Last night, I attended the Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Recipe for Success event here at the British Library, which was also beamed live to Manchester and New York.
Our first expert speaker was James Averdieck of GĂŒ who entertained us with the story of how he came to set up his company.
Describing defining moments such as sitting in a cafĂ© in Brussels with a bombe dâchocolat he took us through meeting his business partner and working on branding to his rather unique method of doing primary market research.
He described taking empty GĂŒ boxes into Waitrose and surreptitiously putting them onto the shelf. Waiting until someone attempted to walk away with the âproductâ he then decided that âyepâ the product would sell and a couple of days later had a meeting with a number of major supermarket representatives.
With the success of the product the company grew and eventually James was made an offer for the company he could not refuse. James likened his decision to sell GĂŒ to a funeral, but it freed up his time to work on his new passion â coconut!
Second was Harriet Hastings founder of Biscuiteers, whose slogan âWhy send flowers when you can send biscuits?â is an appealing one. Harriet told the story of how, modelling her business on the floral delivery concept, she offered seasonal biscuits and same day delivery.
What made Harrietâs story interesting was how, as the business grew, she has resisted temptation to move away from the handmade artisan products the company offers. Instead she has taken the company in a slightly different direction opening a biscuit boutique and icing cafĂ© offering lessons in icing, corporate and private icing parties as well as holding special lessons for children or the Little Biscuiteers as Harriet called them.
It was apparent from the way she spoke that the company prides itself on offering unique top end products.
Her tips for the audience?
- Follow trends to keep your product topical and in the news
- Always remember it is all about the customer experience and building your brand
- Finally, your business should be as much about design and business skills as it is about cooking.
Camilla Stephens of Higgidy came next. Her business dream was to create âfeminine pies that were not made by butchersâ.
After three years of business, with their pies growing in popularity, Camilla found that though the company had a lot of sales they were not making any profit and in fact in 2005 the company was actually making a loss. Camilla and her husband James had to decide whether to invest more money into the business to turn it around or to give up. They decided to invest and she and her husband sold their home to put money in their factory and brand.
Higgidy now makes around 200,000 pies and quiches etc. a week using, we were told, 16,000 tons of pastry! Camilla feels that mechanising hasn't changed the artisan nature of the pies as Higgidy still offers customers a good traditional product.
Camillaâs tip was that entrepreneurs shouldnât be afraid to ask for advice especially since people like giving it!
All three speakers put emphasis on the value of the brand, good market research and staying customer focused.
The final speaker of the evening was serial entrepreneur Luke Johnson. Originally training to be a doctor he decided he was much more interested in nightclubs and so his career in business began. He has, over the years, been involved with many successful businesses, Strada, Pizza Express, Giraffe, Patisserie Valerie.
Lukeâs talk was an entertaining mix of anecdotes and advice but he too underlined the value of the brand reminding the audience that âbrand power mattersâ. He also advised would be entrepreneurs to try and be âniche not massâ.
The Q&A session at the end gave everyone the opportunity to ask questions with lots coming in via Twitter.
The key answers?
- Remember to consider the competition
- Small businesses should act like big businesses and be credible
- Before you decide to grow, make sure you know the costs or get someone to do the manufacturing for you
- Small companies should remember to act like big suppliers â reliable and professional.
An entertaining event with lots of advice and tips to take away. The archive webcast and videos will be available on our YouTube channel soon.
Maria Lampert on behalf of Business & IP Centre