So many people think running a business has to be a serious matter. So it is refreshing when an entrepreneur proves the opposite.
I guess the most well known recent brand with a funny-bone is Innocent Drinks. They have included grass covered vans, a banana phone and slides in their offices, and a whole range of humorous labels on their bottles such as this one:
He immediately made an impression with his passion for the product, his professionalism, and understanding of his customers' needs. He also recognised he was addressing a niche market with his first product the Moto Seat Cover below. As a fellow motorcyclist and cyclist, I could see there was a lot of potential in his ideas.
Once his website was up and running, I was pleasantly surprised to see just how much humour Chris had used to promote his brand. Here are a few examples:
With a focus on innovation and lifestyle, our premium products will keep you and your stuff dry... from the bottom up
We're not hairy bikers or Tour de France wannabes. We don't wear leather or Lycra to and from work but we do love the freedom of 2 wheels.
We're not going to ask you to start hugging each other at the traffic lights, but we are all 2 wheeled commuters and suffer the same conditions - from both the weather and other traffic.
We know that we are just little pin pricks in the bottom of the 1.5 million 2 wheel commuters in London, but we dream of being big pricks.
I also love the way Chris spells out his brand values in such clear terms:
When it comes to our products, we have 4 key values:
it's kit you want (more on this below).
it is 100% functional - our kit works really well and is made of the best materials for the job.
it has to look great - there's too much stuff out there that works brilliantly for commuters on 2 wheels, that just doesn't look very good.
our kit will always be innovative - we believe innovation is the key to developing brilliant new products that disrupt the rest of the market.
Innovating for Growth is designed to help established businesses scale up and grow by offering over Â£10,000 worth of specialist business advice. In the last four years, the Business & IP Centre has helped over 300 businesses, with 70% of them seeing an increase in turnover within a year.
The Innovating for Growth programme consists of one-to-one advice sessions and workshops which focus on your specific business needs. Covering areas such as maximising your intellectual property, developing a growth strategy and building your brand, you will be able to pinpoint the unique challenges for your business and then focus on the solutions with Innovating for Growthâ€™s business experts.
Our current cohort has been able to benefit from this bespoke business advice and will now be following in the footsteps of Innovating for Growthâ€™s previous graduates. Read on to find out who they are. Maybe your business could be next?
Academic Underdogs is an educational company that aims to â€˜transform average or poor academic performers into outstanding achieversâ€™. The company has helped over 30,000 students worldwide and has sold over 18,000 books.
CarTap is a technology company that provides software as a service for car-sharing. CarTap aims to increase the utilisation of vehicles, reducing emissions and improving the urban space. The company was developed with the help of InnovateUK and in 2016 won the â€˜Smart Urbanisationâ€™ competition.
Feed Me Light specialises in the creation of bespoke animation for its clients. Covering areas such as creative briefs, storyboarding, illustrations, filming and print, they are able to find creative solutions using their varied expertise.
Hit Products Ltd was established as a launchpad to develop a range of innovative products designed to solve everyday problems. The â€˜CouchCoasterâ€™ is the first offering from the company and is billed as â€˜the ultimate drink holder for your sofaâ€™.
Huntsmore is a property project management firm based in West London. Its team of specialists, including, architects, interior designers, structural engineers, builders and contractors, offers a complete â€˜Design & Buildâ€™ service for people wanting to renovate, extend or upgrade their home.
Lavolio is a boutique handmade confectionary company. Its sweets are made from real pieces of fruit, nuts and jellies wrapped in chocolate and spices. In 2015 The Grocer magazine named Lavolioâ€™s founder, Lavinia Davolio, as one of its â€˜Top New Talentsâ€™ for 2015.
Letter Box Hamper makes small hampers of luxury British food and drink, beautifully wrapped and sent through the post with letterbox delivery. The hampers consist of produce from independent British suppliers that you wonâ€™t â€˜find in any old supermarketâ€™.
Lomakatsi was founded in January 2015 in order to help mental health patients in the UK. Their programme combines a range of artistic therapeutic systems to produce a coherent rehabilitation model, which is being used by the NHS and the private health sector.
London Research International is a provider of international research, consultancy and marketing services. Their focus is working with clients on projects outside their own countries and they have expertise in energy/environment infrastructure development and IT.
Love Smoothies Bike & Being Good deliver exciting and affordable smoothie bike hire packages, interactive arcade games and pop-up smoothie bars to events across the UK. These fun products also help to promote the serious messages of wellbeing and sustainability by generating electricity through the use of their smoothie bikes.
Roger Mears Architects was founded in 1980 and aims to create â€˜beautifully crafted buildings, using our clientsâ€™ styles and personalities, within a historic contextâ€™. The company has developed expertise in the alteration, extension and repair of historic buildings during its 35 years.
Shoreditch Design Rooms offers a highly skilled and innovative upholstery service from its SDR studio. It is also officially recognised as a training school for the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers (AMUSF) and offers courses for a diploma qualification.
Smartify provides its users with instant information about works of art in museums and galleries with modern technology. Using advanced image recognition and Augmented Reality (AR), the SMARTIFY app provides instant access to inspiring commentary, straight to your smartphone.
The Victoria Chart Company was founded in 2004 and is a leading innovator in practical simple solutions for busy parents. Their products engage and motivate children in a fun, interactive way so they can reach their full potential.
Theatre Workout is an award-winning theatre and events company based in Londonâ€™s West End. They run workshops for over 8,000 people a year, delivered by highly trained and experienced performers, artists and practitioners.
Apply now for your chance to receive over Â£10,000 worth of free business support today.
Gori Yahaya is the founder of UpSkill Digital and is also a delivery partner at the Business & IP Centre. His company specialises in providing bespoke workshops that focus on improving the digital skills of small businesses, charities and young people across the UK.
For most businesses today the internet has become a vital tool in helping them to grow and prosper. However, there are many companies that lack the necessary digital skills to compete effectively in the modern business world.
We caught up with Gori to find out how UpSkill Digital is helping to buck this trend.
UpSkill Digital focuses on improving the digital skills of small businesses, charities and young people. What made these three groups of particular interest to you?
Iâ€™ve had the pleasure of training a variety of audiences for Google over the years and these three groups stood out to me as having the largest need for digital skills in the UK. Small businesses truly drive the UK economy and almost half of them don't have websites or the necessary skills to succeed in the digital age. There is a similar statistic for charities across the UK and for many itâ€™s down to a lack of confidence and ease of access to affordable training. As for young people, there is a common misconception that every young person has an innate understanding of all things digital. Many of them are proficient with digital products for personal use but often have no idea how to harness their digital savviness in a professional setting. This really drives us at UpSkill Digital, because we want to unlock the true potential of these digital natives and empower them with practical skills to help businesses grow.
What are the key areas of digital marketing that small businesses and entrepreneurs should be aware of?
With the digital age moving so fast, itâ€™s often hard for businesses to keep up. One of the key areas that businesses are keen to learn more about is Google Analytics. The power of data to help businesses succeed and understand their customers is underestimated by many and the idea of deep diving into the data still seems very daunting to many small business owners. We launched our hands-on Google Analytics session to really help entrepreneurs get to grips with, and take action on, their data. The other area businesses often find it difficult to nail is Social Media for business. Most people are aware of how social media has changed the way we engage with our friends, family and even companies, but building a social media presence and content strategy to help you engage and sell, needs a little more guidance. Outside of these two, the big focus is mobile marketing as weâ€™re truly living in a mobile world so you need to ensure your online presence is built to engage through smartphones.
What did you do before UpSkill Digital and could you ever see yourself returning to it?
Before UpSkill Digital and, perhaps even before my time spent working and consulting in digital marketing, I used to run and manage experiential events for large brands, from product launches to PR stunts. I loved it, and Iâ€™m still keen to help out with a major event when it comes up. Iâ€™ve managed to combine this event management experience with my love of digital training by running our training roadshows across the UK, so I do feel like Iâ€™ve found a great balance.
Have you always wanted to become an entrepreneur or is it something that just happened?
I still find the definition of an entrepreneur can differ between people. I feel like Iâ€™ve always had an entrepreneurial approach as I find thereâ€™s nothing more rewarding than creating something out of nothing and solving a problem whilst doing so. Having worked for myself for well over a decade now, Iâ€™ve experienced many highs and low with different start-ups and had a few failures along the way. You truly start to appreciate your entrepreneurial nature once when you notice how you learn and bounce back from the difficult moments.
Whatâ€™s next for Upskill Digital?
At our core UpSkill Digital is a training agency that aims to make digital education fun, memorable and practical. Weâ€™ve been fortunate enough to work with great partners such as Google and the British Library to help train a large number of small business owners and entrepreneurs in digital skills and weâ€™ve had lots of interest in expanding our training workshops to other vital areas of business, such as presentation and sales skills. Weâ€™ve also embarked on a good model with our roadshows to help plug the digital skills gap, and there are some interesting government initiatives in the pipeline that weâ€™re hoping to support.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Being an entrepreneur can be a wild and rocky ride and youâ€™ll need all the help you can get. Leverage your friends, family and any contacts you make along the way to help you. Weâ€™re often reluctant to ask for help but weâ€™re happy to give it when asked, so donâ€™t be afraid to ask. Improve your productivity with to-do lists; they have been a lifesaver for me. I like to carry a notebook around with me and will often take notes and prioritise things on a list to ensure Iâ€™m not procrastinating. Finally, keep learning. Iâ€™ve always been fascinated by our capacity to learn and, more importantly, how we use this information to further or better ourselves, our careers and our businesses.
As part of the 'DoItDigital' campaign, The British Library and its national network of Business & IP Centres has pledged to support 10,000 UK small businesses to learn new digital skills in 2017.