In contrast to the shambles of Business 2012, the British Library event ‘Mothers of Invention’ is organised, civilised, informed, welcoming and starts on time. In celebration of International Women’s Month, the event aims to provide ‘a rare opportunity to hear from a group of inspirational and pioneering female entrepreneurs, and learn the secrets of their success.’
Chaired by entrepreneur and founder of Start Up Britain, Emma Jones – she too has visited Business 2012 and her only aside is a comment about the temperature at the 02.
And we move on quickly to a glistening panel:
- Sophie Cornish co-founder of notonthehighstreet.com,
- Kamal Basran founder of the Authentic Food Company,
- Tatty Devine founders Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine
- Christina Richardson founder of The Nurture Network.
Sophie talks of how the ability to solve problems is really the key to being successful in business. “It’s how you overcome the sticky stuff. Our launch didn’t go well. In hindsight we realised we’d hired the wrong agency. We had 16,000 visitors to our website on day one – we had the press watching us but we couldn’t sell anything – we weren’t transactional. We offered discounts to people in exchange for their email address instead – that was vital and a good contingency plan – it enabled us to build up a database for when we could sell.”
Karmal started her Authentic Food Company after buying poor quality samosas from her local shop. She made a batch of 24 and delivered them to her local deli. The consistent selling of the samosas convinced her it was the right thing to do. At the time she was a full time teacher and had two small children. Her family said ‘what the hell are you doing making samosas?!” Today she has two sites, employs 250 people and they make a million meals a week. Her secret? Karmal’s company loves their ‘People, Products and Customers.’ Kamal employs people who are as passionate as she is and she says her customers are her No 1 priority. So passionate about her business, Kamal is finding it tricky to hand it over to her son.
Rosie and Harriet from cult classic Tatty Devine know one another so well they finish each other’s sentences. Harriet is the creative force and Rosie the management side. Having a partner means they can talk about it and not take it home to their husbands – which they suspect is a god send. They are just about to go into Selfridges, they’ve worked with Rob Ryan who’s now a friend (‘one of our nicest collaborations’) and are designing a collection for Mary Portas. “Both our mothers made things. Harriet and Rosie met on Chelsea School Of Art’s Fine Art degree course. We found some bags of leather samples on the street one night, and after graduating used the leather to create wrist cuffs which soon sold out every week at Portobello and Spitalfields markets.”
Christina Richardson worked in an agency learning how to market brands but knew she wanted to set up on her own. She advises new businesses on how to market their brand “have a vision with numbers, what are the assets and values of your brand? Choose an age range, where do they go, what brands do they like, what websites do they visit?”
18% of companies in the UK are run by women. Here were four examples of women all devoted and passionate about their businesses. They are doing work they love with clients who are important to them. “We hold events in our stores,” says Rosie, “it’s really important to have likeminded people around you. They may not be jewellers, but we have artitsts and musicians – people who want to do something different.”
This appeared to be the main difference between the Mothers of Invention event and Business 2012.
Karmal values her customers. As we ambled round the O2 on Sunday morning I didn’t feel like a valued customer. No one knew what was going on and for an event billed as opening for registration at 8.00am – the carpets were still being put down at 10.45am. ‘We’ve learnt a lot’ the Biz2012 tweeter commented. Good – but I wish you’d learnt it before the event. Representing Britain – it’s so embarrassing. The Americans were in attendance at both events – they’d flown in for Business 2012 and the Mothers of Invention were being streamed live to New York. Back at the British Library, the tweets flooded in on the screen behind Emma Jones – as she noted “I can’t see what’s being said behind me – it better not be anything rude.” She needn’t have worried. Not so Business 2012. Alan Sugar and Richard Branson – both speakers at Business 2012 – were being copied into negative tweets from the attendees.
On paper both events looked excellent and a good use of valuable time. And to be fair I did get to hear one speaker at the O2. One of many bald , testosterone fuelled millionaires present. Once we’d got past the Ferrari photos, throwaway comments about gypsies and use of cheap Philippino labour on which one business operated (Tatty Devine strives to produce in Britain) – I understood what I was dealing with. He did have information to relay about how he set up online. He started up by selling 20 copies a day of a book about buying a house in Bulgaria (which he got a friend to do for £4,500). ‘You too are an expert in something.’ And he’s right. This particular millionaire has gone on to build an empire and this allows him to follow his passion of playing in his tribute band ‘Coolplay.’
And therein lies the difference. At Business 2012 the passion lay outside the job. For the Mothers of Invention, their work was their heart and soul.
Who is the richer?
Follow here should you wish to: @taylorswade
- British Library IP Centre – a free space to start your business? (simplybusiness.co.uk)
- The tale of Tatty Devine: of tweets, trends and trouble for Claire (ipkitten.blogspot.com)