BASE: Bespoke Artist Support & Exchange

Opportunity for freelance artists

Attend a free day packed with workshops, creative discussion and networking for artists in and around the Lancaster Area.

All emerging, aspiring and established artists are welcome to join the BASE network where you’ll get the chance to meet artists from a diverse range of mediums and experience levels; from illustrators to directors, dancers to make up artists,actors to choreographers.

Where? Ludus Dance, Assembly Rooms, Lancaster

When? 10am-3pm, Friday 17th February.

Places are limited click here to book your place and find out more about the event.


HMRC Self Assessment Help Sessions

Questions about your tax return?

Join one of HMRC’s live Self Assessment Help and Support sessions. Although nothing confidential can be discussed, the sessions will try to help in answering general questions such as those related to business expenses.

There are sessions running on the following dates:

Just click on the date to register for that particular session. There will be an on-screen textbox which can be used to ask questions during the sessions.

It is also worth taking a look at some of the free e-learning resources offered by HMRC including their: Tax Guide for the self-employed and Self-employed business expenses.

‘Self-promotion is for the brave…’

‘Greatest obstacle to success is obscurity’

In everyday life, self-promotion and marketing may often be regarded as showing off or associated with negative narratives such as that of a cheesy salesman. It is also a common human tendency to regard standing out as being negative in some way.

In this article, ‘Is promoting your art desperate?’ written by writer and illustrator, Alex Mathers, he attempts to dispel such ideas through discussing the importance of self-promotion.

He identifies how people need to flip their mind-sets to see promotion as a necessity, a duty and a moral obligation.

Without on-going promotion where will customers come from and as a result where will the money to live come from?

In his words people ‘cannot afford to sit on the side-lines & be reactive.’

Read the full article on Red Lemon Club.


Making Money from your PhD Workshop

Ever considered being your own boss or making a living from your PhD? Some students want to – you could too.

There are a number of ways in which you could achieve this: by commercialising your research, or by using it as a springboard for consultancy work. This workshop will help you to think about and learn ways in which you could possibly earn money, or make a living from your PhD. You’ll benefit and receive feedback in a very supportive space.

This workshop is ideal for groups of people or individuals in the 2nd, 3rd or later years of their PhD, when scope is more clearly defined.

You will be able to leave the workshop with a basic business plan or at least a detailed structure of the elements you need to consider for your own business plan. Prior to the workshop, you should think about particular topics or areas connected to your PhD that you may want to focus on or exploit (including different routes you’d like to go down).

There will be guest speakers attending, who will be able to give you constructive feedback on your ideas on the day, and also signpost you to other areas of support on campus or in the wider business community.

The workshop is on the 21st of July, 1-4pm.

For further information and booking see the event here

Tax Help for the Self-employed

Useful set of webinars to help you to fill in your tax returns and budget ahead of payment deadlines.

HMRC are running a useful set of webinars throughout July to to help self-employed people to plan ahead for the January deadline.

There will be two sessions on the 5th of July:

There are also a number of further webinars running from the 7th-13th of July on keeping records and what to claim:

All you have to do is follow the links to receive an invitation.

Click here for more details, and to read the full bulletin from HMRC.

Insurance for the Self-employed

Avoid any costly mistakes with the right insurance to cover your business – all you need to know!

It’s a topic which is often overlooked but is a very important element of self-employment. Nick Breton, head of small business insurer Direct Line for Business runs through the basis of contactors’ insurance in a blog for Enterprise Nation. It’s a very worthwhile and informative read – straightforwardly outlining everything you need to know on the topic.

Read it here

Business Support Surgery

Business Support Surgery on campus

Find out about the landscape of support for start-ups and existing businesses across the University and the wider region.

Lancaster University Enterprise Team and Winning Pitch invite anyone with a business idea or existing business to come along and find out about the range of support options available through the University and Boost, Lancashire’s Growth Hub.

Pre-booking is not required, just come along and meet Simon and Sue in InfoLab21, by the groundfloor reception  between 1pm and 4pm on Monday 6th June.

If you have any questions in advance, please email

Book Summary 3# – A Blueprint for Business Success

The Lean Startup

About The Author

Eric Ries is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and author of the New York Times bestseller The Lean Startup. He is an entrepreneur in residence at Harvard Business School and is on the advisory board to a number of technology startups. Previously he co-founded and served as CTO at his company IMVU, his third startup. He has also been named one of the Best Young Entrepreneurs of Tech by BusinessWeek and was honoured with the TechFellow award in the category of Engineering Leadership. The Lean Startup Methodology has been written about in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review as well as countless blogs.


I imagine it is quite clear that today’s book summary covers The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. This book is the closest thing you can get to an exact blueprint for creating your very own successful business. It covers a number of key principles throughout, from just starting up, all the way to becoming sustainable, with everything in between. If you could only read one book before starting your business, this should be it.

The 5 principles

The book has 5 main principles which are present throughout.

  1. Entrepreneurs are everywhere and you can be one even if you don’t work from your garage.
  2. The second principle is that entrepreneurship is management. This means that a startup is an organisation, not just a product, and so it requires a new kind of management, specifically geared to its context of extreme uncertainty. So as an entrepreneur you have to learn how to steer your ship in the right direction, in very unpredictable conditions.
  3. The third principle is Validated Learning. This is to say that startups are not just there to make money, products and serve customers. They are there so you can learn exactly how to become sustainable which is done through constantly running experiments to test each part of the business. If you see that something is not working you can drop it and move on.
  4. The fourth principle is Build Measure Learn. This is the process of turning ideas into products and then measuring how the customers respond to the products. Then based on the feedback from customers learn whether they should pivot or persevere. All successful startup processes should be geared to making this loop happen as quickly as possible. For creating a sustainable business this is such an important step, the quicker you learn to complete this loop the more likely your business is to be stable.
  5. The final principle is Innovation accounting: To improve entrepreneurial outcomes and hold innovators accountable, we need to focus on the boring stuff. How to measure progress, how to set up milestones, and how to prioritise work.

Starting Off

To begin you need to know who your customer archetype is otherwise there is no point building your product. If you don’t know who your customer archetype is then you don’t know what a quality product looks like and if you can’t build quality there is no point building your product. So, to begin you need to identify who the customer is. The customer archetype will guide all of the decisions you make about product development and allocation of resources moving forward. So before you make anything, make sure you know exactly who you are making it for.

Second, you will at some point, regardless of what you do, take a leap of faith. No matter the amount of market research and your confidence in your product/service you will have to make assumptions on crucial things. The important thing is to know which part of your strategy is a leap of faith. Apple had no idea that people would pay for music downloads, they only knew from Napster that people would download it for free, that was their leap of faith and it definitely worked out.

Now you know who your customer is, you know what a quality product will be and you know that you will have to take a leap of faith at some point. Now is the time to actually build your first prototype. This is also known as an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) which is the most minimal product or service that you can build, the bare bones of your product. The reason you put this out there first before building the finished article is because you don’t know what your customer wants, it will take a lot of time to build something to completion that may not even work and if it is full of different features it is very difficult to measure what is and isn’t working. You need to start off with the minimum and gradually tweak it with customer feedback and metrics, which we will come onto shortly.

A great example of this is the online shoe retailer Zappos. Tony Hsieh started off by going into shoe shops and asking if he could take pictures of their shoes and then put the photos on his website. If people bought the shoes from his website he would come back and pay for the shoes in full. This was literally where he started off at, a simple website with a few different pairs of shoes on. This example puts into context how little you actually need to launch an MVP, it will more than likely be embarrassing to put out there as you know you can do much better but that is what early adopters are for. Early adopters are the people who will use your product to begin with and will understand that it has bugs in and is not the finished article. These customers will give you great feedback to help you make changes and refine the product to begin with. But in order for you to utilise their feedback you need to know exactly what your metrics are saying, what they mean to your business and what to look for.

The Metrics

Your metrics will help you find out exactly where your business is right now, this will provide you with a baseline to refer back to. When you put out your MVP the metrics you receive back will be your baseline metrics. The reason you set a baseline is so you can compare your metrics when you change a feature of your product, this enables you to see progress or a lack thereof. You can then cut what isn’t working and keep what is working one step at a time.

One of the biggest mistakes businesses make with their metrics however is that they look for vanity metrics rather than what actually matters. What I mean by vanity metrics is how many website views or even email signups you have. If you have a lot of visitors but people aren’t actually signing up or people are signing up and not paying for your service then you need to know why. By just measuring these two things nothing will be explained, you might feel good about yourself in the short term but in reality you are going to focus on actions that limit your success.

In order to get your metrics right you need to focus on hitting the 3 A’s.

Actionable – Your metrics demonstrate a clear cause and effect relationship so that you can take definitive action in response to it.

Accessible – They should be easy to understand and available to everyone in your company.

Auditable – You should be able to go back to the source of the data to prove that the metrics were telling the whole story.

A great example of this is Ries’ company IMVU who provided customers with a 3D avatar service where people could alter the appearance of their avatars and chat with others. Using $5 a day in pay per click advertising they were able to get 100 website visitors. They considered each days’ worth of website visitors as one cohort and then measured the metrics of each cohort on registration, so how many people signed up to the service, activation, so how many people actually logged into their account and retention, so how many people had one chat, how many people had 5 chats and how many people became paying customers. A good way to do this would be to have your metrics cover registration, activation, retention and referral information. The only way you can know if you are making the right decisions is through your metrics so if you make a change you can compare it to your baseline metrics to see if they improve or not, it is the only way to tell and the only way to know what you should and shouldn’t change.

Pivot or Persevere?

After improving your product through testing and measuring metrics you will need to make a big decision at some point and this will probably happen again and again. You will need to decide whether or not you should pivot (change the direction of your business in some aspect) or persevere (continue on with what you are doing.) Your metrics will help you make the best decision for your business. If you remember the whole process is about learning how to build a sustainable business, not how to make a single idea work, which is why you may need to pivot if the facts say. There is no shame in moving away from your original idea towards something that works. Here are a few different examples of pivots you can make:

Customer segment pivot: You started the process thinking you were solving a problem for a certain type of customer however now it looks like your product works best for a different type of customer.

Zoom in pivot: A singular aspect of your product becomes the entire focus of the business.

Zoom out pivot: Your product is too narrow for you to maintain a business so you broaden your product to do so.

Technology pivot: You realise that you could solve the problem much easier with a different or brand new technology and switch to that.

It is highly likely that throughout your startup journey you will make multiple pivots and it is equally important that you keep measuring everything, just like before, constantly comparing with the baselines. Each pivot is only the next hypothesis in your business just like everything in your business plan is a hypothesis, only over time will each segment of it become clearer and clearer. Even huge companies still need to measure and pivot from time to time otherwise they too will fail.


Now on top of all of this we need a growth engine, we will naturally be growing due to our constant tweaking and pivoting but we need a specific method to focus on for scaling up the business

Here are 3 growth engines that you can use to scale your business.

Sticky Growth Engine – This involves customers paying for the service over time, so if you are bringing in new customers quicker than your old customers are leaving then you will grow and make profit. An example of this would be a subscription model for a product.

Viral Growth Engine – This is reliant on your current customers bringing in new customers. The best example of this would be Hotmail which originally was struggling to make any traction until it began to provide a link at the bottom of each email for someone else to sign up. This is known as the viral loop, if you can get each new customer to bring in another customer every time then growth will be huge.

Paid Engine – The final engine is the paid engine which is literally paying for advertising. You take the profits you have made from your old customers and use them to pay for advertising.


If you have followed this guide you will have identified your customer archetype, built your MVP and then tested it on early adopters. You will have established your baseline metrics, made sure they are not vanity metrics and hit the 3 A’s. You will have taken a leap of faith but knew exactly what part of the strategy was a leap of faith and you will have at some point made a decision to pivot or persevere. You will have also selected a growth engine to scale your business. Now, if you take a look back at the 5 principles you will notice that they are present throughout the different steps you have taken to build a sustainable business. Throughout this process you have got better at managing your business throughout periods of extreme uncertainty, you have improved your validated learning and quickened the Build, Measure, Learn feedback loop as well as taking care of your innovation accounting through your metrics. Now there is still much to learn which I have not covered but this should provide you with the knowhow to grow your business sustainably. If you want to read it all you can find the book here.


SPOILER ALERT! Nine short stories to inspire your career

Speakers announced for March edition ofStartup Stories


Three simultaneous events. Nine alumni storytellers. Which tale is going to inspire you to make things happen? Open to all students, whether you’re an undergraduate, masters or PhD, and regardless of your college.

Startup Stories is back and next Thursday, 17th March from 6.15pm, you have the chance to hear from Lancaster alumni who have made the transition from nine-to-fivers to successful entrepreneur and master of their own career paths. Whether you’re a 90s music fan (Placebo anyone?), an aspiring fitness freelancer, have a passion for fashion or are a future Mark Zuckerberg, this is an event for you.

This is open house for all students and powered by the County, Bowland and Furness. Any student from any college can attend – just pick the college with the alumni stories that interests you most. There’s free food for advance bookings and certificates will be provided for the Lancaster Award for all Target Connect registrations who sign in on the evening. Following Start up Stories, each College is holding their own Social in their JCR – check their Facebook pages for full details.

Tell me more!

Here’s the line up; take a look, work out who you’d like to meet, and book your place via the links provided. You don’t need to be a college member, just sign up!

Bowland College will be hosting:

Ian Nelson, Adlib

PhD Biological Science, 1993

Do you want a career in the music industry or sound engineering? Former Lancaster student Ian Nelson has toured the world with English alternative rock band Placebo and in his current role continues to work with the most respected names in the music industry including Ed Sheeran, David Guetta and Ellie Goulding. Find out how his passions have helped him to enjoy a successful career in music, whilst studying for a PhD in Biological Science… not your typical career path!

Alex Phillips, APPS

BSc Psychology, 1991

Alex Phillips never wanted to be 9-5. He wanted the freedom to do his own thing and shape the future on his own terms. He jumped straight from graduation to setting up his own printing and promotion company here in Lancaster, APPS. From printing t-shirts 25 years ago, they continue to grow their brand and portfolio of products. We hear on the grapevine he’s a bit of a comedian too…

Jon Price, Complete Care Ltd

BA Hons Independent Studies, 1993

If you’re passionate about helping people and supporting them to live life to the full, you might be interested to hear what inspired Bowlander Jon Price to start his company, Complete Care, one of the UK’s largest online healthcare retailers. A former President of the Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce, Jon also has 10 years experience of running an online marketing agency; his is a story which will be full of learning and inspiration for students wanting a career in helping others, as well as the marketing industry.Bowland full marque - red

Book your place at Bowland here.

County College will be hosting:

James Howard, Go Burrito

BA Hons Philosophy, 1997

If you’re a fan of Go Burrito (and let’s face it who isn’t?!) you don’t want to miss James Howard and his burrito business partner (and former Fylde student). They’ll share their recipe for success and how they built their local brand and Lancaster’s first burrito restaurant; hear their philosophy and where the business will go in the future. Take a sneak peek at their story here.

Tom Young, Repairly

BA Hons Management and Entrepreneurship, tbc

The startup story Tom Young will share is a tale all entrepreneurial students can learn from. If you’re a subscriber to our newsletter, you’ll have read about Tom and his trip to Silicon Valley, as well as his admission on to the accelerator scheme, Ignite100 in October last year. Tom was dabbling in the business world long before his University days and as a qualified IT engineer, web developer and multiple business owner, he’ll have real insights into what it’s like to be a student AND a successful entrepreneur. You might even get to hear about Repairly’s latest exciting news… (hint: it involves Richard Branson, Virgin Media and a private jet in San Francisco…)

Damian Gray, The Bizarre

BA Hons Theatre Studies, 2014

If you haven’t spotted the potential of the Alexandra Square weekly farmers market as a place to bring your ideas to life, come and take a lesson from County College’s Damian Gray. He launched a successful clothing business during his second year of University and now owns and runs ‘The Bizarre’ in Manchester’s Northern Quarter where he stocks 10 independent brands as well as his own t-shirts.


Book your place at County here

Furness College will be hosting:

Guy McEvoy, GuyKat Solutions Ltd

LL.M International Law & International Relations, 1997

Former Furness JCR President Guy McEvoy began his early adventures as a freelance nightclub promoter in Morecambe, a job which helped him to pay for his Masters degree. Now the CEO of GuyKat Solutions Ltd, Guy’s business services clients across 50 countries and employs recent graduates… could you be the next?

Lucy James, Quarsh

BA Hons Modern Languages, 1998

If HR and recruitment is your thing, or if you want the chance to meet someone who recruits across a number of sectors then Furness college alumna Lucy James is someone worth hearing from. Lucy will share how 15 years of experience and a deep understanding of the recruitment industry enabled her to start her own fast growing recruitment company, Quarsh.

Helen Loftus, Critical Transition

BSc Hons Physics, 2003

Despite her degree in Physics, a passion for sport, fitness and personal training led Helen Loftus to start up her own hugely successful personal training business with contracts with every major fitness operator in Leeds, as well as being the strength and conditioning coach for Leeds City Swim Team. If, like Helen, you have a keen interest in the health and fitness industry why not seek her advice on how to develop your passion into a business?


Book your place at Furness here

We hope to see you there!

If you have any questions regarding Startup Stories please get in touch. Although these are college based activities, students from other colleges are free to attend this round of storytelling events.. the more the merrier!

A reality check – supercharging your employability… and a college event to get you started.

Startup Stories


We all need role models and mentors to broaden our perspectives, and hearing from people, once in your shoes who have been out in the world of work and gone on to become entrepreneurs can provide powerful insights into how futures can unfold in very unexpected ways.

If you are a Bowland, County or Furness College member, there’s a chance on Thursday 17th March to get registered on the forthcoming ’ Startup Stories’ event in your College.  It’s an event for you by your college alumni as they will be share the highs lows and wisdom learned on their startup journeys.

…I can guess what what you’re thinking… “I’m not an entrepreneur – so why would I want to think like one?” Here are the realities:

Reality 1 – Entrepreneurs are not superhuman. They’re just people like you and me who have worked hard to turn their ideas into a reality.

Reality 2 – We all have ideas, creativity and skills, we just don’t always know how to put them to work. When we do, we learn through trial and error, continual improvement and refinement. If we step out to start bringing our ideas to life, we start to develop what’s sometimes called an ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ – which simply means thinking like a successful business person when looking for opportunities to create value, or solve business, social or world challenges.

Reality 3 – The world of work is changing. We are all having to adapt to a fast paced and more challenging and competitive work environment. Employers are looking for people who can be ‘intrapreneurial’ within  in their organisations.  Whatever  art, craft or expertise you are developing, you will need to be in the habit of creating value … for someone else if not for yourself or your customers. Playing with challenges and ideas whilst at university creates evidence of performance for future employers.

Reality 4– Entrepreneurship can creep up on you. Many of of the alumni never really expected to start a business; They have made transitions from blue chip careers to starting their own ventures, making a life and a living from their research, or simply fulfilling their purpose by doing something to make positive change for people.

Reality 5  Being inquisitive in the company of entrepreneurs will raise your awareness of  just what’s possible when believe your potential is infinite and you turn your ideas to reality.

So, how do YOU start thinking like an entrepreneur? Your first step could well be to sign up for ‘Startup Stories’ to hear from who are doing what they love and loving what they do running their own businesses. Startup Stories is social, it’s fun and it’s creative too– we have artists at the event capturing the stories through live illustration.

Search ‘Startup Stories’ on Target Connect. The events are listed under a Bowland, County or Furness Colleges.

If you are from another College look out for events later on the year and in the meantime you could check out the stories from our previous events here.

This is what past students said about it:






Furnessians, Counties and Bowlanders, see you there!