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Small business

Customer of the month: Kitchen Table Projects

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Business: London’s first retail incubator and school for artisan food producers

Website: www.kitchentableprojects.com

Kitchen Table ProjectsTheir story: It all started one day, when founder, Tara, working as a pastry chef, realised she couldn’t remember what day it was. They all looked the same. She loved ‘cheffing’, but knew that she didn’t want to become an old granny chef without ever having done anything exciting. So she quit her job, set up a little market stall at her university and put her baking skills to work. It was a roaring success. And she wasn’t getting yelled at by a scary chef anymore! One thing led to another and wanting to pass her skills on to other food artisans, she has just established herself in Old Street Station, London and set up ‘Kitchen Table Projects’. Her mission: to help emerging artisan food producers make their visions come to life. Not only will they be able to sell their products through her shop, but they can also join the School of Food where they will learn everything they need to run a business around their artisan foods. A select lucky 15 food producers will be invited to join a 12 week programme to kick-start their business this summer. They will be provided with retail sales space in Tara’s foodie shop, support from industry experts ( including Off to see my Lawyer) & networking opportunities with fellow food producers who want to take their business to the next level. If you are a budding food producer or know of someone who is, make sure you apply by 15th May 2015 by visiting their website: www.kitchentableprojects.com

Legal problem: Kitchen Table Projects needed help at many levels including securing the brand name as a trademark, making sure the website was legal, advice on the lease of the premises and taking on staff as well as terms with all of her suppliers.

How Off to see my lawyer helped:  Thanks to our team of specialist lawyers, were able to help with all of those areas and so that Tara could keep to a budget, we gave her the option of using both the ‘oven ready templates’ for her to tailor herself as well as bespoke terms to cover things such as the courses and relationships with suppliers.

In the words of the customer: “Kitchen Table Projects has benefited hugely from Jo’s fabulous approach to working with small businesses. Knowing that Jo is just an email away gives us the confidence to take our business to where we want it to be and we have always been thoroughly impressed with the service we have received. We would recommend her firm wholeheartedly to anyone looking for legal advice, help and support.”

If you want help with your new business idea, we are here to help. Book your call now here

3 biggest mistakes to avoid when dealing with website developers

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

In the heat of excitement about launching a new service or product on-line, most budding entrepreneurs appoint a website developer. The discussion focusses on the design and functionality and cost.  People rarely think of entering into a proper contract- after all what could go wrong and anyway “It’s my mate’s friend……”

Copyright Optimum Design Technology

Copyright Optimum Design Technology

Well I hate to be a doom and gloom merchant, but here are some real stories and facts about what can happen with no terms in place:

  1. You may not get your website on time! I had a client who did have a contract with her developer, but it did not say when the website had to be ready. She did not see this and went ahead and bought all the stock that she was going to sell via her website in time for Christmas. The website was not ready in time for Christmas. She was unable to sell the stock and went bankrupt with no recourse against the developer.
  2. You may not own the content and design. Without an agreement to the contrary, if somebody designs something for you such as a website or a logo, they will own the intellectual property rights in that content, even if you have paid them. So you may find you just have a licence to use your content which can be withdrawn at any time! If you later want to sell the website and brand, it may not be yours to sell!
  3. Your website developer may be able to shut you down. Many developers offer to host your website as well as carrying out the development. Most people think that is very convenient and that it is all one and the same thing. I would strongly advise against this and make sure YOU are in control of hosting at all times. To use a non-IT analogy, your website is like the stage set for a play in a theatre. Your website designer is the set designer. By allowing the website designer to do the hosting, it is like giving the designer the keys to the theatre aswell and keeping none for yourself.Would you do that? I have had many a client come to me where they have fallen out with the webdesigner and the webdesigner has simply pulled the plug on the hosting and the whole website disappears.

So I would strongly advise that in your first step into the world of on-line business, please draw up a proper agreement with your developer- even if they are a friend. If you do not know where to start,we can help. Look out for our next blog with the checklist of key terms for website development contracts.

 

Get the terms of business that YOU want

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

As you may have gathered from previous newsletters, I am fond of unusual presents especially ones where you experience something different. To add to my experience of flying a jumbo jet (in a simulator of course!), I was recently given a voucher for the more grounded thrill of learning how to carve a wooden spoon.  Nowhere near as exciting I hear you say, but once our goblin-like teacher with a long wispy beard had explained that the knife we were about to use was so sharp it could in fact cut your finger off, he had my full attention!

We proceeded to start with a giant log which we honed down with the aid of a very sharp axe to the rough size of a spoon and then the whittling

Like lovely wooden spoons, t's & c's come in all shapes and sizes!

Like lovely wooden spoons, t’s & c’s come in all shapes and sizes!

started with our knives. Amazingly, as we gradually shaved off the outer bark and experimented with the various whittling techniques, the shape of a spoon began to emerge. Being a sailor at heart, I tried to emulate the hull of a boat for the bowl and surprised myself how satisfying it was to feel the round shape gradually develop due to my efforts alone.  The point I am getting to is that contracts and terms of business are just the same as a lump of wood and they too can be whittled down and shaped until they are in the shape you want them to be.  Many new business owners do not realise this.

I have come across several clients recently who have presented me with contracts that they have signed which were totally against them. They were virtually signing their entire business away. When I asked why on earth they had agreed to those terms, many confessed that they thought they had no choice. They were pre-printed and surely that was that. The answer, my friends, is absolutely NOT! Why do you think politicians and lawyers work through the night? Because they are negotiating the terms of a treaty or a contract with the other side and are not willing to back down until a fair deal is reached. They are whittling!

So my plea to you is that you can do the same. In any deal going forward, no matter how large or small you are, you should do the following:

  1. READ the contract from beginning to end ( this is your log to use the wood analogy!)
  2. Identify which bits you don’t like or don’t understand- the knots and bumps!
  3. Get out your ‘contract knife’ and chop and whittle away at them until you are happy with the terms. If you don’t know how, this is where a lawyer comes in. You tell him or her what it is you want and we do the rest.
  4. DO NOT SIGN until you are happy that you know and agree with the terms

Bigger businesses will often say it’s their terms or nothing else and then you have to weigh up how much you are willing to sacrifice to secure their business. You may decide it is worth it, but you should always go in with your EYES WIDE OPEN and know what it is you are committing to.

Be a savvy business owner and sharpen your knife!

How to stay best friends in business

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Chances are, you are one of the many entrepreneurs who have set up business with your best friend. One of you is the creative person, the other the more managerial type. Between you, you have the perfect skills to run your dream business and before you know where you are, the kitchen table has become your HQ and the business is flying along. “What could possibly go wrong”, I hear you ask? “We have known each other for years and don’t need a formal agreement with each other. There is already enough to think about just running the business. We have set up a limited company so what more do we need?” Shareholders Agreement, Staying Best Friends

The answer is that you need to remember that you two are the foundations of the business. You are investing every spare waking minute on it, possibly hard earned savings too, maybe even re-mortgaged your house. You may not necessarily fall out, but have you agreed what is to happen if:

  • One of you meets the partner of their dreams and wants to sail off into the sunset (keeping up the Valentine’s theme 😆 )?
  • There is a juicy offer on the table from an investor, but one of you doesn’t want to sell up?
  • One of you wants to invest in a major piece of equipment, but your friend disagrees?
  • There is the pitter-patter of little feet and your partner suddenly doesn’t pull her weight anymore..
  • Illness or worse strikes? Should your friend be able to leave his/her shares to her friends and family rather than you have first refusal?

A common issue in the case of 50:50 shareholders is that as time goes by, one person is doing the lion’s share of the work and the other is doing less and feelings of resentment start to creep in.  Suddenly it seems wrong that profits should be split equally and yet you don’t want to risk your friendship.

These are some of the many issues that are covered in a so-called “Shareholders Agreement”. It covers all eventualities that you may encounter while running the business and provides a game plan for you to follow. It may feel hard and possibly pessimistic to have to imagine the “what if’s”, but I promise you that dealing with these issues now, will truly make your business run more smoothly. To this end, I have created the “Staying Best Friends Pack”.  It consists of:

  • A 50:50 Shareholder Agreement template
  • Guidance notes to help you complete it
  • 30 minutes consultation
  • 2 hotline call @15 mins each valid for 6 months from purchase

All of this is now available in our ‘oven-ready document shop’ here

Small business Saturday this weekend

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Small business saturdayStarted in the USA three years ago as a way to promote independent retailers in a country more known for its faceless strip malls, Small Business Saturday has since proved a great success across the pond; 2012’s iteration saw American shoppers spend £3.4bn in independent stores.

Now, thanks to efforts spearheaded by shadow business secretary Chukka Umunna, the American Express-sponsored event is coming to the UK for the first time on December 7, with hopes that British shoppers will be similarly galvanised into providing independent retailers with a much-needed boost during the busy Christmas season.

With backing from the Federation of Small Business, the Retail Trade Association, O2 and Dragons’ Den star James Caan, the one-day event will comprise a series of events championing small business up and down the UK, with Christmas markets, competitions and promotional events all planned. Interest and activity is building and it’s worth getting a sense of what’s happening on the initiative’s Facebook page.

To find out more,click here.

How to save on legal fees!

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

solicitors feesMany people are worried that the moment they consult a lawyer, the “legal clock” will start ticking and before they know it, they will have racked up a massive bill. That is simply not true. Here are a few tips to keep your legal bill to a minimum and keep your lawyer happy. You may think I have invented some of these examples, but sadly they are true!

 

  1. Agree the fee or hourly rate up front. Do not assume advice will be free or at a rate you had several years ago.
  2. If you are concerned about fees, ask for an update. All lawyers run time sheets and should be able to tell you right away how much is on the clock.
  3. Give clear instructions. Make your lawyer’s job easy-don’t just forward e-mails with the words: “See below”. The lawyer needs to be told what they are meant to be looking at  and what you want them to do with the “e-mail below”. If they have to read down a great long chain of e-mails and then write back to double check with you, that will all cost money.
  4. Don’t leave great gaps of weeks and months between e-mails. Otherwise your lawyer will have to read back into the file to remember where they left off and that too costs money.
  5. Send as much detail as possible at the outset. Avoid questions such as :”I am planning to open a business. Please can you advise of legal implications.” It is like saying:” I would like a cake. Please can you bake one.” You need to say what type of cake, for how many people, whether there are any allergies, how much you want to pay, when it has to be ready for…. You get the picture!
  6. Remember Microsoft Word tools. If your lawyer has asked for comments on a document they have sent you, use proper tools to highlight your comments such as the “track changes” or “insert comment” facility in Microsoft Word (see the ‘Review’ tab). If your lawyer has to try and spot where you have made changes that you have typed in directly into the document, that makes the job much harder and costly.

Festive glow from one of our clients

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Soy Candle Collection The Soy Candle Collection sells beautiful hand-made candles made from 100% eco soy wax, which is produced from pure soybean oil. The business was set up by two friends and we helped draw up the agreement between them covering all key areas such as how they would make decisions, how profits were to be split, what they could spend money on and how to deal with the situation if one of them wanted to leave or was unable to continue. One year on they are still going strong and we like to think it is because they are built on solid foundations.  Take a peek at their range here.

The founder commented:  ” We have been delighted with Off To See My Lawyer!  Jo offers a very professional service, delivered in an approachable and friendly manner, effectively communicates and translates complex legal requirements into a workable business format to help build and support our business. Jo’s help has been very valuable and we would highly recommend Off To See My Lawyer.  Thank you Jo!”

Let’s support small, local businesses this Christmas!

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Many British citizens may feel sad that nearly 15% of high street shops across the United Kingdom are entirely vacant – and yet most consumers are guilty of acquiescence by shopping on-line; and many retail businesses owners feel they have no option but to trade on-line, given the cost of overheads from owning a shop on the high street. 

Famous personalities such as Mary Portas and Wayne Hemingway have been championing the cause of the traditional British high street, but what can we actually do to help besides simply talking about the issue amongst ourselves?

It may be a little early to start thinking about Christmas, but you may be interested to know in advance that over the 6 weeks running up to Christmas Day 2012, a new campaign “Celebrate an Independent Christmas” will encourage consumers to dedicate a proportion of their Christmas spending on local independent businesses.

If you wish to participate by either making the consumer pledge yourself, or by using it to help promote your retail business, check the website www.independentretailermonth.co.uk or follow #IndieXmas on Twitter from 12thNovember.

Developing Your International Potential – Exporting Success Programme

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Are you looking to expand your business overseas?  If your business is based in Greater London; has been trading for over one year; and employs less than 250 people, you will be eligible to apply for a programme which has been developed by North London Business to help businesses develop their international sales opportunities.

The programme comprises up to 12 hours of one to one advice with an Export Advisor, guidance and practical support to:

–          Explore new export markets;

–          Maximise your sales techniques to promote your products abroad;

–          Develop your website or portals for online sales, with minimum cost;

–          Prepare an effective export marketing strategy;

–          Understand export documentation and incoterms; &

–          Find distributors or agents abroad.

The programme is partly financed by the European Union, and is free for you to enrol.  However you will be expected to invest your time and resources on the project, and the 12 hours of support must be delivered within 3 months of your initial referral date.

If you are interested, please contact North London Business for an Exporting Success Enquiry/Referral Form on 020 8885 9203 and speak to Roya Jahanbin; or E-mail roya.jahanbin@northlondonbusiness.com

Will Singapore become the “entrepreneurship capital” of South East Asia?

Monday, May 28th, 2012

There are various reasons why entrepreneurship has not traditionally thrived in Asia.  Relatively speaking, US culture regards failure in business as a positive part of the learning process, and therefore Americans are more inclined to take risks.  Asian culture, however, is less forgiving of failure.  In addition, Hugh Mason (Chief Executive of Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (JFDI)) explains that the traditional method in Asian schools is “all about getting the right answer”, and that “being smart sometimes weighs against entrepreneurship”.

Traditionally Singapore has been considered by many in the business world as a gateway to South East Asia, as it represents a relatively small market of five million people.  Investors often choose to temporarily place their money in Singapore before investing in larger markets in the region such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.  However Angel investors and venture capital funds are increasingly seeking investment opportunities in Singapore itself.

A growing number of educational institutions are running entrepreneurship programmes and providing mentoring opportunities; and the Singaporean government are actively removing regulatory barriers in a bid to encourage entrepreneurship.  Ron Mahabir (found of Asia Cleantech Capital) states that “While the government has done a great job of loans and grant programmes, culturally it’s very difficult to push entrepreneurship very quickly.”  Change, however, is undoubtedly underway in Singapore.  In fact, according to the WorldBank, Singapore ranks at Number One in the world “for ease of doing business, and Number Four “for starting a business”.

Singapore-based JFDI is working in partnership with SingTel [a subsidiary of a major telecommunications company] to run an accelerator programme for start-ups from around Asia.  This program allocates start-up teams from around the South East Asia with mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and specialists for 100 days, after which the start-ups can pitch to investors.  Wong Meng Weng (who helped start JFDI) says, “I see Singapore as the technology and start-up capital of South East Asia, not unlike the US where you recruit from around the world and get them to come into Silicon Valley”.