find.htm


Milking a story for all it’s worth

6 March 2011

The_Monster_Ball_-_Poker_Face_revamped2.jpg: John Robert Charlton aka Bobby Charlton of Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, EnglandLast week I was admiring how successfully the Icecreamists have been at generating publicity for their Baby Gaga ice cream, made from human breast-milk, which costs £14 (Luxury foods in terribly bad taste). Then they had a set-back when their local council removed the milk for testing.

On Friday, yet another newspaper article appeared in the Evening Standard – Baby Gaga: Star takes legal action over London parlour’s breast milk ice cream flavour.

It’s a publicists dream come true. Probably the worlds most famous current pop star is threatening legal action over the ice cream, which her lawyers claim is infringing her Lady Gaga brand.

From a legal point of view, it seems unlikely that Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, also know as Lady Gaga, will win her case against Matt O’Connor the owner of the Icecreamists. He claims the term comes from the early sounds babies make when trying to speak, and has applied to register the trademark.

However, thanks to the Lady Gaga name, this story has now gone global, appearing in American, Russian and Indian newspapers within hours. Mr O’Connor must be rubbing his hands with glee.



Logos with customer appeal – Apples and Marmite

2 March 2011

A recent post on the Graphic Design Blog showed the results of their readers top five logos of all time.

I guess I really wasn’t that surprised to see the Apple logo sitting at number one.

Apple Logo

Although I am old enough to remember the original Apple Corps logo used by the Beatles pop group. Apple and the Beatles: The End of a Long and Winding Road?

Apple_Corps_logo

This talk of logos got me thinking about the power of brands and trademarks in protecting products and services.

The harsh truth about business, is that if you are successful you will have competition, even if you have an invention protected by a patent.

An example would be the Dyson vacuum cleaner, whose Dual Cyclone technology is protected by patents, and yet the courts have allowed a somewhat similar looking cleaner from rival firm VAX to compete – Dyson loses design case.

dyson cleanerVax cleaner

My favourite brand of all time would have to be Marmite yeast extract spread.

(Marmite jar - 250g size Photo by User:Malcolm Farmer, 28 June 2003 Category:Spreads)

This is not because the logo or image are particularly strong, but because since the creation of its secret recipe in 1902, it has managed to maintain a virtual monopoly, with the only rivals being Australian Vegemite and Swiss Cenovis. With sales of 60 million jars a year at over £5 each, one would assume this a market to attract heavy competition.

However, the Marmite brand is so strong that no-one seems to be trying, or certainly succeeding in competing.

As with many products not everyone is a fan, and Marmite have very cleverly used the strong reactions to the flavour of the spread in their recent marketing campaigns.

Marmite - Love it or hate it


Luxury foods in terribly bad taste

26 February 2011

One of the key pieces of advice I give to aspiring entrepreneurs is to ensure they have a recognisable unique selling point (USP to use the jargon).

Often this involves finding a niche which has yet to be explored commercially. Sometimes this can be a niche within a niche. If the topic is truly unique and even better controversial, this will help to generate interest from potential customers and the press.

Wild_Kopi_LuwakAn example would be the coffee my brother kindly bought me back from Indonesia. Wild Kopi Luwak is apparently the world’s most expensive and low-production coffee. It is made from the beans of coffee berries eaten by the Asian Palm Civet.

According to Wikipedia, in its stomach, proteolytic enzymes seep into the beans, making shorter peptides and more free amino acids. Passing through a civet’s intestines the beans are then defecated, keeping their shape. After gathering, thorough washing, sun drying, light roasting and brewing, these beans yield an aromatic coffee with much less bitterness.

Not every coffee drinker will aspire to drink something which has been source from animal excreta. However, I can confirm that this coffee is definitely not ‘shit’, and has one of the smoothest tastes I have ever sampled.

Peter Dominiczak tasting the £14 ice cream in Covent Garden

Peter Dominiczak from the Evening Standard tasting Baby Gaga

A more extreme example would be Baby Gaga ice cream at a mind-bending £14 a go.

The Icecreamists have been at it again (Sex sells – but call it Maturialism for now), and this time they have scored a hat-trick, with extreme high price, and combining amazing taste and amazingly bad taste in one product.

Their unique selling point? The ice cream is made from fresh human breast milk. The contributors of the milk are paid £15 for every 10 ounces they provide, and apparently are queuing up to meet the demand.

The Evening Standard sent intrepid reporter Peter Dominczak along to try out the controversial new ice cream.

‘I have never been less excited by the thought of ice cream on a sunny day. I am served by a woman imitating Lady Gaga who pours the breast milk into a metal top hat before pouring liquid nitrogen over it. I am provided with a shot of Calpol – apparently to assist with any brain freezes – and some Bonjela for any issues with sensitive teeth. Even with two biscuits, I’m not sure it warrants the £14 price tag. But it tastes fantastic. Light and creamy with just enough of a vanilla tinge. I am told breast milk tastes like overly-sweet skimmed milk, but this ice cream tastes better than almost any I’ve had before. Despite the issues I have with drinking the contents of a stranger’s breast this might catch on.’

The Daily Mail also got excited about the story, One from the chest freezer: Restaurant sells breast milk ice cream

Bizarre: Company founder Matt O'Connor, 44, and the Lady Gaga waitress in the central London store

Company founder Matt O'Connor, 44, and the Lady Gaga waitress in the central London store - Source - Daily Mail - http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Update – 1 March 2011

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that this story is set to run and run. Today’s update in the Evening Standard was, Breast milk ice cream seized for safety tests. Westminster Council staff took the Baby Gaga flavour at and sent it away to test for viral infections, after complaints.

The original story in the Standard has attracted quite a few comments, some positive, some negative, and some just silly.

My favourite so far is from MS in London who says;
Not very good marketing for the company. Next time I go to Covent Garden, I’ll make sure I don’t buy any icecream from this business (breastmilk or not).


Real practical market research the MOMA way

4 February 2011

moma1Despite having probably the largest collection of freely available market research reports in the UK, we always emphasise the importance of field research.

In fact I am part of an excellent workshop run by Victor Higgs on  Practical Market Research.

So I was fascinated to read the story of Tom Mercer, the founder of MOMA foods in yesterday’s Evening Standard.

To test his idea, Mercer spent a night in the kitchen of his Waterloo home pouring his fruit, yoghurt and oats concoction into Tesco water bottles, on which he had Pritt Sticked his own labels. After a long night that killed off several blenders, he set up a trestle table in Waterloo and handed out his shakes to commuters for free, in exchange for their email addresses.

Later that day, he sent out surveys asking for feedback. “The positive responses gave me the impetus to quit my job,” Mercer says. That decision led to four months experimenting with recipes, and biking around London train stations looking at sites. “I would stand there for hours, counting the number of people who walked by and the proportion who stopped in coffee shops. On one occasion I was chucked out by police for loitering.”

Mercer worked out that he needed a footfall of about 10,000 people between 6.30 and 10am to make the business viable. Eventually he secured a first site – at Waterloo station – and spent £10,000 of savings on a van, stall and cooking premises under a Deptford railway arch.