Innovation and enterprise blog

26 July 2019

Follow JRPass’ Director through the Innovating for Growth programme

Each quarter, we pick 18 high-growth businesses to take part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, where businesses receive £10,000 worth of tailored and bespoke business support and advice. Not only do businesses gain three months of guidance, they also receive automatic membership to our Growth Club and their own Relationship Manager.

This quarter, we’re following Haroun, Director of JRPass, a train travel company for those exploring Japan by rail. Haroun will talk us through each session as he progresses through the programme to get the successes and challenges of what it’s like to run a growing businesses. Over to Haroun…

Hi, my name is Haroun and am one of the founders of JRPass. I have always had a passion for travel, especially rail as a sustainable way for people to get around. Alongside my two co-founders, we founded the company a few years ago straight out of uni, and it has grown steadily and beyond our initial expectations. We are known worldwide as the leaders in sales of the Japan Rail Pass, which offers unlimited train travel for people visiting Japan for 1, 2 or 3 week durations. Our website forum is also a well known destination for travelers to swap tips on their journeys. We have since expanded into mobile WiFi, regional tickets, meet and greet services and are looking to expand further. With the Rugby World Cup in Japan this year, and the Olympics next, this is the ideal time for us to look at our strategy for the future.

How to use your Japan Rail Pass from on Vimeo.

Refining Your Business Model

Friday 5 July

So, today we had our first proper introduction to the programme. We were introduced to the Business Model Canvas, which is a way of visually constructing the 'state of your play’ of your business, further opportunities and future strategy. As a company we have grown organically and very quickly so this was a really good opportunity to step back, take a deep breath and take time to test our assumptions, spot gaps and look for areas of improvement. All the sessions after this feed into the model. 

What was really interesting about the session was the variety of businesses that the other attendees had. No two business were similar. As part of an exercise we modelled each other’s businesses using the canvas and it was quite enlightening to see how outside eyes view your own baby! I am looking forward to the upcoming sessions on growth strategy, branding, marketing, product Innovation, IP protection and more, where I can add even more insights into my own personal canvas.

Developing a Growth Strategy

Thursday 11 July

Today was our first personal one-to-one focusing on opportunities for future growth, with Uday from Red Ochre Consulting. JRPass has grown quite organically over the years and it was really useful to see Uday laser in on areas that needed addressing as we grow. As we move from a smaller informal organisation, where individuals like myself wear many business hats, to one with stronger distinct departments, it is really important to take time and assess such a change, with future opportunities in mind. I left the session with a bunch of action points on what to take now within the business, and openings for the future that I will be researching and building upon over the next few months.

Aside from the Innovating for Growth programme, I made use of the other workshops taking place in the Business & IP Centre and attended a Hiring masterclass. Hiring is probably one of my own weaker areas which I don’t really enjoy spending a lot of time on, so I gained a lot from the class (one thing being I really should get other people to do that stuff for me as they would be better!). As I was part of the Innovating for Growth programme, we were offered discounted tickets, another benefit! 

Visit our website for more information about the programme and how to apply. You can read part 2 of Haroun's diary here.