Innovation and enterprise blog

28 September 2020

Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups diary – The Street Food Company – part 1

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We are once again following another business through the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, The Street Food Company. You can read last year's diary from JR Pass and The Good Slice’s diary from earlier this year. You will hear first-hand about the programme’s different sessions and how they are using these to focus and change their business direction. Let’s here more from James.

“Hi, I’m James and together with my co-founder Kevin, we started The Street Food Company.  The business sparked from our backpacking adventures and tasting the world’s best street food, from Bangkok’s shredded mango salads, chorizo chilli mint hotdogs from Havana to the toasted coconut curries of Sri Lanka. Back in the UK, we couldn’t find the same electrifying flavours and inspiring dishes anywhere and were bored with the more mainstream dishes everyone was offering.

Street Food market selling grilled foods

We decided to make a range of bold, adventurous and unique Street Food sauces that helped others easily recreate the world’s best street food with just a few simple ingredients, no need for specialist skills or hard-to-find herbs and spices. We started supplying university chefs to help them provide street food for their students, but the business has recently grown into theme parks, football stadia to pub chains and hotels across the UK. Our simple mission to help anyone easily recreate the world’s best street food that we find on our travels was well underway!

Fast forward to March this year and all that changed.  All our customers had to close their doors and the food service sector as we knew it changed overnight. We quickly decided to turn our focus to diversifying our business and to launch a retail side for consumers who wanted to cook more adventurously at home with bolder world flavours. The Innovating for Growth programme couldn’t have come at a better time as we now had access to a group of specialist advisors who could help us in every aspect of our new retail growth plan, to ensure we focussed our limited resources in the right direction at such a critical time.

We kicked off with a session by Rasheed Ogunlaru, owner of Soul Trader. The meeting was not only a great way to meet and interact with the other businesses on the course, but it also focussed on us as founders and the importance of looking after ourselves and that we have a clear vision, mission and plan for our own lives as much as we should for our business.

The rest of the course was focussed on our growth plan, which centres around a simple one page Business Model Canvas tool, that helps you layout how you will deliver products and services that your customers value and will pay for. Our opening strategy session with Robert from Red Ochre identified the key to our growth as being:

  1. A clearer value proposition for our products.
  2. More defined target customers.
  3. Finding the right marketing activities.
  4. Identifying the right partners to sell the products through.

With a much clearer focus on what we needed, we dived straight into brand sessions run by Dave and Sandra from ABA, which helped us realise the importance of branding, it being the sum total of everything your company does and how it behaves. It’s how customers feel about your brand and not what you think they feel. This focussed our thinking on the purpose of our company, what we could be best in the world at and how we should communicate this to our customers.

Our company purpose has now changed from helping people to make street food at home to one with a much bigger mission of making truly unique, adventurous and fun products with crazy bold flavours that other companies are afraid to do; that challenges the status quo and pushes the boundaries of food and flavour. We are reinvigorated as the potential and possibilities feel limitless.

Drunk Pony Ribs from The Street Food Company

We excitedly jumped into a Marketing session with Helen from ABA where we learned to create detailed customer personas to really understand our customers, focus on communicating the emotional benefits of our products and to detail our customer’s journey to give a five star service at every touchpoint.

With customers on our mind, we met with Dean from Fluxx, an incredible product and service innovation company.  We felt we knew our customers, but Fluxx challenged us to question our assumptions and delve deeper, suggesting great techniques like diary studies and split testing to really get inside the heads of our customers and understand how and why they use our products.

Last, but certainly not least, was financial planning with Julie from Metavalue. This session addressed our questions over budgeting, pricing and KPIs, helped us to create a financial forecast and plan and has instilled a commitment in us to review our P&L (profit and loss), balance sheet and key financial information monthly.

The programme has been incredibly useful in helping us work through our new business direction and we can’t wait to get stuck into Part 2 and let you know more! Feel free to follow us on Instagram and Facebook or contact us at hello@discoverstreetfood.com. ‘Till then, Let Your Taste Buds Travel!"

24 July 2020

How Innovating for Growth is helping business throughout the crisis

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For the first time in the programme’s history, Innovating for Growth has taken place entirely online. Participants can now have virtual one-to-ones with our external consultants, ‘meet’ each other in online workshops. It’s not only the way the programme is currently being run which has pivoted due to the current crisis, the goals of the businesses taking part have also changed, some struggling to keep going, many changing the way they operate, others trying to keep up with the demand their product or service has seen increase.

We caught up with our delivery partners to find out first-hand how they can support Innovating for Growth businesses and why now might be the best time to apply for the programme…

Red Ochre – Growth strategy

“For the majority of businesses we’ve seen during the pandemic, there had been a stop or slow down in trading. However, there is a lot of positivity. For many there is an improvement in the situation, others are exploring new opportunities and others can see a positive change when various sanctions are lifted. In every case the initial panic has been allayed by the input from the consultants.

“We can help businesses identify what can they do in the short term, how to prepare for more changes in the midterm, provide someone to talk to, someone looking outside in, someone giving a wider perspective to help build resilience and sustainability.”

Since 2012, we've supported over 520 businesses

Meta Value – Financial planning

“We can help businesses be resilient and adapt and help figure out a model to make it all easier and less dependent on them (a common problem). We can also help stabilize the business and identifying the right model so they can then grow or consolidate.

“We can also help with grants, which might not be relevant for all businesses, but the option is available.”

Newable – Innovation

“It’s sometimes daunting or difficult to take the time in a business owners’ busy schedule to spend time to work on the business, rather than the day to day fire-fighting. This programme is a great way to discuss and confide in experienced professionals obstacles or opportunities they might be facing.

“We can also highlight the wealth of other resources available with the BIPC which might be relevant to your business, such as the free market research reports and programme of webinars.”

Since 2012, 50% of scale-up businesses have been female led

ABA – Marketing and branding

“We’ve seen a real mixture of those fighting to survive and those who are paddling frantically to keep up with demand or change in circumstances. Regardless of where they find themselves, the reality is (i) they were all having to deal with changing circumstances, not a static landscape; and (ii) they all needed – and I’m sure benefited – from having an expert, outside perspective on the state of their business, the state of the market, and the possible ways forward.”

BRIFFA – Intellectual property

“The businesses we’ve supported since the start of the crisis were looking at how to protect their IP whilst they ride this storm and adapt to new working conditions with the lockdown conditions rather than consideration of future prospects. We also found that some of the candidates had been considering or attempting to try and adapt their business to be digital and needed to understand on how to protect their IP online along with following compliance with GDPR and other commercial aspects like terms and conditions and registering of domains/trade marks. We can help with all of this, so whatever intellectual property query you may have, the programme will be able to support you.”

Since 2012, over 500 jobs have been created

Whatever concern you and your business may be facing, Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups can support London-based businesses to pivot, diversity, plan their finance and adapt in these challenging times with £10,000 worth of free, tailored advice. Visit our website for more information about the programme or to complete our qualifying questionnaire.

14 July 2020

Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups diary - The Good Slice – part 2

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Hello, I’m excited to share the progress we’ve made since we last checked in. Ups, downs, turn it all arounds… It’s been a wonderful journey. Pizza in the post is nearly a go! Please take a look at our website and subscribe to our mailing list to find out when we go live.

The Good Slice stand

Calum and I haven't seen each other in person since March. We were meant to be working side by side from May through to October, hopping from festival to festival. Alas… we firmly believe that our challenges are our best teachers. We’re coming out of this stronger, with a better business in tow - thanks in no small part to the Innovating for Growth programme.

Often when problems arise our outlook can become narrow. We may focus on worrying about our own issues and have a sense that we’re the only ones going through difficulties. The Innovating for Growth programme has helped us see things from a wider perspective. Connecting with dozens of other entrepreneurs has been a joy, while the hours of dedicated service and expertise - beamed through Zoom from home to home - have equipped us with the skills needed to identify and execute on an exciting opportunity.

The Good Slice pizza

Very soon you'll be able to order a Good Slice through our website and have it arrive on your doorstep the next day. From San Marzano tomato, smoked burrata and basil to sumac yogurt, burnt aubergine, herb and sesame salad - we’ve worked to create a menu that sources local, but is truly global. And of course, as well as being healthy, fresh and sustainably sourced, every pizza will provide a meal to someone in need.

Members can choose to have pizza delivered weekly, bi-weekly, or once a month, from our ever evolving menu. They’ll benefit from free delivery and a discount. They’ll also be surprised with goodies from partner suppliers and other social enterprises. They’ll become a part of a community united by pizza and purpose. A community into which we’ll share recipes and inspiring stories, highlighting the amazing things they’re helping to achieve.

Pizza with purpose

The Innovating for Growth programme has propelled us forward in what are incredibly tough times. The advisors and consultants have inspired us, and the wonderful British Library staff have been so lovely, and so organised! Our long-term goal is to ensure all people on this planet have the nutrition they need to lead healthy and productive lives. Thank you all for helping us get there. And to anyone considering joining the programme, go for it!

Peace, Love and Pizza,
Ed & Calum

14 May 2020

Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups diary - The Good Slice

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This year we’re following another business through the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, The Good Slice. You can read last year's diary from JR Pass here. You will hear first-hand about the different sessions, how they are using the programme to discuss diversifying and pivoting their offer during this time of change. Here we find out more from Ed…

Ed, co-founder and Dough Man at The Good Slice
Ed, co-founder of The Good Slice

Hello, I’m Ed, co-founder and Dough Man at The Good Slice - a social enterprise with a simple message: Eat Good, Do Good. For every pizza we sell, we provide a meal to someone in need. One-for-one. So far we've provided 5,000 meals to the children of Well-Wishes Nursery in Malawi, and 12,000 meals to London’s homeless community, via our partners Glass Door Homeless Charity.

We pop up at events across the country, including some pretty big festivals - like Glastonbury and Hay. There’s been a great appetite for our pizza and our purpose, and our one-for-one model is making a real difference. We’re therefore looking to expand into the delivery market - operating through delivery only Cloud Kitchens. Our experience on the festival circuit coupled with order enquiries from a number of corporate clients indicate that there is a real gap in the market for pizza with purpose.

Eat Good, Do Good t-shirt

Feeling more than a little nervous about the future, we were welcomed onto the Innovating for Growth programme in early April. On the 28th February, we’d received an offer to trade at Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary - possibly the biggest news Calum (the other co-founder) and I had ever received. A few days later we were processing the prospect of cancellation... In the weeks that followed, all of the weddings, festivals and events that we were wholly reliant upon from income were postponed for a year. Could there have been a better time to benefit from the expert advice and guidance delivered via this programme?

We kicked off with a workshop on the business model canvas. This session, combined with follow up work and a deep dive one-on-one on the same subject, encouraged us to explore how we delivered value. The framework lays bare what it is you do, how it is you do it, and who you do it for - placing your value proposition front and centre, with Uday, the external consultant from Red Ochre.

In the Growth Strategy meeting we identified our value proposition to be our pizza - freshly made with seasonal ingredients sourced from local suppliers who champion sustainability - and our purpose - we’re on a mission to share good food that enables communities around the world to live good lives. How we deliver this value and to whom are the key questions we went onto discuss with Robert (another external consultant from Red Ochre).

Image002

With a number of thoughts, ideas and strategies whizzing around, we moved onto talk branding with Al from aba - a brand and people agency focused on building brands with purpose. We discussed how brands that start with why stand to win the emotional and commercial battle (I can’t recommend Start with Why - Simon Sinek enough). The session cemented what we knew and inspired us to create content that will help tell our story. The Good Slice is a brand driven by purpose.

Calum and I left jobs in ‘the city’ after becoming disillusioned with what we saw as misguided homage to individual enrichment over the common good. In our eyes business as usual - with a focus on churning out short-term financial gains to shareholders - was/is broken. A 10,000km road trip through East Africa laid bare the fact that the world provides for seven billion people, but our greed and waste leaves a billion starving, while another billion become obese. We vowed to inspire change; to prove that business can be a force for good. This purpose drives us forward every day.

With renewed vigor, we moved onto marketing with Dave from aba. What size pond do you operate in? How is it changing? What size fish are you? Key questions we began to consider. Further discussion centered upon which channels to focus attention. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Tik Tok, Google, email… this list goes on. Too often have we fallen victim to shiny object syndrome. I’d recommend Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares - a helpful guide to this ever evolving world.

Next up, product and service innovation - a big one for us given these challenging times. We joined the programme with ambition to expand into the delivery market - operating through delivery only Cloud Kitchens. These production kitchens would utilise the now ubiquitous food delivery apps on your smartphone, such as CityPantry and Deliveroo. Ahead of the pandemic, we were working closely with these platforms to identify areas of unmet demand. We planned to rent kitchen space from Karma Kitchen, the WeWork of commercial kitchens - once we’d established suitable locations. The focus was to be on corporate catering, delivering pizza with purpose to offices in central London. For obvious reasons, this plan is on hold.

Instead we have identified an opportunity in the chef-to-customer market. Pizza by post… With Adrian from Newable, we discussed logistics, operations and scalability. Work continues apace on this project - I look forward to updating you on progress in a few weeks’ time.

That brings us to the end of the first half of the programme. Each session has been immensely valuable, helping us as we pivot and manoeuvre the business into a position from which we will not only survive, but thrive. Please follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for updates as they come. Otherwise, I look forward to writing another instalment for you next month. Peace, Love and Pizza x

Read part 2 here.

The Good Slice banner

14 October 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Strategy 1:1 Part 2

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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. You can see Haroun's previous posts about financial management 1:1, product innovation 1:1intellectual property 1:1marketingbrandingintellectual propertyfinancial managementproduct innovationmarketing strategybranding and research and developing a growth strategy on our blog. In his final diary entry, Haroun has his second session on strategy...

Japanese train in station
Photo courtesy of JRPass

Well, here we are at the end of three months, 15 sessions and countless follow-ups. It’s come and gone ever so quickly, so this final strategy one-to-one session gives us a good time to take stock. We went through the findings from the branding, marketing, finance and innovation sessions. The main takeaways were that we have so much scope for growth that I need support, so I will be hiring to capitalise on those opportunities, especially in the areas of marketing and business development. Our expansion plans are pretty clear and we must make sure that we execute properly and as rapidly as is possible. We also need to invest time into research and skills acquisition for our new growth areas.

I have found the scale-up course very useful, especially as a way of giving me the head-space to concentrate on issues that I knew needed to be tackled, but have been too busy for day-to-day. Here are my personal take-aways for anyone considering the course:

  • We are all very busy in the day-to-day running of our businesses but to take full benefit you do need to make time for both the sessions and any follow up tasks to take full benefit. This maybe a truism, but you will only get out as much as you put in.
  • The advisers are exactly that, people to advise you on your current status and next steps. They aren’t there to provide a detailed step-by-step plan. They will vary in how much they know about your industry. You, yourself, ultimately should be the arbiter of what is best for yourself. You’ve done well getting this far in your business, so trust your instincts and use the advisers as neutral external interrogators of your business. This will be where the best value lays.
  • The pace of sessions can be overwhelming at times especially with the day job, so pace yourself, prioritise and plan effectively.
  • Before attending, have a deep think about what you want to get out of the sessions. There will be nagging concerns that you may have about your business and this would be a good opportunity to have those addressed.
  • Enjoy meeting new people, there are lots of fascinating people that attend!

Well, that’s it for me, it’s been fun sharing my experiences. Also, I hope that if you consider a trip to Japan that you’ll consider us! I’ll leave you with our ten top tips for first time travellers.

Thanks, Haroun

 

Visit our website for more information about Innovating for Growth and how to register your interest for the next application round.

09 October 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Financial management 1:1 Part 2

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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. You can see Haroun's previous posts about product innovation 1:1, intellectual property 1:1marketingbrandingintellectual propertyfinancial managementproduct innovationmarketing strategybranding and research and developing a growth strategy on our blog. In his latest diary entry, Haroun has his second session on financial management...

Japan Rail Pass Guide
Photo courtesy of JRPass

If you have been following the blog you will know that at JRPass we are in the midst of planning another website offering new services. Over the past few months we have used the sessions on branding, marketing and product innovation to develop this further. This time, the second of the finance sessions, was really helpful as we dived in-depth into modelling with the adviser from Metavalue.

We have a couple of options on new partnerships for the website, so the main focus of the discussion was which of these would be the most viable option. The conversation involved our margin, potential site visitors, conversion rate, payment costs, staffing costs, average basket size and advertising/marketing budget. After we got grip of all these numbers and worked out a financial template, we agreed that the following assumptions and points would have to be further investigated:

  • Before any additional mark-up the initial business could be low-margin so it will be important to control costs.
  • We made assumptions on support costs and UK vs Japan-based staff. These would have to be validated.
  • It is important to test all the inputted data and update them as we start trading, for example average order sizes and conversion rates. Pirate analytics (yes, I said ‘Pirate’) will help as these allow you to track data on visitors, post per acquisition etc. A useful guide on start-up metrics can be found here.
  • Briefly, we also touched on a previous conversation about potential exit routes. Pitchbook news and Crunchbase were mentioned as good sources of news and information.

There's only one more session left and on in my final blog, for the benefit of prospective applicants, I will talk about how I feel you can get the best out of the scale-up course. Also, whilst we are talking about budgeting, inspired by all these spreadsheets and finance chat, we wrote a blog on budgeting for a trip to Japan.


Visit our website for more information about Innovating for Growth and how to register your interest for the next application round.

01 October 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Product Innovation 1:1 Part 2

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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. You can see Haroun's previous posts about intellectual property 1:1, marketingbrandingintellectual propertyfinancial managementproduct innovationmarketing strategybranding and research and developing a growth strategy on our blog. In his latest diary entry, Haroun has his second session on product innovation...

HelloKitty train
Photo courtesy of JRPass

I can’t believe there are only a couple of sessions left until the end of the programme. The three months have gone like a blur, so I’m happy to have these follow ups to reinforce what we have previously explored. This week we had the second product innovation one-to-one and as part of that we had talked about optimising the payments workflow, since then the PSD2 SCA deadline for European payments passed on September 14thYou can read about how this affects JRPass customers payments on our own blog here. As we were ready and had successfully updated our systems it meant we are also one of the first UK companies to allow payment via UK Open Banking. This enables our UK customers to pay directly from their bank account with immediate payment and not have to use a debit or credit card. It may take a while for UK customers to get used to paying in this way but it is popular in many other countries and it is good to offer our customers as many payment options as possible and be ahead of the technology curve.

We also discussed our new affiliate marketing service and I was happy to inform them that I am currently hiring for this role to push this forward. We are also looking to staff roles for developing relationships with regional tourism boards in Japan. With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics next year there is a big opportunity to encourage travellers to discover lesser known parts of the country. We are already investing in site content to support these first time travellers, for example a recent blog on tips for first time travellers to Japan

 

Visit our website for more information about Innovating for Growth and how to register your interest for the next application round.

20 September 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Maximising Your Intellectual Property 1:1 Part 2

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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. You can see Haroun's previous posts about marketing, brandingintellectual propertyfinancial managementproduct innovationmarketing strategybranding and research and developing a growth strategy on our blog. In his latest diary entry, Haroun has his second session on intellectual property with Briffa...

In the previous session we chatted about IP and Data Protection issues in general (you can see what I got out of the session in my previous blog on IP) and since then I have ensured that our agreements with third-parties and employee contracts reflect the IP and data considerations that were raised. This week we concentrated fully on trademark registration as we have been trading a while across many territories and it is something we have dipped our toe into, but only in the UK.

Kagoshima-Chuo station
Photo courtesy of JRPass

For the UK we covered the steps needed to successfully pass an UKIPO examiner and which classes we should be considering (you can see more guidance on trade marks on the .Gov website). We then talked about international trademarks as the market for JRPass is worldwide, with customers across the US, EU and Asia, so this is a logical step for us. The requirements vary widely according to national authority and some may be prohibitive cost-wise so you need to pick and choose carefully. The most cost-effective way of seeking protection in a number of territories (more than one or two) is to go through the World Intellectual Property Office or WIPO, which offers international trade mark protection. To do so you need an existing trade mark application in any one jurisdiction (EU or UK for example) to use as a ‘base filing’, you then pay a fixed fee to WIPO to access their system, and you can then choose to ‘designate’ any of the WIPO signatory states. Your base filing will then effectively be duplicated in these territories. 

The adviser told me that going through WIPO allows you to save considerable fees if you are filing in a large number of territories, as it is often cheaper than applying directly to the relevant IPO, and instructing local counsel. A WIPO mark can be filed here in the UK, which means that you do not have only have to deal with offices for each individual territory. If you only need one or two foreign registrations then it may be best to apply directly. Most IP firms work with foreign filing agents who can act as representatives in that case.

Not related to the session, but still talking about logos... I have been using the design marketplace 99designs recently and had a good experience, so would recommend giving it a go if anyone is in the market for new branding. Also, as I write this, it is the eve of the Rugby World Cup with Japan vs Russia kicking off the opening game! It is already an incredibly busy time for us in the office. Hoping it will be a great tournament for all. To find out more about how JRPass can help with travel during the World Cup, you can visit our website for more information.

 

Visit our website for more information about Innovating for Growth and how to register your interest for the next application round.

04 September 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Financial Management

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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. You can see Haroun's previous posts about product innovation, marketing strategy, branding and research and developing a growth strategy on our blog. In his latest diary entry, Haroun discusses what he learnt in his one-on-one session on financial management, a new module on the programme...

This week I had my financial management session with an adviser from MetaValue, a well-established business consulting firm. The adviser was very helpful and ever so patient as I peppered her with questions to the point that we overran our allotted session time. We covered a lot, including areas such as price sensitivity analysis and company structure. But the three main takeaways I had from our session were:

New Opportunity Margins

As I’m sure you can understand, I can’t go into detail about this element of our discussion, but there is a good opportunity for an ambitious expansion for JRPass into a new area. In my one-on-one we looked at modelling the potential income, factoring in our suppositions and working out potential profit. This was useful in guiding us on how we test and tweak the model to help us achieve profitability. We have previously done some price sensitivity testing with services such as our meet and greet service.

Financial Plan

I actually laughed when this was mentioned as we have grown organically and haven’t spent a lot of time on developing an actual plan for growth, however given that the business is now entering a new area we agreed that we should put together a strategy around the investment and costs required e.g. covering new hires and forecasts for pricing and volumes. I was provided with some example spreadsheets with pre-built formulae to do this as well as for the financial modelling that I previously mentioned. You can see one of these below. 

Financial management

Exit Strategy

Our priority has always been to grow and scale-up the business, but it is also useful to hear about our options if we ever wish to exit. For founders of businesses, it is understandable that over a period of time, their ambitions can change, based on life events, market events, offers from other companies etc., so we need our governance to support this. We talked through a few scenarios and the advisor mentioned we should consider an independent valuation just for our internal use going forward. VC or Private Equity investment was mentioned and I agreed this wouldn’t be right for JRPass as we enjoy working under our own direction, but potentially a trade sale could work. It is worth considering early on who potential minority shareholders/investors or future acquirers could be and, based on that, effectively growing the business so that it is attractive to them.

From this one-on-one, some conversations were a broad stroke and some in detail, but as with all of my sessions so far, I am finding it very useful to keep this all in mind as we scale-up.

Visit our website for more information about the programme and how to apply.

29 July 2019

Follow JRPass’ Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Branding and research

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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. You can see Haroun’s first blog on refining your business model and developing a growth strategy here, but this week, he talks us through the next lot of workshops and one-to-ones…

Branding

Tuesday 23 July

A large part of what attracted me to the Innovating for Growth programme was the branding component. It’s something that I have been thinking a lot about of late and we have to do much more work on. This week I attended the Branding workshop run by ABA agency. There were a lot of takeaways, especially concerning building an identity and the power of personality of a brand. This is vital in terms of your positioning in the marketplace, and crafting an authentic story with messaging behind your company’s journey. The most interesting and fun part was to break your brand identity down into terms of personality archetypes, for example The Magician, The Outlaw, The Lover!

For JRPass.com, I chose three:

  1. The Sage – At JRPass.com we are domain experts with deep knowledge of Japan. I hope we have sage-like characteristics of being smart, knowledgeable and wise about travelling there. One example being the free planning tools we provide for events such as the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
  2. The Ruler – As a company we are responsible and reliable in processing and dealing with our customer’s important and time-sensitive orders. We take great care in looking after our customers and ensuring they have a stress-free experience. 
  3. The Explorer – This should be self-explanatory! We don’t sell packages and hope to encourage independent travel and hope to facilitate some wonderful discoveries and experiences.
World Cup
JRPass free planning tools for events such as the upcoming Rugby World Cup

At first this seemed quite an abstract exercise but it actually really did help to drill down into the character of our company brand.

Research

This week I also had a one-to-one to introduce me to the Business & IP Centre’s business research facilities. We can gain access to normally quite expensive industry reports from leading intel agencies on marketplace conditions and competitor analysis (Ed note: The Business & IP Centre has over £5m worth of online market reports from top publishers Mintel, Frost & Sullivan, Euromonitor and more as well as company data, business directories and more!). It was cool to see on one report on rail passes in Japan, our site was listed as the leader worldwide!

Visit our website for more information about the programme and how to apply.

You can read the next part of Haroun's Innovating for Growth diary here.