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Posts Tagged ‘Female entrepreneur’

Female Entrepreneur Focus: Wendy Tan White

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

In the late nineties, Wendy Tan White helped develop the UK’s first online-only bank, Egg.  She says, “We looked at the idea of people personalising for themselves online.  The whole idea behind Egg was [that] people wanted to customise and control their finances.  We saw this was a moving trend.”

Building upon this trend, Ms Tan White decided to start a business funded by advertising revenues, which helps people create their own website, and then assumes the responsibility of hosting and managing the site.

The business (named Moonfruit) was funded by investment from Richard Duvall (her mentor at Egg), LVMH, as well as from friends and family; and venture capital was provided by Macromedia.

Following a popular advertising campaign, Moonfruit achieved success very quickly, and the company was able to move into plus Soho offices.  Within six months of its launch in January 2000, the business had built up 40,000 users – and was even ranked among the top 12 visited sites in the UK.  When the dot com crash occurred, however, Moonfruit’s main investor pulled their funding, and the revenue gathered from selling advertising space was not enough to pay the overheads.

Moonfruit went through a dark period during which the staff roster was cut from 60 people to two, and the business had to relocate from Soho to the attic where it first started.  Ms Tan White could very easily have given up when the business became insolvent – but she tenaciously kept going, substituting the former free service to a subscription-based service – and by 2001, Moonfruit was profitable once more.

The new tiered subscription package has proved highly successful; and combined with clever marketing campaigns, by 2009 the turnover had increased to $1.9m dollars.  In 2011 its turnover rose to $3.9m; and by the end of 2012 it is likely to have risen substantially due to its proposed expansion into America.

Over 3.5 million websites have been built using Moonfruit’s point-and-click interface and drag-and-drop templates, and the company is currently the Number One ranked hosted web builder in the UK.

There is a lesson to be learnt from this story: The true entrepreneur does not give up in the face of adversity, but will find a way to succeed through well-judged adaptation and by taking risks with innovative strategies.

The Recession can be Good for You!

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Founded by husband and wife Juliette and Russel Joffe in 1998, the restaurant chain Giraffe has not only thrived throughout recent economic crises; rather, Mr Joffe insists the recession “has been positive for us”.  He states, “It has enabled us to review our strategy.  This is an opportune time to review your business – and aspects that you might forget in good times.”

The Joffes’ advice for not only surviving but possibly benefiting from times of austerity, are as follows:

Get best supply prices:

“We have gone back to some of our original mission statements; reviewing our staffing, talking to suppliers to get the best prices”

Run a tight ship, but don’t let this compromise the quality of your products or services:

“We don’t cut corners or cut costs.  Everyone has to run a tighter business today.  The ones that cut corners and costs are the ones that will suffer long-term because standards of service will decline.  You need to keep the investment and innovation going. It is important that people see you moving forward rather than stagnating.”

Give customers a good deal:

We have also been offering vouchers and deals. It’s the norm today. When people go out to eat, they think: ‘Where is there a voucher?’ We have been focusing on our service and offering customers the best value for money that we can”

We are producing a better bottom-line profit by running a better business. We haven’t let go of any staff as such, just increased sales and not overheads.”

Female Entrepreneur Focus: Gennese Williams

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

The test for a true entrepreneur is to see whether the person in question has turned an adverse situation into a successful enterprise.

When Gennese Williams lost the sight of both her eyes in 2007, she decided she could no longer work for anyone again.  Far from burning her bridges, however, she built upon her existing experience in beauty, music and management to start her own business, MGW London.  She merrily believes in the mantras, “What you think you are worthy of, is what you will attract”; and “You change your reality when you change your mentality”.  In addition, when times are especially difficult, she recommends taking a break and “switching off from everyone” in order to recharge one’s motivation and creativity.

MGW London is an ambitious management and business consultancy agency.  In addition it has its own in-house production, make up, hair stylists and fashion stylists’ team, and a graphic design team (run by her brother); and together they provide a range of services to manage events, projects and brands.

Ms Williams says that the most effective way of attracting clients is by word of mouth and personal recommendations.  In addition she favours social media as it gives prospective clients “the freedom to check me out before they approach us”.

Her advice to other business owners is to remain dedicated to clients; to “be professional at all times, master your craft and listen to your clients’ needs”; and to “always be steps ahead to achieve the best and don’t sleep until you know the job is complete for that day”.

Can you afford to start up your own business?

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

If you have any misgivings about whether you can afford to start up and run a business, Jo Tall will happily meet you for a preliminary consultation.  Off To See My Lawyer are proud to have successfully helped launch many small businesses – but equally we take pride in our honest and realistic advice.  If we consider that you will be taking too many risks (– financial or otherwise) we will let you know.

Here is a non-exhaustive checklist to help you assess whether you can afford to start a new business:

  1. Off To See My Lawyer provide an extremely cost effective service, but please consider whether you are able to afford legal advice.
  2. You may wish to pay for other professional advice, such as from an accountant, or a web designer, and/or advice from PR experts.
  3. You may require professional assistance in order to draft your initial business plan, and/or business plan software.
  4. Most banks incur a small fee in order to open a business account.
  5. As you would expect, there are fees incurred for incorporating a business into a company; for registering a trade mark; for registering yourself as a data controller; etc.  And you may need to purchase certain licenses and permits in order to run your particular business.
  6. You may wish to insure your business or assets.  Premium rates are variable.
  7. If you wish to rent or buy the premises from which you will run your business, you will need to consider these costs – as well as utilities bills.
  8. The costs involved in promoting your business will add up.  For example – stationery and printing; professional branding/advertising advice; etc.
  9. Machinery and equipment, and IT systems are pricey but necessary assets.
  10. It very much depends on the type of business you are running – but you may need to pay for materials from which to manufacture your products, or stock for wholesale.
  11. Of course, once your business is up and running, you cannot pocket every incoming penny, as there are various taxes to be paid!

While the intended outcome of employing staff is to increase your profits, employees add to your list of burdens and liabilities.  You will need to draft contracts of employment, deal with relevant taxation issues, invest in time (and perhaps money) in training your staff, etc.

Female Entrepreneur Focus: Michelle Mone

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Michelle Mone is one of the UK’s most successful female entrepreneurs.

Born and brought up in Glasgow, Ms Mone left school at 15 with no qualifications, and successfully found full-time employment at Labatt Brewers.  By the age of 20 she was running their sales and marketing team, but became inspired to start her own business.  Based upon her desire to invent a bra “more comfortable, more innovative, more attractive and more cleavage enhancing than any other bra on the market”, she set up MJM International in 1996.

Ms Mone says that her biggest challenge early on was securing finance, but that she took risks which eventually paid off.  One bold move was to send one of her products (– a bra in her “Ultima” range) to the Hollywood actress Julia Roberts’ stylist.  Her initiative paid off when Julia Roberts wore an Ultimo bra to enhance her cleavage in the film Erin Brockovich in 2000 – and this exposure [excuse the pun!] is what made Michelle Mone’s lingerie famous.  While she has since gone from strength to strength, she has experienced the odd set-back along the way – such as the time when a distributor purloined £1.6m of her money.  She regards such incidents as part of the learning process, however; and in this instance she has put procedures in place to prevent any misappropriations from occurring again.  Ever optimistic she states, “The best piece of advice is always to think of plan B in case plan A fails, and kick in with plan B as soon as you think it’s failing.  Don’t be scared of changing your mind – go with your instinct.”

Over the years MJM International has created a number of brands in addition to Ultimo; and has supplied retailers including Selfridges, Tesco, Debenhams, Asda, Next, Figleaves, MaxCleavage and ASOS, along with a number of independent lingerie stores across Europe.  It has also developed a range of worldwide patented inventions including the Ultimo Miracle backless body.  In 2009 Ultimo became the first UK lingerie brand to debut on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week and several in-shop boutiques within Debenhams in key cities across the UK.

In addition, MJM has developed partner lines with Tesco, Asda and Debenhams.  Ms Mone says, “You’ve got to decide why each retail partner would want your product. We don’t give every partner the same things. It has to be individual and give them a unique selling point. You have to treat each retailer individually, and listen to their needs.”

Michelle Mone has received a large number of awards and accolades over the years, including an Honorary Doctorate degree by Paisley University in 2002.  In 2005 she attended a speaking engagement with former US president Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev, and went on to support the Sultan of Oman in setting up a women’s enterprise project in the Middle East.  She has even received an OBE by the Queen for her contribution to business in 2010.

Michelle Mone declares, “I’m not the typical businesswoman in a pin-stripe suit; I dress the way I want to dress. If you want to be glamorous, then why not!  Walking into a meeting well groomed, with your lipstick on and high heels, makes you feel good. I use my femininity to its full effect!”

Is British Entrepreneurship suffering?

Monday, May 7th, 2012

USA and Australia topped the recent Global Entrepreneurial and Development Index, whereas the UK only came only 14th.  The Financial Times’ Jonathan Moules commented with surprise that the UK had even come below Austria and Belgium!

On a positive note, the UK was among the best in the world for the number of start-ups it creates (– particularly technology companies); the quality of the founding teams; and the capacity to launch new products without any peers.

However the UK has arguably been more significantly affected by the financial crisis than other nations, and as a result British businesses lack early-stage investment.  In the ranking for the number of individuals who have invested informally in other people’s start-ups in the past three years, the UK falls into the bottom quarter of OECD nations.

In addition, research suggests that in cultural terms, the British do not perceive entrepreneurship as a good career choice.  Erkko Autio (Professor in Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship at Imperial College) said the UK could significantly improve its position if measures introduced to encourage early-stage investment resulted in more investors committing capital.  “The one thing we are pretty sure about is that it is not [a problem of] over-regulation,” he added.  “It is more about the [need to change] cultural and social norms.”

Event: Business Advice Clinic

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

For impartial business advice and an opportunity to discuss your business at a confidential, hour-long one-to-one meeting with an experienced advisor, the British Library Business and IP Centre will be running a Business Advice Clinic on Wednesday 2 May 2012, 10:30 to 17:00.  It costs £15 to attend.  For further information, and to book on-line, follow the link: http://www.bl.uk/bipc/workevents/lbssclinics.html

Female Entrepreneur Focus: Karren Brady

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

You probably recognise Karren Brady from the BBC’s popular series The Apprentice.

Starting her career in advertising at the tender age of 18, she first worked at Saatchi & Saatchi and then Sport Newspapers Ltd where she became Director within a year.  In 1993, aged 23 she bought and became the Managing Director of Birmingham City Football Club, launching the Club on the Stock market in 1997 – becoming in the process the youngest Managing Director of a PLC in the UK.  Despite undergoing an operation for a brain aneurysm in 2006, Brady went from strength to strength in the business world; and when she sold her business in 2009, it was valued at over £82million.

From then on, her list of credentials is so numerous, it almost becomes tedious!  In January 2010 she was appointed Vice Chairman of West Ham United FC, generating a trading profit for the first time in several years.  In addition she has been on the Boards of various companies and enterprises such as Mothercare PLC, Channel 4 Television and Arcadia.

She has been the subject of a BBC 1 Inside Story documentary; participated in the aforementioned The Apprentice; featured on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs; presented shows on ITV; written four books; worked as a columnist at The Sun newspaper and Women & Home magazine; launched her own magazine Today’s Business Woman; and won numerous awards.  She also works as Ambassador for various charities.

Karren Brady is now estimated to be worth £82 million ($131 million).  In her latest book, Strong Woman: Ambition, Grit and a Great Pair of Heels, she admits she only took three days off after the birth of her first child, and that it was wrong of her to prioritise her career over her family.  She stresses that women should not succumb to pressures of “having it all” as she has done in the past.  Off To See My Lawyer quite agree, but at the same time we cannot help but admire what she has achieved!

Event: Getting To Grips With Finance Workshop

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Where: O2 Workshop, 229 Tottenham Court Road , London W1T 7QG

When: 12 June 2012 from 10:00 to 14:00

How much: £65.00

Johnny Martin has extensive experience turning around businesses such as Baring Venture Partners, JO Hambro and Monument Trust.

Mr Martin will be leading the Getting To Grips Workshop, offering financial advice for setting up a business, working with accountants, raising capital, and cash flow management. Attendees are asked to bring their laptops!

To book your place, visit: www.women-unlimited.co.uk/getting-to-grips-with-finance-worksho/ (Note that for £65, you will not only get to attend the workshop, but you will receive a few added extras and bonuses!)

Sarah Cressall: The Creation Station

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

On 29 March of this year, Sarah Cressall was announced as “Woman Franchisor of the Year” at the 2011 Encouraging Women Into Franchising Awards.

Sarah Cresswell is a true inspiration for female entrepreneurs for so many different reasons.  In 2002 she came up with the idea of setting up The Creation Station, aimed at nurturing children’s creativity through fun arts and crafts activities with their parents/carers, and in such a way that minimises any stress or burden for the parents/carers.  Since 2002 Ms Cresswell has successfully overcome various obstacles (such as suppliers going bust) in order to develop her business into what it is today.  In an interview last year she stated, “You can either look at things as challenges or opportunities”.

While we commend Ms Cresswell for successfully setting up and running her own business, Off To See My Lawyer is especially impressed by the nature of her work.  She explains, “We run different types of workshops…   We also run art and craft birthday parties, events for organisations like the brownies, events and fetes for charities.”

While offering valuable services for parents bringing up their children, The Creation Station is now a franchise which offers parents the opportunity to become franchisees of the business and generate their own income.  Ms Cresswell says, “It’s designed specifically for mothers.  It’s flexible. There are some mothers with six-month-olds who do two mornings and others whose children have started school and may want to work four or five mornings.  The business allows time for family life. As they grow and get more confident, franchisees can employ people to run the business.”  Franchisees are given assistance and training to help them run their business, and are supplied with arts and crafts materials, session plans (based on government educational guidelines), a uniform, an admin pack, a web page and materials such as bags and stationery.

If you have an existing business which you wish to develop and expand into a franchise, please consult Jo Tall at jo@offtoseemylawyer.comOff To See My Lawyer does not only deal with start-ups!  Similarly if you are thinking of becoming a franchisee and need legal advice, Jo will be only too happy to assist.