Turning An Idea Into A Thriving Business | A Q&A with Solvej Biddle
Solvej Biddle is an impressive and motivational public speaker, inventor and 'mumpreneur'. Relinquishing her career as a leading advertising lawyer, Solvej identified a gap in the market and took her unique children's travel products to the Dragons' Den and beyond!
We sat down with Solvej to learn about her journey and some valuable tips she could share with aspiring entrepreneurs like you!
Can you tell us a bit about your journey from life as a leading advertising lawyer to creating children's travel products for Dragons' Den and beyond?
The journey has been exhilarating, exciting and exhausting all at the same time!
Life could not have changed more! I went from being in an established career with all of the support that comes with such a role, to being on my own in my attic bedroom trying to navigate the complex world of product manufacturing, international safety standards and all that comes with trying to get a product to market!
There have been many twists and turns along the way and certainly lessons learnt about what not to do as well as factors which have been key to the success of the brand. There is nothing like taking yourself out of your comfort zone and giving up a good salary to make you work hard and fight for every opportunity.
One of the best things that has come out of building a brand and changing my life so dramatically has been the opportunity to help others on their entrepreneurial journeys, helping them to avoid pitfalls and also to be able to mentor and encourage them in the inevitable tough times.
Do you have any tips for aspiring entrepreneurs after your experience on Dragons Den?
Reflecting on my journey, I have found that 3 key factors have been essential in taking my idea from in my head to in the shops:
The first of these is The Idea
Having an idea which you think is great, does not mean that it is. I engaged all manner of relevant market sector individuals to evaluate the idea. For my initial idea, this included midwives, parents, nursery schools, nannies and travel companies. Take on board their feedback and fine-tune your idea.
The second of these is Knowledge
I realised very quickly that I was severely lacking the knowledge needed to be successful in the world of product manufacturing, marketing and retail. I had truly launched myself into the unknown. I sought very quickly to surround myself with those who knew more than me - at this stage that was most people! I was fortunate enough to meet some amazing people who were very generous with their time and knowledge.
And the third factor is Passion
Once you have an idea, which you have evaluated and which meets the needs of the target market and you have gained the knowledge to understand the sector, for example, the expected margins and marketing contributions of retailers, you then need the passion to engage the market.
This passion needs to be infectious, so not only those people who you are directly in contact with are engaged with your products, but also so that there is lasting enthusiasm and genuine excitement and engagement for your products by those stakeholders outside your direct contacts.
These three factors have been essential in my journey to get my brand to market and in attracting the offers from the Dragons in the Den. If you put yourself in their shoes or indeed the shoes of any investor - they want to see an idea with legs, an entrepreneur with credibility, and someone who is willing to work hard and who has passion.
What can big companies learn from start-ups and how can they apply those lessons?
During my journey I worked with most of the UK's biggest retailers and some of the UK's biggest travel brands. Some were easier to work with than others and the best relationships have been with those companies who genuinely recognised that new companies and products offer the opportunity for bigger companies to grow through offering innovation and championing new ideas. Not all companies approach negotiations in this way and on occasion only the most resilient and tenacious of small brands are able prevail! I would suggest that big companies listen carefully to new businesses and their ideas so that they do not miss out on the opportunities that entrepreneurial start-ups offer.
My brand sold in 21 countries worldwide and the experience of dealing with retailers and distributors and other stakeholders varied hugely across territories. The most successful relationships once again derived from truly open communications and discussions where each party recognised the potential benefits of collaboration.
If your audience could take home one key message from you, what would it be?
Be brave, courageous, tenacious and lead with passion, integrity and kindness. Human nature is such that most of us want to see others succeed and there is nothing more satisfying than helping another person on their journey. You will find support and encouragement if you reach out for it.
Finally Solvej, what’s next for you?
For the last few years, I have been on the Development Board of a cancer charity and I would like to further offer my support in this arena. I am also always looking out for the next fantastic idea...
For further information call us on +44 (0)20 7607 7070 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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