Saturday 26 November 2011

Shell LiveWIRE LIVE! 2011

(With YO! Sushi Founder Simon Woodroffe and Shell's John MacArthur)

Since starting Little Riot in September last year, one of the best business support organisations I have come across is Shell LiveWIRE. The longest-running enterprise support programme in the UK (30 years!), the organisation supports young people aged 16-30 who want to start, or have recently started, their own business. They are best known for their "Grand Ideas Awards", a monthly competition in which budding entrepreneurs can apply to be in with a chance of winning £1,000. If you make it through the first round of judging, you are then invited to submit a one minute elevator pitch video which is then subject to public vote via the Shell LiveWIRE website. They give away up to 5 awards of £1000 every month.

I won a Grand Ideas Award back in June and, at the time, had little idea of what was yet to come. In October I was honoured find out I'd made it into the "Hot 40" - a list of the top Grand Ideas winners from the past year. Never for a minute expecting anything further, I was amazed when I received a phonecall to say I was one of the 8 finalists in the running to become Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

(Article in the North East Journal, October 2011)

That day kick started an incredible few weeks for myself as a young businessperson and for Little Riot as a company. One of the greatest things about Shell LiveWIRE is the publicity they have the power to generate - I received a lot of press after winning my Grand Ideas Award and they certainly weren't holding back this time around either. As the only Scottish finalist, I was lucky enough to have Jonathan from Wave PR as my "right hand PR man" and he did an absolutely phenomenal job in generating a lot of buzz around both my company and myself as a finalist. If you you're based in Scotland, I genuinely couldn't recommend him enough - as well as being amazing at his job, he's also an incredibly nice person who is always at the other end of the phone whenever I need advice. I had a whirlwind time in the run up to my departure for London, squeezing in the submission of a business plan and other supporting documents to Shell LiveWIRE (for the judging process) around various radio interviews and photo shoots.

On November 7th, in quite a last minute aaah-what's-happening-to-me flap, I rolled into London, arriving the night before the judging day. I checked into The Bloomsbury Hotel - which I also highly recommend if you're looking for somewhere to stay in London - and the next day I headed off to the Shell Centre to meet the other 7 finalists. We had an intense day - we all had to deliver a 10 minute presentation to one panel of judges, and were interviewed for half an hour by another. With that all done and dusted, we were glad to spend the evening enjoying dinner and drinks with the Shell LiveWIRE team. With the decision made, we just had a nail-biting wait until the LIVE! event the following day.

(Will King from King of Shaves)

The day's activities, at the Southbank Centre, included talks from the likes of Will King (King of Shaves) and Brad Burton from 4Networking. As ever with Shell LiveWIRE, the content and speakers were spot on for the audience - relevant, interesting and highly motivating for the several hundred young entrepreneurs in attendance. The 8 finalists sat close to the front, torn between savouring the afternoon and wishing it away to get to the part we'd all been waiting for; the evening event and hence the announcement of Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

After Brad Burton wrapped up with his motivational "Get Off Your Arse" talk (also the title of his book!) everyone headed back over to the Shell Centre for the evening event. For the finalists, this was an amazing opportunity for us to network and make connections. Each of us had an exhibition table on which we could display our products or offer leaflets etc. I took the opportunity to showcase my Pillow Talk prototype - I do this at every opportunity I get, as it's really fascinating/inspiring to see people's reactions when they actually experience the product, rather than just read about it. Simon Woodroffe of YO! Sushi had lots of nice things to say about it!

After lots of pillows (but definitely not enough canapes or wine) we all took our seats and Oli Barrett took to the podium, cracking out several bad jokes over the course of the evening. Simon Woodroffe gave an absolutely hilarious talk - the man is wasted in sushi! Each of the 8 finalists then spoke to the audience for 60 seconds about their idea (Oli Barrett: "Joanna, when you ask for investment do people say "let me sleep on it?"")... and then came the moment we'd all been waiting for; the final announcement.

Michael Korn of Kwickscreen was announced as Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year - so well done to him! Definitely well deserved; he has organically grown his company from an idea to where it is now and is entirely self-funded. For the "unlucky" other finalists - well, what can I say? I don't really feel like I lost! I still came away from the whole experience feeling like a winner. I had an absolutely incredible time, met some amazing people, made some valuable connections - and I got a bottle of champagne for being a finalists! No one's a loser when there's champagne involved.

The other finalists - and now my friends - were Rosemary Francis (Ellexus), Isabel Lizardi (Bare Conductive), David Grimes (, Lawrence Kemball-Cook (Pavegen), Chris Dodson (Concept Cupboard) and Christopher Yeomans (Estriatus Energy). Stiff competition, and a bunch of people I'm happy to be placed amongst.

All in all, Shell LiveWIRE LIVE! was an incredible experience and I'll definitely be heading back next year to see what 2012 has to offer. Thank you to the Shell LiveWIRE team for treating us so well and making the whole thing so amazing - hats off to Stu, Anna, Erin, Mark, Paul and also John and Wendy. I'm honoured to have been a part of it all and I'm sure I'll be reaping the benefits of the event for many months to come.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Lecture: Pitching and Presenting

(Photo by Lena Blackstock :)

My ex-lecturer and now friend, Professor Mike Press, last week invited me to Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design to deliver a lecture to the Master of Design and Master of Design Ethnography students and teach them how to pitch an idea persuasively and present themselves as people.

After panicking for a little while, failing to think of a good excuse as to why I couldn't do it and then trying to opt-out regardless, I eventually decided to man up and get on with it. It was a new challenge for me; I've pitched and presented a lot over the past year, but it's always been about my product, my company or myself. I've spoken at young enterprise events about my journey so far and what others can learn from it, but as I'm sure everyone knows - talking about yourself is easy. What isn't easy is establishing the best way to impart your knowledge unto others; how do you choose what to tell them? How do you structure it in such a way that it is not only easy to understand, but absorb? How do you ensure they learn something from it? It's a whole different ballgame from pitching and one I wasn't sure I would excel at.

I was feeling pretty apprehensive about trying to "impart my knowledge" for a whole 60 minutes, but fortunately the class were a good bunch and I think it went okay. Despite my fears, turns out I can talk for nearly an hour no bother! It was actually really good fun, sharing what I know with other people and hoping that they learned something from it. Definitely open to the idea of doing more in the future.

I've since come across some notes taken by Jamie Thoms during my lecture - aren't they beautiful? I find them really inspiring as it's really interesting to see how someone has interpreted what I've said (the fact he wasn't asleep at any stage throughout is also a bonus as far as I'm concerned!)

Thank you very much to Mike and DJCAD for having me, as well as the MDes and DesEtho guys for being such a great audience. 

Monday 5 September 2011

The Apple Logo

The Apple logo. Is there a more recognised logo worldwide? It must be up there in the top few. This logo is a real success story; it's been around for 34 years and, save colour/texture changes, has remained the same. Not many logos can say that.

Today I read an interview with Rob Janoff, the graphic designer behind the Apple logo. It's a pretty interesting insight into the mind of a designer who kicked things off for a brand that has ultimately been so successful, people get the logo tattooed on themselves. How many companies can say their brand is so strong, their customers want it permanently on their bodies? Not many.

I won't share the whole thing, just my favourite part. Before I read this, I presumed that Apple would have hired the cream of the crop and that the design process would have been a laboured, intensive process. If I was a graphic designer, I'd probably want to know this guy's secret. It's pretty eye-opening, and really refreshing to see that even Apple were a start-up too once - only giving a brief of "don't make it too cute".

"Well, I'm probably the least religious person, so Adam and Eve didn't have anything to do with it. The bite of knowledge sounds fabulous, but that's not it. And, there is a whole lot of other lure about it. Turing the famous supposed father of computer science who committed suicide in the early 50's was british and was accused of being homosexual, which he was. He was facing a jail sentence so he committed suicide to avoid all that. So, I heard one of the legends being that the colored logo was an homage to him. People think I did the colored stripes because of the gay flag. And, that was something really thought for a long time. The other really cool part was that apparently he killed himself with a cyanide laced apple. And, then I found out Alan Turing's favorite childhood story was Snow White where she falls asleep forever for eating a poisoned apple to be woken up by the handsome prince. Anyway, when I explain the real reason why I did the bite it's kind of a let down. But I'll tell you. I designed it with a bite for scale, so people get that it was an apple not a cherry. Also it was kind of iconic about taking a bite out of an apple. Something that everyone can experience. It goes across cultures. If anybody ever had an apple he probably bitten into it and that's what you get. It was after I designed it, that my creative director told me: "Well you know, there is a computer term called byte". And I was like: "You're kidding!" 

Part of me kind of wishes Steve Jobs had designed it, though. I still feel such a sense of "ownership" to my company... I contemplated hiring a graphic designer, but at the moment my company is ME and I wanted to retain, or at least be a part of, what defines it visually.

Friday 22 April 2011

20 Reasons Why People Get Their Best Ideas in the Shower

Today I found an article on 20 reasons why many people get their best ideas in the shower. It's so true! So I thought I'd share it - some interesting points here, I'd be interested to know if there's any real science/psychology behind it. 

1. Showering signals "a new day" or "new beginning."
2. You're usually alone, with time to reflect.
3. Interruptions are rare.
4. The rush of water creates a kind of "white noise" that makes concentration easier.
5. Shower stalls look like little incubation chambers.
6. Water is associated with "contemplation" (i.e. sitting near a river, lake, or ocean.)
7. Showering is a metaphor for "getting rid of the dirt" -- the stuff that covers up what's beneath.
8. Showering is a ritual. Lots of creative people like to have little rituals to get their head in the right place.
9. You can write your ideas on the walls with a water soluble pen.
10. There's not a lot of judgment or analysis going on in a shower.
11. A hot shower opens the pores -- and by extension, maybe the mind.
12. Showering wakes up you. It makes you more alert.
13. Showering is a relaxing and stress free experience. With nothing to stress about, your mind is free to roam new territories.
14. If you shampoo, you're massaging your head. That's gotta be good.
15. It's hard to check your iphone or Blackberry in a shower.
16. Albert Einstein also did his best thinking near a shower. ("Why is it I always get my best ideas while shaving?")
17. Water is associated with "flow." Being in the "flow state" is often a precursor to creative thinking.
18. There is no deliverable expected of you.
19. If you shower with a friend, and he/she happens to be in a brainstorming mode, lots of great ideas get sparked.
20. Showering is easy. Not a lot of thinking is required to make it happen, which frees your mind to think about other things.

Sunday 20 March 2011


Gosh, I haven't updated since January! I'm a bad blogger. I've been run off my feet lately - things at my company Little Riot are getting pretty hectic. Pillow Talk is nearing the end of its £25,000 development phase and is being developed for the commercial market. This time last year I don't think I'd even come up with the idea, it blows my mind how quickly it's all happened.

Sadly, one of the downsides of being constantly stressed out and having to think about 100 different things at once, is lack of sleep. I also hurt my back a few weeks ago which added to the problem - it's even harder to relax when all the muscles you're lying on are really tense/tight. I was doing some research online about sleep, and came across this rather interesting graphic, which I thought I'd share with you all.

16 Things You Didn't Know About Sleep
Via: Psychology Degree

Not that it's of any interest, but for the record I went to a chiropractor and got my back fixed. It was SERIOUSLY AMAZING. Best £40 I've ever spent - felt a million times better afterwards and had such a great sleep that night. Wish I hadn't waited so long! Never again will I put up with back pain for over a week when some magical man can crack it all out of me.