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Joanna Feeley, Trend Bible

Joanna Feeley, Trend Bible

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Woop Woop!

After a torturous few days of not knowing, the winners of the If We Can You Can Challenge have been announced and I'm thrilled to say I won!

This is very exciting news and I would just like to say a special thank you to everyone who voted for me, particularly the pupils at Marden Bridge Middle School, Frank Walsh and everyone at Cummins in Darlington, Chrissie Gardiner (for encouraging me to enter in the first place), and everyone at the Entrepreneur's Forum who work so hard to make the competition run smoothly.

Watch out for today's Evening Chronicle, I think they are running a story about this today.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Last post...?

Well, I expect this will be one of my last posts on this blog, it's been really great experience being a finalist of the If We Can You Can Challenge, I've been casting my votes for other finalists this week and wish everyone good luck.

Many thanks to everyone at the Entrepreneur's Forum (particularly Hazel, Rachel and Will) for their support, it's been lots of fun and I recommend all of you reading this who may be in the early stages of your business to apply next year.

I spent some time talking to a couple of the winners of last year's Challenge and they assured me this is most certainly a competition worth winning in terms of profile raising and press attention, not to mention the prizes, so get applying!! Fingers crossed.....

Thursday, 3 June 2010

British Business Boost Competition

In my experience, it's been well worth entering the If We Can You Can competition, so here's a great opportunity for those of you with businesses employing between 10 and 100 people that I read about it the FT Weekend Entrepreneur section (which incidentally is generally worth a read). Unfortunately we're not big enough to enter but it sounds fantastic- come on North Easterners, get entering!

Click here to enter the competition.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Today's Top Trend Tip: Perfect Interns

Here at Trend Bible we really value the input of our interns, and I like to think I cultivate a fun, creative and helpful learning environment in exchange for some hard graft!

When I speak to other small business owners, I'm often asked about how we attract the right interns to the business, and how we manage the workload and studio so that the intern has a great experience but ultimately, is as helpful as possible. On average we get around 40 CVs a week from students all over the world asking if they can come and work with us. So far in 3 years we've had 15 students work with us, some of whom have now graduated and work on freelance projects with us. The placement scheme is a really crucial tool for me to trial potential future employees at low or no cost, and really see how these individuals perform doing tasks that they would be asked to do as employees.

I've also asked our database of past and present interns for their top tips on how to get a placement, and how to be a great intern.

Top Tips for Employers
1/ Find an educational institution you trust, and stick with it. We have relationships with 4 colleges and universities in the UK, although we place an emphasis on taking North East-based interns in order that we support the local community, and in the hope that one day, we can turn these opportunities into paid jobs. Liaise, and develop a relationship with, the university placement officer; eventually they will get to know your requirements and pull a shortlist of candidates together for you, saving you valuable interviewing time.
2/ Nurture your intern! It's imperative that your student gives you his/her all, and if they feel you spend adequate time developing their skills and interests, then they will be much more likely to support you.
3/ Get them to do a Fresh Eyes test in the first two weeks. I can`t remember the exact phrase for this, but while at a business event, Andy Hanselman mentioned this technique, where you can gain valuable insights into your business from people looking in with `fresh eyes`.
4/ Don't just get them to do menial tasks and make the tea (even though we've had some rather excellent tea makers at Trend Bible HQ). Our placement students have each brought their own specialisms to the table, and I find that students are tuned into a world of online media and blogs that I just aren't on my frequency. They genuinely add something to the overall team mix.
5/ Six months is the perfect length of time for a placement; the student has time to develop and repeat tasks for long enough that they can improve, yet it's not such a long placement that they get bored.
6/ Plan their workload week by week. I sit with our placement student at the beginning of the week and plan out their workload for the rest of the week, adding a few extra jobs incase they are quick workers and run out of tasks.
7/ If a placement isn't really working out, have a frank discussion and ask the student if they would like to terminate the placement early. Life's too short to be unhappy at work (especially if it's unpaid!) and placements are intended to allow the student to see if this industry is for them- there's a real chance they may discover it's not. This is where a good relationship with the university placement officer comes into its own- they will be able to track down another suitable candidate asap.
8/ Ask your interns to help you build a system to support future interns. We have a folder on our server called How We Do Things where every job in the studio is broken down into bite-sized steps. This saves me having to repeatedly explain tasks.
9/ Mix up the jobs so that the intern has about two different tasks in any one day. We break our jobs down into 'cut and stick' jobs and computer-based jobs so that each individual can swap and change their workload to suit them.
10/ Get them to go out and about. Whether it`s networking events, finding out about your competitors first-hand, or accompanying you to client meetings, students love to be involved and get out of the office.

Top Tips from Interns, to Interns
1/ Many courses don't have a 'sandwich' year set aside for you to gain real work experience, so it's really important to try and get a placement organised during Easter, summer or Christmas holidays. Many university courses will allow you time within the semester to partake in work experience, and will allow you some flexibility on project deadlines to compensate for this, should you find it difficult to arrange a placement in holiday time.
2/ Be open and honest and up-front from the start; if you have any pre-booked holidays or essential appointments, mention them in the interview.
3/ If there are specific things you want to learn, or specific talents you can bring to the company, be vocal about this.
4/ Ask for structured reviews so that you can record and monitor your progress, it will help you write your end of placement report.
5/ Do every job to the best of your ability, what might seem like a boring or unimportant job to you will be scrutinised by your boss. Every task is an opportunity to make a good impression- including making tea!

Monday, 24 May 2010

SEVEN things I learned at the Annual Conference

Well it's been a busy old week, we've been manically working on a new consultancy project for a major British wallpaper company which has been lots of fun (despite missing all of the sunshine at the weekend), but it was all worth it today when we presented them with trends for Spring Summer 2011, which they seemed to be delighted with.

In addition to the mountains of work, I also had a fantastically inspiring day at the Entrepreneur's Forum SEVEN annual conference on Thursday, which was a generous prize to all the finalists in the If We Can You Can challenge. The EF team didn't miss a beat all day, many, many thanks to Victoria, Will, Hazel, Stephen and Rachel who all made a real effort to make sure I was looked after.

There were of course, SEVEN inspiring speakers at the conference, my favourites were Lord Kirkham, executive chairman of DFS, and chief economist of HSBC, Dennis Turner. As a trend forecaster specialising in home interior trends, you can imagine I was keen to hear about how Lord Kirkham developed the DFS furniture brand, and it was a truly fascinating story delivered by someone who was so infectiously enthusiastic and passionate about his brand. Dennis Turner was also a hit with the audience, giving us the low-down on what to expect in the ongoing economic uncertainty.

This was my kind of forecasting. I particularly loved his comment 'This will definitely happen...unless, of course, it doesn't...' Genius.

Aside from the great speakers, I managed to meet some new aquaintances and of course my fellow IWCYC Challenge finalists who were all really lovely and genuinely passionate about each of their businesses.

What I love about these events is that you get to meet people at different stages in their business- some very well established individuals who have built famous brands, medium sized businesses who are growing before our very eyes, and people like myself starting small ventures on what we hope will be a path to success. There's something to be learned from each of these groups, and I came away from the conference full of ideas.

So, what did I actually learn? Tons of stuff. But here are my top SEVEN (seemed fitting!)
1/ Rome wasn't built in a day. I hated this phrase, mainly because I'm so impatient for growth and success in business, but this week I feel like I really understand this much used saying. As I've mentioned, I met people who had been in business for 40 years, so I have been able to exercise a sense of perspective and pace that I didn't have beforehand, which makes me feel much calmer. Hurrah.

2/ Being flexible and agile in business really pays off. Many of the speakers mentioned their ability to adapt and change with the times which I thought was really poignant in our very uncertain financial and political climate.

3/ Every no is one step closer to a yes. I loved this phrase, coined by guest speaker Karen Darby of SimplySwitch. It had particular resonance with me as I've pitched to several potential clients over the last 16 months who have said they loved my product and service but haven't been particularly quick off the mark in actually commissioning work. Perseverance has paid off though, and I now have a 90% success rate for turning pitches into paid work. It made me realise that there are measurable ways of turning 'maybe' into 'yes'...

4/ If you can, I can. For some reason this week, as a result of talking to people at the event, I actually believe this now. At first it was just a sneaking suspicion, but now I'm pretty sure.

5/ Act on advice. We all do it, read a ton of business books, listen to inspiring speakers, and then do nothing with it. But this week I actually made stuff happen. One of the brochures I picked up at the event was entitled Lessons from Change, produced by event sponsors Ernst and Young. It had a really valuable breakdown of the results of a global survey of the world's best entrepreneurs. One of the questions asked was 'how have your business priorities around operations changed in the last six months?' and 62% of respondents claimed they had increased alliances. This reminded me of a conversation I had started over two years ago with a trend forecasting brand in the US, who strictly speaking ought to be my competitors, but whom I like to think of as allies! So I dropped them an email, on a Saturday, and got an immediate reply saying they would love to meet with me to discuss working together to generate some projects with US retailers. I'll be going out to New York to meet with them in August and see if we can arrange some mutually beneficial work.

6/ Mistakes are important. It's impossible not to make them, and each one helps get closer to creating the perfect strategy, the perfect process...the perfect mistake..oops no trying to avoid that...

7/ Enterprise is the way forward. Whether this is about true entrepreneurs, or people who demonstrate enterprising behaviours, most of the speakers talked about the role of innovation and enterprise as the key to emerging from the ashes of the recession. I'll be referencing this in a talk to students at a creative enterprise programme I'm sponsoring in the North East in a few weeks.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Today's Top Trend Tip: Bright Young Things

Here at Trend Bible, we produce a bi-annual forecast for children called Kids Lifestyle Trends. We sell this to all sorts of brands from kids furniture manufacturers to mobile phone companies- basically anyone who needs to know about trends that affect kids from babies through to teens. I've been doing some research for our Autumn Winter 2011/12 forecast, and have been really blown away by the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit among the 9-13 age group in particular.

Some of you may have already seen the debut of Junior Apprentice on BBC1 this week (I for one am totally hooked) which highlights the sheer determination of today's younger teens to set themselves apart and become enterprising individuals (who needs school anyway?!)

I'm also a big fan of teen fashion blogger, Tavi Gevinson, (my favourite headline was 'Tavi Gevinson- the new Anna Wintour?’), who is the author of Style Rookie, a blog she began in 2008, age 11.

As brands and marketeers inch closer to finding what drives and motivates these young consumer groups, the children themselves are dictating to brands and retailers like never before, fully ensconsed in their roles as opinion leaders and representatives of their generation.

I spent some time at a networking event in Newcastle talking to Peter Hirst who runs a company called MyKidology a North-East based market research company helping brands who sell to children test out their products and services before going to market. Peter explained; "At Kidology we believe in being creative and having fun in every aspect of our work; it's what working with young people does to you! We're keen to help any business, at any stage, achieve a great relationship with young people."

We've also noticed a flurry of websites for children helping them come up with ways to make money and be enterprising, like Kidpreneur, which encourages kids to be enterprising, from using their vast social networks to recommend and sell on behalf of brands, through to innovative online methods for making pocket money (no one likes washing cars right?).

So today's Top Tip is for all of you who include children or teens as your target audience. Are you enabling them to have input into your brand? Can you encourage them to promote your brand by offering them the opportunity to write a blog for you?

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Today's Top Trend Tip: How politics impacts taste

Today I was asked to contribute to an article for a magazine, and was asked how I think politics will affect taste, colour and design.

Politics may seem a million miles away from something as seemingly frivolous as colour, but you'd be surprised. Colour and design trends are inspired by social and cultural trends, and this very much includes politics.

Anything that affects social and cultural trends in turn affects colour and design trends. When we were forecasting trends for Spring Summer 2010 (back in November 2008!), we were very conscious that there would be a gaping hole in our research that we couldn't predict, and that was the election results. One thing we did know as we edged closer to May 2010, was that there was a real desire for 'change' and that this was more important than knowing exactly which party would win.

In terms of the colour trends that are forecast for Spring Summer 2010, it is all about fresh, vibrant, positive, celebratory colours. Green is important; we put this down to the desire to report 'green shoots' after the recession, and there are lots of trend directions that hinge on a consumer trend for wanting a 'fresh start' or a clean slate, so in fact white is very important in product design (beautifully anticipated by brands like Apple). After the depths of the recession, there is a sense that people want to move forward, to feel positive and safe, and this is reflected in all aspects of our life from politics to products.

Are these feelings you should be taking into consideration and communicating to your customer?