Former Dragons’ Den star Doug Richard believes we should be encouraging the next generation of creative stars to maintain the £59.2bn sector. But how?
Be it Facebook or Net-a-porter.com, we all know that behind many a successful business, is the big creative idea. But how do you know if your creative juices will make the case for a healthy business?
Doug Richard, the ex-BBC Dragons’ Den investor and founder of School for Startups, has taken it upon himself to prove that creative businesses can weather the economic storm and go onto become scalable businesses. His social enterprise, School for creative StartUps, is organising the event Creative Country Business next month, designed to help people use their creative streak to fuel a rewarding business.
I caught up with Richard to find out what he has in store.
Why are you organising Creative Country Business?
From fashion schools to ad agencies to film hubs, the creative sector pumps £59.2bn into the UK economy and employs more than 2.3 million people, isn’t that an impressive feat and shouldn’t we be cashing in on it?
Currently, we see this huge focus on London’s Tech City and the Silicon Roundabout and there is this constant analysis about how it weighs up against the Silicon Valley. But UK’s creative sector has already grown to become a “Silicon Valley” in its own right and I think we should really acknowledge that and encourage people to pursue their creative ideas to make the sector even stronger.
How will this course help people turn a creative idea into a business?
There are so many people who have a good creative idea that can be turned into a good business but they don’t know how to get it off the ground. The course will help such people to develop their idea, find suitable investors and learn marketing strategies to run a business that would contribute to the UK economy.
Not only this, the course will help creative entrepreneurs to figure out an effective business model to run their business, teach them ways to build a good clientèle and sell their products and services online.
But in such a tough economic climate do you think such businesses can turn a profit?
Oh absolutely! The economic downturn is a blessing in disguise for new businesses as it instills a certain discipline and a killing instinct to make your business work. Look around you, despite the downturn, the number of creative businesses – be it digital agencies or film production companies – are constantly growing in number, this just goes to show that creative businesses can make money even in the tough times we’re in today.
But surely any new business is going to face fierce competition from those already established?
No doubt there is cut-throat competition but if a creative idea works, it can easily topple a big player from its perch. All it takes is a big idea and a bit of business acumen to make it work.
Can you name three creative businesses that went from small to big?
I think Anya Hindmarch [maker of the “I am not a plastic bag” bag] is a great example of how a creative business can become big. She created a revolution with her handbag label and is the quintessential British success story. Then there is Net-a-porter.com, a pioneering site that proved that online shopping can be successful. Another, classic example is Notonthehighstreet.com, a plain, simple and successful website where you can buy gifts.
To what extent do you think Lord Young’s loan scheme announced today will help such businesses?
I think initiatives like these plays a role in making successful entrepreneurs out of young people. The StartUp Loan scheme might lend a small amount of money but I’m sure it would prove instrumental to get a business going.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of setting up such a business in London?
The only major disadvantage is that London’s very expensive, but other than there are so many advantages to starting a business in the capital. The availability of talent here is second to none and London’s bang in the middle of the time zone which encourages business. Other than that, the capital’s fashion scene, design prowess, and the schools that teach creative degrees has really made London the epicentre of everything creative.
What message do you have for those with a creative idea but not confident enough to turn it into a business?
I think people who want to be creative entrepreneurs needn’t necessarily create a product that caters to a need, but instead should draw inspiration from the way they think and feel. A fashion designer does not need to create a product that covers the body, he can make something he has an aesthetic and emotional connection with. So, go on, be creative and make successful businesses for the UK.
Creative Country Business will take place at the Hilton Cobham Hotel on Monday 11th & Tuesday 12th June, 2012. Guest speakers include Charlotte Vøhtz, founder of Green People, Georgina Blain, Etsy UK marketing manager and Hannah Needham of This is Your Kingdom and Lynne Franks, founder of B.Hive. Visit www.creativecountrybusiness.com to know more.
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