Funding Update: Nadeem Khan

‘Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.’ – Chris Grosser

Earlier this year, LU graduate entrepreneur Nadeem Khan received funding from the Lancaster University Enterprise Fund to help him attend a People Analytics conference in London, an opportunity which enabled him to network and learn from leading HR practitioners and thought leaders. Here, Nadeem shares an update on what the funding unlocked for him and the opportunities which have arisen since. 

After graduating with honours from the MA Human Resources & Consulting, I was engrossed in academic jargon. With the support of both the Enterprise Team and the Department of Entrepreneurship, Strategy and Innovation at Lancaster University; I audited courses on selling, networking, funding for entrepreneurial ventures, and product and service innovation. Simultaneously, I worked alongside the Enterprise Team at Lancaster University to develop and mature my entrepreneurial idea to set up an HR Consultancy around my research area in People Analytics. The concept materialised with the establishment of Optimizhr Ltd. – a human capital consultancy that offers consulting and advisory services around People Analytics, Talent Strategy and Leadership Development. As an international student, I had now received the prestigious Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa. Consequently, I felt the need to venture out and connect with practitioners and consultants in the industry and learn contemporary best practices around People Analytics. One of the best way forward was to attend Europe’s largest People Analytics conference – People Analytics World (PA World), organised by Tucana. PA World was scheduled to be held in London on April 11 and 12, 2018 and encompassed thought leaders, industry practitioners, consultants and technology companies across the globe sharing their best practices. I discussed this opportunity with the Enterprise Team and I decided to apply for funding (provided by Santander Universities) to help towards the ticket price to attend PA World.

The conference was chaired by IBM’s former Global Director of People Analytics – David Green. Key note speakers included CEO of CIPD, Peter Cheese, People Analytics Directors from Deloitte and thought leaders such as Bernard Marr and Alec Levenson. The cornerstone of the conference was the insights I gained while attending presentations of best practices from industry leaders. I witnessed first-hand how Twitter, ABN-AMRO, Unilever, Nestle, British Airways, Procter & Gamble, Swarovski and Cisco are using People Analytics to drive business insights and performance. The opportunities to engage and connect with these individuals opened new horizons. A key learning from this conference was the increase in the big data and analytics in our lives and business. As intimidating as this may sound, everything we do essentially creates a digital data footprint from our mobiles to our credit cards, thus enabling us to anticipate our behaviour. Hence, experts also shed light on the implications for collecting such data after the GDPR. I also connected to Tucana’s MD, Barry who after our conversation offered me to write blogs for their official website thus, enabling me to share my expertise among Tucana’s community of thought leaders and practitioners.

After returning to Lancaster, I wrote a reflective article – ‘The Business Case for Data-Driven HR’ sharing my insights from the PA World and sent it to Tucana. Not only did they accept my piece but also offered me to write further blogs in an ongoing arrangement to attend future Tucana events and conferences. This arrangement will be reviewed after their next PA Forum conference 2018 with a view for it to becoming an ongoing arrangement in future enabling me to become part of Tucana’s media team and contributors. Each of Tucana’s subsequent events are priced on an average at £1095. This conscious effort has enabled me to not only attend, learn from and network with thought-leaders and industry practitioners but also gain another opportunity to attend PA Forum conference 2018 on a complimentary pass. Prospectively, I hope to present on stage among the ‘Who’s Who’ of People Analytics thought leaders and practitioners at the PA World conferences.

Funding Update: Charles Rogers

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

Last year, final year BA Hons Management & Entrepreneurship student, Charles Rogers, received funding from the Lancaster University Enterprise Fund in order to develop his startup, Cloudline. Cloudline is an app based platform which enables users to queue for nightclubs, without actually standing in line.  Here he shares an update on Cloudline and what’s changed for him in recent months.

Since the funding a lot has happened for Cloudline. We have been rolling out to The Deltic Group’s clubs. We’ve encountered a few issues along the way but we’ve been able to get around these one way or another. Working with The Deltic Group has attracted the attention of other companies such as Merlin Entertainment who we’re currently in talks with, as well as several airports in Europe. We’ve taken onboard a new team member, Florian Wiedmann, former employee of EY. As of March we have been raising a seed funding round for £250,000, of which we have completed 50% of the round. The money will go towards employing two more programmers, a programmatic marketer and moving the project down to London.

The funding enabled me to draft a terms & conditions document with Stephen Wright from Morecambe’s Wright & Lord solicitors, enabling us to have a legal contract to sign between each business we implement the app with. It also helped us to learn the process of drafting legal documents with a lawyer, a valuable skill for the future. The validation of Santander standing behind this project has also considerably helped gain interest from potential clients and get meetings.

As a result of the above, we have been able to gain confidence from investors to secure funding and I have been able to meet with highly experienced people in the entertainment and app development industries. These factors have all had knock on effects which in turn have lead to more investor interest and further meetings with industry experts to help us refine our product and to explore different potential avenues which this project can go down. As things currently stand we will be moving to London mid June and couldn’t be more excited for the future of this project.

***********************************************

The Lancaster University Enterprise Fund is available through our partnership with Santander Universities. If you’re interested in applying for a maximum of £500, find out more here

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 |

Funding Update: Leon Seefeld

The South Africa Challenge 2017

My name is Leon Seefeld and I am an International Business Management student at Lancaster University. The generous sponsorship of the Enterprise Centre and Santander Universities enabled me to participate in a programme called South Africa Challenge. For two weeks in summer, this programme takes young and passionate people out to the beautiful country of South Africa to develop their leadership and entrepreneurship skills. Through theoretical input and practical experience in the form of social projects, participants grow personally and make a meaningful difference in the townships of Durban, South Africa.

It was an absolutely amazing experience to be exposed to the entrepreneurial environment in Durban. A major part of the challenge consisted of meeting partners and learning about their stories in the space of entrepreneurship. We were able to talk to the Durban Chamber of Commerce, Bizfarm (a company providing entrepreneurial support), Catalyx Consulting (a social enterprise catalysing the CSR (corporate social responsibility) budgets of large corporates and community developing initiatives) and many more. Learning from people who successfully entered this exciting space was truly inspiring.

Through our own project development and implementation, we all were able to learn a lot about how to set up an international project or organisation. Especially the research on a particular issue and the creative collaboration to work out solutions are things that I will benefit from for future initiatives and internationally operating businesses. As previously mentioned, meeting so many partners not only inspired me but also taught me how important reliable business partners on the ground are when setting up something outside of your immediate surroundings.

Since all the people we met are really open-minded and appreciate every outside perspective on the problems that they have been dealing with for a long time, I was able to build a large network of people and contacts that I can refer back to in the future. My work at Enactus Lancaster, dealing with various projects in the space of social entrepreneurship, will benefit from this new network, and even I personally can see myself coming back to Durban and continue working with these amazing people.

But not only my Durban specific horizon was widened during our trip; also, my general entrepreneurial skills like pitching, holding meetings, working with the business model canvas and defining visions and values around an idea were strengthened. I developed both as a person, and as an entrepreneur, and took many more things home than I initially expected. Particularly the early stages of a project and organisation are things I dived deeper into and I worked on my own approach.

Finally, I can say I even refined my knowledge about and view on the entrepreneurial mindset. Whilst creating a workshop for young people to evaluate themselves and decide if they might be an entrepreneur, I did a lot of research. I can now say that I have a clearer picture on what an entrepreneur actually is and what the key characteristics are.

Overall I am really grateful for having had the opportunity to participate in the programme; learning so much about entrepreneurship in South Africa (and in general) and meeting so many inspiring people. I am certain that this experience will play a major role in my future career and engagements. I would like to that the Enterprise Centre for making this possible for me and can only recommend exploring this space to everyone else. This is truly a lesson for life.

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! 

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

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.

Funding Update: José Maria Macedo

José Maria Macedo, final year Philosophy, Politics and Economics student, applied for funding last year to develop marketing materials for his martial arts business, Kaizen Academy. Here, he shares his funding update.

I’m José Maria Macedo and I run a business called Kaizen Academy whose aim is to modernise and improve the entire experience of training martial arts. As part of this, we thought it was important to produce some high-quality promotional videos to clearly and visually demonstrate to potential customers just how different we are from an average martial arts school. So, we decided to apply to the Enterprise Award (the application process was great and really helped us refine our ideas for the videos) and used the money to produce two promotional videos for our business:

We are extremely happy with the look of the videos as we feel they really symbolise our brand but more importantly we’re thrilled with the results: the videos have been viewed cumulatively over 50,000 times and we’ve used them in our New Year’s marketing campaign (spending £500 on Facebook marketing them) to secure over 35 subscribed customers for a revenue of £12,000 over the next 12 months.

We’re now at maximum capacity for adult members with 170 total members (which also makes us one of the largest martial arts clubs in the UK!) and we know we couldn’t have done it without these videos. Thank you very much to the Enterprise Team and Santander for making it possible!

Student entrepreneur film maker, Harry McGill worked with José and Kaizen Academy to produce both promotional videos. 

You can like Kaizen Academy on Facebook to keep up to date with their progress, and have a look at their webpages for more information.

If you’re interested in applying for an Enterprise Award of up to £500, check out our funding pages here

GUEST BLOG: Sebastian Weise, PlaceChangers

“I realised that entrepreneurship can be a powerful source of doing good and making a positive impact.”

Sebastian Weise, founder of PlaceChangers Ltd and former PhD Highwire student, received an Enterprise Award in November 2015. Here, he shares his experience.

This is a blog post about my business startup PlaceChangers, started in April 2015. If you are a student interested in starting a company and want to learn what it takes to start-up, this post is for you. In this post I want to touch on challenges and opportunities along the way and key motivations to keep going. Sure, your story will significantly differ as every decision to start-up is quite personal; and that’s OK. One of the key lessons to learn is to have good networks of support. In the case of PlaceChangers, the Enterprise Centre supported us financially towards our basic startup expenses. We are very thankful for their support and early encouragement.

Where did you get the idea for PlaceChangers?

PlaceChangers Ltd arose from research on the interface between the public and urban planners to make choices for Lancaster’s future development. In my research on public participation, many practices became apparent that involved some form of mapping (in the spatial but also conceptual sense), but that wasn’t much reflected in public engagement. As I analysed spatial distributions of participants and issues raised in official consultations, I found a lack of suitable software for large audiences to partake in the regulations for their neighbourhoods. Essentially that’s how the idea of a start-up at the intersection of mapping, data visualisation, and urban spaces grew on me. We started out in April 2015 and begun trading a year later in April 2016.

At the outset, I read a lot about entrepreneurship. I realised that entrepreneurship can be a powerful source of doing good and making a positive impact. Steve Jobs and Elon Musk’s biographies are an inspiration in terms of overcoming challenges and making a difference. In different ways, these entrepreneurs were passionate. For them, purpose was everything and played a key role in their entrepreneurial careers. Their personal challenges and successes encouraged me to try to set a mark, too, even though it may be a much smaller one.

What did your enterprise funding award contribute to and what lessons have you learned from this experience?

 I started in April 2015 while still working on my PhD. The company was registered in Lancaster, but physically I was located in Manchester, where many of my friends were. This was a challenging time, making income from freelancing for a public service consultancy, completing the PhD, and going to startup events. Eventually with a friend of mine, a developer, I started to work on PlaceChangers as a business. Both short on cash, I was very thankful when we were offered the Enterprise Fund to help us cover early start-up costs, such as essential software required to get going, to cover our hosting costs, but also help us towards financing user workshops. Alongside this we were fortunate to receive additional financial support from the EPSRC and I’d say that this helped us become finalists in a competition on “Innovating in Urban Spaces” in January 2016.

What would you say to inspire future students who want to make things happen by applying for an Enterprise Award?

The journey from starting up to finding a first customer and contract is an exciting learning curve, dotted with many challenges. It took PlaceChangers about a whole year to start trading. Throughout you learn a lot about yourself and other people, and that’s very important. When you get to understand somebody’s needs and manage to serve it with honesty and interest, that’s when great things happen. The Enterprise Award is great in helping cover the many smaller expenditures to help towards understanding user needs and confirm your business proposition. Initially, select carefully who you may want to involve in early market testing, assemble a contact list with preferences, and keep regular meaningful contact. Over time, you find out about needs, opportunities, built trust and make yourself known.

What does the future look like for PlaceChangers?

PlaceChangers is moving on. We have moved to new offices at Campus North, in the city centre of Newcastle. We have a software developed that fits the needs of one of our target audiences and we are working on expanding our product feature set to address other audiences at some point in the new year. With a bit of luck and good planning, we will emerge as a significant engagement consultancy for public and private sector clients.

Last but not least, if you are still hesitant to start. Back then, I might have been somewhat unsure, too. That’s normal. There were many who may not have believed it paying off, who failed to see the opportunity beyond the formalities of urban planning. I would not turn back, it’s a personal journal everybody starts on differently. For me, entrepreneurship is also about ‘doing good by doing business’ and so I’d recommend it to anyone who has a strong passion to fill another persons’ need.

We wish Sebastian and PlaceChangers the best of luck in Newcastle!

If you’d like to apply for an Enterprise Funding Award, get in touch and find out more here.

Image courtesy of Placechangers Ltd.

Team Poslat at the Histar Competition 2016

Team Poslat funding experience

In July 2016, IT, Management and Organisational Change masters students Kennedy Simutowe & Oyinda Oludipe applied for a funding award for their business idea, Poslat. They tapped into the Enterprise Fund to pay for their travel and accommodation at the Histar competition semi finals in Oxford. Here, they share their experience of the day and what opportunities they were exposed to by attending the semi final.

The Histar Competition 2016 was receiving entries up to 10th June, for startup ideas and big idea submissions.

Under the big ideas entries, we participated by submitting our innovative shipping solution, Poslat. On 9th July 2016 we were elated to learn that our proposal had been accepted to the semi finals, which included an entrepreneurship and business bootcamp at Oxford University.
kennedy-histar3In the run up to the Histar competition, we had also consulted with the Lancaster University Enterprise Centre (LUEC) from whom we received invaluable advice, mentoring and support for our idea. A few days prior to the Histar bootcamp, we were privileged to have an extensive session with the LUEC team with whom potential issues to do with the Poslat idea were discussed, including cross border movement of goods, customs and security. The lean development approach was suggested for Poslat. Lean development involves identifying the problem that needs to be solved and then developing a minimum viable product to begin the process of learning the customer’s requirements as quickly as possible. In the same session, the Poslat business model canvas was developed and analysed. On Saturday 16th July, we travelled to Oxford with all arrangements provided for and well facilitated by LUEC.

In the morning sessions, we pitched the idea behind Poslat to the Histar judging panel who were very intrigued and interested by the solution. Our 11 page Powerpoint slide was effective and summarised the entire proposal. During the pitch battle and mentoring in the afternoon sessions, we received feedback on the innovative Poslat solution to do with:

  1. Patentability
  2. Revenue model
  3. Unique selling proposition
  4. Trust, security, customs and legal considerations.

histar panel (cut)Other activities at the event included business lectures on embracing innovation, management strategies for startup companies, intellectual property, engaging the Chinese market and accessing Chinese investment. The business discussion panels featured interactive question and answer feedback from experts. As the Poslat team, one of the questions we posed was ‘how well are Chinese investors receiving disruptive business models (such as AirBnB, Uber) founded on the sharing economy concept?’ to which the answer was very encouraging; many investors are ready to support ideas and startups of all kinds, especially disruptive ones, as long as they are well thought out and hold promise for meaningful returns in the long run.

A networking lunch was also held and this provided an opportunity to exchange ideas with and received ideas from some of the business experts and mentors.

Overall, the Histar semi finals were well organised and delivered more insights on entrepreneurship and business development for our team. We made friends from all over the UK and exchanged contacts with potential business partners for the development of the Poslat shipping idea. We are confident that based on our innovative solution and the effective business pitch presentation, we will be announced as winners in the final stage on 20th August 2016.

Following this blog piece, Kennedy and Simutowe were shortlisted for the competition final in August… congratulations guys!

For more information, follow these links:

Histar Competition 2016

Lancaster University Enterprise Fund

Introduction to the Business Model Canvas