On Wednesday I had the pleasure of attending the North London Chamber of Commerce Women’s Business lunch. They featured three women, all inspirational in their own way (watch out next week for an Inspiring entreprenur article on Laura Tenison, founder of JoJo Maman Bebe), but Karen Peter’s story is full of personal tragedy, challenge and inspiration, so we have decided to focus on her today.
The death of her husband from a rare form of cancer in 2007, caused Karen to re-think her life. She was an experienced Leisure Manager with an MBA in Community Regeneration through Sport and Health. Finding it difficult to cope with the demands of her full-time role, she resigned and prepared for a new start. After the grieving process, she began searching for the right opportunity, finally decided to partner up with Karen Coombes and together they created KCO Iceblading. Through this new company they have created a truly innovative product and one that could turn the ice-skating industry on it’s head.
In the UK there are only 60 Ice rinks around the country and the great thing about this product is that it makes ice skating accessible to everyone. However, Karen discovered that coming up with the idea was the easy part! Once they conceived of creating a dry ice blade they then needed to design and test it until they came up with the right product. However then the fun really started when they had to protect their idea, not just in the UK, but also globally (and there is no doubt in my mind that this product has global appeal!). Next came the Solicitors, trademarks and IP protection and the technical design specifications.
The next stage was for Karen and Karen, was to find an investor to finance their business and their dreams. They took the brave and terrifying decision to go on Dragons Den. Karen freely admits it was one of the worst experiences of her life. The interview process was gruelling enough, but facing the dragons was in a league of it’s own and they were slated by 4 out of the 5 dragons. However Theo saw the potential in the product and offered to put up £100,000 for 45% of the business.
After this was filmed, Karen and Karen got their patent, but decided that they would be giving up too much by going with the deal that was on the table, so ended up withdrawing from the investment with Theo. They are now looking for a new investor to finance their amazing product.
Karen gave us a lot of nuggets that she feels are important when you’re pitching a new venture:
… on partnership
Working with a partner has been invaluable because you are able to share the responsbility and share the joy during the rollercoaster of starting a business
It’s important to find someone who has complimentary skills and styles
Always consider the other person’s point of view as you may not be right
…. before you start
Check out what the competition is doing
Look at what the market is responding to
Speak to your market and respond to their problem
Get some form of proof that your product answers their problem
Know your Unique Selling Point (USP) – this really is your greatest asset
…. on business models
Your model will take time to develop
Be flexible, but identify your revenue streams
Describe your ownership – be clear on your patents and trademarks
… and finally
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
You shouldn’t ask for other people’s money unless you are willing to risk your own (note from Julie… I’m not sure I totally agree on this one as many people are able to finance their business venture with other people’s money, but you may require a track record to prove this)
If you don’t totally, 100% believe in your product or service the STOP. Launching a business is hard work and it requires your full dedication to realise a result
Don’t get to emotionally attached to your product. You need to be objective about it.
PROTECT YOUR IDEA
Don’t talk to anyone about your idea unless you have an NDA (non disclosure agremeent / confidentiality agreement).
Note from Julie… There are two schools of thought on this, so you need to find the one that works for you – ideas are cheap, it’s the implementation that’s difficult. You should certainly get this when you’re talking to people with money / or potential commercial partners, but I think that keeping everything too secret can make it very difficult for you to engage with your market.
TRUST YOUR INTUITION
If you are experiencing any doubt about what you’re doing, hold out … the way forward will eventually come
Don’t let anything turn your head. Stay true to your vision.