The Food Exchange 2017

Looking to start or grow a food or drink business?

Join retail buyers, entrepreneurs and experts from the food and drink industry for this one day exchange event in London.

The event will help to put you in touch with large brand buyers, learn form experienced entrepreneurs who’ve been there and done it and access expert advice in topics such as sales, marketing and PR for the food industry.

Already confirmed speakers include Sainsbury’s, Green & Blacks and Selfridges.

When? Friday 29th September

Where? Presentation Suite, KPMG, London

To find out more and purchase tickets, visit the Eventbrite page.

Northern Stars Competition 2017

Are you one of the North’s most promising early stage tech companies?

Applications for the North’s biggest startup competition are now open!

Over the past two years the Northern Stars competition has helped 20 winning startups to grow their businesses on both a national and international level. Now it’s your chance!

What’s the prize?

Up for grabs is an impressive prize package including:

  • Trip to TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin
  • Entry into the Northern Tech Awards
  • Investor networking events
  • Ministerial roundtable with the UK government
  • Media and pitch training.

In addition to the 10 winners, all 10 runners up will also received support from Tech North.

Who can apply?

  • Early-stage tech startups
  • Must have a product on the market that has gained traction
  • Have raised no more than £2 million in equity-based investment.

A series of regional heats will be held in the coming months, with the grand final taking place in November. Visit the Tech North website to find out more and apply!

Chance to exhibit at eCommerce Show North

‘Celebration of the North’s strength in eCommerce’

Delivered by Prolific North, the eCommerce Show North is the largest gathering of eCommerce companies, vendors and suppliers held outside London, reflecting the huge commercial marketplace that is the North.

Tech North have announced that they will be heading to the show and hosting a collection of stands to form the ‘Tech North boulevard.’ For your chance to exhibit as part of ‘the boulevard’ all you have to do is fill in a simple online form on Tech North’s website.

To apply, your business must be no more than five years old and have fewer than 25 full-time employees.

The deadline for applications is the 14th of July, for more details visit the Tech North website. 

The eCommerce show North will be held from the 11th-12th of October at EventCity in Manchester, for more details on the event, visit their website.

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

iMap Micro Business Conference

Could you improve your business whilst minimising your impact on the planet?

Join this session, hosted by More Music to discover how your business could save money and improve business practices by reviewing it’s environmental impact.

More Music have invited a number of experts in green energy and business infrastructure including utilities, transport and carbon footprint to come and talk to you about your business and explore ways in which you could make a positive change.

These are free 90 minute sessions with refreshments  (and great homemade cake!)

When? Monday 19th June 11am-12:30pm or 2-3:30pm

Where? The Hothouse, Morecambe

Book your place through Eventbrite Now!

Competition a positive for your business?

“Having a rival can strengthen your business”

A rival company launching just before you do may seem like the end of your journey… But what if you use that competition to your advantage?

A recent article for the The Guardian Small Business Network showcases how a number of businesses tackled the challenge of competition – whether that be current or prospective rivalry. Different companies had different approaches – for some it may be viable to keep their product completely under wraps until release but for others creating a strong unique brand, pivoting the the business model or simply racing to be the first to market were their chosen pathways. Cooperation with competitors may even be an option.

The case clearly depends on the business and actual scenario, but competition could well help to strengthen your business and give it the edge, rather than being the end of the road.

Read the full article ‘Rivalry can bring out the best in a startup’ on The Guardian Small Business Network.

 

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.

Baldwins KickStart Young Entrepreneur Awards – £20,000 prize

Young entrepreneurs (18-25) are encouraged to apply now for up to £20,000 with Baldwins Accountants.

Baldwins KickStart Young Entrepreneur Awards is a national competition for young entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business or have recently done so (trading date must be on or after 31st August 2016).

Entrants should submit their details and ideas here. Entries will then be whittled down to ten semi-finalists before three finalists have the opportunity to present their ideas to a live audience at a gala dinner in November at Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham.

The prize includes a £10,000 grant along with £10,000 worth of mentoring and accountancy advice.

Entries close August 31st 2017.

For further information visit the Baldwins Accountants website here.

Tips for improving your website

Enterprise Nation Webinar: How to improve your website’s user experience to win more sales.

Catch up with Enterprise Nation’s latest webinar in which Matt Fowell, Enterprise Nation Adviser member and digital lead at Five Rivers shares his top tips for improving the user experience of your website in an attempt to enhance your sales!

Find the webinar of the Enterprise Nation blog.