I arrived at the National Motorcycle Museum which was holding the Barclays Ignite Business Growth event. It is a fantastic conferencing facility in an easy location, despite a bit of hide and seek with the satnav. The event is put on by Barclays twice a year in order to inspire customers and give them fresh ideas for their businesses. Huge amounts of effort had gone into putting on the event with features like live twitter networking feeds – it really paid off.
Adam Balon, co-founder of Innocent Drinks was the main attraction – when I had heard he was speaking I had booked my place straight away. The other speakers were just as impressive. Perween Warsi from S&A foods had grown her business from kitchen to £60 million giant in 26 years and was able to give out great information on how she had made it and tips for the growing business.
The room was packed with entrepreneurs and business leaders from all over the west-midlands. In my eager attempt to sit as close to the front as possible I had sat myself down next to winner of the 2008 Young Guns award, Stephen Abel. He is founder of the mutli-million pound business Parcels 4 Delivery which offers parcel delivery at discount prices and he is still in his 30’s.
I even heard from other entrepreneurs who were beamed in Eurovision-style from other Barclays events across the country. Adam told his story about how he and his two partners had always experimented with starting businesses at university, then after a few years of working for someone else they had decided to start their own business. The journey wasn’t without its bumps in the road; their first idea was an electric bath which they discontinued with for obvious reasons. In 2008 they were dealt their heaviest blow yet as the recession hit simultaneously with several other factors. Adam told how he and his team had reacted and grown since then.
When the presentations concluded I saw my opportunity to go and speak to Adam personally. I managed to nudge in and have the entrepreneur to myself for 5 minutes, I asked him what advice he could give to students at university who want to start or are starting their own business. He enthusiastically replied with the following:
- Know who you are and what you are about right from the start. Innocent were very clear about this outlining their purpose, vision and values from the very beginning. This seems like it really helps with their decision making and deciding how they are going to move forward with the business. Their values include being entrepreneurial, being natural and being responsible.
- Know your weak points. By this he means if you aren’t very good at something, say marketing, get somebody involved in what you are doing that can handle it. You don’t want to realise further down the line that you have been doing a bad job of an area in your business. Be brutally honest with yourself.
- Know your stuff. He pointed out that you don’t have to jump right into setting up your own business. Adam and his co-founders had been employed for a few years before setting up Innocent and he pointed out that this was really useful in gaining experience.
Adam is a really down to earth guy, it was a great opportunity to be able to meet him and get him to give his opinion on my ideas. I hope the advice he gave can be useful for some of the aspiring University entrepreneurs out there.