Finding your niche in any market can be tough; who is your customer? What do they want? What are your competition doing? Amanda Overs, graduate of the Business & IP Centreâs Innovating for Growth: Scale-up programme and founder of I Can Make Shoes, set up a shoemaking school after being unable to find a course to make shoes, without the need for heavy machinery.
I Can Make Shoes workshop
âI was sick of being told âyou canât do it like thatââ (by traditional shoemakers). With the demand for slow fashion and a resurgence of sewing and crafting, Amanda decided to put a positive spin on the negative backlash and eight years later has gone from running classes in her living room by herself to employing five part-time members of staff and running workshops almost every day of the year in both London and New York.
Research was crucial in finding out exactly who I Can Make Shoesâ customers were. Amanda says, âThere has been a lot of trial and error over the years, but what I have found is the fastest, most efficient way of doing research is to actually ask your customer what they think. I regularly do surveys when I have a new idea to see what my audience think of it and recently started a Facebook community so that I can see for myself what it is that my students and customers really want and need.â
I Can Make Shoes now run workshops in both London and New York
Amanda is always looking at ways to improve I Can Make Shoesâ offering and the business is always changing and improving. Something Amanda says is âkey to staying ahead of the competitionâ. Not only do they run workshops for members of the public, they also have online shoemaking instructions, sell components, and train designers from major high street brands such as ASOS, River Island and Adidas.
The Innovating for Growth programme has helped Amanda take I Can Make Shoes to the next level, âItâs helped me to step back and reassess the business as a whole and identify the keys areas of potential growth. I started in a bit of a whirlwind and have been treading water ever since, so to have fresh (very experienced) eyes and non-biased opinions on my plans for the future has been absolutely pricelessâ.
"Fail fast, learn faster and move on to the next thing.â
What tips does Amanda have for finding your niche? âTrust your gut. Don't over think every detail. Fail fast, learn faster and move on to the next thing.â Amanda lives by her rules, due to popular demand she will be offering a new sneaker course launching soon...
If you are already running a business and are looking to take it to the next level like Amanda, our three-month Innovating for Growth programme can help turn your growth idea into a reality. Applications are now open, so find out more here and apply now!
This programme is fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the British Library.
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 1:52 PM
Here at the British Library's Business & IP Centre we meet many inventors who are starting out on their journey through to patenting their inventions. The majority understand that their first action should be to search to see if their proposed invention is truly ânew and innovativeâ as it must be in order to obtain patent protection. What inventors will be searching for is known as âPrior artâ which is basically anything that shows the proposed invention is already known and is therefore not new. Prior art doesnât have to be a patent, it could be a newspaper advertisement, a magazine or journal article or even a product on sale in another country.
Most inventors will have heard of, and some may even have used, the Espacenet database. Espacenet is a patent search database containing data on over 100 million patent documents worldwide. Searching the database is fairly intuitive, but if needed there is a very informative Help section to aid the novice searcher. Espacenet is a great starting point for any would be inventor and is freely available via https://worldwide.espacenet.com.
What is generally less known by inventors is that here at the Business & IP Centre we subscribe to another search database that our registered readers can use for free. This database is the Derwent Innovations Index or DII as it is also known.
DII is a search database that provides access to more than 30 million inventions as detailed in 65+ million patent documents. Once a search has been run, clicking through from the results list, users are able to view details of the relevant patent including any patents and/or articles cited as âPrior artâ against it. For most patents there are also links through to Espacenet to view the full published specification.
Espacenet also does this, so what are the advantages of visiting the Business & IP Centre and using DII?
Well, it should be remembered that patents are technical documents which are written in such a way as to meet all the relevant criteria for obtaining a patent but, by providing only the most important information, give nothing away.
With Espacenet you are searching the patents as published; the title or abstract, bibliographic data, description and claims all exactly as written in the original documents. This can make keyword searching problematic, not everyone will necessarily use the same keywords to describe the same subject, and often searchers will need to resort to classification searching to ensure they are searching in the correct technical area. Add to this the fact that patent titles can be slightly ambiguous and patent searching can become slightly more difficult.
With the Derwent Innovations Index (DII) what happens is that when a patent is published a member of the DII team who is experienced in the particular technical area covered by the patent takes the patent specification and does the following:
Writes a more concise title that describes the invention and its claimed novelty
Then writes an abstract giving a 250â500 word description in English of the claimed novelty of the invention
Finally, DII also add their own âClass codesâ and âManual codesâ to the records: Derwent Class Codes allow the searcher to quickly retrieve a particular category of inventions whilst Derwent Manual Codes indicate the novel technical aspects of the invention.
To give you a quick example of this, the title of patent WO2018064763 on Espacenet is âCompactable bicycleâ as shown below:
Espacenet Patent search
Whereas on DII the title is written as:
Derwent Innovations Index
The Espacenet bibliography and abstract looks like this:
Whilst the DII bibliography and abstract looks like this:
Note: DII highlights, Novelty, Use and Advantage within the abstract.
Another advantage DII has is that using the Advanced search option searchers have the ability to âbuildâ a search by searching keywords, classifications, inventor/applicant details etc. and then adding search sets together as desired.
DII advanced search
Searchers then click on the live link in the Results box to view the results list from where they can select relevant patent records to save to a Marked list. Searchers can then email the results from the Marked list to themselves to view later if they wish.
With the Espacenet database searchers can download and print out copies of the front pages of relevant specifications (known as covers) or they can select titles from their search results list to export to either CVS or XLS. Copies of full patent specification can also be downloaded and printed out if desired.
Both Espacenet and DII are extremely useful for searchers. Each database has their own strengths and weaknesses, but if you visit the Business & IP Centre we will be happy to discuss your needs and show you how to get the best from both databases.
Maria Lampert, Intellectual Property Expert at the Business & IP Centre London
Maria has worked in the field of intellectual property since she joined the British Library in January 1993. She is currently the British Library Business & IP Centreâs Intellectual Property Expert, where she delivers 1-2-1 business and IP advice clinics, as well as intellectual property workshops and webinars on regular basis.
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 2:06 PM
Each year 1.4 billion tampons are flushed, ending up in the sewer system, causing flooding and pollution. Water companies spend 88 million pounds per year getting all the un-flushable items out of the sewers. What can be done to solve this problem? Martha Silcott is on a mission to find a sanitary solution for this sanitary problem with her corn starch, biodegradable fab little bags...
Tell us a little more about FabLittleBag?
FabLittleBags are biodegradable opaque, sealable sanitary disposal bags that prevent aquatic pollution and actually make disposal feel good!
What inspired the creation of the product? Did you have a âEurekaâ moment that convinced you that this was a good idea?
Sitting on the toilet thinking âthere must be a better way of doing thisâ as I performed the LooRoll Wrap with reams of toilet roll for the umpteenth timeâŚ Recalling the times when round at friends houses and there was no bin in the downstairs loo so I resorted to doing the Handbag Smuggle. I got cross that there was not a better solution out there, I researched it expecting to find one, I didnât so I decided to invent one myself. I did loads of research in the British Library, researching the market, the companies involved, the blockages caused by flushing etc. My Eureka moment was when I finally figured out the design of FabLittleBag; its unique one-handed opening and that it had to seal â I ran around the house gathering bits of sandwich bags, sellotape, staplers etc. and made a Blue Peter version.
Martha Silcott, founder of FabLittleBag
What steps did you take to protect the IP in your design?
I learned a lot about IP form the British Library sessions and their intro to an organisation called Ideas 21 â so I had a free session with an IP lawyer to establish if it was a starter or not â and it went from there, applying for my patent in 2006.
Did you use the resources and training available through the Business & IP Centre to research and launch the business?
Yes, general market research; access to huge data resources at no cost, if you were to buy the info yourself each one costs thousands of pounds! IP information, a basic course on social media later on, all very useful along the journey.
Tell us more about how are you working with the British Library to bring FabLittleBag to more users?
We are currently trialling FabLittleBag in two toilet blocks, these are ones which have a very high level of blockages causing cost to the Library and inconvenience to users. The Library has a lot of through traffic and we know that approx. 60% of UK women flush their tampons and with other habits and cultures passing through blockages are a real challenge for the Library loos! So our gorgeous new dispensers are installed in these blocks and we have already had direct email contact from a few users telling us how fab they think FabLittleBag is! We are offering all British Library users who email us a free sample pack of FabLittleBags to try, so donât be shy!
The best disposal solution. Period
What is the vision for the future of the company? Where will FabLittleBag be five and 10 years from now?
We have BIG plans! We already have customers from lots of countries all over the world but we want to ensure that any Binner that dislikes doing the Loo Roll Wrap and wants to feel more in control and calm at point of disposal have FabLittleBags in their life and that we convert as many Flushers out there as possible into Binners â frankly whether they use FabLittleBags or not, we just want to stop the flushing of non-flushables and so prevent blockages and aquatic pollution at source.
One of our Missions is to #screwthetaboo and break down the ridiculous taboo that still exists around periods in 2017! Involving men and boys is important in this journey as they are involved even if it is not them having periods! Replacing feelings of awkwardness and anxiety around disposal of sanitary products is a core mission of ours, helping women to feel more relaxed and calm as they know that even if there is only two bits of loo roll there, or there is no bin, because they have FabLittleBag, they will be able to disposal of the product easily and without stress. We also want to support our chosen key charity (WellBeing of Women) and to expand our charitable impact as we grow, also helping to support smaller local charities and some abroad where the issues of menstruation has huge negative impacts of girls and womenâs lives.
So five years' time to be a normal âmust haveâ in the handbags and bathrooms up and down the UK, Europe, USA, etc. and other countries where disposables are still the most common form of managing ones period (therefore disposal solutions are especially needed). 10 years time to be so successful that our charitable foundation Fab Friends, is making a huge positive impact on menstrual health and practical management for millions of women across the globe.
FabLittleBags will continue to be trialed at the British Library to help prevent the negative impacts of flushing sanitary products.
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 2:15 PM
London Fashion Week has just finished for another year and is more international than ever, with over 50% of the designers born outside of the UK. The week is a great opportunity to show off their collections to global retailers, as well as getting coverage in the mainstream media and fashion press. In addition to helping new designers with their start-up businesses the show organisers offer British Fashion Council's programmewith a range of business advice and seminars.
The fashion industry in the UK currently contributes a staggering ÂŁ66 billion to our economy. With London Fashion Week adding ÂŁ30 million to London every year.
Perhaps not surprisingly fashion is one of the most popular topics to research within the Business & IP Centre. And we have a great deal of valuable information and advice available. Have a look at our Fashion Industry Guideto get a flavour.
For example our Mintel report UK Design Fashion 2017 shows that men spend more on designer clothes than women, because although men shop less, they buy higher value brands. Also 56% of men agreed that wearing designer fashion makes them feel more confident, compared to 49% of women.
The report says that casual clothing and footwear are now the products that drive the designer market. This is a result of a move to less formal wear than in the past for visits to restaurants and trips to the theatre.
Young people between the ages of 16 and 24 years dominate expenditure in every category of designer fashion, from underwear to shoes. This is due to the importance of social media, where celebrities can influence young people to emulate their lifestyles. Just look at how celebrities crowd the front rows of the top fashion shows.
The IBIS World retail clothing report also covers the rising importance of social media and how it is expected to boost demand for fashion. The new breed of social media celebrities have a significant influence on their followers.
Instagram has become the key social media platform for fashion. âWith more than 200 million on Instagram connected to fashion accounts all over the world, Instagram has become a global destination for people to experience this stylish industry unlike anywhere else.â
As well as market research and related fashion information in the Centre, we also run regular workshops and offer one to one advice clinics via our partner Fashion Angel.
Donât forget, we are here to help realise your fashion dream!
Seema Rampersad and guest blogger Polly James
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 1:03 PM
PET-Xiâs Managing Director Fleur Sexton, British Chambers of Commerce Business Woman of the Year 2018
Ahead of next weekâs annual British Chambers of Commerce conference on International Womenâs Day, Thursday 8 March, we welcome their newly-crowned Business Woman of the Year, Fleur Sexton, Managing Director of PET-Xi Training to share her six top tips for aspiring business owners and leaders.
1. Build your network
Networking is about building long-term relationships and a good reputation over time. Itâs about meeting business leaders with whom you have some synergy, getting to know people who you can assist, and who can potentially help you in return.
Look up your old contacts and give them a call. If you are setting up a new business a personal referral from a former colleague or client to a new customer can do much to help fast track your business.
There is also truth in the phrase âitâs lonely at the topâ when tough business decisions need to be made, decisions which arenât appropriate to discuss with staff. Surround yourself with other business leaders who can provide you with the support and advice you require as a problem shared is a problem halved. Always be prepared to return the favour.
2. Donât be surprised when things go wrong
Donât be surprised when things go wrong, it is part of the journey. Be resilient. If you fall down, get up, find a solution rather than wallow in despair. Businesses are not sanitized and both good and bad things will happen.
3. Empower yourself
Be resilient and be prepared to re-invent yourself. What worked today wonât necessarily work tomorrow. Time moves on, trends, policies and issues change, make sure you have the solution to meet the current challenges facing your clients.
4. Champion women in business
Real queens fix each otherâs crowns. Donât lock horns with your fellow business women; create alliances to help each other be stronger together.
Support your female staff and accommodate the needs of working mums. One size does not fit all so reinvent the rules if need be. 20% of our staff at PET-Xi Training are working mums. All of them have valuable skills to bring to the mix so we make a concerted effort to try and make their life easier by providing free childcare on a daily basis. This has done much to strengthen camaraderie and loyalty.
5. Make rules to fit the people
Make rules to fit the people rather than find people to fit the rules. If you make rules to fit your staff and ensure you have a good work life balance it will be significantly easier to create a happy and productive workforce. Stressed staff working long hours typically donât deliver long term. According to a report from Warwick University happy staff are 12% more productive.
6. Invest in training
Most employees have some weaknesses in terms of their workplace skills. A well thought out training programme will enable them and you to develop and strengthen those skills helping employees to feel more valued, confident and happy.
And please remember the âreturn to workâ mums; those who have had a career break to look after their children. Everyone has something to give but some just need a little help to sharpen up their skills. Train them and you can create close allies â and remember happy employees make happy clients!
Established in 1995, PET-Xi Training is a nationally renowned education training provider, working with hundreds of businesses and schools across the UK.
Fleur Sexton will be one of the panellists for the Diversity in Business discussion at next weekâs conference for you to hear more advice from her and other business leaders. You could put top tip #1 into action straight away by building your network among all the advisors and attendees whoâll be there. The British Chambers of Commerce are offering a whopping ÂŁ230 saving on tickets â contact Rose Averis: firstname.lastname@example.org to get signed up.
The British Libraryâs Business & IP Centre has been a partner of the British Chambers of Commerce for over 12 years and we have long worked together to help small businesses access the support and advice they need. Giving women entrepreneurs the networks, role models, skills and confidence they need is equally important to us and our Women Mean Business in the evening of the 8 March with Hilary Devey, Dessi Bell of fitness fashion brand Zaggora, and Precious Online founder Foluke Akinlose, will be webcast for free online so you catch it after the conference!
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 4:57 PM
Contemporary marketing talk is all about marketing automation, content and sales funnels. Thereâs a significant amount of value to be gained from streamlining your marketing and sales processes â but thereâs one thing all these marketing tactics and strategies are aiming for: to get you in front of your potential customer/partner/lead.
Marketing is about relationships, and however fabulous your website and digital marketing are, youâre ultimately aiming to have a personal conversation with the right person to buy your product or service or build a partnership.
And that happens in person.
In-person marketing is the future (as well as the past). As people increasingly hide behind their multiple work communication channels â email, slack, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram â it seems like itâs hard enough to get someone on the phone, let alone meet in person.
And thatâs why events are the heart and soul of building an effective sales and marketing strategy.
Youâre either at someone elseâs event â as a speaker, sponsor, exhibitor or just plain participant â and if youâve selected the right event theyâve brought your market to you. Or you host your own events â which needs careful and targeted marketing â and position yourself in the middle of your market sector and the business potentially comes to you.
We Built This City is a London-based business that specialises in selling unique souvenirs that represent the famous city. Their mission is to revolutionise souvenirs by giving London's artists and designers a platform to showcase their talents and provide customers with creative and long-lasting souvenirs. Having grown at an incredible rate at the very beginning, We Built This City quickly made its mark on the souvenir market but founder Alice Mayor was still ambitious and wanted more. With the help of Innovating for Growth, she was able to achieve her scale-up wishes and went from a pop-up to having a permanent home on Carnaby Street in London's trendy West-End. We caught up with Alice to talk a little more about her journey from idea to super success and how the Innovating for Growth programme helped with this.
How did the idea for a new kind of souvenir shop in Londonâs famous Carnaby Street come about?
In 2014, London was still basking in the glory of the Olympics and had just become the most visited city on the planet with the annual tourist footfall figure at over 16 million. With so many international visitors heading to the capital for creative and cultural experiences, my lightbulb moment was riding past one of the many souvenir stores in London on the bus and thinking âsurely we can do better than that!â
My overriding priority in bringing to life the concept of âRevolutionising London Souvenirsâ was to find the right location for the store. I really wanted to avoid a scenario where we had the very best artists & designers to represent but didnât have the footfall to prove the operation a success.
As such, I was determined We Built This City should be established in the West End. I walked the streets on the weekends to try and identify the best location but each time got more fearful about the barriers we were going to face with rents and rates. At the end of what seemed like a very long 4 months, I finally tracked down a landlord on Carnaby Street.
I created a detailed pitch outlining my vision for the product, interiors, and marketing campaign. Within a matter of days, they offered a 2 floor - 3000 sq ft store on Carnaby Street with just one caveatâŚ we had 3 weeks to bring it all together and would need to launch for Christmas!
What challenges has the business faced along the way?
The main challenge for us at the start was being a temporary pop-up shop and having to move stores over 6 times in 18 months. We were always moving to a new store on Carnaby, so location wasnât the issue, it was just the sheer labour involved in moving shops and setting up processes all over again. Luckily we have an amazing team who stuck with us no matter how many times we told them we were on the move!
More general challenges are that at any one time we can be working with 250+ London artists, designers and makers - with so many partners and suppliers on the books the sheer volume of admin involved can be a daunting daily mountain to climb! Itâs worth it though, to see so many artists represented and supported in store.
Lastly, our core mission is always to support Londonâs creative community to drive sales and sustainable careers in the city. Running the business from a prime retail unit in the West End isnât always an ideal marriage as it can be difficult to achieve margins which are complementary to both scenarios. We wouldnât change the exposure Carnaby offers our artists for the world though!
What has been the businessâs biggest achievement so far?
Our biggest achievement to date has undoubtedly been securing a permanent lease on Carnaby Street. Weâre very proud to have made the transition from pop-up to a permanent retailer in one of the worldâs most iconic shopping destinations in such a short window. A permanent unit for us has freed up so much resource and time to focus on growing the business. As a result, weâve been able to grow the consultancy arm out to helping other London landmarks open including a major curation project for Battersea Power Stationâs new Design Store.
Picking up awards for the shop along the way has been an unexpected and exhilarating experience too - when we were awarded âBest Shop in Sohoâ by Time Out readers in our first year of trading, we spent the next week pinching ourselves!
What advice would you give to any small business owners thinking of going into retail and even opening a shop?
Having a unique point of difference is critical for a new retail brand or business - especially if youâre joining a competitive market (fashion, food etc.) You need to work out the one thing thatâll set you apart and work out how you can tell that to your customer at every part of the journey - and even before when selling the concept to a landlord, investor etc.
I would also highly recommend creating a pitch presentation to set out your vision and to share it with anyone who can help you make it happen. Itâs easy to become scared of people stealing your idea, but I found it incredibly helpful to get early-stage feedback and access to new contacts - many of whom ended up becoming our artists, advisors, partners and even our shop team!
Lastly, really interrogate whether you need to open a physical bricks and mortar store at all and what you want to learn from even a temporary pop up shop. Itâs important to establish your objectives early on and stick to them. My parting advice is to never romanticise the idea of a shop as itâs an unbelievable amount of work, money, and energy - and if youâre open 7 days a week the sheer volume of operations can easily leave you with little time to nurture the creative side of the business.
What are the challenges of growing a business and how has the Innovating for Growth programme helped?
When I applied for the Innovating for Growth course, I was really lacking the headspace to work âonâ the business - not just âinâ it. The programme has been indispensable in giving me the opportunity to stand back from the day to day and take time to start strategising from afar.
An invaluable learning from joining the programme has been the opportunity to look at all factors that contribute to the running of a successful business - not just those that are in your existing skill set or comfort zone! Deep diving into these elements with the guidance of the coaches, guides and guest lecturers on the programme has been invaluable to analysing the businessâs strengths and weaknesses in equal measure.
The real take away from the programme for me though has been the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs at the same stage - going through the same issues, problems and being able to share advice. It can get lonely and especially tough when youâre scaling - mentors are great but itâs meeting and sharing with those sat next to you on the same rollercoaster that gives you that belief to keep building!
* Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more here.
This programme is fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the British Library.
Posted by Innovation and Enterprise Team at 6:24 PM
Global Entrepreneurship Week is fast approaching and weâre catching up with one of the panellists from our upcoming Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time event, which is set to be the flagship event of this yearâs Global Entrepreneurship Week at the British Library. Anthony Eskinazi is the founder of the car parking app JustPark, an amazing tool that allows drivers from all over the United Kingdom to choose from millions of available spaces quickly and simply using their smartphones. With 1.5 million drivers already enjoying the benefits of JustPark, we spoke to Anthony about how he did it.
1.The JustPark app promises drivers a hassle-free experience that also saves them money. It sounds amazing but how does it work?
Itâs quite simple, to be honest with you. When creating the JustPark app, I really wanted to consider the thought-process of your average driver. From planning their journey to reaching their final destination, to eventually finding a parking space and paying.
As most drivers know all too well, parking can be quite a stressful experience when youâve travelled a long distance to find out that you cannot park your car or have to pay an absolute fortune to do so. With JustPark we eradicate this stress by providing drivers with an easy to use app that finds available parking spaces depending on their location and distance settings. The app will also tell you whether space is going to be available and how much it will cost (if applicable). You can register via your Google or Facebook login and pay using Apple or Android Pay saving you time and taking less than one minute to log in, pay and have your parking space confirmed.
2. JustPark has proven to be a huge success in the United Kingdom. Do you have any plans to expand internationally?
Yes, we do! The aim for us was to test the market in the UK and ensure that we had the right product and service before entering the international market. Since JustPark was founded, weâve been able to develop a product that is efficient and really does solve a pressing problem for drivers across the world. However, we strongly believe that the UK is one of the best markets for our service and therefore wanted to cement our position in the UK first before going anywhere else.
3. Did the idea for JustPark originate from a bad personal parking experience, or did you just spot an obvious gap in the market?
I would say both. It really stems from a frustrating experience I had driving with a friend in San Francisco when travelling to watch a baseball game. We arrived in good time for the game but ended up wasting a lot of time searching for a parking space. After searching high and low for space and not having too much luck doing so, I thought about asking a homeowner who lived nearby to the stadium if we could pay $10 to park in their driveway. I didnât do it but the idea for JustPark had been born.
I knew that this was a common theme at events in the UK, especially focused on major events such as Wimbledon, where people would rent out their underused parking spaces. The big difference for me is that the gap was really in the online transactions market, which would make life much easier for drivers, taking away the hassle and guarantee a stress-free experience.
4. With the tech industry constantly evolving at an incredible speed, how do you ensure JustPark stays ahead of the competition?
In an industry like ours, it is very important to continuously invest in research and development. We make sure that the team are up-to-date with the latest technologies and able to learn and develop their understanding of what is happening in the technology and parking industries. It is vital that all of us are involved in this process as it allows us to share knowledge and continue to be at the forefront.
5. Having founded JustPark and seen it grow into a huge success, could you see yourself doing it all over again with a new company?
As things stand I am really enjoying the work Iâm doing with JustPark and havenât thought too much about what comes next. Iâve started investing in interesting high-growth tech start-ups to help me understand different sectors. It would be exciting to try something new but weâll just have to wait and see.
6. If you could give a young Anthony some advice, what would it be and why?
My first piece of advice would be to have fun and make sure you donât miss out on lifeâs enjoyable moments. I think itâs easy to get caught up with your business and forget that a new feature or opportunity is likely to still be there tomorrow. Relationships with close friends and family are important. These are the people who will build you back up and give you a hug after a knock-down and cheer you from the rooftops when things are going well. It is important to find a work-life balance that works for you. Becoming an entrepreneur is a lifestyle, not a career choice.
The second piece of advice would be to work with other people. It makes the entrepreneurial experience much more enjoyable and although you may have to share a piece of the pie, you will benefit from the shared knowledge, experiences and ideas. You donât have to do it alone!
In light of #NationalMentoringDay last Friday 27 October - we reached out to our network of successful business owners who have tried their hand at mentoring others within the business and corporate realm. Mentoring has many benefits to all involved, and Managing Director, Ken J Davey shares his first-hand experience of being a mentor and gives some insight into the benefits of mentoring.
Ken is the Managing Director of Smarter Business Mentoring - which draws on extensive commercial and financial knowledge and experience from Corporate and SME operations, to support and encourage business managers and owners to grow, develop and succeed in their sphere of business.
In addition, he is also the Managing Director of Original & Distinctive Limited and a company that specialises in providing quality, niche premium artisan drink products from small producers to up-market hotels & restaurants, wine bars & private member clubs; select wine merchants & specialist shops as well as private clients
We share some insight into Kenâs experience as a mentor;
What drew you to become a mentor?
Mentors can provide answers to questions and suggestions that can make a big difference when it comes to navigating the business world. Having benefited on several occasions from being mentored, I was keen to return some of that value and, mentor bright and determined people on their journey through the world of work, from Start-ups to Corporates.
What benefits have you seen from mentoring, from both sides - yourself and the mentee?
Sharing my business experience to support and encourage a mentee to grow, develop and succeed, was critical to building trust and giving a mentee confidence and encouragement because someone else had âbeen there beforeâ! This meant that without being a subject expert, I could legitimately challenge the mentee on any aspect of their thinking or strategies, thus opening their mind to a wider view of both themselves and their business. It also gave me, as the mentor, greater insight into the value of my anecdotes and business experience as valuable tools to help others.
Have you ever been mentored yourself? (If so what was the experience like)
On several occasions, I have had the benefit of being mentored. This challenged my thinking and my business strategies, which allowed me to have a wider perspective on issues, while also encouraging me to have a better understanding of âwhyâ I pursued certain strategies and, what the consequences of the various outcomes might be.
What is your top piece of advice for someone looking to become a mentor?
If you are looking to become a mentor, then having the willingness to share your business experience (good and bad) to support and encourage individuals to grow, develop and succeed, will be key to a successful mentor/mentee relationship.
How important would you say mentoring others within the business realm is?
Mentoring others within the business realm is considerably important. At KPMG, I was often responsible for developing teams in virtual and entrepreneurial environments. This would include both business development training and mentoring key individuals, including making valuable connections in the business world. Networking is vital for climbing the corporate ladder, so seeing individuals âgrow and shineâ through mentoring was very satisfying, while it also contributed to the development of the Firmâs professional resource pool.
What was your experience with the I4G programme like and how did it help you with yourbusiness?
The Innovating for Growth programme provided a wealth of expertise and advice for my business, Original & Distinctive Limited, which otherwise would not be available to me. The programme covered nearly every aspect of running and business and the combination of 1:1 and group workshops enabled a balance of views and discussions, which were most helpful. I was able to take a helicopter view of my business while also having experts challenge the status quo of, and provide incisive advice for, my business.
Shortly after undertaking the Innovating for Growth programme, when our brand was Smarter International, we rebranded to Smarter Grower Champagne - as a direct result of the Programme. A year or two later, and building on incredible depth of learning from the Programme, we undertook an in-depth strategic exercise that not only led to our third rebranding to Original & Distinctive, but also, building on the new ideas and objectives from the Programme, put in place an innovative and disruptive approach to the UK drinks market, that is underpinned by a strategy to manage the supply chain as a single entity, in order to generate: lower costs, higher quality, better customer service and, higher returns for the organisation, its suppliers and, its investors.
National Mentoring Day offers the chance to celebrate mentoring and appreciate the fantastic work that mentors do throughout the world. We hope you take part in the array of international events and networking that will be taking place.
In 2012, Franck Jehanne and Brijesh Patel joined the Innovating for Growth programme with the hope of taking their then fledgeling business, Kalory (a London-based photo and video studio) to the next level. Courtesy of the specialist support provided, which focused on everything from maximizing their Intellectual Property to refining their business model, Kalory has gone from strength to strength and now counts huge brands such as Rolex, Cartier and Habitat as some their clients
With such an impressive client-list itâs probably not too surprising that theyâve been able to amass a wealth of knowledge that has helped them to stay ahead of the game. In this article, co-founder of Kalory, Franck, talks about an important trend that heâs noticed in recent years and itâs one that all business owners should not ignore.
Approximately 87% of British consumers have made an online purchase in the last 12 months, and the United Kingdom only comes after Norway for buying online in Europe.
With the increase of e-retailing, the photography needs of a brand or a retailer have changed. Advertising campaigns for print media, point-of-sale displays, billboard advertising and TV commercials are now sharing their budgets with the increased needs for a stronger web presence both on the website of the business and on its social media networks.
At Kalory Photo & Video Studio, we have seen a marked change in our clientâs requests since the beginning of the year. This trend has been seen across all the different industries we are working with, from multi-brand e-retailers, jewellery, watches, cosmetics, chocolates, drinks, furniture, and sports brands too. The same trends seem to be valid for both start-ups and very established businesses. This is an empirical analysis of our field experiences in the last 12 months.
The first trend, which seems extremely strong, is an increase in the quality of product photography. For many, a packshot is a packshot, but there are actually different levels of quality possible and the quality of lighting and retouching can vary tremendously for the same product, and so does the final image. The camera used has an impact too. Since the beginning of the year, we have noticed a real change in the way clients approach packshots. Budget allocated to this important visual section of the website has been increased and even outside the luxury industry, brands are upgrading the attention to detail for all their e-commerce photography: positioning, colour correction, control of the reflections, visibility of the branding, etc.
Professional Instagram pictures
The development of Instagram stories allows businesses to keep in touch in a more relaxed and spontaneous way with their customers, while they are paying more attention to the quality of photography posted on their main feed. Instagram stories are perfect for quick snapshots taken by the communication teams to keep their audience posted on what is going on. The feed is increasingly becoming a visual platform showing what the brandâs values are. The colour tones (cold or warm), the type of images posted (lifestyle, architectural lines, etc.) are key elements to consider in order to create a consistent feed that attracts followers. Posting again and again about your products is not enough. The trend we have observed since March is to organise short photo shoots of one to four hours with a selection of products and props and to shoot a series of creative images with a basic to medium level of professional retouching. This enables us to create a large number of images on a reduced budget. The images are controlled and professionally lit, but still natural and not overly airbrushed which is the perfect blend for Instagram. This is especially effective when a mood board and a shooting list and schedule have been carefully prepared; it can be interesting for example to create a series of images with a certain colour-tone followed by another series with a slight change in colours to create waves on the feed.
Videos & moving images
The use of video is also a trend that has been growing fast in recent years; product videos and event videos mostly, but we have recently seen a surge in social media videos (which are usually around 15 seconds), as well as cinemagraphs. They are mostly visuals without interviews or any sound takes and with a simple story, but need to be efficiently edited to get the right social media interactions.
An increased involvement and commitment from brands.
An increasing number of clients are more involved, prepared and put more thought in their photography brief. This is a clear sign of the importance photography and video has gained in the marketing and communication conversation. PR and marketing teams are also more involved and have become very hands-on, using mood boards, stories and precise creative ideas and angles, as well as a good analysis of what the competition is doing to convincingly convey their messages.
The use of photography is definitely changing quickly. Everyone is taking pictures. The life of a picture is both very short, almost instant, and very long: the image itself has to be impactful immediately, but it is also part of an overall visual display (Instagram feed, Facebook page, etc.) that will remain online, so the thought process when creating it, is definitely key.
Knowing how fast visual communication and social media are changing, there is no doubt, that new trends will emerge soon, and brands and retailers need to keep a close eye on what is happening in this field of communication if they want to stay on the top of their game.
Franck Jehanne is the co-founder of Kalory Photo & Video, which offers professional photography services in London and all over the UK. The studio is located in London Bridge, SE1, but the team also shoots on location at clientsâ premises. If youâd like to follow in the footsteps of Franck and believe your business has what it takes, why not apply now for Innovating for Growth and take your business to the next level?