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September 15, 2014

Enterprise BannerAre you a creative student looking to develop an innovative idea? Or are you an artist/writer/musician who’s looking to suss-out the world of freelance work and self-employment? Read on for helpful tips for two successful young business owners. 

Viviane and Emma-Jayne

SquidLondon Press Image

When it comes to innovation, co-founders of SquidLondon, Emma-Jayne Parkes and Viviane Jaeger, have it in abundance. These two young female entrepreneurs have built their business from scratch, and are experiencing bounds of well-deserved success. What’s more,  they’re keen to share their entrepreneurial insights with other creative start-ups!

Founded in 2008, SquidLondon is a London based brand that aims to make the most of our damp British weather. Viviane and Emma-Jayne’s Squidarellas (umbrellas) transform as soon as the rain hits the panels, creating the ultimate walking piece of art, brightening up the gloomiest of rainy days with explosions of colour. The designs were initially inspired by the abstract paintings of Jackson Pollock (pictured below), altohugh the collection has now expanded with geometric patterns and recognisable cityscapes.

Pollock Squidarella

SquidLondon Press Image

The initial idea for SquidLondon emerged whilst the duo were studying Product Design and Development at London College of Fashion, and they eventually culminated their ideas into a business plan for the Deutsche Bank Award before graduating. Their first stockist was Tate, commissioning the ‘Paint Drip’ Squidarella for the colour chart exhibition; since then the brand has gone from strength to strength.

With success under their belt, Viviane and Emma-Jayne offer up their top tips for creative start-ups!

Do your market research!

Our initial idea was to create merchandising to sell to advertising and media agencies, but we realised that was not the correct route for us. When we came with the idea of the colour changing umbrellas, we did our product testing at Spitalfields Market. This allowed us to engage with our target audience in a fun way – by doing live demonstrations with our umbrellas at the market stall we got real-time feedback from market visitors and also saw their reaction once they saw the umbrellas transform!

Don’t be a lone rider!

It’s important to have people around you to bounce ideas off. As part of the Deutsche Bank Awards in 2008 we were allocated a mentor through the programme and we also started working with our ELSBC business adviser, who to this day we reach out to for guidance. We also use the British Library’s IP Centre for protecting our brand and designs. There is so much support out there for start ups, so it’s important to get as much support as possible.

Believe in yourself and idea!

There will be days where you’ll question yourself, and in these moments it’s important to remember that if you don’t believe in yourself nobody else will. As co-founders we might disagree on certain things, but we make sure that all our decisions are ultimately based on what’s good for Squid and not be based on emotions. We also kept part-time jobs for several years after starting up – this was so that we could use all the income coming in for investment for future growth.

Be innovative!

Our first big ‘break’ was when we showed up at Tate to pitch our idea without having an appointment. It was a crazy move, but the person we were pitching to loved it. We have also re-written our business plan many times – meaning we are constantly thinking about ways to innovate the business with new products and our brand ahead of the competition.

Learn from your mistakes!

Don’t be afraid to take risks, but also if you make a mistake along the way, learn from it fast. We thought, as a new start up we needed to hire a PR agency to get publicity. That’s not the case. The press are always looking for interesting business stories to feature in their magazines, newspapers or even blogs. Get to know your industry’s influencers and pitch the story to them directly.

Thanks for the useful tips, SquidLondon!

If you’ve been inspired by SquidLondon’s advice, sign up to their free workshop! On October 8th 2014, Viviane and Emma-Jayne will be running ‘Realising Bright Ideas’ at Kingston University, which prepares and coaches creative students in the skills required for freelance work and self-employment. The workshop will also prepare students who want to enter into Kingston University’s 2014/15 Bright Ideas competition, with prizes of up to £1000. More details will be available shortly.

Follow SquidLondon on Facebook and Twitter. Also, check out SquidLondon’s sister-project, Squidpreneur.

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