Behind the Best: The Pitch 2011 special - Boozeberries, Northern Ireland

This month we’re introducing you to the finalists in this year’s The Pitch awards, run by SiftMedia in association with Yell. The Pitch 2011 supports and celebrates small businesses from start-up to success.

Today we meet the Northern Ireland finalist Barbara Hughes, co-founder of Boozeberries Artisan liqueurs.

For any of our readers who aren’t aware of you, can you give us an intro to the business?
Boozeberries is a premium Artisan Berry Liqueur naturally enhanced with the infusion of whole wild fragrant berries. Hand-crafted in small batches, supreme selected berries are infused in a rich mellow blend of Irish grain spirit to give a clean delicate taste of summer fruits all through the year!
‘Ireland’s 1st Fruit liqueur’ can be served chilled, over ice or added to Champagne, Prosseco or other sparkling wine to create amazing Champagne cocktails (it’s a real treat to watch the berries dance in the bubbles) It can be used to create innovative cocktails and sumptuous desserts… - Check out our free Boozeberries cocktail recipes
Boozeberries has picked up a clutch of awards at food and drink shows, and has been honoured with celebrity chef and 5 star restaurant endorsements:

Boozeberries Liqueurs are Available in 3 flavours:
Wild Cranberries, Zesty Blackcurrant and Wild Blueberries.

Where can we find you, and why did you choose to set up shop where you did? - What attracted you to that area?
We currently work from home; however we are searching for suitable premises close to home in the Banbridge area in Co Down.
Our stockists include The Drink Shop, Tesco NI, and other independent off licenses and restaurants.

What inspired you to start your business?
Both I and my husband Stuart wanted a better work/life balance and wanted a way to use our skills to create a better life for our family. We pride ourselves on high quality unique products and service.

What’s your philosophy in a nutshell? What would you say makes you stand out from the crowd?
Firstly commitment and determination to succeed in a very competitive market dominated by giants, then the niche we have focused on – high-end specialist Liqueurs, 100% natural and 100% delicious.

Can you explain how your business works and what differentiates it from your competitors’ in the industry?
We have created a culture that treats alcoholic drinks like food, the barman has become a chef and is searching for high quality ingredients. People appreciate what we are doing, the Mixologists and key players in the industry have told us our products are what they have been waiting for. Our Liqueurs are described as Fresh they are not sticky or sweet and allow the bartender versatility with his carefully balanced flavours.

Do you have a signature product you could tell us about?
All our liqueurs are created and flavoured naturally from whole Berries; the berries become a delicious garnish in your drinks, cocktails and desserts, and the little boozy berries add to your experience.

What would you say is the secret to a successful independent business? 
Don’t let negative people put you off! When you have researched your business and are confident in what you are doing – Go For It! It’s not easy but it’s incredibly rewarding.

Can you share a few of your favourite local, independent businesses with us?
My favourite local business are
Slice of Heaven - one of my very best friends Heather makes amazing desserts.
Harnett’s Oils - Jane is making natural and healthy oils rapeseed, hemp and flavoured from her own farm.
Fluid Voodoo - Richard is educating people in the art of cocktails both for fun and for the professional bartenders.

How does it feel to have won your heat of The Pitch?
Really good! But the pressure is on now not to let Northern Ireland down on the Final!

Are you confident about the final?
Yeah – pretty confident if I can keep the nerves at bay… Just one to beat I think (not telling who though lol)
All great wee businesses but think there are only 2 of us that are global brands.

If you could give one piece of advice for an Entrepreneur considering entering next year’s Pitch competition, what would it be?
Go for it and focus on what makes you unique!

Finally, following The Pitch, what can we expect from you in 2011/2012? Anything our readers should be looking forward to?
Better distribution and new brands – our Facebook page is a good place to keep up to date with our progress

The Pitch 2011 final is on 18th November.
The four region finalists will be joined by a fifth, chosen by live public vote for the Wildcard Award - Voting ends 6th November. 

The overall champion will win a package of business products and services worth £50,000. We wish them all good luck!

Yell nominated for 2011 Website of the Year award

We were very excited to discover that we’d been nominated in the ‘Search & Find’ category of MetrixLab’s Website of the Year awards, particularly as this is a people’s choice award so it’s great to know our users approve!

Websites are rated on their navigation, content and design.

The website with the most votes in it’s category will be elected as the ‘Most Popular’ while the site with the highest average rating is elected the ‘Best Website of 2011’. 

So if you’ve found our services helpful, or liked the improvements we’ve made over the year, please show your support and vote for us. - voting closes on 11th November.

Thank you!

Behind the Best: The Pitch 2011 special - Rocktails, Wales

This month we’re introducing you to the finalists in this year’s The Pitch awards, run by SiftMedia in association with Yell. The Pitch 2011 supports and celebrates small businesses from start-up to success.

Today we meet Naomi Kibble & Helen McAvoy whose pre-packaged, bar quality frozen cocktails, Rocktails, won them the Welsh heat.

For any of our readers who aren’t aware of you, can you give us an introduction to the business?
ROCKTAILS are born wild and fruity. Captured inside each double-serve Rocktail pod is our lovingly created, unique fusion of fruits and vodka, blended to create a spectacular frozen cocktail like no other. At 10% ABV, they come in 3 distinctive launch flavours; Frostberry, Coolcumber and Arctic Passion..

Where can we find you, and why did you choose to set up shop where you did? - What attracted you to that area?
Available from November in selected Sainsburys. Also available online
We are a national brand but out offices are based in South Wales – we love the Welsh. No other reason! The Welsh Assembly are really supportive with grants, the living costs are really low and it’s only 2 hours to London on a train.

What inspired you to start your business?

Helen and Naomi, the Co-Founders of ROCKTAILS, met through a leadership development organisation, AIESEC, and soon after formed a social enterprise in Cardiff whilst studying at the University Business School. Both Co-Founders later went on to work in London, Naomi for a FTSE 250 company and Helen for AIESEC.

We had always enjoyed busy social lives in London, and spent more than enough time in cocktail bars around the city. However, we had a real problem re-creating this bar experience at home when we cooked for friends or organised parties; the ingredients were expensive, crushing ice was messy and no-one wanted to spend time in the kitchen away from the craic (as Helen would say). We sat on the idea for quite a while and nothing came to the market which filled the gap. It was only when Naomi started planning a little summer money spinner (selling alcoholic slush-puppies out the back of an ice-cream van on the beach in Cornwall) did it occur that what we should really do was actually create a cocktail which met this need for being able to enjoy bar quality cocktails at home and with a little bit of research, the idea quickly evolved.

The big leap came at the end of August; after copious weekends and evenings spent planning the business and juggling full-time jobs, we decided to move out of London and work fulltime on the business. On 7 September 2010 we opened the office, where we set about turning our ideas into a reality…this was the start…

What’s your philosophy in a nutshell? What would you say makes you stand out from the crowd?
We have found that people don’t have access to premium, bar quality cocktails at home as they need a lot of spirits, time, effort, skills, knowledge, equipment, and be willing for their kitchen to be turned upside down in the process! ROCKTAILS solves this problem by providing cocktails that are;
Full and Fruity – ROCKTAILS have a powerfully fruity and authentic taste, making them incomparable to the synthetic cocktails currently offered.
Frozen – No other pre-mixed cocktail currently in the UK market which is frozen– this instantly differentiates us.
Chillingly Impressive– there’s no cocktail prowess needed. ROCKTAILS are perfectly mixed every single time as everything is included. When decanted into a glass they create a frost on the outside of the glass which is only seen in bars.
Wildly Convenient - super easy, minimal mess, no waste. Simply FREEZE, LEAVE, SQUEEZE. 
Free From - artificial flavourings and colours. Pre-mixed cocktails are full of rubbish. Ingredients don’t have to be disclosed on the label, so manufacturers get away with murder, some cocktails are even made with fortified wine rather than proper spirits.
Responsibly Transparent - Clear unit measure, calorie content, and nutritionals are listed on every pod– this promotes responsible drinking and makes sure consumers know exactly where they stand. This isn’t a common and legal requirement on alcohol products but something we have found consumers really value.

What would you say is the secret to a successful independent business? What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your shoes?
Satisfying customers, cashflow and forward planning make a successful business.
• Make sure you have the time and the money to launch your business. You can’t have one without the other – and one can’t be substituted for the other.
• Plan, plan and plan some more. Make sure you plan every step of your start-up journey. If you miss a stage or go about things in the wrong order it could cost you dearly. And remember – a plan is useless without action.
• Have fun. It’ll be harder work than you imagined, so make sure you’re enjoying it or you’ll never survive.

Can you share a few of your favourite local, independent businesses with us?
Not local but still fab - Righteous all-natural salad dressings and cooking oil.
Big Mouse Productions - Managed by 2 absurdly talented audio/video guys, Sam and Jamie. Their approach to their work is fantastic. They are a joy to work with, they listen to every detail of your brief and always over deliver. The work they create is just brilliantly creative and extremely high quality.
Huw Jones Photography - another hugely talented guy with a real eye for quality. He’s a onestop shop for all things photography and his work in food and drink, really does make your mouth water. He has a great setup, a studio bigger than your house and its really comfortable if your on a long shoot.
Also, Gower Cottage BrowniesCartridge Mate and Empire Events.

How does it feel to have won your heat of The Pitch?
Great – it has provided some great exposure and it’s always nice to hear other people talking about it with the same passion that we have.

Are you confident about the final?
There are some fantastic businesses in the other regions and we feel honoured to be competing alongside them. We’re confident in the product..I guess the rest will take care of itself!

If you could give one piece of advice for an Entrepreneur considering entering next year’s Pitch competition, what would it be?
Do it – you have to be in it to win it!

Finally, following The Pitch, what can we expect from you in 2011/2012? Anything our readers should be looking forward to?
There is loads going on! We will be increasing our reach, and the amount of stores currently stocking ROCKTAILS. Running some fab competitions for people to win cases of ROCKTAILS and most likely bringing ROCKTAILS to a festival near you!

The Pitch 2011 final is on 18th November, you can buy tickets here.
The four region finalists will be joined by a fifth, chosen by live public vote for the Wildcard Award - Voting ends 6th November.

The overall champion will win a package of business products and services worth £50,000, we wish them all good luck!

Behind the best: Short Couture in Tring

This week we talk to Hayley Chalmers, creater of Short Couture, the clothes brand for style-conscious Petite/Short women looking for fashionable, well fitting clothes to wear to work.

For any of our readers who aren’t aware of you, can you give us an intro to the business?
It’s smart clothing for short/Petite ladies. Mainly it’s clothing that is appropriate for the office but is fashionable too. By ‘short’ I mean about 5’4” and under.

Where can we find you, and why did you choose to set up shop where you did? - What attracted you to that area?
At the moment it’s only available on the website www.shortcouture.com.
Being a niche market this is the most efficient way of reaching enough people. If I had a shop I’d be restricting my market too much. A website is also much cheaper than opening a shop and getting into leases, etc

What inspired you to start your business?
I’m 5’1” and have had a lifetime of wearing clothes that are too big in several ways. There are Petite clothes on the High Street but nothing really aimed at women 30+ that want smart clothes for the office.

What’s your philosophy in a nutshell? What would you say makes you stand out from the crowd?
I’m aiming at a market that others ignore. For a start all my dresses have sleeves! Everything on the high street is sleeveless, a lot of women want sleeves for many reasons, it’s definitely more appropriate for the office.
This isn’t just about selling lots of clothes and making lots of profit – it’s about creating clothes for Petites that aren’t available, and selling them at affordable prices.

Can you explain how your business works and what differentiates it from your competitors’ in the industry?
I use freelance UK designers (and I do a bit myself too), everything is made in England in small quantities and I choose fabrics with great texture or patterns. Mostly it’s different because I make clothes that women in their 30s, 40s, 50s can wear to work and still be fashionable. Petite clothes on the High Street are either for the under 30s (and too short and very low necklines) or they are very aging styles.

Do you have a signature product you could tell us about?
It’s the shift dress. It works perfectly for Petite women. It doesn’t cut them in half and it accentuates the natural figure. We shorties don’t have a long waistline so we can’t wear high waist trousers etc, but the shift dress is perfect.

What would you say is the secret to a successful independent business? What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your shoes?
Research, research, ask questions, learn! Unless you are an expert in a certain area then don’t assume that you know what to do – research it!
Don’t give up! It will take more money and time that you think – to get going. But don’t give up. DO check that what you are doing is right – and investigate other ways to promote your business/find customers. But don’t give up.
Look at any new-ish successful business – they will all tell you that it took them ages to get started, but if they’d given up we wouldn’t have Innocent smoothies, Dyson cleaners or King of Shaves!

Can you share a few of your favourite local, independent businesses with us?
Old Dairy Garage on the outskirts of Tring. –family business and they are so lovely, friendly and helpful, and reasonably priced.
Graces Hardware in Tring – an old business – they stock everything and are really helpful. You can have a loyalty account and get 10% of everything too! I get my Calor gas canisters there (there’s no gas in the village) and the ‘gas man’ is so chatty and friendly.
Dunsley Farm Shop – super little farm shop with their own free range eggs at a very good price. They will have a little tea room too soon.
Tring Brewery – what can I say? An award winning local brewery. Great shop on the premises so you can take beer home.

Finally, what can we expect from you in 2011/2012? Anything our readers should be looking forward to?
Dresses are more popular than I thought - so there will be more dresses, they won’t all be pure straight shifts, skirts will be slightly flared, and there will be more tops and blouses. It will all be interesting fabrics and designs with a fashion edge.
I’ll also be adding some videos to the site, starting with how to measure yourself, and there will be styling and shopping tips.

Behind the best: Pitch 2011 Special - Kibosh Ltd, Scotland

For the third year running, Yell is a major sponsor of BusinessZone.co.uk’s The Pitch, Britain’s biggest small business competition, which supports and celebrates small businesses from start-up to success. This year has seen finalists chosen from 4 regional events in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Over the next month we’re going to introduce you to those finalists, starting with Ross Dickinson, Owner/ Director of Emerald Plumbing & Heating and MD of Kibosh Ltd, to discuss his win in the Scottish heat, with his unique Kibosh pipe repair tool.

For any of our readers who aren’t aware of you, can you give us an intro to the business?
I am Ross Dickinson. I have invented a product called Kibosh™ which is a unique, instant and simple temporary repair for ruptured or burst water pipes. It requires no tools or training and can allow the pipe to be kept in use till a plumber can make a permanent repair. It can even be applied when water is still gushing out of the burst or rupture. In my everyday work and especially in the winter, I needed a product like this, but there was nothing on the market, so in December 2007 I had my eureka moment.

Check out the Kibosh demo videos on YouTube.

Where can we find you, and why did you choose to set up shop where you did? What attracted you to that area?
I am based in Walkerburn in the Scottish Borders and have always lived here. The Kibosh is being made by Cademuir Toolmaking in Selkirk, also in the Scottish Borders. I would like to see the manufacture and business staying in the local area and UK as much as possible.
Kibosh can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

What inspired you to start your business?
I already own and run a successful plumbing business which employs two people. I enjoy being my own boss and when the Kibosh project started I found I had the energy and drive to see it through. I have learnt so much over the past few years and there have been many challenges. The emergency pipe repair will be the first of a family of products in the Kibosh brand and I look forward to building a good strong company and hopefully becoming a global brand.

What’s your philosophy in a nutshell? What would you say makes you stand out from the crowd?
I’m just a normal guy/ plumber who likes to succeed and see others succeed. Treat others as you would expect to be treated yourself!

Can you explain how your business works and what differentiates it from your competitors’ in the industry?
Being a plumber I see at first hand the scenarios people find themselves in, particularly the vulnerable and elderly. Some people are left without heating or water for up to a week and in commercial situations this can lead to reduced or loss of production and financial loss. Plumbers call out fees can be reduced or eliminated too. A Kibosh can be fitted instantly requiring no tools in the middle of the night or on Christmas Day by the home owner and the plumber can call to repair at a more convenient time leaving the pipe in use. On the flip side the plumber can fit a Kibosh and return when more convenient, especially in situations where water cannot be turned off. It is simple enough for unskilled people to use and trustworthy and attractive enough for professionals!

Do you have a signature product/specialism you could tell us about?
The Kibosh Emergency Pipe Repair is the signature product but other products will follow bearing the Kibosh branding. Mainly other inventions so watch this space. They will all be simple to use and mainly in keeping with the no tools idea!

What would you say is the secret to a successful independent business? What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your shoes?
You have to work very hard because no one will do it for you. Go with your gut feeling and google people you meet ( Be diligent! ) You have to take some risks and don’t be scared to delegate or you’ll burn yourself out!

Can you share a few of your favourite local, independent businesses with us?
I have been very lucky to acquire a good team of people in my journey. They are all in external companies, very good at what they do and really want to see Kibosh succeed which is very important!

My accountant and Kibosh secretary Karen Graham and Rhiannon Barton, both from Braidwood Graham CA 

My Lawyer, Craig Stirling. Partner with Davidson Chalmers LLP
Colin McMillan, Cademuir Toolmaking
Norma Corlette (My Mentor) Educator, Board Director, Entrepreneur
Angela Neal, Angela Neal Media
Alan Milne, designer at Lemon Digital Design
Dr Stephen Blake, Gordon Stark from Murgitroyd Patent Attorneys
Richie Connor and John Harkins from Scottish Enterprise
Lorna Watson at Borders Business Gateway
Wolseley UK
Toolstop
Home Hardware

How does it feel to have won your heat of The Pitch?
It feels great to have won the Scottish pitch finals. It is such a great prestigious competition to get this far in. If I can win in London the timing couldn’t be better for me as we will be launching then too which would be amazing!

Are you confident about the final?
There will be a lot of pressure because it means so much and the benefits of the prize package are invaluable. If I can deliver the content well I will know I’ve given it my best shot. It is a great strong product but it’s up to me to “Pitch” it well!

If you could give one piece of advice for an Entrepreneur considering entering next year’s Pitch competition, what would it be?
It is a great competition to enter because you learn a lot about the business. The judges are top of their game and very successful so you make yourself ready for the questions learning on the way. It is good for public speaking confidence and experience too. It was a great networking benefit too on the night and I made good connections. Running your own business and being an entrepreneur, it benefits you talking and connecting to like-minded people and that is what The Pitch is all about. People who like business and want businesses to grow. It would be a benefit even being in the audience at one of the competitions!

Finally, following The Pitch, what can we expect from you in 2011/2012? Anything our readers should be looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to the launch. It’ll be a great feeling seeing the Kibosh in the shops. My local University and College are looking into prototyping Kibosh work wear as the branding is very well received so watch out for that next year. I believe Kibosh will be a successful brand with a great range of products and feel very positive about the future. Hopefully it will be a good boost for the economy which will be good for everyone.

The Pitch 2011 final is on 18th November, you can buy tickets for £20.
The four region finalists will be joined by a fifth, chosen by live public vote for the Wildcard Award - Voting ends 6th November. 

The overall champion will win a package of business products and services worth £50,000, we wish them all good luck!

Behind the Best: ‘Mumpreneur’ Kate Wilson - NosyCrow

We’re interviewing the winners of the 2011 Mumpreneur Award, this week’s business mind is Kate Wilson from London, winner of this year’s Inspiration Award.

www.nosycrow.com

For any of our readers who aren’t aware of you, can you give us an intro to the business?
We’ve very new, so there’s no reason why your readers should be aware of us! We are a small, independent children’s publishing company, publishing books for children from babies to young teenagers and apps for iPads and other touch screen devices for children between the ages of two and around seven. We started publishing in January of this year. We’ve published books by new writers and illustrators, but also published books by people who are better known, like a series of books by Axel Scheffler, who is the illustrator of The Gruffalo.

Where can we find you, and why did you choose to set up shop where you did? - What attracted you to that area?
You can find us at 10A Lant Street, London, SE1 9QR. We’re just around the corner from Borough Market. We wanted a central London location, but we wanted to be careful with our money, and Southwark (and Lambeth where we were previously) both represented relatively good value for money. But it’s also a really vibrant area, with the food market happening at the end of every week and a really great mix of residential property, offices and retailers.

What inspired you to start your business?
I’ve worked in children’s publishing for most of my career – so for over two decades! But it took spending time away from children’s books (I worked briefly for an adult publishing company) to realise how much I loved creating really engaging reading experiences for children and to recognise how important children’s literacy and encouraging children to read was for me. I’d also got to the point where I felt that I had learned a huge amount from corporate companies, and was ready to be my own boss!

What’s your philosophy in a nutshell? What would you say makes you stand out from the crowd?
I think that we are really focussed on the child reader. When we decide to publish a book or an app, we try to have a really strong sense of who the eventual reader will be. Are they three years old or four years old? Are they a girl or a boy? Are they a keen reader or not such a keen reader? We publish, for example, a series of books called Mega Mash ups. These are books that are perfect for reluctant readers, mainly boys, of seven and older. They have short, action-packed, funny stories, and the reader is invited to complete the illustrations by drawing in the book, with suggestions of what to draw.

Can you explain how your business works and what differentiates it from your competitors’ in the industry?
We sell our print books to UK retailers from independent booksellers to big supermarkets. We also sell internationally. We have partnership arrangements with publishers in Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Candada so our books are available in those countries in English, and we sell our books to publishers in other countries so that they can translate them into their own languages. In the nine months since we’ve started publishing, we’ve sold rights to translate our books in 12 languages.

We sell our apps – and we’ve published two so far, Nosy Crow The Three Little Pigs and Nosy Crow Cinderella – through the iTunes stores throughout the world. They’ve received awards and been listed in “best apps” listings in publications like The Guardian and The New York Times.

We don’t sell directly to readers/readers’ parents ourselves, though you can link to Amazon and iTunes through our website.

One thing that I think that we do particularly well is engage with parents, retailers, authors and illustrators through social media. If you’re a small company, you can have a really distinctive, friendly voice that is properly authentic and sincere.

Do you have a signature product/speciality you could tell us about?
We publish lots of great books, but I think that the most unusual thing that we produce is our Cinderella app, which has only been out since the middle of September. It’s a reading experience for a child, but not exactly a book: there’s music and voice audio and lots of interactive animation. You can choose what dress Cinderella wears to the ball and what music she and the prince dance to; you can help her tidy up in the kitchen and find the things that the Fairy Godmother transforms into the coach, horses and coachmen; and you can even, if you have a phone or iPad with a front facing camera, appear in the mirrors throughout the app. You can find out about it on our website or watch the trailer.

What would you say is the secret to a successful independent business? What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your shoes?
Three things:
- Do a really good financial plan. Ours was for our first three years. It helped us to identify how much money we’d need, and when we’d be squeezed for cash. Even though things haven’t turned out exactly as we planned (they never do!), having the plan to go back to has been something for us to measure ourselves against.
- If you’re not working on your own, surround yourself with people who complement you, temperamentally as well as in terms of their skills and knowledge. There are MANY things I am not good at, and it’s important for me to recognise them and to have people working with me who ARE good at those things.
- Make sure your family is supportive of you: don’t underestimate how much work it is and how absorbing it is to set up your own business. I am hugely reliant on the daily support of my husband, Adrian, and on the understanding of my two pre-teen children!

Can you share a few of your favourite local, independent businesses with us?
We haven’t been here long – just since September, so we are still exploring the area. Food is a big priority for us. Of course, we love all the stalls Borough Market, but on days that there isn’t a market, I am addicted to the takeaway mixed meze at Tas on Borough High Street and many of us are great fans of El Vergel on Webber Street. When we have important guests and we haven’t baked ourselves, we splash out at Konditor and Cook on Stoney Street. We love the Riverside Bookshop in Hays Galleria near London Bridge. We use Rymans on Borough High Street for stationery emergencies.

How did you hear about Mumpreneur & why did you enter the competition? Were you confident you’d win?
I went to the conference last year. Having worked in big companies, I felt that it would be useful to immerse myself in a different sort of atmosphere and a different sort of community. I entered the competition because I thought it would be great to win, of course! But I also thought that, just over a year after founding the company and a few months after our launch, it might be interesting to reflect on our journey: the questions make you think about your business from the outside, and that’s always a good thing to do! I think it is safe to say that is was absolutely astonished to win! Anyone who saw me bumble up to the stage, go a bit flushed and teary and fail to say anything that made sense would have a good idea of how surprised I was!

How does it feel to have won your Mumpreneur award?
It feels great! It was a great validation of the work of the staff and the authors, illustrators and other creative people who work for and with Nosy Crow. I am really grateful to Yell and DHL and to Intuit, who sponsored the specific award I won.

If you could give one piece of advice for anyone considering entering next year’s competition, what would it be?
Take time over the process, think about your business from the outside.

Finally, following the Mumpreneur win, what can we expect from you in 2011/2012? Anything our readers should be looking forward to?
More Nosy Crow books available in even more shops and more Nosy Crow apps: we’ll publish 23 books and four apps this year, and twice that many of each next year. And, to help people find out about them, more tweets, more blogs and more Facebook updates.

Congratulations to Kate and all of this year’s winners!
Yell are a proud sponsors of the Mumpreneur awards and we recommend the site to any parent looking for support with their business. Who knows, maybe next year you could be a winner too!

Behind the Best: ‘Mumpreneur’ Emily Goodall - BundleBean

We’re interviewing the winners of the 2011 Mumpreneur Award, this week’s business mind is Emily Goodall from London, winner of this year’s Most Unique Product: Bronze Award.

 

For any of our readers who aren’t aware of you, can you give us an intro to the business?
BundleBean Ltd designed and sells the first 5-in-1 waterproof fleece blanket that works like a cosy-toe to fit all buggies, bikeseats, rear facing car seats and front style baby carriers. It also opens up flat for use as a picnic rug or play mat!

Where can we find you, and why did you choose to set up shop where you did? - What attracted you to that area?
I run my business from my family home in Fulham and sell directly from our website: www.bundlebean.com. I chose to work from home to save costs on renting office space and so I could effectively juggle childcare and running a business. We distribute throughout the UK to various high street and online retailers including Asda, Amazon, Halfords and Mothercare.com. We are shortly going in to Toys R Us stores and Boots stores in January.

What inspired you to start your business?
I absolutely love being self employed, having been a freelance Events Manager for several years. I had the idea of BundleBean in my head for a while and after the birth of my second child decided to go for it and turn it into a business. It was definitely the right decision – I have the freedom to work around my children and have the enormous satisfaction of running my own business.

What’s your philosophy in a nutshell? What would you say makes you stand out from the crowd?
BundleBean is a uniquely versatile solution to the time old problem of ‘too much baby kit’! By fitting securely onto so many different modes of transport we manage to save parents from having to buy endless branded foot muffs and waterproof covers for each appliance. We are very proud at BundleBean’s affordability – at £29.99 it is a cost effective and highly practical solution – and we think that makes us stand out in a crowded market place.

Can you explain how your business works and what differentiates it from your competitors’ in the industry?
Our business follows a simple model. We buy in bulk from China and supply to customers and small independent retailers directly. We also supply in bulk to high street and major online retailers through our UK distributor PHP Ltd. I don’t think we vary hugely from other similarly sized business in this sector, but we do pride ourselves on offering a personal edge and excellent customer service, coupled with a rigorously tested and perfected product that performs extremely well in all weather.

Do you have a signature product/speciality you could tell us about? 

Our only product at present is our 5-in-1 BundleBean but we are working furiously on other complimentary products to add to our range.

What would you say is the secret to a successful independent business? What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your shoes?
The secret to success is to outsource as much as you possibly can. As a working mother it is simply impossible to do it all yourself and by surrounding yourself with an excellent team, from manufacturers, designers, PR and distributors, you can create a far more successful and profitable business, with a supportive team and freedom to think about your next product…

Can you share a few of your favourite local, independent businesses with us?
I am lucky to live in a vibrant and fun part of the London and as a mother to two small children I am delighted with the local businesses on offer.
Eddie Katz in Putney is a great place to spend a rainy morning with two bored and energetic children. BabyWorld on Munster Road is a truly local and caring nursery store which offers a personal and friendly service as well as fantastic products. For a rare night out – Sukho Thai Restaurant on Fulham Road is very hard to beat!

How did you hear about Mumpreneur & why did you enter the competition? Were you confident you’d win?
I heard about Mumpreneur after searching online for support and advice on starting a business. I entered the competition as I feel hugely proud of my product and from our incredible customer feedback I felt confident that the product is needed and well designed. I was delighted to be shortlisted and get a chance to go to the Conference and network with other successful women (and men!) but to get a Bronze Award and receive that endorsement was fantastic.

How does it feel to have won your Mumpreneur award?
I am over the moon! We have only been trading for three months and our success to date has already far exceeded all my expectations so to win an award so early on really was the icing on the cake for our first quarter in business. It is also a great feeling to have endorsement from an impartial third party, especially as the competition was so strong.

If you could give one piece of advice for anyone considering entering next year’s competition, what would it be?
Go for it! Be confident in your product and service and write your entry with the passion you have for your business. Be proud of what you have achieved and make sure the judges feel this in your application.

Finally, following the Mumpreneur win, what can we expect from you in 2011/2012? Anything our readers should be looking forward to?
We are working on a new range of fabrics and a new product, but my lips are sealed for now. Watch this space – BundleBean has plans afoot!!

Yell sponsored one of the Mumpreneur awards this year and we can highly recommend the site to any parent looking for support with their business. Who knows, maybe next year you could be a winner too!

Behind the Best: ‘Mumpreneur’ Maxine Lewis - Gander Kids

Following last week’s announcements of the 2011 Mumpreneur Award winners, this week’s business mind is none other than Maxine Lewis from London, winner of this year’s Best Start-Up Business Award, which we sponsor.

After being disappointed with the lack of variety in the UK children’s market, Maxine started Gander Kids, an importer of quality toys and play furniture.

Kimberley Watts-Fitzsimmons, corporate responsibility manager for Yell in the UK, said: "It is so inspiring to read about the hundreds of parents who have taken the steps to successfully start their own businesses at the same time as raising a family."

For any of our readers who aren’t aware of you, can you give us an intro to the business?

Gander Kids import branded high design children’s furniture, toys and stationery and distribute to retailers in the UK. We currently represent the US brand P’kolino and the Turkish brand IVI.

Where can we find you, and why did you choose to set up shop where you did? - What attracted you to that area?
You can find us online at ganderkids.co.uk, our offices are based in Greenwich, London. Greenwich actually chose us, we were offered some space in an office and since it was local it was a no-brainer. Greenwich is a fantastic place to have a business with great transport links, restaurants and of course the Royal Park.

What inspired you to start your business?
I needed flexibility, as I have a young family and having looked around I couldn’t find the types of products in the UK that I wanted for my children. When I was made redundant, I knew that if I didn’t start the business then, I never would.

What’s your philosophy in a nutshell? What would you say makes you stand out from the crowd?

My philosophy over the years has changed, but it has always been along the lines of if you don’t try you will never know. I think what makes me stand out is my persistence. I have a fear of failure like most people, but I don’t allow it to rule me. The more people that tell me I can’t do something, the more determined I am to prove them wrong.

Can you explain how your business works and what differentiates it from your competitors’ in the industry?
We import our products from overseas and introduce new brands to the UK. We have chosen brands which are established in their home countries and are parent run businesses. We sell our product wholesale and drop ship to independent retailers and more recently mid and larger sized retailers. Our business is different from our competitors because our products are very unique and exclusive to us. We also like to build strong relationships with our suppliers as well as our retailers and actively invest in consumer marketing and PR to boost the brand recognition and aid retailer sales.

Do you have a signature product/specialism you could tell us about?
Gander specialises in childrens products that enhance a home aesthetically, are functional, playful and most importantly affordable. Both of our current brands fit this specialism and I’m always keeping an eye out for other products to add to our portfolio.

What would you say is the secret to a successful independent business? What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your shoes?
Persistence and patience. My advice is be brave, willing to take a risk and above all be persistent and patient.

Can you share a few of your favourite local, independent businesses with us?
I’ve recently discovered a business called Sophia & Matt who sell lovely bags, purses and accessories all made in London.
I love Greenwich Market, particularly the food market and Mogul restaurant. I’m a bit of a foodie!

How did you hear about Mumpreneur & why did you enter the competition? Were you confident you’d win?
I knew about the awards through various other parent run businesses. I entered as I figured I had nothing to lose and felt confident at the time. When I checked out the other shortlisted businesses, I admit I had a crisis of confidence and pretty much talked myself out of the pole position.

How does it feel to have won your Mumpreneur award?
Fantastic! In my old professional career the most recognition I received was through formal appraisals and promotion. This feels one hundred times better than that because I have built the business from the ground up.

If you could give one piece of advice for an anyone considering entering next year’s competition, what would it be?
They should enter! The event in itself is great to be a part of and if you’re lucky enough to win it is a real confidence boost.

Finally, following the Mumpreneur win, what can we expect from you in 2011/2012? Anything our readers should be looking forward to?
As well as introducing some new products to our existing ranges with P’kolino and IVI, I’m also on the lookout for the next innovative brand to introduce to UK parents.

Congratulations to Maxine and all of this year’s Mumpreneur 2011 Award winners!

Race for Your Wife

Today we’d like to highlight an impressive side project of one our own. Colin O’Brien, a Yell Customer Services Executive in Manchester, has created an all male 10k sponsored run in Heaton Park to raise money for breast cancer.

Colin came up with the idea for ‘Race for Your Wife' after he discovered the official 'Race for Life' was a women-only event.

I believe that men should have the opportunity to raise money to support this worthy cause as breast cancer not only affects those women that contract the condition but also those that are close to them. So I welcome all husbands, fathers, sons, brothers and other close relatives to take part in the first ever Race for Your Wife.

Over 140 men have already signed up for the race but Colin hopes up to 500 people will take part - raising up to £30,000 for Cancer Research UK from sponsorship and entrance fees. But he’s not stopping there:

As time goes on there is more and more that I am adding to the event, the event will now be accepting donations of any unwanted clothing, Brick a brac, furniture, or anything that can be resold in the local Cancer Research shop.

I have also committed to Cancer Research UK that Race for Your Wife will return in 2012 in Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle. In 2013 I will be looking at making the event a success in 7 parks across the country.

Race for Your Wife will be held on the 29th October from 11am and will follow the same route as the 10k female equivalent.

We’d like to wish good luck to Colin and to everyone taking part!

To sign up or donate visit www.raceforyourwife.org

Behind the best: Made.com in Notting Hill, London

This week we speak to Ning Li CEO of Made.com, about their furniture site which is just a little bit special - and not just for the prices! Francesca Krajewski, Founding Partner of Naked Wines, recommended them in her interview with us back in February, saying:

I really like what made.com are doing. They’re doing for furniture what we’re doing for wine.

For any of our readers who aren’t aware of you, can you give us an intro to the business?

Made.com is an online furniture retailer that brings furniture direct from the makers to you. Offering up to 70% off high street prices, Made.com works with a number of both established or young and talented designers from all over the world. Made.com was launched in April 2010, co-founded by Julien Callede, Chloe Macintosh and myself.

Where can we find you, and why did you choose to set up shop where you did? - What attracted you to that area?

Our offices are based in Notting Hill, London . We have also an office in Shanghai.

A number of our factories are situated in the Far East and so we wanted to be closer to them in order to offer our expertise, quality inspection and to ease the manufacturing process. We chose Notting Hill as our London as its a trendy area which we felt was well suited to our brand. London is busy and bustling and we felt that Notting Hill really placed us in the centre of everything that’s going on!

What inspired you to start your business?

I was buying a sofa - almost ready to pay £3000 until I realised a factory of a friend of mine actually manufactured that sofa - and they were selling it for £300, a fraction of the price I was about to pay. I was puzzled and went on to find out that it is very much the norm of the furniture world - a public secret - that every middleman (agents, traders, importers, wholesalers, etc) makes a fat margin and it is widely accepted.

So we decided there was an opportunity for us to do the best thing for the consumers by shaking the industry a little bit. By connecting the consumers to the factories, we cut out the traditional middlemen so the consumers can save money.

What is your philosophy in a nutshell? What would you say makes you stand out from the crowd?

Beautiful furniture for all…. High-end, designer furniture was the privilege of a small number of people that could afford to pay for them. Today, with Made.com, consumers can buy direct and save up to 70% off the high street price.

Bouji Chair, Pavilion Grey. Only £169 from Made.com
Bouji Chair, Pavilion Grey. Only £169 from Made.com

Can you explain how your business works and what differentiates it from your competitors’ in the industry?

We are currently in a recession and the public are looking for the best deals with the same quality they always wanted. We offer that unlike our competitors and with our group of designers, creating our furniture, we’re also offering that ‘designer’ edge.

Do you have a signature product/specialism you could tell us about?

One of our best-sellers, the Stroller Desk was by ex-Conran designer, Steuart Padwick. It’s a fine example of what we at Made.com believe in – high quality, beautiful designer furniture without the high street mark-up.

What would you say is the secret to a successful independent business? What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your shoes?

As a small, independent business your strength is being… small. Being small and independent means you can really focus on your business and your team. You can’t fight with big, cash-rich players in marketing budget, but you may be able to evolve much faster than them and innovate quickly.

Finally, what can we expect from you in 2011/2012? Anything our readers should be looking forward to?

There are lots of ideas in the pipeline! Our team is constantly growing and we also hope to look into a showroom due to the demand of our loyal customers. We also want to deliver to Europe soon and hopefully one day the rest of the world!

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