Innovation and enterprise blog

10 June 2020

Meet Salma Attan, founder of Bushwood Bees and Start-ups in London Libraries participant

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Last year, Salma Attan decided it was time to turn her hobby into her livelihood and started her beekeeping business Bushwood Bees. She maintains hives on the roof of the East London Mosque, making honey and other bee-based products from her local source. On top of this, Salma offers paid beekeeping courses to beginners and provides guidance to experienced beekeepers. Here she discusses what convinced her to make that transition to business-owner, where the Start-ups in London Libraries' workshops fit into her journey and how she is dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on her business.

Both myself and my husband had been hobbysist beekeepers for 10 years. It got to where our hobby had expanded to the point that it felt like so much more than that. I had been appointed Essex Bee Health Officer, I had been teaching and mentoring new beekeepers as well as raising healthy local colonies of bees through our local Epping Forest Beekeepers Association.

Salma at the entrance of her hive

Now that my children were older, the idea of starting up a business seemed more realistic. I also seemed to have more and more friends, family and neighbours knocking on my door wanting a few jars of honey and asking why I don’t sell online or have a shop! So there was certainly the demand, but was this enough to risk a start-up business? I didn’t think so. Honey was not going to pay the bills! However, the question naturally came up: why not use my skills for myself? And get a wage out of it? I have always been an advocate of beekeepers sourcing locally reared bees rather than importing, so it just made sense that I should supply this growing demand for buying local. This was far more of a motivation than anything else.

In the early stages of asking myself “Is this really such a good idea?”, I took part in the Start-ups in London Libraries workshops which made me realise that, actually, it was.  The plan was sound, I had the beekeeping skills to execute the practical aspects of my idea and with the SiLL workshops I could focus on the practicalities of starting up a business.

The one area I seemed to have zero skills was technology! This is where Sarah [the Waltham Forest Business Champion] was a great help. She was happy to meet and give me plenty of ideas on how to get started. Sarah also let me know about where to get further free help to improve my use of social media in terms of business promotion – this is something I’m still learning but less anxious about. Sarah also gave me really good ideas for improving my business plan. It was helpful to have someone with fresh eyes looking at my ideas. She was willing to help put a pitch together, gave really practical advice and was able to give me fresh perspective on parts of my plan that I would not have had otherwise. After talking to Sarah, I settled on the name Bushwood Bees and registered my business under this name, an exciting first step after all the ooing and umming!

I set up my 'Beekeeping Experience Days' on both Eventbrite and Airbnb. I also agreed dates with the East London Mosque about hosting my Beginner Beekeeping Courses and listed them on Eventbrite. The website with the online shop was also set up and although it did take considerable time, eventually all my courses/experiences and website went live. 

Bushwood Bees beekeeping course

I also decided to give some free beekeeping talks in order to promote Bushwood Bees and all that was on offer. We worked with the council to arrange a schedule of workshops and talks, including family/child friendly workshops every day of the May half term at a different Waltham Forest Library.

Then came along COVID-19 and everything had to be cancelled. All the talks and workshops, the courses and experience days suddenly came to a halt. I did wonder if this was possibly the worst year to start a business! But this was clearly something I had no control over so no point complaining. It was a case of concentrating on what we could do in the business. Fortunately, as bees are livestock, the lockdown rules meant I was obliged, and indeed encouraged, to continue beekeeping. This meant I was able to take orders for rearing and selling colonies of locally produced honeybees. This has not been to the same capacity as it would have - had the courses been running, obviously the bulk of new customers would have come from those we would have been teaching this year - but I can't complain. 

The other silver lining of the lockdown rules is the number of new honey customers I have gained. With regular grocery shopping becoming so difficult, it seems many people were looking online and locally for buying produce. After a few mentions on Facebook our lovely local community realised there was local quality honey on their doorstep. As the Ucraft have an Ekwid shop attached, customers could order and pay online and then collect from my doorstep during their daily walk or grocery shop. I was able to provide a completely contactless service and many of these customers helped to spread the word about Bushwood Bees.

Salma and her husband at their hives on the roof of the East London Mosque

Some of the talks we had planned have moved online, including one that was meant to be in Leytonstone Library. This seemed to work well and raised awareness of the business. We've also put up videos of myself and my husband beekeeping and sharing little tips and tricks for the beekeeping community. As my husband is also a beekeeper we are in the very fortunate position to be able to film each other beekeeping without breaking lockdown rules. This has also allowed us to continue offering support through our local beekeeping association and we have had further sales through this voluntary role.

In terms of my advice for anyone thinking of starting a business, make sure you have the support of your family! I could not have taken the first steps without the support of my husband. Think through your idea carefully and realistically. Then go for it.

I've also learnt that things do not always run smoothly! I expected things to go wrong (and they did sometimes) but told myself it’s all part of the journey and an opportunity to improve.

And hasn't 2020 been an example of that?! It has been an unprecedented year and a completely different turn of events in terms of my business plan. Planning is one thing, reality is something else altogether! But we have a lot of hope for 2021.

To read more about Salma's business and visit her online shop, click here.

For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and our upcoming online workshops, visit bl.uk/SiLL

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01 June 2020

Meet our delivery partner: Expert Impact

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Expert Impact curate the popular Profit With Purpose events, which regularly feature founders of businesses trading for an environmental or social purpose explaining how they launched and scaled.

The quarterly series of evening panel discussion events aims to provide business insight for new social and ethical enterprises and encourage existing businesses to seize opportunities to become more socially and environmentally conscious.

Profit With Purpose events are for those interested in how business can be good for both people and planet. Usually half of the event time is given over to the audience to ask questions.

Discussions usually take in the following topics;

  • Motivation and experience required to run a social enterprise
  • Startup finance and support available
  • Market research and networking
  • The challenge of making social enterprises sustainable
  • How to measure the social impact of the work

Some of the social enterprises who have participated since 2018 include Rubies in the Rubble, which uses discarded food to make condiments as a way of reducing food waste; Change Please, a coffee company that trains and employs homeless people as baristas (both former Innovating for Growth participants as well), and Ovo, a green energy supplier.

Expert Impact created the Human Lending Library® which is now an in-house programme at the Business & IP Centre where leaders of social enterprises and charities looking for business advice can ‘borrow’ a business Expert, for free, to help them solve their challenges and scale fast. Hundreds of social impact leaders have benefitted from this service to date.

There are many reasons why social entrepreneurs seek advice but common enquiries include business development, governance, strategy, raising investment and marketing and public relations.

Most of the Experts have started and scaled businesses that have gone on to become very successful. Some of the Experts are serial entrepreneurs, having started and then sold several companies.

There are more than 50 Experts available, including the founders of Pret-a-Manger, The White Company, Carphone Warehouse and Mumsnet.

Expert Impact panel discussion

The Experts represent a full spectrum of business experience across different sectors including tech, retail, marketing, public relations, publishing and more.

For more information on the Profit With Purpose series, the Human Lending Library or Expert Impact, please contact Lee Mannion, Head of Communications, Expert Impact.

19 May 2020

Happy Birthday Start-ups in London Libraries!

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Earlier this month, Start-ups in London Libraries - our programme designed to take business support out to high streets across London - turned one year old. We originally launched the project on 2 May 2019 at City Hall with an event chaired by our BIPC ambassador Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon and with a keynote speech from Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal.  Our ambassador, Tim Campbell MBE, who joined our panel discussion on the launch day, summed up the aim of the project: "everyone should have access to this business information and support. Libraries are not only books. They are about connecting people, social mobility, making a real change and impact on people's lives."

Since that day last year, over 1200 aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs have received support from our team in local libraries across 10 boroughs and have begun to change the face of entrepreneurship across the capital.

Of course, given the current circumstances, we will have to delay our official celebrations for our first birthday, but we couldn't pass up on this opportunity to celebrate some of the incredible early-stage entrepreneurs who have taken part in the programme and become part of the fabric of SiLL. Read on for just some of their stories...

Salma

Photo by Jessica Chia - Salma in her beekeeping outfit
Photo: Jessica Chia

Salma turned her hobby of 10 years - beekeeping - into a successful business. Her company, Bushwood Bees, sells honey, bee-based products and hosts beekeeping experiences at one of her hives on the roof of the East London Mosque. During this period of lockdown, they have been running digital tutorials and demonstrations of beekeeping on social media and continuing to sell their products online.

It was the strong ethos behind her own beekeeping hobby that spurred her to take the leap: "I have always been an advocate of beekeepers sourcing locally reared bees rather then importing so it just made sense that I should supply this growing demand for buying local. This was far more a motivation then anything else."

She used the Start-ups in London Libraries programme to ground her business idea and get it up and running, particularly in terms of technology. About her one-to-ones with our Waltham Forest Business Champion Salma says "Sarah also gave me really good ideas for improving my business plan. It was helpful to have someone with fresh eyes looking at my ideas. She was willing to help put a pitch together, gave really practical advice and was able to give me fresh perspective on parts of my plan that I would not have had otherwise."

"The workshops are immensely helpful when it comes to developing your business ides. The Start-up Champions are great, they have real knowledge and can steer you in the right direction. And if they don’t know, they will they to find out!"

Ahmad

Ahmad Baracat

Ahmad's educational app company, Baracat Bros is going from strength to strength and his product, Foodology has recently been featured on ProductHunt, the go-to platform for launching new products. Designed with the aim of fostering learning through their interactive and engaging nature, Ahmad now has two products - Foodology, which focuses on educating children about nutritional value in foods and Bubblo World, designed for preschool-aged children.

He said about his experience with Start-ups in London Libraries: "I came out of the workshops with actionable advice like how to access funding, how to create a business model canvas and where to find resources to continue learning... Loretta [our Start-ups in London Libraries Greenwich Business Champion] is building a business community for people who want to pursue their own businesses and need the practical knowledge and the support network to do so successfully. I really believe that such communities are invaluable for anyone building their own business."

Warda

Loretta and Warda in Woolwich Library

While studying speech therapy, Warda noticed how much of it didn't take into account culture and family background. Aiming to change the one-size-fits-all that she was witnessing, she started Language Waves, providing a fully-accessible and culturally diverse speech therapy service. Since registering her business (after taking part in the Start-ups in London Libraries workshops) she has been able to trademark her training manual, been awarded several funding grants to help further her business and received multiple top notch testimonials for her work. 

Her local SiLL Business Champion, Loretta, helped her through the start-up stage: "I see her when I’m at different stages of the business. Her feedback helps me plan, focus and set realistic expectations for myself. Also her belief in my business has motivated me as she has brought out the best in me. I meet lots of people who want to start their own business and I always refer them to the SILL programme and Loretta. This is because it’s so accessible, well set up, and you know that you are getting advice and support from people who know what they are doing."

You can read more about Warda and her SiLL experience here

Charlie

Charlie Boyd

Charlie Boyd’s business, Firm Feet, focuses on various sessions to achieve movement and connection with your own body: "I recognised that movement was something I required for healing and liberating myself. I love dance and the type where I could feel as free as possible and let go. So I designed a session drawing on my qualifications and experiences that I knew worked for me so would surely help others." Her focus is on improving mental and physical health through movement and she has recently pivoted to develop audio sessions for people to use during this time of heightened anxiety (also designed with the aim of lessening people's screen time!)

Discussing her one-to-one advice sessions with the Waltham Forest Champion, Sarah, she says "Sarah has been instrumental in helping me gain clarity on moving forward and valuing myself. She always goes above and beyond supplying me with important documentation and hints and tips. I would say to anyone to not hesitate going to speak to your latest representative, there are only things to gain by doing so."

Sol

LBN crop

Sol and her husband are big fans of amateur basketball and her husband even coaches a team. Trying to rectify the poor experience of amateur basketball tournaments they were experiencing, they started London Basketball Nation. After setting up their company "just in case it worked", Sol organised a short tournament in June that year to test the waters. Teams decided to give them a chance and a 7-month tournament followed. They celebrated their first full year as a company in March. Sol says "we are looking forward to expanding our reach and have not only more teams but also a Women’s division." 

"Start-ups in London Libraries' helped us see the organisation as a business rather than something to do on weekends. This is my first experience as an entrepreneur and I had to learn a lot about legal and financial aspects of a business in the UK; networking; social media… you name it! There is a lot of information out there, so much that can be not just overwhelming but also misleading so the SiLL project served as a guide. I would have loved knowing about the project from day one."

Usman

Usman, founder of Haven Coffee

Haven Coffee is a socially-conscious coffee company. Each cup of Haven Coffee bought supports refugee communities across the UK, providing barista training for refugees building new lives for themselves in the UK. The Haven team also organise events to promote refugee artists and creatives. Usman, the founder of Haven, has recently introduced a virtual coffee scheme allowing customers to purchase a coffee in advance. And many of their events, including their art exhibition have moved online. 

Usman took part in our first round of workshops and has received support from our Waltham Forest Champion, as well as from TERN (The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network).

Oz

Oz, founder of The Scissors of Oz

Oz is the proud owner of The Scissors of Oz, a creative hair and healing Hub in Peckham. Her ethos goes beyond hair, providing a space for other womxn to test business ideas in collaboration with her and her space, exchanging skills and running workshops. A fundamental part of the business's ethos is 'breaking stigmas of conventional pursuits of “beauty”.

Oz is preparing for re-opening when she is able to and explains "my next step for our relaunch is to introduce more sustainable ways of hairdressing , use of products and services. I'm aiming to look into new ways of reusing items for environmental benefits and sustainability, as well as running workshops to empower people through hair."

She used Start-ups in London Libraries in Southwark saying "the SiLL project has given me the confidence and support every new business owner needs especially if you are going at it alone. My mentor Dean is very understanding and experienced and he is there to guide me with every step I take. It’s nice to have someone by your side who really cares about getting you to where you want to be."

Channing

Channing Cloirec

As a 21 year old with English as a second language, accessibility was a key consideration for Channing Cloirec when taking part in any sort of business support programme: "I'm not well-placed to start any business without experience in the UK. SiLL is the best way to find exactly what you need with reactivity. Without SiLL I wouldn't have been able to realize the formalities of the company."

Channing's car export business, Channing's Shining Cars, is continuing to grow and develop. Since registering in July 2019 he has built a healthy profit margin, and displayed impressive growth of his business, including recently selling his 15th car! His new venture is called Pops n Bangs, a car lottery. 

Aleksandra

Aleksandra Horwood

After being made redundant, Aleksandra was looking for ways of using her practical skills and passion for yoga into something that could provide a salary. Focusing on our ever-increasing older population, her idea was to create a specialised yoga and meditation programme to improve the quality of life for this demographic. She wanted to create a different environment for older yoga lovers, making it less intimidating, more welcoming and focusing on exercises that would help specifically with mobility. She has recently adapted her business, Happy Stance Yoga, to offer Zoom sessions for older isolated people to help with fall prevention and ensure they are getting their daily exercise.

And just a few weeks ago, Aleksandra ran a stretching and meditation session for our SiLL team to help us during this high-pressure time, so we can testify to her ability as a guide!

She says: "I attended all the SiLL workshops and it was breath-taking how in no time I learned about all the practicalities so I could move on and test my business idea. So many people have ideas, but they do not know there is a treasure box in the reach of their fingertips. It is free and highly professional, effective and tailored-made for each individual, each business idea." 

Moses

An example t-shirt from Moses' collection - Carib Brit

Moses launched his Greater BRiTs campaign at the Start-ups in London Libraries Greenwich Christmas start-up market, which took place at Woolwich Library last year, after taking part in the core SiLL workshops. "These two workshops gave me invaluable information on the support available to business start-ups, most of it free of charge. As a result of information I received from the workshops, I was able to successfully trademark and protect my BRiT logo."

Moses explains: "the Greater BRiTs campaign came about as a positive response to heal a divided Britain from the feeling of general anxiety about the future of the UK post the Brexit referendum.  The British people have the creativity, inventiveness, energy, perseverance and resilience to see Britain thrive." Moses developed Greater BRiTs with the mission of "celebrating Britain's Unity, Inclusivity and Diversity". Moses has designed a BRiT t-shirt with over 300 customised messages to reflect the diversity of the British lifestyles, personalities, professions and communities.

We may not be currently in your local library but the Start-ups in London Libraries workshops are now all online. Visit bl.uk/SiLL for all the information and to register for the next round of free webinars. 

This programme is run in collaboration with ten London boroughs: Bexley, Croydon, Greenwich, Haringey, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

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28 January 2020

What's your New Year's Resolution for 2020?

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We have been speaking to some of our  BIPC businesses as part of our brand new #HighStreetHeroes feature on Instagram. Every Monday you will find insight into their business journey, their best pieces of business advice and you will also have the opportunity to ask them any burning questions you may have. Make sure to follow us to find out more about our buzzing community of entrepreneurs. In the meantine, as January is all about self-reflection, evaluation and setting aims, read on to hear more about some of our High Street Heroes' New Year's Resolutions, and how they are hoping that these targets can help their business: 

Amanda, I Can Make Shoes

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'My 2020 resolution’s to plan my workdays in 1-hour increments the night before. This increases my productivity massively. I’m also going to meditate in the mornings. This helps me keep a light-hearted happy attitude throughout the day.'

Lauren, Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium

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'This year, I've set myself the New Year's Resolution of improving our sustainability practices, particularly when it comes to waste management, the chemicals we use in the cafe and reducing packaging use where we can for merchandise. Maintaining a stable and responsible business is always the goal for us: the hospitality sector and High Street in general are quite volatile and our goal is to continue to do what we are doing to maintain our current strength.'

Chloe and Abigail, Buttercrumble

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'We tend not to set New Year's Resolutions. However, we do follow a mantra: refocus, refresh and restart. The quietness of January always offers an opportunity for personal and business development.'

Joe, Krio Kanteen

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'My New Year's Resolution for 2020 is to not be so possessive over my business. I've realised that sharing responsibilities can be really beneficial for business growth. The trading of ideas and expertise also keeps things fresh and allows your business to remain innovative.'

Mickela, HR Sports Academy

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'This year, I'm setting myself 2 New Year's Resolutions:

1. Stop being a control freak and trying to do everything myself

This year I will become better at delegating tasks to other members of staff and up-skilling people within the organisation to help ensure that I do not get overwhelmed with workload and I stay focused on developing the business 

2. Take more time out for self care

Doing simple things like getting my nails done, having facial and massages, mediating and working out to enable me to relax, recharge and refocus. Physical and mental well-being is so important for everyone, and with the demands of running a business it’s easy to forget to do the little things which will prevent you from burning out.'

Natalie, Acacia Facilities

Natalie

'This year, I'm going to step out of my comfort zone to develop new beginnings within my personal and business life, exploring new abilities to create a better life balance.'

You can find our #HighStreetHeroes feature on our Instagram page every Monday. 

20 November 2019

A Day in the Life of… Rupert Holloway, founder of Conker Spirit

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After giving up his day job as a Chartered Quantity Surveyor, Rupert Holloway, decided to set out on a new career path which he was passionate about, after some good, bad and ugly ideas, Conker Spirit was born.

Rupert Holloway, founder of Conker Spirit

What is the day in the life of an ‘entrepreneur’? for want of a better word – and I wish there was. Well, I can tell you he's restless, feverously ambitious and has a sense of entitlement to anything he puts his mind to. It begs the question, then, as to how this is balanced with life outside the business, namely (in my case) a happy wife and kids…

Despite this sometimes overbearing drive for achievement, I’ve somehow managed to shun the stereotype of working every waking hour of the day – being the part-time father, the absent husband…I hope this opinion is shared by my wife! I do have my weekends and the majority of my evenings are spent chilling with my wife, Emily, on the sofa.

Conker gin

I’ve mused over how I’ve managed to pull off this magic trick, and I think I can put it down to two main factors: by building a great team at Conker so that the fundamental functions of the business don’t solely rely on me; and by building my life and work around each other – they are not at odds, and most of the time not at war.

This work-life balance stuff really fascinates me. After all, it was one of the main drivers for ditching my day job to build my own business. Back then, six years ago, I wanted to even-up the stakes.

Today there is a less brutal split between my two worlds of ‘work’ and ‘life’, and also in the person I am in the office and at home. I’m no longer ‘bipolar’ in my persona. When I was a Quantity Surveyor, I remember the feeling of literally switching to 'Surveyor' Rupert as the lift doors opened on the sixth floor of that Southampton office building. Now, because I do what I genuinely love and nothing is forced, work and life seem less at odds with each other.

What’s more, my work life and home life feel like one and the same. Emily works part-time in the busiess and has quickly become integral to every decision and problem we solve. As a result, Conker is our (4th) baby. It really is a wonderful thing and I feel very lucky. I know that having ‘the wife’ in the office would fill some with wide-eyed dread, but for me, I miss her the days she's not there.

While my work-life balance is perhaps more even-keeled than the archetypal entrepreneur life might suggest, the real battle comes with being ‘present’ in the now. My mind is often full of the next Conker conundrum I’ve got to solve, rather than living what is going on in the room. It’s a challenge sometimes to remain 'present' and focused on the moment with the family, rather than deliberating the next major decision to be made.

Conker cold brew

Having made some drastic decisions six years ago to follow my heart in my career, I’ve realised that life is as complicated as you make it. There are days that can be very complicated indeed – more complicated, I think, than we are biologically and mentally designed to cope with.

A couple of years ago we bought a house a one-minute walk from the Distillery and the local school, further aligning and synchronising my work-life dance. With three kids to distribute Monday to Friday, our mornings are completely car-free. The school run I had always feared is now a complete doddle.

But the real gem is that picking the kids up from school is just a 20-minute chunk out of my day. I know that many people don’t have the same luxury, and I try and take it whenever I can.

While this makes me feel pretty lucky, I don’t actually believe in ‘luck’, or rather that’s not what I’d call it. I believe ‘lucky’ people are simply more ‘available’ to take up new opportunities and exploit them. It’s not a divine intervention, rather a flexibility built into your life and mindset that allows you to make the most of the best option that presents itself to you.

We hang an awful lot of meaning, guilt and obligation to what has been, honouring past decisions and investments, rather than seeing each new opportunity or challenge objectively. Shunning these shackles of the past is the real skill of the entrepreneur, and of anyone choosing their next subject at school or changing their career path. The key is being free to adapt and evolve to a new situation, and not making life so complicated that you are not ‘available’ to grasp it.

You can hear more from Rupert at our Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Leaders in Luxe event on Tuesday 3 December, along with the founders and co-founders of Jennifer Chamandi, House of Hackney, The Jackal and ME+EM.

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23 September 2019

A week in the life of... Keri Jamieson, founder of KeriKit

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Keri Jamieson is the founder of KeriKit, a women's accessories brand that develop bags which cater for all sides of the modern woman and alumni of the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme. The designs organise belongings, so for example, for mums there are insulated bottle holders, and D-rings to loop your bag onto your pram, but when you need to switch to work mode, you can easily add your diary, business cards and laptop. The designs are supported by the brand 'Kit' including all the essentials that you need for your day, such as travel wallets, purses, business card holders, PRAM clips, cashmere wraps, muslins and more. Here, Keri tells us what she gets up to in a typically busy week managing and developing her KeriKit brand...

Monday - Day at the Home Office

I get up about 7.40 and then wake up the kids for school which involves breakfast, uniforms, hair brushing, teeth brushing -the usual!- and a quick turnaround to get my three children over to our local primary school. Jasper is seven and my twins have just turned five. I then head back home to my home office via the KeriKit warehouse and collect any orders for the day, or if I’m lucky I can go to yoga for an hour before my workday starts. I’m all about work-life balance since I had a recent hip replacement which unfortunately didn’t go as planned, so I need to do exercise most days to keep myself moving! Balancing all this with the kids is crucial - I’m very grateful not to miss the important things in their lives whilst I balance my work and their schedule.

After yoga or the school drop-off, I check my emails and write a list of the things that need to be done - usually this involves creating a newsletter in MailChimp,  updating or adding product descriptions, doing a video or flat-lay photoshoot, discussing PR opportunities with my PR company and looking at which influencers we would like to target, and then looking if they have posted the pic yet! I also have daily conversations with my marketing director regarding new ways to get KeriKit out into the wider world. I make sure I have answered all the questions and queries on social media too.

I now put time aside each week to schedule my social media with Buffer - before Buffer, I used to find myself working until eight or nine at night whilst I was supposed to be relaxing, but relatively small changes like this allow me to organise my time more efficiently, and have made a huge difference overall. Knowing that posts will go out automatically and to all platforms when I need, is great, especially as I have less energy at night to craft posts after a long day, and with the kids around. I find the morning best for working as the kids are at school, so I can really focus.

Keri Jamieson, founder of KeriKit

With the boring office things out of the way, I then get the enjoyment of creating new designs and looking at trends and colours that are coming through to see how they will fit Kerikit's USP of making life easier and more stylish, for busy women on the go.

I tend to work through lunch so I juice quite regularly, which means my lunch is ready to go and I don’t need to stop for long. Usually I take the kids to after-school activities at 15.30 and then if I’m lucky my day ends at 17.30, so I can prepare dinner for the children and sit down for a family meal with them. After bath time is done, I tend to pop back upstairs and process any orders for the next day so they are left out ready to be packed and processed by my darling mother, who helps me everyday with order fulfilment and accounts - she is 71, bless her!

Bed by 23.00!

Tuesday - Photoshoot in Manchester

It's an early start today, waking up at 6.00. Today is all about creating new photo content as I drive from Chester to Manchester to meet our Manchester-based fashion photographer, Rosie. We recce (scope out) the locations we have pre-planned to check they are as we need them to be with lighting etc, and then get the outfits ready with the bags that we are shooting with. Today I am modelling again (although I much prefer using professionals, and staying behind the scenes!) as we need a few more shots of me with the new bag styles we are launching. 

I am always trying to create beautiful things that make women's life easier and I hope to expand my range in the future to include luggage accessories and other Kit items that support you through your day. The business has just gone through a full rebrand and we are focusing our efforts on an edited collection of perfect items that work seamlessly together, with limited seasonal drops. The rebrand involved a new website, new logo, new fonts, new colours, new imagery - pretty much everything - but retaining the KeriKit feel, which I'm really proud of.

At 12.30 we break for lunch, and Rosie and my good friend and stylist Helen are pretty exhausted as I can be quite a task master when there is a to-do list to work through! Despite my dodgy hip, my energy is high, and we finish the rest of the shot list with a lot of laughter and smiles. 

I'm home by 20.00, to have dinner with the hubby and kiss the kids goodnight, before falling into bed at 22.00!

Wednesday - Meeting in Warrington

This morning I am heading to a meeting with my marketing director and our web developers to review the latest site updates and discuss future plans. I arrive for the meeting at 10.00 and we are hammering out the details right across lunch, having some tasty sandwiches and salads as we go. I leave the meeting at 15.00, and head home to carry on working from there. I respond to urgent emails and note that my to-do list is pretty light for the rest of the day. 

If I ever get to the bottom of my to-do list (which I admit is rare!) I try to look at more strategic things within my business such as targets for next year, ways to be more streamlined, any new systems or applications that will enable me to get the job done more quickly, or improve my website. As I mentioned previously, Buffer is one of the new additions which saves time by allowing me to create all my social media in one go, and I also use Trello which is great for creating lists and making sure I get the job done. Otherwise I use freelancers from various online platforms to help with graphics and PPC. As the business grows, we are looking at other markets and although we have some great success in America, I hope to branch out into Europe and the Far East next. But we do intend to prioritise our own online business now as the margins are far better, and customers are perfectly used to buying online nowadays. We’ve taken the decision not to sell wholesale to retail stores as we have struggled to make the finances work - we would rather pass any savings on to the customer.

I finish the day at 17.30 and make the kids dinner before taking a long luxurious bath, and getting dinner ready for hubby and me. I hit the hay at around 23.30. 

KeriKit products

Thursday - Film Crew Arrive

Today we have a film crew visiting to capture a 'day in the life' at KeriKit for a UK media company, and get the lowdown on all things KeriKit. It's a busy start to the morning getting the house ready around the kids breakfasts and school prep, but by 8.30 the house is quiet and almost ready for it's close-up. I spend time strategically placing KeriKit items around the house so that whatever shots are taken, we can be sure some product always sneaks into view! The crew arrive at 9.00 and once we have found the perfect place to capture me and our hero KeriKit styles, we get straight into filming. It's so lovely that the women in the crew start cooing over each product as I show them some of our bestsellers, and gorgeous new arrivals. Its so nice when I receive genuine feedback, and it always amazes me how surprised industry-types are by the exceptional quality and craftsmanship - exceeding expectations has become pretty commonplace for KeriKit, and fortunately a few sales are made before the video is even released! 

We finish up the filming at 16.30 and I take some time to curl up with a good book on the sofa, before the kids get back from their after-school activities. I relish the time to unwind and 'come down' from my filming high, and feel much more relaxed as I get dinner on and tell the kids about my day, and hear about theirs. After dinner I catch-up with Instagram comments and requests, and get to bed at about 22.30. 

Friday - Day at the home office

After a very busy week, it's nice to get back in the office and deal with more admin-y type stuff, and tie up some loose ends that have been niggling at me all week. I really like to feel organised and in control, but when you're juggling a growing business and family life, it's not easy to maintain. I have found that if I let it get to me each day, I would probably go mad! So when I can take the time to get myself back on track and clear out anything that can be dealt with, I really love to do that. (Must be the Virgo in me!). I finish the day with what is fast-becoming a must-do on a Friday night for our community of Kitgirls - Facebook Live Friday. This involves me speaking to camera and sharing our latest samples or new stock with our Kitgirls, to get their advice on how they would use the items, and preferences on which colours and styles we should buy for the coming seasons. I love having the ability to read their comments on the feed in realtime, and respond on camera. As a small business with limited buying budgets for all the amazing things we'd like to, unfortunately we must always compromise, but having our Kitgirls support to make those decisions definitely helps me sleep better at night! We cant keep everyone happy all of the time, but our amazing community really understand our constraints and try to advise me within those, which is phenomenal. I finish the recording with a nice glass of wine and some easy-watching TV with my lovely husband. 

The weekend is family-focused (with only a few little emails being sent!) and I feel really blessed to have so much love and support in my life, always helping me to be ready to do it all again next week! 

If you are interested in seeing a day in the life of KeriKit, head to our YouTube channel (@KerikitEngland) where you can get more insight into my routine and the business I run around my family.

06 September 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Maximising your intellectual property

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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 managementproduct innovationmarketing strategybranding 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 intellectual property and how it’s important to every business...

Again this session was really packed and I had a lot of questions for our advisor from Briffa who are Intellectual Property legal specialists. We covered the following main areas:

Copyright – Since the founding of the company we have used a lot of designers for our website. Many get caught by this, but the default position for designs is that copyright remains with the designer unless signed over. We discussed having everything in place contractually for our external contributors to sign over rights as necessary.

Trademarks – We discussed our current situation with regards to current trademarks and opportunities going forward both in the UK and US now that our website is well established. This is really important when you have spent a lot of time and money in creating a brand. You need to protect that goodwill and mind-space effectively.

Logo

Commercial Contracts – We reviewed our external contracts with third parties e.g. developers to ensure that our IP is fully protected and cannot be exploited by others.

Data Protection – I’m sure we have all been grappling with GDPR ad nauseam and Data Privacy! Once again we reviewed and ensured that we had proper policies in place that are tailored for your specific company, and reflected this in our terms and conditions and on our website. For us, as a company who depends on online payments, this also feeds into PSD2 and SCA changes which are coming in September (you can read more about the changes here: https://www.visa.co.uk/dam/VCOM/regional/ve/unitedkingdom/PDF/visa-preparing-for-psd2-sca-publication-version-1-1-05-12-18-002-final.pdf).

HR – We agreed to review and incorporate IP and Data Protection in our employee contracts. This is something that did not occur to me previously so was good to catch this one.

As you can see there was a ton covered here and a lot of i’s to dot and t’s to cross that can affect your daily working practices. I think we have been ok with these areas previously, but as any company expands rapidly it is easy to lose sight of these basic legal protections and responsibilities to the point that it could easily prove to be a banana skin down the road. It’s the type of thing that many companies just kick down the road or ignore until it’s too late as we all would prefer to concentrate on the fundamental nuts and bolts of our companies. However it is really important to make sure this is all organised competently and safely, and this session really brought that home.

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

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.

07 August 2019

Celebrating International Cat Day with Rose Hill Designs

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Rose Hill is a graphic artist who has garnered renown for her personal commissions and her 'Make Your Pet Famous' series. She trained as a textile designer at the Chelsea University of Arts and took part in the BIPC's Innovating for Growth programme in 2015. Here, in celebration of International Cat Day, she shares how furry friends have shaped her work and business. 

What is your business? 

I'm Rose, a graphic artist. I create award-winning Pop Art designs - from painted murals to my personally commissioned 'Make Your Pet Famous' artworks which are now sold in Harrods. My 'Make Your Pet Famous' collection is where I illustrate your pet in my Pop Art style. Each piece is lovingly designed in North London and made in England. 

What inspires your work?

I love creating art and am particularly keen that my work brings people joy and pleasure. The art I create is fun and approachable and it aims to reflect what you like best about the world around you, which, let's face it, more often that not, is your pets! The colour palettes I use are very bright, which is important because of the effect that colour can have on your mood. 

1b Rose Hill Designs Mural Make Your Pet Famous JAPAN

Pattern and texture is also a big inspiration in my work. Each piece of artwork has 64 geometric patterns layered into it. I hand draw every pet using a Surface Pro laptop. It allows me to draw straight onto the computer screen as if it was a pen and paper. Using a variety of drawing techniques including line drawings, I assemble together every element of their face and body and then insert the different colours and tones of patterns in each feature and change the opacity of each of them to give depth and tone. All have at least 10 layers and most have considerably more. I love mixing the modern technology with the traditional style of craftmanship. To add to that, each work is printed onto brushed paper to make it look like it is on fabric.

Seeing the customer's reaction after I've taken them on the creative journey with me from start to finish is also very inspirational.

How did you put your offer together and find customers?

The process of getting customers for Make Your Pet Famous was very organic. A customer commissioned me to draw their dog, Lola. At that time I had 11 dogs in my card and stationery collection and needed 12 for my first Trade Show. So I asked if I could use Lola in my collection. They loved the idea and so did everyone else! When I was at trade shows and would explain about Lola, people would ask if I could draw their dog too and add to my next collection. This continued to happen and after five more commissions I thought there was something in this. They would say ‘You’ll make my dog famous’ and so that's how the name came about.

I got some lovely recommendations and positive feedback and the word began to spread more. Word of mouth has been a big part of me finding customers because normally when people get their works, they are so delighted they immediately tell their friends about it! This led to my 'Make Your Pet Famous' exhibitions which built on this relationship between humans and pets at a live event. And of course, social media is a wonderful way to meet people and connect with people. 

3 Rose Hill Designs Make Your Pet Famous Aria exhibition

How did the Business & IP Centre fit in to your business journey?

I completed the Innovating for Growth programme which was incredible and would 100% recommend it. When doing your market research at the Business & IP Centre you can look at the Mintel and Keynote reports - which are normally hugely expensive and filled with important data - completely for free. They are an incredible tool and you can even send 10% of them to yourself for free, which is so helpful for continuing your research. Irini and all the staff at the Business & IP Centre are a fountain of knowledge and will help you with any question you may have. There are other great search tools for funding and other valuable information!

What advice would you give someone trying to find their niche?

Try stuff! Experiment and play. It’s really important to enjoy what you are doing. When you work for yourself and/ or have your own business it can be incredibly tough and it’s so important to truly LOVE what you are doing otherwise you may as work for someone else and know the income you will get each month. Create something you're passionate about and there are other people who are passionate about it too. Resilience and grit are key qualities to have.

Rose Hill Designs Rachien Smoothie Mural - Rose at Private View

How have you been able to grow the business?

Growing the business is really important but the most important thing is how you want it to grow! It’s very easy to go down the garden path of what is selling the best and where you're making money which is of course very important. But more important, I believe, is to go where you will feel satisfied creatively, financially and mentally. It’s a great idea to keep checking in with yourself regularly to see if your goals are still your goals. Artistic freedom has always been number one for me! So in my case, it meant letting the cards and stationery side of the business go so that I could concentrate on the creative side and personal commissions. I licensed my designs and got others to sell products for me so that I could concentrate on that.

What's been your best/most rewarding/most surreal moment in business so far?

Probably doing my ‘Make Your Pet Famous’ exhibitions in the last year, one in Warren Street and another in Japan. The private views for these were so special and among the best nights of my life. 

I've also been so lucky to have done so many amazing commissions and collaborations, for example getting a commission from Charles Saatchi (to illustrate and make his daughter a dress) straight from my degree show. I feel very proud to have drawn two artworks for Sadie Frost which has been featured in magazines like Red. There was also a commission to do a portrait for Robert Webb and his family. As I'm such an animal lover, doing a collaboration with ZSL London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo was wonderful, as was a collaboration with the British Museum. Finally, having Harrods as a stockist to many items including the 'Make Your Pet Famous' range and designing a print and accessories especially for them under their own name has been incredible. Being able to sell my art and stationery across the world, places like Japan, America and Australia is an amazing feeling! It's an honour to be able to create a life and business that people love and want to be a part of.

How did cats start becoming a key part of your work?

When starting the 'Make Your Pet Famous' collection it began with dogs but very soon after everyone wanted cats. I was always asked 'where are the cats?' because everyone loves cats! They became an integral part of my offering from that point on, with Tupac as the first #MakeYourPetFamous cat.

Trio of cats

Do you have any notes about intellectual property and your work?

The Business & IP Centre are very helpful in this area and would recommend you go and speak to them if you have any questions on intellectual property! They can direct you to specialists. They have all the details on copyright, trademark and registered designs and can help you to get protected, which they certainly did with me. 

You can find Rose's work at https://www.rosehilldesigns.co.uk/. She has recently put on another #MakeYourPetFamous exhibition in Islington and will be doing another one in October 2019 in Hackney. You can find all the details on her website. 

10 June 2019

Food Season at the Business & IP Centre

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With the British Library’s Food Season coming to a close, we take a look back at the past few months and the events the Business & IP Centre has celebrated with, including panel talks, inventors’ club, speed mentoring, workshops and one-to-ones for budding foodie entrepreneurs, or those who wanted to grow their existing business.

The UK’s food and drinks sector going from strength to strength. In 2017, consumer spending in the sector exceeded £219 billion with food and drinks exports worth more than £22 million to the economy. With almost 7,000 micro, small and medium businesses active in the sector last year, there’s no shortage of brands eager to take a bite out of the market.

Expert Impact’s Profit with Purpose: The Tastemakers II heard how Rubies in the Rubble (Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups alumni), LEMONAID, The Dusty Knuckle Bakery and Ben & Jerry’s became successful social enterprises. Here’s a little taster of the evening…

Our own Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Recipes for Success followed with the founders and co-founders of Eat Natural, Riverford and Pip & Nut, moderated by food journalist Victoria Stewart. Here are some highlights from the Q&A, with questions from audiences both in London and around our National Network, as well as those watching via our live webcast.

With work/life balance being a main motivator for a lot of entrepreneurs (whether or not that ends up being the reality), finding a happy medium between business and non-work time can be challenging. Pip Murray, founder of Pip & Nut still struggles, even with products in over 5,000 stores in four and a half years, “The first couple of years I was like a headless chicken. It’s inevitable it [the business] will take over everything. Since building the team, it’s given me headspace to enjoy my weekends. There’s only so much you can keep going at that pace and something needs to give. I’m very much involved in everything. There’s still an element that sucks you in, but you just need regular breaks.”

Guy Singh-Watson, founder of Riverford, decided to make the company employee owned and he became one of 650 co-owners. Guy said, “I strongly believe in giving people as much autonomy about how their day goes, what they’re doing and how they do it. Giving them the ability to grow and get better at it. The third motivator is purpose. In agriculture, the work is very very demanding, and I think fewer and fewer people are going to want to do it and we have to make sure we keep the best ones.”

The panel of founders also highlighted the need to not being afraid of trying things, not waiting for perfection and just going for it. Praveen encourages, “If you have an idea, just go for it. You don’t know what’s going to happen until you speak to consumers. If you believe in it, you have to give it a go. We love failing – it happens all the time.”

The panel finished with their most rewarding moments in business…

  • Riverford - the day we became employee owned 👥
  • Pip & Nut - seeing our products on the supermarket shelves for the first time 🥜
  • Eat Natural - getting the first crop of honey from our own beehives 🍯🐝

You can see all speakers’ videos and the Q&A on our YouTube channel, including questions on influencers, ethics, marketing and getting into supermarkets.