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.

Apprentice Kim and her Marketing Masters Series

Kimberly_DavisLast week I was fortunate enough to attend the first of Kimberly Davis‘ (a contestant on the 2009 series of the Apprentice), Marketing Masters Series.

The day on Marketing Foundations was an excellent overview of how to market and promote your business, and ended with an inspiring talk from author and motivational speaker, Brad (Get Off Your Arse) Burton.

Here are my notes from the day:

Marketing Masters Series – Marketing Foundations – Tuesday 18 January 2011, London

–    The external perception of your company
–    Anything and everything your company does

Difference between sales and marketing
–    Marketing is long-term and has a slow build
–    Sales is short-term is about converting interest into sales
–    The Ying and Yang of business – requires different personality types

The Marketing Umbrella

1. Research
2. Branding – the promise you make to your customers
3. Writing and editing
4. Develop the perfect elevator pitch
5. PR vs Advertising
6. Mailshots
7. Print and production
8. Merchandising
9.  Events and promotions
10. Sponsorship and Partners
11. Online Marketing
12. Video and Multimedia
13. Social Media – How can social media help my business?
14. Customer Service
15. Create a Marketing Plan
16. Create a System that helps your business – e.g. Event booking, emailing
17. Put together your dream team
18. Get professional advice from someone who has done it
19. Network
20. Measure, measure, measure

Example of a very expensive mistake
–    Don’t cut marketing spend as it is a false economy
–    Don’t try and do everything yourself
–    You need to invest in your business – are you investing in holidays?
–    If you don’t have the time to do it right, then you must have the time to do it over again
–    Compare the cost of doing to the cost of not doing
–    You must be willing to make a financial commitment to your business

Company Partners top ten most common business plan mistakes

Lawrence Gilbert at Company Partners has come up with his top ten most common business plan mistakes.

As someone who spends much of his time helping entrepreneurs develop their business plans, Lawrence has seen many hundreds.

Top ten business plan mistakes

  1. Typos and spellings – it sounds small, but it is a killer. Nowadays there is just no excuse. My own spelling is atrocious, but I use a spell checker all the time. Use a spell checker, proof-read your work, or get a friend to proof-read it. Sloppiness in producing the plan will indicate sloppiness in your business.
  2. Poor structure – again no excuse. There are templates and examples around, we ourselves run business plan workshops and there’s software that will structure it for you.
  3. Executive Summary – people get confused as to what that is. It’s simply a short, punchy, straight-to-the-point summary of all else in the plan. About 2 pages, that is interesting enough and factual enough to almost stand-alone. After reading it, you should want to reach for the phone to contact the author, or at least feel you want to read more in the main plan. Although at the front, it’s the last section to be done.
  4. No contact details on the cover page. Someone reading the plan shouldn’t have to hunt through it for contact details – put them clearly on the cover.
  5. Over hyped – expressions such as “fantastic”, “unique”, “incredible” are meaningless and over-hyping your product or service shows naivety. This is closely coupled to the next point…
  6. Lack of evidence – if you state a market figure, or statistic, try and show where it came from. It gains credibility. Do real market research; don’t just ask friends and family (they don’t count).
  7. No effort made to sell the product/service – the proof of the concept comes when you get sales. There are many, many, good ideas around, but not all of them are commercial. Will customers actually give you their cash for your product? Get out there and make some sales, show it will be bought.
  8. Not using Appendix’s – cluttering up the plan with pages of market statistics is not conducive to having it read. No one will struggle through a badly organised plan, just mention the facts and refer to the full information in the relevant appendix.
  9. No detail to the sales and marketing plan – it’s as though you think that the product/service will sell itself – it won’t. This is often the worse part of the plans we see.
  10. Unbelievable and incomplete financials – We’ve all seen the “hockey-stick” projections, where in the first year the revenues are minimal, but then by golly they shoot up at an incredible rate. Having unrealistic numbers, or incomplete numbers, or contradicting numbers are all plan killers.