Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Mothers of Invention

Last week was a busy one for me with three events worth noting. The most memorable, for two reasons, was our Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Mothers of Invention evening.

One, because – sadly this is likely to be last of our Inspiring Entrepreneurs events for the foreseeable future, due to our funding running out. Secondly, because I got to show Natasha Kaplinsky around the Business & IP Centre. She got quite excited about our Success Stories, in particular the David versus Goliath saga of Mandy Haberman’s Any Way Up Cup.

Natasha had kindly agree to chair our session of four inspirational and pioneering female entrepreneurs.

Although businesses run by women contribute £130 billion a year to the UK economy, still only 15% are led by women. I am proud to say that 50% of the people we help in the Business & IP Centre are women, so we are doing our bit to help redress this inequality.

Mama-MioSian Sutherland the co-founder of Mama Mio skincare was our first speaker. Since starting five years ago Mama Mio is now distributed in 2500 stores and five spas in eight countries.

Their mission is very simple and straightforward – to be the most recommended skincare brand in the world.

Sian described the three key ingredients to competing – Business, Brand and  Product.

To her brand is the most important ingredient for long term business success. And that chimes with several of my recent blog posts on the subject of branding.

She explained how you need to gain brand loyalty using emotion, rather than price.

Sian’s vital ingredients for success:

  • ­        learn from the mistakes of others
  • ­        use the ‘why bother test’
  • ­        don’t follow trends or fads
  • ­        understand who your customer is
  • ­        know how to talk to your customers
  • ­        have a unique and own-able brand tone of voice
  • ­        deliver on every level to your customers
  • ­        make you customers feel special
  • ­        have a plan
  • ­        if it was easy, everyone would do it
  • ­        love what you do, and do what you love

Sara Murray is serial entrepreneur having founded the price comparison website, and more recently developed buddi, a miniaturised tracking device for vulnerable people..

She told us that success does not come overnight. It takes on average eight years for a business to become successful.

Buddi is Sara’s third business, and the initial idea was to give the product away and charge a rental. However this approach was rejected by her investors, so she went back with a revised plan which was accepted. So the lesson there, is be adaptable.

She said that luck favours the persistent, failure is good, and that you shouldn’t wait for the big idea to come along – just get on with it and see what happens.

Every product however good will eventually becomes obsolete, so you need to develop a range of products in order to have a successful business.

For funding, forget about the banks, use Angel investors, friends and family.

Vanessa Heywood created  Tiny Mites Music in 2004 to provide music and drama classes for pre-school children. By 2010, Tiny Mites Music was being performed in over 80 day-care nurseries and at holiday parks across the UK.

In November 2010, Vanessa was the recipient of the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs.

She told her heart-rending story of having to bring up two small children on her own while trying to cope with MS.

Shazia Awan is the founder and Director of Peachy Pink.  a ladies shaping and anti-cellulite underwear brand launched in 2009. In late 2010, Shazia introduced Max Core, shaping and posture-control garments for men.

Every bank she went to for funding said the business would fail, so Peachy Pink started with life based on her savings and credit card.

The great thing about starting your own business is that no one can tell you how to market your products.

Peachy PinkPeach Pink was launched with fifty women walking down Oxford Street just wearing their underwear. This generated a great deal of press coverage for free.

Now Shazia has launched a search for the peachiest bottom in the UK

Last year she launched Max Core for men, a posture control clothing, purely from demand from customers. Her initial product line sold out within a week.

She feels that unique selling points are key for new products, for use in marketing and promotional activities.

Success comes from a great product, innovation and PR.

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