First Steps to Social Enterprise 2014 course launch

Olmec Empowering Communities invited Ruth Amarquaye to be part of the panel of speakers at the launch of this year’s First Steps to Social Enterprise with the aim of ‘Inspiring BME Women Into Enterprise’.  This launch was a free event with lunch provided by a successful participate of another Olmec course, and of course the opportunity to network and find out about the stall holders.  On the panel there was John Mayford, Director of Olmec; Makeeda Hewitt, Programmes Manager at Metropolitan Housing, Ruth Amarquaye of Ideas Genius; Caroline Odogwu of She Is You UK, Bala Thakrar of Naitika and was chaired by Annetta Bannett (Empress Nia Jai) of Impact Diversion.

Each member spoke of their involvement with Olmec and Ruth shared about her experience during the course:

“Right from the start of te course we knew got on when myself and two other ladies got under the table to fix it in place so the wobbling didn’t distract us from learning.  It was a group which felt more like a family and I am most grateful to Sam Obeng, or Uncle Sam as he became known as and Nathan Brown for going the extra mile to ensure we understood our legal forms and responsibilities.  Ideas Genius did not go on to becoming a Social Enterprise, but we have successfully embraced social aims and are working towards being a success business. Thank you Olmec.” Following the speaking, various people offered a workshop which gave a taster to elements coveredon the 12 week course. These included Nathan Brown, Sam Obeng and Nick Howe, Enterprise Manager of NatWest Business Banking.

Applications are now open for the next cohort of the First Steps course and we will encourage every BME Woman who has a dream of being in business to apply.  Even if you do not end up as a Social Entrepreuneur, you will end up as an entrepreuneur who makes a social impact.  You have until 31st August to submit your application and you can find out more at Olmec’s website

Make PR a priority for your business in 2014!

However brilliant your product or service, if nobody knows about it then your business will struggle to make sales, and a business without sales is a failure in motion.

Here are some tips from PR expert Jessica Huie on how to make sure your business is planted firmly in the awareness of your target audience in 2014:

• Inject your human interest story into your branding

Nothing is more powerful than authenticity in PR. If you genuinely believe that your business adds value to your customer’s lives, then its important to communicate that personally. By being visible rather than relying on your faceless brand to sell itself, you allow your customers the opportunity to understand the ethos behind your brand and your business values, and if you are marketing to the right audience then your values will resonate with them and make them more likely to buy. 

We live in a society overwhelmed by choice, which make it all the more necessary to let your customers understand your own personal human-interest story. Do this by asking yourself what the inspiration behind your business was, what is your vision? How are you improving, changing or inventing something which will benefit your audience? Give your customers an insight into the entrepreneur behind the business through your PR materials and watch how effective this PR approach can be.

• Be patient and consistent

PR unlike advertising is not a quick hit. It requires a consistent and ongoing effort in order to be most effective. A customer’s buying journey begins with awareness followed by familiarity before moving to consideration purchase and then loyalty. So the more that customers become aware of your brand the better – hence where the outdated all publicity is good publicity line comes from. Equally unlike advertising (which is more expensive,) PR is not guaranteed. It requires the creation of a news angle e.g.; ‘Huie’s brand secure record sales targets in Selfridges,’ ‘Celebrities endorse Huie’s brand,’ in order to capture the imagination of the media and inspire them to write about you/your business.

• Create a 12 month plan

If we consider the first part of the year, New Years Day, Valentines, Mother’s Day, these occasions may well have an impact on your customer’s buying patterns. Creating a press release which is ‘pegged’ on to these occasions will increase your chance of securing media interest, so plan ahead and be aware of media lead times so you don’t miss out on a PR opportunity.


• Stay abreast of current affairs and their relevance to your business

If we look at the stories currently in the media, Rail fare increases, 100 year jail sentences considered, the Princes Trust survey findings that three quarters of a million young people in the UK have nothing to live for due to unemployment levels, each of these news stories may represent a PR opportunity depending on your business or service. By staying aware of current news you can include reactive PR into your strategy as well as proactive, producing press releases offering a contribution to a current news debate, a solution to a problem being discussed or an alternate opinion.

• Truly understand your customer

A useful exercise is spending time thinking about your customer in depth. Where do they live, how old are they, where do they grocery shop, go on holiday, are they property owners? Once you can answer these questions you’ll begin to create a picture of your customer which will allow you to easily move on to the next point…

• Seek out ideal potential partners for cross promotion

By truly understanding your customer you can identify other brands that share your target market. This synergy create the perfect opportunity to collaborate with brands who may be bigger or more established than you and cross promote by marketing to their audience as well as your own and of course returning the favour. List five brands that are not your competition, but share your target audience as your partnership targets.

• Be giving

It was one of rap music’s richest entrepreneurs, Russell Simmons who said “you can never get before you give.” It’s a blueprint which can be hugely effective once you work out what you can actually afford to give away.

Free stuff creates a buzz, creates awareness, encourages people to try your products, creates positive brand association and a buying habit. In this era its easy to create a product designed purely to be given away free. Think E-books and audio tapes, the ideas are endless.


• Be creative

Creativity for me, is the best part of PR. Unlike advertising, which has a very set agenda and sales pitch, PR is whatever you decide to make it. Are you a fashion brand? Then create a piece for the royal baby, run a take-away food chain? Deliver to the homeless on Christmas day. PR can do good whilst creating opportunities to secure media coverage in the process.

• Think global

Your business reach is only as limited as your mindset. If you or your PR team are creating a press release then why limit your focus to the UK? The vast majority of media is also online now and if your business is international then you’d be crazy not to raise awareness globally. That said, focus on one territory at a time for maximum impact.

• Ensure you have effective tools

Undeniably the most important tip. Your press release is your business shop window and will create a first impression. Ensure it is professional, and includes all of the crucial information, and use the first paragraph to sum up your news angle succinctly. 

Jessica Huie, Founder of JH Public Relations and Color blind Cards is an entrepreneur with 15 years media experience, having worked with some of the UK’s best known celebrities, entrepreneurs and brands. 

JH PR’s Do Your Own PR package includes a tailored press release, founder’s biog and media contact list and is priced at £300. 

To kick off 2014 with an affordable PR campaign that impacts, contact JH Public Relations 0203 282 7577

How Much Should I Charge For What I Do?


Ideas Genius gets to the heart of making a business out of your ideas.  Today it’s that dreaded area of money and getting paid.  This post is a practical guide for how and what to charge for your service, product or idea.  To begin, we all have different attitudes towards money (which is a completely different topic – may go into that in another blog), so we need to establish certain principles. 

The Head Game

Firstly, let’s flip your thinking about transactions – that is, exchanging what you have for what they (your clients) have.  We re-frame that as exchanging what you WANT for what they NEED.  It sounds simple but that distinction is important.  They have come to you because they have a need or problem. They are trying to fix, resolve or satisfy the need.  Your business or idea is the solution to that.  If the customer has contacted you, it is no longer a question of whether your product is what they want. You’re talking about it so, at the very least, they have given your service a high probability of meeting their need.  And guess what?  You are willing to give them that solution in exchange for something… Sounds like a win-win situation already.

The transaction is about now about price, and no longer just about the product.  Most businesses send a lot of time trying to tweak what they offer to fit a price.  Think product first about it.  Your customer already knows what they want the item to do.  It’s the reason you go into a shop to ask about a pair of shoes or call a plumber for a quote.  You are convinced that the product or service is what you need. In your mind, you have already considered that this could be a good option IF the price is right.  We rarely ask the shopkeeper to take an inch off the heel so it meets your budget or ask the plumber to only reduce the size of the leak because you can only afford that much.  Once you understand that you are in a good position to help your customer out, you will be more confident about how and what you charge for it; and whether and how you negotiate. So first of all, be confident in your product.

The Decision Is Yours

Yes or yes?  How much you charge is completely up to you.  You have all the options.  The customer is always right, yes.  However, they don’t dictate how you run your business.  They can only decide:

  1. I want it and
  2. I can afford it.  

Your job is to make what you offer affordable and that does not necessarily mean making it cheap.

You can decide that what you have is of a different quality, or is more convenient than similar services; either you have a wider range or are a specialist niche.  These things are all distinctive about your brand, service or product, and what you offer is unique.  So before you work out how much you are going to charge, decide WHAT it is you’re offering?  Are you a McDonalds franchise or The Ivy?  Do you deliver a bespoke service or one size fits all?  Is your product a rarity or convenient? 

Stay In Your Lane

The final point before we get into putting your numbers together is subtle but very important.  Not everyone wants the same thing.  You may not be able to satisfy everyone with the same product or service.  Once you know the type of business you are… stick with it! It is easy to be tempted to change your pricing because your market is quiet and others in your industry or specialism ‘appear’ to be doing better.  It is critical that you stick to your guns because that is as much a definition of what you offer as your brand itself.  

Imagine a high-end service provider offering bargain basement rates overnight; or a 99p store selling items for £10.  You have already started to think about the possible back story which may make you feel insecure or unstable about buying from that business.  Sticking to your prices is vital to your credibility.  However, there are ways of making promotions and negotiation work in your favour to meet an opportunity or gap in your market (that’s a completely different blog).

So How Much Do I Charge?

In pitching your business or idea to a price, three things are key:

  1. How much does it cost to make?
  2. How much income do I expect from the business overall?
  3. How much am I likely to sell it for?


How much does it cost to make it?

Everything has a direct or indirect cost.  In our experience, this is the hardest things for a new business to work out.  Even when the only thing you put in is time; time has a cost.  If you were not doing this, what would you be doing and how much could you earn in that time?  Too much already?  Sorry, we’ll slow down…


Let’s look at price with a common example:

Cupcakes – a popular business opportunity at the moment, but how much do you charge for a cupcake?  Well first of all, you would rarely make just one cupcake.  All that shopping, mixing, baking and icing for one cake?  Perhaps 12 cupcakes are more likely.  Already we had worked out that even when we sell one cake, it is part of a batch of twelve. So it might be easier to look at pricing from the perspective of 12 cakes rather than just one.

Here’s how much to charge for 12 cupcakes:

  • Add up the cost of all the ingredients including the cups.

  • Add the proportion of your electricity bill or gas bill to make the cakes (yes, you do need to know that)

  • Add your time (how many hours does it take to make them – including going to the shops for the ingredients)

  • Add the time and method they will get to the client (are you delivering them or are they picking them up?)

We’ll stop here.  This should be the very basic price you charge for 12 cupcakes – if you do this process every single time you get an order.  For the price of one cupcake, divide by 12.

Now you can add the following things that make you a more than basic supplier of cupcakes:

  • A proportion that covers your packaging and marketing

  • A proportion to cover your administration costs, phone, website etc.

  • Another slice to cover development i.e. investing in yourself to be a better cupcake maker (training course, a new recipe book, extra dough and icing to experiment with, etc.)

  • Oh and what about a profit?  You do have other bills to pay.

This does mean taking some time out to look specifically at what you do and how you plan to do it.  It can be quite confusing but we promise you that it’s well worth the attention.  If you need assistance to go through this for your business, contact us and we’ll help you work it out.  

How much income do I expect from the business overall?

A common assumption is that once you start your business you will be charging enough to pay all your outgoings.  So if your monthly bills come to £1000, you would have to sell £1000 worth of cupcakes.  Wrong!!  More like £1000 plus the costs making and delivering all those cupcakes.  Immediately you’ll see that you’ll have to sell a lot more than 12 cupcakes a day otherwise you’ll be kicked out of home for rent arrears.

In our example, we researched other suppliers and twelve cupcakes can range from £15 – £60 for a dozen. So we’ve pitched ours here at £30. We’ll explain a bit more about researching later.

Next, sizing your business as ‘how much per week/per month/per year’ can be really helpful in setting the right charge price.  You may then choose to make cupcakes as one part of your business, but also birthday cakes which you can charge more for.  Hey… and why not wedding cakes?  You could charge a lot more money because they are even more special but with pretty much the same equipment and ingredients.  Now you’ve got something that each month looks like this:

  • 10 orders of cupcakes (at £30 each order)
  • 4 birthday cakes (£50 each)
  • 1 wedding (£500 – evidently I don’t buy wedding cakes often)

That’s £300 + £200 + £500 = £1000.  Note: this is not all profit.  What you have started to do however is work out that some of what you do will sell for more than others.  Welcome to Product Strategy 101.

The alternative would be to try and make 34 orders of cupcakes a month (going to the oven 34 times rather than only 15 times in the above example).

Charging for ‘special’ orders moves you from the ‘per time’ type of pricing to ‘per project’.  Making a wedding cake might not take ten times as long as a birthday cake; but it’s special and special jobs have special prices.

How much am I likely to sell it for?

The average wedding cake can cost 10 times that of a birthday cake.  There is almost an expectation that it should sell for that much.  Whether we like it or not, some things sell for more money than other things; no matter how similar they are.

Personal trainers cost more than going to the gym by yourself or using a DVD.  Food in containers sell for less than food on a plate.  Your decision about where in that scale you want to position your brand will affect how you are perceived.  Here is our insight:

It doesn’t matter where you put your business.  You can succeed as long as you run it accordingly.

Researching similar businesses will give you an idea of what others charge in your industry for THEIR service. This should only be used as your price guide because your business may be similar but not the same.  The value of your product is often communicated with the price. This is the reason why certain brands are considered a cheaper option.  They will do the job in the same way, however there will be a different expectation.  It does not mean that one is better or worse than the other; but simply they meet a different need.

The best example of this is Primark.  Love it or not – despite questions about the perceived ‘quality’ of the products – they are one of the fastest growing clothing retailers in the United Kingdom.  A small price does not have to mean a small business. What is more important is the model of your business – the way your run your business to make it most profitable.


Recently in a barbershop debate, we were discussing whether or not a particular music artist was ‘good’.  The discussion compared their early underground work to their new, more pop, inclusive sound.  The implication being ‘you are better because you’re selling more records’.  One very sharp commenter remarked:

“KFC sells more chicken than my Mum but you can’t tell me hers isn’t the best”.  

Simply stated and very true.  What your customer thinks is good, best, worthwhile or affordable is all down to what you (and only you) can give them in return for them making the decision to buy from you.  There might be others doing similar or even the same thing.  However, what makes the difference between winning or losing a customer is you – firstly your product, then your price.  

If you would like to discuss your business, pricing or how to present your product in the best way possible, get in touch with


Cupcake image courtesy of @KupKase – this is not their business plan 🙂

FREE LUNCH #2 | More Going Out Than Coming In

We are not talking about profit here, but there is probably a problem in your business model if you are laying out much more than you have identified as income.

Money Down The Drain

 Maybe it’s time to look at your business closely:

  • What are you paying for?
  • Is it set-up costs?
  • Investments?

Even when the scale of difference between income and expenditure is not as high as ten-fold, it is possible that your finances are not as efficient as they could be.

A good business plan will help you sort this out.  We can’t stress how vital a business plan is to the backbone of any enterprise.  Setting up as a business without a business plan is a lot like going ice skating without ice skates!

Your outgoings in this phase of your business might be legitimate costs.  However, they could also be compensating for market research which would have identified something you are now paying for.  Something which could have been avoided if it had been done better planning before promoting your services and products.

At the point where you recognise that there’s much more going out than you have commitment for (written contracts, agreements, deposits, etc.) it is a good idea to stop and take stock of what you actually have.  Sometimes asking someone who know little about your business can help you be more objective.  Are you running an expensive hobby instead of sustainable business?

Maybe your current business organisation isn’t best for your business?  Perhaps it’s time to form a partnership with someone who is more expert or has better access to the areas you’re spending most on?

Spending money to gain business isn’t always fatal; haemorrhaging money is.  If you are in this position continue with FREE LUNCH insights this week and follow @ideasgenius on Twitter.

British Airways initiative for Entrepreneurs: ‘Face to Face’

Link: British Airways initiative for Entrepreneurs: ‘Face to Face’

British Airways

The British Airways Face–to–Face program is helping small businesses across America grow their organization by making connections and forming partnerships around the world. Last year, they awarded more than six hundred entrepreneurs with flights to London and beyond, enabling them to meet prospective clients and vendors, attend conferences, arrange partnerships and seal the deals in person.