What connects Grand Central Station; the Tour de France and the Mr Men?
Rob Ryan. His work currently hangs in Grand Central Station; he’s been commissioned for this year’s Yorkshire Tour de France and he’s just said ‘no’ to a collaboration with the ‘Mr Men.’
Rob Ryan, most famous for his beautiful print making and paper cuts, studied fine art and print making at Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham and then went to the Royal College of Art, London.
He has done numerous collaborations but at first found working by himself more fruitful. When he left college, Ryan knew he wanted to work as an artist but didn’t know how to marry that with putting food on the table. “Three years of enjoying yourself and torturing yourself now what do I do?”
Adamant that he didn’t want a job that interfered with his studio, Ryan hired an asbestos riddled space that no one wanted for £7 a week. He made the day job the one he wanted – drawing and painting 9 to 5. At evenings and weekends he worked in a cinema. He did that for years. Even after he got married and had children.
Ryan’s focus becomes evident as he talks as part of the Soho Create event in London: Creative Collaboration – making it work. He partnered up with others but noticed no one else was doing anything. As a child he collaborated on a comic about a band he invented. But he did all the work. Ryan wanted to partner up with someone ‘just like me, with the same drive’. But he only found unsuccessful collaborations where others dragged their heels. He left the others behind and went on to find a studio for an exhibition. He had to build everything himself but was much happier because he was fulfilled and felt complete. Now he’s established ”the brilliant people come to me”. He doesn’t have to wait, or rely on, the ‘flaky people’. He’s humorous and interesting. You’d want to collaborate with him if you had the chance. He collaborates with his kindred spirits at Tatty Devine. In 2013 they created a stunning collection of gold and silver jewellery combining their talents with jewellers at Hatton Garden.
Ryan has always used words and had stories to tell finding a way to keep the spark alive in his work. He didn’t want a shop but as independent cafés disappeared and there were more chains he wanted to redress that imbalance. His shop Ryantown sells one thing – his work. He’s not proud of the fact he’s refused to allow even his wife to sell her products from the shop.
He has followed his ‘punk DIY ethos’ and urges us to do the same. “Don’t sit around and wait for something. If you don’t know how to do something go and find out. “ He spent a lot of time in the local library pursuing interests and finding things out. He sits at a desk drawing like a baby all day. “I don’t answer the phone. I’ve got people in to do all the other stuff so I can draw.’
His collaboratiom with Tatty Devine is born out of a spirit of fun. The best collaborations are the ones with people who start by saying ‘this may not work.’ It’s not about selling of units or the money.
“1st book I’ve ever bought in my entire life” tweets @trapster_toxic and he attaches a photo of Self Belief: The Vision the book written by 23 year old entrepreneur Jamal Edwards. Originally only available as an ebook, Jamal was approached by Random House who believed the book could have a bigger reach if he also published it traditionally. Interesting that the right person can persuade someone to read.
So who is he and why has Jamal captured the imagination of the teen generation where others have failed? TV and radio audiences between 16-35 are on consistent downward trend: 14 -25 yr olds listen to 134 minutes less radio than they did 5 years ago. Ben Cooper at Radio 1 freely admits to struggling to attract the attention of the ‘heads down’ generation. A term refuted here.
Jamal created youth channel SBTV seven years ago and it’s now one of YouTube’s most successful channels with over 350,000 subscribers.
Motivated by his friends who weren’t getting mainstream attention, he wanted to create a platform for them. He was filming his mates singing and rapping on his estate in West London and started uploading the videos to YouTube. But his main job was in Topman. Eventually as the hits increased Jamal received a percentage of money from adverts and he was able to pursue his dream job. The channel started out as music only but now he wants to branch out into comedy, fashion, business, games and gadgets – “everything for a young person.”
“My mate said I sent my video into MTV but they’re not playing it, they don’t like it. But I said it’s cool, I’m going to start my own network.” In addition to his friends he also pursued famous artists. The channel is known for grime and rap but he has gone on to include more mainstream musicians like Ed Sheeran. And it has undoubtedly helped Sheeran’s success in the urban world. Such is Jamal’s connection to the UK’s youth that he is now Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust and recently interviewed Prince Charles and Richard Branson.
1) Jamal responded to a need. He saw his friends were being ignored.
2) He never ignores them – or his mum- he genuinely engages sending 60 tweets a day sometimes. His friends have to contact him via Twitter rather than by text – it’s quicker.
3) He connects to his audience and is now a self-made multimillionaire but, he says, “I’m not motivated by the money.”
Could you have foreseen the success of The Great British Bake Off?
The fifth series will be moving to BBC 1 next year and the format has sold to 13 countries. The distributors were not interested in it originally ‘baking is a British thing’ they said. But it’s sold to countries including Belgium, Poland and in Denmark it has broken viewing records and beat The Voice.
Not only were the distributors dismissive. The idea for the GBBO was turned down by over 25 commissioners. The makers – Love Productions – pitched it 5 times before getting the go ahead. Yes. FIVE TIMES. But they remained determined with the idea never leaving their list of top 10.
The BBC television series Who Do You Think You Are? took 17 years before it got commissioned.
The message: if you believe in it. If it has substance and someone else hasn’t already done it. Keep pitching it.
The idea for the Great British Bake Off came from the Pillsbury Bake-off in America. It’s something that happens already, in the real world. Finally the independent company were commissioned to write a treatment. A lot of effort went into that treatment and it looked beautiful.
A first series was then commissioned. Mary Berry was selected first followed by Paul Hollywood. The production team gathered in a North London venue to film contestants and they noticed something very unusual for a reality TV show. The contestants didn’t look at the camera. They were looking at the oven. The competition was between the baker and the oven rather than the other contestants. And the contestants were doing it for the love of baking – not to be on TV.
It’s a feel good show which drew 2 million viewers in series 1. One genuinely doesn’t want anyone to lose. It’s not a mean spirited reality show. The psychological testing of contestants also proved unusual. It showed record highs for IQ and with low egos. Contestants had good self esteem – there is a lot of therapy in baking.
One of the ingredients of success is that of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. But for me it’s also the sublime casting of duo Mel and Sue rooting for the contestants and helping us get to know them.
Families not only watch it together they also cook together afterwards. This with children who no longer need to watch TV anymore. So not only has it proved an unexpected success, but the programme has brought together generations.
What I love about this story is that Love Productions knew that the 25 commissioners were wrong when they said ‘no thanks.’ They had a gut feeling about a good idea – and they never gave up on it. If you never give up, just look what you can create and, in this case, bring to millions of people to enjoy. Don’t listen to the nay sayers, find a way round them.
Sarah Hancox noticed her love for the food industry when working as a second job as a waitress. It excited her more than her day job at the Evening Standard. She signed up for an HND in hospitality and went on to run a restaurant with her brother. But her love of Adelaide lured her and her husband back home – where she arrived – ‘emotionally exhausted and in a broken-down state.’
“Shattered, I took six months out and eventually recovered and got a temping job. But the days dragged, so I went into real estate”
Researching the market
“While in real estate I had started thinking about the food business again and as we became more familiar with Adelaide and the market, it seemed to become a real possibility.
“I started as a small stall in a food court within a shopping mall. I cooked in the morning and served the food, and it was all gone by lunchtime. It enabled me to have a really good look at how Adelaide worked, how it dressed, how much money people had. It was a great insight into the market. Without realising I was doing it, I was looking in the Businesses For Sale section in the paper and came across a very cheap food outlet in the city centre.
“We were sitting in the back garden one hot summer night, drinking a great bottle of South Australian wine, lamenting the fact that it was very hard to buy something other than Asian fast food for lunch in the city centre. I already knew what type of dishes people liked to buy from my experience in the restaurant and wondered if I could produce that type of food for the price that people were prepared to pay for lunch. My husband works in marketing and I have always been a believer in strong marketing. By the time we finished the bottle, we had a framework – the name, how the shopfront would look, the menu and what equipment would be needed, who the customers would be and how to reach
Researching the food court
“I sat every day for a week just watching what went on in the food court – when it was busy, who was purchasing, what they were purchasing, what they looked like, who was just walking through, where else they shopped.
“I then approached my bank. Having an appropriate qualification and lots of experience is always a good thing when talking to banks. And they definitely will want to see a business plan. Put everything into it – it doesn’t matter how trivial it may be.
“I spoke to all of my friends and associates who buy their lunch in the city and I ate at a lot of different outlets to see what the quality and pricing was like.
“I did approach a local business enterprise council but for some reason they were very unhelpful and told me that there wasn’t a market for what I wanted to do. True to my character, I ignored everything they said and pushed it to the back of my mind.
TOP TIPS TO STARTING YOUR DREAM FOOD BUSINESS
1. Know your trade. These days you need to know your strengths, whether it is cooking or in other parts of the business. If it’s not cooking, take a back seat and let your chef do it but be able to fill in for them if for any reason they can’t.
2. Understand your target market. Know who they are, how to reach them and what they want.
3. Know your key performance indicators. You need to understand your KPIs very well, especially your food and labour costs. This will help you understand your cash flow and what’s happening in your business, including whether someone is stealing from you.
4. Quality products almost always produce a quality dish. People are very educated about food these days – many through watching cooking reality shows – so don’t scrimp on quality.
5. Focus on customer service. Too many in this industry forget about the customer and instead think they are the stars of the show. If no one is buying your product because they are not getting the right service then the venture is pointless.
6. Value your staff. Not only should you reward good work but you should not be afraid to get rid of poorly performing staff. By looking after staff you get low turnover and consistency of product.
7. Plan your menu well. Stick to your skill set and remember who is going to be eating your food as well as where and how.
8. Get a good accountant. You need someone who is proactive; they don’t have to understand your industry but they need to be able to make suggestions. You should also outsource anything that you don’t have skills in, especially marketing.
Could you be your own boss? Read more inspiring stories from ordinary people.
People laugh at me, for many reasons – but one of them is for my love of excellent Customer Service. It costs nothing but makes the world of difference. If you do something you love, or are managed well, you will provide great customer service.
Life, such as it is, meant a visit to a funeral directors this month. A sterile experience that got straight down to business and the paperwork. 72 hours since being bereaved and no offer of condolences? But this is your business? Surely you would know how to handle death and provide exceptional customer service. But it never materialised.
Just round the corner, Heather has been running her dream business: her fruit and flower business in the Lincolnshire town of Horncastle for 25 years. She worked there since she was 12, managing it from the age of 17 and bought the shop outright for her 24th birthday. She has been running it ever since. Heather is always rushed off her feet but never too busy for a smile and a conversation. She provided all the support and empathy you’d hope for from a human being – let alone a funeral directors, at this time of distress. We organised our flowers there and wish her business, Heathersofhorncastle.co.uk much deserved and continued success.
Like Heather, Dylis Guyan always treats the customer “like gold dust.” Dylis is one of the entrepreneurs in our new book, Start Your Dream Business. She started from nothing, working into the night to support her two young children. She now has 4 grandchildren and a thriving business advising companies who need to sell more: increaseyoursalesin30days.com
“Always think about what’s in it for your customer. Nobody really wants to pay for your product or service. What they want to pay for is something that will enhance their lives, help achieve their objectives or prevent pain” advises Dylis.
People who are running their dream business find it easy to provide excellent customer service. Do you?
Carole Stone earnt £20,000 p. a working for the BBC, but £250,000 a year after starting up her networking lunches which began by bringing 8 people together.
- Spend half an hour a week on networking
- You will find solace in friends and friendship
- Take life by the scruff of the neck
- You need to know you can cope with the many failures you will encounter
- What’s the worst that can happen eg. You see someone you want to talk to but are too scared to approach them
- You will regret the things you don’t do more than the things you do and fail at.
“‘Follow your passion’ – I used to read things like that and think they were really corny. But you can’t tell me I’m not heading in the right direction. I was on the front page of the local paper, and my ‘muse’ milliner contacted me to say she’s so inspired by what I’m doing!”
Christie Stokes founder of Christie Millinery Designs
Christie is just starting out. But her story illustrates the dilemmas for anyone contemplating starting their own business. Christie captures many of the realities and practicalities of the first steps of the process. Her life would be considerably easier if she had just stayed in her day job. It would also be a lot less rewarding and fun.
Christie is torn between a sensible job with its lure of a regular salary and a new-found passion that brings her unmitigated joy. She is cramming millinery around her day job because she doesn’t feel confident enough to make the leap and do it full-time.
Christie is a ‘work in progress’.
But sometimes you get to meet people and you sense from their drive, mindset and commitment that they are going to be successful. Indeed, Christie has already achieved much success in her short business career.
How did the change from physiotherapist to milliner begin?
“While in Canada I found myself in a hat shop and lost myself in there for an hour. I couldn’t even describe it. It was the weirdest sensation ever. At university, I used to make fascinators for the university races. I’d often thought of doing it on the side, but now I suddenly found myself engrossed in studying the hats! Then I came home for a wedding and visited the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane for a hat exhibition with my sister – and I had the exact same feeling. I just felt, ‘I’ve got to do this, it’s all-consuming – yet I’ve never really done it before!’”
I can’t do this
“I was devastated by the prospect of returning to Australia from Canada and settling down, getting married, having kids and being a physio for the rest of my life. I just thought, ‘I can’t do this.’”
Christie started looking into millinery and found a course in Melbourne.
“We were travelling, we were on the move, so packing up and relocating to a new city wasn’t a big deal. Melbourne is one of the hubs of millinery in the world and I found a course there that would allow me to fund myself through physio four days a week.
“I had been thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll do millinery part-time as a hobby.’ But that was the turning point. It’s what life’s about. We work 80 percent of our lives. So if I don’t have this kind of passion and it’s not giving me the joy that I need in 80 percent of my life, it’s not for me.” So Christie set about starting her own company.
“As a physio I’ve always worked for other people. People used to ask me if I wanted to open my own physio business. ‘Do you have that passion?’ And my answer was always, ‘No!’ But with this, it’s completely effortless. When I wake up in the morning, it’s all I think about. Pouring myself into it is all I want to do. It gives me so much joy and energy.”