How to: The basics of writing a successful business plan

A business plan is one of the first things you will do before starting and setting up your own business. A business plan is a written document that describes your business.

It covers objectives, strategies, sales, marketing and financial forecasts. This important document will help you:

  1. Clarify your business idea
  2. Spot potential problems
  3. Set out your goals
  4. Measure your progress

Having a solid business plan will also help you secure investment or a loan from a bank to help you get started. So, how do you write one and how do you make it successful? Every business plan will differ depending on the type of business being created and the factors that will go into it. However, every plan will need:

Executive summary:

This should include a description of your business and outline the customer problem being uniquely solved by the business so the reader understands what you are trying to achieve. Here you will list the main takeaways of each major section of the overall plan. Remember to be positive, sell your idea!

Company overview:

A company overview provides the reader of your business plan with basic background information about your company. Here you will provide the following information: company name, business structure, location, ownership, company history, mission statement and your product/service and customer type.

Marketing plan:

This should include the specific marketing actions that will be used to implement your business idea with research shown to back up your decisions. The marketing section will be split into three parts, 1. Market analysis, 2. Competitive analysis and 3. Specific marketing actions.

Key management:

Here you will include information on each key person involved in the business. You want to demonstrate the technical abilities of each person and their position in the business.

Financial plan: 

The financial section will demonstrate that the business is viable. You will address your current finances and future financial state by using current variables to predict future income, asset values, income projections and withdrawal plans. Essentially, you are showcasing steps or specific goals for spending and saving. This is a very important step if you plan to apply for a loan.

These imperative stages will help you understand your business more and focus on specific goals and priorities. While these stages are important, don’t forget the small stuff too! For example, your document layout. Include a cover page and add your business logo, name and the date you have prepared the document. Also, include a table of contents to make it easier for the reader to find the information they are looking for, it also makes things look professional and well-presented. There are many business plan templates out there, a google search or a look through Microsoft Word templates will point you in the right direction, you just have to make sure you are putting in the right information for your business!

Final pointers

  • Be precise, focus on what the reader needs to know
  • Make sure the document is well presented
  • Set clear targets and goals, showcase the businesses longevity
  • Make sure your passion and enthusiasm for your business shines through

STEAM mates – meet award-winning textile innovator, Sonia Reynolds

Hi Sonia, can you tell us about your project? 

Zephlinear is a company creating novel textiles and tools. We currently have two areas of manufacturing which are handcrafted Zephlinear couture items and educational design kits. While we are finalising IP issues, we are focusing the design kits and automating the process of Zephlinear fabrics.

Regarding the design kits, three products are in development using a new technology to entangle fibres and a standalone tool called a fabtangle frame which entangles fibre fast. Two of the kits contain a string of LED’s and wool fibre or yarn which provides a new way to create E-textiles (light up artwork).

The kits can be used by a variety of people from hobbyists to the educational sector to teach STEAM subjects. Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths can be taught using the E-textile kit within an Art-based practice.

Why did you want to create something new and different? 

The Zephlinear process of creating a fabric surface provides a fourth method of fabric manufacture. The new fabric is ideal to create E-textiles. The tools we have created are spin off products that provide a method to create felt fast.

Electronic textiles is a growing market due to current and future consumer needs. Currently the process is very much in the experimental and research within academia and expensive to create. Our kits will give schools the opportunity to have access to the new creative process.

Image of woman stood holding an award image labelled as happy international women's day

Did you face any challenges to overcome? 

We faced challenges in research and product development, market research and actual marketing and we gained access to technicians and experts to help overcome this.

STEAMhouse provided business support and financial funding of £2,500 which included purchasing prototyping materials, along with attending scoping meetings organised by STEAMhouse where we were able to gain the right support from an IP professional, providing an understanding on IP and routes to market  matters. The BCU Innovation Enabler Funding was also received by the company which focused on identifying the IP and protecting the IP.

What difference did this make?  

Access to technicians, experts and development funding has allowed the business to progress considerably. The networking opportunities and community building has provided great support. We are currently finalising the presentation of three E-textile kits and obtaining equipment to prototype the automation of the zephlinear process which will make a huge advantage regarding end cost to consumers. Receiveing support from IP professionals has also brought strength to the business structure and future outputs.

Our new products created include Textile Kits and Commission based new textile products.

How was it received?  

Feedback from the kits was positive and it was stated they needed to look more professional in the labelling which is being addressed.

Feedback from the couture clothing was that it had a strong brand but I needed invest time in building the brand via marketing activities.

What difference did it make to your business? 

We are building a strong foundation with positive feedback. The opportunity to have professional support and advice has made a significant difference to the business progression.

Sounds great, thank you Sonia and all the best with your innovations! 

 

Check out Sonia’s work here:

www.zephlinear.com

Feeling inspired? Get involved with STEAMhouse by checking out our upcoming events or by applying for your free membership here

How to: Tips for quoting and setting the right price for your products and services

First things first, know your market, what’s the average price for your product or service in your market area? 2. How much do your competitors charge? See what your opposition is charging and why, you can then make a decision to match or beat them depending on the quality of service you provide. 3. Make sure all of your costs, direct and indirect are covered in your quote.

Here is a great place to start, remember the four P’s:-

It’s always good to know the value of your product or service and offer your customers a fair and respectable quote, keeping into consideration the quality of the service you will provide over the amount of time or effort required. Quality over quantity! This is what will bring your customers back. Keep your pricing clear and your quote simple, include a reference number that you can track, your business details, the job specifications with the total cost, a cost breakdown and terms and conditions. While this is important, it’s also worth noting that staying open minded and up to date is a must. Your prices may need to fluctuate from time to time depending on your competitors, the demand of your market or even a change in your customers.

If you have difficulty figuring out the quality of your pricing follow the Quality Pricing Model to point you in the right direction.

The golden rule is to be fair, consistent and transparent.

5 key pointers for quoting:

  1. Once you have devised a price, quote quickly (within 48 hours) you need to keep your potential customers engaged
  2. Quote for solution provided not time required
  3. Have clear jargon free terms and conditions
  4. Be open minded – you can always negotiate with customers
  5. Keep it simple

Five STEAMy principles for fulfilling knowledge exchange activities

In 2018 STEAMhouse opened its doors to a community of businesses, entrepreneurs, creatives and artists, and the academic world.  Unsurprisingly there was great interest from many who saw the value in collaborating not only with the University, but also with people from a range of disciplines, and businesses spanning an array of sectors. 

STEAMhouse is led by Birmingham City University in partnership with the arts organisation Eastside Projects as a hub to exchange knowledge and ideas, create new products and prototypes, and support local economic growth.

Along the way we’ve had the opportunity to work with some brilliant minds and some fascinating projects.  Collectively we have gained new insights to what we believe makes an essential STEAM collaboration, starting with five basic principles.

Here are our 5 basic principles

  1. EXPLORATION 

Unless you’re a creative genius exploring a topic, a challenge, or problem, be it a sticking point within a business process, or how to tackle big societal issues such as those associated with climate change can be an unfathomable aspiration.  For many of us, we do not have all the answers, skills, and experience to come up with that one bright idea and necessary technical know how to implement well-rounded solutions on our own.

When working in a cross-disciplinary way it can be helpful to explore the attributes of other people.  Throughout our lives we are always accumulating new skills. Some are prominent, some are dormant, some useful to us, some useful to others, some exciting, some mundane.  One thing we know is that what we have stored within our ‘kit bag’ whether it’s a well-honed skill or some forgotten about knowledge can be extremely valuable to share with others too.

  1. COLLABORATION 

Following on from exploration, which could also be considered something akin to a skills audit allowing people to create cross-disciplinary groups to develop their ideas, we have collaboration.

Working with others, and especially with new people in a collaborative environment can help you consider different opinions and perspectives, and allow you to test our thinking and build a position that resonates more widely.

Linked to exploration it helps you understand your network when playing with creative ideas, and brings new energy to finding new possibilities for collaborative problem solving.

That said, collaboration can take perseverance to get right and results should not be instantly or easily expected.  Settling on a shared understanding and vision, grounding ideas in ‘the why’ is an ideal starting point to ensure the best possible outcomes for all involved.

  1. CONVERSATION 

What we first perceive is likely not the whole picture. There are always things to learn, especially when we discuss the experiences of others.

Communication is critical when working on sharing ideas.  In a group format it is also important to hear all view points and allow everyone to be heard.  It is a foundation for connection and trust and a key factor for collaborations and partnerships to thrive and grow.

  1. OPENNESS 

Having a sense of openness can enable us to be receptive to new or unusual ideas, and can create space for the unexpected. We all face challenges of different size and scope, and sharing these can bring about moments of inspiration when someone suggests an unforeseen solution or way forward.

We’re often exposed to patterns of closed thinking, whether at work or in relationships. It is important to break down closed thinking systematically, instead favouring an inquisitive mind-set. Some of the most inspiring moments can come from the most unexpected of corners.

  1. NEWNESS 

At STEAMhouse we aim to help innovate and move you towards your personal and business goals. Innovation can be a series of iterative steps which help you get from a certain starting position – for example the understanding of a product or service problem, and finding a solution without having any predetermined ideas of where you would finally end up.

The application of the above mentioned principles allows for experimentation, new perspectives, difference of thinking, and new solutions that can be explored and developed.

Underpinning all of our principles is EQUALITY. Be it equality of input or equality of discipline; each discipline, each person’s contribution is equally valuable.  Accepting this overriding principle removes judgement and allows for the very best of effort from all involved.  Thus you will see boundaries pushed, experimentation, and enjoyment in whatever project or challenge you’re working on.

For more information about joining STEAMhouse or to apply for your fully funded membership, click here.

STEAMhouse Incubator update: Building businesses through lockdown

STEAMhouse Incubator opened its facilities on March 2nd 2020 only to be shut due to the coronavirus pandemic a few weeks later. The incubation facility is Birmingham City University’s new business incubation service, centrally located on the ground floor of Millennium Point. Working to support students, graduates and local entrepreneurs who wish to start and grow their own business. Due to the current enforcement of the third national lockdown, the facility is closed until further notice but business continues as usual.

How has STEAMhouse Incubator adapted to offer its business services through lockdown?

Despite the hardship faced through its first year of operation, STEAMhouse Incubator continues to support and take on new clients, currently working with 12 diverse businesses at different stages of development. As lockdown has continued to change working life, STEAMhouse Incubator adapted its outlook and looked at ways it could continue to offer its clients the assistance they needed.

Online workshops and virtual learning has paved the way over the last 11 months, in which all their monthly events ranging from Intellectual property, understanding finances, building an online profile and the basics of a viable business were hosted through the platform, Microsoft Teams. However, the Incubator has also provided e-Learning tutorials that allow individuals to acquire knowledge at their own pace and develop their entrepreneurial skills.

Similarly, factsheets, in which the Incubator has access to over 8,000 have been distributed to help those in every stage of their business progression understand the technicalities, legalities and fundamentals of becoming a business owner and maintaining success. Programme Manager Richard Scutt, has appointed one to one meetings with all clients to maintain their bespoke experience and deal with the obstacles the current pandemic has provoked. In doing so, a new relationship with The Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce has been established in which Incubator clients have also become members of the GBCC to enhance business opportunity and alliances. Lastly, the Incubator has been working co-inside Birmingham City University academics to supplement their teaching and course content, help students understand the fundamentals of business and encourage entrepreneurship.

Want to start your business? Here’s 5 top tips to starting your business in lockdown:

1. Do your research and take advantage of your spare time. Use this time to become up to date with the market and become an expert in your sector.

2. Create a business plan. Map out your aims, put things into perspective and reduce the risk of failure.

3. Attend workshops and webinars. Use this time to attend as many online events and workshops related to your sector and and/or business advice (everything is online now and much more accessible, often even free, STEAMhouse Incubators are!) Click here to find out more.

4. Don’t do it all alone. Seek professional help and services along the way, don’t waste time and money doing things you aren’t quite sure about.

5. Don’t be afraid of failure. Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars!

Need support for your start-up? Or want to learn more about the STEAMhouse incubator business workshops and services click here to find out more or email STEAMincubator@bcu.ac.uk

Commemorating our past, creating our future – Happy Inventors Day

Commemorating our past, creating our future

Birmingham has always attracted great and innovative minds. The Midlands Enlightenment began in Birmingham during the 18th century, when the city was home to many of the world’s leading scientists and inventors of the time. Their technological innovations drove the subsequent Industrial Revolution – an era in which prevailing principles were low wages, efficiency, and economy of scale. However, Birmingham’s transformation was instead marked by specialisation, flexibility, and innovation. During this period, local entrepreneurs registered over three times as many patents as any other city in the country.
Throughout its industrial ascension, Birmingham’s low economic barrier to entry fuelled social mobility, which helped build a soul of entrepreneurship in the region. This spirit continues to thrive today, with the startup-to-population ratio the highest of any city in England. Yes, even higher than London.
Clearly Birmingham has produced – and is producing – a great deal of technical novelty and business leadership, so let’s commemorate its past achievements and explore its ongoing success.

Practical thinkers

At the core of the Midlands Enlightenment was the Lunar Society of Birmingham; a dinner club and informal learned organisation so called because it convened every month during the full moon. Perhaps most notably its members included business partners Matthew Boulton and James Watt.
Boulton opened the famous Soho Manufactory in 1765, which pioneered the combination of separate processes into a system known as “rational manufacture”. This became the largest manufacturing centre in Europe and eventually gave rise to the modern factory system. With help from Boulton, Watt developed his eponymous steam engine in 1775, which most historians consider the main driving force behind the Industrial Revolution. He drastically improved existing steam engines and, importantly, enabled them to be used in mining, manufacturing, and transportation.
The Lunar Society’s members also made major advancements in other fields. Chemist Joseph Priestley discovered ten different chemical gases and invented carbonated water, whilst James Keir developed the manufacture of alkali and founded his plant in Tipton. Along with John Roebuck’s earlier invention of the lead chamber process to produce sulphuric acid, this sparked the beginning of the modern chemical industry.

(Image: The Lunar Society.)

The prime mover behind this explosive era of innovation was the application of rational science to manufacturing processes. The resulting economic prosperity attracted subsequent generations of entrepreneurs to the area during the 19th and 20th centuries, where they were looking to make their own mark.

Diverse industries

Early 19th century Birmingham was dominated by artisan workshops producing high-value specialised goods, such as buttons, guns, and locks. This earned it the moniker “City of a Thousand Trades”. When large factories eventually became common towards the end of the century, they were driven by the flourishing engineering industries. Birmingham was a major centre of bicycle manufacturers and had the largest number of cycle-makers and accessories firms in the UK by 1900.
As motorised transport became increasingly popular at the start of the 20th century, many of these factories pivoted to making motor-vehicles. Birmingham was a manufacturing centre for several successful companies, including Wolseley Motors, the Austin Motor Company, and of course, BMC’s Mini. However, more than a mere centre of mass production, new inventions were continually emerging, including the fuel-burning engine, bicycle bell, and the electric car horn.

And advancements kept coming in other industries. The inventions are too many to list here, but included the first medical x-ray in 1896, the first portable vacuum cleaner in 1905, the first mass spectrometer in 1919, the immersed heating resister (enabling the creation of the electric kettle) in 1922, and the Mellotron in 1963 – made famous in the introduction to Strawberry Fields Forever by The Beatles.

Contemporary innovators

As we enter into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterised by technologies such as automation and digital interconnectivity, Birmingham’s entrepreneurial atmosphere is moving right along with it, remaining at the forefront of innovation. For example, Cal Henderson, Co-Founder of Slack Technologies, graduated in software engineering from Birmingham City University in 2002. He was the chief software architect of Flickr, the photo-sharing application, and also worked on critical open source standards which power the modern World Wide Web: OAuth and oEmbed. In 2009, Henderson went on to develop Slack, the business communication platform which currently has 12 million daily active users.

To help continue Birmingham’s legacy as an entrepreneurial hotspot, Birmingham City University and Eastside Projects founded STEAMhouse in 2018, which provides free resources and collaborative spaces to help budding entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. Its members are already using it to capitalise on their innovations.
Hausbots co-founders Jack Cornes and Harry Smith had the idea to automate painting using wall-climbing robots. On discovering that tens of thousands of people accidentally fall from height each year whilst painting and decorating, they realised that taking scaffolding out of the equation would make painting buildings both safer and easier. STEAMhouse had the equipment they needed to test and prototype their robots, and the space in which to “make a mess”. After this boost to its development, Hausbots is now offering paid painting services.

Another STEAMhouse member, Sonia Michelle Reynolds, is an award-winning designer
and textile researcher who is creating clothing using Zephlinear – a unique material
nicknamed “Space Cloth”. Zephlinear is a novel fabric which does not unravel when cut,
and is not produced by knitting or weaving. Instead, it is manufactured using a process
called FOYSE (Fibre On Yarn Surface Entanglement). This next-generation cloth has strong
potential to become a ‘smart material’ because its structure enables objects to be
embedded within it. Sonia is working with STEAMhouse to develop the FOYSE process,
with a view to creating fully-automated production.
Clearly Birmingham has a special ingredient that drives innovation, so whilst we celebrate
its past accomplishments, we should also ensure that innovative spirit endures into the
future.
Located in central Birmingham and now operating through online services, STEAMhouse has been designed with budding entrepreneurs in mind. So, if you have a business idea and want to tap into our resources, and the unique culture of the city, get in touch today.

 

Feeling inspired? Apply for our fully-funded STEAMhouse membership today. APPLY NOW.

Opportunity – iAtelier

Who is it for?

Makers, designers and digital technologists.

What does it involve?

The programme involves online sessions and in-person workshops, over three stages:

Stage one: Introduction Series and Expert Talks (online, April-May 2021)
Series of online social events and talks on digital fabrication practices.

Stage two: Project Proposals (online, Summer-Autumn 2021)
Collaborative partnerships of two or more participants to pitch digital craft proposals. Five partnerships will be selected to move to the next stage.

Stage three: Maker Workshops (STEAMhouse Birmingham, early 2022)
A series of digital fabrication workshops at STEAMhouse in Birmingham for selected participants to develop their Project Proposals into conceptual prototypes. Selected proposals will receive £3000.

Participant fees and benefits:

  • At the Project Proposal stage, each participant will be paid a stipend of €250 (£220). To be eligible the participants will need to have attended the Intro Series and Expert Talks
  • All collaborative partnerships will receive mentorship towards the development of their proposals
  • At the Maker Workshops stage, each of the five selected collaborative partnerships will receive a stipend of €3500 (£3000) access to facilities and equipment at STEAMhouse. Materials will be provided separately.
  • Participants will have the opportunity to become a STEAMhouse member

Participant commitments:

Participants will be expected to:

  • Attend and actively participate in the Intro Series and Expert Talks,
  • Prepare a collaborative project proposal and compete to gain place in the Maker Workshops,
  • If your Project Proposal is selected, you will be expected to travel to Birmingham to attend and participate to the Maker Workshops,
  • Maker Workshop participants must create conceptual prototypes that can be exhibited publicly.

Applicants must be based and eligible to work in England, Scotland or Wales for the full period of the iAtelier programme (April 2021 – 2022).

Who can apply:

We are looking for 20 participants who are based in England, Scotland or Wales with either craft/making OR digital design background.

Applicants with craft/making background should:

  • Be an emerging maker / maker/designer already in business with practical skills in any craft or design discipline. You may be self-taught, or may have completed a university or vocational course. We are imagining you will have established your business within the last 7 years, but understand that careers are not always this linear and acknowledge that makers ‘emerge’ and re-emerge at different stages of their careers (for example after a change in direction), so define this broadly.
  • Be able to clearly articulate their interest in digital fabrication technologies – experience in digital design and digital fabrication is not necessary, but a curious attitude and ambition to experiment and innovate using new technologies is essential

Applicants with digital design background should:

  • Be a recent graduate / an emerging designer / SME experienced in using digital drawing software (for example, but not limited to Adobe Illustrator, Autocad, Vectorworks, Rhino, Sketchup, Fusion etc). You may be self-taught, or may have completed a university or vocational course. We are imagining you will have established your business within the last 7 years, but understand that careers are not always this linear and acknowledge that practitioners ‘emerge’ and re-emerge at different stages of their careers (for example after a change in direction), so define this broadly.
  • Have experience in digital fabrication, parametric software or computer coding software is not necessary but would be advantageous
  • Clearly articulate their interest in craft and making – existing hands-on experience of craft/making is not necessary but interest in developing practical skills, exploring making methods and tools is essential.

Additionally, all successful applications should demonstrate the applicant’s ability to:

  • Work collaboratively, be open in their approach, generous in exchanging information with peers and the project hosts,
  • Present their work clearly and support the communication of the project activities,
  • Act as advocates for the project, the partner organisations and the role of new technologies within the craft sector.

Selection Panel

Applications will be reviewed by Ruth Claxton, Creative Director STEAMhouse and Alma Daskalaki, Innovation Manager Crafts Council.

How to apply:

Please read all the supporting information before completing an application by midnight (GMT) Sunday 7 March 2021.

Visit the CRAFTS COUNCIL WEBSITE for full application information and a link to the online form.

We aspire to remove barriers and be open to all and strongly encourage applications from individuals currently underrepresented in the creative and cultural sectors. This includes but is not limited to people of African or Caribbean heritage; Arabic heritage; Latin American heritage; East Asian, South Asian and South East Asian heritage; people from traveller communities; disabled people; LGBTQIA+ people and people from a low-income background.

We are aiming to notify all selected participants by the end of March 2021.

If you have any questions about the application process, please contact: innovation@craftscouncil.org.uk

iAtelier is part of the international partnership Crafting Europe and is hosted in the UK by the Crafts Council and STEAMhouse/Birmingham City University

‘Future Skills’ STEAM Lab: Helping Mott MacDonald employees explore possible futures in the engineering sector

“The workshops enabled us to explore possible future scenarios and have open and authentic conversations about what our personal and professional place in those futures might be.” – Luke Strickland, Environment Team Lead, Mott MacDonald. 

Exploring the future while stuck at home in the present  

We were recently approached by global engineering, management and development consultancy, Mott MacDonald, to collaborate with them on their 2020 Birmingham Futures Week. Each year, the Mott MacDonald team comes together to explore how they will exist 20 years from now in order to understand how they’ll thrive. They asked STEAMhouse to create a series of online collaborative workshops to enable early career professionals to explore perspectives on future skills that pertain to the various sectors and industries Mott MacDonald are involved in. It’s notoriously difficult to imagine a world twenty years from now, let alone plan for it but thankfully the Mott MacDonald team were up for activating a STEAM Lab, our most experimental collaborative workshop.

Why a STEAM Lab?  

STEAM Labs make space for experimentation and speculation. They’re about bringing people together to invite in new perspectives and imagine alternatives to the status quo. Typically a STEAM Lab takes the form of a one or two day collaborative workshop where participants work through a bespoke process that impels them to think about the development of projects, products, and services in completely new ways. Each STEAM Lab is different but every one is underpinned by five guiding principles: conversation, exploration, collaboration, openness and newness. This time around we created activities that could be facilitated online using Miro and video conferencing software – here’s what happened…

What skills might we need to succeed in a rapidly changing future?  

The Lab Leads, Luke Strickland (Environment Team Lead), and Paul Webb (Chartered Engineer), knew that to get to the heart of the question and uncover opportunities, they needed to listen to their early career colleagues at Mott MacDonald – what do they think the future holds? Discussion was key to understand how they might collectively and continuously learn new skills throughout their career. We looked for ways to cultivate the change needed for Mott MacDonald to thrive, despite ongoing uncertainty. The STEAM Lab was designed as a launchpad for the company to get going on future skills training.

What we did  

Participants came together to collaborate across two two-hour online workshops, designed and facilitated by STEAMhouse. The focus of the work meant crafting activities that would enable individual working, group collaboration and lots of reflection, before enabling participants to draft propositions for personal and professional development.

The workshops were comprised of three parts, ‘Where are we now?’, ‘Where are we heading?’ and ‘How might we prepare?’. Part one enabled participants to open up about their own skills, attributes and character and they were particularly encouraged to think outside of their role and their industry – the idea was to uncover unknowns about each other by plotting them, one-by-one in the ‘room’. The group then worked together to review insights and discuss their views on what is or isn’t important in their industry today.

Part two enabled the group to co-create a vision of the future through the lens of the present. Working individually, participants wrote what they believed to be ‘significant forces’ (trends, technologies, political movements, behavioural shifts, etc) on digital post-its, one per post-it. These were plotted on a timeline from 2018 to 2040. The group worked in timeblocks using prompts and questions to imagine what might change and what might drive changes. Participants then worked together to find themes and discuss the implications of possible scenarios, before going on to assemble possible futures in teams. They selected four future scenarios per group, from a stack of 150 that have been proposed by experts working across sectors, from technology to health, mobility and finance. Teams then explored how Mott MacDonald might operate in their newly assembled worlds.

As a final reflection, each participant drafted a profile of themselves in 2040. They were asked to consider what they might be working on and how they had developed since 2020 in order to thrive in the future.

What skills might we need to succeed in a rapidly changing future?  

The Lab Leads, Luke Strickland (Environment Team Lead), and Paul Webb (Chartered Engineer), knew that to get to the heart of the question and uncover opportunities, they needed to listen to their early career colleagues at Mott MacDonald – what do they think the future holds? Discussion was key to understand how they might collectively and continuously learn new skills throughout their career. We looked for ways to cultivate the change needed for Mott MacDonald to thrive, despite ongoing uncertainty. The STEAM Lab was designed as a launchpad for the company to get going on future skills training.

What we did  

Participants came together to collaborate across two two-hour online workshops, designed and facilitated by STEAMhouse. The focus of the work meant crafting activities that would enable individual working, group collaboration and lots of reflection, before enabling participants to draft propositions for personal and professional development.

The workshops were comprised of three parts, ‘Where are we now?’, ‘Where are we heading?’ and ‘How might we prepare?’. Part one enabled participants to open up about their own skills, attributes and character and they were particularly encouraged to think outside of their role and their industry – the idea was to uncover unknowns about each other by plotting them, one-by-one in the ‘room’. The group then worked together to review insights and discuss their views on what is or isn’t important in their industry today.

Part two enabled the group to co-create a vision of the future through the lens of the present. Working individually, participants wrote what they believed to be ‘significant forces’ (trends, technologies, political movements, behavioural shifts, etc) on digital post-its, one per post-it. These were plotted on a timeline from 2018 to 2040. The group worked in timeblocks using prompts and questions to imagine what might change and what might drive changes. Participants then worked together to find themes and discuss the implications of possible scenarios, before going on to assemble possible futures in teams. They selected four future scenarios per group, from a stack of 150 that have been proposed by experts working across sectors, from technology to health, mobility and finance. Teams then explored how Mott MacDonald might operate in their newly assembled worlds.

As a final reflection, each participant drafted a profile of themselves in 2040. They were asked to consider what they might be working on and how they had developed since 2020 in order to thrive in the future.

What’s next? 

At STEAMhouse, we’re here to support people and their ideas to flourish. We always work with our partners to ensure the outputs from collaborative workshops are meaningful. We’re pleased to say that Mott MacDonald are planning to roll out the Future Skills STEAM Lab concept across their Midlands UK team but don’t take our word for it, here’s Luke, one of the Lab Leads;

“The outputs of the sessions are influencing our regional business planning as well as our staff development approach. We would love to work with STEAMhouse again in future and would definitely recommend them to others.” – Luke Strickland, Environment Team Lead Mott MacDonald.

Participant feedback  

“Thank you for hosting such an amazing session…It really brings things to perspective as to where we expect to go and what can be done to obtain a positive impact”

“Can I start off by really thanking you and the STEAMhouse crew for the opportunity today. It was the perfect balance of engaging, stimulating and educational.”

“It highlighted to me that although the future may be uncertain in some aspects, we can use and develop our skills in order to adapt to this and change our society for the better.”

STEAMhouse offers three ways to activate your own collaborative workshops, find out more here.

Contact us here to find out more and create your own STEAM Challenge with us. 

New Round of STEAMhouse Grants

The new round of Phase 1.5 STEAMhouse Grants for members will go live from Monday 8th February 2021 for STEAMhouse Members who have completed 12hr+ and can comply with the grant criteria specified.

When is the deadline?

The deadline will be on Monday 15th March at 12noon. Future grant dates will be announced via the website, keep an eye on our blog or follow us on social media for updates.

Who can apply?

Anyone who has registered with STEAMhouse as a sole trader or business (no match funding is required as a condition), received notification of their membership from one of the STEAMhouse team and has completed their 12 hours assists with STEAMhouse to support you in developing your product/service.

How much is the grant for?

The grant amount is for £2,500 broken down into £1,035 for commercialisation and intellectual property (IP) support (which is compulsory and helps to inform the next stage and utilisation of the grant) with the remaining £1,465 (including VAT) being used to support businesses developing their prototypes, proving concept to early-stage development work and demonstrating which element of this is using digital technology.

How many grants are available?

28 grants will be distributed up to May 2022.

How do I claim any reimbursement of funds spent, if successful? A new contract will be issued for you to sign and return to sophia.tarr@bcu.ac.uk along with the following documentation to set you up as a new supplier by BCU, namely:-

1) Your letter headed paper with your company bank details/ including company number/UTR and contact details.

2) Certificate of public liability insurance.

Once you receive confirmation that you have been set-up as a supplier, you can then start spending. Upon evidence of receipts, the completed receipt submission form, redacted bank statements and the submission of your invoice, STEAMhouse will arrange the reimbursement of £1,674 in total. Invoices can be broken down into one or three separate invoice payments from you, within a 5-month period from the start of the contract.

How do I know what IP support I will need?

There is a variety of free commercialisation and IP support available through STEAMhouse Phase 1.5 including guidance & innovation capture, market assessments etc. The best route for you will be determined following an arranged meeting with the appointed IP consultant to support you.

Is there another round of funding?

Yes, there will be further grant announcements on a 5-month cycle appropriately. Further announcements willbe made via the website.

What next?

Please download and complete the attached funding forms or contact Sophia Tarr, Business Engagement Manager for further information.

Download:

1. STEAMhouse Grant Application Form – HERE.

2. STEAMhouse Grant & Receipt Submission Form – HERE.

 

Not already a STEAMhouse member? Apply to join here.

 

Making your mark: using Etsy to grow your business

Following the events of the past year, the way we shop and sell has changed fundamentally. This was highlighted by huge demands on e-commerce retailers throughout 2020, and notably over the festive period. Incredibly, since the first lockdown, a third of Brits (31%) have begun to shop online for the very first time. 

At STEAMhouse, we know the impact the pandemic has had on small businesses, with makers markets, stalls, small shops and even high street chains virtually shutting down during 2020. In a year of firsts, both customers and small business owners have been forced to quickly adapt to a new, competitive online world of buying and selling.

In this new retail landscape, in which every business, from sole traders to global corporations, is shifting its focus to online sales, Etsy stands out as an established and well-respected platform that promises to ‘Keep Commerce Human’. It offers a home for creators of handmade craft items and sellers of vintage goods. Currently, it hosts almost 2 million active sellers selling approximately 45 million items, and sells to over 30 million buyers and rising.

So, if you are a designer, maker or seller navigating the choppy, yet exciting waters of ecommerce, the creation of your very own successful Etsy shop could be a lifeline in this strange new world.

How to grow your business with Etsy

Here are our four key building blocks for Etsy success:

Pick a perfect shop name

On Etsy, as on the high street, your shop name will become your brand. It should evoke the essence of your product or ethos, while being memorable enough for shoppers to type into the search bar. Don’t be crushed if your perfect name is not available – why not play around with adding your location, initials or the words ‘shop’, ‘store’ or ‘boutique’? Finally, make sure it’s easy to read and spell, and that when you search for the same or similar names on Google, you aren’t being confused with a competitor with a similar, or identical name.

Tag, tag, tag!

Regardless of platform, tagging has become a vital component of online content to make sure it reaches the right audience, and Etsy is no exception. In fact, Etsy’s algorithms rely on tags (comprising unpunctuated key words and phrases of up to 20 characters). It’s absolutely essential that you attach tags to each and every product or service you sell on Etsy, as they determine your product’s likelihood of selling. For example, a buyer typing in ‘handmade pottery’ into Etsy will get over 118,000 results, whereas a buyer typing in ‘handmade pottery uk’ will see the list whittled down to just over 2,000 results. Finally, a buyer searching ‘handmade pottery uk mug blue’ will produce just 68 results. Try to use your full allowance of 13 tags per product, to take you right to the top of shoppers’ results. Remember that multi-word phrases work really well, for example, ‘handmade blue mug’ is much stronger than ‘handmade’, ‘blue’ and ‘mug’.

Use top-notch photos

Behave on Etsy as you would in a bricks-and-mortar shop. Market your products in their best light, against good backgrounds, in situ and alongside related products. Take beautiful detail shots that show off your craftsmanship. Do not damage your brand by rushing and using low-resolution, poorly lit photos. Upload multiple images per product, and if possible, show the product or service in context, in action, or being modelled.

Offer a range of payment options

A very simple way to gain an edge in the market is to offer sellers a range of ways to pay. Set up your shop to receive payments by credit card, debit card, PayPal, Etsy Gift Cards and Etsy Credits, Apple Pay, and finally, Google Pay.

2021 is the time to establish yourself in the booming world of ecommerce. There is no better time than right now to get your Etsy shop set up and selling.

If you need further support, STEAMhouse offers assistance, advice and workshops led by industry experts, and is ideal for turbo-charging your budding craft business, start-up or shop. Learn how it works, get in touch or apply to join today! Alternatively, join our mailing list to receive regular tips and advice.