Be your own boss


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We’ve all heard of Innocent. We’ve bundled their smoothies in our shopping basket or grabbed one of their veg pots on a quickie lunch break. But do you know how they started out? And boy, do you overlook what it took to get those smoothies onto the merciless shelves of Tescos or Sainsburys. Having been one of the lucky ones to get tickets to their third Innocent Inspires talk at Fruit Towers (the aptly named Innocent HQ) I can honestly say, it was some of the most invigorating three hours I’ve had in a very long time.

Titled ‘How to be your own boss’, the evening consisted of six incredible entrepreneurs, each in very different fields of expertise, enlightening the audience as to the trials and tribulations they’d experienced whilst setting up their own business.
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From left to right: Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent drinks, Eben Upton – founder of  Raspberry Pi, Jewellery entrepreneur Bec Astley Clarke, Sophie Cornish – co-founder of Notonthehighstreet.com , Jeremy Gilley – global campaigner behind ‘Peace One Day’ and Martin Morales – creator of hip, new Peruvian restaurant Ceviche.

Kicking off with an introduction from Richard Reed, he gave us his five guidelines to setting up your own business and it became very quickly apparent that these were invariably shared by the other five guest speakers. It was wonderful to hear that they all in turn, had their sleepless nights, anxieties, their spouses full support and nothing but total self belief in their ideas.

1. Have a mission – contribute to society and if you can’t explain it to your granny then it needs to be simplified.

2. It’s about the people – what are the needs of the business and how can the people support and drive these? Be picky and choose and take no passengers!

3. Start small but do start – Scale doesn’t matter, it’s just about getting started on your own two feet and the rest will come with time. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of something good.

4. Do it your way  – there is no ‘right’ way. But do make it with your values and your vision. This will become your USP and set you apart in the market.

5. Remain open and always invite feedback – whether it be from your customer base, your peers, your colleagues.

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Having read ‘How to start a business from your kitchen table’ (written by the founders of Notonthehighstreet.com), I was thrilled to hear Sophie Cornish speak with such grounded insight as to what drove her to start her business. “Have a purpose and there is nothing wrong with setting up a business that you very strongly identify with.” She spoke about knowing your customer base and truly learning from your mistakes. I enjoyed her quote: “Put your money where your customer is” she said when describing the complexities involved in quantifying and justifying marketing spends early on in a new business. It can feel like squandering money into the unknown but testing, re-testing and putting your faith in data can deliver results. “Believe in a life less ordinary” she said when it came to what prompted her to take the leap into her e-tailing venture. Sophie also lamented very positively about being emotional – it’s these emotions that will continue to drive you forward and simultaneously, give your customers a personal approach to what you do.

Eben Upton spoke of how his computer programming business was born out of a frustration and concern that the future generation of computer programmers simply weren’t up to scratch and identified a gap in the market that fuelled him to ‘design for scale’ as he spoke about being prepared to pivot. This for him was a very personal anecdote as they relied so heavily on investors to continue to produce the product that they had driven extensive PR and hype into, a last minute change of business model enabled them to pull back from the brink to become an overnight success.

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Martin Morales spoke with great passion about his Peruvian ancestry and upbringing and how it became infused into his business concept. Prior to Ceviche, he was headhunted by Steve Jobs to co-found iTunes in Europe, he had worked for Disney, EMI and was a hugely successful executive in the music business. He gave it all up to follow his dreams of creating a thoroughly original and distinctive Peruvian restaurant in London – selling his home and placing everything he had into the business. He spoke of finding something that fits with your passion and sits in your own DNA because if you’re going to do something for the rest of your life then it must be something you love. He joked (though I’m not entirely sure to what extent) about his 300+ pitches for funding and how innovation was what set him apart when first starting out. Embracing the flexibility of a small business meant that he could take his restaurant on a pop-up tour around the UK, acquiring followers and food enthusiasts, rave reviews and celebrity clientele up and down the country.

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Given a goodie bag upon exiting, inside were products that ex-Innocent employees had gone on to create. To work in an environment that actively supports and develops new business and entrepreneurialism, you can only imagine how over subscribed Innocent’ HR inbox must be. One thing I have Innocent to thank for is many more sleepless nights and I can only begin to imagine how many people will be drafting their letters of resignation today following last night’s incredible series of talks.

I will post a link up to the talk in the next few days…

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