Innovation and enterprise blog

18 posts categorized "Food and drink"

13 June 2014

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Going Global

Add comment Comments (0)

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.

15 May 2014

Book review - Cook Wrap Sell: A guide to starting and running a successful food business from your kitchen

Add comment Comments (0)

Gail Mitchell reviews Cook Wrap Sell: A guide to starting and running a successful food business from your kitchen By Bruce McMichael.

This book written in partnership with Country Living magazine aims to help you turn your love of food into a thriving small business, with the right idea and a watertight business plan.

It has chapters covering costs and funding, tax and insurance, branding and packaging and much more. As well as general business start up information it also contains information on food allergies and intolerance. It has a diary of events and festivals. Gives tips on blogging and lists food blogging groups. And how to get involved with food festivals and farmers markets as well as how to run a successful stall.

It also has case studies throughout the book and websites for further information within each chapter.

Hopefully a recipe for success!


Gail Mitchell on behalf of Business & IP Centre

13 May 2014

Act Local, Think Global

Add comment Comments (0)

Jules QuinnOur Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Going Global local Newcastle entrepreneur, Jules Quinn from The *Teashed shares some of her stories about cracking global markets.

You can hear more from Jules at the Newcastle screening of Going Global on 2 June. Find out more and book your Newcastle ticket.



With 7 out of 10 of us in the UK owning a smart phone, we all literally have the world at our finger tips. A quick jump onto Google search and we can land at the shop of a potential supplier in Asia, who within 24 hours has sent you quote and samples are in the post. Skype allows us free face in front of face conversations across the world, whilst simultaneously being able to refer to websites, email each other files or share via Dropbox. To have a chat with Tim in Timbuktu is just as easy as chatting to Sheila in Sheffield. Exception of course being time difference and language barriers.

But we are lucky, we have English as our mother tongue and it is common across the globe to find people, especially in business, who speak English. Having travelled extensively for business, I have not yet faced a language barrier that has meant we couldn't do business. And with time difference, well, if you are running your own business you will be up working all night anyway so it doesn’t matter!

I found all potential tea suppliers for The *TeaShed through Google and only two years later did I have the time and money to go and visit them. Language has not been a problem as our suppliers all speak English and time difference is only 5 hours. Global suppliers = simple.

Importing and exporting is also not as scary as you think. Yes, there are a lot of hoops to jump through, boxes to tick and fees to pay, but all in all it’s a pretty simple process and you normally will have agents who deal with it for you. I did once hear about a man who lost 1 million dollars worth of TVs out at sea and didn’t have any insurance though! Make sure you insure freight.

So once you have your international suppliers sorted and your logistics then you need to start attracting overseas customers. There are various ways through trade shows, agents, distributors but again the easiest is right in front of you now; the internet.

Search international competitors – into which stores in their country do they sell and then contact them directly. Search types of shops in particular areas. Perhaps the easiest place to start is British shops abroad. Often these shops will regularly import from the UK and so will have consolidation somewhere in the UK anyway.

Social media is an excellent way of creating international brand awareness. You may have to change platforms for some countries but Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest are all a great start.

The one thing to really do your research on, are the different laws for each country, for example in regards to packaging, IP, import/export and agents. UKTI can give a lot of advice on these topics and often have workshops you can attend. 

One area we looked closely at and indeed had guidance from Business & IP Centre Newcastle was to trademark or not to trademark. We went ahead and applied for a UK trademark straight away for The TeaShed and got advice on a community trademark (European).

They have a great deal of knowledge, which can be used to help protect yourself when selling abroad. IP will most probably be of huge importance to your company and therefore putting safety nets in place early on is recommended.

With research and precautions in place, the world is your oyster. The UK is undoubtedly a great market to target but it is also only a tiny part of the world. We have such fantastic infrastructure here, built upon hundreds of years of international trading, that you can import and export in a click of your button and wake up to an inbox bursting with orders.

Don’t just see what is in front of you. Look for what you can’t see.

Jules Quinn on behalf of Business & IP Centre

Our next Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Going Global will be held in London and screened live in Newcastle as well as live webcast. Tickets are going fast so book yours now!

21 August 2013

Trendspotting in a Nutshell for Innovators to Laggards

Add comment Comments (0)

A few weeks ago I attended a Business & IP Centre workshop by Cate Trotter of Insider Trends on ‘Spotting Trends and Opportunities’ during our ‘Cooking up Success’ series of events.

It was obvious from the beginning that the attendees were really on the cutting edge of the food business. During the icebreaker an attendee’s insight was that ‘food is trendy now and we want to be a slice of it!’

Cate helped us identify techniques for trendspotting as an essential strategic process that helps organisations and individuals anticipate change, plan more effectively, introduce more successful initiatives and spot niches in the market. Doing this means a business can focus on what to do next, make better decisions quickly which saves a lot of energy and money in the long run. 

Cate started by showing us a clip of a single person dancing at a festival but slowly…gradually…one by one… the dancer was joined by other people to form a mass gathering of something that they all enjoyed.  It was obvious from the clip that there may have been persons who didn’t want to participate or who may have needed that extra push or help to take part. 

Trend curve

Based on Rogers, E. (1962) Diffusion of innovations. Free Press, London, NY, USA. Source: Wikimedia

The moral of the story – trends takes a bit of passion from an innovator for it to move through the ‘Roger’s Innovation Curve’ from an innovator to laggards, gathering impetus to the mainstream where even the laggards eventually come on board. 

 For the food business we discussed innovators and early adopters who would go to the most obscure places to eat and sample new trends. Mostly, these persons are connectors and like to keep at the cutting edge of the industry and would attend foodie events from their social network or in their local area.  Cate reinforced that if you have your business cap on, you would use these experiences to gather information by observing, talking to people, brainstorming new initiatives and conduct informal market research for your next business idea or spotting the trend.  

Two practical exercises used were:

  •  The use of Google Trends to find out what people are taking about or what is ‘common knowledge’, for example cupcakes have far more hits than dosas
  • How to use trade and consumer magazines to find out what those ‘in the know’ are writing and talking about. Have a look at our popular Food Industry guide for resources available from us in the Centre.                    

Here are some tips for trends and opportunities spotting:

  • Know why you are spotting trends – the clearer you can be on what idea you’re looking for, the easier it will be to find it
  • Observe – trendspotting begins with an in-depth look at the various areas of influence such as new and old media, research, networking, scoping, everyday observations and problems highlighted
  • Connect the dots – after gathering the nuggets of information, make sense of it by connecting the dots with tags like Delicious, Freemind, Evernote or even Post-it-Notes on a wall or whiteboard.
  • Assess – investigate trends to assess the level of opportunity inherent in tools such as Google Trends & Keywords and Facebook Ads, which has how many people are interested.  Work out where they are in the Innovation Curve.
  • Ideate – Produce ideas that tap into the trend that you deem to have the most potential.  Identify and engage with the target group with the right balance of effort and reward that can help you have a more thorough understanding of the level of potential in each idea.
  • Test – Get feedback from the real world! Keep looking at your sales data, web analytics, press coverage for traction, monitor your social media or basically, speak to your customers.

In conclusion, we were reminded that trendspotting is something that should be continuous and you should formalise the process every 12 months or so to make sure that you are aware of all opportunities or risks ahead and the best position to take advantage or avoid them.

Find out when the next Insider Trends workshop takes place.

Seema Rampersad on behalf of Business & IP Centre

15 August 2013

China’s top 20 western brands

Add comment Comments (0)

Yum KFC China logoLast week the BBC published a fascinating report on the progress US companies have made in the rapidly growing Chinese market for consumer goods and services. Western brands 'more popular' in China.

The number one brand in China is fast food chicken restaurant chain KFC from Yum! Brands. The Chinese market contributes about half of Yum! Brands' overall profits. The company has about 4,400 KFC units in about 850 cities in China. It first entered the market in 1987. But in banking and telecoms Chinese companies still dominate.

The BBC asked global brand research company Millward Brown to find the 20 most powerful foreign brands in China, the ones that have gone in and succeeded where many others have failed.

A discussion on the Today Programme between presenter John Humpries and Peter Walshe Global Director of Brands at Millward Brown, produced a great definition of what makes a succesful brand:

Peter Walshe
Products that are delivering great quality in a meaningful way to consumers, are the ones that are bought again and again, by those very discerning consumers.

John Humphries - The assumption has been that in the West, you can sell anything to anybody if the advertising is good enough, and the marketing is good enough.

Peter - I certainly wouldn’t agree with that at all. You can announce something , and providing your advertising clearly annunciates what it is that is special, good and interesting about that product or brand, people will listen, and they may well try it. But when they try it and it doesn’t live up to that promise, you’re in big trouble.

One of the reasons Omo is doing so well is that it has listened and adapted to its consumers locally. The way that you wash clothes is quite different in China, compared to some other markets. They have very carefully listened to consumers and created products that are relevant.


Here are some success tips from some of the top brands via Millward Brown:

Get in early
All of the brands have been pioneers in China, entering before 2000.

Understand your market
The Chinese market is changing quickly and many of the companies are learning to keep up.

Be bold
Having got in early, many of the companies are building on that advantage. Some of the numbers are staggering.

City strategy
Many of the brands that spoke to us stressed the importance of looking beyond the coastal cities of Shanghai and Beijing to the staggering growth and new consumers in cities across the country.

Build your team
Running a business in China is difficult to do from outside the country, and many of these multinationals tell us that their success is built on finding the best Chinese talent and joint venture partners.

Neil Infield on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

Chloé Titcomb on behalf of the Business & IP Centre - See more at:
Chloé Titcomb on behalf of the Business & IP Centre - See more at:
Chloé Titcomb on behalf of the Business & IP Centre - See more at:
Chloé Titcomb on behalf of the Business & IP Centre - See more at:

03 July 2013

Starting a food business

Add comment Comments (0)

Although 'Cooking Up Success' has come to an end for 2013, we still have some great stories from food and drinks businesses who have a wealth of advice to offer.

Innovating for Growth business, Blueberry Hill, share their story of starting a growing a small business:

"Oh, where to start?!

Setting up Blueberry Hill has been one of the most rollercoaster rides I have ever experienced! 

Neither Ella or I came from a food background, so as we looked at setting up the business, we were starting totally from scratch.  Although this meant we definitely ended up going the long way round on occasions, we have learnt everything together and both have a deeper understanding of how all our business processes work.

Before launching into the partnership we decided to test our working relationship, as although we were friends from university, we knew this doesn't always mean you can work together!

While still working full time, we started slowly by selling some home-baked goods at local markets over weekends. Baking through the night on a Friday after a long week at work tested our stress levels but allowed us to see how we each dealt with customers and the finance side of things. 

After a few months of this, and some long nights writing a business plan we decided to take the plunge, and Blueberry Hill was born.

Photo 4
Blueberry Hill creations

Things change on a daily basis, the business plan gets amended and nothing ever goes quite to plan so it can sometimes feel like a bit of a whirlwind. We have learnt that you have to be flexible and open-minded, but also make sure you stick as much to your plans as possible or it is super easy to get distracted! 

We definitely fell into the trap of starting to work in the business too much and not on the business, and are only really now, one full-time year in, forcing ourselves to step back and look as objectively as possible at what we have achieved. 

Our crucial tips for going into a food business are;

  • Do all the H&S paper work from the start because as you grow it makes life a lot easier;
  • Don't be afraid to following your gut as this is usually right;
  • Make sure you remember to take some time to yourself!"

Rachel Reynolds, co-founder of Blueberry Hill on behalf of Business & IP Centre

Blueberry Hill have taken part in our Innovating for Growth programme which offers London-based small businesses the opportunity to get £10,000 worth of free bespoke advice and support.


20 June 2013

Recipe for Success: the secret ingredients for business growth

Add comment Comments (0)

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.

James averdieck1Our first expert speaker was James Averdieck of who entertained us with the story of how he came to set up his company.

Describing defining moments such as sitting in a café in Brussels with a bombe d’chocolat 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 Gü boxes into Waitrose and surreptitiously putting them onto the shelf. Waiting until someone attempted to walk away with the ‘product’ he then decided that ‘yep’ 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 Gü to a funeral, but it freed up his time to work on his new passion – coconut!

Second was Harriet Hastings founder of Biscuiteers, whose slogan “Why sendBISCUITEERS_013 flowers when you can send biscuits?” 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 Harriet’s 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 café 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 web imageCamilla Stephens of Higgidy came next. Her business dream was to create ‘feminine pies that were not made by butchers’.

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.

Camilla’s tip was that entrepreneurs shouldn’t 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 Luke Johnson web 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.

Luke’s talk was an entertaining mix of anecdotes and advice but he too underlined the value of the brand reminding the audience that ‘brand power matters’. He also advised would be entrepreneurs to try and be ‘niche not mass’.

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 – 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

Cooking up Success for Food in London

Add comment Comments (0)

‘Cooking up Success’ is the series of food business related events at the Business & IP Centre for Spring and Summer. One of these events that we recently held was a speed mentoring session with expert foodies like Petra Barran of Kerb, Jo Densley of Relish Marketing and Kerrie Dorman of UK Affordable Mentors. The professional experts and their fields were Mirtha Medina (HR), Matt Harley (Design & Strategy) and Paul Harrison (Patent Attorney) - latter are both of Ideas 21

The speed mentoring format was similar to a ‘Knowledge Café’ or speed dating (not my words!) which was interesting to facilitate, experience and observe. Delegates introduced themselves and their food business interests with energy, open discussion and happily filled in the gaps with each other in 30 minutes! It was beautiful to see start-ups sharing insights, thoughts and contacts in the industry with each other. 

Niche food businesses were discussed, such as vegan burgers, breads and patisserie. The UK market is still behind the USA, where 7 million people or 3 % of the adult *population is vegan, health-conscious consumers. The businesses all were passionate about food, and thought that there were customers out there who would put their money into 'healthy options' if they were easy to find, reasonably priced and most important of all... tasty. 

I had an in-depth conversation with Gluten Freak, a business was born out of health concerns and the scarcity of gluten-free foods on the market. They stressed that being a small business allowed them to avoid cross-contamination, but as they grow they would need to continue to be as consistent with larger production batches. The co-founder of Incredible Bakery Bread was willing and eager to share experiences and knowledge with other start-ups, such as a UK-wide refrigerator delivery company, and food incubators, such as Greenwich Cooperatives and We are Kitchenette.

Little Brew

Kerb’s founder Petra delivered some great mentoring to Little Brew, a home brewer from Camden’s Lord Alephant, who uses local produce and British hops. One question on capacity for large orders brought an impassioned response that small allows Little Brew to focus on full flavour and that they can offer customised bottles for example for weddings and corporate events. Petra also offered copious advice to a chilli oil maker and Chinese cook whose passion was to start her own food business, being from a family that has been in the restaurant business for over 30 years. KerbIdeas including gaining all the necessary accreditation for Food Hygiene and Public Liability Insurance for pop-up restaurants and street food traders like Kerb. By the way, this type of accreditation information for various industries is contained in Cobra reports, which are available in the Business & IP Centre. Petra demonstrated and mentioned that Kerb is flowing with enthusiasm and support to start-ups who benefit from the exposure to the Kerb brand, access to private and corporate clients, loyal customers and a large Twitter following. The session concluded with encouragement, for even Kerb lacked an authentic Chinese food outlet and Petra ended with it’s “exciting times for Food in London!”