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Creating Positive Footprints....

The Great British Buffet

For the grand finale to its annual interprise event, Pink Shoe Club again held the ‘Great British Buffet’ networking reception, featuring artisan and local British producers.
Hosted by The Earl of Erroll along with Helene Martin Gee, the reception took place at the glorious River Room by kind permission of The Lord Speaker. 

As ever, we were extremely well looked after by the charming Terry Eiss.

We were joined by Anne Marie Morris MP (right) founder of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Micro Business. Anne Marie spent time with delegates and was able to exchange views with some of the start-up business owners as well as school and university students.
Guests mingled with the speakers and panellists, sharing opinions on the debate, and exchanging business cards with a view to future opportunities. It was good so many students were able to stay for the reception, including those from Lambeth Academy and Goldsmiths, London University, plus emerging entrepreneurs from the NESTA pioneers programme.

The buffet table was laden with an array of tempting dishes chosen by food writer Lyndon Gee. From game pies and mini venison Yorkshire puddings to Gloucester Old Spot sausages and Haslet. Also on offer were baby Caerphilly and leek tarts, homity pies, Scottish smoked salmon, Wye Valley poached salmon and Sussex mackerel wraps.

Kentish artisan fruit juices including a very popular pear juice were available for students, along with sparkling English and red & white wines.

The evening went far too quickly, guests agreed it was a very special event in an unbeatable location with great food, excellent company....
 and stunning views..

A successful end to a brilliant interprise:2011!

With thanks to everyone involved and especially:
 Stephen Wagland, Sheila Williamson, Max Berendt, Sanya-Jeet Thandi for all their help and hard work!

interprise:2011 - Investing in Enterprise

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), Pink Shoe Club in partnership with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Entrepreneurship held its 5th annual enterprise summit.

interprise:2011 was awarded a 'High Impact' Badge of Honour from GEW.

In the resplendent surroundings of the Houses of Parliament, the assembled audience of entrepreneurs and students filled Committee Room 12 of the Commons almost to bursting point. Delegates were welcomed by Lord Ahmed, then listened attentively to the thoughts of two distinguished guest speakers before questions were opened up to the floor and answered by a panel of experts.

The Speakers
Our speakers for the evening were Doug Richard and Andrew Fiddaman. Doug, best known for appearing in two series of the popular TV show Dragons’ Den, is a highly successful entrepreneur and active angel investor. He has started four companies, lectures on entrepreneurship at Cambridge University, and, through his social enterprise ‘School for Startups’, has taught over 10,000 people how to start their own business.

Andrew is a rare juxtaposition of someone who has started their own businesses but also worked for a very large organization, British Airways, in a variety of senior management positions. He is also managing director of The Prince’s Youth Business International (YBI), hosts of Global Entrepreneurship Week, has for the last 11 years, supported entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35 by providing start-up capital, business advice and the infinite benefits of a global network.

The Importance of Entrepreneurship
By pinpointing key themes, Doug and Andrew’s speeches complimented each other incredibly effectively. They both spoke of the undervalued importance of entrepreneurship and new business. Andrew claimed that it is often forgotten that no one actually starts a big business; that even Bill Gates once ran a start-up. He made the point that the vast majority of employment growth comes from young, small and medium-sized businesses.

Doug took this theme further by addressing the difference between young businesses and small businesses. He suggested that the real key to growth is youth; that almost all the new jobs made in the last 20 years were created by businesses less than a few years old.  New businesses are inevitably volatile but if they survive to become healthy, sustainable operations, they have done so, perhaps with fortune and by making good decisions, but also through innovation – by do something new or better than it has been done before. That innovation drives growth, in turn creating jobs and wealth.

Funding and the role of Government

So if entrepreneurship is so important to the recovery and future growth of our bruised and battered economy, what needs to be done to more effectively support it?
Both speakers addressed the role of government. They raised the case that entrepreneurship and government are not necessarily easy bedfellows. Doug suggested that the kinds of people who succeeded as entrepreneurs and those that succeeded in government were perhaps intrinsically different character types. Andrew said that often the best thing government can do to help new business was to simply “get out of the way.” 
However, they agreed that despite this conflict, government does have a potentially significant role to play in the success of start-ups and the development of enterprise. Andrew claimed that start-ups are often at a disadvantage in the face of rules and regulations designed for much bigger organizations and that ways needed to found to ‘level the playing field’.
Doug said the government should think about how it looks to fund small businesses. He made the point that business models that succeed often don’t look very likely to do so before that success takes place. With early funding so tough to secure and access to venture capital so rare, government should get out of the habit of making heavy funding available to a select few and instead liberate smaller amounts of money to everyone. If predicting success is almost impossible, funding bodies should not be in the business of picking winners.

Changing the Narrative
Having addressed the danger of undervaluing entrepreneurship, both Doug and Andrew spoke of the need for it to be perceived differently and how this is already beginning to happen. Andrew said entrepreneurs need help finding ways to make a difference to their communities, not just to themselves, and this was an issue raised later by Sally Goodsell in the Q&A session, who suggested that perhaps in the future it would be useful not to make the distinction between enterprise and social enterprise. And if businesses do help change their environment for the better, communities need to be told. Andrew claimed the general public perception of entrepreneurs as just people like Richard Branson and Alan Sugar was a result of too few stories of local entrepreneurs being heard. Stories that people can relate to are needed in order to inspire them.
One way stories are told is on television. Doug spoke of TV as a ‘culture change agent’ and described how Dragons’ Den, with no post-watershed slot available to it, captured a young audience quite by accident and was able to act as inspiration to many as a result. The show’s original target audience was an older one, and apparently more likely to view it as car-crash telly, as wannabe entrepreneurs got cruelly lambasted by the fire-breathing Dragons. A younger audience saw it differently. They did not feel sorry for the contestants; instead they felt that they could do better than them. In short, a narrative was created that showed them what was possible.
Questions for the Panel
Both speakers had been in inspiring form themselves. Now was the chance for those who had listened so carefully, to get their questions in.

Alongside the chairman and founder of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Entrepreneurship, Lord Ahmed, were the Group’s Chief Adviser and founder of the Pink Shoe Club, Helene Martin Gee; Enterprise Editor of The Mail on Sunday, Helen Loveless; and entrepreneurs Sally Goodsell, CEO of South East Finance Forum, and Sheetal Radia, Founder of Financial Architecture and Adviser to the CFA. The discussion was skillfully chaired by Atiti Sosimi, founder and CEO of the personal development organization, Distinctly Different.
The many interesting questions put to the panel covered a broad range of issues from the impact of the media and the eurozone on enterprise to the significance of the role of the manufacturing industry in the economy’s recovery. The majority of questions, however, many asked by the students of Woodside School, were concerned with how to become a successful entrepreneur.
Advice, Mentoring and Education
Andrew spoke of the ability needed by an entrepreneur to take risks and not be afraid of failure. He suggested that sometimes cultural pressures discourage risk taking but that learning from one’s mistakes was vital. Helene argued that while having transferable skills always helped, they can also be acquired through experience.

And whilst one’s own skills are of course significant, both Andrew and Sally suggested that recognizing one’s weaknesses was more important; Helene added that surrounding oneself with people whose skills complement your own was often a key to success.
Sheetal talked of the need to embrace change and when asked how you know if an idea you have for a business is going to work or not, said that if you can encapsulate your idea succinctly in 30 seconds, it stands a chance. He said it was also important to get honest, objective feedback. Andrew reminded the audience not to forget to have fun.
Much enlightening advice was given by our panel of experts, underlining the vital role advice-giving and mentoring has in the development of young businesses. Doug said a business can fail because of one bad decision that might have been avoided with the right advice. Andrew spoke of the key role mentoring can have in the creation of networks; that success was often not just because of a relationship developed between mentor and mentoree but with the mentors contacts too.
The event had been a valuable education and perhaps above all else it underlined the value of education itself. When asked by a student if it was worth going to university, Doug told her not to throw away her education and claimed the idea of being born an entrepreneur was a myth often perpetuated by entrepreneurs themselves. Doug also stressed his belief that entrepreneurship can be taught. Knowing how to start a business and create a business model are skills that can be learnt. His School for Startups is testament to that. The panel spoke of the in-built qualities shared by every successful entrepreneur such as passion, perseverance and open-mindedness. Doug suggested, however, that beyond those (and of course not forgetting a good idea!) all other variables are irrelevant. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you have the power to make it happen. A message to inspire anyone!

With thanks to Max Berendt for this excellent report of the event along with accompanying photographs.

Women of the Year Lunch

To the Intercontinental Hotel in Park Lane for this year's Women of the Year lunch. PSC Founder Helene Martin Gee was glad to be invited by Roz Morris, founder of TV News. The Champagne reception provided the opportunity to catch up with many old friends - the only complaint being there wasn't enough time to talk with everyone!

Although the phrase is often over-used, this really was an inspiring occasion. A widely diverse group of women from every imaginable arena were celebrated and celebrating.

Our charming table host was Frances O Grady, and it was a pleasure to spend time with her along with Julia Collis, Sandra Verkuten and Sue Wilkins amongst others.

The outstanding Award winners (left) were each given a well-deserved standing ovation as they collected their Award.

Photograph from Women of the Year.