Category Archives: business startups

The Internet in Real Time

social-media-logosSocial media is such an amazing development. Who knew it would have such an impact on our lives? I really enjoy talking about the benefits it can bring to start-up business in my monthly workshop at the Library.

The sheer numbers involved are mind boggling. With over 2.2 billion users across the many platforms.

The current leader-board (in millions of users) looks likes this:

social-media-usage

Source https://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/

But I find the slide that makes the most impact in my workshop is The Internet in Real-Time. Just click on the image below and spend a few seconds watching the various counters as they race upwards. I find it truly astonishing just how much content is being generated every single minute of the day.

The Internet In Real Time

From Visually.

My new Blazing Saddle ignited by my Burner light

Blaze logoI have been watching the Crowdfunding scene for quite a few years now. It has now grown into a important source of money for many start-ups. It is also a great way to test the market for new ideas. Following the Lean start-up approach we advocate in the Business & IP Centre.

I’ve seen lots of new exciting new products over the years, and I’ve been tempted in invest in quite a few. But it wasn’t until I saw the impressive Kickstarter campaign for the Blaze Burner rear bicycle light that I committed. The aim was to create the ultimate back light for cyclists. With 100 lumens of brightness to help make the rider visible to even the most distracted of London drivers.

blaze-bus-02-sAlso, it came from the Blaze company founded by Emily Brooke and Philip Ellisby. They had previously used crowdfunding to launch their revolutionary front safety light for cycles. The original Blaze light combines a very bright white light with a green laser, which projects a symbol of a bike onto the road several meters ahead. The idea is to make bikes more visible to cars and particularly large vehicles turning left at junctions. A high proportion of cycle accidents are caused by drivers being unaware of a rider coming-up on the inside.

The Blaze has been a spectacular success, and is about to be installed across the London Cycle Hire network – officially called Santander Cycles, but more popularly known as Boris Bikes, (despite being introduced by Ken Livingston the previous Mayor of London).

So when I saw the very professionally produced video announcing the Kickstarter campaign for the Burner, I signed up the next day. By then it was already fully funded (in just one day). And went on to raise £153,636 from 2,208 backers, instead of the initial goal of £35,000.

blaze-burner-rear-light-1Since the campaign closed, the team have been on something of a roller-coaster ride. With quite a few technical and supplier problems along the way. This meant the original production date of April slipped by several months. The team kept the backers updated with the issues and delays. So it was with great delight that I finally got to open the package above this week. Just in time for use during the dark evening rides home.

Hopefully you can see from my photos, the light is a very high quality product. Which is one of the reasons the company delayed distribution. It is innovative, in that it shows you the level of battery charge each time you turn it on. It also has a setting to turn the light on automatically when the ambient light level is low, such as in a tunnel or tree-lined route.

blaze-burner-rear-light-4It is early days in terms of usage, but so far I am very happy with the light and the quality of its components, such as the flexible mounting bracket and powerful magnetic attachment.

For me the brightest setting is actually too bright, so I am using it on the normal steady mode, which is claimed lasts 60 hours per charge via the handy USB cable.

So I am feeling triply happy with myself. I own an innovative high quality product. I got a discount for being an early backer. And I am supporting a fledgling UK company, making a great UK designed and assembled product.

Update

I’m still happy with my Burner light, but perhaps if I’d had a bit more nerve I might have gone for Bike Balls instead.

bike-balls

I think they describe the product far better than I could:

In a world filled with disgruntled drivers who hate sharing the road, you need some pretty serious balls to ride a bicycle these days. The morning commute is crying out for a little humour to diffuse the tension, and as a cyclist you need to be noticed! It’s in this spirit that Bike Balls were created.

Bike Balls are a raunchy rear bike light designed to be mounted beneath your bicycle saddle – they dangle off the seat rail and playfully bob-around as you ride. The simple mounting system is secure enough to stay on during bumpy rides whilst remaining easy to attach and take off.

Made from waterproof silicone, this durable scrotum houses a powerful red LED to alert drivers to your presence. Just give them a gentle squeeze to turn them on (just like the real thing) and to switch between the various light modes. They’re as functional as they are hilarious.

Grab yourself a pair today.

More info
Product Features:
The World’s most over confident bike light
Turn them off and on (and switch modes) with a gentle a squeeze
High-grade silicone body with integrated strap and switch
Water/splash resistant construction, built to last
Super efficient red LED
Three light modes – solid light / slow flashing / fast flashing
Powered by 2xCR2032 replaceable batteries
Battery lasts for ~100 hours (solid light mode) or ~190 hours (flashing mode)
Includes 2 zip-ties for semi-permanent installation
Funded within 3 days on Kickstarter

 

 

 

A tree surgeon by any other name would smell just as sweet – or would they?

PixaBay sourceSorry about the slightly dodgy play on words in the title above. I must have been influenced by some of the silly names I recently found that tree surgeons call their companies.

The obvious naming ‘branch’ to choose is the species closest to your heart. So Acacia, Acer, Alpine, Beechwood, Monkey Puzzle, Sequoia and of course English Oak all appear on the list below.

However, my favourites are the more playful, and importantly, the more memorable names, such as; Cut Above Tree Management, Top Notch Tree Care, Greenfellers, Special Branch Tree Care, Out On A Limb Tree Services.

The best of the best for me are Tree Amigos Limited and Tree Wise Men. But how about  Hollywood Tree Surgery as an unexpected name?

Don’t forget to register your name at the UK IPO to keep it safe.

 

1st Call Trees Ltd.

A Cut Above Tree Surgery Limited

Able Tree Services Limited

About Trees Ltd

Absolute Tree Care Llp

Acacia Tree Surgeons Limited

Acer Tree Surgeons Limited

Acme Tree Services Ltd

Acorn 2 Oak Limited

Aerial Tree Specialists Limited

Affordable Tree Services Ltd

All Things Trees Limited

Alpine Tree Surgeons Ltd

Apples & Pears Landscapes Limited

Arboreal Ltd

Axmen Limited

Beechwood Tree Care Limited

Blue Sky Tree Care Ltd

Branching Out Tree Surgery Limited

Branchline Solutions Limited

Broadleaf Tree Services Ltd

Bumblebee Woodland Trust Limited

Clearwood Limited

Cut Above Tree Management Limited

Cutting Edge Grounds Maintenance Limited

Down To Earth Trees Limited

Eco Tree Care & Conservation Limited

Eden Woodland Consultants Limited

English Oak Tree Services Ltd

Evergreen-Services Ltd

Field & Forest Limited

Forevergreen Ltd

Four Seasons Forestry Limited

Fresh Skies Limited

Go Stump No Stump Limited

Goodwood Tree Care Ltd

Green Cuts Limited

Greenfellers Limited

Heartwood Tree Surgeons Limited

Hollywood Tree Surgery Limited

Landmark Tree Surgery Limited

Love Trees Limited

PixaBay source

Mad About Trees Limited

Majestic Tree Care Limited

Monkey Puzzle Tree Surgeons Ltd

Nature First Limited

New Leaf Tree Surgery Limited

Oak Leaf Tree Services Limited

Out On A Limb Tree Services Limited

Out There Trees Ltd

Pinewood Treecare Limited

Poplar Tree Services Limited

Redwood Tree Services Limited

Roots Upwards Limited

Rowan Tree Surgery Limited

Sequoia Tree Services Limited

Silverwood Forestry Limited

Special Branch Tree Care Ltd

Stickmen Limited

Stumpbusters Uk Limited

Stumpie Ltd

Stumpman Limited

Tally-Ho! Landscape Contracts Limited

The Tree Gp Limited

The Tree People Limited

Timber Tim Limited

Top Branch Tree Care & Landscaping Services Limited

Top Cutz Ltd

Top Notch Tree Care Limited

Tree Amigos Limited

Tree Heritage Limited

Tree Heroes Limited

Tree Monkey Tree Care Ltd

Tree Trunk Limited

Tree Wise Men (S.E.) Ltd

Treecreeper Arborists Ltd

Woodpecker Tree Surgery Ltd

Woods For All Limited

PixaBay source

Walking the tightrope to fulfil your business vision

The Walk posterI have just finished watching an amazing film based on the true story of Philippe Petit who crossed the 200 foot gap between the 110 story twin towers of  the World Trade Center in New York in 1974.

The Walk is worth watching just for the vertigo inducing scenes of his perilous and spectacular high wire walk. The film is also an amazing recreation of the world famous towers I climbed during my gap-year trip round the USA in 1980. And which were of course destroyed by the terrorist attack on that terrible day 11 September 2001.

But for me the story also parallels many aspects of starting a business.

Perseverance – The first time the story’s hero sees tightrope walkers in the Circus as a young boy, he is determined to learn the skill. He spends his teenage years practicing his ‘calling’, by first walking on five ropes, then four, then three and two, before getting down to a single line tied between two trees. I wonder how many times he fell during those years of apprenticeship.

Overcoming failure – Petit’s first public outing is a humiliating disaster in which he falls into a lake due to performance nerves. It would have been easy to understand if he had chosen to end his ambition at that point.

Finding your audience/customers – Petit moves to Paris and develops his skill as an entertainer. He learns where the best places to perform are, and how to manage his audience.

Having a vision – Philippe is always looking for new and more audacious places to hang his wire, and spots the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral. He sneaks in at night and sets up his cable,  before giving the early morning tourists something of a surprise view. According to the film, he chances across a photo of the World Trade Center towers in a dentist waiting room. In a close up scene he slowly draws a thin straight pencil line between the two buildings and immediately this becomes his obsession.

Notre Dame ParesThe passion to keep going – The training, planning and preparation required to walk between the twin towers before they are completed appears to be impossible, but it is Petit’s passion that drives his small team of ‘co-conspirators’ on.

Having a mentor – Philippe persuades high-wire expert Papa Rudy from the circus to teach him everything he needs to know to be able to walk between the towers. Including the most dangerous part of any wire walk, the last three steps.

Detailed planning and research – The walk is illegal, so the team have to do an immense amount of research on the building-site of the twin towers to work out how to get the equipment needed up onto the roofs in time for the crossing at first-light.

Valuing your team – There is a moment in the film, the night before the adventure begins, where Philippe is reminded by his girlfriend that he has not thanked his team for their contribution. He immediately wakes everyone up to express his appreciation.

Adapting to changing circumstances – During the night while setting up the equipment for the walk, Philippe and his accomplice Jeff have to hide for three hours balanced on a steel girder from the security guard. This prevents our hero from checking the cables on the other tower as originally planned. He decides to go ahead anyway and trust in the work of his team.

Celebrating success – Once the police release Petit and his team from custody they celebrate their incredible achievement with a champagne and a Chinese meal. Many entrepreneurs are too busy rushing onto their next goal, without stopping to recognize an important milestone or success.

Achieving the impossible – Most of the people Petit met in the build-up to his walk said it couldn’t be done and that he was mad. He proved them wrong. He believed in himself and his abilities in the way everyone starting a business needs to.

The Walk and jet plane

Have breakfast all day at the Cereal Killer Cafe

Cereal Killer Cafe logoAs you may have guessed by now, I love niche products and services. The ‘nicher’ the better as far as I am concerned.

So how about a cafe in London that only sells cereal? Well, identical twins Alan and Gary Keery from Belfast, have just opened Cereal Killer Cafe in Brick Lane, in trendy East London.

Apparently the the idea came to them when they were hungover one morning and really craved breakfast cereal.

They offer British, American and global cereals all at £2.50 for a small bowl with a choice of milks and toppings such as banana or marshmallows. Also on the menu are what Gary calls “cereal cocktails – mix different cereals together with different milks and toppings to create different flavours.”

Gary is confident that people won’t just come for breakfast: “Many people eat cereal throughout the day as a snack or a meal … we will be open until 10pm.”

Slightly worryingly they didn’t have enough takers when they tried to crowdfund the project. The publicity, however, enabled them to get a loan and a sympathetic landlord.

Alan and Gary Keery - Cereal Killers

Gary (left) and Alan Keery at their Cereal Killer Cafe

 

KrustyOs

Here is a niche within a niche… Krusty the Clown from the Simpsons in a box.

Using Twitter to get Lady Gaga’s attention

Dayne HendersonIn my workshop Introducing Social Media for Small Business I talk about Twitter’s unique ability to engage with otherwise inaccessible public figures.

To be honest, someone with millions of followers is unlikely to read every tweet sent their way. But it is possible to get noticed if the content piques their interest.

This is one of the wonders of social media over traditional forms of communication. You wouldn’t expect a letter, text or fax to be read by your celebrity target, let alone to get through on the telephone, or meet them in person. They would all be filtered out by their agents and minders.

But in fact many high-profile figures revel in the opportunity social media, and Twitter in particular, has given them to be in direct contact with their fans.

A recent story in the Metro newspaper gives a great example of this unprecedented access. Fashion designer Dayne Henderson who produces latex fetish outfits in his spare room in North Shields, uploaded some images onto Twitter. These got the attention of Lady Gaga, who commissioned him to make 19 headpieces for her world tour.

As Dayne told the Metro, ‘I never in a million years thought my first bit of work as a self-employed designer would be with Lady Gaga’.

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga wearing one of Dayne Henderson’s latex designs

Soul Trader the Video – Rasheed brings his book to life

Rasheed-OgunlaruIn 2012 I wrote a review of Soul Trader – Putting the heart back into your business.

The book was written by Rasheed Ogunlaru the life and business coach for the Business & IP Centre since our earliest days. In my review I praised Rasheed for writing in a style that brought his amazing positive energy on to the page through to the reader.

However, there is no real substitute for seeing and hearing him in action. Something he has now addressed with Soul Trader – Coach Yourself Video.

In this video Rasheed covers the same seven plus one C’s used in the book:

  1. Introduction: Get ready; how to use video to help you grow.
  2. Clarity: Set your vision, mission & goals, find your unique path.
  3. Customers: Know who they are & learn how to win their hearts
  4. Courage: Grow confident using your inspiration / inner strength
  5. Co-operation: Build rich relationships to help your business grow
  6. Conversations: The art of converting contacts into business.
  7. Creativity: Tap into the energy, framework and flow to flourish
  8. Compassion: Taking care of yourself, others and business. 9. Change: How to face it, embrace it and shape it.

Once again Rasheed’s wonderful blend of passion, soulfulness and practical hard-headed business advice make for a powerful combination. Only this time you can hear the energy in Rasheed’s wonderfully mellifluous voice, and see it in his eyes and his body language.When he takes you through a practical exercise, of which there are many in the video, and then tells you to pause the video to write your answers down, you really feel you want to do it.

As in the book, Rasheed emphasises the importance of being clear about, not only what you want to achieve in business, but about your personal life goals, and how well they fit with your business aspirations.

He gets you to conduct a personal SWOT analysis (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat). Which is an excellent way of helping to discover what you do well, and what you need to work on or get help with. Next in importance is your customers. Who are they, what are their problems, needs and desires, where can you find them, and how much will they pay?

Customers Slide

The video concludes by reviewing the changes you will need to be prepared to make to adapt your business and yourself to a constantly changing environment. To ensure your business continues to develop and succeed over time.

A new begining for In through the outfield

From today In through the outfield will switch from being an official British Library Business & IP Centre blog to a personal one from me Neil Infield.

The reason for this is the creation of an Innovation and Enterprise team blog written by my colleagues in Business & IP Centre, as well as our partners.

The blog will cover the essentials of starting and growing your business with stories from people who have already been there and can share their experiences. We will be talking about their successes and learning from mistakes made along the way.

BIPC-blog

Introducing social media for small business

Last year I gave a workshop about my blog as part of our Web in Feb month of activities.pinterest_logo

This year I have been asked to turn it into a regular workshop by extending the coverage to social media.

Using the tried and trusted ‘Ronseal’ approach we came up with ‘Introducing Social Media for Small Business’ as the title.

So far I have the run the workshop twice, with more to follow on 15 and 29 May. It has proved popular, but I am struggling to fit everything in to the two hours available. Social Media is such a big topic and the platforms continue to grow, with Pinterest being the latest hot topic.

Here are my top twelve tips for Social Media success:

  1. Try to limit to 30 minutes a day
  2. Keep it professional – you might go viral in a bad way
  3. Keep an eye out for new services
  4. Try to measure results
  5. Cull any activities that don’t help your business
  6. Try to stay focussed – keep away from the Lolcats
  7. Be a person online – but not too personal
  8. Always try to add value
  9. Don’t just lurk – contribute
  10. Try to be ‘marketing lite’ – avoid spamming
  11. Have a consistent brand / name across your social media platforms
  12. Have fun with it

I recently posted my workshop slides onto Slideshare and was surprised to discover that I already have had 127 views there.

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introducing-social-media-for-small-business

Eat Street has sold out… of food

As last Friday was a lovely warm day I decided to pop over to Eat Street (now KERB) for lunch.

Unfortunately I had left it a bit late and by the time I got there everything had gone.

However, I did have a a nice chat to the staff on the Bell and Brisket stand about their non-Kosher hot salt beef bagels, and how they had to struggle through the miserable winter months until the rewards of the late spring weather brought out the customers.

Next week I will make sure I get out nice and early before they run out of supplies.

Just looking at the photos makes my mouth water.

Bell_and_Brisket