April Guest Blog: Creating Enterprising Schools

Posted by Claire Gardner on April 06, 2017

Promoting enterprise and entrepreneurial thinking is paramount at Howell’s School. Introducing the Simply Do Ideas platform has had a significant and positive impact on the work we do. It has given our students the opportunity to approach enterprise activities in a fun, visual and creative way allowing them to develop collaborative, confident and creative problem solving skills.
Rachel Jowett, Howell’s School, Cardiff

Q & A with Rachel Jowett

Rachel is a Business Studies & ICT Teacher at Howell’s School, Cardiff.

Why do you think it’s important to develop the enterprise skills of young people?

It’s really creating employees of the future..it’s absolutely critical they’ve got the right skills. Almost any job they will do, they’re going to have to be working collaboratively and solving problems together. Doing these enterprise activities [such as Simply Do Ideas], gives them the skills, the confidence to work in a team and to bounce ideas off each other.

It’s great in terms of creativity because it’s a safe environment for them to experiment and take risks and it allows them to say ‘Oh wow, that was really good, it didn’t fail, or that didn’t work, but as a team we changed things and then it did work’.

We’ve spoken about creativity, what other enterprise skills have your students acquired?

Listening skills, problem solving skills and communication skills. I think it’s about risk taking..having a go at something, putting yourself outside your comfort zone’

It’s interesting when you see kids that you normally teach in a classroom environment coming outside that and you see that they’ve got skills that they’re not being given opportunities to show in a classroom environment but they will show in a smaller team environment.

You don’t get kids that are not engaged on the enterprise days.

What sort of enterprise activities do you currently do?

We have an Enterprise Day for years 7-11 where we do a full day enterprise activities. There’s also enterprise team events where the aim is to set up a company. There’s various stages and they’ll do a Christmas market as well as other events.

How have you used Simply Do Ideas at your institution?

We’ve used it at the Enterprise Day; we had retro products we were trying to invent for the modern world. It made them think about who their customers were, who their competition was. It gave them a real focus.

I felt the presentations were far better because they weren’t standing reading off powerpoint. There’s certain things the investor will want to know and here it is very succinct and very visual.

How did the young people find using the technology?

On the whole, they threw themselves into it. It’s relatively easy and intuitive to use.

Do you think they enjoyed the technology, paper exercise or both?

I think it’s nice to have both. The quick fire poster [the Concept Canvas] was the starting point for taking one or two ideas back to the platform

What sort of skills did they develop using the platform?

I think they probably learnt to be a little bit more succinct and had to really focus on what to include as it’s a restricted space. It’s so quick and simple, it won’t allow them to waffle.

As a staff member, what was your experience of using the platform?

It’s very easy to use, it’s specific and very functional.

My Top 5 Social Media Tips for Startups

Posted by Josh Barnett on March 29, 2017

Social Media can be a minefield with so many undiscovered options and although I agree there are still unexplored areas, there are some key rules to follow when looking to start and build a social media following for your business or brand.

My name is Josh Barnett and I am the Community Manager for Simply Do Ideas. I also run a part-time clothing company consisting of over 11,000 followers across several social networking platforms and manage my own personal brand which has attracted over 33,000 subscribers on YouTube and a further 3,000 on Twitter and Instagram. Here are 5 of my top tips for getting started with online social media, based from my experiences.

1. Understanding your positioning/purpose

Social media usage for business can vary across the platforms - from Facebook to Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and LinkedIn - and they all have their purposes. For example if you aim to use video to capture the essence of the business then you would likely convey this using YouTube. Before engaging the masses with your content, it is important to first understand the needs and aims of your business for social. Why does your concept/business/idea need to engage in social media and and at what level of interaction are you customers used to from your competitors? Your online social presence should reflect the messaging, positioning and branding that your business aims to create outwardly to potential customers/collaborators.

2. Keep your branding/messaging consistent

Now that you understand your purpose for social, consistency is key. Firstly, ensure that the platforms you use reflect each other, along with your marketing website. For example, at Simply Do Ideas, our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube all have the same handle - @SimplyDoIdeas - this way it does not matter what platform a potential customer/collaborator may find us on, they will instantly recognise it as Simply Do. Although each social platform avenue has a unique purpose, the overall brand story and messaging should be consistent and clear, through creating a cohesive bank of social interactions and contributions.

3. Post, interact and go shopping

When you have the first two steps understood… POST! If you follow your own rules for content and messaging then start posting and, more importantly, interact. Begin to engage with your potential customers, ask and value their opinions and answer any questions in order to engage within the space and make yourself known. Open conversations on platforms such as Twitter are a great method for marketing as it is a very public way to spread positive thoughts and to reach more potential clients.

Go shopping - now I do not mean this literally - but go shopping on these platforms for your competitor analysis and customer engagement. Find your competitors online, understand their individual messaging and branding; what’s good about it and what’s bad? This will allow you to build your own social presence around your own USP. Begin to rummage through your competitors’ followers and posts. The people that engage with and follow this brand are more likely to be interested in what you are offering due to their prior interests. Provided your messaging is clean and your benefits are outlined the potential client will instantly see the value in your brand and begin to engage.

4.Trend and influence

This next point is one that can set your business above the rest and really get people to start paying attention to what you’re talking about. By knowing what’s trending within your market, you will be able to engage and communicate with the social community on popular topics. This will increase your social footprint and open you up to more potential clients. When communicating on trend it is very important to interact with others in a meaningful way. Many companies will just agree with everything that is out there and therefore never really get noticed. Provided this still aligns to your values as a business, you will be able to influence your audience by having an independent voice that represents what you are trying to say.

5. Reward

Finally after all of this, reward those who are connected with you. This does many things for your social influence. Not only will it keep potential clients happy but it will allow them to feel as though they are part of your brand. By rewarding customers with giveaways and competitions, it will enable you to control what their followers see. For example, if you are trying to sell a product or service, include the offering within the original content of your post. That way, when the client reposts your message (as you might request within the guidelines of such a competition), everyone in their own friends list will now also see your offering.

I have only scratched the surface on all of these tips and they are all based on my own opinions and experience. There are many other ways to increase your social following - such as paid advertisement - but I hope that this post can help those in the very early stages of exploring social media for business.

Simply Do Ideas & The Prince's Trust: showcasing young entrepreneurs on the Enterprise Programme

Posted by Claire Gardner on March 24, 2017

As part of the Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme, in which 20 businesses showcased their products and services in a Cardiff Shopping Centre, Simply Do Ideas offered a free Ideas Accelerator event. Entitled ‘Making your ideas happen’, the public workshop focused on creating a viable idea and used the Simply Do Ideas Concept Canvas.

This year’s Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme entrepreneurs included clothing boutiques, a surf school, historical building conservation, a florist and a furniture maker.

The programme provides practical, financial and mentoring support to help unemployed young people set up in business.

Simply Do Ideas & Venturefest

Posted by Claire Gardner on March 21, 2017

On March 9th, Simply Do Ideas participated in the inaugural Venturefest South event. Over 500 delegates took part in the innovation networking event which was held in Winchester. Keynote presentations included talks from Uber and Innovate UK.

Venturefest is a UK network which brings together entrepreneurs, innovators, businesses and funders. It aligns to Innovate UK, the Knowledge Transfer Network, universities and other national partners to strengthen the regional connectivity between innovators, entrepreneurs and investors.

We were mentioned on the news page of this highly successful event:

Lee Sharma, CEO of Simply Do Ideas, has developed a cloud-based idea management platform that empowers individuals and organisations to capture, test, develop and pitch early-stage business ideas.

He said: “The business idea came from personal frustration of seeing the amount of fantastic ideas being presented to me when I was working at a university. I could see there was a need for something simpler between the raw idea and the business plan – so we decided to create the technology for that gap.”

The full article is available on their official website.

Simply Do Ideas: Supporting Educators across China

Posted by Professor Alison Price on March 20, 2017

As an enterprise educator and staff developer, sharing teaching techniques with a new audience can be cause for concern. Techniques need to be applicable, relevant, accessible and sufficiently rigorous to support the development of specific learning outcomes in students, whilst also contributing to their wider learning and skill development. But, as with educating students, deciding upon the degree of “stretch” is critical, especially if you are seeking to truly embed changes in behaviour and practice in class room that “stick” long after your programme is over.

Taking this challenge internationally felt doubly difficult - with over 65 experienced Chinese HE educators in the room, the techniques needed to transcend the language/cultural difficulties and be immediately accessible.

Thankfully my decision to use Simply Do Ideas “6Cs” canvas was perfect.
With the key words translated into Chinese, each multi-disciplinary staff group were immediately able to engage in the iterative process and develop new ideas. The 6Cs model allows groups to work at their own level and understand the richness of their ideas immediately. By using this approach with well over 350 staff in 10 months, I have been delighted with the results achieved every time. Staff loved the accelerated “fail fast” thinking that this approach welcomes and delighted in their ability to create, and test, new ideas so quickly. It was also great to work with these ideas through to a final pitch and see “non-enterprise” educators passionately sharing their new, and robust, approaches to a new business start, and commiting to use their new tools and techniques in the future.

Professor Alison Price is an enterprise educator and is Principal Consultant at Enterprise Evolution.


Ideas Accelerator: Simply Do Ideas & Cardiff Metropolitan University

Posted by Claire Gardner on March 14, 2017

In collaboration with Cardiff Metropolitan University’s award-winning Centre for Entrepreneurship, Simply Do Ideas has just completed an intensive Ideas Accelerator programme at the University’s new incubator unit. Simply Do Ideas designed and delivered the programme, which was created for pre-start, early-stage entrepreneurs with a positive mindset.

Ten individuals with the drive and commitment to make their ideas happen were offered places on the experiential programme and specialist industry mentor sessions were set up that were tailored to individuals’ and business needs. Personal development coaching sessions were held to develop confidence and belief.

Peer-to-peer support and training from other entrepreneurs inside and outside the group were critical:

This platform and this programme is really different … you still have that one to one advisory support but you have it in a group setting … that kind of group cohesion was really beneficial.
Ali Mahoney, iThink Sport, Idea Acceleration 2016-17 participant

Online learning resources were available through a range of partners including Tech City UK and assistance in searching for initial customers was provided through a range of business networks.

We congratulate cohort two on completing their programme!

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Sector Response to the Chancellor's Spring Budget: Lee Sharma's Comments

Posted by Claire Gardner on March 08, 2017

FE News covered a sector response to the 2017 Spring Budget.

With the Chancellor’s pledge to raise investment in schools to £10 billion and set aside £300m to support new PhDs and STEM subjects and a further £270m for new and disruptive technologies, [in this article] are comments from the sector on the importance of skills and education and the role they will play in the future UK econmy.

Please check the article out here.

Lee commented in the article:

“Improving the way that education is delivered must always remain a key priority if we want to effectively equip the next generation with the knowledge and skills they need to become future innovators and business leaders. Education must prepare youngsters for the world of work so if the announced shake-up can deliver on its promise to better suit business needs, it will bring significant benefits to both organisations and individuals.

“However, young people don’t just need to be taught about the skills of doing a particular job, they need to learn the tools to respond, adapt and thrive in the business environment no matter which route they take. That includes being able to harness their raw talent and creativity which they can bring to the world of business - whether following a career path or carving their own future as an entrepreneur.

“As a start-up company ourselves with an ambition to help young people realise their potential to become entrepreneurs, we welcome all efforts which achieve this goal.”

Simply Do Ideas Nurtures both Employability & Enterprise Skills

Posted by Claire Gardner on February 27, 2017

As Ashley Hever, Talent Acquisition Director at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, said in the Times Higher Education supplement in November 2016:

University qualification and reputation are somewhat important. However, we value a candidate’s life skills and experiences more highly.

In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, employers are no longer just focussing on technical skills but also key life skills such as the ability to negotiate, to reflect and learn from experiences, to make insightful decisions and manage risk.

Simply Do Ideas offers a mobile learning platform for enterprise and employability staff to support students and recent graduates, either to start their own project or enterprise or to prepare them for the world of work.

Experiential, enjoyable to use and academically robust, the Simply Do Ideas concept canvas and guided online learning software equips students with key employability skills such as:

  • Enhanced digital technology skills
  • An appreciation of brand and customer relationships
  • The application of data to real life scenarios
  • Presentation skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Listening skills

It also enables students to build their confidence to pitch an idea or enhance their:

  • Capacity for self-reflection
  • Ability to critique a situation and change direction
  • Ability to lead or perform in a team

An enabling technology platform, offering opportunities for students to work in teams, to take initiative and develop leadership skills, the software can be tailored to generate opportunities for entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship or simply building confidence.

Increasingly, employers expect graduates to be innovative, adaptable, resilient and flexible and have an enterprising mind-set.
Enhancing Employability Through Enterprise Education: Examples of Good Practice in Higher Education, Edited by Jane Owens and Maureen Tibby November, The Higher Education Academy, 2014

Bett 2017

Posted by Claire Gardner on February 09, 2017

In January, Simply Do Ideas exhibited at Bett UK, the world’s largest education event, with over 34,000 educators and decision makers from 138 countries.

Held annually at Excel, London, Bett’s mission is to create a better future by transforming education. It brings together people, ideas, practices and technologies, so that educators and learners can become more informed about future learning possibilities.

Speakers at Bett 2017 included Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft:

We’ve got to make technology available but to bring it all together we have to raise the bar for how we can drive innovation and transformation

and education champion Sir Ken Robinson:

Education has a deep and fundamental role of getting people to identify and connect with their talents

Check out the highlights from the show here. Many thanks to all who came to visit our stand, and we look forward to getting involved again next year.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship ARE a National Imperative for Wales

Posted by Ashley Cooper on October 06, 2016

Innovation and entrepreneurship are the cornerstones of any growing economy but it isn’t sufficient to have great innovators and great entrepreneurs. A thriving ecosystem requires additional stimulation to ensure that innovation-driven entrepreneurship is alive and well, and that the opportunities within the ecosystem are being maximised.

In 2012 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched its Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP), which aims to bring together an international cohort of countries and regions that are like-minded in wishing to grow their local economies. Cohort 3 features Wales along with Beijing, Tokyo, Bangkok, Ashdod (Israel), Medina (Saudi Arabia), Santiago and Norway – a truly culturally diverse group united by the common purpose of increasing innovation-driven entrepreneurship within their country or region. The opportunity for cross-globe and cross-cultural learning is immense and we can learn significantly from the natural resource-rich countries of Saudi Arabia, Chile and Norway, the entrepreneurial startup culture of Israel and Thailand, the growth challenges of China, and the corporate strength of Japan.

The Wales panel members comprise a group of ten key influencers, between them uniformly representing each of REAP’s five key pillars - entrepreneurs, funders, universities, big business, and government - unlike some of our fellow international participants who are generally very strong in one or two pillars and perhaps less strong in others. These panel members are united by a common purpose of driving economic growth in Wales and notably have pledged their extremely valuable time to the two-year initiative free of charge - true demonstration that we believe we can make a difference.

The challenge for Wales is that there is so much activity that it is very difficult to see what is going on where and how such activity can benefit the wider ecosystem. Much activity happens in silos, and since information-sharing is unintentionally poor, key initiatives often tend to stay within the broad remit of that particular pillar. The first objective of REAP is therefore to improve visibility since existing platforms attempting to solve this are often complex in nature and non-trivial to extract data from.

If we are to truly make a difference in Wales we must start with generational change. It is long term and it will take a generation to see massive results, but the process needs to start in school. Recent educational reports from the likes of Donaldson identify enterprise as a key element of the curriculum. At Simply Do we refer to this as ‘creating agile minds for a changing world’, which is to do with ensuring that our young are innovative in their approach, enterprising in their ideas, and entrepreneurial in their problem solving.

In Wales we have entrepreneurship in the curriculum to a certain degree, but are we paying lip service to it? We have a youth entrepreneurship strategy and programs like Enterprise Troopers and the Big Ideas Wales Role Model and Bootcamp which really have impact. But is that impact wide enough? Is it actually given context and meaning by all those who are delivering it within mainstream education? Fostering links within our education system with business of all types is essential. This does not mean that all will become entrepreneurs and business founders, but it does mean that through university and then into employment that we produce a nation of innovators and intrapreneurs - those who drive ideas into production within both private and public sector organisations - ensuring growth in businesses from SME to large corporate and the massive public entities such as Public Health and the NHS. Corporations, both private and public, have problems to solve and need internal teams with the intrapreneurial mindset to solve them and they need to be able to access academia to find the brightest minds to deliver cutting-edge innovation based on cutting-edge research. Academia produces brilliant innovations but is often unable to commercialise those ideas and thus much academic IP remains invisible. Better collaboration between big business, academia and entrepreneurs will surely result in more and better ideas, more and better applications for those ideas, and bigger and better businesses.

The funding community has a massive role to play across the spectrum of business, and funding is a known problem in academia and business - from start-up to SME to Corporate. For an early stage business, however, it is about much more than money. Early-phase CEOs “don’t know what they don’t know” and whilst support and mentorship can often be provided by support agencies, incubators, and accelerators, there is no substitute for the “been there, seen it, done it, got the T-shirt” experience. This is where our mentor alumni come in: there is a volume of successful business people in Wales with a wealth of experience that needs to be accessed and a huge Welsh diaspora that currently live outside of Wales who are wanting to give back to the future success of Wales.

In Wales we have some extremely forward thinking companies - including the likes of Admiral and IQE - who are at the forefront of their fields on a global level. We have a government that is massively supportive of both innovation and entrepreneurship, witness the formation of the Innovation Advisory Council and the £20M Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme and the wider Business Wales support activities. We have world leading initiatives in Wales with the Semiconductor Catapult, the GE Healthcare Innovation Village, and the SPARK Innovation Centre lead by Cardiff University. We have brilliant accelerators and incubators for early-stage businesses of the likes of IndyCube, ICE and Entrepreneurial Spark, and some superb sector initiatives such as the Life Sciences Hub and the Electronic and Software Technologies Network (ESTnet).

So many great things are happening, but the challenges remain to make it visible, keep it simple, identify connectivity, and then to communicate and collaborate to drive economic growth. We have all of the pieces of the jigsaw in Wales. If we can put them together and create a coherent picture for all to see and simultaneously grow our economic pillars, the platform that is the economic prosperity of Wales will be raised to new heights.

Can a panel of ten people working on a two-year initiative achieve this? Not in isolation. The REAP team will create visibility, simplicity and connectivity to empower growth and will be engaging widely with the broader ecosystem, including (but not limited to) entrepreneurial networks, SMEs, regionally important companies, anchor companies, universities, incubators and accelerators, industry bodies, funding providers, professional bodies and the Cardiff and Swansea City deal participants. With the wider ecosystem working together it will be the responsibility of all to “be the spark” in accelerating our growth and driving the future economic prosperity of Wales to levels previously not considered possible.

It is a huge challenge and a grand vision, but by working together we can achieve. Innovation-driven entrepreneurship (and intrapreneurship) is the key, and there is no doubt that we will be #TogetherStronger.

Ashley Cooper is chairman of Simply Do Ideas. He is also the founder of Catalyst Growth Partners, Chair of Venturefest Wales, Chair of the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme, a REAP panel member, and a founding member of InspireWales.