Category Archives: social enterprise

Soul Trader – Putting the heart back into your business

Rasheed_OgunlaruRasheed Ogunlaru, life and business coach has been a Business & IP Centre partner since our earliest days. In addition to running the Your life, your business workshop once a month in the Centre and mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs with TieUK, he singlehandedly converted me to the benefits of life coaching.

I have to admit that perhaps due to a scientific background, or perhaps just plain old cynicism, I had always been wary of life coaching. I decided the only way to address this prejudice was to attend Rasheed’s workshop five years ago. After three hours I was entirely convinced by his eminently practical approach, to putting your heart and soul into your business.
So it is great to see his practical philosophy translated from workshop to published book in the form of Soul Trader published by Kogan Page. And having read it through this week,  I would put it at the top of my list of recommended reading for everyone starting (or growing) a business. I am still a big fan of Starting Your Own Business: The Good, The Bad and The Unexpected by David Lester, but Rasheed has addressed the key issue of what you really want to get from starting a business, and to make sure you end up running it, instead of it running you and your life.

Soul_Trader_coverHis introduction sums it up nicely:

Most people do not go into business solely to make money. They want to make a living, make an impact, make a contribution, make a statement, make something of real worth and value. They want to enjoy what they do, and make themselves happy and their families secure and proud. They want to make a break from the humdrum, and express their skill and abilities. But sooner or later many business owners fall into the same old trap, lose sight of what’s important and struggle with life balance.

The book consists of eight C’s made up of seven chapters and a ‘plus’ which focusses on insights to help anticipate and embrace Change.

  1. Clarity: Know your mission, talents and values.
  2. Customers: See life through customers’ eyes to win their custom and loyalty.
  3. Courage:  Unleash your inspiration / wisdom and adopt an athlete’s attitude.
  4. Co-operation: Punch over your weight; collaborate. Use / build your network.
  5. Conversations: Learn the art to connect, converse, create and convert leads.
  6. Creativity: Know when to work, rest and be at your best, (re)gain life balance.
  7. Compassion: Connect from the heart – be transformational not transactional.

Early on Rasheed gets the you to conduct a personal SWOT analysis. Which is an excellent way of discovering what you do well, and what you need to work on or get help with.

heart_and_chairThe book is peppered with examples from his hundreds of clients over the years, and covers a problem I have encountered many times, which he calls the ‘blindness of the visionary’. People become so (understandably) obsessed by their business idea or invention, they completely forget about their customers. This leads to a very expensive and risky approach to market research, where you bring your product or service to the market and then find out if anyone will buy it. Much better to find out as you develop your idea and tailor it to what you customers say they want.

Once again Rasheed gives a practical solution to this problem by showing how to map out your customers. He also explains how to develop a set of customer ‘scenarios’, to help understand the psychology of your customers. He doesn’t shy away from the realities of doing business in the real world as a soul trader. Without sufficient income (and avoiding the number one cause of failure – cash-flow) your business will not survive. Even social enterprises have to generate enough money to pay their staff and to invest in growth if they are to succeed. These are the hard questions that so many avoid tackling in their business plans:

  1. How much money to you need to live on, and to break even in business?
  2. How much money do you seek to make this year, next year and the year after in turnover – before costs and tax – and in your personal profit after cost and tax?
  3. On average how many sales or customer does that equate to per month and year?
  4. What specific action are needed to reach those goals, and what are the challenges?
  5. What evidence, research and assumptions are those figures based on?
  6. Looking again at those figures, what are a) realistic, b) optimistic and c) pessimistic sales figures for the next 12 months, and what would they mean to you and your business?
  7. What are your main products and services? How are they priced? What are all the costs involved? Which are the most lucrative? Which incur the most costs? Which involve the most hard work? Which are most dear to your heart and to your customers?

I have been talking to lots of makers recently such as jewellers, and many haven’t properly come to terms with the issue of wanting to make everything by hand themselves, but also selling enough items to make a living.

Rachel_ElnaughCourage is term one doesn’t  come across often in business books, but Rasheed rightly recognises that this is an essential ingredient in business, and gives practical tips on how you can develop it. I am constantly in awe of the people I meet who are at the beginning of a journey that would terrify me. The book contains an example from ex-Dragon and Business & IP Centre supporter Rachel Elnaugh. Rasheed asked one simple question during an advice session, and at a stroke gave her an insight which revolutionised her life. “I can honestly say that session with Rasheed was like walking through a doorway that has led me into a completely new and completely fulfilling life where success, money and love are all now flowering.”

Cooperation is an undervalued aspect of business, with many people I meet worrying about their competition before they have even started trading. The book talks about the importance of developing business partnerships through cooperation. And again Rasheed gives practical advice on how to grow and then utilize your support networks.

Conversations, which convert contacts into customers replace the ‘hard sell’ for soul traders. After all, no-one wants to be sold to, but everyone wants their opinion to be listened to. This chapter also includes how conversations work via social media channels and what precautions you need to take them online. There a lots of practical examples here, including how to deal with complaints by using, Acknowledge – Reflect back – Say what you can do.

Towards the end of the book Rasheed introduces his two-page business plan. As he says, ‘Business plans are written for two purposes and for two audiences: 1) for you to identify who and where you are, where you’re going and how you’ll get there; and 2) for investors or funders for the same purpose. If you’re seeking funding from others then you’ll need a longer, more detailed business plan…”

To sum up, I found Soul Trader to be clear and simple, friendly and supportive, passionate and soulful – just like Rasheed himself.

Green Metropolis – a million books to read again and again

greenMetropolisThanks once again to Smarta.com for this inspiring business start-up story, this time featuring books (a subject close to my heart).

They have interviewed Barry Crow the founder of Green Metropolis about  how he came to develop the site using his redundancy pay.

What’s your background and how did you come up with the idea for the site? I’m originally from Newcastle and worked for British Airways as an IT developer. I moved to London for my job and went from a 4 bedroom house to a one bedroom flat. I’m an avid reader and had loads of paperbacks. If people have space, their books go under the bed or on the shelf. I had no space and had to de-clutter everything. So I started giving them away to charity shops. 

I went through pretty much the same process; I would buy a new book every month, read it and then drop it off in a charity shop.  But I could never find books there I wanted to buy. If I had just finished a James Patterson, then I would want to read another one. But if the charity shop didn’t have it I would have to go to Waterstones and buy a new one.

After a while I just thought: this is crazy; there must be a better way to do this. That was the beginnings of the idea but I didn’t look at it properly until I lost my job.


How many people use the site?

We have about 100,000 members.

We started with 1,000 books in stock which were mostly mine, and a few of my friends. We have about a million second-hand books in stock now. Some members still buy books brand new, because they have to have it, but within a week they’ve read it and will post it on the site


What sets you aside from sites like Amazon or even eBay?

Our site is more like a book club; it’s a community doing it to benefit each other. It’s for people who want to share their books with each other and at the same time raise money for a good cause. It adds to the whole feel-good factor of the site.

When you join us, you get an online account and every time you sell, you can either have the money refunded to you or use it buy new books.

Everyone should benefit, whether buying or selling, and ideally, we want our sellers to have enough credit from sales to buy their next one on the site without ever needing to use a credit card.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

I think probably promoting the site. I have no experience with the marketing side of things. My background is computers and IT, so I didn’t have a problem with the technical side of the site. But I suppose I naively thought after 6 months that once we had a great website, people would naturally come to it.

Like I said, we’ve never advertised it, and it’s been a very slow process. I started off and it was just me and I massively underestimated the time it takes to do everything.

Where do you see the site in five years time?

I would like GreenMetropolis.com to be the main ethical alternative to Amazon for second hand and charity books. For myself, I would like to work a little less, so that I can read a little more.

Escape the City is one year old

Having worked for 16 years in the City of London for an investment firm, I can relate strongly to Escape the City.

I also used to manage a colleague, who left my team to successfully fulfil his dream of creating an alternative therapy business in New Zealand (Sacred Moves ~ Yoga, 5Rhythms Dance and Massage Therapies).

Escape the City was set up by Dom Jackman and Rob Symington who found their own way out and wanted to help others (our story).

We are on a mission to liberate talented people from unfulfilling corporate jobs.

We are assembling a community of corporate professionals who want to escape the corporate mainstream and do something different with their lives and their careers.

Our objective is to build and maintain a platform that connects these ambitious and talented people with exciting career changes, innovative business start-ups and epic adventures.

We know that there is more to life than doing work that doesn’t matter to you. We want to help people to find ways of spending their working lives doing exciting and fulfilling work.

Escape the City is now a year old and has 26,550  subscribers to their weekly escape opportunities email, and over 4,500 followers on Facebook.

Below is a clip from their new video with my favourite escape story.

EscapetheCity

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A member-owned supermarket on my doorstep

Although I had noticed a new supermarket in Lamb’s Conduit Street passing by on My first ride on a ‘Boris Bike’. I hadn’t realised it was a revolutionary, shopper owned and supported cooperative until I saw it featured in my Springwise newsletter.

Though the first food co-op opened in the UK back in 1844, according to Google, such cooperatives have not been a familiar sight in Europe in recent years, despite a certain popularity in the United States. Until now, that is. In fact, with the recent launch of the People’s Supermarket, Londoners recently gained a new place to find affordable food.

Only members can shop at the People’s Supermarket, but they all get a 10 percent discount on prices as well as a say in how the store is run. In exchange, members pay an annual membership fee of GBP 25, and they also pledge to volunteer four hours of their time per month working as store staff. Because the supermarket’s workforce is nearly all volunteers, staff costs are kept low this way — an advantage that can be passed on in lower prices. Any profits that are earned, meanwhile, get put back into the store to bring down prices even further.

Food co-ops are not uncommon in the US, but it’s interesting to see their reemergence in the UK following a bout of unusually tough times. Could this be the beginning of a widespread comeback…?
http://www.springwise.com

The People’s SupermarketIdentity Designed is a showcase and forum for those involved in the design of brand identities.

Time Out says:
We’ve followed the slow and steady success of The People’s Supermarket, a carrot-packed co-operative outlet in Bloomsbury. Fighting off Tesco for a site in one of London’s most independently spirited neighbourhoods, The People’s Supermarket is a project close to the heart of celeb chef Arthur Potts-Dawson and ex-Marks & Spencer executive Kate Wickes-Bull.

The duo have rallied the local community into buying into the scheme – literally. Although anyone can shop at the store, full membership (which scores you a 10 per cent discount and a say in how the shop is run) will cost you £25 and four hours per month working in the store. What you get is fresh, locally sourced (when possible) supermarket fare, dirt cheap and airfreight free; new jobs for locals; and all profits going back into the business. For its founders, this is the beginning of a retail revolution – but for us, it’s a genuine alternative to the major supermarkets aggressively taking over our streets.

Though the first food co-op opened in the UK back in 1844, according to Google, such cooperatives have not been a familiar sight in Europe in recent years, despite a certain popularity in the United States. Until now, that is. In fact, with the recent launch of the People’s Supermarket, Londoners recently gained a new place to find affordable food. 

Only members can shop at the People’s Supermarket, but they all get a 10 percent discount on prices as well as a say in how the store is run. In exchange, members pay an annual membership fee of GBP 25, and they also pledge to volunteer four hours of their time per month working as store staff. Because the supermarket’s workforce is nearly all volunteers, staff costs are kept low this way — an advantage that can be passed on in lower prices. Any profits that are earned, meanwhile, get put back into the store to bring down prices even further.

Food co-ops are not uncommon in the US, but it’s interesting to see their reemergence in the UK following a bout of unusually tough times. Could this be the beginning of a widespread comeback…? (Related: Sustainable urban campground to be crowd-funded & managed — Crowdfunded breweries.)

Website: www.thepeoplessupermarket.org
Contact: info@thepeoplessupermarket.org

Electronic Christmas greetings card images from Rachel Piper

Although I am in daily in contact with existing and aspiring entrepreneurs, and hopefully have helped in some small way on to success, I wasn’t aware of inspiring a new venture until today.

Some time ago I wrote a post about Rachel Piper a librarian and an amazing nature photographer, and her brave decision to blog about her experience of living with Obsessive–compulsive disorder (To Blog or not to Blog? That is the question).

I asked her permission to use one of her amazing winter photos in an electronic Season’s Greetings card. And in exchange offered to give a sum of money to charity.

This has inspired Rachel to create a Christmas 2010 web page for electronic Christmas greetings, encouraging people who use the images to donate to either their own charity, or to one Rachel’s choices.

Christmas 2010

Please feel free to use any of the following photographs for your electronic Christmas greetings. They can be saved by right-clicking on an image.

A voluntary donation to one of the charities below would be very much appreciated, although it is not essential.

If you are able to give (or if you prefer to donate to your own favourite charity), don’t forget to tell your family and friends who their Christmas greeting has helped.

Please remember that gift aid can be claimed for freewill gifts.

Keech Hospice Care for Children supports families from across Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes with a child or young person diagnosed with a life-limiting condition. Its staff offers medical and social care, emotional support and friendship to the whole family, throughout the child’s illness and after their death, for as long as it is needed. This care is available in-house at the charity’s bright and comfortable children’s hospice near Luton, or via their community nursing team at the family home. Their aim is to help families make the most of the precious time they have left with their child. While many of the children will have only a short life, they all still have plenty of living to do.
To donate please visit www.justgiving.com/rachel-piper2

The World Land Trust works to preserve the world’s most biologically important and threatened lands, and has helped purchase and protect over 400,000 acres of habitats rich in wildlife. In many of their project areas a donation of £50 is enough to save one acre of rainforest, and the many trees and endangered species that live there. Remember, we can only take beautiful photographs if we look after our beautiful world.
To donate please visit www.justgiving.com/rachel-piper

Thank you for your donation; I hope you enjoy the photographs.

Rachel

Startup TV magazine

I have finally got around to ‘reading’ Startup TV magazine, which is now up to its tenth edition. It is a very modern combination of a digital magazine with videos embedded on each page.

In this issue they include an interview with Richard Reed of Innocent smoothies fame. He talks about his ‘Trojan horses’ to get healthy food (fruit and vegetables) into adults and children.

There is a set of number-one-tips from a range of successful entrepreneurs, which includes ‘be yourself, be the best you can be’.

Penny Power the creator of Ecademy talks about social media and building trust online.

And Claire Young discusses life after the Apprentice and her new project to help young girls in the UK.

Girls Out Loud is a UK based social enterprise set up in 2009 by serial entrepreneur and inspirational speaker/coach Jane Kenyon and business woman, Ambassador for enterprise and media personality Claire Young – with the aim to raise the aspirations of young girls between the ages of 13-18.  Girls Out Loud facilitates intervention programmes in schools from one day to 3 months in duration.

Definitely recommended reading / viewing.


Free broker research reports on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues

Having worked in the City of London for many years, I was somewhat surprised to discover that financial institutions are now giving away their highly valued stockbrokers reports.
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Needless to say they aren’t giving everything out, but through the The London Accord, you can get access to nearly 100 reports on a range of green and ethical related topics.
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Welcome to the London Accord
The London Accord presents a compendium of reports, written by a range of financial services firms, providing insight into issues ranging from renewable energy to the price of carbon.

The financial services industry produces pertinent and valuable research which could, and should, be used by policy makers and NGOs who are shaping society’s response to long-term issues such as climate change and global pandemics. However, much of this research only sees the desks of a select few and all too soon disappears into the filing systems and cupboards of the commercial sector.

The London Accord allows access to this research free of charge – offering policy makers an insight which they may not otherwise access and giving the financial services industry a way of engaging with society on long-term issues. The London Accord is simple, get more recognition and value from research by sharing what you are about to archive.

Sustainable Supply Chains workshop

Today I attended an excellent workshop on Sustainable Supply Chains. It was presented by Stephen Taiwo, who was the sustainable policy adviser and architect of the Government Office for London and Defra’s Sustainable Food Procurement project. He now works for Supply London – an LDA and European funded initiative, provides advice and support. http://www.supplylondon.com/

Here are my notes from the workshop:

Definition of sustainability – Bruntland 1987 – “Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brundtland_Commission

  1. Resources consumed in line with nature’s patterns
  2. Consider long term impact
  3. Minimise risk and cost
  4. Not just about environmental impacts, includes social and economic.

Current practice

Figures from One World – currently consume the equivalent of 1.3 planets to provide the resource we use and absorb our waste.

At current trends UN predicts 2030 will require equivalent of 2 earths.

Supply Chain

A linked set of resources and processes that begins with the sourcing of raw materials and extends through to delivery of end items to the consumer.

Cradle to grave for products.

Development – identification & buying – manufacturing – sale & dist – consumption – end of life & disposal

Sustainability Issues

  • impact on air quality
  • water consumption & pollution
  • loss of biodiversity e.g. land clearance – mono-crops
  • impact on limited resources – is it resource intensive
  • impact on greenhouse gases – climate
  • waste production
  • health & safety
  • quality of life – wages for producers

Examples of cotton production in India with negative impact on the soil and water supply. Intensive tomato production in southern Portugal.

Why a sustainable Supply Chain

  • reduce costs and improve productivity
  • reduce risk – includes brand damage resulting from negative press
  • reduce absenteeism through better staff welfare
  • creates healthier environments
  • to be a market leader – public sector suppliers now ask questions related to sustainability

Drawbacks to Sustainable Supply Chains (less true than in the past)

  • no motivation other than complying with the law.
  • Consumers often go for cheapest option rather than sustainable products.
  • Short term focus of government, business and consumers – relates to 12 month business budgeting – government departments have individual targets which weren’t linked up.

Help from:

Soil association – http://www.soilassociation.org/

Sustain – http://www.sustain.co.uk/

Ten Ten Campaign – http://www.1010uk.org/

Greenworks – http://www.green-works.co.uk/

How to implement a sustainable supply chain

  1. Analyse your internal process & impacts
  2. Identify your supply chain and at which point you sit. Also the suppliers of your suppliers.
  3. Make sustainability part of your organisational strategy – must have top level buy-in – need to develop KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) – develop an action plan for delivery.
  4. Implement practical measures suited to your organisation – SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely).
    1. Written policies
    2. Communication materials
    3. Evaluate suppliers.
    4. Purchasing guidelines
    5. Supplier partnerships
  5. Get all internal and external stakeholders involved
    1. Driven from the top, but must involve everyone.
    2. Supplier engagement
    3. Use relationships with customer.

Support from Supply London

-          ISO 9001 help and support which can save consultants fees.

The workshop ended first with the quote below from Mahatma Gandhi, and then a screening of the Story of Stuff (a 20-minute animation of the consumerist society, narrated by Anne Leonard).

 

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed” Mahatma Gandhi

Vote for your favourite marketing hero

As if compiling votes on the favourite brand of the last 50 years wasn’t enough, the Marketing Society also wants to see who is your marketing hero.

There is quite a long list to choose from, but I was disappointed they only managed to find two women; Anita Roddick of The Body Shop fame, and Dianne Thompson the CEO of Camelot Group who run the UK National Lottery. I have added a few others to see who you recognise.

Dianne Thompson CBEAnita RoddickGeorge DaviesKen WebbLord MacLaurinMark Zuckerberg

Follow the risers and fallers on the FairTrade 100

Having spent much of my working life working in the investment world of the City of London, the various share indices were bread and butter to me. My key one was actually the FTSE All Share, but the FTSE 100 was a regular feature in my working day.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see that the good people at World Fair Trade Day have developed their own take on the indices by introducing the FT100 for organisations that are “100% committed to Fair Trade”.

You may recognize some familiar names on the list such as Oxfam, Traidcraft, and one of our recent Inspiring Entrepreneurs speakers – People Tree.

Fairtrade coffee, tea and hot chocolate drinks from Cafedirect, bringing quality to lifeHowever, the nicest surprise, was to see the only company I have ever directly bought shares in sitting in the list. I bought 1,000 shares in Cafédirect over five years ago, and since then the company has gone from strength to strength.

Cafédirect is the UK’s largest Fairtrade hot drinks company. Our brands, Cafédirect, Teadirect and Cocodirect are sold through most of the major supermarkets. We buy from 39 producer organisations in 13 countries, ensuring that over a quarter of a million growers receive a decent income from trade. We are proud to be working with farmers who have the expertise to provide the exceptional quality we require. This ensures that you enjoy the finest selection of coffees, teas and chocolate drinks. As part of our Gold Standard Fairtrade policy, over the past three years we have invested on average 60% of our profits in the businesses and communities of our grower partners.