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Diary of a start-up: Learning about IP, tradeshows and how to price products

First-time entrepreneur Lisa Edoff updates us on what she’s learned this month – and the development of her design business

During the last month I have been attending some excellent free business workshops. I have learned a lot and gained some valuable business insights.

I would really recommend anyone living near London explore the Business & IP Centre at the British Library. It’s an amazing resource for small business owners and start-ups. They run a lot of workshops and events, and you can also get a free one-to-one session with a business advisor.

If you live outside of London, visit your local library to see if anyone there can help, or search online for business classes.

Learning about Intellectual Property

I went to ‘A beginners guide to intellectual property’. It was a really good workshop, where we learned the difference between trademarks, patents, copyright and design rights. I wanted to learn how to protect my designs, and which type of registration is best for my particular field.

Here are the most important things I learned about IP:

… Intellectual Property (IP) is protection for creativity and innovation.

… You have to register your patents, trademark or designs with the UK Intellectual Property Office.

… Copyright is automatic and does not need to be registered.

The different types of IP protection are:

… Patent – how something works (mostly for innovations).

… Trademarks – anything associated with the brand that the public sees (for example, logo, words, colour or musical jingle).

… Design – the distinctive look of a product or object.

… Copyright – the automatic right of ownership of artistic or written works (for example, paintings, books, films or music). As soon as you put your creation down on any kind of medium you own the copyright.

So, for my business, I will need to register my logo design as a trademark, when it is ready, and I have already registered my pattern designs for design rights protection.

There are lots of useful resources for IP online. Two that specialise in the creative sector are Own-It and ACID.

How to price products

The next workshop I went to was on costing and pricing your products. We learned a useful formula for calculating how much you should sell your products for to make enough profit.

This was a bit of an eye opener for me. I realised it will be better if I only sell my products online, at least in the beginning. Because the first run of my products will be quite a small production, they will be more expensive to produce than if I order a large quantity – therefore I can’t sell to shops, as they have to multiply the wholesale price by two and a half, or three.

That would either mean a retail price that is too high, or lowering the wholesale price so much that I won’t make any profit. But, if I sell my products online in my own web shop I can cut out the middleman and make a good profit. My plan is to start by setting up an online store and then, when the business takes off and I can start producing larger batches of products, I will offer my range to shops and department stores.

The Design Trust has a helpful article about how to calculate your product price. It’s mainly for crafters but I think the formula would work for any kind of product.

Exhibiting at trade shows

I also went to a workshop about exhibiting at trade shows and how to prepare for that. This is something I am very interested in. I went to a designer homeware trade show called Formex, in Sweden, in January and it was so inspirational to see the new products and talk to designers.

The organisation that gave me my business grant, SEE, offered their members the opportunity to exhibit at a show called Pulse, in London, this weekend. Unfortunately I am away, but I will be visiting the show next week, so hopefully I can do some networking and gain inspiration for how to present my product range.

Finally this month, I had a personal meeting with a business advisor at the British Library’s IP centre. It was very informative and I was excited to hear that I am on the right track with my business plan – although I should consider the order of some of the actions in my implementation plan.

The main thing I need to do now is market research. This will help me gain insights into what kind of product prototypes I should produce, how much they should cost, and what quantity to order. The business advisor, Lola, showed me the different resources available at the IP centre and, fortunately, they have staff there that can help me with the research. I must admit, market research is the one thing I know nothing about. I’m looking forward to learning more.

So, to sum up, here are this month’s business decisions and insights:

… I need to design a logo and trademark it

… My first route to market will be e-commerce

… Before I order my product prototypes, I need to undertake market research

… I will look into exhibiting at a trade show next year

 

To catch up on the first chapter of Lisa’s start-up story, read Diary of a start-up: Introducing Lisa Edoff or, for more updates on Lisa’s progress, follow her blog A Piece of Lisa and Twitter: @LisaEdoff

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