Progress Update: Macaw Designs

Today I caught up with Ali Gillum for the fifth in our series of University of Exeter student business updates. Ali is the founder of a fantastic social enterprise called Macaw Designs, which creates beautiful bespoke iPhone, iPad, laptop and glasses cases. I last time wrote about Macaw Designs in March 2013 the foundations of the business were just being set-up; by Easter 2013 Ali had started designing the Macaw Designs website as well as locating a factory in England to produce her designs.

Bespoke iPhone cases

Macaw Designs – Bespoke iPhone, iPad, Glasses & Laptop Cases

By autumn 2013 Macaw Designs boasted four unique design collections and officially launched the entire brand in October 2013 in association with Her Campus. Since then Ali has been carefully building the brand by undertaking craft events as well as Popup Macaw events in Exeter and Durham. Sales have been building since launch, with Macaw Designs being selected by the University of Exeter to represent it at the SETsquared intra-university business competition held in Spitalfields Market in June. Ali will also take the brand to summer festivals like New Wine and Somersault, capitalising on the release of two new collections that are aimed at the male market. Post graduation Ali is looking to continue to grow her social enterprise, which has receive grant backing from the Innovation Centre and the UnLtd Fund, into a business that not only creates bespoke cases but also impacts local communities through running craft events. No doubt that next twelve months will be really exciting for Macaw Designs and I will keep you updated!

Macaw Designs

Macaw Designs – one of two new collections for men!

In terms of my week here at MGR Music we successfully managed to launch the Singing Lessons Reading, Piano Lessons Leicester and Guitar Lessons Winchester websites, with our most exciting news being that we are nearly almost there in signing an advertising deal with a London guitar store for the for the Guitar Lessons London website. This would be a massive achievement for us, generating a new stream of income that can be used to create more fantastic content. The week also saw us hire teachers in Aberdeen and Oxford which kept us on track for our two teachers per week expansion!

Posted under Macaw Designs, Progress Update, SetSquared, Student Businesses

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on March 30, 2014

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Progress Update: Jollie Goods

For the forth of our progress updates I met up with Ed Vickers, founder of one of the University of Exeter’s most successful social enterprises Jollie Goods. I originally posted about Ed’s business, a “wear a pair, share a pair” social enterprise helping provide socks for homeless people, in March 2013 and boy has the business come on a long way since then!

In December 2012 Ed had just launched his social enterprises’s first product, “Jollie’s Socks”, making his first sales on a weekly market stall on campus in The Forum. Sales of the socks through the website quickly went through the roof, helping Ed to sell over 100 pairs of socks before Christmas 2012. By March 2013 Jollie’s Socks had been selected as the product of choice to represent the University of Exeter at a SETsquared intra-university business competition held in Spitalfields Market London, winning the UnLtd price for “Best Social Impact”. This provided Jollie Goods with the platform to start selling their products through multiple independent stores located throughout the south-west and London including Maker Maker and Good Golly Miss Molly in Exeter (two good stores to start with if you run a clothing business at the University and are interesting getting your goods into local stores).

Jollie's Socks on sale in the Forum

Ed selling Jollie’s Socks on campus in The Forum, December 2012!

By December 2013 the Jollie’s Socks range had expanded to three different coloured socks, with all the manufacturing being moved back to the UK. Yet, it was Jollie Goods success within the John Lewis’s PitchUp business competition that really highlighted the potential of the business – from the hundreds of entries made Jollie Goods was shortlisted with 11 other companies to pitch to John Lewis for the chance to be stocked in the retail giant’s stores. From this pitch Jollie Goods were successful and won the opportunity to be stocked in John Lewis – the only company to be selected that year! From Christmas 2012, were Ed had sold socks at the Forum, to Christmas 2013 where Jollie’s Socks were being sold in their hundreds through John Lewis’s Peter Jones, Oxford Circus and Online Stores.

Continuing to be sold through these three John Lewis stores, as well as an ever growing network of independent stores, Ed has big plans for Jollie Goods now that he has graduated from the University of Exeter (summer 2014). Looking towards December 2014 Jollie’s Socks will expand from three products to five, as well as moving into producing Jollie’s Hat and Scarves – both having similar “wear a pair, share a pair” concept providing the homeless with durable winter hats and scarves upon each purchase. Indeed, the social impact of Jollie Goods has been truly outstanding with over 2,000 fresh socks being given to homeless shelters to distribute, touch numerous lives across the UK. Ed’s ultimate goal is not only to continue to grow his social business but enable young people to get directly involved to help the homeless throughout the nation.

Jollie's Socks on sale at John Lewis

Jollie’s Socks selling in John Lewis, December 2013!

Perfect for quirky christmas gifts Jollie’s Socks has to be one of the best products to be created by a University of Exeter student and no doubt Jollie Goods has a great future in front of it! On the MGR Music Tuition business front this week we have had a really exciting development, with the launch of Piano Lessons Swindon that will be jointly run with the Guitar Lessons Swindon and Singing Lessons Swindon teachers. It is the start of a new business model that will enable teachers to create small music tuition businesses, rather than simply building up their own students numbers. Exciting times!

We are also in the final stages of negotiating a deal with a guitar store in London who are interested in advertising in the London Guitar Lessons Blog, this will be great news if it comes off as it will be able to fund content creation through hiring a sub-contracted blog editor and a teacher to produce further Youtube guitar lesson videos – all creating more traffic and then more revenue from advertising. On the website expansion front Singing Lessons Cambridge, Piano Lessons York and Singing Lessons Peterborough we all completed and launched this week, with teachers being hired in Belfast and Southampton. All in all a truly busy week!

Posted under Jollie Goods, Progress Update, SetSquared, Stocking Goods in John Lewis, Student Businesses

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on March 25, 2014

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Week Nine

This week marked one of the most exciting SETsquared events of the year – The Deloitte Business Pitching Competition! Held in their London Stonecutter Court HQ, just of Fleet Street, the universities of Bath, Bristol, Southampton, Surrey & of course Exeter sent their top five entrepreneurs to win cash prize investments into their businesses. Last year one of the businesses that won the competition went on to gain a reported £100,000 pound investment into their idea, helping to expand their business throughout London – (see where they are now at The Underground Book Club). Representing the University of Exeter at this years’ prestigious event were Instabear, SoundSYNK, Macaw, Carverts and George Edwards. Arriving at the Deloitte HQ at 12 we were quickly thrown into a full networking event before being split off to present the business ideas, along with over 20 other business drawn from the other four universities. First to go was Ali of Macaw Designs, a tailor made fabric business where Ali personally designs iPad, iPhone, Kindle & laptop cases from beautiful materials for you – check out the image below!

Macaw Designs

Macaw Designs – beautifully tailored by Ali Gillum

Ali was followed by Michael of Carverts, a start up company that pays students to all businesses to advertise on their uni cars. Before Carverts handed over to Instabear, who performed an excellent pitch of their Instagram Polaroid picture printing business soon to launch! Our afternoon was rounded off by first class pitches from Tom Charman of George Edwards (a new student clothing business Rampant Sportingesk) and the SoundSYNK team (an Iphone app that synchronises devices to play music in time with one another!).

Carverts – sign up to earn cash while driving in Exeter!

Other notable pitches came from Bath, where one student had created a personalised business to business letter writing company that had an unbelievable rate of clients opening the letters and responding. As ever Elephant Branded made an appearance along with a few other extremely impressive businesses! After a talk from a few of the Deloitte hosts the final awards were announced and we are seriously proud to say that Instabear came second! Losing only slimily to the letter writing business. Great result for the University of Exeter! I think the students got a lot out of the day, experiencing how to prepare a 5 minute investment like pitch, getting a taste for how it feels to work in a huge corporate multi-national like Deloitte as well as networking with some fantastic entrepreneurs from other universities! Great day!

On the home front things are really progressing well with MGR Music, with guitar websites going online in Sunderland, Portsmouth and Reading as well as singing websites being created for Manchester and Derby. As you can see it was a busy week, the flagship Guitar Lessons London website also made great progress this week with the final few things coming together. I will be launching the website on my 22 birthday on the 17 April 2013, very excited! Plenty to do before then, but what a week!

Posted under Carverts, George Edwards, Guitar Lessons London, Instabear, Macaw Designs, MGR Music, SEiR, SetSquared, SoundSYNK, Student Businesses

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on March 3, 2013

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Week Six

The SetSquared Xing event held at the University of Surrey was unquestionably the highlight of this week. After an inopportune 5am start Exeter university’s crack team of six of our best entrepreneurs and I headed off to Guilford to join forces with entrepreneurs from Bath, Southampton, Bristol and Surrey to take part in a regional business challenge. The day was a resounding success, with each mixed university team being given a business idea to develop over four hours before pitching it back to a pool of Dragon’s Den style judges. While the students were split up to network and build teams with talented students drawn across the globe to our five universities, the Student Entrepreneurs in Residence (the equivalent position to mine) of each of the five universities were placed into a team – this was a hilarious (mis)decision! Instantly getting on famously it created a fantastic day of socialising, networking and business development – with the students coming away having experienced first hand some of the critical aspects of turning an idea into a business model.

SETsquared Xing challenge

With three of the Exeter students winning big money prizes during the event’s finale – a share in the £1,500 awarded on the day to entrepreneurial students – we returned back to Exeter. The message of the day was certainly focused on teams and the importance of building the right team, one where getting the right personalities has more of an impact on team productivity than hiring on qualification. Understanding this is vital for new businesses as hiring the wrong second, third or forth employee in your organisation might be the direct reason for your business failing. Lucky after some horror stories from former Kauffman Scholar Alistair Shepherd we will be thinking twice before we recruit again!

After meeting several student businesses during my drop sessions (email me if you want one) including JD Solis, e-Book gifting and Instabear – who are launching extremely soon – I went to meet local lawyer Dominic Hollingsworth of Kitsons. Part of my role this year is to build up a network of external professional services to help aid student business development, this includes reaching out to legal, accountancy and bank firms to build relationships that students can benefit from. The meeting was a great success and I am proud to say we have Kitsons on board for legal support for university entrepreneurs!

At MGR Music I hired another teacher, a university of Exeter student and piano wizard Callum Henry for the Piano Lessons Exeter website, while the business expanded into Leicester and Cambridge. Being the first week in the month the money for the previous months lesson commissions came in, up 8.25% percent in January from December! The Guitar Lessons London website is also coming together behind the scenes, ready for its big launch on the 17th April 2013! Check out the screenshots below…

Guitar Lessons London – development screenshot!

Posted under Guitar Lessons London, Instabear, JD Solis, Kauffman Scholarship, SEiR, SetSquared, Student Businesses

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on February 9, 2013

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