Gold Nuggets from Matt Gilbert

We had the pleasure of working with Matt Gilbert last year on his Kickstarter campaign for the Solstice Clock. The new piece was successfully funded and adds another inspiring item to the Animaro collection of kinetic furniture.

Here’s what inspires Matt as well as some great tips on finding the right manufacturer.

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Tell us about yourself and Animaro.

I became really fascinated by kinetic and movable structures during my masters of architecture. I studied a lot of techniques for how they can work. I also love working with beautiful materials, such as hardwoods and polished metals.

Through Animaro, I wanted to marry these two passions and bring kinetic designs to the high end furniture market. It is very common to see 'kinetic art' made as a passion project, or a one-off commission but much less common to see it available to purchase to decorate ones home from a design store.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew in your first year?

That investing time in myself and my own skills is invaluable and can make the whole process much faster. Also that it's important to place myself amongst people whose strengths are my weaknesses to confront these early on.

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Top 3 tips for finding the right manufacturer?

1. Work with smaller manufacturers first to have individual parts made at lower risk, potentially during the prototyping phase. Use this process to develop a technique for vetting and ranking manufacturers.

2. You need to be able to speak their language in terms of technical jargon, so you need to have a pretty clear idea of how it will be made before you meet them. A clueless customer will ring alarm bells for them.

3. Look for products similar to the one you are making and try to find out who made it.

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What was the best bit of advice you were given and who gave it to you?

To go and exhibit my work in Milan when it was still just a hobby. Getting my work in front of people, and seeing my products validated, gave me the confidence and enthusiasm to move forward.

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What’s your ambition for Animaro?

First and foremost I want to develop Animaro to be a brand known for creating beautiful and unusual timepieces, which combine time with art. I want to develop two branches to Animaro, and put more emphasis on one or the other based on success. One will involve creating batches of beautiful products and working with crowdfunding and high end retailers. Another branch will involve creating special editions and much smaller runs, built in the UK, and work with galleries to display these.

What song motivates you in the studio and why?

There are a lot of songs that motivate me! And I tend to go through phases where I will listen to a song continuously until i get bored of it. Right now I am really enjoying 'New Sensation' by INXS, because it has a really catchy guitar riff running throughout which gets the energy going.

Gold Nuggets from Daisy Stapley-Bunten

We were delighted to be interviewed by Daisy last year for Startups Magazine. After meeting her and learning about her own story we knew we had to do the same! Here’s a little on how Daisy launched and grew Startups Magazine.

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Tell us about yourself and Startups Magazine.

Startups Magazine is a print and digital bi-monthly publication launched in 2018 which endeavours to help startups connect the dots on their entrepreneurial journeys, I am the editor and founder and couldn’t be prouder of the success our team has had with this new publication and the wonderful feedback we have had from our community of tech startups.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew before you started Startups Magazine?

I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to have faith and not to stress as much, everything will work out and it will be a success, but equally in a way I think that it was the stress that pushed me to work harder towards success. 

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What are your top 3 tips for building a community around Startups Magazine?

1. You need feet on the ground and preferably your feet. People buy people, your idea is an extension of yourself, and people can relate to your product if they can get on board with the person it came from. Go forth and meet your audience.

2. Don’t just get feedback, act on it. It’s great to say that you did your market research and got loads of feedback, but just how valuable is it if you don’t put it into action? Listen to what your audience is telling you. When we exhibited at unbound London someone said how they would like to see pictures of the founders, now we include a headshot in every startup interview. This may seem small, but as we grow, we will grow through the support of our community which has nurtured us along the way.

3. It’s not all about you. When working with new contacts and your audience, don’t think first what’s in it for you, this is the Year of Collaboration – work with people and create partners. These working relationships will be far more valuable to you in the long-term. 

What is the best bit of advice you have been given and who gave you it?

The best advice I have been given was from my brother, Thomas Stapley-Bunten, now a Command Qualified Officer in the Royal Navy, he taught me that whatever the situation, ‘use your initiative’. This mantra drives my decisions and has taught me to assert myself and trust my own judgement.

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What’s your ambition for Startups Magazine?

I hope for Startups Magazine to be a resource that startups can turn to for inspiration, practical guides and a platform their stories and products to get valuable exposure.

We’d love to know what song motivates you while you’re working and why? 

We have a battle of the radio stations in our office, so it’s really hit and miss what I listen to, I’d rather a cup of tea for motivation than music any day!

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Gold Nuggets from Sadhbh Doherty

The wonderful Sadhbh is Product Manager / Designer at the fantastic Tech Will Save Us. We had the pleasure of working with Sadhbh a few years ago on the Mover Kit, and she’s gone on to lead development on loads of new products at the kids tech startup. Just before Christmas we got the chance to chat with Sadhbh about her work, and what to expect in the future.

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Tell us about yourself and what you do at Tech Will Save Us.

I've been living in London for the past five years. I came over from Ireland to do an MA at the RCA and have been working at Tech Will Save Us for the last four of those. My background before Tech Will Save Us was quite varied doing everything from exhibition design to costume design which has influenced the work I do and how I go about it. I'm a product manager and designer and I see all of the Tech Will Save Us new products through their entire development from first glimmer of an idea to a product on a shelf that someone takes home (with a great team of people of course). I'll generally be working on four products at a time although they'll be at different stage of their journey. 

Over the year or so it takes to see a product through from end to end I'll be working out the viability of a product with people from across the team. Creating concepts and prototypes with the product team, user testing in schools and homes with children, working with the marketing team to create solid positioning and testing to make sure it resonates. We make sure the components and processes we're using fit the budgets and estimated retail price we have. Then designing the product for manufacture, creating the engineering files, then heading over the China to work with our suppliers. Then making sure everything is in place to launch our product alongside our online experiences. There's always a lot going on and it can be a challenge but it's a really rewarding and as I've already mentioned we have a great team of people.

When designing a product, what’s your approach? Where does the inspiration come from?

We've spent a lot of time creating a process for product design that takes us from idea right through to the product sitting on a shelf. This keeps us focussed but open enough for as much creativity from the team as possible. We begin each project with a loose brief that identifies the price point, how it fits within our range and a wide theme like wearables or craft. From there we get input from around the business; our sales team might have picked up on retail trends, or the dev team may have been playing with a new technology; we take those and begin to create concepts around them. We like to get hands on as fast as possible so will make prototypes and get user testing to see what's working and what gets kids excited. It's really from there that our products begin to form. It's not one big lightning flash but twenty smaller ones that grow into a product we know kids will love.

It’s not one big lightning flash but twenty smaller ones that grow into a product we know kids will love.

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In your spare time do you make + create things, if so any projects we should know about?

I do so much making and creating at work that the things I make at home are really personal things like embroidering t-shirts I want to wear or sketching little illustrations of angry people, I went through a cross stitch phase a while ago that I somewhat regret, at the moment I'm learning to propagate plants. There are a few larger design projects beginning to brew in the background with friends so ask me again this time next year and I might have something to show off.

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What’s your favourite design + tech project you’ve seen this year, and why do you love it?

People are doing such great things at the moment. There are incredible things happening with recycled materials, there are robots building robots, there are amazing humanitarian projects happening but my favourites this year are the silly things people are doing with AI. I think it's always important to have a bit of fun with new tech and helps to inspire new ways of thinking about a technology and widen its scope. The highlights for me are the beatboxing AI that live battles a human beat boxer by creating samples from their voice and Pix2Pix which uses TensorFlow to create "realistic" drawings of cats, shoes and Pikachu's from your chicken scratches. Here's a terrifying cat I made today: 

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What song motivates you while you’re working and why? 

I have a weird habit when I need to be particularly focussed of playing the same song on repeat for hours, days or even weeks at a time. I'm not sure it's the healthiest thing but it keeps me on task. The last song to get the repeat treatment was Die Young by Sylvan Esso. It's a great song, maybe just don't play it for two weeks straight.


Gold Nuggets from Kate Pickering

Vanilla Ink, Ink Baby. Have you met Kate before? She’s all at once quiet and lively and incredibly, incredibly motivated. There’s not many people that work quite as hard as she does, and it was real pleasure to get a chance to ask her all our questions. Vanilla Ink is a jewellery school based in Glasgow, anyway, we’ll let Kate tell you all about it.

 Kate Pickering.

Tell us about yourself and Vanilla Ink.

Hullo - I'm Kate Pickering the founding director of Vanilla Ink, Scotland's unique Jewellery School. From Fife, to Dundee, to Glasgow, where I now live in the Southside with my two dogs, Brutus and Rita. 

Vanilla Ink was founded in 2009 and has grown a few arms and legs since then. Primarily set up to bridge the gap from education to industry and support start up jewellers in their transition from learning jewellery and being a jeweller. Vanilla Ink also started teaching classes to all walks of life in its original studio in Dundee and was always striving to support the jewellery industry. It moved to Glasgow in 2014 where I dipped my toe in the water and thankfully Glasgow loved it! We expanded and I brought on a business partner, Master Goldsmith Scott McIntyre. We crowdfunded to turn Vanilla Ink Studios Ltd into Vanilla Ink Jewellery School CIC and raised £30,000 to build our school in our current home in The Hidden Lane in the WestEnd of Glasgow, that we love! We teach, we train, we support and we make. We believe in 'Educating, Inspiring and Empowering' anyone who walks into Vanilla Ink. 

We hadn't even been open a year when we opened up our second location in the beautiful Banff Aberdeenshire, Vanilla Ink The Smiddy, specialising more in Silversmithing, we doubled our team and now the fantastic Megan and Alison run the incredible space up there and things are just rosie, incredibly busy but we are so grateful that things are going well.

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What’s the one thing you wish you knew before your first year in business?

The basics of accountancy! The terminology still baffles me and I put my full trust in accountants, which hasn't always been the smartest move. I really enjoyed the book Business for Bohemians by Tom Hodgkinson, Tom talks about how Indie businesses and particularly creative businesses bury their heads in the sand when it comes to numbers and financial planning. His advice is to get an accountant but to still know the basics to keep your business afloat and to call bullshit when an accountant is not doing their job properly (happy to say we have fantastic accountants but we are definitely their problem children because we are playing catch up). 

What are your top 3 tips for supporting other small businesses to grow?

1. Ask for help whenever you need it. I am an advocate of throwing your hands up and admitting when you are stuck. I would rather ask for help than waste hours trying to figure things out on my own.

2. Trust your gut. I'm guilty of talking to A LOT of people and getting advice from everyone that it sometimes muddies the water and pulls me in a direction that I wasn't necessary going. I think that's a confidence thing.

3. Be you and be honest! I'm not afraid to stand in front of a crowd of suits in a floral jumpsuit and tell them about my journey and I've always been quite open with my lessons and insights. I think what you give out, you get back.  

Be you and be honest! I’m not afraid to stand in front of a crowd of suits in a floral jumpsuit and tell them about my journey


What was the best bit of advice you have been given and who gave you it?

My first advisor from the Princes Trust told me to just let it grow (try not to sing that song from Frozen). I was trying to force Vanilla Ink into something it wasn't ready to be and I've done it on a few occasions and I then rein it in and let it tell me what it wants to do. Vanilla Ink has grown from a one woman sole trader, into a limited company, then a Community Interest Company and now a form of franchise. We haven't rushed it and just listened to the business!

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You’ve launched your newest location this year, what’s your ambition for Vanilla Ink?

That's a good question as opening the newest location was one of 5 year goals and we got it in year one. Right now I'm going to try and enjoy the space and perhaps just sit back and congratulate ourselves on what we have achieved in such a short space of time. However, knowing me that won't last long and I'll start getting twitchy. 

Our ambition is to keep growing...international Vanilla Ink anyone 🤔 We would love to see our Glasgow location grow in size too, create more spaces for Jewellers and Silversmiths to work, more classes, bigger facilities with MORE TOOLS <3


What song gets you moving in the workshop and what do you love about it?

I'm a wee mosher at heart and anything nu-metal will get me dancing, bit of System of Down, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park but what will always get me up on the dance floor of the Catty would be Killing In the name - Rage Against the Machine. A total throwback to my high school years, it wasn't the best of times but I remember coming home and playing this very loud and feeling so free.

Gold Nuggets from Lauren Currie

We are on fire! With an amazing batch of interviews heading your way. This week we caught up with Lauren Currie who is an incredible force to be reckoned with. She’s got an OBE dontcha know!

Over to you Lauren…

Tell us about yourself and Letter Love Shop.

Ahoy! My name is Lauren. I’m a mother, a designer and an entrepreneur. Letter Love Shop creates wild alphabet artwork for the little people you love. We make letters, names and alphabets.

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What was your inspiration to launch a new business this year?

It happened by accident. My baby was two weeks late so I busied myself by drawing their name for their nursery. I wanted to create something gender neutral focused on animals and nature. Chris is a biologist and I love building ideas that carry a progressive message. When I saw how our friends and family reacted to my first sketch of Atlas’ name I knew I’d created something really unique.

A quick sprint of research revealed two key insights.

  • The majority of children’s artwork is gendered in both content and colour.

We believe that marketing any item to "boys" or "girls" reinforces harmful stereotypes.

  • Children’s artwork lacks variety and diversity of animals. There are too many Giraffes, Elephants, and Bears and not enough Komodo Dragons, Jackals and Mayflies.

We believe that the current and possibly the next generation will suffer from nature deficit disorder and are in an educational tragedy, we want to inform and inspire using the complexity and wonder of our natural world.

I get joy from launching ideas into the world. It was the perfect distraction whilst I waited for Atlas to arrive. We both stayed up into the small hours; me in the kitchen drawing all fifty-two letters of the alphabet and Chris in the living room building our Shopify site.

Our business will be 1 year old at the end of Jan 2019. We have spent no money on marketing and have sold over 80 products to 40 customers across Europe and Australia.

We sell three products; individual letters, names and the alphabet. We make all three products in any size and ship all over the world (free shipping!) £1 from every product we sell goes to Pregnant Then Screwed; a remarkable charity fighting to end maternity discrimination. I’m proud to be a chairperson on their board and can’t wait for the UK’s Festival of Motherhood and Work on Jan 19th!  

What are your top 3 tips for starting something new and completely different from your career.

I love this question! It made me realise that actually what we’re building at Letter Love Shop has a few things in common with the work I’ve been doing for the past 10 years. It’s about craft, service and insight. Of course, I know absolutely nothing about selling art work online or in retail... I’m always hungry for advice. My top three tips are:

  • You can use the internet to learn most things:

If there is a gap in your knowledge or skillset holding you back from starting - use the internet to learn the bare minimum.

  • Ask for help:

The first thing I did when I had this idea was to chat to my friend Tash, an amazing illustrator. The second thing I did was research a ‘hit list’ of people who are at the top of their game in this stuff - it’s amazing who will have time to give advice to a small unknown business, if indeed you only ask! The first to reply was Toby Hextall, Head of Product Design at MOO.COM, and Lisa Donati at Gie It Laldy. Neither of them knew me or Letter Love Shop beforehand, I’m kinda proud that they do now.

  • Lean into what you are:

    This learning has really hit home for me over the last two months of launching NOBL in the UK. It’s tempting to exaggerate your client list or headcount. I choose to do neither of those things across all of my businesses. At NOBL, we’re purposefully designed to be small with low overheads so we can deliver complex, intimate work fast. Letter Love Shop is my wee family. Chris and I are a couple and we’ve just had our first baby. It’s just the three of us. When I look at Letter Love Shop competitors, I’m momentarily tempted to glorify the truth but instead, I lean into what we are; a family business inspired by our love for our little boy.

What was the best bit of advice you were given and who gave you it?

Oh, that’s easy! Prototype.

For as long as I can remember I have had a very strong bias towards action and doing. When I was little I wanted to have my own copy of Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl. My impatience to have my own copy instantly led to me typing every single one of the 9387 words on my typewriter. Studying design and launching my own business at a very young age only strengthened this muscle.

We had 5 letters drawn and this gave us enough data to know that people would pay for this product. This is the email we sent to a small group of trusted friends for our first round of feedback (click image to expand).

What’s your ambition for Letter Love Shop?
Short term we’d like to get our product into local shops as well as high street brands like John Lewis. Long term, we’d like Letter Love Shop to take the best bits from Cath Kidston and Lush to build a home furnishing retail store that promotes nature and equality whilst supporting the rights of working parents.

We’ve focused on animals and nature for now, and we might stay there, but I think there is a market for the same work focused on cities, pets and hobbies.

Here’s how you can help

  1. We have a bunch of email addresses of buyers and wholesalers and I don’t really know where to begin - any advice?

  2. If you run a nursery, playgroup or a school we’d love to send you one of our alphabets.

  3. If you run a cafe or a restaurant, our products make the perfect colouring in book for little ones during meal times.

  4. And of course, buy our product and use this special 10% discount code for friends of Paved With Gold: Gold01. It’s true that every time we get a sale Chris and I do a little dance in our kitchen.

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What’s the tune that motivates you through the long nights?
I’m really loving this tune right now.

You can email Lauren at Lauren@letterloveshop.co.uk or get her on Twitter check out our Instagram to see lots of happy babs with their illustrations.

Gold Nuggets from Alice Dansey-Wright

We’ve taken a wee sabbatical from these this year, as Richard’s been running the show solo, while Kaye’s been on maternity leave, but now we’re back, and it's time for some more Gold Nuggets where we talk with some of our most loved makers, founders and do-ers.

For our first chat we caught up with artist and fellow Glasgow dweller Alice Dansey-Wright. Alice creates bold often black and white designs across various mediums, and we love spotting her partnerships cropping up around town.

Image Credit:  Nu Blvck

Image Credit: Nu Blvck

Tell us about yourself and your work.

I’d describe myself as an artist and designer - I used to say illustrator but artist/designer feels more like it. I studied Environmental Art at GSA and back then I had quite a conceptual practice (although the focus was the public realm rather than galleries and I still wanted my work to be accessible and to a degree, collaborative). I took a break from making art for about 8 years and emerged with more of a design focus. To be honest I think it just took me that time to figure out what I wanted my practice to be and also to do a bit of living and working out with a world/industry that I’d lost confidence about my place within.

My work now consists of:

  • Mentoring/facilitating/teaching (both creative business skills and art/design techniques)

  • Public art and private commissions, usually taking the form of murals and large scale paintings or textiles

  • Design commissions, usually products

  • Collaborations, both collaborating on products and art projects

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I’m inspired by the human body, identity, fashion design and textiles. Thematically I like to explore accessibility and ownership/collaboration.

Recently I’ve worked on a series with Platform including weekly adult art classes, a shop project, a collaboration between myself, platform and Alliance Scotland to create new waiting room designs for Easterhouse Community Health Centre and a mural project with Grow Wild / Seven Lochs Wetland Park.

I’m also a panellist and mentor for the Glasgow Visual Art and Craft Maker awards.

A design commission for the Local Heroes ‘Made in Glasgow’ project which resulted in the Glasgow Raincoat which I made in collaboration with love and squalor. And product collaborations with SQUINT clothingGiannina Captani Knitwear and Tenement Design.

I love what I do- it’s taken me a long time to get here and I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to work with the people and organisations that have been clients and collaborators along the way.

The Glasgow Raincoat from Alice’s Local Heroes collaboration with love and squalor.

The Glasgow Raincoat from Alice’s Local Heroes collaboration with love and squalor.

When designing a product, what’s your approach? Where does the inspiration come from?

A lot of my inspiration comes, I think, from fine art - I guess no surprise there! Especially abstract painting and figurative sculpture. I like to make digital mood boards - actual pdfs that take ages rather than Pinterest for some reason! Plus I have a lot of books at home and membership of the GSA library as a resource. Regularly visiting exhibitions and collections really helps too. I do keep sketchbooks also but they often end up more like big notebooks. If i’m painting a mural or a garment or making something freehand I don’t like to have the absolute final product all drawn out in advance- An element of surprise and spontaneity that comes about through the making makes it more interesting.

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What’s the best bit of advice you’ve been given and who gave you it?

I'm not sure if this is advice or more just an acknowledgement: 'pretty much everyone feels like an imposter' - good to remember this if you ever feel that way. Can’t remember who said it but it’s been corroborated several times!

Alice’s collaboration with Squint Clothing.

Alice’s collaboration with Squint Clothing.

You do a lot of collaborations in your work. What are your top 3 tips for partnering up with other designers?

  1. Agree your terms before you start - finance/marketing/naming the co-lab - sometimes for me this involves some sort of official contract/agreement and sometimes it's less formal. Getting the nuts and bolts sorted before proceeding is a good idea, whichever way you do it although obviously if you're working with a big company or just someone you haven't met it might be worth getting external advice around setting your terms.

  2. Make a plan / schedule that works for both of you - you're in this together so respect your collaborators availability and remember to state yours, being mindful of over estimating how much time you may have!

  3. Approach your dream collaborator…just ask! it’s ok if they say no and they may well say yes...

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What song motivates you while you’re working and why?

All Night Long by the Mary Jane Girls - perhaps not as motivation but as something that I listen to when the flow of work is in full swing, it’s both relaxed and upbeat so I guess I’m trying to absorb that! I have to add though that I’ve never been able to work really late or through the night (unless you count having twin babies). I’m very much a 9-5, 3 meals a day sort of person!

Gold Nuggets from ALEX PEET

Welcome to another edition of Gold Nuggets where we talk with some of our most loved makers, founders and do-ers. Digging into their stories to reveal tips, precious wisdom, and even some music to get your under-the-desk feet dancing.

We recently partnered with the Central Research Laboratory to deliver Kickstarter training sessions to the startups on their accelerator programme. We were delighted to discuss product development with Alex Peet from Central Research Laboratory, and are excited to share his fantastic advice.

Tell us about yourself and the Central Research Laboratory.

My name is Alex Peet, I’m the Product Development Lead at the Central Research Laboratory. My background is in Mechanical Engineering. Prior to CRL, I worked for Dyson developing their products, with a team of engineers.

CRL focusses on helping prototype and get products to market, be it via crowdfunding, private investment or traditional routes. We’re the first product specific accelerator in the UK, with the biggest open access prototyping labs in London.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew in your first year?

When I came to CRL, I had just finished a two year project leading a team of engineers to design a pretty complex product. Even though you're expected to consider the end user all the time, you're also given a pretty long list of things the product must do, which is governed by energy requirements and the competition in the market. The difference with designing a completely new product is that this list of key features is defined totally by you. This has to shift your attention to understanding your customer first, before jumping into engineering. That's something I had to learn quickly at CRL.

Top 3 tips for designing your MVP?

If you’ve read ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries, it describes the MVP as the quickest, cheapest way to get a version of the product you can show to your potential customers. In product design, this can be a difficult task and there will always be some technical hurdles along the way.

Tip 1. Understand what you’re testing.  Before you start making your MVP, write a list of things you’re looking to learn.  For example, if you expect the customer to use your product in a certain way, you can create a quick prototype with interaction points, in the rough shape you’ve envisaged, explain to someone what it’s going to do, and ask them to use it, without explaining how.

Tip 2. Simplify. When you’re designing a product it can be tempting to keep adding feature after feature. The trick is to understand what the core offering of the product is, and execute that well. One of the startups we’re working with at the moment is designing a coworking space management system. The MVP we’re developing together does one thing: it allows you to book meeting rooms. The plan is to execute that well, and add features only when the customer demands it (and you’ll know when that is, because you won’t stop hearing about it). I would recommend the book Rework by Jason Fried, designer of BaseCamp to read more on reducing product features.

Tip 3. Don’t be afraid to show an unfinished product. Crowdfunding sites are a great example of how transparency can get people on board with the product creation process. By working with your customer, you’ll be able to get real feedback on a lot of things you weren’t expecting, because the product is in a changeable state. The other great litmus test, is that if the prototype goes down well with your target users, even in an unfinished state, you know you’re onto a winner.

What was the best bit of advice you were given and who gave you it?

Oh man, this is getting deep. I think the bit of advice that resonated with me most was given to me by my Dad, when I say advice, it was more of a bollocking! I was 15, just before my GCSEs, I think I came home from school and told him I didn’t care about school or any of the subjects I was studying. He preceded to explain to me that if I want to join the ‘bums and losers’ out in the world, then carry on thinking that. It’s the people that care about the things they’re doing or trying to achieve, are the ones that get places. Pretty heavy advice for a fifteen year old, but it actually made a big difference, and since then I’ve put a lot more effort into everything I do, and so far, it’s paid off.

What’s your ambition for CRL?

My ambition for CRL is the same ambition for the UK startup scene as a whole, to consistently produce world class product based businesses. What we can do to help that, is bring together the best minds to provide the right support to make that happen.  

What song motivates you at CRL and why?

Well it’s an album actually: Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust and Spiders from Mars’. It’s an amazing album and the vinyl was pressed in Hayes, in the old EMI headquarters where CRL is based.

Gold Nuggets from BleepBleeps

Here’s another edition of Gold Nuggets where we talk with some of our most loved makers, founders and do-ers. Digging into their stories to reveal tips, precious wisdom, and even some music to get your under the desk feet dancing.

In this edition we’d like you to meet our pal and long time client Tom from BleepBleeps. They are on a mission to make parenting easier with their Smart Family of devices.

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Tell us about yourself and BleepBleeps.

I’m Tom Evans, founder of BleepBleeps. We make cute, connected gadgets that make parenting easier. Before BleepBleeps I was an Executive Creative Director in design/brand/advertising/digital agencies. I jumped ship a couple of years ago to start BleepBleeps and I’ve been grinding it out and learning every day since.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew in your first year?

Strap in, this is going to take waaay longer than you think. And it’s going to be way way harder than you think. (Actually, maybe it was good I didn’t know that!?)

What are your top tips for growing your team?

When it comes to startups or products/services you need people that can: Think it, Make it and Sell it. These are very different groups of people that don’t tend to hang out with each other!

My advice is to create a brand first, and then get out there and meet people. I must have done over a thousand “coffees” with potential co-founders, team members, partners, investors etc etc. If you have a brand and a vision these meetings are far easier to get in the first place, and it’s much easier to enrol people into your “quest” if you have a cohesive brand and a purpose.

What was the best bit of advice you were given and who gave you it?

My favourite quote of the moment (in today’s tough times for startups: post-brexit, Trump, etc) is: “Staying alive is the new winning" - Paul Graham, Y-Combinator

What’s your ambition for BleepBleeps?

I want to create a brand that’s loved by kids and parents all over the world.

What song motivates you in the office and why?

I have three answers to this.

You cannot beat Jump by Van Halen for getting things going.

During general work/travel I tend to listen to a lot of spoken word: Tim Ferris podcast particularly and a lot of non-fiction/business/self help crap on Audible and Blinkist (which is an amazing summary app).

But spoken word doesn’t work so well if you have write/think. So... (and this is slightly weird) I’ve been experimenting with listening to one very simple track on repeat to help focus when writing, thinking or doing more brain-taxing tasks. And for that I currently use Finder by Ninetoes.

Gold Nuggets from Colette

Welcome to our next edition of Gold Nuggets where we talk with some of our most loved makers, founders and do-ers. Digging into their stories to reveal tips, precious wisdom, and even some music to get your under-the-desk feet dancing.

In this edition we are excited to share words from Sarah Andelman who runs the iconic colette store in Paris. Sarah talks about working with her mum and what they look for in brand collaborations.

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Tell us about yourself and your business

Hello, I’m Sarah! Together with my mother we opened the colette store back in 1997. Our ambition was to open a place where we could showcase great fashion, beauty, design, art and food. Since the beginning we have always prided ourselves on having an international mix of young designers and more well-known brands. Every week we change the windows and display inside. And every day we receive new products.

What do you look for with brand collaborations?

Each relationship is different but it’s important for us that each partnership feels personal, and that each collaboration is built on respect for one another. It just feels right for all parties.

Our selection process is quite spontaneous but we always pick products we like. We particularly are looking for items that are original, authentic and of great quality.

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What was the best bit of advice you were given and who gave you it?

From my mum “just follow your instinct”, and I know I’m very lucky to be able to do it.

What is your ambition for colette?

To keep the excitement alive for as long as possible.

What song motivates you in the store and why?

Anything from the colette podcasts! Here’s the latest...

Gold Nuggets from Hilary Grant

It's time for some more Gold Nuggets where we talk with some of our most loved makers, founders and do-ers. Digging into their stories to reveal tips, precious wisdom, and even some music to get your under-the-desk feet dancing. 

We sat down with our long time friend Hilary Grant to pick her brain about running her knitwear business and what she's learned about running her business in Orkney. 
 

Image Credit:  Ross Fraser McLean

Image Credit: Ross Fraser McLean

Tell us about yourself and your business
I run a knitwear company under my own name Hilary Grant, on a remote island off the North Coast of Scotland called Orkney. I started my business 2011, designing scarves and knitting everything myself on a hand-operated knitting machine. We're now a 2 person business, with my partner Rob joining me on design and running the online shop and all our knitwear is now produced with a knitwear manufacturer in Scotland. We sell our knitwear online and to department stores and design-led lifestyle stores in over 5 countries. 

What’s the one thing you wish you knew in your first year?
Have goals and celebrate smashing them. Learn from mistakes. 

When you're a small company,  you sometimes don't have the time or even notice when you're achieving things - you're always moving on to the next task. It's good to celebrate when good things happen, it gives you the motivation to move on and allows you to take stock of your achievements. 


Top 3 tips for growing a brand in a remote location
Social media is basically a lifeline for our business when we live in such a remote place. But having really brilliant content is what makes people stick around. It can genuinely be an isolating experience, running a business in a remote place but Instagram allows you to build a little world around yourself with people who support what you do and meet other businesses and creatives who inspire you and you can support in return. 

Physical face-to-face events are so important for us as it gives us a chance to meet the lovely people to support us online. It also gives you the opportunity to make chance encounters with all sorts of people outside our social media circle. We do a lot of pop up shopping events in winter and I think it really means a lot to people to be able to touch our knitwear and feel it before making a purchase. Our knitwear feel so soft and tactile -  one thing you can't show people through the internet!

Instagram has been a brilliant driver for us, but we don't want to rely on it too much. Kaye has been quite evangelical about newsletters for quite some time and we're ready to jump in with that now.

What was the best bit of advice you were given and who gave you it?
Make a plan and stick to it. We worked with brilliant woman called Kirsty Scott to help us build a growth strategy. It was the best thing we've ever done for our business.

What’s your ambition for your business?
We like being small as it offers us flexibility. For us the driver for the business really comes from the creative side - so we think about other products we'd like to make, techniques we'd like to develop and figure out how to reign it in to be commercial and accessible to people. We'd love to start working with more interior designers on bespoke projects and large-scale pieces. 

What song motivates you in the studio and why? 
It's hard to choose just one song. If I need to concentrate I'll listen to Disasterpiece. On Friday afternoon, when I'm trying to wrap up everything for the weekend I'l make a point of listening to Yo La Tengo's cover of "Friday I'm in Love". It's good for a Friday dance around the studio and getting into the weekend spirit!

Gold Nuggets from Ding

It's time for some more Gold Nuggets where we talk with some of our most loved makers, founders and do-ers. Digging into their stories to reveal tips, precious wisdom, and even some music to get your under-the-desk feet dancing. 

In this edition we’d like you to meet one of our favourite couples, John Nussey and Avril O’Neil from Ding, a project we helped become successfully funded on Kickstarter.

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Tell us about yourselves and Ding
Hi! We're Avril and John, and with support from The Design Council, John Lewis and our amazing backers on Kickstarter we’re launching Ding. 

Ding is a simple, beautiful, smart doorbell that’s perfect for your home and makes your life easier. When a visitor presses the button, the chime rings in your home and also connects to the Ding app on your smartphone, allowing you to talk with the person at your front door from wherever you are in the world!

What’s the one thing you wish you knew in your first year?
There's a lot I wish we'd known in our first year! Making a physical product comes with many challenges and it's hard to know what to prioritise. In all honesty we don't have many regrets, as we've learnt so much through the experience. The one thing I think we wish we'd had was a way of meeting and expanding our team quicker. We have secured an amazingly talented team, including the guys at PWG, but it took a lot of searching to find them. 

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What are your top 3 tips for how to best use funding?
Tip 1. Spend it on things you can't do yourself

Tip 2. Trust your gut and don't worry about spending it

Tip 3. Invest it in the company, rather than using it as an income, get your product out there sooner. 

What was the best bit of advice you were given and who gave you it?
Make the business work for you and don't be a slave to any other formulas or compare yourselves to others too much. 
 
What’s your ambition for Ding?
On a personal level it is to see a product we've made out there in the world, solving a real need. In the bigger picture it's to make IOT products that have a genuine benefit for people, rather than producing technology for technology's sake. 

What song motivates you in the studio and why? 
"Ring my bell" by Anita Ward. Then there’s "For Whom the Bell Tolls" by Metallica, "My doorbell" by The White Stripes...we could go on! ;) 

Gold Nuggets from Flat 15

In this edition of Gold Nuggets we caught up with one of our favourite style and decor bloggers. Gabriella Palumbo from Flat 15 tells us how she works with brands and how she developed her own to become an award-winning blogger. 

Tell us about yourself and Flat 15. 
My name is Gabby and I am an interior designer and founder of the award-winning design and lifestyle blog Flat 15. I find inspiration for my eclectic London-based design and interior projects from my travels abroad, high and emerging fashion, artwork and daily strolls around my Notting Hill neighbourhood. I make sure to document anything that celebrates original style and happy living on Flat 15.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew in your first year?
I think something to remember when starting out is to always have confidence in yourself and just own it! When I first started I was quite nervous about putting myself out there (especially on the blog). I was timid for the first several months about really going for it and in a way I regret that. I eventually found my feet, but I wish I hadn't wasted any time in feeling like "what if people don't like what I am saying" and went for it from the very start. 

Top 3 tips for brands when approaching bloggers?
Tip 1. Be Personal. The brand should really know the blogger (and blog) that they are approaching. Sometimes brands email me and it is quite obvious that it is an email template that they have sent to lots of people. This is very off putting for me. 

Tip 2. Be Upfront. In the past it has happened to me on my part and on the brand's part, where we have not been upfront about what is expected and it caused confusion. Now I like to be very clear about what is expected for the content, timeline and brand exposure across social media. 

Tip 3. Good Fit. I think it is important for brands to be aware of the aesthetic and style of the blogger and make sure that this fits well with the overall look of the brand. This will get the most exposure for the brand and also keep with the integrity of the blog. 

What was the best bit of advice you were given and who gave you it?
I think the best piece of advice I was given was actually from my husband who told me to stay consistent with my content and voice on the blog. I think when you have your own business there are highs and lows, especially when you first start out and it seems that things are moving slowly (or slower than you want them to). Staying consistent is one of the most important aspects of building a blog, brand or business in my opinion. 

What’s your ambition for Flat 15?
I would love to eventually design some of my own products and sell them. I usually have a very specific idea of decor objects that I love so it would be great to create some of these for like minded people. 

What song motivates you in the studio and why? 
I tend to work best when I am listening to chilled music as I can still concentrate on work but feel upbeat at the office. I would say that Drake is always a go to for me during the day.

Gold Nuggets From Make Works

Here’s another edition of Gold Nuggets where we talk with some of our most loved makers, founders and doers. Digging into their stories to reveal tips, precious wisdom, and even some music to get your under-the-desk feet dancing. 

We caught up with the inimitable Fi Duffy-Scott founder of Make Works, factory finders who support makers to make local. We recently worked with Make Works to launch their Patreon campaign.

Image Credit:&nbsp; Peter McNally

Image Credit: Peter McNally

What’s the one thing you wish you knew in your first year?
That it was OK to take a day off! Over the first two years of Make Works I only had a couple of days when I wasn't thinking about the project, and wound up totally exhausted. Now I'm pretty strict about taking myself home in the evening and actually having holidays.

What are your top 3 tips for experimenting with alternative models to support Make Works?
Make Works has always been looking for sustainable ways to make the work happen. Quite early on we realised that public funding wasn't going to be very sustainable in the long term; and equally the typical start-up trajectory of growth and investment didn't fit very well with being a non-profit. So, we needed to find alternative models to support the project.

From what we have learnt so far though here are 3 tips:

Tip 1. Seek out like-minded people. From reading work by Aaron Swartz to meeting people at the Small is Beautiful conference or reaching out to other Patreon creators - have all helped to reassure me that it is not completely crazy to be actively looking for alternative models.

Tip 2. Give yourself time to experiment. New ways of doing things won't always work first time, and can take a lot of chipping away at to make work. I think being comfortable with things not being a 'quick fix' is important if you want to make anything really worthwhile for the world.

Tip 3. Make things for your audience. Starting a Patreon has meant that we've really got a better understanding of what sort of people really find Make Works useful and want to see it continue - it's made me super appreciative of that support and helps keep perspective of who we are making the project for.

What was the best bit of advice you were given and who gave you it?
"Find the right person" -  I remember I was speaking to Janine Matheson from Creative Edinburgh early on about the difficulty I was having getting funders to back the project. She told me that I just needed the right person to hear about it, and soon I had much better success - purely from making sure I was seeking out people who would 'get' it.

What’s your ambition for Make Works?
I'd love to see people setting up their own Make Works all over the world! The ambition at the moment is to work out how to make that work well for people who want to start those other regions, and finding a sustainable, open business model to make that possible in the long term.

What song motivates you in the studio and why?
Pussy Riot - Straight Outta Vagina absolutely got me through 2016! It came out at a time when everything seemed really dark in the world, and still makes me feel super hopeful and energised.

Gold Nuggets from Desk Beers

We’re excited to share the first of a series of blogs called Gold Nuggets where we talk with some of our most loved makers, founders and do-ers. Digging into their stories to reveal top tips, precious wisdom, and even some music to get your under-the-desk feet dancing. 

Recently we caught up with Adam Rogers from DeskBeers, a handy service that delivers craft and small-batch drinks to offices all over the UK.  

Tell us about yourself and DeskBeers.
Hi! I’m Adam. As captain of the good ship DeskBeers, I predominantly make tea. Gallons of the stuff. We can't function without it. If we didn't have tea, we'd never manage to get the craft beers, fine wines, ciders and soft drinks from our suppliers to our customers across the country. The whole system runs on tea.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew in your first year
Apart from the volume of tea required to run a successful operation, it's silly stuff like not only talking to customers but understanding how to interpret what they say. Customer feedback is the best file for developing a product (after tea), but what customers say and what customers do can be quite different. "Talk to customers" is pretty common advice, but thinking about what to do with what you discover is a bit harder.

What are your top 3 tips for finding the best partners to work with?
Tip 1. Good suppliers are as passionate about customer service as we are. If you get palmed off on the phone or wait for ages to get a reply to your email. It's not a good sign!

Tip 2. Don't (always) believe the hype. It seems like these days all you need to start a craft brewery is a brewer and a designer. More than a few new breweries only have one of those things and it ain't the brewer.

Tip 3. Ask for what you want. Good suppliers are in business too. Ask for a discount, expedited delivery, marketing swag, or whatever else you need. It's OK to make them say "no". But always be polite and respectful.

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What was the best bit of advice you were given and who gave you it?
My dad used to say "if you're trying too hard you're doing it wrong". He probably still does say that, I just haven't spoken to him in a while. It's very rare that we're actually doing anything truly groundbreaking, and often when we're stuck thinking about the problem a different way can lead to an elegant, simple solution.
 
What’s your ambition for DeskBeers?
To be the default choice for supplying drinks at the office, and in doing so support and promote independent producers of beers, wines, ciders and soft drinks.

What song motivates you in the office and why? 
Slipknot, Wait & Bleed. The warehouse can get pretty noisy and sometimes you need to whack on the headphones, get the double kick-drum going and crank out some code.

If you'd like to try out DeskBeers use the promo code PWG20 to get 20% off your first regular delivery order. Wahey to drinks with the team!