Another fantastic event this evening with a range of inspiring women entrepreneurs and their stories.
The event was chaired with great warmth, energy and humour by Emma Jones who launched her first business at age 27, and successfully sold it two years later. In 2006 she launched Enterprise Nation as a website to help anyone start and grow a business from home. The company has since expanded to offer online services, publications, events and finance to small businesses across the UK. Emma is also co-founder of StartUp Britain, and currently acting as the campaign’s chief executive.
As co-founder of shopping website notonthehighstreet.com, Sophie Cornish has won many prestigious awards including the ECMOD Direct Commerce Award for the last three consecutive years and the Online Retail Award Prix D’or 2010. They now host over 2,500 businesses on notonthehighstreet selling 40,000 different products.
They came to the British Library Business & IP Centre early on to look at trends in Internet retailing. And worked hard on their business plan to the extent that they new their numbers inside out. Sohpie emphasised that creating a brand is the key challenge for any business.
Her tips were:
- Own your mistakes
- There is no silver bullet
- Hard work is your unique selling point
- Cash is king
From helping her parents prepare samosas for the English pub they ran, to setting up her own food business The Authentic Food Company in 1985, Kamal Basran indulged her passion for cooking authentic Indian food and opened a small business supplying local catering establishments with hand-made samosas and other Indian snack food.
Today, the company has over 240 employees and has a turnover of over £31 million. The company are supplying many of the UK’s top hotels, pub chains, restaurants and retail outlets with the range of quality international cuisine.
When Kamal started out in business, she was a full-time teacher, settled in a comfortable lifestyle, married with two children. While out shopping she saw some ready made samosas, but once home discovered they tasted horrible and threw them into the dustbin. This was the trigger for starting her own business. She had no idea how to start, but wonders in retrospect if this is perhaps the best way.
She began making 600 samosas a week, and grew the business to over a million meals a week.
Her tips were:
Number one priority was to organise her children.
Then, learn how to do everything yourself (nothing is too menial).
Finally, don’t listen to other people (especially your parents!)
Her reasons for success were:
- Target your market
- Grow gradually
- People – 25 nationalities
- Products – are the best quality
- Customers – we love our customers
Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine are the founders of Tatty Devine whose distinctive fashion designs have made them brand leaders. In 2011 they had a boom year, with a £1 million turnover and kick started 2012 with opening a Selfridges pop up shop which launched their new silver label. The two London Tatty Devine boutiques are located in Brick Lane and Covent Garden.
They are independently run and design every piece, 99% of the jewellery is made by hand in their workshops (based in London and Kent). Their custom-made jewellery has been worn by everyone from Claudia Schiffer to Jessie J.
They are very proud of producing their own book on How to Make Jewellery.
In the last two years they have started letting others in to their business, such as developing a new website, to enable them to concentrate on the jewellery.
Christina Richardson is founder of The Nurture Network the UK’s first on-demand marketing department for start-ups and entrepreneurial growth businesses. Christina has spent much of her career managing and growing FMCG brands worth in excess of £100 million.
Now she and her blue-chip trained team, work flexibly across multiple businesses – being their marketing expertise, part time or for specific projects – calling in creative specialists from their network as and when they are needed.
Her tips for new businesses:
- You need to give yourself the strongest foundations you can. Be distinctly different by playing a different game.
- Define your brand by being clear on your ‘onlyness’. Think about who your brand would be if it were a person.
- Test your brand out with real people.
- Have a vision, but with numbers. Know the future you want to create.
And for existing businesses:
- Marketing is everything that touches your consumer.
- Always think consumer first. Choose which group will be your most valuable customers. This will inform your marketing chooses.
- Plan with the end in mind and be objectives driven.
- Use everything you can do to spread your brand
- Bootstrap and collaborate
The evening closed with a lively question and answer session followed by some serious networking until closing time.