THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

17 posts categorized "Food and drink"

17 January 2017

Local Data Company shows coffee shops on a high

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Freshly-ground-coffee-from-coffee-grinder-picjumbo-comPubs are down while coffee shops are up according to a fascinating article on the BBC website today, Coffee shops on the march as pubs decline, town centre data shows.

They have analysed information from the Local Data Company to show the number of town centre bars, pubs and night clubs fell by about 2,000  between 2011-16, while cafes, fast food outlets and restaurants increased by 6,000.

We have access to this data and much more in Business & IP Centre in London through our subscription to Local Data Online.

You can use Local Data Online to give you data and insights for locations, business types and companies across the country. It has a searchable map tool which lets you select a specific area and examine the overall retail make-up.

You can identify local businesses and check the geographical spread of an industry or company. You can also find addresses and contact details for individual shops, lists of available vacant units, and a demographic profile of the area.

You can search for a specific location, company and/or retail category, and information is displayed on easy-to-read maps and diagrams. Extra information for locations includes vacancy rates, the mix of independent shops vs. chains, crime statistics, average earnings and house prices.

  Local Data map

So, if you want to find out where your new local coffee shops are, or which pubs have recently closed their doors. Just come along to the Centre and we can show you how use it.

Written by Neil Infield @ninfield

22 December 2016

Why entering awards are good for you and your small business

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As a busy business owner you need to find ways to promote what you do with maximum impact. You know the value of your business or service and can shout about it from the top of your lungs all day long. But what’s even more impactful is when other people do it for you. Along with using testimonials on your website and social media from customers you can also enter awards. Win a business award and you’ll create a buzz around your business, enhance your brand and have your story shared in the press. But you have to be in it to win it! Keep track of your networks for news about when their award programmes are running and think of all the of strings to your bow when considering which categories give you and your business the best chance of success.

One awards programme coming up for female business founders is the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Awards - regarded as the Oscars for female entrepreneurs and business leaders. Set up in 1972 as a tribute to their own female founder, Madame Clicquot, the awards continue to champion the success of women worldwide who share the same enterprising spirit, courage and determination to succeed.

As well as their Business Woman of the Year Award, they are looking for strong nominations to apply for their Social Purpose Award (businesswomen championing social purpose beyond their core business case) and New Generation (under 35 year old) awards. Nominations close on 30 December 2016.

A recent winner of the Veuve Clicquot New Generation award was Jenny Dawson Costa, founder and CEO of relish range Rubies in the Rubble, and graduate of our Business & IP Centre’s ‘Growth Club’. Earlier this year Jenny shared with us how the business began:

“The idea for Rubies in the Rubble came after a very early morning visit to a wholesale fruit and veg market on my bike one frosty day in November 2010. I fell in love with the market - such a diverse range of people living by night and sleeping by day; a world of farmers, wholesalers, restaurant owners and market sellers trading anything from durians to brussel sprouts.

But just along from the bustle of the traders were the piles of unwanted fruit and veg - mange tout from Kenya, mangos from the Philippines, tomatoes from Turkey, cranberries for California which bypassed the bustle of traders and headed straight for the bin! And what really saddened me was that much of these, though potentially with a short shelf life, were perfectly edible!

It got me thinking about the impossibility of matching supply and demand when you have unpredictable weather, unpredictable humans and supermarkets that provide everything in plentiful piles throughout the year.

I then buried myself in researching food waste and realising its scale and implications – both environmentally and financially. However, it was a simple fact that compelled me to act: we are wasting 1/3 of all the food we produce, whilst 1bn people go to bed hungry. I’m not saying I know the solution but there are improvements that we can make to the current system.

And then it came to me: a premium food brand making delicious products from fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be discarded.”

Jam-601730
We’re huge fans of the Rubies relish and continue to work with Jenny to grow the company. If your own story is just as powerful then think about applying for the New Generation or Social Purpose award 2017.

At our next ‘Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Internet Icons’ event, on Tuesday 7 February, you will have the chance to listen to and meet the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award winner  Woman of the Year for 2016, Sarah Wood, who’s marketing agency Unruly has been behind fantastic campaigns such as the Compare the Market’s meerkat adverts.

DMB-VEUVE_CLICQUOT_BUSINESS_WOMEN_AWARDS120

The event will see Sarah share her story alongside three other inspiring entrepreneurs; founders of SpareRoom, Bloom & Wild and Deliciously Ella. You can join us in the British Library or watch from home with our free of charge webcast. You’ll also have the opportunity to question the panel about how you find the right awards to apply to and ask for tips on how to win.

If you are a female founder and fit the mould for the New Generation or Social Impact Awards then here are some useful tips for submitting a 5 star application:

  1. Give yourself enough time to answer the questions to the best of your ability and to shine a light on your achievements
  2. Don’t be shy! Be sure to give a compelling reason within each answer for why you and your business deserve to be the winner
  3. Be honest. However tempting to inflate the details be truthful and so avoid potential PR problems later on
  4. Have attention to detail – have you answered all the questions fully, within the word limit and hitting all the key criteria?

Good luck with your applications and maybe you'll be the next winner of the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Awards

 

15 August 2016

Waste not, want not. The business of turning discarded food into delicious chutney

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We caught up with Jenny Dawson Costa, founder and CEO, of relish range Rubies in the Rubble. But Rubies is much more than just a range of yummy relishes – the business is built on sustainable values turning surplus fruit and veg into something tasty rather than wasting it. Their range of relishes is inspired by home-cooked recipes they started making in their kitchen. Now they’re stocked in major retailers throughout the UK and the business continues to grow day-by-day.

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When was Rubies in the Rubble set up and what was it that inspired the business?

The idea for Rubies in the Rubble came after a very early morning visit to a wholesale fruit and veg market on my bike one frosty day in November 2010.

I fell in love with the market - such a diverse range of people living by night and sleeping by day; a world of farmers, wholesalers, restaurant owners and market sellers trading anything from durians to brussel sprouts.

But just along from the bustle of the traders were the piles of unwanted fruit and veg - mange tout from Kenya, mangos from the Philippines, tomatoes from Turkey, cranberries for California which bypassed the bustle of traders and headed straight for the bin! And what really saddened me was that much of these, though potentially with a short shelf life, were perfectly edible!

It got me thinking about the impossibility of matching supply and demand when you have unpredictable weather, unpredictable humans and supermarkets that provide everything in plentiful piles throughout the year.

I then buried myself in researching food waste and realising its scale and implications – both environmentally and financially. However, it was a simple fact that compelled me to act: we are wasting 1/3 of all the food we produce, whilst 1bn people go to bed hungry. I’m not saying I know the solution but there are improvements that we can make to the current system.

And then it came to me: a premium food brand making delicious products from fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be discarded.

What challenges have you faced along the way?

There seems to be a never-ending array of new challenges each day which keeps life interesting!

Initially the challenges were mainly around educating people about why waste or surplus existed and the need to value our supply chain. However, our greatest challenges now are around scaling up our production and winning new customers.

What has been the business’s biggest achievement so far?

The most exciting was being on the BBC News. They sent a car just 5 mins after calling me about the interview. I was in a hoody, looking pretty much the worse for wear, with no knowledge of the news story but off I went and had an amazing live interview on food waste in the UK.

But my proudest moment was a letter from the Queen. I’m a big fan of hers so I wrote to her asking what her favourite chutney was as I wanted to make her one for the Jubilee. She probably thought I was 10 years old, but wrote back with a lovely letter saying she couldn’t tell me her favourites but would love to try my chutney - so I sent her the range and she loved them!

IMG_3715_EDITED_SMALLER

What one piece of advice would you give to any business owners struggling to take their business to the next level?

I would advise them to really test their business out on a small scale first. Talk to lots of people, know how you are going to make your product and get it into the hands of the consumer to see where the challenges might lie.  

Then, when you know there is a market for your product and how you are going to make it, just go for it whole-heartedly – give it your best shot and hope for the best.

How has the Innovating for Growth programme helped you?

It was great to have some time out from the day-to-day business and focus on the big picture and plan for growth. Reminding us that you can’t do everything at once and you need to concentrate on getting what you’re currently doing right before moving on to the next thing.

Finally, what’s next on the horizon for Rubies in the Rubble?

We’re really excited for the future and our next steps. We have been focused on making sure we nail it before we scale it for the last 3 years at Rubies and we are now confident that we have a valued brand and robust plan to really go for it. We are now developing new products with the hope of becoming an umbrella brand of great tasting foods made with the same ethos.

Watch this space!

 

Apply now for over £10,000 worth of business advice

Are you a start-up looking to scale up, like Rubies? Innovating for Growth is a fully funded three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality.

Covering everything from intellectual property to reaching new markets and branding, we'll guide you through every step of the way to help your business achieve its growth ambitions.

Find out more and apply now 

 

LogoERDF_Col_Landscapesize

29 July 2016

A finger on the pulse of sustainable food business

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At the Business & IP Centre we frequently help customers starting and growing food related businesses.    

2016 is the International Year of Pulses 

This year two sustainable food topics have caught my attention. We are halfway through the UN’s International Year of Pulses (IYP2016) to 'position pulses as a primary source of protein and other essential nutrients'. And secondly, the growth in the consumption of insects as a nutritious source of food, or entomophagy to give its official name. I recently helped two examples of start-up businesses using the Business & IP Centre creating innovative food products with insects.  

 

Logo_of_International_Year_of_Pulses_2016
Source Wikipedia

 

 

The IYP 2016 portal aims to heighten public awareness of nutritional benefits of pulses as a superfood. The hope is that it will result in sustainable food production, global food security and better nutrition for a growing world population. This site showcases ways in which we can ‘Love Pulses’ (see Twitter hashtag #LovePulses) with food competitions, recipes, photo gallery and a whole lot of inspiration to get your pulses racing.

 

Lebanese_style_hummus
Source Wikipedia

 

 

Only 6% of UK adults consider themselves vegetarians

According to Mintel report Menu Flavours 2016 (available in the Business & IP Centre) only 6% of UK adults consider themselves vegetarians, while '54% of diners say that they enjoy dishes which contain a lot of vegetables'. Mintel puts this down to using 'new interesting flavours and methods'.  This is great news for pulses, and certainly over the last ten years we have all seen a growth in by-products such as hummus, falafel and bean burgers. 

 

Mintel chart
Figure 24: Selected behaviours relating to healthy eating, by age, November 2015 Base: 2,000 internet users aged 16+
Mintel Report - Attitudes Towards Healthy Eating February 2016

 

 

 

There are innovative examples on IYP2016 of new product developments by young entrepreneurs, such as the award winning Crisps made from Lupin flowers by Charlotte Reynolds, ice cream from bean milk, bean jam etc. 

 

Now that I have convinced you to eat more pulses I am also going tempt you with the insect protein market.  London South Bank University is championing entomophagy and suggests we can introduce it in our diet for food sustainability. You may squirm at insects in our diet, but we once had the same feelings about lobster, prawns and even sushi, before they became acceptable in our Western diet.

Insects could solve the problem of world food sustainability

Lobsters were once called ‘cockroaches of the sea’, and were cheap to buy. There are a few reports on the market for insects such as Canadean’s ‘Foresight: Edible Insects’. Insects are seen by food experts and nutritionists as a solution because they are more sustainable than other food sources. For example, insects do not require a lot of land to farm, and edible insects are more protein-dense then beef. 

There are some countries and societies who are large consumers of insects, apparently the Bodo tribe in Northern India have long traditions and celebrations of insects as part of their diet. Research by insect production company Chapul also finds that 80% of countries around the world have insects on the menu one way or another. There are apparently two billion people who already eat insects with over two thousand species of insects considered to be ‘edible’.  Chapul’s e-commerce store is selling cricket powder and cricket bars online. Closer to home, there is Grub selling protein bars with cricket flour.

 

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www.eatgrub.co.uk

Paradigm shift required

The two businesses I met in the Centre were on the cutting edge of food technology with their use of insects. They were well aware of the paradigm shift that would be required to reach a mainstream customer base. which such innovative products that are not in our diet currently. Both businesses thought that the Television program ‘I’m a Celebrity get me out of here’ was something of a double-edged sword in promoting entomophagy. It is good for exposing edible insects but also may be a turn-off for some audiences. 

However for businesses like these, it would certainly be rewarding and satisfying to win Western consumers over and change behaviour on eating insects.  One of the strategies discussed is to engage with the younger generation who are generally more experimental, and who also want to actively change the world for the better. One example of this is at the Shambala Festival, where in 2016 they have made a meat and fish free policy, but they do have an insect bar.

I haven’t yet  eaten insects knowingly, but I am certainly a pulses fan and incorporate it in my diet. Be it pulses, insects or something else innovative in the market. This really is an opportunity for us to try new sustainable ingredients and hopefully help towards more sustainable food production, technology and market.

Written by Seema Rampersad

 

02 March 2015

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains

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Last Monday’s Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains event at the British Library brought together founders of the Cambridge Satchel Company; Julie Deane, Ella’s Kitchen; Paul Lindley and Naked Wines; Eamon Fitzgerald to share their experiences of fast growth, including the challenges and rewards.

All three businesses went from zero to multimillion pound turnovers in a relatively short period of time, aided by digital technology.

  • Ella’s Kitchen, is the biggest baby food business in the UK, turning over circa £100m last year and sold in over 30 countries
  • The Cambridge Satchel Company, which started in 2008, has a £13m turnover
  • Naked Wines, which started the same year, has 250,000 prepaying customers, 120 wine makers on the books and a £67m annual turnover
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Richard Phelps, Executive for Entrepreneurs at Barclays, Paul Lindley, Julie Deane and Eamon Fitzgerald

Julie Deane noted passion was important for a business' success. She was very geeky at school and no-one who knew her would have thought she would end up at the helm of a company which featured at London Fashion Week. “It shows that you can change direction if you have a passion for something."

Deane's motivation for starting a business was to get her children into a good private school, a goal she achieved with only £600. Her mum had always told her it was bad to borrow, so she never has. “Borrowing money makes you scared so you cannot be as free to do something fantastic.” The limited budget meant she had to be creative and learn new skills. She built her own website through a free tutorial and saw exporting as “a different label on the parcel.” She used her children to model the bags and paid them with a Mars bar each. They also starred in her Google advert.

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The Cambridge Satchel Company

Deane contacted fashion bloggers who were attending New York Fashion Week to generate word of mouth and since then the bags have been seen on the shoulders of Taylor Swift and Alex Chung, and featured on hit TV shows Girls and The Good Wife.

Deane now employs 120 people, producing over 900 bags a day in a factory based in Leicester, selling to Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales.

Eamon Fitzgerald spoke about the business model for Naked Wines being built upon customers grouped as ‘Angels’ investing £20 a month in the company, in return they enjoy insider prices of 25% - 50% off retail wines prices. The longest serving customers are involved in the consultation of new ideas, with opportunities to taste new wines.

Fitzgerald recalled how Naked Wines’ ‘Angels’ raised £2,500 in one afternoon to help an independent wine producer whose stock had been vandalised. He said campaigns like these motivated staff and customers and set aside his brand from competitors.

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Eamon Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald had the following tips for business success:

  1. Have a product that is better than your competitors
  2. Cut out overheads for customers and build a fan base based on strong values such as supporting small wine growers
  3. Invest in talent rather than sales
  4. Treat your best customers well

Paul Lindley, founder of Ella’s Kitchen, finished the panel recalling how he was inspired by his daughter Ella when he used games to make food fun and entice her to eat. He was working at Nickelodeon at the time, which meant he had a good knowledge of what children like and how they relate to brands. 

Lindley noticed most baby food was aimed at parents, Ella’s Kitchen is different. It is healthy organic food, but the packaging and combination of foods makes it appealing to children. The bright pouches the company uses were unique at the time, “it was important to me to engage all their senses and to think like a child.” He wanted to be “different and create the next generation of toddler and baby food. The other brands had not changed and were very functional. We created a brand that was emotional because when you have a baby you are at your most emotional.”

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Ella’s Kitchen

Customer values were at the heart of his brand and Lindley’s mission was to improve children’s health by giving them a good relationship with food. Lindley is now focusing on a new start-up, Paddy’s Bathroom. It’s a range of fun organic bathroom products named after his son and the social message is much more upfront. For each drop of water children uses to wash themselves a village in Rwanda gets a drop of clean water.

Lindley’s five steps to success echoed Fitzgerald’s and Dean’s advice earlier in the evening;

  1. Strong brand values
  2. Putting the customer first
  3. Building an “awesome team”
  4. Going on instinct
  5. Promoting social responsibility

All three speakers stressed how important it was to reward their employees, for instance, by offering them shares in the business or giving them stock. Lindley said it was vital to recruit based on mind-set rather than skillset and all said their first recruits were the most important, promoting the “need to invest in recruiting the right people.” Equally important in the success of each of their businesses was story-telling. Lindley said “A story is so important to a business and telling that story is so important to the success of the business.”

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains was broadcast live via webinar and screening events in Leeds and Manchester Business & IP Centres also featured introductions by local speakers Eric Hawthorn from Radio Design Ltd and Chris Bird from Bird Consultancy.

The British Library’ Business & IP Centre offers workshops and resources for anyone looking to start a business. The Centre’s Innovating for Growth programme provides free customised help to small businesses based in London, helping them to grow and flourish. The programme is currently accepting applications until 25 March 2015.

Hanna Fayaz on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

09 December 2014

Giving young people a taste for business with Citrus Saturday

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Citrus saturday logoThe simple aim of Citrus Saturday is to introduce young people aged 11-15 to the challenges of running their own business in a fun, safe and organised way. It provides the young people taking part with the materials and locations to make and sell lemonade for a day and provides them with support, mentoring and training to help them to make business decisions that can lead to them making a profit that they can choose to keep. 

Citrus Saturday started life as a small-scale initiative by UCL Advances in Camden in 2011 but events have since taken off on an international basis. In 2012 Citrus Saturdays were held in Dublin, Edinburgh and Somerset. In 2013 they expanded to Belgium, Swaziland and Mozambique and, in 2014, Spain, Germany, France and Greece were added to the list.

The reason that has this been so internationally successful is that the organisers have developed a range of resources, checklists and templates which makes running the events easy with particular attention given to the practical and legal issues arising from working with young people.

Citrus Saturday at the British Library

It has also benefitted from being part of the Interreg IVB funded Open Innovation Project which has meant that it had the support of other project partners in North West Europe who hosted many of the events outside London. The British Library Business & IP Centre is also a partner in the Open Innovation project and we were delighted to be able to host a Citrus Saturday stall on the BL piazza as part of the 2014 London Citrus Saturday.

Citrus Saturday AfricaPlans for the future are ambitious and Citrus Saturday are looking to run a programme for 2,000 children in Swaziland and have created a campaign on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.

 

 

 

 

Nigel Spencer on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

11 November 2014

What’s new on… Datamonitor Consumer

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One of the resources we provide here at the British Library Business & IP Centre is free access to a number of business and intellectual property databases; helping entrepreneurs and businesses to research trends, markets and companies, and to utilise and protect their IP. If you’ve ever wondered what the market trends are in a particular industry, how to write a business plan, or where to search for trademark registrations, then you can use our databases to find out. The databases are regularly updated and in a monthly blog series, we take a look at what’s new.

This month, we look at the Datamonitor Consumer database, which provides analysis of the global consumer goods market. Spanning areas including food and drink, cosmetics and toiletries, pet care and household products, the database covers key category, consumer, innovation and marketing trends and includes product launch and market data analytics tools.

Datamonitor is particularly useful for identifying key trends and innovations in a specific industry or market sector; helping users to analyse opportunities and gaps in the market. Another key feature is the ‘Successes and failures’ series; helpful for those wishing to examine the strategies behind successful products. Datamonitor also provides market data and statistics.

Readers can download up to 20 pages of text per day from Datamonitor.

Below is a selection of the latest reports:

Product Innovation Updates:

Reports drawing out some of the themes, trends and recent innovations in a particular industry, as well as identifying the underlying trends driving product innovation in this area.

•    Sauces, Dressings, Condiments, and Spreads Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Skincare Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Spirits Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Snack Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Ready Meals Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Male Grooming Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Hot Drinks Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Non-Carbonated Soft Drinks Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Household Care Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Oral Hygiene Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Make-Up Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Dairy Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Fragrance Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Haircare Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Functional Food and Drinks Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Confectionery Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Beer Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Carbonated Soft Drinks Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Bakery and Cereals Product Innovation Update – September 2014
•    Baby Personal Care Product Innovation Update – September 2014

Category insights

Reports outlining the most important consumer and product trends impacting a particular industry globally.

The reports include global consumer insight analysis, case studies and product examples. Key considerations and potential opportunities are identified based on consumer preferences and recent product innovations in this category.

  • Consumer and Innovation Trends in Suncare 2014

TrendSights

Reports identifying and examining key cross-industry innovation and trends, from new product development to organisational structures.

  • Retrophilia

Innovation Tracking

Detailed analysis of new products, innovation or trends.

  • Will Coca-Cola Life revive the carbonates industry?
  • Packaging Innovation of the Month: cupcake cream is child's play

Successes and Failures

Case studies analysing the success or failure of a particular product or service, with insights into specific sectors as well as the relevant consumer trends and attitudes that drive innovation success

  • Success: Nivea "Sun Block Ad"
  • Success: Kellogg's Special K Flatbread
  • Success: Ragú's Rebrand
  • Failure: Kashi

 Health and Nutrition

Reports identifying and analysing key innovations and trends across the health and nutrition sector. 

  • Trends to Watch in Cough, Cold, and Flu
  • Functional Nutrition: Energy

 
Sally Jennings on behalf of Business & IP Centre

07 November 2014

Book review - Noon, with a View by Stephen Fear

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Noon with a View Courage and IntegrityGulam Noon was born and raised in India and lived in Mumbai. Having strong family values retained since childhood he joined the family business “Royal Sweets” and worked hard to expand the business. He left India in 1966 and came to London to find his fortune.

Having spent some time setting up businesses in both the UK and America – including expansion of his family business Royal Sweets, he established Noon Products in 1987 which led him to be known as the Curry king - credited with having created the UK’s favourite dish - Chicken Tikka Masala and favoured spicy snack - Bombay mix.

Noon Products in Southall produces food that tastes like its “Made in India”. Today, the company manufactures over 500 different chilled and frozen ready meals from factories in Southall and is sold in all the large supermarkets, the powerful motivation behind the brand was to create Indian food at its best.

Lord Noon is a man with integrity, honesty and social conscience, and talks candidly within the book about many aspects of his life including becoming embroiled in the cash for honours scandal in 2006 an episode which he was completely exonerated from.

The book written 5 years ago, is an inspiring read for any entrepreneur wanting to understand how to create wealth with integrity and honesty whilst retaining and cherishing relationships with friends and family since childhood. I wanted to quote the following passage from the book:
Quotation (Pg 85)

“I realise that anything I do through the foundation is just a drop in the huge ocean of suffering. I often explain my action by telling the story of a young man sitting by the sea shore. Each wave leaves behind it hoards of fish gasping for breath, the young man picks up as many as he can and throws them back into the water, he cannot possibly keep up. A passer-by asks him what he is doing as he seems to be wasting his time. There are so many fish that most of them will die before he can get to them . The passer by asks what difference he thinks he is making?Undeterred the young man picks up another fish, tosses it back into the water and watches it swim away – it made a big difference to that one he said.”

This sums Lord Gulam Noon up in my opinion, he is a man prepared to help individuals or groups in any way he can. In recognition of this Lord Gulam Noon has been awarded various honours including an M.B.E and most recently in January 2011, he was created a life peer as Baron Noon, of St John's Wood and was introduced in the House of Lords where he sits on the Labour benches.
Within the epilogue of the book, Lord noon mentions Noon Hospital a state of the art community hospital back in his birth place of Mumbai.

In summary – this book is an inspirational read for anyone, in particular those starting out in business looking for inspiration through a story full of courage and integrity. Lord Noon is a true patriot of the UK and a lover and patriot of India too.

Business Biography Book Reviews at the British Library By Dr Stephen Fear - October 2014
Noon, with a View: Courage and Integrity (Dec 2008) by Gulam Kaderbhoy Noon, Baron Noon MBE - ISBN 978-1-904445-79-1

26 September 2014

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Movers and Shakers

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Monday night’s event in partnership with Barclays and screened in the Newcastle, Sheffield and Manchester Business & IP Centres, as well as Exeter and New York, aimed to inspire entrepreneurs to create new markets and take the UK by storm!

Barclays logoThe speakers talked about their journeys in creating some of the most exciting new products and services on the market today, and re-imagined existing markets in the world of digital, beauty and food.

Michael Acton-SmithFirst on stage was Michael Acton-Smith OBE, CEO and founder of Mind Candy, creators of childrens phenomenen Moshi Monsters.

Michael has been described by the Daily Telegraph as "a Rock Star version of Willy Wonka" and by the Independent as "a polite version of Bob Geldolf".

 He shared his roller-coaster ride over the last fifteen years and some of the lessons learnt. When he first started in business with his school-friend partner, he imagined his life would be something like Tom Hanks in the movie Big in which he gets to spend his days playing with toys. They decided the newly emerging World Wide Web would be the best place to sell gadgets and toys to adults. The online world was so new they had very little competition, but sadly for the same reason they also had very few customers in the beginning.

 Chess-setTo help raise money to fund the venture they sold their bodies to medical science (for a week anyway) and raised £400 each. A big early lesson learnt was being careful about the name of your business. They soon discovered that although HotBox.co.uk was a nice catchy web address, HotBox.com was a well-established pornography website in the United States.

This led to some embarrassing conversations with friends and family. A name change to FireBox  soon followed and the business began in earnest with their first best-seller a shot-glass chess drinking game.

 PetRock1Michael was a fan of video games on his ZX Spectrum computer, and this inspired the creation of MindCandy. Their first game was based on Masquerade, the best-selling book and treasure hunt by Kit Williams. Sadly PerplexCity turned out to be a commercial disaster, with the lesson learnt, to do market research before you pursue a personal passion.

He explained how Moshi Monsters was inspired by the success of the simple idea that became the Pet Rock phenomenon. After a slow start during the first two years, growth became rapid, leading to the 80 million PopJamregistered users today.

The brand now has now expanded offline to include books, toys, music, trading cards, video games and even a big screen movie. Understanding the temporary nature of all internet services, Michael is now looking to his next project PopJam, designed for mobile devices.

 Michael’s tips for success included, think big - but start small. And look at the opportunities the disruptive power of the internet and new technologies create for business.

 

 

 

Vanita PartiNext up was Vanita Parti founder of Blink Brow Bar. Vanita pioneered walk-in eyebrow bars and is largely responsible for bringing the ancient technique of threading into the 21st century.

Her ‘lightbulb’ moment came in 2004 after many happy years working as a brand manager for British Airways. But the time demands of two small children and full-time work were not compatible. Starting her own business was the answer to having more time for her family, and she recognised a gap in the market having to travel across London to get her own eyebrows threaded.

The initial phase involved trying to find and speak to the right people in department stores. This proved very tricky and resulted in lots of negative responses. This is where tip no.1 comes into play - be unashamedly persistent. Fenwick’s of Bond Street was the only store prepared to try out her idea. And with just one chair, instead of the relaxing coffee lounge Vanita imagined. From this small beginning, thanks to word-of-mouth marketing and loyalty cards, the brand grew gradually into other department stores.

Protecting her trade mark and brand were some  of the issues that Vanita felt she needed help, with the onset of competition. But for Vanita maintaining the premium level of the brand was crucial, and this involved turning down quite a few offers along the way. Ten years on Blink Brow Bars are now in 25 locations, and are just about to launch in the USA. In the early days Vanita was upset when staff she had recruited and trained left to set up rival brow bars, but she realised that competition is a fact of business. The key is to keep on step ahead, and to always maintain the quality of the brand. Her brand promise is to take the pain out of beauty regimes and leave women looking and feeling fabulous.

Vanita’s top tips were:

  • Understand what a brand is
  • Have a vision and don’t give up on it
  • Don’t be distracted from your ‘main thing’
  • Be unashamedly persistent
  • Have a financial plan - you need to make money to protect your business
  • Keep it interesting - repackaging something existing be a successful strategy

 Sam BompasFinally we had the flamboyant Sam Bompas co-founder of Bompas & Parr, who specialise in flavour-based experience design, culinary research, architectural installations and contemporary food design.

From 2007, when Bompas & Parr was founded as a craft jellymonger, the studio has rapidly grown from just Sam Bompas and Harry Parr to its current complement of ten - a team of creative specialists, designers, architects, cooks, technicians and administrators who work across a wide range of projects.

Projects include a fruit salad inspired jelly boating lake in Kew Gardens, multi-sensory fireworks for London’s New Year’s Eve celebrations and a neon jelly chamber.

Sam strode onto the stage in his shiny shirt and colourful trousers and immediately asked for a volunteer. After a rather lengthy pause, a brave member of the audience came forward. His job was to time Sam’s talk. But instead of holding a stop-watch, he was asked to hold a small piece of Gallium, on the basis that it would take about 15 minutes to melt in his hand. There was the slight problem due to the poisonous nature of Gallium, so a rubber glove was added.

Sam started his talk by telling us he has never taken on investment, and doesn’t really aim to make money - just to have fun with new ideas.

He skipped through a set of intriguing slides, ranging from architectural jellies to a breast bouncy castle recently installed in the New York Museum of Sex for an erotic themed event.

Sam’s ‘lightbulb’ moment was eating an expensive jar of mushroom pate from his local Borough Market, and discovering it only contained about three percent mushrooms. He reasoned the same principle applied to Jelly, except on a more extreme level, and with water instead of butter. How could they not make lots of money?

Unfortunately the jelly stall project got off to a bad start as they couldn’t afford the moulds, discovered jelly making is actually really difficult, and Borough Market said no. But the jelly idea stuck and they combined Harry Parr’s architectural training to produce a jelly mould of St Pauls Cathederal.

Jelly St Pauls

They learned the tricky technique of jelly making the hard way, with regular outbreaks of the dreaded ‘jelly finger’, But sadly never mastered the ambitious ‘wobbly bridge’ jelly.  Another lesson was that it very difficult to make large sculptures made of jelly even with the best made moulds.

The next step was to hold an architectural jelly banquet, for which the tickets sold out in days. The only problem was the high expectations of their customers, which they met by making the banquet an experiential event.

As you can probably tell, Sam is always thinking about the next project. His most important tip was to do something you love, and that stories are crucial in business.

He wouldn’t leave the stage without a quick demonstration of his current obsession - gherkin light-bulbs. He plucked three from a jar and pushed them onto a rather dangerous looking contraption. On the count of three from the audience he plugged this device into the mains. At this point I was glad to be sitting at the back of the room. However, there was no explosion, and after a short delay the gherkins glowed brightly.

Later on during our Questions and Answers session, moderator Matthew Rock mentioned that Bompas and Parr’s financial records seemed quite healthy, and all this talk of Jelly and parties were on a profitable business.

 

Neil Infield and Seema Rampersad on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

13 June 2014

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Going Global

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BarclaysLast Monday was our Going Global Inspiring Entrepreneurs event kindly sponsored by Barclays Bank. As well as the audience in the British Library conference centre, the speakers were also screened live in the Newcastle Business & IP Centre in their Central Library.

Once again the evening was ably chaired and moderated by Matthew Rock, DueDil editor-in-chief and Real Business co-founder.

First up was Will Butler-Adams Managing Director Brompton Bicycle.

Bromptons were first produced in 1988 and are famous for their folding design. Over the last twelve years, Butler-Adams has transformed them from a niche company to the UK’s biggest bike-maker. Brompton now make over 52,000 bikes per year and employs approximately 230 workers. All Bromptons are designed and built in West London and are exported to more than 44 countries with 80% of sales from overseas.

Will Butler AdamsWill started with a short demonstration on the stage of how quick and easy it is to unfold a Brompton bike. He explained that the bike is pretty much all they do, and admitted that although the engineering is sexy, the bike is not something that will attract the ‘birds’.

Will talked about how he met the inventor of the bike and was entrance by the product and the potential for the company that he felt was stuck in the dark ages. At that point it had 24 staff, sales of £1.7 million. They now make a profit of £27.5 million and have a staff of 240. They make 950 bikes a week and sell to 44 countries, “and its bloody good fun”.

For a long time Brompton was a business where they couldn’t make enough product to meet demand. The easy answer would have been to stay with home market as the profits are bigger and you have more control over distribution. He said it takes about five years for the bike to become established into a new market. But that you should believe everyone who tells you how complicated exporting is.

Will’s advice is to treat it like a holiday. Choose a market you think has potential. Get the UKTI (UK Trade & Investment) to help you research the local market and check out the local trade shows. But don’t spend too long doing research or you might never get started. Then meet local people and get an understanding of their market. He explained how they tackled the China market cautiously, and how in that case unusually they own the distribution and retail outlets.

He said Brompton don’t focus on the business or the brand, instead they focus on producing the best product and service for their customers. He feels strongly that these are the most important asset of any business. It takes longer but it gives you a solid basis to build your business on.


Sian-Sutherland-High-Res-nsm-e1370516678624Next was Sian Sutherland, Founding Partner & CEO of Mama Mio and Mio Skincare

Sian is a serial entrepreneur with a varied background in advertising, restaurants, film production and brand creation, Sian was an early winner of the National Magazines’ Entrepreneur of the Year for her first business, British Female Inventor of the Year and received the coveted CEW Achiever Award in 2010.

After creating a new beauty category with their maternity skincare brand Mama Mio eight years ago, she launched their second brand, Mio, focused on the fitness market. Their approach has always been to behave differently as a beauty business; giving their ‘fit skin for life’ brands a distinctive and very approachable personality developing a unique position in the skincare market.

Sian explained how Mio is the most selfish skin-care brand on the market. They work on the principle that if it works for the founders then it will work for their customers.

Mio is aimed at active women and promises to give them fit skin for their whole life.

This new brand grew out of Mama Mio which is for pregnancy and is already available in 18 countries  through 4,000 stores and spas. In addition 30% of sales are through their website. For instance Germany is now their fourth biggest market but sales are only available online.

Sian outlined several lessons she had learned over the years including the number one lesson for trading in China - register your trademarks first.

1.    Have a plan
a.    But make sure it’s your roadmap and not a straightjacket
b.    Be able to measure your success
2.    Do a few things really well
a.    Don’t spread yourself too thin, and don’t try to do everything at once
b.    Seek like-minded partners who want to create like-minded businesses
3.    Be distinctive
a.    The UK doesn’t need more stuff
b.    And nor does the rest of the world
c.    So work out why your products will sell
4.    Be where your customers are
a.    Be in the right stores, on the right sites, in their homes, at the right events
5.    Invest in spreading the buzz
6.    Use your size
a.    It can be a huge advantage to be small and nimble


Karan-Bilimoria-headshot-black-1-590x786Finally onto the stage was Karan Bilimoria.

Founder and Chairman of Cobra Beer which he founded in Bangalore South India in 1990, it has grown into a £126 million business which exports to nearly 50 countries. In 2006 he became a member of the House of Lords and he is the founder and president of Zoroastrian Chamber of Commerce. Lord Bilimoria has been a strong supporter of the Business & IP Centre since it first opened, and has spoken at a number of our events over the years.

His introduction was to get everyone in the audience to ask themselves a question - what is the purpose of your life and how will you measure your achievement? For him it has been about aspiration, inspiration and perspiration, and the attitude that an entrepreneur will never take a ‘no’ as a ‘no’. Starting a business is always against all odds - it is a David vs Goliath challenge.

One of the biggest challenges a start-up faces is overcoming the credibility gap – the answer is to have faith, passion and belief in your product and brand. But you also need to be ready to ‘Adapt or Die’ to changing circumstance and different markets.

Karan spelt out his Eight P’s of business success.
-    Have the right Product
-    At the right Price
-    In the right Place
-    Promotion is key
-    Phinance is essential
-    Passion will drive the business
-    Without Profit the business will not survive

He ended his session with an entertaining advertisement showing a fictional boss running Cobra beer by day and Braco a brassiere company by night.


A lively question time followed moderated by Matthew Rock and included Will Butler-Adams telling the audience not to get too obsessed by being made in the UK. The most important thing is providing the best quality and value for money for your customers.

When asked about their biggest mistakes, he said that Brompton make loads of mistakes, but the key is to try to limit each risk to a size that won’t kill the company. That makes them more adventurous and able to make decisions more quickly. For Cobra Beer their speed of growth proved their undoing as they were too highly geared and suffered when the financial meltdown of 2008 happened. Fortunately they were rescued by Molson Coors and have continued to grow since then.

Neil  Infield on behalf of Business & IP Centre team.