Archive for March, 2011

Sources of inspiration for startups

Sprouter screen grab

It is very easy to get yourself bogged down in the day to day running of a business when you are a startup. There are always fires to put out, calls to make and people to see. That’s where tools like iGoogle, Netvibes & Google Alerts are so handy. You can set these tools up to show you feeds of your most popular sites.

Here are just some of the sites (in no particular order) we have feeds set-up for to make sure we aren’t missing out on anything:

Sprouter

This is a very inspiring site. You can ask entrepreneurs questions, get great answers back, browse loads of fantastic content and also see what other entrepreneurs are doing around the world. Make sure you sign up to the newsletter.

Sprouter screen grab

Business Zone

There is so much great content and if anything breaks in the UK business world you can be sure that Dan Martin (the editor) is all over it and will have a blog post up in a few hours. Excellent forums on this site too.

Business Zone screen grab

Marketing Donut

A site full of tools, advice and opinion. I am a big fan of the blog. The writers are very insightful and always give a balanced view, including hot topics such as Startup Britain.

Marketing Donut screen grab

Smarta

Awesome video content featuring established successful entrepreneurs all the way through to new startups who are breaking the mould. Lots of resource goodies too.

Smarta screen grab

Tech Crunch

If you want to find out what might be the next big thing online then keep an eye on this site. Lots of innovative ways to use the web for your own business too.

Tech Crunch

Bitsy

An awesome blog and newsletter so make sure you take advantage. Not only have they got great content but you can connect with lots of other businesses and also feature in their marketplace and promote yourself to Bitsy readers.

Bitsy screen grab

Springwise

According to them Springwise is “one of the world’s leading sources for new business ideas and innovation.” I am not going to disagree. Sign up to the newsletter. It is full of quality stuff.

Springwise screen grab

Why Moo business cards rock!

moo business cards

Put “business cards” into Google and you get a mind-numbingly long list of printers offering this and that. Lots of different print specs, volumes, paper stocks. It can all get a little bit daunting of who to choose.

Having gone through the process myself relatively recently I can get off the fence and say that Moo business cards are by far and away the best. Why you ask? Well the main reasons are that the print quality is superb & the stock is top notch too. Seriously I have 2 x business card books full of cards from all sorts of companies and the Moo cards always stand out and get oooohhhs & arrghhs. I think people think you are made of money initially, which is never a bad thing as a startup.

Not only that but it is all done online, and super easy to use. Plus you can print on both sides and in small quantities. Check out this blog post for a review of 5 of the best known business card printers.

Remember if you are looking for a new design for your business card then we have students and graduates ready to send in their designs. My cards were designed for £150. See below, but beware the snap from my phone doesn’t really do them justice.

Moo business cards

Reserving your company name on social media sites

Social Media Sites

Setting up your brand on social media sites can be a really time consuming process, but “Know Em” shows you what’s available in seconds. Just follow the following process:

1. Go to www.knowem.com

2. Enter your company name in the space shown below.

Enter your information here

3. Now you can review the list of sites that is available to you.

Review what's available

It’s as easy as that. You can then review what’s available to you. Knowem does provide a service where with one click the site will reserve everything for you, which would save a fair bit of time. The service starts from $99 which is very reasonable, but it depends on your cash flow.

I’d suggest that any small business reserves at least the following:

- Twitter
- Facebook*
- Slideshare
- LinkedIn**
- YouTube

* You can’t actually reserve a Facebook URL for your company until 25 people actually like your company page. For more information on this check out this post.

** You can’t set up a company profile on LinkedIn until you have an official company email address. So email accounts with Gmail, Hotmail etc won’t work.

Affordable & funky office space for startups

Open meeting space

Keeping your overheads to a minimum is one of the golden rules of being a startup or small business, but there are times when working from home is no longer an option and you have to look at renting office space. Whether that is because you have outgrown the space available at home or because you’re other half has had enough of the mess there are now really affordable options out there.

1. Central Working (off Tottenham Court Road)

The team at SMARTA pointed this one out to us and it really is a very cool concept. At Central Working there are a variety of membership options perfectly suited to startup businesses and small business who need a base in central London, but don’t want the expense of a permanent office. Basically you get to work from the space for a certain amount of time per month  (depending on your membership) and you also get the option of hiring stunning meeting rooms. There is obviously WiFi, but at Central Working they have regular talks chaired by other members, events, networking sessions and more.

We held a recent meeting there and our clients, who are used to swanky offices, were extremely impressed. Check out the images below:

Meeting Room at Central Working

Working area at Central Working

Open meeting space

Central Working details

2. Co work (Putney & Borough Market)

Instead of hiring an office why not thinking about hiring a desk? Co Work is a funky concept where you get all the frills of a big office, but only get charged small business prices. At the time of writing this it costs £79 per week (ex VAT) for a small desk and £99 per week (ex VAT) for a large desk. Best of all is the flexibility as you only need to give a month’s notice. Included in the price you get:

- A nice desk and swanky office chair
- A secure and spacious filing cabinet
- Fast broadband and wifi
- Colour printing (although you need to adhere to a fari usage policy)
- Access to the 2 x meeting rooms and private call booth
- As much tea and coffee you can drink
- VoIP phone
- Key fob for access

Having seen the office for myself I can tell you they are finished to the highest standard. I had concerns about security but there is CCTV in the office as well as a secure fob system so only people who are supposed to be on the floor can get access to it.

It is a great environment to work in as you’ll no doubt agree from the pictures below:

Co-Work meeting rooms

Co-Work Desk Space

Co-Work desk layout

Co-Work desk layout 2

3. BasePoint (UK wide)

Not everyone is based in London, obviously. Therefore another option for office space is BasePoint who have locations dotted all over. What I really like about BasePoint are the networking opportunities that BasePoint organise. Every Monday morning you can grab a coffee and a croissant and talk to other businesses renting office space from them.

The offices vary in size, price and decor but again they are extremely flexible and provide a cost effective alternative to renting from a commercial landlord.

Why just being talented isn’t enough for creatives

CON_students_yellow

For creatives, being talented is no longer enough. Having talent just gets you on the shortlist. Here are just a few of the other things you need in your locker:

A can-do attitude

I cannot stress how important having a can-do attitude is for a creative (or creative team). Working with someone who is smiley and happy to get on with things makes a huge difference, to all parties. As a freelancer having this kind of can-do mentality will guarantee you repeat business, and will probably get you lots of WoM recommendations too.

Being reliable

Being reliable, delivering work when you say you will, and hitting deadlines is the golden rule for any creative. The creative industry is governed by deadlines and 99.9% of the time they are set in stone. Missing a deadline is simply not an option. If you miss your deadline then the media placement might be wasted, or the printers might give your print slot away. That all costs money.

A bit of common sense

Working on Concept Cupboard is like being a freelancer and you’ll be liaising directly with the client. There will be no account manager to keep the client happy and up to date on the progress of the project. You’ll need to do that. Regular email contact with the client is never a bad thing, even if it is just to let them know how you are getting on. Even a text every so often will put the client’s mind at ease. That and sending things over when you promised.

A good personality

Enough from me. Check out what Steve Stretton (Creative Director at archibald ingall stretton…) says about the importance of personality in this video.

Steve Stretton talking to the Guardian

Every single creative at archibald ingall stretton… ticked all of the boxes above. In fact they smashed them. Now of course at an established agency you have lots of help. The traffic team were first class, the account team were at the top of their game and the whole agency was focused on producing award winning work time and again.

But it all stemmed from a creative department that never took themselves too seriously. Took a huge amount of pride in their work. Worked hard. And had a lot of fun while doing it.

Now all of the above may sound ridiculously obvious, but trust me when I say that not everyone gets it. So, please don’t walk into interviews thinking you are the next big thing, because a good book will only get you so far.

Pay your way through University

How it works for creatives

Pot Noodle

Pot Noodles. Late night visits to Spar. Snakebite & black. It’s all part of being a student. But with tuition fees set to increase and the cost of living going up it is going to be even tougher for students in the UK to get through University without full or part-time work. And that is where Concept Cupboard comes in and can make a real difference.

Concept Cupboard offers creative arts students and recent graduates the opportunity to work with real businesses on all sorts of projects – from design to website builds. Best of all it is paid for work. In the four weeks Concept Cupboard has been live we have offered projects worth well over £5,000 to our creatives. That’s an average of £400 per project. If you were stacking shelves you’d need to work more than 66 hours to earn that kind of money.

Now it is important to stress that this is not easy money. It requires a lot of craft and hard work, but you’ll be doing something you love doing and helping your future job prospects at the same time. Not many part-time jobs can offer you that.

How does it work?
It’s pretty simple. Once you are registered on the site you can view all of the briefs we have on offer. If you like the look of a brief you send in your idea, and when the project closes the project owner will review all of the ideas submitted and pick a winner. If you are picked you’ll work with the project owner to turn that idea into a finished piece of work. You’ll be paid on completion. If you don’t win then you’ll at least get constructive feedback to go into your portfolio. You can find out more here.

How it works for creatives

Why do I need to send my idea in upfront?
The businesses using our site want to see the kind of work they will get before committing to work with anyone. You’d feel the same if you were in their shoes, after all money is tight for all businesses at the moment. Yes, it is a risk doing work upfront but your chances of success are really good as you are only competing with student and graduate creatives registered on our site. If you put some effort into your work it could really pay off.

Projects you should take a look at now
There are projects worth well over £3,000 live right now as I write this post. Take a look.

We are going to be showcasing the work of some of the creatives who have already completed projects on our site next week so keep an eye out.

Student entrepreneurs here to stay

younilife

Rachel Bridge wrote in the Sunday Times this weekend about the ever increasing trend in student entrepreneurialism. Universities, like the Arts University College in Bournemouth, are now actively encouraging as well as providing incubation services to such ventures. It all bodes well for the future.

Hagen Christoph, founder of Younilife, is a prime example of the new wave of entrepreneurs leaving University. As a student, at Bath Spa University, Hagen set up the Younilife website because he wanted to give students the chance to share their views on their University and also help prospective students find out about all the things that aren’t in the University prospectus.

Younilife logo

Younilife, now just over two years old, receives approximately 31,000 visits per month and boasts a wide range of interest areas, such as:

  • An accommodation service
  • “Snoop”, a service which allows you to keep you to date with the local pubs, clubs & shops
  • A student jobs area
  • Music charts for student band

Hagen is about to embark on a PhD in Social Networking and is hoping to use advertising revenue from the site to help fund it. Hopefully more people will follow his lead.

It just goes to prove that you don’t have to have years of experience, or lots of money to set up a successful business. All you need is an idea (preferably a good one) and a can-do attitude. The rest is easy, or so they say.

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