Category Archives: finance

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

 

 

 

The secret ingredient: the recipe for success as a food and drink entrepreneur

Once again Matthew Rock from Real Business ably chaired our panel of food entrepreneurs in front of a full conference centre audience.

First up was Eric Lanlard, otherwise known as Cake Boy, and famous for having baked Madonna’s wedding cake.

Having given him a lightning tour of the Business & IP Centre a few minutes earlier, I can safely say that he is a charming man.

As is often the way with successful entrepreneurs (and in fact many other success stories), his passion for baking had started early. In his case from the age of six. With encouragement from his mother he began to sell his produce from outside their house. And was beginning to do well… until his mother started charging him for the ingredients.

The next stage was to take up an apprenticeship at the age of 18, after having identified the best place for him to learn his craft. From day one he knew that this was what he would want to do for the rest of his life. Subsequently he was taken on the by famous Roux Brothers who revolutionised British Cuisine in the UK, and eventually became a ‘Roux Boy’.

He finally broke away and set up in business on his own, managing to bag Fortnum & Mason as an early client.

Here are some of his business tips:
•    You have to work bloody hard to make a success in business.
•    Always refuse to take the cheaper option when pressured. Stay with quality.
•    Tight finance is important.
•    Look after your suppliers too.
•    Without your staff you are nothing. Invest in them as much as you can afford.

‘Five am tomorrow morning (like every day) you will find me in my kitchen.’

Next came Jennifer Irvine who is the founder of  The Pure Package, the gourmet food service offering carefully tailored, freshly prepared and healthily balanced meals and snacks delivered daily to customers.

I had also given her a whistle-stop tour of the Centre earlier on in the evening, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that she had been using our information at the beginning of her business eight years ago. She was very complimentary about the library enquiry staff who helped her at that time.

She said she started her business because she enjoyed food, and was upset that so many of us now associate eating with weight gain and poor health.

From the beginning she was averse to taking on loans or even outside investors, and literally started her business from her kitchen.

Her toilet became research her study, as it was the only quiet place away from her young children.

She contacted journalists who wrote about healthy eating. This resulted in a story in the Evening Standard which led to a big increase in demand for her products.

She needed finance to grow to meet this upsurge in customers, but was still against going to the bank. Instead she offered her customers the opportunity to get a discount in exchange for paying in advance. This generated enough cash to buy the new equipment she needed.

In the early days she had to do everything in the business including the classic of answering her phone as receptionist and then passing it on to herself as manager. Her response to curious customers was that ‘we all sound the same here’.
She also drove the delivery runs for the food between 12 midnight and six in the morning.

Having such a deep understanding of the business means she can still help her staff, even when away from work for a while.

Last, but by no means least came Richard Reed, a co-founder of Innocent, the No.1 smoothie brand in Europe. The business was started in 1999 with and two college friends and has grown to a turnover of over £100m today.

Richard also started in business at a young age, when he began washing windows for his neighbours at the age of eight. However, a summer job picking up dog biscuits in a pet food factory soon reminded him of the joys of working for himself, and led him to set up a summer gardening business called Two Men Went to Mow, employing his school friends.

He met the co-founders of Innocent at college. After discussing the idea of starting their own business on many occasions, they finally gave themselves one weekend to agree an idea. The objective was to make life a little bit easier and a little bit better.

They came up with the concept of ‘The Amazing Electric Bath’. However, there was a slight problem relating to combining water and electricity in one product. There was a real danger they would end up making their customers lives quite a bit shorter, instead of little bit easier and a little bit better!

When looking to develop a new product or service he said you should make sure you know your target audience well. They looked to themselves for inspiration. Their need was for healthy fast food and snacks, to replace their unhealthy pizza and beer habits. The best test is to ask if you would spend your own money on the product or service. They brought £500 of fruit and hired a stall at a music festival. Next to the stall was a Yes bin and No bin. They promised themselves that if the Yes bin was full at the end of the day, they would give up their day jobs and concentrate on the business. In the end there were only a few empty bottles in the No bin, which their parents later admitted they had put there to put them off. Even that wasn’t enough, so they spun a coin which came up tails three times in a row to convince them.

Consequently the last 12 years have been much more difficult than expected. But also the most rewarding time of his life.

Here are few of Richard’s business truisms:
•    The product is king, and has to be better than anyone else’s on the market.
•    You have to decide when to move from making yourself to outsourcing the product. Started themselves, but found a supplier eventually. Running a factory is a very demanding activity in its own right, and might not give you enough time for developing your brand.
•    Make sure you understand your numbers, in particular your gross margin and where it will be spent.
•    You have to get lucky, but you also have to be tenacious.
•    If your team share the same values (but have complementary skills), you will help each other through the tough times that will inevitably come along.

After the panel sessions Matthew managed a lengthy question and answer session due to the sheer level of demand from the audience.

How did Innocent get funding?
Richard revealed that after months of trying to get funding for Innocent they reached a last chance saloon, which resulted in a desperate email titled ‘Does anyone know anyone rich?’
There were working on the theory Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon would apply.
The email generated two responses in total, one didn’t go anywhere , and one which ended up giving them the money to get the business started.

How did Innocent get into supermarkets?
Supermarkets are generally interested in new products on their shelves.
Innocent started with a ten store listing in Waitrose. But it took seven years to reach blanket supermarket coverage by organic growth.

Can you talk about supplier relationships?
Don’t rely on one supplier. Have a plan B ready and warmed up. The Innocent bottle supplier switched to Coke at short notice which caused much grief.

Two instrumental business books recommended by Richard Reed:
Eating the Big Fish
: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders
by Adam Morgan.
Good to Great
: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
by Jim Collins

How did you communicate your brand?
Eric Lanlard started with Laboratoire 2000, but due to pronunciation problems (including abattoir)  it ended up as Lab 2000.
His new joint venture with Patrick Cox will be called Cox, Cookies and Cakes, partly  because it will be based in an old sex shop in London’s Soho district.

The Innocent name was designed to communicate natural, pure and unadulterated.
Simplification and exaggeration are key to branding.

Richard defended the sale of share to Coca Cola. Although they now own the majority of the shares, the Innocent founders have maintained control of the business. Selling their products through McDonald’s stores caused ten times more bad press.

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The secret ingredient: the recipe for success as a food and drink entrepreneur

Once again Matthew Rock from Real Business ably chaired our panel of food entrepreneurs in front of a full conference centre audience.

First up was Eric Lanlard, otherwise known as Cake Boy, and famous for having baked Madonna’s wedding cake.

Having given him a lightening tour of the Business & IP Centre a few minutes earlier I can safely say that he is a charming man.

As is often the way with successful entrepreneurs (and in fact many other success stories), his passion for baking had started early. In his case from the age of six. With encouragement from his mother he began to sell his improving products outside their house. And was beginning to do well… until his mother started charging him for the ingredients.

The next stage was to take up an apprenticeship at the age of 18, after having identified the best place for him to learn. From day one he knew that this was what he would want to do for the rest of his life. Subsequently he was taken on the by famous Roux Brothers ??? in the UK, and eventually became a ‘Roux Boy’ ???

Eventually he set up in business on his own and managed to bag Fortnum and Mason as an early client.

Here are some of his business tips:

· You have to work bloody hard to make it a success in business.

· Refused to take the cheaper option when pressured. Stayed with quality.

· Tight finance is important.

· Look after your suppliers too.

· Without your staff you are nothing. Invest in them.

· 42 years old in a happy place.

· Partnership with Patrick Cox to open a chain.

· Five am (like every day) you will find me in my kitchen.

Next came Jennifer Irvine who is the founder of The Pure Package, the gourmet food service offering carefully tailored, freshly prepared and healthily balanced meals and snacks delivered daily to customers.

I had also given her a whistle-stop tour of the Centre earlier on in the evening, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that she had been using our information at the beginning of her business eight years ago. She was very complimentary about the library enquiry staff who helped her at that time.

She said she started her business because she enjoyed food, and was upset that so many of us now associate eating with weight gain and bad health.

From the beginning she was averse to taking on loans or even outside investors and literally started her business from her kitchen.

Her toilet became research her study as it was the only quiet place away from her young children.

She contacted journalists who wrote about healthy eating. This resulted in a story in the Evening Standard which led to a big increase in demand for her products.

She needed finance to grow to meet this upsurge in customers, but was still against going to the bank. Instead she offered her customers the opportunity to get a discount in exchange for paying in advance. This generated enough cash to buy the new equipment she needed.

In the early days she had to do everything in the business including classic of answering of answering the phone as receptionist and then passing it on to herself as manager. Her response to curious customers was that ‘we all sound the same here’.

She also drove the delivery runs for the food between 12 midnight and six in the morning.

Having such a deep understanding of the business means she can still help her staff even when away from work for a while.

Last, but by no means least came Richard Reed a co-founder of Innocent, the No.1 smoothie brand in Europe. The business was started in 1999 with and two college friends and has grown to a turnover of over £100m today.

Richard also started in business at a young age, when he began washing windows for his neighbours at the age of eight. However, a summer job picking up dog biscuits in a pet food factory soon reminded him of the joys of working for himself, and led him to set up a summer gardening business called Two Men Went to Mow, employing his school friends.

He met the co-founders of Innocent at college. After discussing the idea of starting their own business on many occasions, they finally gave themselves one weekend to agree an idea. The objective was to make life a little bit easier and a little bit better.

They came up with the concept of ‘The Amazing Electric Bath’. However, there was a slight problem relating to combining water and electricity in one product. There was a real danger they would end up making their customers lives quite a bit shorter!

When looking to develop a new product or service he said you should make sure you know your target audience well. They looked to themselves for inspiration.

Their need was for healthy fast food and snacks, to replace their unhealthy pizza and beer habits.

The best test is to ask if you would spend your own money on the product or service.

They brought £500 of fruit and hired a stall at a music festival. Next to the stall was a Yes bin and No bin. They promised themselves that if the Yes bin was full at the end of the day, they would give up their day jobs and concentrate on the business. In the end there were only a few empty bottles in the No bin, which their parents later admitted they had put there to put them off.

Even that wasn’t enough, so they spun a coin which came up tails three times in a row to convince them.

Consequently the last 12 years have been much more difficult than expected. But also the most rewarding time of his life.

Here are few of Richard’s business truisms:

· The product is king, and has to be better than anyone else’s on the market.

· You have to decide when to move from making yourself to outsourcing the product. Started themselves, but found a supplier eventually. Running a factory is a very demanding activity in its own right, and might not give you enough time for developing your brand.

· Make sure you understand your numbers, in particular your gross margin and where it will be spent.

· You have to get lucky, but you also have to be tenacious.

· If your team share the same values (but have complementary skills), you will help each other through the tough times that will inevitably come along.

After the panel sessions Mathew managed a lengthy question and answer session due to the sheer demand from the audience.

How did Innocent get funding?

Richard revealed that after months of trying to get funding for Innocent they reached a last chance saloon, which resulted in a desperate email with titled ‘Does anyone know anyone rich?’

There were working on the theory that the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon would apply.

The email generated two responses in total, one didn’t go anywhere , and one which ended up giving them the money to get the business started.

How did Innocent get into supermarkets?

Supermarkets are generally interested in new products on their shelves.

Innocent started with a ten store listing in Waitrose. But it took seven years to reach blanket supermarket coverage by organic growth.

Can you talk about supplier relationships?

Don’t rely on one supplier. Have a plan B ready and warmed up. The Innocent bottle supplier switched to Coke at short notice.

Instrumental business books recommended by Richard Reed;

Eating the big fish ???

Good to great ???

How did you communicate your brand?

Eric Lanlard started with Laboratoire 2000, but due to pronunciation problems (including abattoir) it ended up as Lab 2000.

His new joint venture with Patrick Cox will be called Cox, Cookies and Cakes, partly because it will be based in an old sex shop in London’s Soho district.

The Innocent name was designed to communicate natural, pure and unadulterated.

Simplification and exaggeration are key to branding.

Richard defended the sale of share to Coca Cola. Although they now own the majority of the shares, the Innocent founders have maintained control of the business. Selling their products through McDonalds stores caused ten times more bad press.

Breakfast with the Lord Mayor of London

Thanks to my friend Chris Seow, who is currently Chairman City of London Branch of CMI, I was lucky enough to attend a breakfast talk on Tuesday morning, by the Rt Hon the Lord Mayor, Alderman Nick Anstee. The event was held in the heart of the City of London at Stationer’s Hall, belonging to The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers.

The talk was entitled What now for the City, and gave a helicopter view of the City and how it is regarded around the world. He also talked about how the City is regenerating itself and what is over the horizon. Just to avoid any confusion, you should be aware that the Lord Mayor of London is not the same as the Mayor of London (currently Boris Johnson).

As head of the City of London Corporation, which provides business and local government services to the City, the Lord Mayor of London’s principal role is ambassador for all UK-based financial and professional services. This building of  trade relationships and partnerships around the world, is something the Lord Mayor takes very seriously, and by the end of this year he will have visited 23 countries and 43 cities.

The issue of public confidence in the City was addressed at the outset of the talk, and he wanted the focus of the City of London Corporation to be restoring the trust between the City and wider society. But he felt that politicians had avoided their responsibility in this area, often scapegoating the City, and risking driving away the economic prosperity it provides to the UK economy of 8.3% of GDP and £61.4 billion in tax revenue.

However, he also recognised that the impact of the City must be socially useful as well as economically significant. Although the City retains its position as the worlds’ leading financial centre, despite the economic crisis, it needs to communicate its’ value to the public. To help this process they have created TheCityUK, an independent membership body, promoting the UK financial and related professional services industries.

After the short speech, there were some interesting questions from the audience:

Please comment on current press speculation about regulation of the finance sector,  is the City obliged to educate the public.
We have to engage and inform the public, but also recognise that financial institutions need to do their part. We are looking at challenging the ethics and code of conduct of staff. We are also investigating possible changes to recruitment policies for City institutions. A conference is planned for 7 July covering this area.

Please comment on the rising mortgage default rate in the US. Are we not out of the woods yet?
There is a risk. The US economy is moving out the recession at a reasonable rate. But concerns about regulation may be leading US banks to hoard cash. That cash needs to be freed up in order to stimulate the economy, e.g. invest in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises.

Stationers Hall in the City of London

How to pitch your business

Irene Bejenke WalshFor any of you who have watched entrepreneurs pitching their business on the BBC’s  DragonsDen (or even better the Harry Enfield spoof version below), I’m sure you will agree it is often too painful to bear.

Fortunately we are introducing a workshop in the Business & IP Centre on this scary topic called the investor pitch, on Monday 25 January, and Monday 22 February 2010.

In this interactive workshop, participants will learn about the content of investor presentations as well as how to deliver effective pitches.

Specifically, the following topics will be covered:

• What are investors looking for?
• Targeting different investor audiences
• How to turn your business plan into an investor presentation that will make an impact
• Content of an investor presentation
• Individual presentation skills & delivery
• Pitching formats
• The perfect elevator pitch
• Creating rapport & trust with investors
• Live pitches & feedback

Having met the presenter Irene Bejenke-Walsh, founder of MessageLab, I am confident attendees will be in good hands. She has been coaching entrepreneurs and management teams for investor presentations and pitches for more than a decade. Her clients include the UK’s largest Business Angel network, London Business Angels, where she has coached more than 300 entrepreneurs pitching to the network in a real life “Dragon’s Den”, contributing to an increase in investment rates of over 30%. She also coaches early-stage companies entering the London Technology Fund competition as well as many small and large businesses seeking investment.

My client connects with Knowledge Connect

I have just heard that Marion Ayonote (one of my recent Business & IP information clinic clients) has been highlighted as a case study on the LDA (London Development Agency) website.

Although Marion has already had success as a shoe designer, she wanted to expand her range to include vintage handbags with a contemporary twist. The main fabric is Aso-oke, a traditional fabric originally worn by the Yoruba’s, hand made by local weavers in Nigeria.

Marion Ayonote handbagMarion was born and educated in Nigeria attending the University of Maiduguri in Borno State, where she achieved a BA in History. She then moved to London and in 1997 attended Cordwainers College.

Her first collection simply titled “Shoes” under the “Marion Ayonote” label was launched in 2000. Since her launch she has been invited to exhibit at a number of international events i.e. Tranoi Paris, South Africa fashion week, Moda Calzaldo, and many more.

Knowledge Connect logoKnowledge Connect is designed to assist London’s diverse small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to undertake grant funded collaborative projects with the wider Knowledgebase.

This includes Universities, Further Education Colleges, RTOs and private sector specialists. London Development Agency (LDA) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funding of £5.6 million is being channelled to fund this flagship project. Knowledge Connect is the Innovation Vouchers part of Solutions for Business portfolio.

The three year programme aims to work with 2,880 enterprises and provide a combination of inspirational workshops and events, stimulating communications, one to one mentoring, specialist identification and partner search.

It also offers grant support to enable SMEs to identify and create business growth opportunities.

There are two levels of grant support available:
* Mini grants up to £3,000 provided for activities such as initial testing, product or service development or proof of concept; and
* Maxi grants of up to £10,000 (which require 50% match funding) to support the delivery of a wide range of more in depth, collaborative projects.

Beginners Guide to Business Finance with Johnny Martin

JohnnyMartin_logo

From time to time I take time out to attend one of our partners workshops. This enables me to recommend them to clients and visitors to the Business & IP Centre from personal experience and hopefully to learn something new and useful.

I have been aware of my lack of understanding of business accounts (despite having spent 16 years working for an investment company in the City of London). So although familiar with the terms gross and net profit, cash versus accruals, assets versus liabilities and not forgetting the many and varied ratios such as: Liquidity, Asset turnover, Financial leverage and of course Profitability, I wasn’t confident about what they actually meant.

If you had watched the semi-final of the latest BBC Apprentice series, you would have seen the eventual winner get in something of a muddle about the difference between net and gross profit for the business she had been successfully running for six years.

Now, thanks to attending our Beginners Guide to Business Finance course run by Johnny Martin I am feeling much more confident about how to create a set of management accounts (both for before and after a business starts). And I am now more familiar with these important business concepts. I particularly liked the way he used live spreadsheets to show the impact of a change in price or order volume on the profit (or loss) for the year.

My favourite quote from Johnny after explaining the roles of various accounting jobs from Book keeper to Financial Director was, ‘you can delegate but DON’T abdicate’, financial responsibility for your business. The experiences of both Elton John and Leonard Cohen are salutary reminders of this point.

The courses cost just £18 and are run at regular intervals here in the British Library.