MADE Festival Conference 2014- A review by Startacus member Col Skinner
I was lucky enough to win a free Press Pass ticket to the MADE For Success Conference which took place at Sheffield City Hall last Wednesday (25th Sept). The conference was part of a 2 day MADE Entrepreneur Festival across the city of Sheffield which was supported/subsidised by some big name corporate & educational partners. The concept for the conference was essentially 11 incredible speakers and 1 panel group to inspire, motivate and share business success, across the 8 hours.
Rightio, onto the (Super) jam packed conference day itself which I will try and summarise and concisely as I can:
Nigel Risner - Motivational Speaker
Nigel was the chair of the whole day, the glue that ensures it runs smoothly and everyone goes home happy and enlightened. He did very well at getting the audience warmed up and at introducing some of the key themes that ran throughout the day as well as the speakers themselves.
I had assumed that Jamal was going to be doing a speech or presentation but instead did a sit down Q&A interview with Nigel Risner as host. I must admit I was a little disappointed with this format. Despite Jamals reputation proceeding him the interview questions were a little cliché and the information / insight they drew out of Jamal wasn't the gold I had expected. Never the less it was great to have such a young success story on the rota for the many school kids who attended. Jamal was asked 'what is the most important thing for an entrepreneur' and surprised the audience with the mature answer: "VAT tax and receipts".
For such a young business owner, Fraser managed to captivate the audience with his whimsical mannerisms, humble story and cracking Edinburgh accent. Certainly a man who doesn't take himself too seriously but oozes innovation and honesty. His Superjam story is guaranteed to have inspired some of the young entrepreneurs to take their own home business ideas to the shelves of supermarkets. He proved that a business doesn't have to be corporate or tech based to succeed in today's market. Fraser also showed that a "try, try, try again" determination is crucial for a startup owner. Fraser would do great on his own TV show or as an advisor to Alan Sugar on the Young Apprentice.
Another Scottish speaker, Michelle instantly put the audience at ease by sharing several personal stories including her fight against Scottish independence, crush on Bill Clinton and the fact she throws up before any public appearance. I also really admired how Michelle managed to subtly promote her own products without being 'salesy'. The sign of a passionate, proud business owner. She made it very easy for us, the audience, to connect with her story by sharing intimate details of the journey from struggles to success. Key takeaways included fully utilising creativity for PR stunts, particularly when marketing budget is nonexistent. Plus the importance of setting KPI's for everything you do.
The theme of Shaa's presentation was "Less is More" and contained lots of very simply methods and theories business owners and employees can be more effective and happier. Shaa did a great job at breaking down the stereotypes that dictate we must be busy to be successful. As a business owner, I must admit I found Shaa's presentation one of the most useful. A great deal of the content reminded me why I started a 'lifestyle business' in the first place. These quotes particularly resonated for me:
"Every time you are distracted it takes on average 11 minutes to get your focus back."
"Schedule what matters to get better value for your time."
"We are happiest when our lives our simplest"
I managed to get Shaa's slidedeck from the day so feel free to download it here .
I am an avid watch collector so was looking forward to the interview with the dapper Nick and Giles from Bremont.
The interview started with a compelling dramatic video depicting the great British brand of Bremont. After that Nick and Giles sat down with Nigel Risner to do a Q&A interview about their success and story. The two brothers decided to start their own watch making business back in 2002 after a tragic plane accident killed their father and injured Nick. This was a great example of British brand doing something traditionally associated with Switzerland. They claimed that they use the competitive nature of their market to spur them on to greater success.
I am very jealous of Bremont and dream of owning a luxury British brand of my own one day *sighs*.
Levi Roots - Musician - Entrepreneur And TV Personality
Probably one of the most famous faces in the whole conference, Levi lived up to every expectation I had for him. He strutted onto stage with his guitar and broke straight into Rice N Peas, a catchy tune you can listen to here. He went onto tell the story of how he went from 'Keith' Reggae musician to television personality, celebrity chef, businessman and multi-millionaire. For any audience members who thought gaining angel investment was the easy answer, I was glad to hear Levi say "investment finance is a working commodity". Not a soul in the room could deny being inspired by such an eloquent man who's built a £60m a year empire with 50 products sporting his name. Apart from the great insight from Levi, a surreal highlight for me was hearing the man himself singing Reggae Reggae sauce.
Geoff Ramm - Marketing Specialist And Inspirational Speaker
As a marketer myself, I was really looking forward to seeing Geoff speak and he most certainly didn't disappoint. I came away from his talk inspired to bring real world events and observations into my clients marketing plans. Geoff want's marketers to ensure their campaigns stand out from the crowd and for me his presentation style and delivery certainly did that. It was part humour, part real-life examples and a refreshing dose of creative common sense. I would really recommend seeing or hiring Geoff if you get the chance.
Panel Discussion - What makes a GREAT entrepreneur and how do we make more of them?
The panel was made up young / established entrepreneurs and Chief Execs and (you can see the full list here ). I will admit I found it difficult to follow much of the debate as people sat around me were distracting. The need for a system of un-paid mentors for today's youth seemed to be a repeating theme. To put my pennies worth in I believe the creation of young entrepreneurs relies on dissolving the stigma currently attached to self-employment & non-traditional career paths. What about subsidised co-working spaces with resident mentors, as an alternative to college stage education? The UK brands kids admire (O2, Innocent & Topman etc) should be supporting young entrepreneurs & events like MADE festival.
Im not sure if this panel debate coincided with the end of the school day but I found it disappointing and loosely ironic that during a debate about how we can encourage and nurture more young entrepreneurs, about 300 students in audience got up and left.
Jeff Turner - Head Of Learning And Development, Facebook
Jeff relayed a number of lessons and methods used to manage staff learning and development at Facebook HQ. For me personally I found it difficult to hold interest and relate during this talk but perhaps, as a one man business, that's not surprising. There were a couple of interesting facts about the internal workings of Facebook including:
They don't have career ladders for staff but instead staff can move across multi axis
You can have up to 13 interviews before being offered a role at Facebook.
You don't get a pay increase when you start managing people.
I really wasn't sure what to expect from Doug. He came on and instantly announced that he wouldn't be going through his 'Rise of the Creative Entrepreneur' presentation. Instead Doug told us about snippets from his career. Doug was a superb speaker and a real character with amusing anecdotes, anti-lessons and lucky breaks from the early days of Silicon Valley.. Many people will recognise Doug from series 1 & 2 of Dragons Den and he talked quite a lot about getting finance naming the below as his top 3 alternatives to traditional bank/loan financing:
I really hope to see Doug's School For Startups pop up in Manchester in the not so distant future. I ended up missing my train due to Doug running over but he was very much worth the hassle that caused.
In conclusion, I found the mixture of personalities picked for the MADE conference was a stroke of genius. Everyone from the 16 year old school kid to the CEO of a 20 strong business will have gone home with new inspiration, ideas and focus. I really think there should be more of these types of events all across the UK, subsidised by Government , brands and education partners.
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