Concept Cupboard is an online marketplace with a social purpose. It's a place where businesses can work with the next generation of creative talent to produce professional and cost effective marketing [Click here to learn more about how it works] and today I had the opportunity of Interviewing one of the founders of the company, Chris Dodson, and this is what we talked about.
Can you give us some background information about yourself
My background is in marketing. After studying marketing at university in the UK & US I decided to go and work for an agency. Joining a big corporate just wasn't that appealing and it has been that way ever since. Prior to starting up Concept Cupboard I was working for an awesome advertising agency called archibald ingall stretton, just off Oxford Street. It was a brilliant place to work, with lots of fun talented people.
The last 12 months have been incredible and it's been a massive learning curve. I'm now Managing Director of Concept Cupboard, one of 30 Marketing Academy scholars in the UK & I also managed to make it into the final 8 of the Shell LiveWire's Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. I've even been to 10 Downing Street. All of which has been made possible by setting up Concept Cupboard.
How did the idea for Concept Cupboard come about
I had the idea for Concept Cupboard while on a train from London to Nottingham en route to a stag do. I had two hours where I switched off my phone and just scribbled down some business ideas and after the weekend was over I asked one of my client's at O2 what he thought (luckily I didn't lose my notes). It transpired that he loved the idea and wanted me to meet some of his friends to discuss it in more detail. During dinner we decided to join forces and go into business together. I left my job about 6 weeks later and started working on Concept Cupboard full-time.
Some of the key things you’ve learnt along the way
I'm learning all of the time. There is no guide for running a business and so you make it all up as you go along. Getting advice from other business owners is a massive help, and you often find people are experiencing similar difficulties. But every business is different and the way you approach problems will never be the same so ultimately it is your call. It's quite scary but also extremely liberating.
The biggest lesson I've learnt so far is to focus. I am very clear on the things that will drive the business forward and I ensure that they are prioritised above everything else. AS you can imagine it also helps the team know what they need to do.
A difficult period starting the business and how you overcame it.
We haven't had any real difficulties to date (touch wood). I think they become more common as you grow and stop being a startup, e.g. when you have 30+ staff. We aren't quite there yet, but hopefully soon.
The business now: your plans for the future?
We've had a good first year winning a number of business awards, including being named as one of the 20 best UK startups of 2011. That's given us a nice confidence boost and helped shape our plans of where we can go with Concept Cupboard. We are coming up to our first year anniversary so that is a great milestone in itself. It is crazy to think that about 12 months ago Concept Cupboard didn't exist in the public domain.
Later this year we'll be launching Concept Cupboard globally as well as adding new services & features to the UK site. Watch this space.
Advice to young entrepreneurs starting out.
There isn't a better time to start your own business, especially if you are leaving school or university. Startups are in vogue in the UK at the moment, and investors & the media are looking out for the next big thing. It's a perfect environment for young new companies to thrive in.
My advice to anyone starting out would be to as follows:
- Have a clear idea of what the business is and how you will generate revenue. I personally don't think you need a 20-page business plan but you do need a document that sets out your vision. If you can do that in a few pages then great, but put energy and effort into making it as good as it can be. You can always update it as you go.
- Develop a thick skin quickly. People will say no. Some might even say that your business won't succeed. By all means listen to constructive criticism and don't ignore feedback because that can be dangerous. They might have some good points, but you'll meet people who don't have the vision you do. Don't let it get you down.
- Pick up the phone & get out a meet people. It is really easy to just sit behind your computer and get a business started, but to create partnerships and generate word of mouth recommendations you need to get out and meet people. Go to relevant events, call up potential partners/customers, set up meetings etc.
- Enter business awards. There are so many business awards programmes out there so even if you have just started you can find competitions to enter. They are so good for PR and raising your awareness, especially if you enter competitions specifically for young people. Competitions like Shell LiveWire not only offer cash prizes, but really do give you some credibility.