THE HELPING HANDS ADVERT! WOO!

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I forgot to post this. What am I like? A big thanks to Johnny (http://yavraamides.wordpress.com/) for doing such an amazing job with this in such little time. It makes me smile and chuckle every time. It’s wonderful.

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LET’S HAVE A LOOK BACK ON WHAT’S GONE ON, SHALL WE? (The long reflective post!)

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I can’t believe my time as a ‘MACEr’ is coming to an end. It’s funny looking back on my first post about the three day MACE induction. It feels like it really wasn’t that long ago that I began this journey, with very little knowledge of what I was getting myself into and no idea about what direction I wanted my future to go in. It was around this time last year, that I was finishing up my undergraduate degree in Creative Writing and Journalism. It left me unsure of what I wanted to do with my life and I felt somewhat restricted when I thought about my career opportunities, which led me to apply to an MA in the Creative Economy… and here I am, all these months later and I am bursting with knowledge and passion to go out into the real world and find myself a job somewhere I feel I would be valued, within the Creative Industries. I still don’t know where exactly I see myself, but I no longer see this as a big, scary problem that I want to run from. I see it as having options for myself. I feel confident in my abilities as both an entrepreneur and a creative and if I applied the skills I have gained from my masters into any given field, persevere and apply myself, then I will ultimately be successful in my career.

When I think long and hard about this academic year as a whole, I can boil all of my many future goals down to a small handful. I would like to work for a small social enterprise, perhaps within London, that aims to provide education, art and culture to a local community. I’ve also had a dream for a good few years now, that one day I will have my own weird and wonderfully vibrant sunglass business, but now I feel as though I have the skills that would allow for me to actually put this into practice and make it a success. I’ve learnt how to sell my ideas. I’ve always had the ‘gift of the gab’, but now I can more efficiently utilise it to further my career.

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 In case anyone needs a clear definition.

Now, what I’m aiming to do in this reflective post, is to reflect… on and summarise my blog thus far, SO! Let’s begin at the beginning…

Kicking it back to the induction, I wanted to bring up Personality Poker again, because it really stayed with me. Vali Vallioti, a guest speaker introduced us to this really interesting and creative way to get to know new people, but also to get to know yourself, or be honest with yourself about the kind of person you actually are. So, for a quick recap, what we did was split the class up into groups of about five people and we were each given a specific deck of cards that have personality characteristics written on them and the idea was to each get dealt five cards, and then you trade them with others in your group, based on which ones best define your personality, so I chose mine and helped my group find and choose theirs, so we were all happy with the hand we each held.

The hand I ended up with was: critical, impulsive, open minded, creative and diplomatic.  I mentioned that we discussed introverts and extroverts and I found myself to be somewhat in the middle of this, but leaning slightly more to the extrovert side. This exercise, if you will, was the first eye opener for me, in the sense that I segmented my personality into bits and figured out what type of person I am, and that helped to figure out what kind of people I would work well with and that diversity is important in a group of people, working together. You want to work with people who essentially gain what you lack and vice versa.

What also stood out to me during the induction was Eewei Chen’s Lean Startup Experience. It was the perfect introduction to the course and to the type of work we would be doing throughout it. Naturally, I found it extremely beneficial, especially now that I can reflect on it and relate it to what I have personally gained from my time as a MACE student.

I found a blog post Eewei wrote in 2012, after doing the MACE induction at Kingston University. He narrowed to goals of the experience into a neat list and I thought it was worth sharing because I feel as though I achieved all of those goals and have applied them to this masters, and I will continue to apply them to my life and career. They are:

“Goals:

  • Work as a cross functional team
  • Spot opportunities and identify trends
  • Define, understand and incorporate user behaviours and needs
  • Prioritise ideas
  • Write assumptions
  • Assign business value to ideas (output, outcome, impact)
  • Outline a business model canvas
  • Create a Minimum Viable Prototype to validate assumptions
  • Build, Measure, Learn feedback loop
  • Sum up the value proposition
  • Pitch a business successfully
  • Have awesome fun doing all of the above!”

(click here for link to article)

What is a Lean Startup?

A method for designing a business/product. The term was coined/proposed by Eric Reiss, author and entrepreneur.

There are five key principles to a Lean Startup (and you can find them all, with explanations on the official website)

1. Entrepreneurs are Everywhere

2. Entrepreneurship is Management

3. Validated Learning

4. Innovation Accounting

5. Build – Measure – Lean

Anyone can create a startup, it’s not limited to a certain type of person with a certain set of skills, but for anyone, in the same way that everyone has the ability to be creative. It’s not a skill, it’s a way of thinking and acting. Management is essential in order to gain the most success within the business and startups sustain that. It’s about holding entrepreneurs responsible for the business, by creating goals and figuring out how to solve problems and what is valuable. A startup aims to create something of substance from an idea, and turns it into something of value. This involves risk taking and a lot of uncertainty, as Reiss explains in his book.

The Lean Startup method has been extremely beneficial for our team, Work in Progress and our product, Helping Hands. It taught us how to really look at our ideas and our business from all angles and to persevere through the mistakes and the uncertainties and keep working on our business. We were constantly evolving throughout the whole experience. Following the Lean Startup method, we were able to focus more closely on our customers needs and most importantly, it allowed us to put our little business into practice with little funding and little waiting around and we were therefore more able to make the most of the experience.

In relation to my future goals and where I would like to see myself, this method is extremely useful when building a business and if my dream of designing sunglasses becomes a reality, I will have the right tools in order to sustain a successful business that isn’t just around for a moment, but for a considerable amount of time, with loyal and satisfied customers, a creative product range that reflects the essence of the brand and puts a smile on some faces.

I feel that I need to write a fair bit about the Designing a Business module as it was one of the most significant and most challenging parts of my masters, but it ultimately taught me the most valuable lessons for sustaining a successful career as an entrepreneur in the ‘real world’. Helping Hands evolved from several discussions within our group that led to Megha finding our problem (indents and soreness on palms/forearms due to uncomfortable shopping bag handles) and then we created a solution that is now Helping Hands: ergonomic shopping bag grips that help to evenly distribute the weight of the uncomfortable bag handles, eliminating the discomfort and strain in a simple and stylish way.

Helping Hands are available on Etsy now and we have generated a number of sales, both online and through our second trade fair, which has been very gratifying. Our hard work has paid off and we have created a desirable product and that in itself makes me feel pretty overcome with satisfaction. It’s really been quite the journey. We used Design Thinking and applied it to our business and creativity and innovation were the fundamental elements to what we created.

A big part of my job in our business, was storytelling and branding. It only seemed fitting given my background in creative writing, and as I mentioned previously, I created the Helping Hands Blog, where we shared stories about brand characters I created that represent the tribes, or target market, we were aiming our product at. We wanted them to embody the personality and very essence of Helping Hands, and I feel that we did this successfully. The stories are humorous, with a whimsical undertone and it creates a relatable feel. I think storytelling is intrinsic to branding and creating an emotional tie with consumers.

In order to be able to reach out to our target market and know who they were was because very early on, during part of the induction, with Eewei, he had us figure out the demographics of the target market he chose for us. We worked in groups and had to create an experience for a chosen target audience in the Tate Modern. We had to fully get a real, solid understanding of who we were creating this for, what they’re like in terms of age, gender, wants and needs, where they work, how much money they make, what they’re lifestyle is like, what their hobbies are, where they shop, what their future goals are, and then from there we found a problem they have, a hole they need filled, and we were able to come up with a solution, which was the core of our mock-business we created for the Tate (Create Your Tate!). I go into much more detail in my very first blog post , so if you want the details, scroll scroll scroll…or click the left hand column. Whatever works best for you.

Anyway, I found this to be a very useful strategy for creating a sustainable business, especially in relation to our product, Helping Hands. Once we understood our target market, we were able to make the business piece together like a puzzle. It had a structure to it, a backbone and it went from being a university project, to the makings of a business… and then to an actual business!

It is these methods, that I feel I can take with me, from my university experience, and apply them to structuring my own future within the creative industries. I have gained a much better understanding of marketing and how consumers behave within specific markets.

I think that it is also important to note that a large part of the assessment strategy for the Designing a Business module, was based on Dragon’s Den, the well known tv show. At first, I thought it was rather bizarre that we were being graded in a similar style to the show because it seemed like more a game to me, but I quickly realised that it was actually extremely beneficial. It gave me a feel for competition and a goal to work towards with my team. Throw in some intense time pressure and being forced out your comfort zone and there you go! It was challenging, but in a good way. It prepared me for the real world and taught me how to handle myself in it and how to be confident in my ideas, and how to present that to an audience and sell my product or ideas and of course, how to stand out and I now fully believe I have what it takes to succeed in whatever career path I end up and I haven’t ever really had this kind of confidence in my abilities before.

MACE has completely changed my mindset and altered my views of myself and my abilities and where I see myself. It has given me the direction in my life I was looking for, which seems a bit cliche, but whatever. I didn’t know what to do with my life and the very concept of having an actual career, really terrified me, but now I feel as though I can thrive in any area of the creative industries I end up in. Being able to utilise my new skills and by being creative and innovative, I have the ability to broadcast my ideas and change the way people think.

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MiP™: The World’s First Balancing Robot

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I was on http://www.firebox.com a few days ago and I stumbled upon a super cool gadget that I would absolutely love to get my hands on. It’s the world’s first balancing robot! It was created/designed by WowWee and you can control its movement with hand gestures…as in, you put your hand near it, move it in whatever direction and the little robot will follow. It’s really quite adorable.

It’s not just a little toy either, you can do a lot with the little guy. It can carry up to its own bodyweight, so you can get it to carry things like cans of juice, probably your phone, a tiny hedgehog, whatever floats your boat. It has different game modes as well as a free app that comes with it, allowing you to control the robot through the use of your phone rather than hand gestures and you can battle it with other robots. It’s like having a tiny friend that’s like a robotic centaur, so his bottom half is like…a segway I guess…feel me though?!

It’s being sold on Firebox for £99.99, which is a little pricy, but this gadget is undeniably cool. If I wasn’t a poor student and I had £100 to spend on toys, I would buy myself one of these for what I imagine would be endless hours of fun and laughter. That would be the dream!!

THE KEY TO SUCCESS = GRIT

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ANGELA LEE DUCKWORTH

TED Talks

The Key to Success: Grit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H14bBuluwB8 >

I was paying one of my hourly visits to the procrastination station (the internet) and I decided to have a scroll through the latest TED talks videos – something I do quite often to instil in me some motivation and a smidgen more self belief – and I stumbled upon a video titled, “The Key to Success.” It’s roughly six minutes long, so I definitely had more than enough time for it, and it’s Angela Lee Duckworth speaking about what the key to success is… funnily enough.

In the video, she talks about leaving her career as a management consultant when she was 27, to become a 7th grade teacher of Maths. Upon her mentioning this fact, I was admittedly a bit like….”WHAT. Kids are scary lady! Retreat! Leave while there is still time!” However, she proceeded to talk about how she noticed that some of the brightest children in her class, were in fact, not producing great results, which prompted her to study psychology, so she could get to the bottom of this.

“What we need in education is a much better understanding of students and learning from a motivational perspective”

Duckworth did a lot of research on the topic, studying adults as well as children. One of her studies was on a military school and she was attempting to predict which students would stay on in the school, and which students would not.

“We studied rookie teachers, working in really tough neighbourhoods, asking which teachers are still gonna be here, in teaching by the end of the school year? And of those, who will be the most effective at improving learning outcomes for their students?”

What she found through her research, was that GRIT seemed to be the key to success. It’s about perseverance and sticking to your goals, consistently.  It’s ultimately not about talent. It’s about mindset.

Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not sprint”

Duckworth brings up the “growth mindset” theory, coined by Carol Dweck, professor at Stanford University (LINK). In an article I found on OneDublin.org, an education blog, Dweck defines growth mindset:

“In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”

Back to the video…

Failure is intrinsic to success, Duckworth notes, and without it, we can’t learn and grow from our mistakes. This notion is one I stand by. I’ve learnt a great deal from the mistakes I’ve made throughout this masters degree, not that I’ve messed up horribly or anything like that – well, I really hope not anyway – but I’ve had some minor hiccups and I’ve had to do things the hard way… because I’m silly sometimes and leave everything to the last minute and end up rushing and panicking about getting my work done in time (not something I would recommend if you want to live a long and fruitful life, free of stress). It’s safe to say, it taught me some lessons, but it’s given me confidence in my ability to produce really good work, because if I can do it the night before, in a frenzied panic, then I can knock it out of the park if I give myself more time and… show some grit! Whey!

TRADE FAIR ROUND 2

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On the 6th of March, the MACE kids took to the streets, to sell sell sell some products to the fine townspeople of Kingston. Yes, we had our second trade fair. Now, compared to the first one we held in the business school, this was by far a bigger success for Helping Hands. I think that because we weren’t confined by the foyer of a University building, and we were in the centre of town, we could interact with more people and it was a better setting for us to more easily find our target market. The constant flow of the foot traffic and general hustle and bustle of Kingston meant that we were able to make some physical sales! At our first trade fair attempt, we didn’t make any sales because we were still making the finishing touches on our products, but we have a lovely selection of prototypes and our stand looked pretty rad, if I do say so myself.

We set up our stand in the town centre, along with all the other businesses. It was a pretty blustery day, so there was a lot of chasing bits of paper and posters down the street, but we managed to rein in the chaos and keep things under control. We had a little speaker that we hooked up to my phone and I played lots and lots and lots of reggae, which resulted in me dancing about for hours. I can’t not move to reggae. I had to keep swaying and just generally floating about, but I got down to business as well.

I was really impressed with all the stands and how much time and effort everyone had put into the design and layout of them. We brought the free sweets back, we had champagne truffles this time! They seem a lot fancier than they actually were, but they were super tasty and I found it to be a real struggle not the eat them all. We also had the ladder set up again, but we made some slight changes to improve the overall aesthetic appeal as you can see in the photos.

Johnny stood a few feet away from the stand, on the pavement and demonstrated the product to passersby and approached people that way, literally showing them directly, what the product does and allowing them to try it for themselves. After all, the proof is in the pudding. I also think that my dancing reeled in the customers. We all had our elevator pitch down to a tee, so we were able to inform people on what our product is, why it’s not just useful, but unique , and who we are very clearly and concisely. I felt it was an overall success and we made a vast improvement from the first trade fair. Helping Hands has truly evolved and we feel like a little business now, more than ever… and it’s pretty awesome.

Favela painting in Rio

A couple of weeks ago I was in a class for a module I am taking called Re-imagining Leadership. It’s one of my favourite classes because it’s just hours of class discussion and creative exercises involving group collaboration, about leadership and I reckon I quite like to participate…I reckon I have quite a lot to say about everything. It definitely gets “the creative juices flowing”, as the saying goes. Dr Miguel Imas is one of my lecturers and he is a pretty cool dude. He introduced the class to this incredible story about two Dutch artists, who took to one of Rio’s most notorious favelas (or shantytown) and began painting parts of it. This was the final outcome:

What this project did was, in my opinion, changed the way we look at and define leadership. Their website’s ‘About’ section says this:

Haas&Hahn

“The Favela Painting project started in 2005 when dutch artists Haas&Hahn (Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn) had the idea of creating public artworks in favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Not just to beautify, but also to create a dialogue with their surroundings. After several successful projects, the image of a square painted in a design of radiating colors yielded worldwide fame and transformed Rio into ‘one of the world’s 10 most colorful places’, according to CNN. Haas&Hahn were invited to show their work at the New York based gallery Storefront for Art & Architecture, followed by an invitation from the Philadelphia Mural Arts program to paint several complete blocks in a dilapidated area in North Philly. The artists get invited worldwide to teach, to speak about their work, consult cities on community art projects and look at possible locations for future projects. They have recently restored their first painting in Rio and are currently planning a grand return to paint an entire favela. Over the years the Favela Painting Project has grown into a professional organization, based in the Netherlands. It’s focus is: mobilizing people to transform their own communities into social art works of monumental size, to beautify and inspire, combat prejudice and attract positive attention, while offering opportunity and economic stimulus.”

This project has definitely enlightened me. These two men had an idea and they turned it into a huge campaign that has redefined how people look at favelas, and poorer areas and turned them into a work of art, full of life, energy and colour. This project has received such wide speculation, that they have gone on to do similar projects. They have shown the world that it’s possible to make a change and do it in a creative way. What they have managed to do is truly unique and involved the community, bringing them closer together through working together. I think this is a wonderful example of what re-imagining leadership is. It is now a dream of mine to be able to go and see the painted favela in Rio.

If this has sparked any interest whatsoever, and I like to think it has, then you should watch this short (almost 40 minutes long) documentary Hub Footwear created called, ‘Challenging the obvious episode one: A day in the life of Haas & Hahn’.

Here is the YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ce5FMuH02LE

What is leadership?

It’s something we are all capable of showing.

The Bright Ideas GRAND FINALE Y’ALL!

On the 5th of this month, the grand final of the Bright Ideas competition was held at the Kingston Hill Business school. As part of the WestFocus group, it had quite the mixture of students, from undergrad to postgrad, from a variety of universities in the country.

The first part of the event consisted of a ‘pitching’ workshop with the vibrant Dwain Reed who’s twitter bio says, “Self proclaimed Twitter Celeb for Business & Enterprise. I help start up businesses grow. Run two businesses.” He set the ball rolling with energy and spirit. To get us all talking and to ensure not a moment of silence was had, he had us form two lines, so that we were each stood opposite someone… a stranger! Crazy stuff. Then, he asked a question that went something like, “If you could have any superpower, what would you choose and why?” We discussed this with the person opposite for a minute and then the lines would move and we would be faced with a new partner and a new question. It was quite a neat way of eradicating any potential for awkward silences. We expressed our thoughts on the weird and wonderful subject matter provided by Dwain and the ice was broken. Nice… Yeah, I threw in a dad joke, I did. Dwain later had us work on our pitching skills for our businesses and business concepts. At the very beginning of my MACE experience, in the induction, Eewei Chen took us through the art of pitching, if you will. He properly introduced me to the elevator pitch.

The structure should go a little something like this….

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Fill in the blanks with what your product is and…BOOM, you’re on the right track to cohesive, structured and short pitch.

I will give an example of it all filled in using Helping Hands as the product, so it makes a bit more sense:

For people struggling with the weight of carrying shopping bags who need relief and comfort for their journey. Helping Hands is a compact, stylish grip that evenly distributes the weight of bags, protecting hands from strain caused by handles, unlike our competitors plastic and unstylish designs. The product is ergonomically designed to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand and forearm. It’s unique as it is handmade from mahogany, meaning no two are quite alike.

The key is to try and sell who you are, what your product is and does, why it’s unique and better than the competition, in no more than about a minute. I actually really enjoyed this task because 1) The Helping Hands team (Work in Progress is our company name by the way… I realise I should have mentioned that waaaay back, but you know, oh well, this is a blog and here I am…making up for my mistakes. Forgive me?) already came up with our elevator pitch, many moons ago. 2) We then refined it when applying to the Bright Ideas competition… aaaand 3) I did Journalism as part of my undergrad, so trying to sell a story in no more than 25 words, is something I can do, making selling a product in under a minute, also something I can do! Once the pitches were somewhat ready to be presented, the masses began mingling once again and pitching to one another. The point was to receive feedback and constructive criticism from (and for) your peers. Nothing like a bit of networking… I personally prefer when there is wine involved, but the free highland spring was DELIGHTFUL.

At 1700 hours (5pm for those who don’t do 24 hour clocks… shame on you though), the competition began and it had a glorious array of speakers, previous winners and special guests. It was all quite exciting waiting for this year’s winners to be announced. Sadly, we did not win the competition, but, you know, we’re all winners and all that stuff that people say to you when you don’t win something. I jest, the competition was pretty fierce and all of the winners were more than deserving. Some of the ideas blew my mind a bit! However, what made it such an event, or highlight for me was hearing Shed Simove speak about entrepreneurship in relation to his career and his success. He was wearing this suave silk-looking black suit, that I’m pretty sure I heard him say was made in China or Dubai… or possibly both, the latter being quite likely. He looked like a white (and quirkier) Kat Williams

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With less pimp swag and a strong hint of 007, just maybe swap the hi-tech gadgets for something more whimsical… and you get SHED!:

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I knew before he began speaking that I was down to listen to anything he had to say. His journey to success is definitely a story worth hearing and his ideas are genius. After working for Hawkin’s Bazaar for over a year, I was familiar with (and very fond of) many of his novelty toys and gifts.

Here are some of his products: 

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They are all available on his website: http://shedsimove.com/ 

I think what struck me as most interesting and poignant, what made me really think of him as a genius though, was when he explained a creative way for finding ideas or inspiration. He takes an encyclopaedia and the yellow pages and opens them both on random pages, looks at whatever his finger lands on and then he tries to combine them to create something fresh and innovative. Obviously this won’t always work, but it’s an exciting way to try and create or invent something. Using this technique, Shed came up with this:

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As soon as he explained this, I immediately thought, “HANNAH! Why haven’t you tried something like this?!” and that’s when I realised that Shed is a genius, because he thinks of and creates his products in fun and simple ways, but the point is that he is daring enough to do it in the first place. He is very inspirational and very real, in the sense that he has had massive success, but he talks to an audience as one of them, not as a speaker or a guest. He knows how to make you laugh, think and believe in yourself, instilling this motivational spirit in you.

I actually got a chance to speak to Shed at the networking/FREE WINE PARTY. I was itching to talk with him… along with everyone else there, so I patiently waited with my white wine to keep me company. When I finally got my chance, I confidently said to him something along the lines of, “You owe me some thanks for your success”, which he followed with a look of momentary bewilderment that shortly turned into a confused smile and then I explained that if it weren’t for my excellent sales techniques at Hawkin’s Bazaar, he might not have sold as many products. My weak attempt at a joke was actually well received and he laughed… he could also be really good at fake laughter, but a laugh is a laugh my friends, and that is good enough for me! He asked about my course and a bit about me and he gave me some solid advice and possibly the most interesting and ridiculous business card I have ever been given.

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To summarise, the Bright Ideas event as a whole, was awesome and the free wine was (unexpectedly) pretty fantastic. I feel like I gained a whole lotta knowledge and most of all, I feel motivated and hungrier for success than ever before!