Innovation and enterprise blog

22 April 2020

Book and podcast recommendations from our entrepreneurs

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Some business owners are using this time to tune into podcasts or read books from other entrepreneurs they are inspired by, to get tips with business help books or just read for leisure, for themselves or as a family activity. We’ve put together a reading and listening list, with recommendations from entrepreneurs we’ve supported from around the UK on what’s inspired them (you can now also read recommendations from the BIPC team as well)…

Sabina Ali, founder of Sabina Motasem, a bridal wear designer and boutique

Sabina Ali

Small Giants by Bo Burlingham. It’s a great book on how to became an AWESOME company not a big corporation, and how business can make this a much better world to live.

Gil Kahana, co-founder of ChattyFeet, who create illustrated character socks, mugs, enamel pins and paper models

Gil Kahana

The last enjoyable book was 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, written by Yuval Noah Harari. One of the important messages was that 'global problems demand global solutions'.

Abigail and Chloe Baldwin, founders of Buttercrumble, a creative studio based in Leeds

Abigail and Chloe Baldwin

It may be old school, but Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a huge influence. When reading this as children, it offered so much hope. Quentin Blake (who created the illustrations) inspired us to pursue a creative career from a young age.

Anthony Lau, founder of Cyclehoop, who design cycle parking and infrastructure

Anthony Lau

A book which has really impacted me is The Way Things Work by David Macaulay. It’s a book from my childhood, it inspired my interest in design, engineering, and making things that work!

Natalie Taylor, founder of Acacia Facilities, who supplies interior and exterior landscaping and flowers to business throughout the UK

Natalie Taylor

Think Rich and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, a personal development and self-improvement book.

Amanda Overs, founder of I Can Make Shoes, a London-based shoemaking school for beginners

Amanda Overs

A book which really impacted me is In My Shoes by Tamara Mellon. I thought I was aspiring to have a glamorous company and that once you reach a certain status things become easy. After reading, I realised that no business is glamorous. Everyone has to do their tax, deal with problems and juggle their personal/professional life. Once I realised this, I was free to just grow the business.

Podcasts have more of an impact on me though; I’m obsessed with How I Built This. I love to listen to entrepreneurs share their successes and failures; it helps get perspective on issues I’m facing.

Jon Swain, co-founder of Hackney Brewery, the oldest brewing company in Hackney

Jon and Bruce

I don't read as much as I would like to, time is taken up with research papers and new books about how to make better beer. The last book I read was The New IPA by Scott Janish, it's a collection of scientific papers analysing hop flavour and aroma formulation in beer.

The books that has had the biggest influence on me was mostly cult classics like 1984, On the Road, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Fear and Loathing Las Vegas, and Naked Lunch.

Mickela Hall-Ramsay, founder of Haringey-based HR Sports Academy

Mickela Hall-Ramsay

Who Moved My Cheese and The Miracle Morning are both books which are really good for helping you transform your life and adapt to change positively. Engaging and easy reads!

Joe Faulkner, founder of The Krio Kanteen, a family run Sierra Leonean food pop-up based in London

Joe Faulkner

Many books have inspired me, but one that really stands out is Shaping Up Culture by Mark Maciver aka Slidercuts. I’ve always had a keen interest in his business as I went to school with Mark, so I have followed his journey closely. He is a real role model and his book gives simple answers to many questions that most budding entrepreneurs would like answered. It is a book I would highly recommend!

Keira O’Mara, founder of Mama Designs, a mother and baby retailer based in Birmingham

Keira O'Mara

When I do have a chance to read, I loved Chillpreneur by Denise Duffield Thomas. I love the idea that you can run a successful business without being busy or stressed out.

Siobhan Thomas, founder of What’s Your Skirt? A fashion brand based in Leeds

Siobhan Thomas

I am a big reader and many books have impacted me, I am currently reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.

Hazel Russell, co-founder of The Wood Life Project, who produce UK crafted eco-friendly wooden products

Hazel Russell with her husband

If I Could Tell You Just One Thing by Richard Reed. This book is really well written and full of inspirational stories from some of the world’s most successful people.

17 January 2020

How to start a business in 2020 if you don’t know what to do?

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Anshul, founder of Academic Underdogs, started his business after recognising his desire to help people who had experienced similar problems to him and how much he enjoyed seeing the impact his work had on his customers. Since he began his business, Anshul has graduated from our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme and has continued to grow his offering.

Academic Underdogs books

“What business should I start if I don’t know what to do?” and “How do I start a business with no money?” are two of the most common questions that land in my inbox.

Before starting my own business, Academic Underdogs, I also asked the very same questions to many successful entrepreneurs, but their answers left me feeling inspired but lacked the detail that I needed to take action.

Unfortunately, many of them were so far along their entrepreneurial journey that they couldn’t really remember those critical decisions they made in those early days, weeks and months.

I don’t blame them as after all, according to decay theory, we all tend to forget details in our short-term memory and only remember headline events in our long-term memory.

Thankfully, I recorded my decisions and every step I took in those few months in a journal and summarised them for you in this post.

How my business idea developed

On A Level results day I walked into college optimistic and hopeful. Standing in line, my teacher licked her fingers, flicked through the sheets and handed me my results.

D D D U

…Brilliant!

I joke about those grades now, but at the time they really really hurt. There was nothing I wanted more than to perform well and get into a decent university, but those four letters shattered my dreams.

For the first time in my life I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, and I’d just lie there for hours with a stream of negative thoughts running through my head. My parents had to physically pull me out to go downstairs and eat.

Looking back, it was probably a short spell of depression.

Little did I know then, but failing my A Levels and experiencing this trauma was a huge blessing in disguise. Without it, I wouldn’t have built the business I have today.

No one, not my parents and teachers, anticipated what would happen after receiving my dismal results. In a moment of random luck, I met someone who had been in my shoes a few years earlier. After a short conversation with him, something in my head changed and I felt quite confident that I could improve. I couldn’t articulate why that happened, but it did.

Somehow, the sting of those bad grades combined with direction from this older mentor created the perfect conditions for change. I created a written plan on how I was going to secure the grades I needed to get into university. Plans and goals were nothing new to me and I’d made plenty of them before without acting on them. But this time it was different.

Many of my bad habits went out the window and I became more productive. My understanding of topics improved the more I worked, grades improved and belief system completely changed. A year later I walked into college on results day and walked out with straight As. Many of my module marks were above 90% and I had secured a place at a top university. It was one of the biggest turnarounds my teachers had ever seen.

Then, at university I went on to achieve first class honours and an award by the dean of students for achieving one of the highest degree scores in my year group. Lots of people achieve good grades, though right?

My achievements may not seem that special to some, especially those who got As and A*s on their first go. However, for a kid who had low self-esteem and was told to consider other options at the age of 17, achieving these grades felt like coming back from 6-0 down to win the champions league final!

How I turned the idea into reality

Three years passed since I graduated, and I was working at a proprietary trading firm in London. My job involved taking speculative bets in the financial markets, and later, programming software that traded various futures contracts like the German 10-year Government Bond, EUROStoxx 50 and FTSE 100.

After one horrific month where I lost several months of profit in a few days, I took a couple weeks off to execute an idea that I’d been sitting on since school. I wanted to help students who had failed their A Levels.

My initial idea was to start a blog, then after word vomiting 5,000 words into Microsoft Word, I realised how much I had to say on this topic. After teaming up with my best friend, this ‘side project’ eventually became a full-blown book called How to ACE Your A-Levels.

How I got my first customer

Filled with grammar and spelling mistakes, we published the book on Amazon as an eBook and waited.

Two days later we got our first sale and a few weeks later, we got our first review…

Amazon review for Academic Underdogs

This changed everything.

I wasn’t sure if the book would actually be valuable to anyone, up until this point. Louise’s review was the first indication that I was on to something. I hadn’t spent a penny on the venture so far, but now with proof of concept, it was time to invest.

How I launched my first marketing campaign

My target market spent hours scrolling through social media every day. So, I discarded all the marketing strategies that had nothing to do with social media marketing, like offline advertising using leaflets.

After creating a list of online marketing strategies, I systematically tried each one until I found one that worked. Facebook at that time had a very engaged user base in the UK, and over 300,000 17 year olds used the platform. Delivering paid ads here offered the best rate of return, but my campaigns didn’t achieve the sales numbers that I wanted.

This is when I decided to create a video campaign to promote How to ACE Your A-Levels. But there was a problem. Agencies were quoting me £2,000 - £5,000 to create the video. By searching around, I found a DIY animation software called Sparkol Video Scribe that you could use to create whiteboard explainer videos. Using this tool, I created this video…

The audio was rubbish (recorded it on my phone), it looked a little amateur and had a spelling mistake – but it worked!

My story resonated with a lot of students. The video generated hundreds of thousands of views across YouTube and Facebook, and around £50k of sales. Creating the video only cost me £12.

How I grew the business

After the success of the first book, I wrote How to ACE Your GCSEs and a three-part series called ‘Level UP’ for university students. My marketing campaigns reached over four million students and generated over £300,000 in sales two years. By leveraging the success of the books, I created a set of workshops and a one-on-one mentorship programme for schools.

I now spend most of my time creating online content, driving traffic to my website and delivering programmes to schools.

Create a product that alleviates a problem

If you want to start a business, but don’t have an idea, start one that alleviates a problem, especially one you’ve had in the past. Not only will this create a psychological tailwind that helps you through the inevitable challenges that come with growing a venture, but you and everything you touch will become relatable. People are more intuitive than you think. Your copy on the website, sales pitches, products and brand will show that you ‘get it’.

There is a silver lining with emotional trauma or any other kind of trauma. That is, once you have been through it, you join an exclusive club with others who have been through it too.

Try this… go find someone with that has experienced similar trauma to you and have a conversation with them. You will naturally want to advise or help them in some way and you will leave that conversation feeling fulfilled. Not that momentary fulfilment you get from a Netflix binge or praise from your manager, this is enduring fulfilment. Helping others leaves a glow of satisfaction that sticks around for a few hours after you’ve done the deed. Now imagine writing a book for all those members and receiving hundreds of reviews and emails thanking you for your help. Each one will provide a dose of motivation. Then imagine creating a service or a piece of software that can add even more value to that group. Hundreds of emails turn into thousands. How would you feel then?

Sitting on your hands for too long? Try selling information

If you are a little risk-averse and short of cash, selling information is a great ‘gateway’ business. It doesn’t cost a thing to write and publish your thoughts online. Whether it be a blog, book or course. Even if you don’t make a fortune, you will learn a lot and your attitude to risk will change. I no longer hesitate to invest cash into an experiment that may or may not work.

Mug with begin written on it

How to start a business that alleviates a problem

  1. Write down all the traumatic events you’ve experienced in the past – highlight those you are proud of overcoming
  2. Go to your local library - Grab your essentials, your laptop and leave your phone at home (no excuses - give someone the library telephone number in case of an emergency)
  3. Word vomit 5,000 words about your traumatic experience and how you overcame it

While writing, did you reach a state of flow where you lost track of time? Did you enjoy telling your story? If so, schedule in another session at the Library because you just might be on to something.

Once you’ve written 20,000+ words, drop me an e-mail – anshul@academicunderdogs.com

To find out more information about the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, visit our website.

09 June 2016

How much is William Shakespeare worth today?

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A pile of £1 coinsWilliam Shakespeare died over four hundred years ago. But his literary legacy lives on to the tune of billions of pounds of financial value.

After four centuries he continues to be recognised as the greatest writer in the English language. The Bard was also quite a savvy businessman, amassing enough money to acquire New Place, one of the largest houses in his home town of Stratford-Upon-Avon. But how much is his literary legacy worth today?

More popular abroad than in his home country

Before we get onto that, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised to discover that nowadays Shakespeare is more popular abroad than in his country of birth according to a 2016 YouGov poll.

But the poll also shows that his legacy makes a significant contribution to the UK’s financial prosperity and cultural influence.  

Shakespeare's 38 plays and 154 sonnets been translated into 118 languages (including Klingon), and performed throughout the world. In addition, he is also a major factor in attracting visitors to his birthplace.

Out of copyright for hundreds of years

The answer to the question ‘how much is Shakespeare worth’ is complicated by the issue of copyright. His entire creative output has of course been out of copyright for centuries. In the UK, copyright currently last for 70 years after the author's death.

So the billions of publications and performances do not need to pay royalties to his estate. So, instead I have looked for the total value of Shakespeare-related content in the market today, rather than the amount he would have earned.

New_Place_Stratford
Drawing of New Place owned by Shakespeare

Next, there is the question of whether we are valuing the annual ‘turnover’ of the Shakespeare ‘industry’, or the combined value of current Shakespeare assets?

How much is Shakespeare worth?

OK, enough waffle, it’s time to get down to brass tacks.

For the annual figure. Australian valuation firm Brand Finance came up with £325 million in 2012. They claim this is more than double the combined value of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe brands. 

Their study also found:

- Shakespeare is the best-selling author of all time; with book sales estimated between two and four billion. In contrast, J.K. Rowling's unit sales are estimated to be 'merely' 450 million.

- 64 million children globally study Shakespeare in countries as diverse as Australia, Azerbaijan, China, Denmark, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Ukraine and Vietnam.

- There have been more than 400 feature length films and TV productions of Shakespeare works.

- There are currently 67 registered trademarks bearing Shakespeare's name in Australia, the UK and the USA alone ranging from Shakespeare's Pies to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

This is the first time a monetary value has been placed on the Shakespeare brand taking into account book sales and downloads, paid attendance at theatre productions, box office and TV receipts from film productions, sale of Shakespeare branded goods and tourism revenue.

Shakespeares-first-folio

234 First Folios worth £1.1 billion

If we look at the value of Shakespeare's ‘estate’, then the figure is much larger. Just the value of the First Folio editions of his plays is over one billion sterling. It is believed that around 750 copies of the First Folio were printed, of which there are 234 known surviving copies.

We hold an impressive five copies here in The British Library, although this is somewhat trumped by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. who have an astonishing 82 copies. Their value varies according to condition, but by some estimates the average value would be around £5 million. This would give a total value of £1.1 billion.

It’s impossible to be precise about the number of Shakespeare related books published in the last 400 years. A quick search on Amazon shows 146,801 results with prices ranging from £9,999.98 to zero plus £1.99 post and packing:

Amazon listing of The King Lear, 1608 -1623

to

Amazon listing of Othello


Then we need to add in the value of all the theatres around the world who specialise in Shakespeare productions. The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) employs 700 staff and produces around 20 productions a year from its home in Stratford-upon-Avon. Together with the re-created Globe Theatre on the Thames in London, the value must be at least £100 million.

Outside view of the Globe theatre, London

Globe Theatre London

Shakespeare on stage and screen

Next comes film and television adaptions and their related recordings for home sale. And of course, we mustn’t forget the merchandise, such as the William Shakespeare Candle and My Book of Stories: Write your own Shakespearean Tales, available from the British Library shop.

Or from elsewhere, how about Shakespeare Christmas tree ornaments, board games, playing cards, shower curtains, action figures, and even onesies.

My personal favourite is the Shakespeare bust used to conceal the entrance to the bat-cave, seen in the classic 1960’s Batman television series. Available in life-size or Lego version.

William Shakespeare bust appearing in 1960's Batman Television Series

Scene from 1960's Batman Television Series reenacted with Lego

Shakespeare tourism

Finally, and biggest of all, is tourism. It’s impossible to calculate how many visitors to the UK are coming because of Shakespeare. Either to see his plays or explore his hometown, Stratford-Upon-Avon. Or for those seeking a warmer climate, the fictitious balcony where Romeo serenaded Juliet in Verona, Italy.

  Juliet's Balcony in Case di Giulietta, Verona, Italy

It all adds up to an impressive several billion pounds. But perhaps this focus on hard cash misses the point. The world is a richer place culturally, thanks to Shakespeare’s genius with the quill all those years ago. 

Written by Neil Infield - Manager in the Business & IP Centre