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Starting a Business with Samantha Harland

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Mo and Allegra talk to Samantha Harland, Programme Manager of the BRITE innovation scale up programme at Plus X, about how to start a business. What makes a good entrepreneur? How can you future-proof your business? And how can we get a wider variety of founders to get their great ideas noticed? 

Plus the latest What Fresh Hell Is This? report. 

Hello and welcome to the reimagination at works podcast. This is the podcast where we help you to reimagine the world of work, to include everyone and hopefully challenge some of the assumptions that you have about the world of work. I'm Okan Janale, one of the CO creators of which this space, and we are at plus x innovation hub today. It's lovely here and I'm delighted to have with me Allegra Chapman, one of the other co creators of which this space. Hello, Allegra, hello, how you doing? Me? Good, how are you today? Yeah, really good. Thank you. Good, good, and we are delighted to have with us today Samantha Harland from plus X. Hi, hello, good to see you. How are you today? Yeah, really good. I really excited to be testing out the new podcast suites. Yeah, guys, it's exciting. Yeah, I feel like we're in some sort of space age thing, the three of us here testing this out. It's really cool, good stuff. So, Sam today's theme is about people who start businesses and how to start businesses and how we can have more and more people starting businesses. That's really what we're want to talk to you about today. So, first of all, it be great if you can just tell us a bit about yourself and your role here. Yeah, of course. So my role is the program manager for plus x Brighton. One of the are programs that we run here. It's an innovation program called bright was, standing for Brighton, research, Innovation, technology exchange. Quite a mouthful, so we call it bright for short. It's run in partnership with the University of Brighton and funded through the European Regional Development Fund. So predominantly brights is set up to help businesses in the local coast capital region to scale up through innovation. Great, and you started all of this. I think you started your roll, didn't you, during lookdown, yeah, and the yeah, the center open then, so I think. Well, it's been really interesting for us to hear what you think about business activity and what you think's driving activity. Yeah, so, yeah, as you said, our team all really started I think it was February last year, so just when everything was starting to kick off, the building had not yet opened. So yeah, we were really in the thick of it when we actually did open around May Ju time. But saying that, we've had a really successful year a plus x. So we're an innovasion hub, seven stories of officers and co working space, lovely roof terrorists as well, might I had. And Yeah, we've had lots of businesses come to us because lockdown has been really tricky for a lot of people. As we know, everybody's in different situations, you know, kind of family, and I, for one have had those struggles myself. So we've seen a lot of people come to us, not only for space but also for supports, business support in terms of scaling during kind of really, you know, challenging times and how do you innovate in these times? And what we've seen is quite a few businesses really take an opportunity out of these challenges and pivot what they're doing. And actually some businesses have seen more success coming out of lockdown than others. And I guess it's depending, one on how well a business as pivots, but also it comes down to a little bit of look sometimes of what the business is working on. And actually, you know, with everything that happens with kind of different crises, you know, in different years, sometimes it falls in your favor and sometimes it doesn't. So unfortunately for the events industry it's been really challenging, but saying that on the bride program I think it's about kind of like thirty percent of our businesses are associated in the events industry and have done really, really well. So yeah, there's been a lot of kind of mixed stories but overall we've seen some yet really good successes. So interesting to hear that because it's it's difficult because when you read news stories it's kind of doom and gloom. Actually reality they're all these businesses that have...

...started up. So it's quite interesting to see the contrast. Yeah, I mean, I don't have the stats with me right now, but there are some really interesting stats around how many people have started businesses during lockdown. I think it's help people really understand what's important to them, what they prioritize. You know, the kind of hold, the commuting up to London and doing kind of a nine to five job hasn't work for some people, so they've taken their hands to starting a business and innovating, which is really great. And also for some businesses you know that maybe they weren't happy with the way they were running their business or they'd become disillusioned with their kind of vision or where they were going. It's really helped those businesses as well to reconsider what's important to them. And here it plus X, where big advocates for sustainability and creating a better planet. We have a new program called the better world collective that we're running and it's helps a lot of businesses come to us and talk more about kind of how they can be moms sustainable and how they can think about growing a team in a sustainable way. And when you talk about these founders, of course a Legra and I do a lot of research as well on founders of businesses and the demographics of those people. So a legro interested to hear what you think about that. Yeah, well, so it's like, should I get my stats out, because I've g get what I love us that and well say they we've talked about this quite a bit and regular listeners to the podcaster probably heard me say this because it's my favorites. That's quick, but there are currently more ceas in the UK called Peter Than there are women and more Fitz. One hundred companies in the UK are led by men named Dave than by people of Color, which is pretty shocking and I think you know one of the things that we're really interested in is is kind of getting more different people starting businesses, but at the moment it is predominantly white men who start businesses and it's white men he get the funding. It's, you know, the I think the the average is, you know, white man in his forties is the most likely person to get to get funding to start a business, which is in a difficult place to be in. And it is that a trend that you you see, or is there more of a mix in the kind of companies that you're working with? Yeah, unfortunately, that that is that does tend to be the case. Is that I see that. I've worked with a number of entrepreneurs over the years on different programs in different spaces, and it does tend to be that you get more applications from white males than any other group and also when it comes to investment, even if you have a diverse cohort on, US say, an accelerator program it tends to be more the white males that are going for investments. And you know, part of my role is all about trying to encourage other groups, especially women's, have the confidence that they too can go for investments and putting them in touch with mentors and role models that have been there and done it to show them that it is possible and a lot of the time, from my perspective, is about confidence and self belief. I really do feel that women sometimes really struggle with getting kind of pass some of these barriers, you know, kind of how they see themselves and some of the May be misconception around investment as well and what that means. And we've got some really great examples of female founders here at plus x who are running businesses really successfully and doing it in a way that suits them. You know, they're able to have a family, they're able to run their business, they're kind of have have it all, as they say. They're not compromising either. So I think it's for us here at plus X, it's really about showcasing examples of these types of businesses that are doing things a little bit differently so that others can see that it doesn't have to be so kind of black and white. Last year we ran a series of Bens called trail but blazing women, which was all around kind of showcasing diversity in different, you...

...know, kind of ethnicity groups and different ages and different genders to really showcase, yeah, that exactly that. You know, you can innovate and you can start a business in lots of different ways, and are there really great examples of like unusual businesses that are started out doing really different things? Yeah, so, I mean there are some that really stick in my mind that I've been working with recently. You know, I kind of work with a lot of different businesses, lots here, lots of different ideas all the time. So it's always a question I get, of which one's your favorite, which one's the most innovative, but sometimes it comes down to the stories behind the businesses really that capture my attention. So we have a company on bright at the moment, votch, who are making an alternative to leather, what straps, out of pineapple skin and apple skin, and they're actually working with apple on the apple skin ones, which I thought was really good. And some of the businesses that we're working with that've done really being really successful. Over lockdown is kind of an AAR company. So thinking about how do you sell more products during lockdown if you're, say, a retail brands or a makeup brands or a jewelry brands, and they've been working with retailers to help peep consumers basically try on their different products, and they've had loads of success. They're called percept imagery. So, yeah, it's been really exciting to see how businesses have, you know, kind of turned the things, as I said, to their advantage during lockdown. But yeah, sounds fascinating like your role, getting to see all these different business ideas. It must be brilliant to see all this creativity. Yeah, I'm still trying to find yeah, I kind of one for myself, you know, when you work in innovation and startups, yours thinking Oh maybe one day, you know, I'll come up with a product. But yeah, I just actually prefer just helping other people with their ideas. I think. Yeah, I could never, you know, make a decision on a business idea. There's just too many. Do you think there is a kind of a particular person who has been we were talking about the the kind of template of what a founder is, and then people tend to think of this kind of you know go named Dave in disablities. Do you think there is a particular type of person that is is good at starting businesses, is good at running businesses or not? And Yeah, a really good question. I think the success of a business really does come down to the person, not the business idea. So you could have the the best idea ever, no one else has done. It's really innovative, but if you as a person, you know don't have kind of what it takes to persevere in the world of entrepreneurship, and that comes down to a lot of different things. So it comes down to creativity, resilience, having a growth mindset. So you know not everyone's going to love your business idea. You're going to probably get a lot of people, especially in the beginning, being very skeptical. Maybe you might get family and friends behind you, but others might not believe in it and you really have to have like a lot of self belief and to persevere and see it through. And then when you start getting traction there are other people are like, Oh, actually, that's a really good idea. So you have to have a lot of belief and that can be really challenging in the beginning. And one advice, piece of advice that I give to people starting out is to join either kind of groups or spaces like plus x, or it might be kind of an online group, or anything really where you're sharing your experiences with us, with others, and like learning from others at the same time, because I think unless you have that really strong support group, it's it's of quite a lonely place to be and it can show you again, like I said, like the diversity and the range of people, so you don't just think it's Dave, you know, because that's what sometimes the media portrays. But when you actually start going to some of these groups, there's groups just for women as well. Great Group called Thrive, which I'm sure we've all have been to. Thrives meet UPS which are really good to yeah, to kind of support each other. Great. Well, we've got lots of want to talk...

...to you about. Before we do, though, we are going to go to a Legra for the what fresh hell is this report? Thank you, Moh Welcome to this months what fresh hell is this? This week the government released its plans to combat the very serious problem of voter fraud in this country. At the last general election, there were a staggering twenty eight allegations of voter fraud and one conviction. Clearly this is unacceptable. So the government is introducing plans to require everyone to have photo ID in order to vote. Now a driving license cost forty three pounds and a passport is a minimum of seventy five pound. Fifty nine point five million people in the UK current you don't have a passport and nine million don't have a driving license. That's twenty four percent of voters. Of course, it's just a coincidence that just under sixty percent of people who we don't have a driving license vote labor. The EU settlement scheme is due to end on the thirtieth of June and the Home Office has a backlog of more than thirty three hundred and twenty thousand applications to get through before that date. Otherwise those people will be left without documented legal rights to remain. But Luckily we're getting rid of all those difficult immigrants. Nearly seven hundred junior doctors who have been on the front line during the pandemic have been dropped from the NHS training scheme. A record level of applicants combined with a lack of opportunities to train abroad because covid means six hundred and ninety seven doctors are now scrambling to find non training jobs. Meanwhile, NHS staff are pleading with the government to invest money to end a chronic lack of staff across the organization. The strain of working and understaffed hospitals, combined with only a one percent pay rise for staff, risks an exodus of people from front line rolls. But thank goodness we're getting rid of all these difficult immigrants. A tributes have been paid this week two former son journalist John Kay, who died at the weekend age seventy seven. The Sun described him as a swashbuckling reporter and the Press Gazette referred to him as an award winning reporter with a troubled past. The Sun failed to mention that in nineteen seventy seven he killed his wife, twenty seven year old hurry Kay, and the press gazette said. Some said his subsequent career was all the more remarkable given the breakdown he suffered in nineteen seventy seven and his conviction for Harry's death. I think we can all agree that killing one's wife and then going on to break such stories as black twins being born to a white couple and an advanced copy of the Queen's speech is truly something to aspire to. And finally, a Chinese rocket has been hurtling towards the earth as it broke up in at the atmosphere and nobody knew where it was going to land. In a slight change from the normal pattern for twenty twenty and two twenty one, the remains of the rockets haven't actually crashed into millions of people and have landed safely into in the Indian Ocean. So that's something to be happy about. Back to you, Moh Thank you, Allegra, brilliant report. And so now if we talk a bit more about businesses, with the lovely Sam from plus X, and we touched on this in the earlier segment, we were talking about the fact that founders of businesses are generally from the same demographic and you know, a lot of this comes down to support. So we talked about support networks, but really interested to know kind of practically what support is available if you want to start a business. So you have a great idea. What next? Yeah, and so my top at vice in this area would be to really have do some good research, basically online, to find out the right support programs for you. There are so many free support programs out there. You know, there's all this kind of funding and the programs that are run around the UK and some of them can be quite niche. So if, say you're if you're a product based business, maybe it's about finding a product accelerator if that's...

...the right thing to you. But then, saying that and talking about diversity, there is a lot to be gained from joining a program that's more broad and then gives you a perspective from different founders that run service based businesses that can have great ideas for products and vice versa. So yeah, for me it's about definitely doing your research to find out which one is right for you, because there's going to be ones that are at a distance so you could fit it around kind of, you know, if you're still got a day job but you're got a site hustle with a business. They'll be ones that are a bit more flexible. Maybe they're running in the evening or the weekends or, if you have more time, the ones like plus x that are location based where you get your support fully funded included in the price of the membership. So yeah, I think it really does come down to the personal preference, but there's so many out there that yeah, businesses can do quite a lot of research and find them. Unfortunately, I don't believe there is one place at the moments where you can kind of find everything out, but innovate UK's always a really good website that I send businesses to to look for kind of grant funding and support programs. Yeah, yeah, it's that. I think that's always the baffling thing, like where do you go when you look for this information? Yeah, it can be quite overwhelming. Yeah, I think. Yeah, and and a Legra for all these people who are starting these businesses who, as we know, are from the same demographic so the piece of research that I read was that if you're a fan of of business that secures funding, you're likely to be a white man in their forties living in the southeast. So to those people, what can what do you think they should do to help more diversity in organizations and why do they need different people in their companies? Well, so this I we if you follow some social media, you're probably se US talking quite a lot about the importance of having diversity in your organization, having different voices, having different people, because if you only have one type of person in your organization, you're only ever going to have one type of thinking, one type of idea. So if you want different ideas and different perspectives and the kind of innovation that's going to boot move your business on and help you to grow and develop and be ready for the next thing, then you need to be need to be listening to different people and we need different business owners in the mix generally as well, because we need different types of business. I mean you different approaches to different problems and you need, I think the pandemics really shown that that when crises come up, you need different approaches in different ways of thinking, and just one of any kind is never going to be helpful. So we need all these different people and we need these different mixes and we need to be, you know, looking to bring all these in and I think it's there such tea points in what you raises. Is One is kind of if you are in a position of power, is helping people coming through, and the other one is, you know, how do you, if you've got this great idea and you want to start a business, how do you kind of cut through and get get yourself heard? And I think you know, we talk a lot about making space for other people who aren't like you and challenging your assumptions about people and trying to use your platform to help other people through. But then, and I mean this might be a great question for Sam is, is, you know, how do you go about cutting through that noise if you are already kind of on the back foot and your somebody who is from an underrepresented group but you've got this great business idea and you want to come through, but you know that you're less likely to attract the funding and attract the attention. You know, what can you do to start getting your voice heard and getting yourself in front of people? Think that's the really tricky bit for a lot of a lot of new founders. HMM, yeah, I think it's yeah, it's really good point to make and I would say that, you know, kind of growing your network and finding a really good mentor would help. So I think I'm a mentor for the girls network and they have a really great saying, which is, you know, you can't be what you can't see, and I think that's where mentoring really comes...

...into its own. And it's the same, you know, with any kind of I suppose, area of life, is that everyone could always do with a great mentor to get to where they want to be and it's the same with business. So I think it's about finding, you know, someone that you identify with and thinking, you know, they've done it, and approaching them and how did they do it? What did they use? What lessons did they learn, what mistakes did they make, because that you can gain a lot from people's failures as well as their successes. But yeah, I think it's you know, it's a challenging question. I don't think we've got all of the answers yet. Who you know kind of help solve this? But I do think that you learning from those that have managed to do it's kind of a really good place to start. Yeah, and I think it is really important that not to because we talk about this a lot as well. Is Not putting the onus on the people who were in the underrepresence of groups to be to be making the difference, because actually there's a lot of people with a lot of power at the top of the tree and it's you know, it does take something from them to shift, you know, who's getting those opportunities and he's getting in front of that, and I think that comes down a lot to the unconscious bias of just wanting to help people who remind you of you and you know being more kind of predisposed disposed to people who are like you, and you know all sorts of things around that and maybe some of you know assumptions that that people are making. So we do need people to make space for other people and not to see it as tokenism, because I think that's a danger that people start to think, oh well, let you know if we're giving support to businesses by underrepresented founders, it's just a kind of tick box exercise. And but actually to see the benefits to the wider business community and having all of these different perspectives and different people in the room at the table, different ideas that you can learn from or that will change the way that that business landscape is working and how you know having all these different ideas in the put in these different approaches, and how much that benefits everybody. M Yeah, I think that's the thing. It benefits everyone actually as well. And also, Sam, I didn't know you're a mental for the girls no works. Well, yeah, right, and I think I think it's the sort of the message of the girls network applies professionally as well, so for people as they're starting businesses or starting work you know, helping people along the way, because it's amazing what advice you can give somebody, yeah, who's just looking for ideas and advice. Yeah, definitely so. And one of the other things we talked about is future proofing businesses and one of the great benefits of having diverse people and having lots of different perspectives what that can have for your business. So what are your thoughts on that? So, yeah, future proofing. Well, most recently working at plus x on the bright program we work with less with early stage business as more with those that are prescale and scaling up. So recruitment for these businesses is kind of the key challenge at the moment. They're either making, you know, on the one side, they're making maybe their first hire if they're a little bit earlier stage, and on the kind of the other side they're really scaling up, so they've already got teams are kind of thirty and thinking about out, you know kind of recruiting. You know, they might have risked secured investment. So recruitments always a big topic and I think in terms of future proofing, especially around innovation, it does come back to, you know, diversity and what we were saying about how having that kind of real diverse team of thinkers or bringing in different, you know, aspects of their experience put both personally and professionally. Something that we've interestingly introduced at plus X is a scheme called bold, which is about tapping into those that live with a disability and getting them involved in some of the scaling startups here, which I think is a great initiative because there's so many people out there that identifies having a disability really lack confidence to, you know, get a normal...

...in inverted commerce job, and we really think there's a huge talent pool with with people that, you know, maybe are hiding in the kind of the shadows a little bit, and bringing them into these companies that are looking, looking for work. But I think it's all about education. So we do a lot on the program about educating around diversity, like when you're recruiting, you know, and getting people like yourselves in to do workshops, which you did a great workshop for us the other week, about thinking about, you know, when you're putting job adverts out, are you speaking to more of a male audience without even knowing that a female audience and you're therefore putting people off and it's thing thinking about, you know, when you're interviewing how are you, you know, with the questions you're asking? Are you? Have you got any unconscious biases that are coming into play, and trying not to recruit those that are already, you know, like you like mini versions of yourself, and really helping businesses reflect on, you know, their teams. Have they just hired people just like them? And in terms of an innovation program, you know, we're really all about trying to help businesses be more innovative and future prove themselves, but I really do think that that comes back to having a really wide range of people in their teams and not discounting either people that, you know, may have families or, you know, have other things going on. I think there's you know, the future of work is a big topic at the moment and one of the things come out of the pandemic. For me, I think it's been really positive, is all this kind of flexibility which is allowing so many more people to do work that they never could before. So yeah, I think it's you know, in that respect it's really exciting exciting times. Yeah, it's interesting you say about the the recruiting, because I think we hear a lot people saying, all right, you know, I want to I want to recruit someone who's going to fit in with the existing team, and what they mean is somebody who's like the existing team and who is just going to get on with them. But actually, you know, I don't know if you agree, but we are constantly saying what you need for innovation is somebody who isn't just going to agree with the rest of your team. Means someone who's going to into you and get I think differently. Definitely, yeah, and I can speak personally. Like plus X, we are as scaling business ourselves, going through our own journey to scaling up across the UK. So we want to open twenty five hubs in the next five years. Very ambitious and speaking of our own recruitment strategies, it is all about getting that wide range of diversity in our own teams. So hiring people that want to challenge the status quo. You know, we all have like an underlying value system that's very similar, but in terms of the way that we think and are, you know, especially, but personality types. I'm a big advocate of hiring someone that's very different to you, because why would you want someone that's just going to agree with you all the time, that's not going to push you outside of your comfort zone and yeah, help. So, yeah, yeah, it's a thing of, you know, a whole team that are all the same, saying that all the products have to be blue, for example, and someone difference like with that colors really offensive to me and it's that they haven't thought about the whole potential market. Yeah, definitely. So, yeah, really important to have lots of different people and different ideas. And Sam, thank you so much. That was brilliant, really interesting to hear from you. And how can people find out about bright? Yeah, tell US contact detail. So we've just launched our brand new website, bright innovation dot code dot UK, where you can find out about our four different programs that we run as x through bright. We also have of a it's like a taster information event happening this Thursday the thirteen, and we're going to run these on a regular basis. So if you want to come in and try out the space for the day, you can have a free trial as well as attending this event where we tell you about the innovation and the business growth support that we offer here as included in the membership. So yeah, just contact to US via the websites the easiest way and we put our all of our events on there. And just so everyone knows, what's the website address? It's ww dark...

...bright innovation dot code at UK. Brilliant, Great. Thank you so much and yes, I think that's that's all for today. It's been brilliant, really interesting to talk to. I'm sure we'll talk again soon. We love being here at plus X. it's a really great space. So this podcast you dea, is my favorite place in the world. I'm never leaving. They're going ahead of it, drag me out. It's brilliant, isn't it? Yet? So if you haven't tried it out yet, do book in a trial day of plus X. it's really worth doing. And so thanks for listening. This has been the reimagination at work podcast from watch this space and if you want to find us, we are watch this space dot UK and on social media we're at watch this spce and we're also on Youtube to and you'll be able to find if you go to our website you can find all the links. So thanks for listening and we'll catch you next time, bye,.

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