Funding Update: Samuel Bafunso

Samuel Bafunso (MSc International Innovation (Entrepreneurship), 2016) received an Enterprise Funding award for his business, SB Consultancy Ltd. Here he shares his update.

SB Consultancy Limited was founded in 2016.  SB are the initials for the founder (Samuel Bafunso).

SB Consultancy Limited is a management and marketing consultancy. We provide design, digital and marketing services for  individuals and businesses of all sizes. As a company, we help craft digital experiences that combine design, technology and strategy.

The Lancaster-China Catalyst Programme was instrumental to the birth of SB Consultancy Limited. By being a part of a multidisciplinary graduate team which provided support for two different UK-Chinese company collaborative partnerships; I realised and finally articulated my personal mission, which was to help individuals and organisations, do whatever they do, but better.  Whilst in China, I was very fortunate to work with a few successful entrepreneurs and in the process, I developed a number of productive relationships. This put things in perspective for me, and I decided that when I returned to the UK, I would set up my own consultancy, which offers a range of services to small businesses to improve their overall business execution.

After returning from China, I participated in a few UK-China Entrepreneurship and Investment competitions. The feedback which I received from these competitions gave me the much needed confidence to continue with my entrepreneurial journey.

I have worked closely with the Enterprise Team from the onset, and they have helped shape my company into what it is today. The support which I have received from the team has been invaluable; from spending quality time in working through my business model canvas, providing financial support for my business to introducing me to other successful entrepreneurs within the industry.

With regards to the financial support; I received £500 from the Enterprise Fund, sponsored by Santander Universities, which was very instrumental to the growth of my company.  The bulk of the  fund was primarily used to cover transportation costs to meet my first 3 potential clients in London, Leeds and Lancaster. I also used some of the funding to print some business cards for my company which have been useful at various networking opportunities. Being awarded the enterprise fund made life easier for me at the start and I’m very grateful for that support which I received.

I have now worked on over 12 different projects with a range of clients and the business is growing rapidly. I am very excited with the progress so far and also looking forward to the future. I am very keen to connect and work with other entrepreneurs.

I am very passionate about growing businesses so please feel free to have a look on our website or contact us on any of our social media pages to see how we can help you.


Connect with Samuel on social media and online: Website | Facebook | Twitter |

Apply for free office space on campus!

Mind Your Own Business

Furness College’s ‘Mind Your Own Business’ scheme offers an entrepreneurial individual or team of students access to a dedicated office space, for use over the duration of a term. The space includes free use of a Mac computer.

Applications are welcome from individuals/groups of students from any college who are looking to develop or start a new commercial or social enterprise. Each term, Furness College holds a call for applications from interested students for the subsequent term. If students wish to use the space for more than one term, they will be required to reapply. Candidates will be invited to an interview to present their business ideas in week 10.

Current/previous occupants of the space have included Charles Rogers, founder of Cloudline queuing app and semi-finalist in this year’s Santander Entrepreneurship Awards and also, the Ikigai Factory team.

Applications close on the 17th of November at 3pm (download application form). If you have any further questions get in touch with the team in Furness College: furnessoffice@lancaster.ac.uk.

An update from Ikigai Factory Ltd

Things have changed for Patrizia, Sebastien & Kyaw (MSc International Innovation, 2016) since they last shared an update following their victory at the 2016 Santander Big Ideas competition. Having established their company Ikigai Factory Ltd earlier this year, the trio have taken part in two startup accelerators and are going from strength to strength. Here they share an update and some valuable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Our company is called Ikigai Factory Ltd and the flagship product we are developing is called REVR, which stands for real estate virtual reality. REVR is a simple tool to create, manage, view and share virtual property tours. Virtual tours help the property listings of real estate agents become more engaging and compelling. The idea originated from our experience of renting a flat in China from the UK by only looking at photos…. and well, it’s an understatement to say what we saw on the pictures did not reflect at all what we got!

So in February 2017 we incorporated our company with the support of the Enterprise Centre who also helped us with finding an accountant (at a convenient price, which is always important when you are a startup). We also started a 12 week pre startup accelerator in London (FFWD) which was very useful as it gave us guidelines on how to carry out different parts of the business such as, finance and marketing. Also it was a great opportunity to network with experts from different business areas and discuss and get advice from mentors. We worked on different important topics every week and had to present the results in front of other startups which was excellent practice for pitching on stage.

At the same time, we applied for the Barclays Eagle Lab Flight in Brighton, a startup accelerator which gave us access to some funding (always welcome) in the form of an unsecured loan. One of the best parts of the programme was to have office space; it’s not always very productive to work from home. Since there were only seven or eight other startups it was easy and natural to network and we spent a lot of time together and we came to know each others businesses quite well which allowed us to share suggestions, advice and learn from each other.

The programme finished at the end of June. During the summer we decided to hire a freelance senior developer to make progress quickly and have a functioning product as soon as possible. Through the Brighton accelerator we were introduced to a local real estate that since August has been testing our solution; this has been very useful and getting feedback from both the agency and the customers has allowed us to improve our product/service to add genuine values.

Lancaster University was very helpful as we have been introduced to a potential investor from China, and at the same time, LUSU Living has become our customer #1! Since August we have had a fantastic intern working on our social media (thank you Camille!).

It we could give one piece of advice or recommendation to our fellow aspiring student entrepreneurs, it would be to use the resources available at Lancaster University!

So what’s next for us? Our current main goal will be to get on board between 5-10 customers per month, and look for potential investors to develop REVR further and focus on growth and scaling.

If you want to know more about REVR and Ikigai Factory, check out their website here and have a look at their page on our Enterprise Directory.

If you’d like to make the most of the resources and support available at Lancaster, register with us and get started! 

Santander Entrepreneurship Awards Semi-Finals

Santander Awards Semi-Final Update

This week, Lancaster University’s Santander semi-finalists traveled to Northumbria University to pitch their ideas in the North & Ireland Semi-Final.

Charles Rogers pitched his virtual queuing app first in the pre-revenue category followed by Ze and Adam of Kaizen Academy in the post-revenue category. Both delivered excellent, well prepared five minute pitches which were followed by a grilling from the panel.

 

The results were announced on the day, unfortunately amidst very tough competition neither made it through to the final. However, as winner’s of the People’s Choice Vote, Kaizen Academy have been selected to attend the forthcoming accelerator week and have also be awarded £500 of funding. Both Charles and Kaizen were a credit to Lancaster –  we would like to thank them for all of the hard-work they put into the competition. I think would agree that it was a great day and a lot can be taken away from the experience.

 

GUEST BLOG: How to price your art

Inés Gregori Labarta is a PhD  student in the Department of English & Creative Language, and an avid doodler and illustrator. Here, she shares what she has learned from working with us at our weekly StartupLab and why she finally feels empowered to put a price on her art.

Original image by Inés Gregori Labarta

As an artist, I find it difficult to put a price on what I produce. First because it’s something intimate, like a part of my body, or a memory. Also, creating equals good mental health for me and it’s, plainly, my source of energy. Creators out there, you know where I’m coming from, right? If suddenly all the papers and pencils in the world were gone and I couldn’t write or doodle, I’d automatically go insane – and start seeing faces in my wall, like the protagonist of The Yellow Wallpaper. On the other side, I’m a terribly perfectionist artist. I haven’t ironed my clothes for years now but let me tell you I get literally sick every time I see the slightest mistake in my piece. Nothing of what I produce resembles the (perfect) ideals I have in my mind.

Because of all this, every time someone asked me how much I charge for an illustration or story I had no idea what to answer. It could be one thousand pounds – considering that I’m selling something unique and original that, in some cases, has taken years to produce. Or I could also give it for free considering it’s not perfect – what’s perfect in life anyways?

Did you have similar thoughts at some point in your artistic career? Art being priceless, way above money and any other mundane nuisances, or not good enough to deserve some cash. To me the turning point was gaining financial independence by working as a content writer in an office. This came with a realisation; work is great because it can give you freedom (unless you have blue blood running through your veins, of course). But you have to like it, or else it may become torture. I hated my work with a passion – the office environment turned me into a caged ferret and being forced to put quantity before quality when performing any tasks made me feel like a fraud. I put up with it, as I still do with many part time jobs, because, well, I need to, but that made me realise that I wanted to make money with something I enjoyed enough to not mind the downsides – and that has to be art.

I find many artists associate genius with poverty and misery – at the end of the day, Vincent Van Gogh never sold but one painting, and Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe died penniless. This may be rooted in your subconcious too – it was rooted in mine, at least – but as the writer Carolyn Elliot explains in this interview, you can change that. Art and money go hand in hand and hey, that doesn’t make your art dirty or less real.

Just put it this way; when you walk into Sainsburys to buy a loaf of bread, do you expect them to give it to you for free? And when you jump on the bus to go to Uni or work, do you get offended when they ask you to pay for the ticket? Do you scream at the bartender when he’s trying to charge you for a pint on a Saturday night? We live in a capitalist society – and if you don’t like it you can always burn all of your money and go to live Thoreau-like as Christopher from Into the Wild. Time is valuable, and a limited resource, so why wouldn’t it have a price? An alternative would be exchanging your goods for other people’s goods – for instance, you could try to pay for a meal with a doodle on a napkin… but realistically it would take lots of time and discussion. Money is, on the other hand, an easy way for people to show appreciation for what you do.

And this takes me back to pricing. Shall you charge all or nothing for your art? Luckily, pricing can be resolved in a logical and easy matter, so next time someone asks you how much you charge for painting or writing you can give a quick answer full of confidence – instead of blushing thinking “oh-how-can-someone-pay-for-this” and mumbling a random number. (Yes I’ve been there too). This article by Amanda Brooks from the Enterprise Centre taught me in about twenty minutes how much should I charge for my art and – more importantly – why that particular number and not another. If you want to honour your artistic gift and make it a way of living, check it out!


If like Inés, you find it difficult to know how much to charge for your work, or if you’re looking to start making money from your creative talents, get in touch.

Funding Update: IDDE Ltd

Caleb Adamu and Toby Venning received funding from the Lancaster University Enterprise Fund in 2016 which allowed them to travel across the country and pitch their ideas at national competitions, and meet new clients for their business, IDDE Ltd. Here’s their update.

The Enterprise Team was extremely supportive throughout all our competitions, by helping with business planning and asking the tough questions that friends and family often won’t. On reflection, these types of questions are the ones that reduce mistakes and allowed us to progress further with our business idea.

We co-founded IDDE Ltd after first meeting in 2014 when we both won a £16,000 scholarship to attend Lancaster University for the pioneering MSc International Innovation (Entrepreneurship and Design) in the award winning Management School.

The MSc International Innovation, China Catalyst Programme incorporated demanding UK-China consultancy projects whilst giving us the opportunity to collaborate with Marketers, Engineers, Designers and Computer Programmers. Working for innovative companies gave us direct access to successful entrepreneurs who mentored us through a tough but rewarding two years. Working closely with these entrepreneurs gave us the confidence and insight to realise very quickly that graduate programmes or climbing the corporate ladder was not the career path for us. So we set about making our own future and started planning IDDE Ltd.

Before finishing our degrees we got some experience in the world of entrepreneurship and represented an IP company outside of the programme. We entered three separate UK-China competitions to which we became finalists in all three (HiSTAR Competition, Oxford University; China UK Entrepreneurship Challenge, Lancaster University, University College London; and  Shenzhen Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition, China Britain Business Council). Receiving £500 from the Enterprise Fund meant that we could travel to Oxford and Edinburgh for the finals of these competitions.

Our success in these competitions led to IDDE gaining our first client. Six months later, we have three clients and we are experiencing significant growth. IDDE Ltd is a design and digital agency which focuses on helping other businesses grow using innovative design and digital solutions. We build bespoke web development packages which aren’t for show; their purpose is to generate and convert sales leads. We tie our growth in with our clients’ growth which has resulted in strong and profitable partnerships.

We have a passion for working with entrepreneurs and people who want to establish and grow their business, especially Lancaster students and Alumni. Feel free to get in touch and discover how we can help you.


Check out our work:

www.idde.co.uk

www.amcorresourcing.co.uk & https://www.facebook.com/amcorresourcing/

www.controlledblastingsolutions.co.uk

University Entrepreneurs Challenge Success!

Kaizen Academy take 3rd place!

Big congratulations to Kaizen Academy for taking 3rd prize in The University Entrepreneurs Challenge at the third Educate North Awards, held at The Hilton Hall Hotel in Manchester at the end of April.

Ze Macedo represented the Kaizen team, pitching against 5 other companies at the final in front of four experienced judges. The results were  then announced later that day at the awards ceremony attended by more than 250 academics, students and executives.

Well done to Ze and the rest of the Kaizen team!

You can read more about the awards and winners here.

 

Royal Approval for TwoThai!

Jing and Beam Presented with Duke of York Young Entrepreneur Awards

Huge congratulations to Supawadee Pongwisaitat (Jing) and Awika Lertcharoensuk (Beam), MSc Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Practice graduates who have recently been awarded Duke of York Young Entrepreneur awards. They were presented with the awards by the Duke of York himself at a recent awards ceremony at the University of Huddersfield.

The Enterprise Team nominated Jing and Beam for the award in recognition of all the hard work which they have put into starting their TwoThai street food business. As international graduates this included the added challenge of securing T1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visas! Having gained the Visas with support from the Enterprise Team and LUSU, TwoThai are now trading at Lancaster’s regular Market in town, selling their simple, healthy, traditional Thai food.

You can read the official University press article here and if you wish to try some of TwoThai’s delicious food they trade every Wednesday and Saturday in Lancaster’s Market Square!

 

 

Important things to consider when hiring a website vendor – my experience!

Roselyn Dien is a recent graduate of the Lancaster University Management School (class of 2015) and the CEO of The Guardian Abroad UK Ltd. In July 2016, she applied for the funding award from The Enterprise Centre to rebuild her business website. The Guardian Abroad UK Ltd provides guardianship and specialist support services to international students as well as organise summer holiday programmes and English language courses for juniors and young adults. 


Today my business website www.theguardianabroad.co.uk is up and running and just two months after launch, I’m already seeing a positive impact on my business; many thanks to the Lancaster University Enterprise Centre for providing funding towards the website project from the Santander enterprise fund.  The website may be live but the journey to this point was far from smooth; a project that was scheduled to be completed within 6 weeks ended up lasting seven months due to hiring the wrong website vendor. Following from my bad experience here are some important things I now see that a business owner should consider when hiring a website vendor.

In today’s technology savvy business environment, a professional website is a must have for businesses for very many beneficial reasons – customer acquisition, business promotion, global positioning as well as being a channel for prospective clients to find and learn more about the business. However, many businesses lack the internal technical know-how to build a vibrant and engaging online presence, hence, the need to engage the services of third-party vendors which of course can be a real challenge especially when it comes to selecting a vendor with the right skill set.

Unfortunately, not all vendors are trustworthy and very many businesses have fallen victim to illegitimate vendors or legitimate vendors with low ethical standards and sometimes, even those who know what to do still fall into the wrong hands. This sadly, was my experience when I hired a website vendor that turned out to be unscrupulous and unreliable yet freely operating in the community. I later found out that the same company has scammed many small businesses, especially the new ones, by taking payment but not delivering on the job. So, why are they allowed to still operate freely in the community? A good question I sincerely do not have an answer to.

In July 2016, I applied for and got funding from the Lancaster University Enterprise Centre towards my website redesign project as the existing website was obsolete and not optimised for mobile platforms and all browsers. With the excitement, I started the selection process of who will handle the project, being very careful not to make a mistake. For instance, I opted for a local vendor with a physical office to allow for face to face meetings and easy communication, however, that later proved not to be enough, as there were other vital steps I should have taken.

Once the upfront payment was made, the story and attitude of the vendor started to change, from one excuse to endless revisions and unnecessary delays and a six week project ended up lasting seven months.  Within that period, the business had changed its name four times, closed the physical office and changed contact details. Needless to recount the full experience here or enumerate the loss incurred in terms of time, money, sales and the psychological trauma.

So, to help new business owners avoid such an ugly encounter, here are some important things to also consider when hiring a website vendor.

Have a clear understanding of your requirements

This is very key in website design. Understand your requirement and what the website should achieve. It will be helpful to have a blueprint that defines the overall purpose of the site and outline the key points for the project before the start. This will give you a better understanding of who to hire, guide the discussions and agreements with the vendor, help the creation process as well as keep all parties focused on the project objective.

Conduct thorough research

Conduct thorough research and adequately evaluate the capabilities of the vendor prior to committing to the project. Building a website can be very exciting for the business owner but jumping at the first vendor you talk to may not be a very good idea.  If possible, narrow your initial selection to a minimum of 3 vendors before settling for the one. Compare what each has to offer by looking at their portfolios, previous work done, skills and experiences. Choose a vendor with the right skills sets who has done similar jobs to what you want or have relevant experience.  Check that they possess a combination of web design and development skills. A web designer is concerned more with the ‘look and feel’ of the site and a web developer handles the coding and back end.

Ask questions 

Asking questions should be at the top of your priority list. Do not just assume things; ask relevant questions, clarify grey areas and obtain satisfactory answers. A simple google search will give you an idea of the type of questions to ask. Do not accept what you are told at face value, check online reviews on the vendor, conduct a Company House check to ensure the business is fully registered and thriving and if possible, visit the office to check out things for yourself. Request references and case studies and obtain recommendations from past clients (yes! contact them) to evaluate the level of customer service rendered and how they related with the clients.

Agreeing to the terms and conditions

Read and understand the terms and condition carefully before signing the contract and flag any discrepancies as the project progresses. Keep both the hard and soft copy of the contract, ensuring that every discussion, both verbal and written, is properly documented. Verbal communication should be followed by a written summary which should be sent electronically to all parties involved. Request for the vendor’s statement of work that spells out specific activities and timelines before the start of the project which should also include consequences if timelines are not adhered to; this will keep the vendor committed to and focused on the project. Website design, hosting and content management are three separate aspects of website development. You have the choice of designing with one vendor and hosting with another so do not feel compelled to stick to the same vendor for all your website needs. This gives you the flexibility to quickly change the vendor if you are dissatisfied.

Fees and payment terms

This is a crucial part of the contract negotiation. Comparing prices of websites similar to what you want will give you a fair idea of the going market rate and a strong negotiating power.  Do not feel compelled to purchase proprietary software applications that will lock you into long term contract that you cannot easily cancel. A website is an evolving tool and technology becomes obsolete very quickly so start with the basic applications and upgrade to more advanced ones in future if required. Avoid contracts that may take a huge chunk of your revenue yearly. Choose a favourable payment plan, for instance, agree to a lower upfront payment, say 30 to 40 percent and spread the balance as the project progresses or at completion, if the vendor insists on 100% payment, then you know you should walk away. Watch out for hidden charges, read the ‘small print’ and clarify grey areas. It is a business transaction; therefore, payment should be made into a business bank account, not a personal account.

Test the website

Testing the site vigorously before the final sign off is crucial. You’ve got to test for functionality, usability, compatibility, performance, interface and security. Check that the site is optimised for desktop, mobile platforms and all browsers. Navigate every page and validate that the alignment, all links, interfaces, forms, buttons, icons and symbols all function perfectly. Test the link that will be used to send email to admin and confirm that emails are received at the backend. Check content for spelling errors and fonts sizes. You may have to enlist the help of a third-party to provide critical feedback. Adequate testing must be conducted before the final sign off.

So, now that the website is finally up and running with the horrid experience put behind me, TGA is now poised and ready to strategically position itself on the global podium using the new vibrant website to attract highly qualified potential clients, generate sales, close deals as well as support current clients effectively.  Exciting future ahead!

Very many thanks to the Enterprise Centre and Santander for the funding award and the continued support.

Black Excellence Networking Event – 4th May 2017

One Love Radio, a Lancaster University student lead enterprise built to provide a platform for minority students, will be hosting the second installation of the Black Excellence Networking Event at the Lancaster University Management School Hub on Thursday 4th May 2017, 10.30am – 7pm.

Join the organisers for a day of:

Morning :- Networking with global businesses with diversity and inclusion remits, opportunities to meet with industry players and Entrepreneurs

Afternoon :- Employability enhancement workshops, talks with high profile guest speakers

Evening :- Panel discussions with key note speakers

There will also be free food from around the African diaspora and lunchtime entertainment!

Everyone is welcome; the event is all about celebrating cultural diversity, regardless of your background.

The organisers are also looking for students who have experienced marginalisation which may include those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, international students or those from the LGBTQ community, to submit their work for a magazine entitled “Ex-pression: where whispers are heard”. This can be in the form of artwork, poetry or prose… there are no limitations on themes concerning submission, all the organisers ask is for respect and honesty.

If you would like to create content for the magazine or get directly involved in the B.E.N.E, please contact s.akel@lancaster.ac.uk or t.adeshina@lancaster.ac.uk.

Free tickets may be downloaded from Eventbrite and you can register your interest on their Facebook page.