Virgin Startup Meetup

Virgin Startup hosted an evening of talks and networking last week and Folk attended with both a desire to teach and a hunger to learn from budding entrepreneurs. 

The talks saw entrepreneurs from different stages in their business. From established brand builders through to exciting startups in their infancy. 

Silicon South produced a video from the evening with the help of their Bournemouth University interns, take a look:

Here is what we managed to take away from what was an inspiring and personal event. 

Jimmy’s Iced Coffee

It’s easy to see Jimmy’s Iced Coffee as a success. But the conversation last week, at the Virgin Start-up Meet, was much more about ‘how are we making it?’. Put another way: the journey of a startup is not about getting there, it’s about the journey. Here are some takeaways:

  • Have hunger and drive

  • Tell a real story

  • Have a plan

  • Make a rad product or sell a rad service

  • Trust your instinct

  • Learn to say no

  • Build an epic team

Jimmy also loved finding inspiration in unexpected places, quoting Sister Act II, Babe, Steven Spielberg, and many more. Can you put the name to each of these?

  1. "If you wanna be somebody. If you wanna go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention."

  2. "The little things that tickle and nag and refuse to go away should never be ignored. For in them lie the seeds of destiny."

  3. "So you have to, every day of your lives, be ready to hear what whispers in your ear."

  4. "Keep your chin up."

  5. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Joanna Cruickshanks - folk

Twenty-something years of brand, business and yoga came together to build Jo’s talk: Liam and the Lama. These two pop icons - Liam Gallagher, and the Dalai Lama - offer very different opinions on what makes success. But by fusing their approaches, and passing them through Jo’s unique filter, the talk dramatically shifted the lens on the way we do business, and why we do it at all. Here’s a recap:


You don’t live forever

Jo began by thinking about the end. Cue the epitaph-writing task, where audience members were asked to think about the person they wished to be remembered as. The upshot: only by understanding our end goal can we can act accordingly to achieve it.


Know yourself

Your inner compass, and knowing what’s right by it are absolutely essential to business integrity. As a new startup, you’ll be pulled left, right and centre by a lot of different people. To know yourself is to know how to react to these deviations - whether it’s good advice, bad advice, roadblocks, hurdles, or celebrations.


No Pony

Liam knew with great clarity what needed to be done and why, which ultimately contributed to the success of Pretty Green. “Pony” was always his way of saying something was superfluous or beside the point. No Pony equals success.


Connect with your fans

Liam’s decision to live-stream and chat with his tribe brought the people what they wanted: a direct link to the rockstar himself. That’s why they still continue to love him and his brand today.


Be fearless

Liam’s famously an in-your-face guy. The Dalai Lama once said, “Know the rules well so you can break them effectively”. Two kinds of fearlessness from very different perspectives.

Jo believes Liam understood the Lama’s breed of fearlessness. He knew exactly what the market was, and how it behaved… which is why he was able to disrupt it so well.  


Be different

Different is better than better, or so says the Folk mantra. In a world where almost every market is saturated, running the path of betterment can only lead to a price war, which will ultimately leave you cheapening your brand just to get sales. The path of difference stands proudly above that problem.


Tell the human story

Today, the old model of ‘creating a service, and the customer will buy it’ doesn’t work. There’s simply too much choice, and the consumer now lives in an age where they call the shots. Only by listening deeply to what they want, and telling your story in a way they want to hear can a business be successful. There has never been a better time to be a startup, but you’ll only win by putting humans first.


Never, ever, give-up.

You will go home, and you will lose faith.

The key thing is to never lose hope. Up-and-downness is a natural part of running a successful business, and in fact, it’s only by facing these hurdles that you’ll become a more resilient leader down the line.


Make a difference.

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

It’s often not about changing the world, says Jo. She believes that the small changes we make add up to create a positive impact for future generations.


Start a revolution from your bed

When we have something on our mind at night, we come up with ideas. These ideas spark motion, and these motions could be the start of a revolution. You just never know.


Definitely, maybe

Buddhism teaches the art of non-attachment. Everything said here in this blog might or might not apply to you.

A key aspect of growing a startup is to drop and change things as they come. Be adaptable. Never let an idea that you’re attached to stay for sentiment’s sake.

Arun - Hollabox

Hollabox is a free to use social network that lets users discover the local world around them. The application allows people to see real-time activity from any local friends, people. events and businesses, including a wealth of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues.

Arun pointed startups to some amazing online tools that can remedy common challenges. He also shared some clever ‘hacks’ to help you bring your startup to life visually and get you off the ground.

Arun’s main point was that you should begin trying and experimenting with creativity, something we strongly believe at Folk, as by exploring new territories allows you to learn.

Noel - Get lost sailing

Noel’s online business brought powerboat trips to Poole.

He learned early on that between 95-99% of people who found his website never came back. In fact, he needed to hit them with three touchpoints before they bought anything.

After lots of strategizing, he found that a video-based sales funnel was the answer. Noel shared his insights, tips and tricks he discovered along the way.


That's The Way To Do It

Naturally, you expect an event created for and by local businesses to be competitive. But on the south coast, we love to help each other out. 

Think Create Do captured top digital leaders from the south coast, including ourselves, who came together just a stone’s throw from the beach to discuss the issues and insights discovered from their journeys working with clients across the world.

Each talk was an opportunity to learn something new, embrace different ways of thinking and push the boundaries of the way we do business.

The event was brought to life by the team at Think Create Do, who curated the collection of interviews which featured in ‘For The Record’, the book that features Folk alongside fellow creative agencies. Take a look at how good that looks here

There was a wide range of diverse and talented speakers, but we want to focus on three in particular who talked about something that really resonated with us.


Andy Headington: What is attention?

Andy looks at what attention means to brands. “Attention is world encompassing.”, he describes and every brand wants to create a moment that everyone takes notice of.

Not every brand can compete with the same level of attention that the Red Bull stratos jump received. It’s not sustainable. As Andy says, “we’re moving from a world where computing power was scarce, to a place where human attention is the commodity that is now scarce.” 

How brands and businesses capture attention is an interesting subject; one that Andy from Adido has explored relentlessly.

He admits we have an attention problem; a profound amount of things happen every minute of every day, we are overloaded by content and we are addicted to checking our phones.

Very few businesses focus on ‘why’ they do what they do. But when they do communicate the why, success, and attention, follow as a consequence.

To adapt to changing attention spans and to keep the scarce commodity of human attention alive, Andy advises us to seek out the rare moments when consumers are forced to concentrate deeply. 

For example, the cinema, or in the gym with screens placed in your line of sight, provide situations when your attention is locked in without distraction and we are programmed to take notice.


Paul Hamblin: Why we suck at telling stories.

Paul delivered a talk covering three topics: ‘The web is more than just cat videos’, ‘why we suck at telling stories and ‘things Paul wishes we knew.’

In particular, Paul caught our attention as he described the common obstacles that stop us from being meaningful storytellers.

One such example is budget: often the elephant in the room for a project.

In order to support creativity, we require a stiff budget.

“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations” – Orson Wells

It can cost thousands to produce a video or it can cost a lot more, Paul says, which also transfers to any photo-shoot, web build or branding project. However you need to boil it down and overcome that first obstacle to begin accurately focusing on the project. Don’t make clients guess. Don’t make anyone guess. 

Another common obstacle that can hinder the effectiveness of a good story is over complication. You can easily overcomplicate a project by shoehorning additional parts. This is only going to dilute the message, Paul says. 

Spend time crafting what you’re trying to communicate by finding your purpose and don’t let others dissolve the message by adding parts that don’t fit your purpose.

It’s most important to ask yourself what the business is trying to achieve and what you’re trying to do and ground yourself to these answers throughout the project.


Phillipa Hale - Leading transformational change.

Phillipa’s talk resonated with the Folkers at this event, where she addresses her own personal experiences leading digital transformation and discussed the emotions of learning. 

Persuading old-school clients with legacy thinking to embrace new ways of learning can be a difficult task. Teaching smart people to learn is based on emotions. Unless we are connected emotionally to what we’re learning, it won’t stick.

To overcome the task of dealing with transformational change, Phillipa offers 8 steps:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency and excitement
  2. Form a credible leadership team
  3. Create a vision
  4. Communicate the vision
  5. Empower others to act on the vision
  6. Plan for short wins, iterations and get agile
  7. Consolidate improvements and capitilise
  8. Keep scanning the horizon

Philippa shared with us research that says 90% of what we learn today doesn’t stick. We have to be mindful of the way we teach and implement change and add a level of emotion to our teaching.

Overall, we left fulfilled and motivated from all of the speakers, each talk representing the wealth of talent amongst the epicentre of digital and creative agencies here on the south coast. 

With an appetite to move forward and implement the lessons we learnt, we are constantly looking to the horizon, as Phillipa says, to grow our team and abilities as a business.

B Corp event; Let's create real and lasting change

Last Thursday, we hosted the first ever Dorset B Corp event. With a number of local brands, agencies, and forward-thinkers at our seaside office, we thought it was high time to share some stories about the B Corp community. 

The event began with a passionate speech from B Lab UK representative, Aimie Cole, who explained what the B Corp community is all about and why the movement exists.

B Corp is a global movement that believes in the power of business, and that business has the potential to create real and lasting change, for all of us, across society and the world.
— Aimie Cole, B Lab UK


Aimie suggested that current measures of success in business - profit or short-term financial returns to shareholders, for example – are outdated and need to change. Instead it’s about people and resources as well as profit, and that businesses should operate to create value for every one of their stakeholders. And it's not all talk; there's a growing body of evidence pointing to great success in the long term.

Aimie's talk was followed by one from Folk's founder, Jo Cruickshanks. She spoke about how she discovered B Corp, and about her mindset when she decided that the B Corp Assessment was the ideal measure of how Folk was doing. The certification was the perfect benchmark for two of Folk's core missions - to become environmentally self-sufficient, and to inspire others to work and live with purpose - things which were historically hard to track.

The conversation then turned to Folk's recent transformation into a Teal organisation. Jo explained that the two could elevate one another, and actually speed up the change process... although implementing these changes wasn't entirely free from challenges. Afterwards, the evening saw some very insightful contributions from a number of the attendees - including Alex Shepherd, co-founder of Kids Love Nature, a collection of leading nature nurseries in and around Dorset. 

Stay tuned for more on our B Corp journey. In the meantime, if you'd like to learn how to become a B Corp yourself, we suggest you log on to the B Impact Assessment. There’s also some more background information available here.

A big thank you to all our attendees, and a special thanks to our friends at South Coast Roast for bringing along some tasty beans.

Warm regards,