Archive for November, 2009

How to win the lottery- Part 2

November 20, 2009

Amanda Shaw of WiFi Solutions UK Ltd and Peter Brown of Flair Leisure Products Plc liked my recent post on “How to win the lottery” and sent their own inspiring stories, reproduced with their permission below:

Amanda Shaw- WiFi Solutions UK Ltd

I started my company, WiFi solutions UK Ltd when my husband’s firm, Kodak, closed down on 31st December 2006!   It was such a nerve wracking time.

My husband has been in the IT industry for many years – so he went and studied for his Masters while I went about setting the company up and searching for business. We used our only savings to get going – a major risk.   And a huge shock to me as I’d been at home bring our children up for 12 years – I’d lost all my confidence and had to learn everything from scratch. Our youngest had just started school and I’d actually planned on joining the gym and going to creative writing/cookery classes.   Somehow, I knew it wouldn’t happen that way – a kind of premonition if you like – and anyway, life never works as you plan in any event!

Three years on and we are still here, in our infancy and working like mad.   But I am now working on ‘ramping the business up’ and going all out to get our name out there.

I tend not to think about what has to be done on a day to day basis – I keep the end goal fixed firmly in my head and that is what I am working towards.

I’ve met some amazing people along the way so there’s no way I am giving up. You absolutely have to go out and find the business – it doesn’t come knocking at the door – it might be hard work and daunting but it has to be done.

Peter Brown- Flair Leisure Products Plc

I don’t think we have found a NEW way of building our business but certainly what we did find worked very well for us.

Flair is a company in the toy industry and our business this year has grown at a rapid rate from £21m domestic sales to around £41m whilst the market as a whole has contracted by 10% as a result of the demise of Woolworth .

A year ago we did briefly think about putting everyone on a four day week but as we felt confident about our new product offering we considered different strategies.

In studying our bigger and more corporate competitors we began to realise that they were all going into “defensive mode” and it was that understanding that made it clear to us that our competitors were  no longer competing! As a result we decided  that our best ever opportunity for growth was opening up before us so we increased our investment in new product development ,  A&P, and recruited the best people being made redundant by our competitors!

We then highlighted to all our major retailers that if they wanted to grow their business then they had to invest in companies that themselves were growing ( we pointed out that  7 of the top 10 toy companies were losing market share). At that time we modestly forecast a 27% growth in sales which in January this year seemed wildly optimistic!

As they say , you never know what a bad thing is good for and in the case of our company it was our competitors predictable reaction to the recession that gave us our golden opportunity.



How to win the lottery

November 19, 2009

Have you ever won the lottery? I was reminded this week of the old joke that, to win it, it’s helpful to buy a ticket. I was also inspired by an article that defined the illiterate of the 21st century as “people who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”. These thoughts combined to stir my entrepreneurial spirit.

Taking the lottery point, I am constantly amazed by the many struggling businesses that appear to sit on their hands, hoping against hope that their prospects and circumstances will somehow magically improve. As a friend of mine once said; “if you’ve got nothing to do, go and polish the church pews; something will happen”.

There’s a strong message here- don’t get frozen in the headlights and do nothing! For some businesses this may promote a new beginning….

But what about “learning, unlearning and relearning”? Technological change was clearly the original author’s focus but, for me, the words perfectly describe the “illiteracy” of people that go about life turning the same old handle, whilst expecting a different result. Common sense tells us that this doesn’t happen. Dare one suggest, therefore, that even if the existing model isn’t broken, break it?! Innovation and change only come through new ideas and experimentation. Many of them may not work, but the learning will often provide a roadmap to success.

Show me the money!

November 1, 2009

Entrepreneurs with good ideas or growing businesses that need funding may not realise that there is an abundance of cash out there. The banks may still be proving challenging, but they only represent one brick in a massive wall of opportunity for purposeful and determined entrepreneurs.

At the early, early stage, friends and family and business angels will be the main source of funding, but there are organisations, such as that run by Julie Meyer of Ariadne Capital,  the technology specialists, which pride themselves on getting involved. You may also want to take a look at Fredericks Foundation, a charity that helps with business support and micro- loan funding for start ups and small businesses.

At the growth stage, angels may still be an option but organisations like Hotbed, Pi Capital, NESTA and The Technology Strategy Board can provide access to a mixture of equity and debt capital to help you grow your business. Asset-based lenders, offering invoice and other finance can be found through the Asset Based Finance Association. And don’t forget about the possibility of grants from regional development agencies like SEEDA.

For more established businesses that are bumping into lending limits or struggling to raise development capital, there may be relief through VCTs or Private Equity. I like the Government-inspired Capital for Enterprise funds, providing up to £2m to profitable, well-managed businesses. They have £75 million to spend by 31st March 2010.

The opportunities are endless so don’t get frozen in the headlights.  With a good strategy, capable management and a well thought out business plan, there’s simply nothing to stop you.