OMG at the Stylist Magazine Networking Event – Part 2 How to start your own business

Following up on the first part of OMG’s review of the recent Stylist Magazine Networking Event last month, I have put together some (belated) notes / quotes from the guest speakers to share with you! The evening was a lot of fun and we even got our photos in this week’s magazine! (well sort of…)

Charlotte of Restoration Cake, Mary of Forever and Ever Events, and OMG! Don’t we look stylish?

First up was Sarah Murray, creator of Buddi, a personalised GPS tracking device that can be used for kids. The concept was inspired by Sarah’s daughter when she was temporarily lost in the supermarket one day. With Buddi, she can now find her daughter immediately. She started off by describing companies that had failed and rebuilt themselves with the knowledge they had gained from mistakes. These included Walmart, Walt Disney, Hewlett Packard, and more. She also spoke briefly about what she believes to be the myth of the good idea. She argued that it was less about having a great concept, and more about persistence, motivation and determination. While I do agree that success is definitely dependent on hard work, it never hurst to have a good idea too!

Next up: Lisa and Jo of Lisa Stickley London, a textiles and interior design company which started under a staircase in a studio shared by the fabulous milliner Noel Stewart. Lisa first spoke about how she was able to build her business to what it is today. Starting off by selling her textile designs so she could finally buy some second hand equipment then lead to doing some commissioned work for Burberry, Harrods (which she admittedly shamelessly stalked) and now does work for the likes of Designers Guild and Liberty. Jo then gave a brief into about building your brand as she has a corporate background and worked previously as the head of buying for Debenhams. Jo works with various brands to help creative people realise their potential.

Her top tips for successfully setting up your own business were:
1. Have a clear vision
2. Have a 3 year business plan (which will of course change so don’t worry!)
3. Figure out how you can “make it happen” – talk to friends and family about investing
4. See the bigger picture – figure out roles and responsibilities and what YOU are accountable for.

And she also mentioned the 5 ways to think about your brand (particularly relevant to a product as opposed to service)

1. Know your brand story
This should be a clear brief to everything you touch. What is your brand personality?
2. Understand your marketing position
What is your image? What brands do you associate with and who is your competition?
3. What is your product (or service) strategy
Where does your product sit? Who is your target customer?
4. How do you market your product (or service)
What is your brand personality and how do you market your product
5. What is your route to retail?
Consider wholesale, retail, direct to consumer, licensing and collaborations

Next up was Jessica Huie of Jessica Huie PR who talked about leaving Max Clifford’s agency and starting up her own business alongside launching her own multicultural greet card company, Colour Blind Cards, which she started when she saw a gap in the market after her daughter, who comes from a multicultural background, wanted to look like Barbie. Jessica got together with a photographer and some models and said “Let’s shoot and see what happens.” Since then she has won countless awards and will be distributing the cards in the States in 9 months time. She claims her determination and confidence grew from her achievements and awards. She was fueled by her desire to prove people’s expectations of young mothers wrong and lives by the line “inner fulfillment through external experience.” Basically, get up off your bum and take charge. She also stressed the importance of tapping into your network, no matter who you are, you definitely know someone who knows someone who might be able to help. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Last but not least was Kanya King MBE, founder of the MOBO Awards, who grew up in a council estate and was told by her teacher that “if she tried really really hard, she might one day grow up to become a manager at Sainsburys.” Also a single parent at a young age, Kanya said her desire to provide for her family added to her determination to succeed. Like Jessica, she saw a gap in the market and seized the moment. Armed with a lot of charm, persistence, determination and no fear Kanya decided to focus on the basics and got herself onto the property ladder so she could provide for her family. She networked like no one else could and spoke to everyone who would listen to her about her idea – an event to showcase talent in the UK. She relentlessly called sponsors and celebrities to come to her event and successfully held the first MOBO awards in 1995 when Lionel Richie received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Tony Blair even turned up after Kanya called his office every week leading up to the event. She was repeatedly told he couldn’t make it. Apparently, in the end, he could. I was extremely inspired by Kanya’s talk as you could feel that she cared about her business and brand from the bottom of her heart. Kanya says “Do whatever it takes to get where you want without quitting and you will get there.” Seems pretty obvious doesn’t it?

Following the presentations and a quick workshop on finding confidence, we were all lead out into the reception area for more wine, canapes and mingling. All in all it was a great night and I found it was a good confidence booster with regards to networking as I never really know how to strike up a conversation at events like these, however in this case, everyone was totally up for meeting people and it was a very friendly and diverse crowd. Must figure out how hold business cards, wine glass, handbag, and canape at the same time while still looking fabulous though, that was a challenge!

Want to read Part 1 of OMG at the Stylist Magazine Networking Event?

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